Is my child too young (or old) for guitar lessons?
Musical experiences come in all forms. Even infants and toddlers respond to music. Music lessons are different. They are best started after a child has heard music, moved and sang to music and have seen others play music. This is the musical “capital” that motivates them to learn it themselves.
There are stages of development where children pretend to play music. This happens prior to age 5 and is an important stage that prepares their motivation to be able to really learn to play. We don’t want to disturb that important phase by forcing too much direction and focus prematurely. As a child emerges out of that stage, they will be naturally ready to make meaningful, real music themselves. Because children develop at different rates, some older 4 year olds may be ready for structural learning, some 5 year olds may not be ready. But generally Childbloom students are 5-8 when they join. Those are great ages to start! And they can have success! So if your young ones seems interested in music, don’t worry about missing the opportunity to cultivate their interest. That window of interest WILL NOT close as they age.
It is also never too old to take lessons. Studies in skill-mastery suggest that the biggest help towards skill development is having an accepted teacher that can give guidance and feedback.
How much should my child practice?
Time or duration of practice is not as important as frequency of focused practice. If the practice is burdensome, the child will develop resistance. So for young children we recommend short practices, ending before the child gets tired. Learning studies show that there is a time limit to effective learning, anyway. So why push it?
Practice should be meaningful for the child. For young children the most meaningful thing is interacting with a parent. So parents must be present in the practice and engage with the child. The child will eventually outgrow direct parental coaching. At that point the role of the parent may just be in initiating the playing. Eventually the child will initiate it. Then they will have to learn efficient practice techniques. The Childbloom Program addresses the many issues parents and students face learning music through the monthly Childbloom Parent eNewsletter that all families receive.
The online, Chidbloom Learning Club, also makes practice easier by presenting short play-along videos that create technical skill quickly. Any student can learn a lot in only a few minutes of focused practice.
Are private or group lessons better?
We find that small group lessons, where kids aren’t lost and can have proper attention and correction, are much better than solo lessons for motivating the learning. The interactions that take place with others – even with just one other classmate – create meaningful connections that don’t exist in a solo lesson. As the kids mature social interactions become richer and reinforce the student’s involvement in the lesson. The child-development scholar, Dr. Harold Grotevant, characterized the Childbloom program structure as “individual attention in a low-pressure environment.” He experienced the Childbloom group structure with his child – and his grandchild!
Learning any musical instrument is essentially a solo activity. The Childbloom structure brings that solo work into a social environment with our small classes and performing groups. This makes the learning more meaningful to the ‘tween and teen. Consequently kids stick with it longer, they begin to build real skill that reinforces their motivation to travel deeper into the musical domain.
Private lessons are valuable to advanced students, students above the age of 16, or students with learning or social difficulties. For younger kids, most private lessons should be short to match their attention span and minimize learning-stress.