Learning an instrument teaches lessons for life

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Children need to put in the time to ensure they get the full benefit of their music lessons. Photo: Shutterstock.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Children need to put in the time to ensure they get the full benefit of their music lessons. Photo: Shutterstock.

So you've decided you have a budding young musician at home - or you're harbouring a desire to explore your creative side.

Research shows that music can benefit children in many areas including language, maths, concentration and social skills, just to name a few.

And for adults, taking on the challenge of a new skill can help to keep the old brain ticking over, ward off ageing and reduce stress.

Former piano teacher Ann Callaghan says many benefits come from learning to play a musical instrument.

She recommends seven as the ideal age for children to start lessons as they are able to retain what they learn from week to week.

"You can start learning an instrument at any age but, it's the same with anything, it's always easier to start as a child," Ms Callaghan said.

"You can start learning an instrument at any age"

Ann Callaghan

"They have no other distractions and plenty of time to practise. In fact, most children are 'ordered' to practise by a parent.

"One problem with learning as an adult is the impatience to improve. If an adult can't see improvement immediately they often get disheartened."

Ms Callaghan said children, however, will do their allotted practice time and don't care whether they've improved or not. Before they realise it, they've gone up a grade.

She said there are a few things parents should take into consideration before committing their child to music lessons.

"Firstly, there's the cost of both lessons and the instrument," Ms Callaghan said. "Go with a good quality instrument from the beginning. It doesn't have to be the best, but nobody will sound any good on an instrument that should be thrown out."

You should also consider the time needed to attend weekly lessons and practise daily.

"The biggest issue of all is your strength of character to insist that your child puts in the necessary practice time," Ms Callaghan said.

And the benefits of learning to play an instrument? There are many.

"You can play with others, such as in a school or community band or orchestra which widens your social circle and is very rewarding," Ms Callaghan said.

"Playing an instrument and reading music keeps your mind active and helps with mindfulness. It's a great way to leave your worries behind for a while.

"You can also show off. Why not? You've done a lot of work to be able to play and it's nice to get praise for your efforts."

And playing an instrument isn't always about your own fulfilment. "It's nice to be able to play for others," Ms Callaghan said. "There may be community or school groups that need accompaniment. Or you could earn money by playing."