I get this question ALL the time from many of my friends, family, and acquaintances….
When should my child start piano lessons? or… What is a good age (or the best age) to start piano lessons?
If I were to give an average IDEAL age to start piano, regardless of gender or natural talent… I would have to say SEVEN. Seven really is a magical number in childhood development across the board. The transition out of the kinder years and into childhood years brings definitively different approaches to piano education. For one, piano (especially music theory understanding) generally comes more quickly for this age. Boys especially tend to do very well starting formal private piano lessons at this age. Many girls (and some boys) are ready between 5 and 6 years old, HOWEVER… if lessons are delayed a couple years (7 years old instead of 5 years old)…. there is nothing to worry; if your child will soar with piano, he/she will do so whether the starting age is 6 or 10.
If your child is UNDER the age of SEVEN and you are looking into piano lessons, PLEASE make sure you are not being baited into thinking that 30-minutes per week of private lessons for your three-year-old is actually a worthy investment. It is NOT… however... group "Mommy-and-Me" / "Music Together" / "Kindermusik" classes can be very beneficial in the pre-school years, and cost much less than private lessons.
Here are some items to put in your home NOW to help your child prepare for piano lessons and engage their innate musicianship skills age-appropriately (age 18mo – 5 roughly). As a parent, you don’t even have to be musically educated to play with your child using these musical-stimulating toys:
Finger Puppets (fine motor skill development)
Finger Cymbals (finger motion – sound response recognition)
Finger djembe, djembe (beating drum to rhythm of songs)
A Dancing Spirit! (dance to many different musical genres. This is extremely beneficial to young children! Emulate a love for music)
Songs that use hand motions (Gross motor skill development, singing, musical communication development, lung development, confidence, healthy love for music)
Movement Scarves (Silk or cotton)
…. Hopefully that gets you going in the right direction with worthy investments for your toddler who will soon enter pre-school!
Plugging into church or community children’s choirs are also very beneficial to a young child’s holistic musical development.
Here are some questions to consider before starting piano lessons….
1. Does your child have regular access to a piano or keyboard already? If yes, then GREAT! Even if your little one is just exploring the sounds, and seemingly making nonsense noise, this is all part of the process of developing musicianship. Nothing beats the touch and joy of an acoustic piano, but even a digital keyboard will do. Be wary of digital keyboards that have many “bells and whistles.” A huge lack of continuity is created between these flashy fake keyboards and piano-lesson-time instruments. No piano teacher EVER teaches lessons on a piano that lights up when you touch it; and if you meet a potential teacher who does allow such absurdity, don’t sign up with that teacher! This is also one reason why I discourage piano lessons in students’… especially if that student does not have a high quality acoustic piano. I will be writing soon about good pianos and keyboards to get as first time purchases without going broke. If you are looking right NOW and need help from me, please contact me!
2. Does your child know how to recognize letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, L, m, R, p… and numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5? This is an absolute must for beginning formal piano lessons, especially private lessons. Ideally, a child knows how to read at the start of piano lessons, but I have taught many children who did not know how to read, and they progressed just fine with knowledge of the letters/numbers mentioned above. In fact, piano lessons can aid in the reading development of children.
3. Can your child match singing pitch exceptionally well for a youngster? This often is a sign of an innate musical ability. While young children’s vocal chords are too small for formal private voice lessons, piano lessons help establish a full-circle musical understanding that will impact their singing ear and voice for life!
4. Is it in the Genes? Genetic expression of artistic abilities (especially music) tends to be quite strong from generation to generation. Just look at the J.S. Bach family, the Jackson 5, the Brown 5, the Carpenters, Bobby McFerrin and many other musically talented families/offsprings! Even if your child has the musical genes, starting private lessons at a mature-enough age is a very wise decision!
5. Is your child begging for piano lessons? This is a good way to know that your child may be ready for piano lessons, or at least a trial month!
Remember, every child is different.... some children are ready for lessons at age 5, while others need to wait til 7 or 8 years old. There is absolutely NO shame in waiting. In my opinion, it is smarter to ere in starting a year later than a year too early. Why? Taking piano lessons too early can lead to wasted money, a frustrated parent, a frustrated teacher, and worst of all – a child who hates music. There are no negative side effects in starting a little later. If you are on the fence, take some extra effort to expose your young child to the JOY and FUN of music.