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Learning a musical instrument

Now your child's seven or so, they may have expressed an interest in learning a musical instrument. Or perhaps it's something which you're keen for them to take up.

There are many benefits to learning a musical instrument. Research suggests that children who play an instrument do better in school than those who do not - it can help improve IQ and develop certain parts of the brain. It also teaches discipline, as learning an instrument takes time, commitment and is challenging. Plus mastering an instrument can give a real sense of achievement.

Some studies have also shown that playing an instrument can relieve stress - and of course it can be lots of fun too!

How should you handle it?

If your child is keen, it's important to highlight that it is a big commitment. And for you as well -  as you'll need to be supportive of their efforts and make sure that they practise regularly. If your child understands the level of commitment required, then sit down and talk about instruments. What would they like to learn? I'd suggest here that you too have an input. Your child is going to be practising the instrument in your house remember, so while they might really like to learn the drums - do you have the space available (and can you stand the noise!)?

It's a great idea to attend live concerts or musical events to try to help your child decide. Lots of orchestras do concerts specifically for children and some even run workshops where your child can have a go. Search online and/or at your local library to find out details of what's going on in your area.

You'll probably need to remind your child to practise and at first you may need to observe. Learning an instrument can be difficult and your child may need your support and praise to keep them motivated.

If your child's not particularly keen, don't worry about it. They may change their minds later on and you can pick up a musical instrument at any age and enjoy it. And unless it's something that they are committed to, it's likely to be an uphill struggle to get them to practise! And of course, you can continue to expose them to lots of different types of music at home. Or if they prefer the idea of singing rather than playing an instrument you might consider looking for local choirs/singing groups.

Play & pretend

At Perform we play lots of music games - they're lots of fun, and also encourage children to think more about music and how it makes them feel.

If you're keen to encourage your child to have an appreciation of music why not try the following at home?

  • Talk about the soundtracks used in various films and how it enhances what's happening on screen.
  • Select a couple of contrasting pieces of music. Play them one at a time and talk to your child about them.
  • Ask how the piece of music makes them feel: happy, sad, scared, excited, etc.
  • Ask them to give you some words to describe the music and think about what sort of scene the piece of music might be used for.
  • You might also like to talk about the different instruments which are played in the piece and how they add character to the music.
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