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7 Ways Music Lessons Help Kids Excel

Looking to avoid summer brain drain? A music-loving mom shares her personal research into 7 impressive benefits associated with music lessons. Drumroll, please!

By Katie Femia

One, two, three, four … With all of the counting and time signatures, it makes sense that learning a musical instrument can help strengthen a child’s ability to do mathematics and problem-solve. Years of research have borne that out. But what about socially? Emotionally? Physically? Personally? It turns out that music lessons can be an effective way to help children grow in all of these areas, too.

My own daughter began playing the piano at the age of nine. It was something she had asked us to sign her up for after she received a keyboard for Christmas the year prior. She was at the age where we expected more responsibility from her, and we were also looking for an effective way for her to channel her feelings. Music lessons have helped her in both of those areas. Being able to use her hands to create something beautiful is a therapeutic experience for her. Working with her instructor and practicing at home means she has developed more discipline and motivation to excel. As her lessons continue I am seeing growth in other areas of her life as well.

Here’s a medley of the amazing benefits that can come when children take up an instrument.

1. Improved Memory

Whether your child is memorizing the alphabet, multiplication tables, or Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, they will need to be able to focus on the information and store it in a retrievable manner. Music reinforces memory in the sense that it requires the child to memorize notes along with hand/mouth movement, turning the information into a tune. Using this part of the brain often to store and recite information is important, and music lessons continue to put memorization skills into practice.

2. Stress Relief or Prevention

Artforms are a wonderful way for children to express themselves while relieving tension at the same time, and music is no exception. The hands-on experience, the practice of manipulating the instruments, and the sound of the music that is created can all help put children at ease–especially after a long day at school.My child’s music school even has a school outreach program where kids with special needs are given musical instruments to play as a form of therapy.

3. Better Focus

Traditional classroom learning typically involves long periods of sitting still and concentrating, which can be a challenge for children. Music lessons can help children improve their focus, as their concentration and attention to detail is important when learning a tune. Improved attention leads to mastery of the tune and progress on to the next one. The positive feelings that result from this accomplishment strengthen their desire and ability to focus on goals related to the classroom.

piano-lessons-for-kids

4. Fine Motor Skill Development

Fine motor skills–for example, tasks that are done with the fingers–typically require hand and eye coordination. Learning to play a musical instrument can help strengthen a child’s fine motor skills, which can come in handy in the classroom when the child writes (in print or cursive), paints, cuts, measures, glues, and so on.

5. Enhanced Self-Esteem

When a child becomes familiar with playing a musical instrument, they can feel a great sense of pride in their accomplishment. As they realize that they can entertain others and even evoke emotions through their performances, their confidence may grow even more. Every child wants to feel like they are good at or successful at something, and music lessons give them the chance to do that … and then treat others with their talent. The resulting self-esteem follows that child throughout their school day and throughout their life.

6. Lessons in Accountability

My daughter’s piano lessons are an intense 30 minutes in length, so it is important she is ready with her music sheets, notebook, and a sharpened pencil in hand when the lesson begins. She knows that stopping to find any of these items during the lesson would take away from valuable class time. The “homework” assigned by music instructors can also help create accountability in kids. At home, kids learn to make decisions on how to allocate their time to prepare for the next lesson. Children who take music lessons can carry this skill of accountability over to their classroom life, where deadlines for homework and classwork need to be met.

7. A Sense of Responsibility

Whether you decide to rent or own your child’s instrument, you will find it does not come cheap. Caring for the instrument properly is essential to protect your investment. Music lessons teach your child to be responsible for cleaning, caring for, and storing their instrument properly. The habits kids learn in music lessons can translate into increased responsibility for their school supplies, homework, and even their actions.

Consider music as a summer enrichment activity which can prepare your child to succeed in the classroom when the next school year rolls around. There are options for every budget and level of experience, so do some exploring and what might interest your child! Find summer music camps near you at ActivityHero.

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Choosing Musical Instruments for Kids: How Parents Can Help

musical instruments for kids
Photo by Flickr user tony kearns

The ability to play a musical instrument is a great talent that takes time and dedication. Learning to play music is a lot like learning to read—the earlier it starts, the better.

When your child shows interest in taking up an instrument, try to resist the urge to pick for them or let them pick on their own. Picking the right musical instruments for kids is a commitment that should involve both the child and the parent.

Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for the right musical instruments for kids.

Physical limitations.

A child with asthma might not have the best luck with a wind instrument, and a child with braces probably wouldn’t have much luck with a brass instrument.

Take into account your child’s physical characteristics—are their arms long enough for a trombone? Are their hands strong enough for a string instrument?

Cost.

Musical Instruments for kids can be extremely expensive, but just because your budget is tight doesn’t mean your child can’t play an instrument.

Do some research about the maintenance of each instrument and see what you can comfortably commit to.

Clarinets and oboes require reed replacements and string instruments need their strings replaced quite often. Brass instruments are costly but relatively low maintenance.

Personality.

Helping Your Child Choose a Musical Instrument
Photo by Flickr user ptcentrum

Does your child like to be the center of attention or prefer to hang back with the crowd?

Some instruments, like trumpet and piccolo, are more prone to have solos or leads while others such as percussion and tuba create more of the backbone of the music. Which fits your child’s personality better?

Instruments like piano require personal rehearsal time while other instruments are better practiced in a group.

Does your child have the dedication to practice alone or would they prefer a group rehearsal?

Availability.

Your community may not have an oboe or accordion teacher to help your child master their skills. Perhaps your town is known for their impressive jazz band.

Your child may be better suited to take up something that provides opportunities in the area.

Look into what sorts of specialists you have locally. However, don’t discourage your child from playing an instrument because of a lack of opportunities in the area. Being the only bassoon playing in the metropolitan area might mean a greater chance of a scholarship in the future!

Introduce new instruments.

Which instruments has your child been exposed to?

Are they interested in the drums because they played them at a friend’s house?

Most kids haven’t been exposed to many instruments so their interest in a certain instrument may be ill-guided.

Take your child to a music instrument store to see and learn about all sorts of instruments. Some stores will even let kids handle and test the instruments to see which best suits them.

Musical preferences.

Helping your Child Choose a Musical Instrument
Photo by Flickr user Crystal.

Does your child have a love for jazz music or rock and roll?

Kids are more prone to be interested in an instrument that fits their musical preferences. Asking your children what sort of music they like listening to and what their favorite part of that music is can help to uncover what the right musical instruments for your kids are.

Your expectations.

How important is learning an instrument for you?

Is it important to you that your child study classical music or will you allow them to choose their own path?

Think about the practice time at home—if there are instruments you can’t stand, you probably won’t be too keen on hearing it for hours in end. Choosing an instrument should be a group decision.

Written by Sarah Antrim

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After-School Activities

Music Master Diaries: Ernest Kinsolving, Fiddle

Ernest Kinsolving is a pro at placing a different spin on the typical music lesson experience. With the San Francisco bay area swarming with aspiring performers, Ernest focuses upon refining skill and inspiring a love of music in a fun and relaxed environment. In addition to the traditional summer camp experience your child may be craving this year, consider some time with private music lessons. Playing something out-of-the-ordinary like the fiddle only adds to the fun and quirkiness of your child’s summer.

Q: Tell us more about your class philosophy.

A: When I was a kid studying music I was actually fired by my piano teacher for not practicing enough.  I don’t think that really

helps much.  Kids (and their parents) are busier than ever and sometimes the only chance a student has to practice is during a lesson. I start from wherever the student is when they walk through the door, even if they’re mostly asleep and forgot to bring their fiddle (it happens!).

Q: What surprises/delights the kids most about your class?

A: I welcome and celebrate what makes them unique – from the student who chooses to never speak during lessons to the one who likes to end every lesson with a Rubik’s cube competition. I expect them all to be different, and I make plenty of room for their individuality.

 

Q: Which student milestone do you look forward to?

A: I love it when a student comes in and shows me something that they’ve worked out on their own; that’s when I know that they’re excited about what they’re learning.

Q: What is one important question that parents should ask you before joining this kind of class?

A: It’s really a question they should ask themselves and their children: are you here to have fun and explore, or are you here to excel and conquer?  If you’re here to excel and conquer, then you should be looking for someone strict and inflexible, but if you’re here to have fun and explore I’m eager to help.

Q: What is the one thing that kids can only do in your class and not anywhere else you know of?

A: When a young fiddler is too timid with their instrument, I have them concentrate on making the loudest and most horrible noise with it that they can.  They love that…  But I encourage them not to practice that particular skill at home.

Q: A tip or technique or any other useful bit information for students/parents?

A: Something small and actionable: ex: do 5 pushups before and after every meal, soon you’ll be very strong; practice music first thing in the morning when you don’t have to worry about homework. (sorry, these were my best guesses!)

My best tip is this: when you’re practicing a new skill — whatever it is — there is no such thing as a mistake.  What you think is a mistake it just your body telling you to slow down, focus, and try again.  If you can truly see it that way, you move forward much more quickly and happily.

Interested in checking out a private fiddle lesson with Ernest? He’s located in Mountain View, which makes it a great gateway point for both San Francisco and South Bay parents who are looking for a summer opportunity away from traditional summer camp programs. He can even throw in a tin whistle lesson from time to time.

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After-School Activities

3 Signs that Kids Music Lessons Are Right for Your Child

Most parents know the benefits for a child who studies a musical instrument. Academic grades can improve, ill effects of attention disorders may lessen and the child is learning a timeless skill that teaches them commitment and responsibility. However, how do you know exactly when your child is ready for kids music lessons? Fortunately there are a few telltale signs that can help you make the decision.

Sign #1: Focus

The first sign to look for is how long your child is able to focus on a task. Children must be able to focus on an assigned task for at least 15 minutes in order to successfully learn an instrument. For this reason, most kids music programs will not accept children younger than 5. Age 4 is usually the youngest that children are able to keep up an adequate amount of focus and attention.

Sign #2: Enthusiasm

Another sign that your child is ready, is his own personal level of enthusiasm. Going to an establishment that offers a personalized assessment of each child, like The Music Place located in the South Bay, will usually result in the instructor recommending what instrument is best for the child to begin lessons. Is your child excited about this particular instrument? If not, he will quickly lose interest. However, if he’s apt to happily give it a try, then his maturity level and ability to trust the judgment of an instructor may be primed and ready for the first steps of a music career. The two most common “starter” instruments your instructor may suggest are the cello or violin, as they both come in a smaller size. Piano Classes are also popular.

Sign #3: Thrives in a Group Environment

Finally, it is important to note that while your child may not be ready for the focus and individual responsibility of private lessons, he may thrive in a group environment. Group lessons are a great way to try out an instrument because they are more affordable, and also allow for the child to model his behavior after other children who may be older and more adapted to a music class environment.