At LAAPA, we offer music programs for students of all ages, so there is something here for everyone! Different programs have varied physical and age requirements due to the nature of the instruments. For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons at LAAPA. Some people will tell you “the sooner the better,” but this is not always true. Getting started too early can cause the student to have a negative experience preventing him/her from realizing the joy of music. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well and typically advance quickly. Adults are welcome to start in any program. Progress for adults is heavily dependent on how much time is available for the adult to practice. We teach many adult beginner students of all ages, even in their 60’s and 70’s. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining the age a child can begin taking music and dance lessons.
.:. Preschool Music Classes
Preschool music classes offer an excellent first formal introduction to music for toddlers and lap babies ages 18 months-4 years. Classes focus on the development of the whole child by listening to a variety of styles of music from around the world, singing, dancing, etc. Parents often attend all or part of these classes with their child. Preschool classes provide these young students with a basic foundation in key concepts that prepare them for private instruction.
.:. Piano Lessons
At the heart of music is the piano, and it is no coincidence that the piano is often the first instrument of the beginning music student. Its comprehensive and visual nature within the fundamental realm of music allows for an education that will translate well into any other area of music. Instruction is available in all styles such as classical, jazz, pop, blues, country, rock, contemporary christian, etc. We have generally found age 5 to be an excellent time to get started in piano lessons.
.:. Guitar/Banjo/Ukulele Lessons
Age 6-7 is typically a great time to begin guitar lessons. Younger players may find playing a bit too strenous on their hands due to the amount of finger and hand strength needed to sound notes and chords. Students ages 5-6 who show an interest in guitar will have a much easier time and more fun learning ukulele for a year or two before switching over to guitar. Every lesson learned on ukulele will will translate perfectly to the guitar when ready! Bass guitar students may begin studying between ages 9-10. Bass guitars are usually larger/heavier instruments whose physical demands are most often best left to this age bracket.
.:. Voice Lessons
Age 5 is recommended as the youngest age for voice/singing lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords, and lung capacity), special care must be taken to select repertoire that is appropriate to the developing voice especially between the ages of 5-11. At LAAPA, children ages 5-11 learn how to properly use their voices in a fun/relaxed environment. At age 12, our traditional voice lessons begin which include the study of additional repertoire including classical arias/etudes, popular, broadway, and jazz selections, and of course any particular pieces the student is interested in learning!
.:. Violin/Viola/Cello Lessons
Violin students are able to begin lessons as early as age 4. Some schools and private instructors will accept students as early as 2 or 3. The Suzuki method of instruction is typically the first introduced to violin students as it de-emphasizes the need to read notes to play. As many violin students can come away from years of violin lessons without being able to read music, we use a hybrid method that combines the ease of the Suzuki approach along with learning to read music. Instruction in Viola begins at age 10. Instruction in Cello begins between ages 5-6.
.:. Drum Lessons
Students as young as age 5 have been successful in weekly drum lessons. This can vary from child to child and is highly dependent on the student's ability to concentrate and maintain focus on the topics at hand. A full drum set is not necessary to begin drum lessons as new students typically are first introduced to the snare drum. The additional drums and cymbals are introduced as the student progresses.
.:. Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone (Woodwind Lessons)
Instruction for instruments of the woodwind family usually begins between the ages of 8-10. Learning the correct embouchure (mouth position) for all woodwind instruments is notably the most challenging starting point. With proper instruction and patience, it quickly becomes second nature.
.:. Trumpet, Trombone, & Tuba (Brass Lessons)
Instruction for instruments of the brass family usually begins at the age of 9 for the trumpet and ages 10-11 for the trombone and tuba. All members of the brass family require a large amount of facial musle memory and control to produce the various pitches correctly with the limited number of key triggers native to the instruments.
Group classes work well for beginning piano, voice, guitar, and violin students, preschool music classes, and theory. On occasion, the learning pace of a student may exceed that of the class, and in these cases, the instructor will recommend that the student transfer to private lessons. Private instruction will be more productive as the instructor has the time and focus to work on the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus. Beginning students in piano (ages 5-up), voice (ages 5-up), guitar (ages 7-up), and violin (ages 5-up) may choose to enroll in either small group classes or private instruction when getting started here at LAAPA.
While lessons in the home or at a teacher's home are usually either more affordable or convenient, the loss of time due to distractions from the telephone ringing, familiy, or other personal interupptions must be considered. For the best possible learning experience, teaching studios should be free from the many distractions of life for the full thirty minutes - one hour each week.
Music lessons taught within a school environment also presents the student with an opportunity to meet, listen to, and/or perform with a variety of other musicians.
Lessons taught at most schools also ensures that the Instructor is qualified and capable of teaching. The practice of hobbyists trying to make a few extra dollars on the side by teaching beginning music lessons is not uncommon.
Don't be afraid to additionally request the qualifications of the Instructor. Does the Instructor hold a Degree in Music for example?
As with anything, improving in music takes practice. One of the main problems with music lessons is the drudgery of practicing and the fight between parents and students to practice every day. Here are some ways to make practicing easier:
Time - Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the child to practice.
Repetition - We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instrument, but knows if they are on repetition number 3, they are almost finished.
Rewards - This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. In our school we reward young children with stars and stickers for their work, as well as placing their names on the flashing electronic board in our waiting areas for 3 superior ratings earned in a month’s time. Praise tends to be the most coveted award - there just is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing. In that case there is always next week!
There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators that are designed for students in a variety of situations. Additionally, our own LAAPA Press has published several titles by our own award winning faculty members. For example in piano, there are books for very young beginners and books for adult beginners. Teaching materials are available for all ages and levels in any situation. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier and ensure that no important part of learning the instrument can be inadvertently omitted. If the student should relocate to a different part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to provide a smooth transition in your music instruction.
At the end of the day, music needs to be fun and enjoyable. Realize, as the teacher should, that each student will learn at his/her own pace. Be sure to arrange for daily practice and set reasonable weekly goals. This will enable the student to develop a lifetime appreciation for the art of music.
Covington School of Music
Mandeville School of Music & Dance
River Ridge School of Music & Dance