Recently a BBC news story covered a piece of research from Imperial College in London which expressed concern about the lack of dexterity development in younger people.
The report focused upon medical students, and its main thrust was that whilst they had the academic qualifications and intellectual abilities ,they seemed lacking in the hand skills needed to stitch patients wounds and other surgical skills. The crux of the matter was that not enough time was spent in the early years developing techniques which required more intricate hand skills.
Should this report be taken seriously? Well Imperial College is a world class scientific institution and they would not go public on any piece of research if the evidence failed to support the proposition.
As a guitar teacher I meet people from all walks of life in the course of my work, and a common thread which comes through is the lack of time given in schools to develop craft skills on the curriculum, and how music education is given a fairly low priority in the context of tight school budgets.
This is a sad situation.
Music develops far more than an ability to knock out a tune or have some basic understanding of rhythm melody and harmony. When a young person has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument it will help co-ordination and dexterity. They may not become a virtuoso on the instrument of their choice, but the added benefits will help them throughout the course of their life.
However, it is important to ensure the child feels drawn to the instrument they are going to learn, and it may take a number of attempts to find the right one for the youngster.
For example, I know someone who had a son who was taking piano lessons. His sisters had both learned the instrument and derived a lot of pleasure and benefit from their lessons. But for the boy, they were misery because he was “wired” a little differently from his sisters. Then one day he was given a clarinet and suddenly he found his musical niche. I understand he still plays the instrument and he’s now in his thirties. The point is that although it was different from the piano he still developed musically and had the opportunity to build dexterity in both his hands.
OK here’s my sales pitch for learning the guitar.
This is a portable instrument, which comes in different sizes to suit the stage of growth of a child. They are also relatively inexpensive if you want a usable starter instrument for a child. In terms of dexterity the instrument promotes left and right hand co-ordination plus independent finger movement.
Will every child be drawn to the guitar? Well no, and as with any instrument some practice between lessons is essential to make progress.
However, the appeal of the guitar is perhaps expressed by one of the youngsters who came for lessons. I asked him why he wanted to learn the guitar and he looked at me with incredulity then said “because guitars are cool”. Nuff said…..