So you’re thinking of getting your child involved in music lessons. You probably have a few questions about what kind of instrument you need and what lessons entail. And you may be wondering what benefits there are in playing a musical instrument.
Let’s take that last item first. Many, many studies have shown that playing music actually rewires the human brain. In a good way. Piano lessons specifically improve eye-hand coordination, small motor muscle control and concentration. Math skills tend to improve as does the ability to speak a second language. Playing the piano also teaches perseverance, patience and provides a boost in self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Playing music can be a solo experience, or can be enjoyed in small or large groups. And playing music is a skill that can virtually last a lifetime.
Music lessons with a qualified teacher should be a fun and challenging experience. A good teacher will not only teach the basics but will instill a love of music in your child. The typical lesson is once a week, for 30-60 minutes depending on the teacher, the age of the child and the dedication of the student. In between lessons the student should spend 30-60 minutes every day at the piano. As a parent the best way to encourage your child is to sit with them while they play and offer positive feedback. Like every skill we learn, the more time spent, the more progress is made. Playing the piano at home should never be used as a punishment.
The question always arises regarding what kind of instrument is suitable for lessons. As parents, we want to provide our children with every opportunity and yet, we don’t want to overspend when we’re not sure how far any endeavor is going to go. Perfectly understandable. Many loving, well-intentioned parents say, “We’ll get you this really cheap one here and if you do well, we will get a better one later on.” So without realizing it they have already sealed the child’s fate. And then later they can say, “See, good thing we didn’t spend more money on a better one!”. Sadly, that happens way too often, and it is absolutely the worst avenue to take.
Consider what would happen if you gave your child a yardstick with which to practice hitting a baseball, telling her that ‘when you get better we’ll get you a real bat.” Or buying a 35 year old Apple McIntosh and telling your child that when they master word processing and spread sheets you’ll upgrade to a new iMac Pro.
Pianos and ‘piano-shaped objects’ run anywhere from free on craigslist to several hundred thousand dollars. “Free” is usually free for a reason. Rarely is a free piano suitable for a child to start lessons on. One should never bring a ‘free’ piano home without first having it inspected by a qualified piano technician.
Unlike the a portable keyboard, a piano must have 88 keys. Those keys must be weighted, balanced and counter-balanced. And all 88 keys must feel the same. The pedals must function properly. And in the case of an acoustic piano, it must be able to hold a tune.
I always advise parents to get the best instrument their budget will allow. A sub-standard piano, like any piece of equipment, will provide sub-standard results.