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Starting Children in Piano Lessons

What age is best?


Let's talk about when to start piano lessons!

If you are interested in private instruction for your kids, it's good to know what you can expect from lessons at different ages.

Many parents are eager to get an early start in music learning -- especially when their children show an interest or ability during the toddler years.

When to start piano lessons...
how young is too young?

In the years I've taught piano, I've experimented with having students as young as 4 years old. However, I've been most successful with children who start piano lessons at ages 5 and above.

By the time kids are 5, they have a slightly longer attention span -- helpful for sitting still for the better part of a piano lesson! 5-year-olds also have a more thorough grasp of numbers and letters, which we use right from the first piano lesson.

At this age, kids are also beginning to grasp the idea of cause-and-effect.

And they realize that repeating things over and over makes you really good at them.

They apply these two principles in a determined way to get what they want. (As any parent of young children will tell you!) :-)

Additionally, I find that 5-year-olds have a bit more understanding of working toward a goal.

Not that they've developed the ability yet to think long-term, but they can hear a piece of music and decide that they want to be able to do that! That kind of self-motivation helps a great deal in creating a successful lesson experience.

Of course, ultimately, when to start piano lessons is a personal decision for each family, child, and the teacher you've chosen. Some alternative piano methods, such as Simply Music and Suzuki, work very well for younger kids.

little girl at piano

But my 4-year-old is so musical already! What can I do?

Did you know there are some wonderful musical programs developed specifically for younger kids?

Kindermusik is a great example! I also really love Music Together - what a fabulous program with amazing music that you, the parent, will enjoy as much as your kids will.

However, if you would really like your younger child in piano lessons, here's a teacher's point of view.

First, make sure you find a teacher who is experienced with younger children. A teacher with a studio of 8-15 year-olds is dedicating a lot of preparation time and energy to that specific age group.

You want a teacher with a studio, methodology, and teaching tools and games that are perfect for younger kids.

Second, have a good discussion with your teacher about the results you can expect from lessons. Generally, lessons for this age are going to be full of music learning activities and games along with specific piano instructions.

This is critical! Many parents have expectations about musical achievement and what happens in piano lessons that they don't realize.

Many of those expectations might be appropriate for older children, but not for very young ones.

child hands at piano

What might lessons with younger children look like?

I've had discussions with parents who were upset when they'd check in on a lesson and find me on the floor playing finger-number or rhythm games.

Or marching in circles singing "Mary Had A Little Lamb" while playing rhythm sticks or finger cymbals. These parents expected that a 30-minute piano lesson meant we'd be spending 30 minutes at the piano.

And only the piano.

I've also had parents decide that if their kids couldn't "behave," (as in, sit still for 30 minutes on the piano bench) they weren't going to pay for piano lessons.

In both of these examples, the children were behaving normally! Full of energy, about a five minute attention span, and not very interested in sitting still. Yep, typical 4-year-olds. :-) And as a teacher, I was quite happy with their musical development.

But the parents were expecting more (despite my earnest discussions with them) -- as a result, they were disappointed with the lesson experience.

As a parent, if you're clear with yourself and with your child's teacher about your desires and expectations, you'll be on the road to a great piano lesson experience.

When to start piano lessons...
is it ever too late?

Short, easy answer... no! :-)

Maybe you have an older child or a teenager.

Maybe you, the parent, have a secret desire to learn to play yourself.

Investing in music education for yourself and your family is always an excellent idea! Whether it's piano, guitar, voice, or another instrument (my first instrument was flute, in fifth grade band!), learning to play is a great form of self expression and personal accomplishment.

I wish you every success as you explore lessons for your child, or yourself!

Share your piano lesson experience!

Whether you're a parent or a piano teacher, what have been your experiences with beginning piano lessons with children? What age do you think is the right age for starting lessons?

Do you have a funny story about kids and music lessons? Something you experienced when you were young, or watched as a parent or teacher? Little ones can be so hilariously funny and so wise at the same time.

Do you have ideas about teaching younger children, even for parents at home who want to instill a love of music in their children? Please share!

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