Kids and Music; when to start, what instrument to start with?

Paul Laverick, strings expert at Larsen Music and ukulele king, answers your questions around children learning musical instruments.

Paul Laverick is a music teacher in Victoria, BC. Here he answers questions about teaching instruments to children – when to start, what instrument to start on and how to practice. You can visit Paul at Larsen Music where he will gladly advise you on the right instrument for your child.At what age do children usually learn to play an instrument?

I feel that on the whole 8 years is the earliest you can set up a regular lesson program and preferably 10.

Should I encourage my child to play with music before then and if so, should I buy him an instrument or will pots and pans do?

There’s no problem trying occasional lessons before that and trying out different instruments. There are instruments that are physically out of bounds for a 10 year old like the tuba or church organ but there are some instruments that are great like the ukulele, xylophones, hand drums and all kinds of noise makers, whistles, rattles and shakers. Pots and pans and wooden spoons still work really well. I think installing a sense of rhythm is the best place to start.

How will I know what instrument my child wants to play?

I know people whose children have taken up the same instrument as them but I think they often want to play something different from their parents. Exposure to everything is the best course of action. Visiting stores, going to public concerts or enrolling in summer music camps. You can fit a three year old out with a violin but I don’t know why. The piano is probably the best choice as it’s a gateway to harmony and theory if that’s what you want or just great for sing alongs.

What is the best and simplest instrument for my child to start out with?

I think there ukulele is great. You can take it anywhere, it’s cheap, it’s easy to play chords but best of all for the very young they can just strum and develop rhythm.

Can I hire an instrument or must I buy one?

Many shops can rent school band instruments, guitars and electric pianos. If they do they’ll likely have some kind of ‘rent to own’ program too for when you’ve got an idea of the instrument you want to stick with.

Should my child have music lessons and if so how do I find a teacher?

Again most music shops have some kind of lesson program which might give you a little more flexibility. Word of mouth can often be the best way to find a private teacher.

How often should my child practice his instrument?

Practice is the key. If there’s a weekly lesson it’s no good cramming the night before. Short practice sessions are the best. 15 min every morning 20 minutes every other day and organize the sessions like. 5 min of scales, 10 of sight reading for example then at the end have fun playing whatever they want.

Are there any good websites for children to learn music from?

There are lots of minute lessons for many instruments on Youtube, that’s a great place to start.
Paul Laverick is a guitar and ukulele teacher in Victoria, BC. You can visit him at Larsen Music to bug him with questions or just to admire his lovely English accent!