John Bassett provides the answers! Common questions about children learning to play for the first time.

GregJohnson January 20, 2012 2

Learning a musical instrument can be a fun and fufilling hobby for children. For parents, however, the world of music can appear difficult to navigate, with fact finding missions often producing more questions than answers!

Here’s a list of popular questions that many parents and families regularly ask about their child wanting to learn to play a real musical instrument, with answers provided by Music For Kids’ John  Bassett.

Parents who have a limited knowledge or understanding of music may feel somewhat helpless when seeing their child show serious interest in such an exciting and rewarding subject. I hope this practical advice gives both peace of mind and enjoyment for those helping the young, would-be musician through the early stages of understanding music.

Music has many more qualities than just notes.

How can I help the child start to play music?

Enjoy finding out together and encourage the child to explore musical instruments through books, music and the internet. If the child is curious and interested in any form of music; such as singing, pop groups, school orchestra or band, the piano in the classroom or simply talking about music with friends in the playground, now’s the chance to help develop the interest.

What instrument should I choose?

Musical instruments come in all shapes, sizes and sounds. In the early days of a child’s interest, you may find it easier to select the instrument together with the child. This is a very experimental stage for all. The important point is to budget for purchasing the tutor and accessories at the same time as the instrument. Buying an instrument on its own may be exciting, but without professional guidance from a book/CD/DVD and suitable accessories, the young would-be musician might be disillusioned and uninterested after five minutes of simply trying to only play sounds.

Which tutorial should I purchase?

Music For Kids™ has carefully selected instruction books and tutorials that are simple and clear to understand from the start. The books and DVDs are also chosen to be ‘parent-friendly’, especially for those supportive parents who are perhaps, non-musical but want to help with progress when at all possible. Tutorials don’t have to be in book form. A child may be happier watching a DVD or listening to an accompanying CD.

At what age should the child start playing?

There are no set rules. A child may begin (in their own way) at one or two years of age or pick up a clarinet or guitar when they are in their teens, or even later. The unwritten rule is ‘the time to start playing music is whenever the child is ready’. Certain ages and body development dictate certain instruments. Some instruments are simply too large or too heavy to hold. Music For Kids™  has selected instruments with this in mind. It is always advisable to read the details about the instrument before deciding the purchase.

What should I bear in mind when I buy an instrument?

Although the child’s interest in a certain type of instrument is very important, it is possibly not the controlling factor in the early days. The player first needs to build confidence with playing and understanding music. Some instruments can be more difficult to play at the outset, and this can become a barrier for what should be an enjoyable experience with learning music. If a child wants to play drums, perhaps start them off with simple percussion such as a tambourine, or a percussion kit and watch and hear them play along to the rhythm of a song. If a child likes the saxophone, perhaps start by playing the recorder and reading music, the transfer to another fingered woodwind instrument becomes much easier. Understanding the strings and frets on a ukulele might be the start to competently playing a stringed instrument such as a violin or cello in an orchestra.

John Bassett

John has professionally worked with children & music for over thirty five years. He is a competent musician and has written many children’s songs and directed & produced children’s music-based programmes for television. John began playing at the age of seven and has performed around the World including at London’s famous Royal Albert Hall. He is a parent of two girls and has been a licensed foster parent for many years.

Do you have any questions for John regarding Music For Kids or children learning to play music for the first time? Please leave your questions in the comment box provided below.

  • Jessica H

    As a music teacher, I find the above advice misleading, uninformed and poorly written. It is clearly not written by a music teacher – reading this, I doubt very much if John Bassett has ever taught a child to play a musical instrument. I am disappointed in Music Sales for lowering their standards in this way. If you are going to post advice on your website, then please ensure it is written by someone who has actually taught children and who knows what they are talking about. Please also ensure that it is proof-read and makes grammatical sense. This webpage is far more likely to turn people away from buying your products then to encourage them to purchase. Please do not treat parents like idiots – it is very disrespectful.

    • GregJohnson

      Hi Jessica. I’m sorry to hear that you disagree with the article posted above. The piece was aimed at parents rather than teachers and we wanted to ensure that even the most basic questions were covered. In the past we have received emails from families with similar queries and so we thought it would be great help to all if we posted up the answers that many parents are struggling to find elsewhere.

      All guest contributors to the Musicroom blog are professionals and experts in their field and John Bassett is no exception. As well as being the Director of Music For Kids, John Bassett is a classically trained musician and former music tutor. As a professional percussionist and brass player, he has performed across the UK and internationally, and has privately taught children to play music up to associated board standards.

      Music For Kids sets out to introduce the experience of music to both parents and young children in the home, and to cultivate the young would-be musicians for the years ahead. While the company may be parent focussed it isn’t anti-teacher. In the past John Bassett has cited his music teacher at school as a key inspiration that motivated him to take his passion for music forwards through his life and career.

      We appreciate feedback on all of our blog posts, so thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts.