Photo credit: Julie Lind
Many parents feel that starting their child in piano lessons at a young age will give them an advantage over other children. But that's not necessarily true. Sometimes starting too young can actually do more damage than good. What is the best age for your child to begin piano lessons?
After years of analyzing the progress of different aged students, I feel that age seven or eight is the best age to begin piano lessons. Students at this age have the skills and coordination necessary to learn the piano.
Many students who start at ages 4-6 are excited to play when they first begin piano lessons. It can be very exciting to sit down at the big piano and play a song. But because of their physical limitations (small hands), their lack of coordination, their attention span, and their inability to process complex tasks, they end up playing simple songs for years at a time.
That's when the frustration can begin, and the urge to quit may set in. The child simply gets burned out from practicing for so many years. What child wouldn't rather be outside playing with friends instead of practicing the piano?
After only three months, a child who starts at age eight can usually play the same level of music as the typical child who started at age four and has had three years of piano lessons. Which would you rather do, learn a new skill in three months or be required to practice for three years to achieve the same results?
Many people don't understand the complexity of playing the piano. Not only do you have to be able to read two lines of music at once (right and left hands have different clefs), but you also have to learn the keys (there are 88 of them!) and be able to count while you play.
Piano students also need to learn the music alphabet forward and backward. Start at G and say the alphabet backward to A. That's what piano students have to do every time they sit down at the piano.
Musicians also need to be able to add and subtract. If there are four beats in a measure, and you have a half note worth two beats, how many beats are missing? Can your 4-6 year old do this kind of math?
There are definitely exceptions to my "start at age 7" rule. I recently heard an eight-year-old boy beautifully perform college-level repertoire. He said he practices three hours every single day. This boy definitely has the determination and natural abilities that are unusual for someone his age. In his case it would have been a shame to not start him at a younger age.
Some piano teachers specialize in this younger age. If you feel your child is ready for lessons at a younger age, be sure to find a teacher who specializes in this younger age group.
If your younger child enjoys music, I recommend taking a group music class instead of private piano lessons. These classes have fun songs, singing and dancing. Many Community Ed programs offer these types of classes.
If you are wondering how musical your child is, take the quiz in my article titled: Does your child have natural musical ability.