You might have heard of musical prodigies who performed and wrote music at an incredibly young age -- and a part of you might wonder, “Could that be my kid?” What the stories behind those notable musicians might not tell you is that they had to pick up an instrument at an extremely early age. However, what worked for those individuals might not be right for your child.
Window of Opportunity
The first five years of life are the most critical regarding brain development, and according to PBS.org, a “window of opportunity” exists between birth and age 9 years that is most ideal for developing musical sensibility. The brain and physical and mental processes are at a prime for learning musical skills. Informal music lessons can begin at birth when you listen and dance to music or sing nursery rhymes with your infant. By age 3, you can involve your child in active music-making by providing your child with instruments or by taking relaxed group music classes. By ages 5 through 9, according to PBS.org, you can begin formal lessons because your child might have more discipline and the attention span needed for lessons. If you choose to start formal lessons by age 3 or 4, find a teacher or program with experience dealing with younger children.
One route you can take with your child is Suzuki violin, a program that is known for starting early, at age 3. Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki developed this method after he realized children at a young age learn their native language with ease, and this style of learning can also be applied to music instrument instruction. In this method of teaching, children learn to play an instrument by rote, which develops the ear as well as the fine-motor control needed for playing an instrument such as the violin. Lessons typically occur once or twice a week, and the program also relies on parent participation and encouraging frequent practice at home.
Whether you choose to seek Suzuki lessons or traditional violin lessons, you must ask whether you are also ready for your child to begin lessons. It would be nice to let the instructor do all the work, but the teacher will likely ask you to ensure that your child practices every day. You can’t expect your child to be a prodigy right away, but with frequent practice, you might be amazed at how fast your child progresses. You need to ask yourself whether you are a parent who will be strict and require frequent practice, so your parenting style dictates what age your child begins violin lessons.
You need to think about what you want your child to get out of music lessons. If you merely want him to develop an appreciation of music, you can have more relaxed lessons that focus on fun rather than intense discipline. You can start violin lessons when your child is ready. If you want your child to perform in an orchestra, or at least have that option later in life, you need to start lessons early, whether your child is ready or not, and be strict. You might be persuaded to wait to begin violin lessons because you have heard children complain that their parents made them do lessons even though they hated it. But if you wait too long, you might impede your child’s ability to pick up the instrument quickly and with precision.