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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 20-Oct-16 10:42:12

Do your grandchildren need music?

Are your grandchildren learning music? Have you taught them to play an instrument? Pianist James Rhodes discusses the impact that learning to play can have on children - and their grandparents.

James Rhodes

Do your grandchildren need music?

Posted on: Thu 20-Oct-16 10:42:12


Lead photo

Could you teach your grandchild to play an instrument? Or learn with them?

I can't tell you how many people have come up to me after a concert and told me how they used to learn an instrument as a child and how much they now regret giving it up. And I'm also equally sure most children roll their eyes at the idea of practising scales, would far prefer to be playing on their iPads than their piano and have zero interest in classical music. Of course they would.

But the truth is that music is one of the few things available to us that allows us to pause our increasingly fast-paced and pressurised lives. It helps us to focus, process feelings, socialise, improve motor skills, discipline, memory and self-esteem and a host of other important things that we can then carry into adolescence and beyond. Progressive governments have annihilated music education to the point that it is all but obsolete in our state schools. And unless our parents or grandparents are lucky enough to have the funds to pay for it, private lessons are usually out of reach.

Progressive governments have annihilated music education to the point that it is all but obsolete in our state schools.

But imagine being able to spend a small amount of time every day working alongside your children or grandchildren, doing something extraordinary like learning a piece of Bach together. You don't even need a piano as an electronic keyboard will do the job just fine. It is a life-enhancing activity that involves moving away from overstimulating screens and the isolation of computer games, and helps families come together.

We read every day about the chronic and almost endemic depression and anxiety amongst children and teenagers today. They exist in an incredibly pressurised environment, with cyber bullying, pornography, exam pressures, gang culture, body image issues and increasing violence all playing a role in their lives. It must be exhausting and stressful and worrisome. I certainly struggled as a child after a very abusive few years between the ages of 6 and 10 and whilst it didn't fix everything, finding the piano and learning music gave me a safe place. It was something just for me that provided answers for questions I didn't even know existed. And still today I credit it with saving my life.

It is a myth that learning an instrument means scales, arpeggios and music theory. That it means struggling through Beethoven and Chopin. You can find a piece you want to play, whatever genre that may be, ignore scales (seriously!) and simply enjoy the process of learning that piece. Whether it's Justin Bieber or JS Bach, learning an instrument can only improve lives. It is a beautiful antidote to the overstimulating and anxiety-inducing world we live in. For all of us, not just kids.

James's book, How to Play the Piano, is published by Quercus and is available now from Amazon.

By James Rhodes

Twitter: @JRhodesPianist

Auntieflo Thu 20-Oct-16 14:14:16

Yesterday, on the us, there was a young Dad with his young son on his lap, and a baby in a buggy. The baby was only about 1year old, and was very vocal. She started singing to herself, I thought "Twinkle Twinkle", but then realised she was singing the Alphabet song. ABCDEFG etc. She was in tune, but her pronunciation was her own. Her brother sang along with her, and they were a delightful duo for the passengers.

Greyduster Thu 20-Oct-16 16:57:40

I couldn't agree more - everyone needs music, but some children are neither interested in nor good at making music. At the age my grandson is now, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a piano. He, on the other hand, apart from a brief and disastrous flirtation with the recorder, has shown no interest in my piano, even when I offered to teach him a simple tune he could play with one hand. I haven't given up, but don't intend to put any pressure on him. As for not playing scales (and we would all love to not play scales) you can only ignore them for so long! How can you build up any kind of either dexterity or musical knowledge if you don't have at least a basic grasp of scales and keys? They are a pain, but a necessary pain.

Granny23 Thu 20-Oct-16 22:14:43

Despite spending endless hours trying, on a variety of instruments - Mother's piano, sister's guitar, DH's vibraphone, drumkit and boran, the banjo and fiddle from the attic - I have to admit to having no musical talent whatsoever. There seems to be a disconnect between my brain and fingers. But I can sing, have a very good 'ear' and love, love, love many kinds of music. I have regretfully, accepted that as my Dad used to say, 'The only thing I can play is a gramophone'.

However, to my delight, my DH, DDs, Sils and DGC are all musical. DGD1 has a wonderful singing voice and is being coached, also plays and composes on her keyboard. DGS is having bassoon lessons after school and is about to join the local youth orchestra, also picked up the basics and was able to play his Mum's steel drum in one afternoon. DGD2 fancies the guitar like her Dad or drums like her Granpa and shows promise with both but at 7 lacks the concentration needed to practice for long. They are all keen participants in sports too but have not shown any particular talent in that department. I am looking forward to many performances and at home soirees with our 'Family Band'.

Nelliemoser Thu 20-Oct-16 23:00:55

Everyone needs music. There are always brass bands to start children off with once they have their second teeth. Lots of bands have youth sections and training bands and you can probably use the bands instruments.

They appear to be some of the easier instruments to start on. Children would benefit as being in a band means you are not isolated when you are learning as you might be stuck at home with a piano or violin so it's a good social experience as well.

Anya Thu 20-Oct-16 23:05:04

Yes, Ive taught the two eldest (10 & 7) the fundamentals of the piano and just started the 6 year old. I let them free play after they've done some exercises for me and pick out, or make up melodies. The oldest has chosen to move onto formal trombone lessons and is now working for his Grade 2 and the 7 year old has just asked for singing lessons. She does have a lovely voice.

They have access to a saxophone, a French horn, a flute, tuned hand bells and a ukulele which they are free to play, so long as the instrument is treated with respect and they all are aficionados of the kazoo!

I'm thinking of taking up the drums myself.

Granny23 Thu 20-Oct-16 23:37:24

Anya Having spent my entire married life sharing our bedroom with a full drum kit with all is accouterments and cases, which, since DH smashed up his elbow, I have to carry and load into the car (which needs to be at least an estate car) I would strongly advise you to consider something smaller and lighter. grin

rubylady Fri 21-Oct-16 01:43:57

My DS was playing his guitar to me while we chatted on the phone yesterday. smile

I've always tried to open my children up to different genres of music. It annoys me on quiz shows when the contestant says "That is before my time". It is before my son's time too, but he would still know it. Do these people not learn any history of music or any other subject before their own birth year? Very silly.

Yorkshiregel Fri 21-Oct-16 10:58:39

My 16yr old GS plays the piano. He used it to distress when he was doing his GCSEs and it really helped. He got to grade 8 and then decided he didn't want formal lessons anymore so now he just plays whatever he likes and he is really enjoying himself. He found that he did not want to be restricted as to what kind of music he was allowed to play.

My 9yr old GD is following him and is now in her 3rd year of formal lessons.

Little 3yr old GS loves to plink and plonk on a ukulele so it looks like he will follow suit.

My OH plays the organ and the piano, my father played the piano accordion, so both sides of the family are musical. I just wish I could do it but I am learning to play the piano at a very slow rate right now!

13yr old GS used to play the piano but then changed to the trombone which he prefers.

My eldest played the oboe and my second son played the horn. 3rd son plays the keyboard, and can also listen to music and then play it himself without the music.

grannypiper Fri 21-Oct-16 14:41:07

Life would be empty without music

Anya Fri 21-Oct-16 15:17:36

As the Abba song says grannypiper

Thingmajig Fri 21-Oct-16 15:58:22

We were all sent to piano lessons and didn't appreciate it at the time ... as usual, I suspect! We had much music in the house too as we were growing up.

DD had piano lessons for a couple of years then took up the keyboard in high school, then clarinet and piano again for her 6th year exams.

Little DGD seems to be musical too as she constantly sings, currently Abba songs from extended watching of the Mama Mia dvd. Her speech is poor so no actual words but always in perfect tune!
She "plays" the organ at my Mum's and the piano at home so we've bought her a little keyboard for her 3rd birthday to see how she gets along with it.

Music is vital for life! smile

watermeadow Sat 22-Oct-16 20:50:12

I LOVED scales and, especially, music theory. I studied it for years and learned a vast amount but I gave up playing the piano when I realised that I had no musical ability at all.
Only one of my descendants had any interest in music, despite every encouragement given to them all. Loving music can't be forced.

Ana Sat 22-Oct-16 21:25:43

I don't understand your post, watermeadow. You say you loved scales and music theory but gave up playing the piano when you realised you had no musical ability.

How can that be? Serious question - I'm curious as to what you mean by 'musical ability'.

Anya Sat 22-Oct-16 21:34:28

I understand that watermelon

There are only so many scales to learn and they are all played at without emotion, just as an exercise. Theory is just theory.

Whereas playing the piano well involves so much more.

Anya Sat 22-Oct-16 21:36:47


durhamjen Sat 22-Oct-16 22:26:35

All my grandchildren are musical.
Unfortunately schools aren't. My son was a head of music, and was made redundant last term. Three departments amalgamated, and the job as departmental head was given to the art teacher who only worked part time.
My son got pupils through to the Guildhall School of music, but now his ex-school is an academy, only childre in year 7 and year 11 need music lessons apparently. That means that children in between can only be musical if their parents can pay for lessons privately.
Me bitter and cynical?

Anya Sat 22-Oct-16 22:36:11

I'd be bitter and cynical too DJ.

It's 10 years since I retired and at that time our LEA supported a Music Service that was second to none.

I dread to think what happened to that service that took so long to build up. Probably nothing left to show for years of investment and hard work angry

I speak as someone whose subjects were Maths and Science, but also as one who loves music and plays for pleasure.

Faye Sat 22-Oct-16 23:23:04

Four of my GC have music lessons, I really hope the other two get the opportunity. They live in a rural area and I can see they aren't getting some of the opportunities their city cousins have.

My eldest GD 11 can play by ear, it is really interesting that she can play something like the Star Wars opening theme or Fur Elise and gets most of it right the first time she attempts it. She also has a lovely singing voice.

rubylady Sun 23-Oct-16 06:02:39

That is ridiculous DJ. I still remember fondly sitting in music lessons with our lovely teacher and learning about the classical composers. I played flute and clarinet at school and it saddens me that children will have limited access to music. Not every parent takes the time to teach about such subjects and just let the children listen to the drivel charts we have now and not expand their knowledge and minds.

Maybe teachers are too busy being more social workers these days than just being able to teach. Very sad.

Greyduster Sun 23-Oct-16 08:56:41

My last piano teacher told me that he had one or two pupils that only came to him for music theory. I struggled with theory, both as a child and as an adult, but I am very glad that I can read music even if I don't play it particularly well! I gave up my piano lessons about four years ago, after we moved house. It then entailed a long drive and it was also getting rather expensive. Neither of my children showed the slightest interest in playing an instrument when they were at school. If they had, I would certainly have encouraged them. My son started playing the saxophone in his forties, so it's never too late to come to it.

gettingonabit Wed 26-Oct-16 17:46:01

I loved music as a kid, but failed miserably to interest dd in the piano.

I still play and teach (preferably jazz)and enjoy taking exams too, managing to attain scrape Grade 8 Theory and Practical Jazz Piano at the grand old age of 55. It's never too late. I'm doing the new ARSM Diploma in the new year, if my old piano is up to it.

On the subject of scales, I never teach (or learn) a scale by rote. I always ask a pupil to work it out for themselves. I think it's far more interesting that way.

So, yes, bring on the music, and the earlier the better.

Desperately sad about the demise of Music Services, though. Private tuition is too expensive for many families and it pains me that many children will never get the opportunity to learn.

GrandmaMoira Thu 27-Oct-16 15:00:58

Music lessons should be available for those with an aptitude. However, some of us like listening to music but are totally unable to play or sing ourselves. I was made to feel very stupid at school by being tone deaf and unable to sing in tune or get the hang of playing the piano. I dreaded music lessons at school.

anniegillingham Sun 19-Mar-17 17:30:25

My daughter in law is a musician and I often watch her play at concerts. She is a violinist and also teaches children / adults how to play piano. It is such a wonderful thing to do and teaches everyone many important disciplines. She is also great fun and I think its important to have a happy teacher to enjoy music as it should be. You can see her play on her website:

Willow500 Sun 19-Mar-17 19:08:36

My one regret is that I didn't learn to play the piano as a child - both my parents could play but no one thought to send me for lessons. I finally took it up at 36 and got to grade 4 but by then my fingers were not supple enough and I was too self conscious to practice in front of my husband so gave up. Both my sons are musical though and my youngest granddaughter is having singing lessons. Her uncle is a drummer and has played all over the world in the past - he is now a music teacher over in NZ and has his own studio teaching. He's also teaching his 3 year old to play and even took one of his practice kits into the nursery a few months ago for the class to 'have a go' grin