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Music Training Roadblocks

How to jump-start your child's musical training

There has been interesting buzz about music and child development over the past year. Although you've heard snippets here and there, interest really seemed to build after researchers at Northwestern University published a piece in Nature Reviews Neuroscience earlier this year.

Those researchers, Kraus and Chandrasekaran, found that children who had music training showed improvements in other areas--speech, memory, language, attention, and vocal emotion.

A couple of PT bloggers have written on this topic. Dr. Klemm (the Memory Medic who I mentioned last month) summarized recent research on music training and brain development.

Then, just a week ago, Dr. Christine Carter, another PT blogger, wrote about her journey applying this knowledge for her own children. Dr. Carter brought up some challenges I'm sure many parents face:

  1. Little to no interest from her children.
  2. Money for lessons and instruments.
  3. Time issues.

These are valid concerns and apply not only to music training, but to any kind of activity a child is involved in (e.g. dance, soccer, swimming, theatre, etc.).

But I'm not an expert in those areas--I'm an expert in music. So here are some ideas that I hope will address concerns you may have:

Little to No Interest

The most important step is to find the right teacher. I don't believe you should force your child to do anything they truly don't want to do. That said, finding a good music teacher can make all the difference in the world. For beginning students (no matter the instrument), you need to find a teacher who will make it fun and enjoyable to learn.

So where do you find these fabulous teachers? The easiest way is to ask for referrals. Talk to other parents and to school teachers (e.g. music teachers) to see who they'd recommend. Visit your local music store--many offer private lessons. Also, have a trial lesson with a new teacher--and better yet with multiple new teachers! You want to find someone who will excite that passion for learning in your son/daughter. You want to find the "right" fit.

Money

As a relatively new parent myself, I'm starting to find that you sometimes need to pick and choose what you spend your money on. When it comes to music training, money will be spent primarily on lessons and on instruments.

The good news about lessons is that most new students start at 30 minutes/week (Though Dr. Carter quoted Dr. Kraus as saying that 20 minutes of "music lessons" a day was necessary. Yet I've never known anyone to have daily "lessons"--daily practicing, yes, but weekly lessons are the norm. But I digress...). A 30 minute lesson can cost as little as $15/lesson, which may be work-able in many family budgets.

When it comes to instruments, you don't have to buy right away. Many music stores offer rental programs and possibly even discounts if you take music lessons with them. Also, if your child is looking at a school music program, the school may have an instrument for your child to "check out" for the year. Finally, there's always Ebay and Craigs List (the latter being how my husband and I found the beautiful Yamaha grand that sits in our living room now). So with a little digging, and a dash of creativity, you have options for providing lessons and instruments without breaking the bank.

Time

They say to choose your time carefully--it's the only thing you'll never get back. And many families today are very, very busy. When it comes to music lessons, I stress to my students that's it's more important to play every day, even if it's just for 5 minutes, than to play for an hour or so once a week.

Generally, a beginning student will be asked to practice 20-30 minutes a day. Intermediate students maybe 45-60 minutes a day and advanced students 1-3 hours a day (of course, by the time you get to be an advanced student, you've likely been bit with the music "bug" and love practicing that long!). The take home lesson? There is a minimal time requirement for beginning students.

I firmly believe--as a mother, musician, and therapist--that music training is one of the best things you can provide for your child. I hope these bits of information help ease the process and jump-start your child's musical training.

Follow me on Twitter @KimberlySMoore for daily updates on the latest research and articles related to music, music therapy, and music and the brain. I invite you also to check out my website, www.MusicTherapyMaven.com, for additional information, resources, and strategies.

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