Six Stages of Kids Learning a Musical Instrument

Six Stages of Kids Learning a Musical Instrument on Falcondale Life blog. Different stages for parents when helping a child with their musical instrument learning. From first lessons through orchestras and exams to teenage years. The school years are a great opportunity to enjoy playing a musical instrument. To get the most out of it, your child will benefit from your support. But do you know what you’re in for? I’ve divided up our experiences into six stages, to look at more closely.

1. School Recorder or Ukelele

Although the ukelele is becoming a more popular musical instrument, it’s still common for primary children to learn recorder in groups. It makes a fantastic squeak when you blow too hard on it. The novelty will probably wear off – stay hopeful! Mastering “three blind mice” on the recorder can be immensely satisfying for a seven-year old.

Through the school recorder you may learn whether your child has an interest in playing music. Also you may discover if s/he is ready to start formal lessons.

Six Stages of Kids Learning a Musical Instrument on Falcondale Life blog. Different stages for parents when helping a child with their musical instrument learning. From first lessons through orchestras and exams to teenage years.. Child playing the violin.

2. New Learner – Supporting a Practice Habit

Seven is a pretty good age to start a first musical instrument but even twelve years old is not too late. Of course there is no rule. If you are 82 and want to start learning then I wouldn’t tell you it’s a mistake. Remember the journey is more important than the result. This is never more true than with learning to play music.

In the early days my children would often practice at the kitchen table while I cooked tea. To learn a piece they need to segment and blend, just like learning to read, but they don’t really want to bother. With help they learned how to practice effectively. Three practices a week is pretty good going, but more is needed for exam work.

3. First musical instrument exams

Music exams are pretty intimidating because the candidate performs solo to a stranger in an unfamiliar room. However there’s a good chance that it might just wash over your younger child. The feeling of pressure didn’t really mount up for my kids until they were much older. I remember saying to Fizz when she was nine “just show the examiner how much you enjoy playing the flute” and she really took it to heart.

Six Stages of Kids Learning a Musical Instrument on Falcondale Life blog. Different stages for parents when helping a child with their musical instrument learning. From first lessons through orchestras and exams to teenage years. Child playing the flute.4. Orchestras and ensembles

Joining an orchestra does help their learning and it’s a relaxed way to try being part of a bigger sound. Some primary schools have an ensemble and it’s pretty standard at secondary school. It’s common for local Councils to run Saturday morning orchestras. If your child is learning piano, they could join in a beginners percussion section, perhaps.

My children have both gone through a stage of not wanting to go to their usual orchestra. I have let them each have a year off because they found the music was too hard. It was killing their confidence. I just made sure they understood that I wanted them to try it again after a year, and not to see it as giving up orchestra forever.

5. Changing schools and teachers

Moving up to secondary school may mean changing musical instrument teachers. Find out the year before what other parents think of the music teaching at the new school. Have questions ready for the open day. Get a back-up plan by looking for a private teacher too. If your child seems truly gifted at music this might be a good time to add in a second musical instrument, especially piano which will help them with theory and composing.

Six Stages of Kids Learning a Musical Instrument on Falcondale Life blog. Different stages for parents when helping a child with their musical instrument learning. From first lessons through orchestras and exams to teenage years. Child playing the violin.6. Teens – taking off or winding down

Through the teenage years super opportunities like foreign orchestra tours may come along. Sometimes there are grants for low income families to be included in this.

As the homework pressure increases, try not to wrangle with your teen over music practice. Yes they need to do some, but unless you’re raising a future full-time musician then their regular schoolwork is more important. It’s really easy to fall in the trap of asking about music practice but never asking about English homework. It totally gives the wrong impression of your priorities.

Teenage angst can make music exams feel unbearable and perhaps your child will want to stop taking them. Don’t drown the enjoyment with stress. If s/he can keep going though, they do count for UCAS points.

If your teen is really going places in music then be prepared to use your weekends to drive them to auditions for chamber orchestras, music colleges or rock bands. Anything could happen!

Have your children been learning an instrument? What has it been like? Add a comment below.

Musical instruments are expensive, should you buy rent or borrow?

After The Playground


  1. 23rd September 2018 / 3:22 pm

    Learning musical instruments is one great skill you can add to your list of skills and impress your family and friends. But of course, if you love music or your love singing, learning an instrument or two is a great advantage for you.

    • 24th September 2018 / 3:56 pm

      Personally I think it needs to be enjoyable for the learner’s own benefit, or to learn the self-discipline of sticking at something even when it takes time and effort.

  2. 15th October 2017 / 9:52 pm

    My daughter’s secondary school insists everyone learn a musical instrument. I made the mistake of sending my husband off with my daughter to the musical evening to choose one and she came back with a cello! I had envisaged something smaller that she could easily transport! She is not a musical genius, but she does play in the orchestra and even though we have to nag her to practice she is good. It relaxes her and as someone who played three instruments and gave them all up as soon as I went to University I encourage her to soldier on. It is such a gift. Thanks for joining us again. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:41 pm

      Oh goodness let’s hope she doesn’t progress to the double bass. The cello does make a lovely sound. I hope she enjoys the experience of learning, however far she ends up taking it.

  3. 14th October 2017 / 7:10 pm

    my four and three year old are learning the recorder at the moment. They are really enjoying it and having a lot of fun with it x

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:42 pm

      Oh that’s lovely, and it sounds like they must be naturals at music. They are young still.

  4. 13th October 2017 / 10:38 am

    This is a fantastic and very accurate description of learning music. It pretty much mirrors my experience with my three girls. It’s also very true that 12 is not too late. My eldest daughter didn’t really start formal private lessons for guitar until she was 12 and didn’t swap to classical guitar until she was 13. She is now studying for a B Mus (classical guitar) at a conservatoire and is heading for a career as a professional musician. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:44 pm

      That’s interesting and good luck to your daughter! I wonder if she had tried any instruments before guitar? Learning to read music is a challenge in itself but it sounds like she is really driven to pursue her gift.

  5. 13th October 2017 / 7:13 am

    Monkey has not started to learn an instrument yet, although I do know friends that started their little ones when they were really young say 2 or 3. I am waiting for him to make his own decisions, saying that he was quite fascinated by the piano on our holiday!

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:48 pm

      Learning a practice habit is harder at a young age. Personally I wouldn’t want to start nagging about practice with a really small child. However if they are enjoying music then that’s great. It’s another example of how children develop at different speeds.

  6. 12th October 2017 / 9:23 pm

    I always wanted to learn the piano when I was younger and my uncle even started teaching me but we never had enough time and I didn’t keep it up. I regret it now.

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:48 pm

      Oh that’s a pity. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

  7. 12th October 2017 / 6:21 pm

    I always wanted to learn how to play an instrument when I was younger but we had no available places or facilities back home. When I did have the capabilities I was too lazy, it’s important for parents to get involved early on

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:49 pm

      Yes it does require support and opportunity. Thanks for commenting.

  8. 12th October 2017 / 12:13 pm

    Yes the music lessons. It has been Cello for our daughter. Started off with gusto and then the enthusiasm waned. The start of secondary school saw the Cello leave the family with a view to getting started on the next instrument. I think we will wait a little bit before we embark on the piano journey. Keen to keep the interest going though and ensure that the skill of playing an instrument remains. Thanks for sharing with #tweensteensbeyond. Lovely to have you back again.

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:54 pm

      It is nice to be able to play well enough to join in with an ensemble, but it has to stay enjoyable doesn’t it? Good luck to her!

  9. 12th October 2017 / 7:07 am

    My 6yr is desperate to play the guitar. Next year she starts Juniors and i’m hoping they will have lessons available for her. I learnt guitar, piano and saxophone at school so I think it is super important to let them flourish.

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:54 pm

      How nice that she is enthusiastic. I hope the lessons are available.

  10. 11th October 2017 / 1:48 pm

    I was a musical child and my daughter has a crack at the recorder and ukulele I secretly hope that as she is four this is the springboard that will lead to other stages!

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:55 pm

      Nice that she has had these chances already at a young age.

  11. 11th October 2017 / 9:37 am

    What a fantastic blog post , My daughter wants to start piano lessons at school and we are rally exited , as i know that at young age it will come much easier for her. She just need to keep it up , or try other range of instruments

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:56 pm

      Piano is a great way of learning to read music. Thanks for commenting.

  12. 11th October 2017 / 8:29 am

    This takes me back to my childhood 🙂 Despite not being able to play an instrument now I did learn to play the recorder and piano growing up, such a shame those skills were lost over the years!

    • 19th October 2017 / 9:57 pm

      Ah well I hope you enjoyed it while you were doing it. I’m sure it was time well spent!

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