In Defense Of Music - Why Self Instruction Won't Destroy Your Child » Little Learning Lovies

In Defense Of Music – Why Self Instruction Won’t Destroy Your Child

It all started out innocently enough.

A blog I follow (and you should too!  FHD ROCKS…) posted a helpful list of ways to help your child learn to play an instrument for free or nearly free.  I thought it was well written, had great tips, wonderful links for internet-based resources, and helpful information about buying instruments when you’re on a budget.  She posted it in August of last year, a perfect time for homeschoolers because we’re all finalizing our plans for the coming school year.


Sounds interesting, right?  (Go read How To Have Your Children Take Music Lessons For Free)

She re-shared this post on Facebook the other day and immediately the comments started rolling in.  Please don’t keep sharing these tips, they said.  Children shouldn’t teach themselves to play an instrument.  They’ll get it all wrong.  They’ll develop bad habits that you’ll spend lots of money later trying to correct.

First, have you ever met a homeschooler who was okay with being told they couldn’t learn something themselves?  😉  Yeah.  I didn’t think so.

Before I talk more about this, I think it’s important to tell you that I took piano lessons for years.  Then I went to a university to study music where I took lessons and classes on a variety of other instruments.  I also taught piano lessons for many years in different situations, as a private instructor on my own, in class settings and as a private tutor for a music school.  I’m not a lay-person looking at this issue without any knowledge or experience.

Another Gift For You!

(Opens in a new window so you don’t lose your current page. ♥ ENJOY!)


Being Realistic

One of the places where I worked as a piano tutor, I met with about 10 different kids each evening of the week, each one there because they had expressed an interest in piano and their parents bought them lessons.  Of these 50 or so children, only 2 of them struck  me as having the passion for music that might make it likely that they’d have a career related to music some day.  The other 48 were there because they thought it might be cool to learn an instrument.  They certainly didn’t practice every day (in fact I’m guessing that at least half of them didn’t touch an instrument between lessons) and so any instruction given was not really learned.

For Most, An Instrument Is A Hobby

Don’t be mad at me for saying this, but your child does not have to be the best at everything he or she attempts.

Some things can be done for the pure joy of it.

Playing an instrument is a wonderful, joyful thing and one of the quickest ways I’ve seen (as a music instructor) to suck all the joy out of it is to take lessons and force practicing.  If your child shows promise, passion, serious dedication … it might be time to look into finding an instructor who can work with them.  If not, if it’s just something fun they enjoy, there is no reason why they can’t learn on their own.

Your Child Will Still Benefit

There are so many benefits to studying an instrument.  Your child will still experience these benefits if they study without a private tutor.  True, they may not practice perfect technique, but guess what?  They’ll still enjoy and learn so much.  And there’s nothing to say they won’t make their mark on the music world, poor technique and all.  Dizzy Gillespie never had lessons and his ‘mistake’ became his trade mark.


Ethel Merman never took voice lessons and was later told that if she HAD taken lessons, it would have ruined her signature sound.


Keith Moon (Who?  Yes!  The drummer from The Who) took about 6 drum lessons early on.  And then he did the rest on his own.

Keith moon

So what instrument is your child interested in?

Because the only thing standing in their way is getting their hands on it.  So go see if you can find one at a pawn shop or borrow one from a friend.  Let them try.  Get them a lesson book and have at it.  And let me know how they do.  I’d love to hear them! ♥

Oh…. Want some fun LLL Printable Music Games?  Of course you do!  See our cute music games to get your kids started reading music.  It’s fun and painless! ♥

About the Author Sandra Modersohn

Sandra Modersohn is a devoted wife, mother, and homeschooler. She loves great graphic design and has a passion for creating beautiful and useful printable materials for children. Little Learning Lovies where she shares her creations with the world. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest and, of course, at the Little Learning Lovies Blog and Store.

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Leave a Comment:

Melinda says 5 years ago

M10yo DD has just begun online piano lessons. We found an entire program free here:
Andrew is a great teacher and he is very informal and funny in his videos and she loves his style and is having a blast learning exactly what she would learn in expensive lessons for FREE. Will she become a famous concert pianist? Probably not. Will she develop a lifelong love of music, absolutely! And that is what matters to me as her Mom, that she find joy in learning to play.

Music Games: Start Reading Music! - Little Learning Lovies says 5 years ago

[…] music games for you and we’ll be adding more in the coming weeks.  Our recent article about learning to play an instrument through self instruction inspired us to share these music games with you […]

Natalie says 5 years ago

Thanks so much for this article! My 10 yo dd just bought a left handed guitar from her savings, since she wasn’t comfortable with my old (right handed) one , but lessons are not in the budget at this time and I was a little worried that she might learn things the wrong way on her own. Your article makes me feel a lot better about the lack of funds, LOL. I only played as a child and don’t remember enough to help her much…

Jennie says 5 years ago

Good article. 🙂

    Sandra Modersohn says 5 years ago

    🙂 Glad you liked it ♥

Hannah says 5 years ago

My husband is reading Harpo Marx’s autobiography. He could not read music, but taught himself how to play six instruments. He was so good at the harp, famous harpists from around the world sought his advice on how to play.

I cannot read music very well, but can play well (have been asked to play at churches, weddings, etc…). I was often asked to teach people, and I tried for a while but quickly realized I stank at teaching. For some unfair reason, musical ability comes easy to some folks, and not to others. To discourage a child from playing around with musical instruments is to deny them one of life’s great pleasures! If they like it, are good at it, they can always get the formal education later.

    Sandra Modersohn says 5 years ago

    So true, Hannah! If you can’t afford lessons, the choice comes down to letting them work on it themselves or denying them access to music. Seems like a no-brainer to me! 😉 Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your experience. I hope it will encourage other families to give music a try! ♥

Britany Castillo says 5 years ago

My husband and I were JUST arguing about this the other day! I’m a true believer of music being a passion and something to love. I can’t stand it when music teachers get all uppity about technicalities and don’t allow the students to just play with emotion. The best thing about my high school music teacher was that he loved to play with emotion, and loved that I also loved to play with emotion and take some little freedoms with the technicalities. In a group piece, technicalities keep everyone on the same page, but for solo pieces, I say let the kids have some freedom. After I tried out on clarinet to be accepted into a university’s music program, I was a little relieved that I didn’t make it. The instructor I tried out in front of was such a snob about starting a crescendo on beat one, not beat one and a half…

My husband feels that we need to find a tutor or instructor for our son from the first day he decides to get an instrument. I feel like I can teach him myself (I play clarinet, flute, bari sax, Albert system Eb clarinet, some piano, and some trumpet). I want him to play cello (which I will probably suck at… I am terrible with strings), but I feel like as long as he practices and likes it, I can do enough to guide him in teaching him what crescendos, repeats, etc. are.

Nancie says 5 years ago

My daughter played the piano by ear from 4-5 years old, even composed several songs…that sounded like ‘real’ songs. Then I put her in lessons…I should have left her alone. She doesn’t play at all now. Sad mom.

    Sandra Modersohn says 5 years ago

    I learned that way to start, too, Nancie! And I LOVED it. Then went on to take lessons when I was a teenager. LOVED that. Went on to more serious studies later on and I’m not at all knocking the benefits of good instruction. But there is a lot that can be learned on your own without need for tons of expenses 🙂 Music is and should always be FREE to anyone who has the inspiration to pick up an instrument. ♥ Maybe you could gift your daughter with another instrument. 🙂 She may very well enjoy playing around on a guitar which might relax her again towards the piano. Just a thought!

    Thanks so much for popping by tonight and leaving a comment! (Bloggers LIVE on comments!)

Kate says 5 years ago

From what I understand, Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was an awesome guitarist, never learned to read music.

    Sandra Modersohn says 5 years ago

    Kate, I think you’re right. And did you know, one of my all time favorite composers… Irving Berlin, could only play the piano in the key of c? He had a piano specially made for himself that allowed him to select a key to play in and the piano keys and mechanisms would MOVE to wherever he needed them to be, so he could continue to play but still be in tune with the other instruments playing with him!

    Thanks so much for sharing in the conversation tonight! ♥

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