The Parent's Guide to Music Classes & Lessons for Kids

A one-stop shop for supporting your child’s musical growth

Expert Music Advice for Parents

How do I find a good music teacher? Are music lessons really worth it? How can I get my kid to practice? There are so many questions and decisions when it comes to supporting your child’s musical journey. 

We’ve made things easy for you by putting together this comprehensive guide to learning music. Our music education specialists will walk you through each step of the musical journey—from just getting started to helping your child reach their goals. If you’re looking for guidance on making the best choices for your music-loving child, you’ve come to the right place. 

Use the Table of Contents below to jump to your topic of interest.

Choir students sing together as a group as their music teacher plays the piano in the foreground.

1. Why Learn Music?

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to extracurricular activities. Math club, swim team, and ballet classes—oh my! With so many options, why should you choose to enroll your child in music classes or lessons?  

Research proves that learning to sing or play an instrument provides a myriad of benefits for the brain, physical and mental health, and general well-being. Music students are more confident and independent, earn higher grades, and can better manage anxiety and express their emotions. 

⭐ In fact, the impact of studying music on a child or teen’s development is more than twice that of sports, theater, or dance! 

2. How Much Do Music Classes & Lessons Cost? Are They Worth It?

Breaking Down the Costs

The cost of music classes and lessons can vary widely depending on factors such as the music teacher’s qualifications, the music school’s reputation, location, and the type of programming. 

  • Group music classes are often more affordable than private lessons, usually ranging from $20 to $50 per class. 
  • Private music lessons with a qualified music teacher tend to be more expensive. Rates can range from $60 to $150 or more per hour. 
  • Early Childhood music classes for babies and toddlers typically range from $20 to $50 per class. 

In addition to the cost of tuition, consider the cost of renting or purchasing a musical instrument, sheet music, and other necessary materials.

At Merit School of Music, we proudly invest nearly $1,000,000 each year to make high-quality music instruction more accessible by offering financial aid, low-cost instrument rentals, and scholarships to qualifying families. 

Are Music Classes & Lessons Worth It?

Now, are music classes and lessons worth the investment? It really depends on your goals and your child’s interest and commitment.

However, even if you’re not sure your child will enjoy learning an instrument, you can always look for shorter-term commitments or sample classes to help gauge their interest. Try exploring free instrument exploration events or instrument discovery summer camps. The life-long benefits of music instruction make classes and lessons more than just an after-school activity for your child. They’re an investment in their future!

Pricing at Merit School of Music

3. What’s the Best Age to Start Learning Music?

Youre never too young or too old to start making music for the first time. Instead of worrying about the best age to start, focus on selecting developmentally appropriate music programming and finding an instrument that’s a good fit.

Here are some general guidelines: 

A piano student stands in front of a keyboard playing while wearing headphones. Another student plays a piano in the background.

Babies & toddlers (0 – 5 years)

Little ones can take their first steps in music by learning the essential musical building blocks in Early Childhood music classes. While young children can technically start private lessons for select instruments as young as 4, the social/emotional skills and wide-ranging exploration of music offered in Early Childhood classes help to build a strong foundation and positive relationship with music before instrument or vocal study.

Explore options for babies and toddlers. 

Kids (Ages 6 - 9 years)

At this stage, kids have developed the fine motor skills and attention span needed for learning to play an instrument or taking more structured music classes. Many children begin formal music classes or lessons for piano, violin, or cello around the age of 6 or 7. By age 9, kids are ready for any instrument—from band instruments to guitar and choir Studying music helps kids express their emotions and develop focus and discipline throughout all aspects of their fast-growing life.

Explore options for kids. 

Pre-teens (Ages 10 - 13 years)

Pre-teen brains are eager to soak up more complex musical concepts and students have the discipline to practice more regularly. By age 12, their vocal cords are usually ready to begin formal singing lessons. Music is a great way for pre-teens to build their confidence and sense of self which parents will see both inside and outside of the music classroom.

Explore options for pre-teens.

Teens (Ages 14 - 18 years)

By this age, many student musicians are honing their skills, looking for a community of peers with similar musical interests, and seeking a sense of belonging that music so aptly provides. If your teen hasn’t started learning music yet, don’t fret. There are still plenty of options and benefits to starting music at this age. 

Explore options for teens.

Adults (Any age)

It’s never too late to start learning an instrument for the first time! You can also rekindle your musical interests or refine skills in private lessons. Studying music is a fun after-work hobby, creative outlet, and one of the best ways to keep the mind sharp. 

Explore options for adults. 

4. Music Classes vs. Lessons: Which Is Best for My Child?

As we mentioned above, selecting the right type of music programming can be key to your child’s success in music. By picking age-appropriate music programming that’s the best fit for them personally, you can ensure your kid or teen will build a positive relationship with music and stay engaged for the long term.

Top Benefits of Group Music Classes

  • A great fit for beginners. Music classes are a great fit for student musicians of all experience levels. Beginners find additional value by starting here due to the ability to focus on how to read music and basic musical concepts in a collaborative atmosphere.  
  • Make friends and build community. Kids can make friends with common interests. Learning alongside peers inspires young musicians to build strong practice habits and infuses a sense of fun into their music studies. You know your child—if they engage well in group activities, music classes are a great way to play to that strength to foster their learning.
  • Balance group learning and individual support. Small music classes allow interaction with peers while still receiving individual support and feedback from the instructor.   
  • Less expensive. Music classes are known to be easier on your pocketbook than private lessons. By essentially sharing your teacher’s time with a small number of other students, the tuition can be much lower.   

Top Benefits of Private Music Lessons

  • Pick your pace. Individual, focused attention allows your private lesson instructor to cater to your child’s needs. This often allows students to progress more quickly in their studies. It also provides the opportunity to slow things down to ensure engagement and mastery of a piece or skill before moving on. 
  • Refine skills. Similarly, the one-on-one experience that private lessons provide enables your teacher to better pinpoint areas of needed focus. Highly qualified teachers will be able to offer multiple ways to improve specific techniques to find just the right teaching mechanism for the individual student.   
  • Develop a strong relationship with your teacher. Since it’s just the two of you, you’ll be able to build a deeper and more meaningful bond over time. As your teacher observes your growth, they can be an invaluable resource in guiding you towards the best next steps in your music education whether that be upgrading to a higher-quality instrument, joining ensemble classes, or suggesting other additional learning resources.
  • More flexible scheduling. Because you’re working directly with just your teacher, scheduling is often more flexible vs. committing to pre-scheduled group classes. 

5. How to Pick a Musical Instrument for Your Child

Time to select an instrument! Which one should my child play?? There are five basic principles to consider when choosing an instrument for your kid or teen: 

1. Interest Level 

Kids will want to spend more time practicing an instrument that excites them! An easy place to start is by asking your child if they’re excited about a particular instrument. Search online to see if there are any instrument exploration or instrument “petting zoo” events or classes in your area. These events are a great way for kids to interact with instruments to see what feels right for them. You can also explore YouTube videos of instruments together to see what piques their interest.

2. Age & Physical Considerations 

Your child’s age and physical stature play a crucial role in determining which instruments they can comfortably and successfully begin with. For instance, string instruments come in various sizes to accommodate younger players with smaller bodies and increase in size as your child grows. Wind instruments, lacking similar size variations, are generally more suitable for older students, typically around 4th or 5th grade. Hand size and dental structure also contribute to identifying the most suitable instrument. 

3. Musical Background 

Has your child already been introduced to an instrument in school? For example, many students learn the recorder around 3rd grade which prepares children for woodwind or brass instruments. Did you practice on a glockenspiel or bell kit in a baby or toddler music class? You may have not known it at the time, but this was an introduction to the skills used in more advanced percussion instruments, including piano. Signing your little one up for Early Childhood music classes builds a strong musical foundation for future instrument and vocal study.  

4. Initial Skills 

Certain students naturally grasp the technique of playing specific instruments more effortlessly than others, finding an innate fit. Instrument exploration events, as mentioned above, are a great way to determine if your child just “gets” how to play a certain instrument. Or, look for classes and camps that let kids explore multiple instruments. Merit’s Meet the Orchestra Early Childhood class, Music Discovery Camp, and Beginning Band classes are great examples. 

5. Popularity 

When considering joining a band or orchestra, it’s crucial to factor in the popularity of instruments, as those playing the more common ones may face increased competition for orchestra, band, and solo opportunities in the future. Examples of less popular instruments include viola, bass, French horn, and oboe. These instruments are consistently in high demand even at collegiate levels and often offer potential advantages in securing scholarship awards regardless of whether your child is a music major or not. 

6. How to Find the Best Music Teacher or Music School

Your child deserves the best. But the best music teacher or best music school can mean different things to different students. Finding the right teacher or school for you and your child will take research, conversations, and a little reflection on what’s most important to you.

How to Find the Best Music Teacher

  • Define your goals. Clearly define your musical goals, whether it’s learning a specific instrument, mastering a particular style, or reaping the extra-musical benefits of music education. This will help you find a teacher with expertise in your area of interest. 
  • Check qualifications & experience. Look for teachers with strong qualifications and experience. A degree in music performance or music education, along with teaching experience, can be indicative of a teacher’s competence. Teaching artists provide the additional benefit of applying their real-world experience as a performing musician. 
  • Ask for recommendations. Ask your friends, family, or parents you know through school or work if they’ve had positive experiences with music teachers. Personal referrals often provide valuable firsthand insights. 
  • Consider their “soft skills”. The best music teachers go beyond credentials. Their communication style and ability to keep your child motivated and challenged are just as important. Students who make a deep and meaningful connection to their teachers always enjoy the most success and fulfillment.

How to Find the Best Music School

  • Research accreditation. Look for a music school that is accredited by relevant education authorities or associations. Accreditation ensures that the school meets certain standards of quality, professionalism, and student safety. 
  • Look into faculty & resources. Look into the overall qualifications and experience of the school’s faculty members. It’s also important to consider the school’s other resources such as breadth of programming, class sizes, curriculum, performance opportunities, and connections within the music world. 
  • Get a feel for the community. A diverse and welcoming community enhances your overall learning experience, helps everyone feel like they belong, and contributes to the development of well-rounded and connected musicians. School visits and social media are good places to get a sense of the school’s community. 
  • Visit the school. Whenever possible, visit the music school to explore the facilities, meet faculty members, and observe classes or rehearsals. Ask the school if they offer tours, open houses, or public concerts. 
  • Read reviews & testimonials. Explore social media and online platforms like Google and Yelp! to see what current or former students and parents say about the school.  
A music camp student plays the cello and smiles

7. Music Practice Tips

Success in music requires practice, practice, practice. But motivating your kid to practice can be hard, hard, hard!

Explore these resources that provide practical tips and strategies for helping your child practice regularly and effectively.