What is the Best Age to Begin Piano Lessons?by Ellen DuBois on 06/24/17
I've had many inquiries as to when a child can begin piano lessons. I want to give you my answer based on personal experience and what I've seen over the ten years I've been instructing piano to kids.
There will likely be different answers to this question, depending on the the piano teacher you're asking. As for me a child is typically ready to begin piano lessons by age 5 to 5 and 1/2.
Now, when I teach a five-year-old, I find they are ready to learn the basic concepts of music and of the keys, (high and low sounds and where they're found on a keyboard), note counting, finger numbers for playing songs, recognizing black key patterns of two and three keys, finding middle C and beginning to play songs on the black keys first, then the white. They also begin learning by finger number, and then by the note name and where it is on the keyboard. They are also introduced to the music staff, both bass and treble clef and finally the grand staff, (bass and treble together with the right and left hand playing/reading). Many times, I have to remind them which hand is right and/or left. (Different color highlighters on their music helps and wearing different color bracelets on each wrist helps, too.) Keeping their attention can be a bit of a challenge. Keep in mind, kids are all unique, just like us grown ups. My piano students all learn differently and at their own pace. They have good days and not-so-good days. I gladly adjust and adapt to my student's individual needs. In short, a child who is in kindergarten can certainly start learning how to play the piano, it's just flows better once they're able to read.
What's the big deal about reading and music lessons? A big, and I mean BIG change happens once a child learns to read. Even if it's somewhat limited, I've seen the way my students process learning change...as if a light switch has been turned on. It's magical! When a student learns to read, they actively participate in reading out of their music lesson books, most of which have fun stories and cartoon characters that go along with each piece. Reading reinforces what my students are learning, especially when they read what's in their music book aloud. They have fun doing this and I love when that "light bulb" moment happens! A deeper understanding of the principles of music begins to take shape. I've found a new level of excitement and understanding in my students about reading music and playing the piano when they can read. That's typically around the age of 6 and in most cases, first grade.
The difference: Teaching a child who is not yet reading is much more visual. I tend to demonstrate more on the keyboard and off of it. I sometimes turn to things like musical flashcards & games when I need to change it up to keep my student's attention. I also use their music theory books, having them fill in note counts, letters, etc. They enjoy tapping out rhythms, singing, naming the notes, going over finger numbers, I love developing fun ways to enrich their experience while teaching music.
When a piano student knows how to read, I often have them read what's in the lesson book out loud . They love this and I'm right by their side to help them with any words they don't know yet. As a matter of fact, many of my young students read ahead in their books so when we turn the page, they surprise me with what they've already read! I always show them how excited I am about this and their ambition to push forward both amazes and inspires me!
Summing it up: Your child is old enough to begin piano lessons by the age of 5-5 1/2. If they can read, learning is accelerated because they have a better understanding of what's being taught in their lesson book.
Ellen DuBois is the author of I Never Held You: Miscarriage, Grief, Healing and Recovery and Host of MiscarriageHelp.com. She's been published by Blue Mountain Arts, and is a contributing author to several books including: Soul Matters for Teens, Sisters, (Blue Mountain Arts gift book), Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders- Success Stories, Strategies and other Good News, Romancing the Soul, More God Allows U-Turns. Additionally, she's known as "Miss Ellen"- a piano teacher to students from 5 to tween and beyond-
and loves it.