Benefits of music

Music students have been known to perform better in school than their nonmusical colleagues. Learning music will help with reading skills, as students learn to read sheet music and translate notes and musical symbols into actions.

Students also learn social skills, respect for others and cooperation as they learn to play in groups, perform solos and listen to each other. Learning an instrument also teaches discipline, as a student must set aside time for practice and working on material assigned by the teacher.

What instrument should I play?

Prospective musicians should choose an instrument they enjoy and which is practical for them to play. For instance, if your daughter has small hands, she may not be ready yet for the guitar. If your son can't stand the sound of the clarinet, the instrument is not for him, no matter how easily he can work the keys.

If you want to learn an instrument that will sound great on its own, the piano might be a great choice. One tip: Don't ever force your child into playing an instrument just because "the band needs one."

In general, a good time to introduce your child to an instrument is age 5 or 6, which is when many begin the piano or the violin. These instruments give them a solid foundation in music on which to build, so that they can choose other instruments later on, if they so desire.

At age 7 or 8, children's hands are bigger and they have more respiratory power. This can be a good age to start a wind or brass instrument.

Should I rent or buy?

Renting an instrument can be a good starting point, as it's cheaper than buying and involves less commitment to one particular instrument. Also, many music rental services allow you to upgrade your instrument to accommodate your child's proficiency and physical growth.

On the other hand, if your child's heart is already set on playing a particular instrument and you don't anticipate needing to upgrade or change the size soon, buying might be a good choice. Some say that you do not need to worry about instrument quality for beginning students, but newer and more professional instruments often play better and make the learning process less frustrating.

In general, musical instrument rentals can run from $20 to $40 per month, but many music stores offer a rent-to-own option, where monthly payments are applied toward a final purchase price.

Choosing a music teacher

Consider these tips for hiring a music instructor:

Ask for the instructor’s credentials. Many music instructors have a professional accreditation or hold a degree in music education, but not all do.

Ask for, and check, references from current students and their families.

Consider bringing the child to the initial interview with the prospective teacher so you both understand the teacher’s philosophy and policies and to get a feel for how their personalities harmonize.

Ask if the teacher offers discounts to families with multiple children enrolled.

Be clear on the teacher's expectations about practicing. Often, children need motivation to practice. Be willing to supervise, enforce and even participate.

Dance lessons

While some people seem to have a natural gift for dancing, others could definitley benefit from professional dance lessons. Dance instructors teach a variety of dance classes, including ballroom, jazz and hip-hop, and offer classes for all ages and levels of experience.

Learn more: Angie's List Guide to Dance Lessons

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