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Support your young musician : by Saskia Rao

Over the years, I have received so many questions of parents about their child’s music education that I made a small synopsis of the most common mistakes and some general advices. The fact that you came to this page itself means that you are taking an active role in your child’s music education and I would like to congratulate you with that.

Because: THE RESEARCH IS IN! Music can actually help to shape and develop your child’s brain. Music is the one activity that employs both the left side of the brain and the right side of the brain (see also ‘fun facts’ and the blogs on this site for more information about the potential benefits of a good music education). But how can we as parents help our young musicians to reach their full potential? Let me start by explaining, what we should NOT do…

THE 6 MOST COMMON MISTAKES PARENTS MAKE WITH THEIR CHILD’S MUSIC EDUCATION:

  • play a role in the pace in which a child learns music, but in music the main ingredient is: PRACTISE! The discipline of structured and focused practice is a valuable lesson for life itself and might take some time to understand for a child. It is helpful to initially sit with your child when they practice their music and have them reflect about the most effective methods.
  • Parents expect too much in too little time. A child takes at least 5 years to master the basics of any instrument or vocal style. Before that, encourage them to play at family functions and at school, but do not put pressure to compete or appear in talent shows/ exams.
  • Parents are not involved enough in the process of learning. When a child learns how to learn, half of the work is done. But: they need the help and guidance of their parents.
  • Giving your child a synthesizer or electric instrument at a young age. Because it is easy, parents think it is suitable. The harsh sounds and rhythms can have very negative effects on a young child’s mind and development. Rather give them an autoharp (svarmandel), small percussion or a xylophone to explore.
  • Exposing the child to harsh music with harsh beats. Many of the pop music created today, have a negative impact on children’s development. Try to introduce classical and folk music at a young age instead.
  • They do not need lessons or classes every day. Better to have 1 good class a week and instill the practice routine at home.
  • THE 2 MOST COMMON PRACTICE MISTAKES CHILDREN ( AND THEIR PARENTS) MAKE :

    • Practicing ‘as fast as possible’. Most children love to sing or play fast, without realizing that they have to practice it slowly first! A good rule is to practice it slowly for 8 times, medium for 4 times and fast for 2 times.
    • Practicing the same thing again with the same mistakes at the same point. When we do not break it down into smaller chunks this is what often happens.
    • GENERAL ADVICE:

      • Find a good teacher that does engage the child positively and supports the child rather than only pointing out failure and mistakes. A good teacher does encourage the child to do age appropriate practice and the child will look forward to their music classes.
      • Many parents are afraid to start their children young. I think that they should start really young, but receive age appropriate education. It is not fair to ask a 4 year old to sit still for an hour, as I once heard. But if you are actively involved you can be your child’s guide at home.
      • Support your child in the process of learning rather than the result.
      • Learn classical before pop. There is nothing like a good foundation in Indian classical music or western classical music. After that, a child can pick up any style without any problem.
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