The number of children learning to play a musical instrument has halved in a generation. Today, only a third of children aged 18 and under play an instrument, compared with two thirds of their parents at the same age.
The startling finding comes from research carried out for BBC Worldwide, questioning 1,046 parents with children aged 18 or under Stephanie Cooper, editor of ZingZillas magazine which commissioned the research, says: 'As this research shows, fewer children are now learning musical instruments and parents may not be aware of just how beneficial music can be to a child's development.
'Young children love responding to music by dancing, singing, creating pictures or talking about what they hear, which gives them creative confidence. Hearing musical rhythms, patterns and sounds is beneficial for early literacy learning."
It's a view upheld by musical tutor Andrew Evans, who teaches adults and children in Hampshire.
'I consider being able to play an instrument an incredibly beneficial thing for children for all sorts of reasons,' says Andrew, an accomplished celloist and pianist.
'Not only does it help develop the brain, but playing an instrument can provide a simple way of escaping your troubles, taking you away into a world of your own. And let's face it – clever parents can see the edge it may give their child when they are applying for things like university later in life.'
Indeed, whilst Andrew immediately lost 10 hours of private tutoring when the recession hit, he says many other parents continued to meet the financial commitment of sending their child for a lesson a week. At £25 an hour, it's not cheap.
'Interestingly, many of my clients didn't think they would stop the tutition immediately, sensing that learning to play an instrument is not so much a luxury in this ever-harder world we live in, but a very real benefit,' he says.
He is also under no illusion that children who do take up an instrument tend to come from families where music has already played a part in their lives.
'My mother and grandmother both played the piano, so it was obviously an instrument I felt comfortable tackling,' recalls Andrew, who has been playing since he was four.
'Clearly, growing up in a household where there is already easy access to an instrument, no matter what it may be, will make things easier. It can be so much harder teaching a child to play who has no previous musical background at all.'
So, whether your child comes from a musical family or not, what can you do to encourage them to set about learning?
Top tips for beginning to learn an instrument:
Don't let it become a battlefield. If at first your child doesn't want to learn, don't force the issue. Re-visit it a little later.
Read "The right instrument for your child" – a great book by parents Atarah Ben-Toving and Douglas Boyd, which takes you through the things to consider when deciding with your child which instrument to take up.
Make sure their instrument is in an accesible place, not stuck away. Let other members of the family pick it up and have a go - the more family members join in, the more likely your child is to perservere a little longer.
Create a place where your child can play in peace, and try to instil in them the importance of practice. We all know, the more you do it, the better you'll become.
The music which accompanies some computer games is often viewed by children as really cool (and it's often beautiful). Children often wish they could play these tunes, therefore capitalize on this.
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