Parents often ask me what the best age is for a child to start taking violin lessons. The answer is different for every student. Some children are begging for violin lessons at age three, some become interested in learning an instrument at seven, and some beginners start at age seventy-four! I have taught several beginning violinists in their seventies and eighties – it really is never too late to start! That being said, there are several things that you can do with your child on a regular basis to help prepare them for more formal music instruction in future. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Listen to music – This is definitely the most important! Music is a language, and the more familiar your child is with that language, they more they will want to converse in it. Listening to classical music doesn’t have to be a formal event. You can turn on the classical radio station in the car, have Beethoven playing in the background while your child plays, or turn on soft music before bedtime. If your child is frequently listening to different types of music, they will start to identify various instruments such as drums, trumpets, violins, piano, etc. They may develop a preference for a specific instrument and express an interest learning to play! This really is the best start for beginning music lessons because the child takes ownership of the decision to learn to play an instrument.
2. Watch videos of musical performances – In the age of Youtube, you don’t need to live next to Lincoln Center for your child to experience world-class music performances. There are so many incredible performances that you can experience online in the comfort of your own home. Many of my colleagues admit that they first asked their parents for violin lessons after seeing Itzhak Perlman play on Sesame Street (Link here). How amazing is it that a generation of musicians was inspired by a simple performance on a kids’ show? Children love to see how things things are made and music is no exception! If they see people making music, they’ll be more inclined to try it for themselves.
3. Sing – Sing, sing, and sing some more. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Wheels on the Bus, Let it Go – it doesn’t matter what you sing, just sing! Singing is critical for ear training and learning to match pitch. This is the most fundamental preparation you can give your child for future music lessons, and the best part is that you can do this almost anywhere!
4. Dance – In addition to being fun (let’s face it – kids have the best dance moves), dancing to music teaches children to move their bodies and react to music, which is really what playing an instrument is all about. Children who are comfortable finding a beat and moving to it generally have an easier time coordinating their bodies to play an instrument.
5. Color – Remember coloring books? You might think they’re outdated, but drawing and coloring develop creativity AND motor skills. Using a crayon or pencil can help a child develop the fine motor skills needed to hold the bow. I often ask parents whether their child can write their name to determine if they’re ready for their first violin lesson.
I hope you enjoy these fun, everyday methods of preparing your child for music lessons. What I love about this approach is that if your children are experiencing music in various ways from a young age, you don’t have decide the right instrument or determine the perfect timing for them to start lessons. They will tell you themselves when they are interested in playing in instrument!