Elizabeth Lawrence – A Parent’s Survival Guide to Music Lessons – Help your child succeed in music.
(Bloomsbury, 2012. Book review by Bill C Martin)
Learning to play an instrument or sing and making music with one’s peers bring all kinds of social and personal development benefits for children, alongside the rewards gained from music-making itself. Arguably one of the most significant lessons learned is that one can become good at almost anything through a combination of tenacity and practice, guided of course by a skilled teacher and supported and encouraged at home by a parent.
The truth, though, is that the majority of parents aren’t confident enough to provide the right kind of support and encouragement. That’s where this book comes in. It helpfully answers many common questions and covers a broad range of topics, including the choice of instrument and teacher, the kinds of lessons available today, practice, the benefits of ensemble playing, exams and performing.
It is extremely well written, in an informative and accessible style. Half of its pages deal with instrumental choices and provide detailed information on a range of factors to help with choosing an instrument.
While quality of instruments does get a mention, the arguments of value for money versus cost are not made strongly enough to help parents really understand the hidden costs of beginning with poor quality instruments. Better instruments, though initially a bit more expensive, will motivate the child with better sound quality and ease of playing, which will help to keep them learning for longer. Greater durability of better instruments brings fewer repair bills and often results in a cheaper monthly cost of ownership, too.
The glossary at the back of the book mentions the Music Industries Association’s excellent guide to Purchasing a Quality Instrument. I’d recommend reading this document, too, as it fills in some of the information glossed over slightly by this book.
The section on practice is good, though far too general. I’d like to have seen more detailed examples of recommended practice sessions, to guide parents who don’t play and who may have no idea what constitutes an effective practice routine.
However these are really small shortcomings and this book is highly recommended for parents who want to help their child reap the significant benefits of learning to play or sing.
£8.99 from Bloomsbury. Bill Martin is managing director of Bill C Martin Ltd, providing strategic consultancy to the music education sector.