How to encourage your child to take an interest in learning a musical instrument
Motherhood Diaries is working in partnership with Yamaha Music London to bring you a feature series all about the importance of music in your child’s life. This feature series will include the following articles: (1) The benefits of your child learning to play an instrument (you can find the article here), (2) How to encourage your child to take an interest in learning a musical instrument (which is this article), (3) The link between music therapy and ADHD/anxiety, which will include encouraging your child to express their emotions through music, and (4) I will finish the series off with an extensive review of the Yamaha YDP-S34 Arius Digital Piano, which, I believe is the perfect companion to assist in your child’s piano lessons.
So, let’s get started with the second article in the series – How to encourage your child to take an interest in learning a musical instrument.
In my first article, I talked about how music is everywhere around us, and how playing music can make you smarter, especially when learning to play a musical instrument. Unfortunately, music isn’t yet at the forefront of our children’s education and having access to instruments can prove difficult for those with socio-economic constraints. Despite whatever obstacles parents find themselves in, it is still essential to learn about the power of music in a child’s life and how it helps further develop their brain. So, to summarise my last article, music is important because it can:
- Make you smarter
- Increase memory skills
- Improve coordination
- Increase IQ
- Teach discipline, perseverance, and a sense of achievement
- Improve concentration and attention
- Improve maths, reading and comprehension skills
- Expose you to cultural history
- Promote and spread happiness
If you want to learn more about each of the above points, check out my article on the benefits of your child learning to play an instrument.
Say you know all of this already, and you want to encourage your child to pick up an instrument, but you’re not sure where or how to start. Let’s discuss further the ways you can encourage and motivate your child to take an interest in learning a musical instrument.
“Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.” Pablo Casals
Find out what music your child is into
There are lots of ways to find out what your child is into musically and that’s by watching what they do when they encounter music. When I was very young, I used to jump up and down when I saw a violinist on the TV, and so my parents bought me a violin. When my children were very young, I used to play clips of various types of instruments on YouTube to gauge their interest. At first, they liked all the instruments, but subtle differences over time showed me with which instrument they share a kindred connection. I’ve always felt a certain synergy with the violin, but being exposed to the guitar, piano, saxophone and clarinet made me realise that I was desperate to play them too. I only knew about these instruments through friends who played, and I attended concerts and performed in music schools also, so I was exposed to this kind of environment. If you surround your child with music, it would be much easier to see what they like.
“Music can change the world because it can change people.” Bono
Head over to Yamaha Music London
Yamaha Music London’s store has fast become my favourite store in the whole of London. In fact, it is my candy shop in the heart of London’s Soho, where you are literally surrounded by music and beautiful instruments. What’s more, you never know who will pop into the store to say hello. I am gutted I missed Jools Holland this time, but I shall be going back to my candy shop very soon.
We were invited to attend a free taster session on 15th September 2018, in the lead up to National Learn to Play weekend, which is on 23rd and 24th March 2019. So, Yamaha Music London decided to test the waters in September during the back to school buzz, and the results were a raving success.
The aim of the free Learn to Play sessions is to give you the opportunity to try out different instruments in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. The Yamaha experts are there to provide you with advice and support, even if you have never touched an instrument in your life or you are a bona fide musician yourself. Kids of all ages are welcome to try out and play.
You can choose from the following instruments:
- Clavinova Piano
- Electric & Bass Guitar
- Acoustic Guitar
I have always been a massive advocate of music being the medicine for your soul. So, to be given the opportunity to expose my boys to try out all sorts of instruments was probably one of the best gifts I could have afforded them. At the free taster session, we got to meet fantastic music teachers and professional musicians, and it was amazing to see how the boys reacted to each instrument. I thought I knew my children and what they liked, so I booked the drums for both at 10.30am with James. James was very engaging with the boys and even performed a fast piece at the end of the session which took the boys’ breath away!
The session was followed by the acoustic guitar at 11am with Mete. I was amazed to see how quickly the boys caught on with the guitar and Mete taught them so much in the space of 30 minutes. A very talented acoustic guitarist!
I wanted to obviously squeeze in the violin for my boys, but it was fully booked at the time, and our only shot was at 2pm. So, to keep the boys amused, I took them around the store and learned a lot about them in the space of 30 minutes.
Aidan (6 years old) was staring at an electric guitar for about 5 minutes. When asked what he was staring at, he said: “Mummy, it’s such a shiny guitar, I want to play it!”
So, I swiftly booked a Learn to Play session with Mags at 1pm for the boys. Magss was great at showing off the electric guitar to the boys. Aidan was desperate to play, but, unfortunately, the electric guitar was a little too big and heavy. So Mags adjusted the guitar with a capo so that Aidan could still enjoy some light strumming. I mentally made a note of the guitar he was using to buy it one day for him.
Aron (7) was nowhere to be found until I walked up the flight of stairs to the grand piano portion of the store and saw him playing on the largest grand piano he could find.
So, I booked them both with the very lovely and calm Valentina at 1.30pm.
Sadly, after that session, the boys’ energy had been depleted. They hadn’t had any lunch, and they were tired from being woken up at 6am in anticipation (and excitement for the day ahead). So, I had to wave goodbye to their violin session at 2pm, but with the promise to myself that I will be back at that store very shortly to pick up where we left off. We had such a lovely send off with great sword balloon presents from the very lovely and bubbly Olivia from Racing Snail Creative Entertainment. She’s a genius with the balloons!
Honestly, words cannot describe how proud I felt of the boys learning to play the drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and grand piano, especially when they were being taught by amazingly talented musicians at Yamaha Music London headquarters. Nothing can beat piquing a child’s interest than picking up the actual instrument and playing. I now need to figure out how to afford to buy the drums and the electric guitar for my boys because they really enjoyed their sessions with James and Mags. Our music corner is coming along very nicely too, and it would be lovely to include a drum set and electric guitar in the music family.
If you are interested in bringing your children to one of the free taster sessions, (I promise you, you will not be disappointed!) then the details are:
Yamaha Music London
152-160 Wardour Street, London
Visit www.yamahamusiclondon.com for store opening hours and information on the next free taster sessions. All you need to do is decide which instrument you would like to play, pop along to the store as early as possible to avoid disappointment, book your session on the instrument of your choice and, depending on availability, you may be able to schedule more than one session on different instruments.
Check out our video recap of events at Yamaha Music London in Soho
Take a tour of Yamaha Music London’s Store here: https://www.yamahamusiclondon.com/Our-Store/Take-a-virtual-tour/
“Most people die with their music still locked up inside them.” Benjamin Disraeli
Give your child access to whatever musical instruments you have to hand
Of course, it’s optimal to attend the Yamaha Music London store regularly with your children, but it’s not always practical. We want our children to continue playing and practising, so having a musical instrument at home is a great way to get started, even if it’s just to whet their appetite. I have accumulated instruments over the years, so our music corner has a YDP-S34 Arius Digital Piano, 3 Acoustic Guitars, a saxophone, a clarinet, recorders and two violins. I am quite the music fanatic, so I endeavour to have as many instruments as I can muster in our house by the time I die. If this is not your MO then even if you only have a toy guitar or a recorder at first, it doesn’t matter. Toy xylophones and keyboards are great introductory instruments to practice music on because they encourage cause and effect in a fun way, i.e. “If I bang this key it makes a different sound to the other key I banged previously.” Even introducing your kids to crafting an instrument is super beneficial, for example, making a drum from a can or pot or placing some rice in a bottle and creating maracas. It’s all music development. Introduce rhythm and playing sounds together, so the child can pick up how the beats work to every bar.
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Upgrade their instruments to real instruments when the timing is right
As children get older, you can start to introduce them to small versions of real musical instruments, like we have in our house. Currently, we have a ¼ sized violin and a ¼ sized guitar, which works really well for my 6 and 7-year-old boys at the moment. Soon they will need to upgrade to a ½ or ¾ sized violin and guitar, but the aim is to help them as much as possible with practising on suitable and practicable instruments. These instruments can also help to encourage children to begin making music using different pitches. You can help them further by teaching straightforward songs like “Ba ba black sheep” which they will love to play over and over again once they hear themselves making music.
“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” Confucius
Consider a private tutor
It’s a great idea to start private lessons as soon as you can as most school programs don’t offer music lessons until kids are beyond Year 3/4. I would say the earlier, the better and don’t waste time on semantics or logistics. There are great online as well as offline tutors who can help your child progress while you are waiting for your child to be enrolled in a school program. It may save you time and money if you opt for an instrument which your child can continue to study at school, like a woodwind or brass instrument. However, children are probably more inclined to go for instruments like guitars or drums. Don’t stop them. In fact, I would offer as many instruments as they can take at this stage.
“Where words fail, music speaks.” Hans Christian Anderson
Get them involved in school programs
One of the most important steps to enhancing your child’s learning through playing a musical instrument is to encourage them to perform along with their school friends who will make the experience so much more fun for them. They will be exposed to a number of opportunities including extra-curricular activities like joining a band or orchestra at school and then ultimately at a music school, which will become a very attractive mark on their CV and high school applications.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Plato
Be involved in their music journey
One of the most significant gifts you can afford your child is time and commitment, as well as love and support. Encourage them regularly and stay involved in their music journey. Communicate with the private or school tutor about their progress, so that you can enhance their learning at home. Offer a musical environment, like we have in our little music corner at home and encourage them to practice just 10 minutes every day, which is nothing out of their time, but so invaluable to their learning journey.
“Music is like a dream. One that I cannot hear.” Ludwig van Beethoven
Listen to music and sing regularly
Other ways you can further enhance your child’s learning is to ensure music is around them all the time, whether it is on the radio, on the TV, when you’re playing an instrument, or when they’re singing, which I thoroughly encourage. Singing is the first instrument people are exposed to, whether that is being sung to by a parent or hearing it on the TV or radio. And there is a multitude of benefits to singing too. Singing causes the brain to perform multiple tasks at once which helps to develop a child’s memory. When you hear a song on the radio, you try to remember the lyrics and then your brain learns to perform that song simultaneously with singing the words from memory. Singing also encourages deep breathing and endorphins to flow to the brain from the beautiful music. As well as playing an instrument, singing also helps to develop a child’s imagination, creativity and concentration skills.
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Bob Marley
Record your child singing and playing an instrument
When your child plays their first song in front of you, it is a monumental moment, isn’t it? Record them play, so they can watch themselves back, as they will not only be able to see where they need to improve, but they also can see how much their hard work is paying off. Being able to physically see progress, even though sometimes they don’t feel like they are, builds confidence, especially when playing in front of an audience. Regular performances also reduce stage fright, which brings me to my last point.
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live in my daydreams in music. I see my life regarding music.” Albert Einstein
Arrange family dates to musical activities
The memories I have of playing in the Royal Albert Hall, and Royal Festival Hall, as well as performing Ave Maria at St. Nicholas Church in Prague will stay with me for the rest of my life. It is one of the very few memories I have to date that fill me with supreme happiness inside and out. I remember the goose pimples I felt when I heard the choir sing Ave Maria above our orchestra, at the very top of the church, as I wept loudly while accompanying the choir at the bottom of the church. I remember watching in awe as the Jazz trumpeter Guy Barker effortlessly played in front of thousands of people at the Royal Albert Hall as I accompanied him with the orchestra. I remember playing Méditation (Thaïs) in front of my whole school when I was just 16 and the very nerves that flowed through me as I managed to hit that last harmonic at the very end of the piece. These memories are deep rooted, and no one can take them away from me. I want to be able to offer my children the opportunity to experience music in the same way I did because I know that it will not only enrich their lives, but it will also fill them with a certain sense of pride and accomplishment that you will be hard pushed to find anywhere else.
“How is it that music can, without words, evoke our laughter, our fears, our highest aspirations?” Jane Swan
Honestly, there is no greater joy than when you find your instrument, which I believe is the cornerstone to success in your music journey. But, remember, there are no rules in the book to say that you can’t play more than one instrument, so expose your child to as many instruments as you can find and then let them follow their journey naturally, obviously with a bit of guided pushing along the way
*In collaboration with Yamaha Music London*