Getting your child in tune

Every parent wants to give their child an edge in life – the question is, of course, how? Attending music appreciation classes from a young age, and learning an instrument from the right age, can be one way of helping your child’s development and also enhancing their enjoyment of music right throughout their lives.

Many benefits flow from a child studying music appreciation or an instrument: cognitive, social, emotional and physical development may be enhanced. "Since language, math, reading and music all have rhythm and pattern, experiencing music also helps children to improve their learning in these areas," says Pichet Sithi-Amnui, director of Gymboree Play & Music. "Emotionally, music can express emotions that children cannot yet verbalise, and physically, moving to music builds young children’s coordination and strengthens motor skills."

Susama Pongpladisai, a teacher with Bmas, says that learning an instrument help’s a child learn about self discipline. "They need to make a schedule for practice, and develop patience."

"Even if they don’t continue to play they will at least have an appreciation of music," says John Garzoli, an independent music instructor and classical guitarist – and that’s something a person can carry with them through life.

What age is a good age to start?

Experts agree that listening to music cannot begin too early. "This thing in here is like a sponge," says Andrew Healey, head of the early childhood department at MIFA, pointing to his head. "Music should be learned like a second language, informally, from day one. If you start young, it becomes a part of your life."

Garzoli says that Bach and Vivaldi are good starts, and that while there is some truth that listening to Mozart is good for you, it won’t necessarily make you smart.

Learning an instrument can come a little later. "It depends upon the concentration of the child," says Garzoli. They should only begin when they are mentally able to concentrate on learning.

Getting started on an instrument

"Piano and violin are the instruments to start younger children on," says Garzoli. Violins make children learn to tune by ear, plus special smaller-sized violins are made for children. Piano, on the other hand, is a pitch instrument and allows the child to consistenly hear perfect pitch.

Bmas’s Susama says that a child can start the piano at age four, violin aged four to five, and other instruments like guitar and wind from around seven to eight.

Finding a school or a teacher

There is no shortage of music schools in Bangkok, teaching both appreciation and instruments. Styles of instruction vary, so it’s best to visit a few and see which suits your child best. Size of the class is also something to consider, and some classes require a parent to accompany the child, depending on its age.

Specialist music schools also offer instrument classes for when the child reaches an appropriate age. When choosing an individual teacher, Healey suggests asking the candidate how often they perform themselves. "You don’t have to be a brilliant performer, but that’s the end result," he says. It’s also important to note whether the teacher makes an effort to connect with the child, by for example, getting down on their hands and knees to talk to them.

Let your child find their own pace

It’s important for parents to remember not to pressure their child. "I’ve taught children who are physically as tight as a rock because their mother is standing there. But becoming technically advanced – that’s not what music is about for me," says Healey.

Susama agrees. "Don’t put too much pressure on your child, and don’t expect too much from them. Let them go at their own pace and have some fun."