Congratulations! Your child has expressed an interest in playing the drums. Maybe you can’t keep your child from banging on everything in the house. Maybe your child loves to sit on the drummer’s lap at church and “play along.” Maybe your child pointed at Alex Van Halen on the television and said, “I want to do that.” Either way, you now find yourself asking “Is my child too young for drum lessons?”
The quick answer: it depends.
Maturity is More Important Than Age
First of all, “is my child old enough” is fundamentally the wrong question. “Is my child mature enough and interested enough” are far better questions. I’ve had some 4 year olds who were pleasures to teach, and I’ve had some 45 year olds who didn’t seem to be “old enough” for lessons yet.
When considering lessons for your child, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my child physically capable of playing the drums? Does he/she have the motor skills to hold and operate a drumstick?
- Is my child capable of paying attention to an instructor for up to 30 minutes? Can he/she sit still for 30 minutes?
- Is my child socially ready for lessons? Can he/she be around strangers without crying or getting anxious (your teacher will be a stranger at first, remember)? Is he/she extroverted enough to interact with another adult?
- Does my child seem to have a genuine interest in music/drumming/taking lessons?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you should probably wait before signing your child up for drum lessons. If you answered every question with a resounding “yes!” then it may be time to investigate lessons.
It Depends Greatly on the Teacher
When I was 4 years old, I pointed at Alex Van Halen on the television and said “I want to do that” (see, that example wasn’t so out of left field after all). My parents took me down to the local music store and signed me up for lessons, where the instructor handed me sticks, a practice pad, and his default method book. We started on page 1, and he began to teach me like an older student. After 4 or so lessons, I had not even touched the drumset, which was my whole motivation for taking lessons in the first place. I grew bored and quit. The teacher blamed my “lack of interest” on my age and told my parents to try again in a couple years.
Obviously, I went on to become a professional drummer, and I now have my own students to teach. From this vantage point, I blame my first failure at lessons on that teacher (and I frequently imagine how good I could have been if only I had kept taking lessons from the age of 4). Before fourth or fifth grade, lessons should not be about technique and repertoire. Rather, lessons should focus on cultivating the student’s interest and exposing him/her to music and the instrument in general. Ask potential teachers about their approach to teaching young students. Any teacher who wants to hand your five year old a dense method book should probably be avoided. Likewise for any teacher who expects your five year old to practice an hour a day.
If possible, find a teacher who already has several young students on roster. Try to find parents of other young students and see who they recommend.
Failure Is an Option
Even if your child seems interested and you find a solid teacher, don’t be disappointed if your child wishes to stop lessons. Children are allowed to want to drum this week, paint next week, and be an astronaut the week after next. If your child no longer seems interested in drumming, save your money and quit taking lessons. It’s entirely possible that your child’s interest in music and drumming will rekindle itself one day. As a parent, all you can do is keep exposing your child to music. The rest will work itself out.
Success Is an Option Too