Is My Child Old Enough to Start Piano/Music Lessons?

By: Jerry A. Greene

Before I give you my opinion on this, I want you to ask yourself this question: "Why do I want my child to take piano lessons?"

Proper answers should include these types of responses:

  • "I want to give my child a love for music that they can enjoy and carry on throughout their entire life."
  • "I want to give my child a boost in creativity and spatial reasoning skills by studying music."

They should not be this:

  • "I want my child to be involved in music from an early age because I hear that they can earn big scholarships to colleges/universities and I wont have the money to send them to a good school."
  • "I want my child to be a famous music star!"
  • "I took lessons when I was young and hated them, but I wish I would have kept going, so now I am going to force my child to take lessons so that they don't have the same regret that I do."

Although these 3 responses, phrased differently, may have some positives, they are focused on YOU, and not your child. Please make sure that you are enrolling them in piano lessons because you want them to have a great experience that they can enjoy and keep with them for the rest of their lives, while increasing their brain's capacity for doing math and augmenting other reasoning skills. With that being said, let me answer the first question, "Is my child old enough to start piano lessons?"

This depends on a number of factors:

  • Can your child physically sit still for at least a half-hour? (The typical length of a beginning-level piano lesson)
  • Can your child mentally focus on doing what is expected of them for at least a half-hour?
  • Does you child need you to be in the room, or will they suffer from separation anxiety causing them to be focused on where you are and not at the task at hand, which is learning music?
  • Can your child read the letters of the alphabet?
  • Can your child read and count numbers?
  • Can they do very simple addition like 2+2=4?
  • Do they get enough exposure to the types of music that would complement what they will be learning?

Although each of these factors can be worked around in some fashion, especially when first starting out in music, these could be considered a good list of pre-requisites. In my personal experience, I have started children as early as 4, but suggest that they probably wait till 5, in order to be more familiar with the pre-requisites I just spoke of.

Most Children Learn Music Concepts Quickly

One of the good things about learning to read notes, at such an early age, is that children pick up on them rather quickly. They are learning to read the letters of the alphabet (putting a name to a symbol) which is exactly the same thing as learning to read the notes. The closer together these two experiences happen (learning to read letters and learning to read notes) the better. I have even heard of parents using flash cards with notes on them while doing letters of the alphabet at the same time and find that their children learn both equally as fast, and better yet retain them! This can be a great advantage because once they can read music (both treble and bass clefs), learning to play an instrument becomes very easy, since it is a matter of motor coordination (something that is generally easier to learn once the "notes are out of the way".)

Music As A Social Experience

It is also beneficial for your child to have friends that are going through the experience of learning music at the same time. They often will want to show each other what they have learned and play together. This is exactly what happened to me. I had friends that were taking lessons and showing me what they were learning and I wanted to do the same thing. Before I knew it, we were in school band together (now playing band instruments as well as piano) and were enjoying it "socially".

Children's Music Software

There are some great software programs, that are being used in the school systems, such as "Music Ace" that can help teach your child the basics of music. You can order the consumer-version of the program (there are 2 volumes) and use it in your home to see how well your child does with it, before moving forward with full-blown lessons. Many private teachers also suggest using Music Ace as a supplement to their instruction since it helps the child learn to understand music in a fun and entertaining way.

I wish you and your child/children all the success in the world and welcome any questions that you may have for me.