One of the questions that I get asked by parents more than any other is “What is the best age to start my child in piano lessons?” If I could answer with a simple “The perfect age is 6”, this would be a very short blog post, but as you might imagine, the answer is not so simple.
I started piano lessons in 1st grade (age 7) and in some ways I was definitely ready and in other ways, not so much. When I started, I was so excited to learn to play the piano (ready!) as I had been watching my older sister tinker around on the piano and pick out little melodies and I wanted to do the same. But when I started lessons, I did not understand how those little black dots on the page worked and how they related to the keys on the piano (not so ready). It took a number of months of frustration and struggling before my teacher realized that perhaps she had started me in a book that was more advanced than I was mentally prepared for and essentially started me over in a simpler book. I should point out that today, most teachers use method books that are more age appropriate than what my teacher used and I think my early struggles were more a matter of not having the right book and teaching method rather than a lack of readiness on my part. With that being said, let me try to flesh out the answer of what makes a child ready to start piano lessons.
Consider music class:
The first question I ask a parent of a pre-K child who asks about piano lessons is, “Have they taken any music classes?” Usually the answer is “no”. This makes the conversation fairly simple. Enrolling a pre-K child in music class will give them a tremendous foundation for starting piano lessons in a few years and will teach them the basics of music (rhythm and pitch) in a fun, age appropriate environment. A child will excel faster in piano lessons if he or she has learned how to sing and keep a steady beat. Most parents are wanting to create a lifelong musician, not just a little piano robot who plays notes for a few years and then quits. I cannot emphasize enough the value of quality music classes for young children.
Once the child has been in music class and gained some foundational music knowledge, we can talk about what makes a child ready for piano lessons. If music class isn’t an option, many piano teachers, including myself, start young beginner students with many activities such as singing and tapping a steady beat to supplement playing the notes on the piano.
Some questions to ask yourself::
Can the child sit still for 20-30 minutes for a piano lesson? Teachers who specialize in young children will incorporate movement in the lesson, but students still must be able to sit still and focus for an extended period of time.
Does the child seem interested in learning to play the piano? While this isn’t a necessity, it certainly will make life easier for everyone if the child is excited to learn and motivated to practice. If the child is not interested, there are ways that parents and teachers can provide positive motivation for the child.
Does the family have a piano that the child can practice on? An electric keyboard can work for early piano lessons, but most teachers recommend moving to an acoustic piano as soon as possible.
Are the parents willing to make the investment of time, money, and effort to support the child in lessons? Just as with regular school, parents can’t expect the piano teacher to do all the work. Parents need to be involved in the process of making sure the child is practicing at home in order for piano lessons to be a success.
Have you found a teacher that you trust and that you think will connect with your child? Finding the perfect teacher can be a huge, but not insurmountable challenge. Asking friends for recommendations is a great place to start. Many teachers now have websites, youtube channels, instagram accounts, etc. where you can get a feel for their personality and philosophy before even reaching out. You know your child better than anyone, so choose carefully a teacher that will understand your child and be willing to adjust their style to meet your child’s needs. Having the right piano teacher can make all the difference in whether a child is motivated to practice and ultimately wants to continue studying piano.
So what is the perfect age to start piano lessons? It’s the age when you know your child is physically, emotionally, and mentally ready for a challenging and rewarding undertaking and when you are excited to walk beside them on the journey.
What age were you when you started piano lessons? Was it the perfect age? If you think your child is ready for piano lessons, contact me today to find out about starting an exciting piano adventure!