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Musicality Matters-Learning a musical instrument can be an immensely worthwhile experience for a child

Learning a musical instrument can be an immensely worthwhile experience for a child. Whether it’s something they carry on doing as an adult, or is just a childhood hobby, giving them the opportunity at an early age could have a wealth of benefits. Research has consistently proven that playing music and learning an instrument aids general intellectual development, including language skills, as well as helping to develop physical co-ordination, stimulate creativity and increase self-confidence. The discipline of practising, and engaging in group activities such as bands, orchestras and choirs, can also prove to be highly advantageous. And making music isn’t just good for children; recent studies have found that it can help ward off the onset of dementia in later life. It really can be an enjoyable lifelong pursuit – but it can also be an expensive one.

False economies

Grandma’s old piano, a super-cheap second-hand violin or a charity shop guitar may not be the most suitable instruments for a beginner. Not only could the sound quality be poor, it may also be difficult to keep them in tune. Older instruments may also prove harder to play, demanding a specialist touch to deal with their quirks. An instrument which has not been kept in tip-top condition may have other problems, as well: stiff keys on a flute, for example, or dried-out cork on the key-pads of a clarinet, will all make it harder – if not impossible – to get the right sounds. Guitars need to be ‘set up’ to suit individual players, and if this is not right, a child might even be deterred from playing.

You need not spend a fortune, however – and it’s certainly not worth buying a Stradivarius for a school orchestra violinist or a Stratocaster for a student strummer. Your child’s music teacher should be able to advise; older pupils may have starter instruments for sale which they have either given up on or which they want to trade in, and some schools or local authorities offer instruments on loan or for rental.

Some of the most popular instruments are affordable, anyway. The humble and surprisingly versatile ukulele is having a revival and proving a hit with many children as a gateway to the guitar or as an instrument in its own right.  And of course, there’s always the recorder – generations of kids have started out blowing ‘Greensleeves’ on one and then gone on to the oboe, clarinet, bassoon, or saxophone.

Look out for opportunities to introduce your child to as many different instruments and types of music as possible before buying an instrument or booking a series of lessons – make sure you’re spending on something they’ll want to commit to. Schools often run ‘taster’ sessions at the start of a term, and local orchestras may hold open days and sessions where interested kids can try out a variety of instruments.

Taking tuition

Many parents will opt for expensive private lessons, and expect their children to go through a series of graded exams, but these aren’t always the best option for everyone; some children may prefer to learn in a less structured environment or in a group.

Local organisations can give children the chance to try out everything from brass instruments in a marching band to steel drums in a calypso band, shake homemade percussion devices in a samba band or team up under supervision to form their own garage-rock combo. Folk clubs sometimes have a ‘youth’ section, too. Tutors and adults involved in any of these activities should be accredited and CRB-checked.

Whether your child is a budding Jimi Hendrix, the next Nigel Kennedy, an aspiring Adele or just someone who will go on to enjoy playing for pleasure throughout their life, it’s worth getting them the right instrument and the right tuition to make the best start in their musical career. Using a credit card could be an option to help you manage the cost.

Issued by Sainsbury’s Finance

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