One of the big topics of discussion among parenting groups in my neighborhood is music lessons. What’s the best age for starting piano? Violin? Guitar? When I wanted to know, I went straight to my sister-in-law, Erin. Percussion teaching was her major in college, and she’s currently a piano teacher. (Did you know piano is considered a percussion instrument? It’s in the same family as drums!) Here’s what Erin says:
As a piano teacher, the question I am most asked is: “When should my child start piano lessons?” Keep in mind that my goal for my students is that music will be an enriching part of their lives, a creative outlet, a useful skill and playing the piano may serve as a bridge to other kinds of musical education and instruction. I do not approach this from a competitive viewpoint.
Question 1: Has your child learned to read?
After a child starts to read is an excellent time for them to start playing the piano, around age 6-8. The mechanics of reading come in handy when learning to read music and it’s helpful if they can read practice instructions. By this point they are also learning how to be responsible for their own homework and gaining greater independence in completing tasks. But there isn’t necessarily a “magic” age. I have students that started to play the piano at age 10 and 12 and they progress more quickly than the younger student and have the strength and dexterity to play more complex music from the beginning. I also have students that started much younger who do beautifully partly because of the time their parents spent helping them practice:
Question 2: Do you have time to help your child practice?
The younger the child, the more time you will need to spend helping them practice. If they can’t read you will need to sit down with them everyday. If they can read you may just need to help them for a few minutes at the beginning of practice the first few days after lessons. Of course, this is also dependent on personality. My daughter started at age 5. I had more time to spend with her and once I got her started, she was able to do some practicing on her own. My son is turning 7 soon and I tried to start lessons with him. He wants me with him every time he practices, but I don’t have the time right now, so we’ll wait until he’s a little older and begin again. He also wasn’t very excited about playing the piano, which brings us to question three:
Question 3: Does your child talk about playing the piano or try to play the piano?
If they are excited about it, they are more likely to be self-motivated to practice and the better they practice, the more successful they will be and the more they will enjoy playing the piano.
If you can answer “yes” to two of the above questions, consider starting piano lessons with your child.
Thank you, Erin! I really appreciate definitive advice like that so I’m not forced to guess.
What about you, Dear Readers? Have you found success starting your kids with piano lessons at a certain age? What’s your advice?
P.S. — Painting a piano. And my favorite ukulele for kids.
Credits: Photo by Kristen Loken for Design Mom
15 thoughts on “Is My Child Too Young to Start Piano Lessons?”
I just recently started learning to play the piano (bartering is a good thing!), and my kids are already starting to be interested because they see me doing it. Of course, at 2 and one, we’re not even dreaming of lessons right now, but it’s cool that they are having a good time with the piano.
Thank you for your great post! As a voice teacher, I totally agree with you. The students really need to be excited about studying their instrument, and the parents need to help with practicing.
That you so much for this! I have recently been wondering when a good time to start lessons for my girls and this is all great advice!
I guess my next step is finding a teacher. Maybe you can suggest what to look for in a teacher?
I’m sad to say we don’t even own a piano. :( I’m really working James on this though. I hope to have one by next fall. I really want to re-learn, and Eliza shows a disire and knack for it. Her G’ma Hobbs started teaching her a little.
This was actually really helpful since we’ve been asking the same question. Our son will be 5 I think I’ll wait a couple more years. Thanks so much.
I have people ask me this all the time and I usually say I don’t take kids before 8 years, and sometimes not even then depending on attitude, attention span and learning abilities/disabilities. In addition to reading skills, basic knowledge of addition helps a whole lot with the rhythm and counting.
I started when I was 4 and progressed quickly, but I also had 5 older siblings who played and a mother who taught. So, I had a lot of “good/reliable” help.
I think your guidelines are very good.
You can split musicians into two categories, those that naturally play by ear well or those that read music well. Figure out what kind of learner your budding musician is and then pick a teacher that will be able to foster his natural talent and make him strong in both areas. Also you might decide whether you want your child to be competing and performing a lot or not.
Now finding a teacher is another story, in my area it’s difficult. Good luck to you!
i’m a teacher too, and i get asked that question all the time. being able to read (or at the minimum be able to recognize letters) is a must!!! and as much as it is great to have a teacher that has all kinds of degrees and is an amazing pianist, to start out, find someone that is a little less expensive. if things change and your child chooses not to take piano anymore, or it just isn’t working, you won’t have wasted your money. and make sure the child actually has time to practice! i’ve taught some kids that were shuttled from one activity to the other with barely enough time to practice and would make very little progress.
i’ve been wondering about this. my husband’s family is very talented. they all started on a string instrument at 3. so i’ve been feeling like a slacker mom for not having my 5 yr old in anything. i’ve been trying to get her excited about piano but she doesn’t seem to care. i guess i’ll wait.
my aunt just mailed me my piano book from my childhood. i’m so excited to teach afton the piano basics!
Awww, I wrote a big long comment about how the parents need to explore their own motivation for starting lessons and should keep in mind they’ll need help learning to be good at encouraging/practice-helping, and it went poof into the internet.
The main point was something about a good teacher giving parents hints throughout the lesson and maybe with handouts on how to help the kid enjoy the experience.
Also, since I needed tutoring to pass my piano requirements (I’m a violist and majored in performance) I am always in awe of you guys, and wish I had taken piano as a kid! Such a useful instrument with tons of gorgeous repertoire.
Thank you! My two sons are eager to play and they mess around on the piano singing and plucking, but I felt they each had the attention span of a flea. Flit here. Flit there. I would love to have our piano become more than an extremely heavy decoration in my living room!
I started when I was 6 and loved it instantly. I’m so glad my parents encouraged me to develop a talent that I can share (a teensy bit of encouragement is ok, in my book). I’m grateful for teachers that emphasized fundamentals like scales and fingering and hand position and theory early on. My teachers were also warm and positive but also expected hard work. I’m glad to be exposing my 18 month old to piano and that he enjoys my playing!
When it comes to teachers, my kids started with the neighbor girl who was 16 at the time. My kids were about 5 and 8. She plays well, but much more importantly she is fun and outgoing and great with little kids. She also charged about half of what other teachers charged. She was their teacher until she left town at age 19 and now her younger sister is their teacher. Another family also started with the same teacher. Their son moved on to a more “professional” teacher when it became clear that he loved piano and was progressing very quickly.
I was 6 when I started playing and had been reading since age 4. I think eagerness is the most important thing…my older brother took lessons and I had started playing his songs by ear. I’m still stronger playing by ear than reading music.