How to raise a musical child

Introduction: The Benefits of Music

boy pointing his finger upHaving searched for this topic, you probably already know and appreciate the benefits that music education can offer, especially to young children with an actively-developing brain. Some examples of such benefits include stronger connections between different brain regions, better memory and attention, greater hand-eye coordination, improved creativity and verbal intelligence, and even higher success in academic pursuits!

Here are some ways in which you can give your child a good head start in their musical development and have them benefit from all the advantages that music has to offer. Read on! 

Tips for Raising a Musical Child

1. Expose them to music, even before birth

pregnant womanPre-natal (before birth) exposure of a baby to music can give them a valuable head start in their musical development. We now know that babies begin to take in and process stimuli (such as their mother’s voice) from the outside world while still in the womb. This is the perfect time to start exposing them to music. If you or your partner happen to play a musical instrument, try to sit down and play it regularly for your baby. If you don’t play an instrument, just play recordings of your favorite songs or have music playing on your radio while driving.

Interesting fact: the mother of the famous Canadian pianist Glenn Gould had purposely exposed him to music during her pregnancy, hoping that he would become a successful musician (boy did that come true!). 

One valuable tip here is to play music from a variety of musical genres and tonalities (major/minor). This added complexity will help your baby gain maximum benefit from pre-natal exposure to music. In fact, children who get exposed to music at this stage are much more likely to have perfect pitch (the ability to identify a note or a key of a song by just listening to it).

2. Enroll them in AN early childhood music program

small children playing little instrumentsThe next step in your child’s musical journey might be enrolling them in some sort of an early childhood music class. These classes are normally done in small groups and aimed at children aged from about 3 to 5. The class will typically have the teacher sit children in a small circle and engage them in musical activities such as singing and playing an instrument. Children are encouraged to sing along, clap, and perform different movements to the music. These classes are a great way to continue to develop your child’s musical ear and serve as an effective transition to private music lessons, which is our next step.

3. Start them early with music lessons

boy and teacher during a guitar lessonAt around age 5 or 6, most children will have acquired enough mental maturity and physical dexterity to be able to begin one-on-one music lessons. This is a great time to get them started learning an instrument in a structured and more formal environment. Here are some tips for starting private music lessons for your child.

1) Take advantage of a free trial lesson (if offered)
Whether your decide to go with a local music school or a private music teacher, they will often offer a free introductory/trial lesson for potential students. This is an opportunity for the parents and the child to get to know the teacher, ask questions, and see if you are a good fit. It’s also a chance for the teacher to let you know whether your child is ready and capable of beginning private lessons at this time.

2) Choosing a teacher 
While it’s important that a teacher has certain minimum qualifications at their instrument and experience in teaching, don’t get too caught up in these things. What is even more important to look for is whether your child and the teacher are able to connect on a personal level. A good bond between teacher and student can be a strong predictor of a child’s enthusiasm for playing and their long-term success with their instrument.

That said, it is certainly important that a child’s first teacher has a good understanding and is able to teach correct technique from the outset. Learning the wrong technique (or not paying enough attention to it) can lead to the formation of bad playing habits that might be difficult to break later on.

3) Follow your child’s progress
Once your child has started private lessons, watch and get feedback on their progress. Are they practicing more or less regularly at home? Do they readily sit down to practice or do they constantly need to be forced to do it? What does the teacher say about their playing during lessons?

Here are the three most common scenarios that students generally fall into and what you should do in each one.

Scenario #1
The child is showing enthusiasm for playing, good natural ability for music, and is practicing more or less regularly at home.
This is the idea situation to be in. In such cases, the teacher’s job is also made a lot easier as they don’t feel they need to force music upon the child, and everybody is happy. If you are in this scenario (which is not uncommon in my experience), your child is definitely on the right track!

Scenario #2:
The child is showing good natural ability for music but has little enthusiasm for playing and has to constantly be forced to practice at home.
This is one of the more unfortunate and frustrating scenarios, as a child has a talent that they are simply not interested in developing. In such cases, it might be worth it for the parents and/or teacher to set up some sort of reward system to try to encourage the child to practice. If this doesn’t work, it might be wise to ask a child if they think they would enjoy another instrument more. If they say yes, set up a trial lesson of that instrument and see if they take to it. If the result is the same, you might need to face the simple fact that music is just not something they like (despite having a natural talent for it) and perhaps have them try another activity instead.

Scenario #3:
The child is not showing much natural ability, has little enthusiasm for playing, and has to constantly be forced to practice at home.
This might seem like a gloomy situation to be in, but keep in mind that even children that don’t show much natural talent for music can still benefit significantly for music lessons if they stick to playing. Their lack of enthusiasm might also be due to them having chosen the wrong instrument, so give them a chance to try another one before deciding to stop lessons altogether. If this doesn’t work, then perhaps your best bet is to have them try another activity altogether.

Conclusion

Music is truly a gift that can keep on giving, and your child will most likely thank you later in life for signing them up for those music lessons and perhaps forcing them to practice when they didn’t really feel like it. Remember, even if your child does not become the next Mozart or Beethoven, learning and instrument will stimulate their mind and open them up to new possibilities. So play on!

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