Music is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to a child. Whether it is an ability to play an instrument, an ear to appreciate it, or simply the time to enjoy it, children of all ages will benefit hugely from music in their lives. It is the first language that they learn, and it can help with overall development, stimulating the sort of creativity and brain activity that will stand them well throughout their lives.

Even the adults who had piano beaten into them at an early age can appreciate the gift that they were given, and music teaching has evolved beyond the musty room and cracked knuckles into something more fun and appropriate for kids.

The Dublin School of Music teaches a programme devised by the school which can fulfil the ambitions of every child and their parents.

Teaching everything from classical and jazz piano to rock, folk, classical and bass guitar, as well as violin, drums, singing and music technology with DJ techniques, it can follow the classical programme of teaching for exams, but is mainly concerned with teaching music for those who just want to play. All ages can benefit from the teaching, and the emphasis is on enjoyment. Guitar can be taught individually or in groups, and the focus for the piano is on the fun element of playing, unless the person wants to go through the grades. The Dublin School of Music is open in two locations, in Rathgar and Sandyford.

The Leeson Park School of Music in Rathmines adopts a specialist approach of teaching music which is appropriate from a very young age up to about 18 years. Called the Kodaly method, the LPSM utilises the music inherent in all of us to teach piano, violin, cello, classical guitar and flute. Kodaly believed that music was a "spiritual food" essential for the rounded development of the child's personality and emotions and that all children should be provided with a musical education from the earliest age possible.

All courses at LPSM are based on the internationally respected Colourstrings approach which was developed as an extension of Kodaly principles by the Hungarian pedagogue and violinist Geza Szilvay.

Colourstrings is a fully integrated approach to music education from the earliest introduction to music to the advanced stages of instrumental studies. Music education begins in the Music Kindergarten classes where young children are led on a wonderful adventure through "Music land" where their response to pitch and rhythm are developed alongside the training of the inner ear. Basic music concepts such as high/low, loud/soft and fast/slow are introduced but always with the framework of age appropriate games and activities.

Of course, for children to be able to play the music, they will have to have and instrument, and Monaghan Music carries a wide range of pianos, both acoustic and digital. Its range of acoustic pianos includes Kawai, Yamaha and Steinway, as well as an excellent range called Steinhoven, but for many people, an acoustic piano simply takes up too much space. This is why a digital piano (as opposed to a keyboard) is ideal. Monaghan Music carries a range of digital pianos with 88 fully weighted keys and pedals, which can recreate the sound of a real piano, but which comes in at just 599. Called Spider, it can be attached to a midi system to recreate other musical sounds.

The trouble for many parents looking to get their children involved with music is the sometimes prohibitive price of the instruments, but Music Technology Ireland can help with this. Because it works out of an office with a very small showroom, it has managed to cut down on the costs involved in retail and can pass these savings onto the public. It is expert in sourcing all kinds of instrument, and can call on over 30,000 products on its database, rising to 80,000 products within access. This makes it the largest musical resource of its kind in Europe.

For children, Music Technology Ireland carries ranges of smaller instruments, and through its advanced sourcing methodology, it can bring these instruments for cheaper than anywhere else. For example, a good quality saxophone, which will cost upwards of 700, can be sourced for as little as 232, and the same goes for practically any instrument that you can think of. See www. musictechnology. ie for more details.

Music does not need to be played to be appreciated, and for the very young, listening is the most important part.

Hearing is the first sense to develop, and studies have shown that it is beneficial to babies to have that sense stimulated while still in the womb. Mozart's music is particularly apt for development, thanks to its simplicity on one level and its complexity on another, and American specialist Don Campbell has developed a programme, called the Mozart Effect, which can utilise music to improve memory and learning, boost productivity, unlock creative impulses and generally be a positive force for children and adults of all ages.

Campbell has produced a series of specially chosen musical works, designed for differing age groups, from newborns and babies up to children and adults. Whether designed to be soothing or for uplifting, the effect of Mozart's music goes beyond simply appreciation of the art itself. In a world where noise is a constant, the Mozart Effect gets kids to tune-in and focus, and allows them to tune out the distractions of life.

The Mozart Effect is distributed in Ireland by Cosmic Sounds limited, and can be found in Mothercare and good record stores across the country. In addition, Don Campbell is coming to Ireland for workshops entitled Awakening the Child's Intelligence Through Music in the O'Carolan Room at the National Concert Hall on October 30 and 31. For further information, contact cosmic sounds on 01 2986551 or visit www. cosmicsounds. ie.

The positive developmental effects of music form a main part of the programmes offered by Gymboree in hundreds of locations throughout Ireland. As well as having two designated Gymboree centres (Stillorgan and Limerick), and a planned centre for Celbridge, its "Music on the Go" classes are available in hundreds of creches, preschool centres and Montessori schools throughout the country.

Each class lasts for an hour, and there are four designated age groups within the class . . . Quarter Notes (six months to a year), Half Notes (one to two and a half), Whole Notes (two and a half to four and a half) and the Older Music Class (up to seven years).

Activities range from rocking and movement for the Quarter Notes, up to actual instrument play for the Older Class.

The focus within Gymboree is on development through music, and it varies the music styles week on week because studies have shown that children who only know one form of music will have difficulty in appreciating other forms in later life. Styles as varied as Rock and Roll and World Music, as well as Classical, Country and Jazz are introduced to the children at an early age, thereby enhancing their overall development and appreciation of music.

To find out more, visit www. playandmusic. ie.

The Dublin School of Young Singers is a private school which was founded in 2001. The school focuses exclusively on the young singer, bringing together a highly qualified and experienced staff, which has specialised in teaching young children to sing. A holistic approach is adopted whereby the child learns about body alignment, achieving freedom of movement, breathing technique and projection.

The approach is one of encouragement and stimulation for each child, where his/her musical talent is encouraged and allowed to develop naturally according to potential. Individual or group classes (Max. of 5 pupils) achieves this.

The Dublin School of Young Singers gives a unique education on how to sing while respecting the delicate, fragile nature of a child's voice. The school has formed two ensembles to cater for both the younger and older age groups.

The school has performed in the National Concert Hall, St. Ann's Church, Dawson Street and in the Barrow Centre, Carlow. The school's debut public performance was in Verdi operas Tosca and Nabucco with the National Opera of Moldova at the National Concert Hall. In May 2003 the school put on a performance of Tom Sawyer and participated in the West Wales Choral festival.

This year we will introduce a special class for Junior and Leaving Certificate students (2006) depending on demand.

For further information contact Bernadette Hynes @ 01 4957481/087 6565106 Every great musician and every great band had to start somewhere. For U2, the school was Mount Temple on Dublin's northside. For the rest of us, there is Songschool. Songschool hosts a series of workshops in performance, recording and songwriting for all aspiring artists out there, even those with no previous experience in music. It hosts visiting workshops in schools all over Ireland, and has recently opened recording and rehearsal studios in Balbriggan, where musicians can come together and put into practice all that they have learned.

In addition to the workshops, Songschool also offers lessons in a variety of instruments, from guitar and bass to drums and keyboards, as well as lessons in singing.

"We encourage everybody to get involved, and we try to break away from the stuffiness of traditional music teaching, " said Peter Baxter of Songschool. "There is no need for qualifications at Songschool."

The trouble with learning the piano is sometimes the hassle of getting the equipment itself, and because of this, many people will choose to go down the route of the digital piano. However, there are few keyboards out there that can accurately replicate the sound and feel of the real thing, so learning on a keyboard will may be the ideal starting point for beginners looking for the authentic touch.

However, Roland Digital Pianos can offer the best of both world. Roland is well known throughout the music business for the quality of the instruments that it produces, and its digital pianos are as close as you can get to the real thing without purchasing an acoustic version. For example, the new DP900 offers a full piano sound in a streamlined and attractive casing. As well as producing a genuine piano sound, there are 20 other musical options available, including electric piano, organ and harpsichord.

To add to the authentic feel of the instrument, each of the 88 keys is fully weighted, and the pedals act exactly as they would on the acoustic version. Another handy feature of the Roland DP900, and something that is an especially nice feature for beginners, is the two track recorder which allows players to record and play back their performances. This lets people hear exactly how they are getting on, and puts extra enjoyment into the learning of the instrument. So if you kids are learning the piano, but you don't have the space for an upright, you should look at Roland for the authentic sound and feel of an acoustic piano. "Roland are the best sounding digital piano in the world" Paul Harrington