Happy Kids Music Day! This is a day dedicated to recognizing the importance of music in the life of children. Whether a child simply doodles around with an instrument or singing, or later becomes a professional musician, the benefits of introducing music to children are well-studied and numerous.
I recently asked local singer-songwriter and guitar teacher, Stefanie Potter, some questions about music lessons for kids. Stefanie started playing guitar at the age of six and has been teaching guitar lessons in the Charleston community since 2017. She had a lot to share with me about considering music lessons for kids. Below you can glean some wisdom from her as I did, as well as find a list of resources and some local music teachers for a multitude of instruments!
What age range have you taught guitar lessons to?
I’ve taught guitar to children ages 5-14 (plus adults/children-at-heart!)
Is there an age you recommend kids start music lessons?
For guitar lessons, I typically recommend waiting until age six, but I have had success with a five-year-old! Other instruments vary in recommended minimum age. For example, the piano is one you could more easily start young, while it’s probably good to wait on wind instruments until their lungs have developed more.
As a parent, what should I look for in my child in order to decide if they’re ready for music lessons?
If your child has a love of music and shows interest in learning to play an instrument, definitely have a chat with them about it! Explain that learning an instrument takes time and practice, but if you stick with it, you can have a lot of fun playing some songs you love!
Some signs to look for that they’re ready: they follow basic instructions, can stay engaged for a half-hour lesson, and have patience to stick with something difficult until they get it. A natural sense of rhythm helps, but that can generally be developed!
What else should parents consider before signing their child up for music lessons?
Something to keep in mind is that the more they practice, the more value they’ll get out of the lessons. The younger they are, the less likely they’ll have much success in the beginning if they’re only playing once a week during the lesson. Do you have the capacity to help your young child (or encourage your older child) to practice outside of lessons once a week or more? Even 15 minutes a week (on a day that isn’t the lesson day) can make a difference in helping their memory and skill development.
What frequency of lessons do you recommend?
I do lessons once a week for half an hour. That typically gives us enough time to review last week’s lesson and start on something new. The hope is that they take the new skill or song and work on getting better at it before returning the next week. Longer lessons may be appropriate for teens or adults, but can be overwhelming for the average child.
If I decide to seek music lessons for my child, what should I ask a potential private music teacher to see if they’re a good fit for us?
There are several things to consider when deciding this:
- Ask about the style/genre of music and skills they teach. If your child is interested in rock or soul music and you get a classical or country teacher, they’ll probably learn some good skills but they may get impatient because it hasn’t translated to their interests quickly enough.
- Ask how quickly the child will be learning songs. One time I started teaching a child who had months of prior lessons with someone else but had barely gotten to learn any songs. Needless to say, they were so excited about how quickly I taught them songs when we started working together.
- Ask about the method of teaching. Are they willing to take song requests that your child wants to learn?
- Of course, also ask how scheduling and payment work. Some teachers have you pay monthly regardless of whether you make it to the lessons, while others are flexible and you pay as you attend.
- Ask if you travel to them for lessons, or if they travel to you. Also, will you sit in on the lessons or wait outside? Consider child safety, and do what works for you!
If I’m considering music lessons for my child, should I buy the instrument ahead of time?
If possible, wait to purchase and ask your child’s teacher if there’s a certain type of instrument they recommend. For example, I typically advise starting young children on a child-sized nylon string classical guitar until they build up strength in their hands. This also builds confidence in their skills before switching to a steel string acoustic which is more difficult to play.
You’ll also want to ask a teacher what else you should purchase besides the instrument. For guitar, you’ll want a tuner, picks (a specific type depending on play style), guitar case, and strap. You’ll also want extra strings in case one breaks, or the old ones start to wear out.
Below are some music teachers that were recommended to me by others. This list is by no means exhaustive of all the great musicians and resources in our city — but hopefully, this will serve as a good starting point for anyone beginning the search!
Charleston-Area Music Teachers & Resources
- Stefanie Potter, guitar
- Impact Creative Arts Academy in Summerville
- White Key Studios in West Ashley
- Hungry Monk Music in North Charleston
- Kindermusik of Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, and West Ashley
- Charleston Academy of Music, downtown and Mount Pleasant
- Lessons.com can help you search for local teachers in just about anything!
- Ask on your neighborhood social media page for recommendations of someone local!