Confucius once said “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without”
– a weighty statement, I’m sure you’ll agree, and yet one with which I wholeheartedly agree. For millennia, people have been writing about the power of music and its phenomenal benefits; its ability to heal, break down barriers, unite cultures, instil joy, entertain millions and so forth…the list goes on.
In addition, the benefits of learning a musical instrument are both plentiful and impressive. Children who practise music can expect to enjoy having a better memory than their non-playing peers. Described as a ‘total work out’ for the brain, learning an instrument aids in both memory storage and retrieval – key life skills for any of us.
Naturally, starting from scratch with any new hobby commands both patience and practice from the individual. Musical children will quickly appreciate the benefits of putting in hard work, as they see a steady improvement in their progress. A sense of pride and fulfilment at a young age can only be a good thing.
Youngsters struggling with their coordination skills may well benefit from learning to play an instrument. Research has shown that those who play a musical instrument have better hand eye coordination than those who don’t.
Socially, music offers youngsters the opportunity to flourish and gain in confidence; being part of a small music group or orchestra enables them to meet with others who share with interests, outside of the school setting. Children quickly learn to express themselves and show an innate understanding and appreciation for something very personal to them.
Learning an instrument is often described as learning a new language; reading and comprehension skills are put to the test as musicians of all ages need to appreciate and ‘read’ how a piece of music should be played. Those who are new to learning an instrument must navigate their way through a host of foreign-looking notes and symbols on the page.
Likewise, maths is a key component for any young Mozart; timing, rhythm, beats and scales all need to be counted and conquered!
For children who find listening a challenge, music can be a brilliant tool; instructions from their teacher need to be implemented whilst listening to the sounds, rhythms and speed of the pieces the they play, all aid in improving their ability to take direction and instruction.
And, of course, with many musical instruments a certain level of upkeep is required; whether it’s polishing, cleaning or tuning, children who are given the sole responsibility of being their instrument’s custodian are more likely to rise to the challenge of looking after it and ensuring it is cared for appropriately.
So, when my oldest son Harry expressed an interest in playing the piano from a young age, I was naturally keen to show my support. I think his love for the piano was born out of visits to my parents’ house. They own an old, rather out-of-tune piano that has clearly seen better days and made better sounds, but Harry was hooked from the minute he was tall enough to reach the keys. He would tinker about on the piano ‘composing’ little tunes that he’d ask us to stand around and listen to, and in return, we’d nod our heads and clap our hands at opportune moments.
But, before committing to the expense of lessons, I wanted to ascertain whether this interest in music was genuine and sustained. We acquired a piano at home (a loan from a friend) and, sure enough, the playing was incessant. However, taking this innocent, unstructured love for the piano to the next level…namely, piano lessons, wasn’t quite so straightforward. I started to put feelers out for a teacher and did some hunting online. My problem was that I needed someone to come to the house, because sitting somewhere in a car for half an hour with a young baby and another younger sibling wasn’t going to work. After trawling (and more trawling) I found a teacher willing to come to our house. Harry was excited; this was it, he could start on his road to becoming a concert pianist, or so he thought. Except, it didn’t quite turn out like that. Whilst the young teacher was lovely, I realised that his style of teaching wasn’t geared to the younger pupil; as opposed to feeling fun and laid-back, the lessons seemed rather intense and serious. And yet, I didn’t want to jack it all in because A) Harry seemed to be enjoying the fact that, at last, he was having lessons and B) I didn’t want to show that giving up is something to be undertaken lightly. We soldiered on with the lessons for the term. After a couple of months, it dawned on me that Harry was no longer playing the piano in his free time. Whereas previously the piano had been his lifeblood during his waking hours, it now wasn’t featuring on his daily agenda at all. His passion wasn’t there, the fun had gone.
I called a friend whose two daughters played the piano and asked her to enquire whether their teacher had space to teach Harry. She did. What’s more, parents and siblings could wait in her house whilst lessons take place. I took Harry along for a trial lesson and BOOM! the magic was back. His love reignited, his interest returned, our house once again filled with music. I guess mother’s intuition played a big part in my decision; I didn’t think Harry had simply lost interest and I wanted to give him the opportunity to try learning with another teacher, and the gamble paid off. I guess it’s not rocket science; what suits one, may not necessarily suit another. Word of mouth plays a huge part in so much in life, and that’s certainly true of piano teachers. For now, I’ll enjoy listening to the piano tunes filtering through the house; I imagine there’s a strong chance they’ll be overtaken by drum and base, dance or trance or something equally ‘loud’ one day… * sigh *