Concerned and caring parents are often worried about their kids missing out on an opportunity and would like to enroll them for piano lessons as soon as possible. Is it true that the earlier you start piano lessons, the better a pianist you will become? Does it really give young kids a head start if they begin at a very early age?
There are different approaches to these questions . Some teachers offer piano lessons for babies together with their moms, some have 3 year olds take lessons, others don't start teaching kids before they enter school. In some places students are encouraged not to start private lessons before the age of 9, after completing an introduction group course.
Over the years I had people starting lessons at different ages. The oldest school aged beginner to start lessons with me was 14, the youngest was almost 5. And although each child is unique and special, there are a few general guide lines I would like to share here to help in deciding when to start lessons.
I find that starting before the age of six makes sense if either
1. The child is exceptionally musically talented and will be able to concentrate and grasp musical concepts intuitively, or
2. The parents understand that the piano lessons will involve a lot of other activities such as singing, games and dances that will develop gross motor skill coordination and general musicality before the fine motor finger work can begin.
We know Mozart started learning the piano around the age of 4 and was taken on concert tours to play at royal courts in Europe by the age of 6. Often though, young children are extremely challenged by the basics of piano playing. Starting too early can backfire: the kids may end up feeling frustrated and loose interest before achieving anything and will probably rule out piano playing in their future too.
The ideal time to begin piano classes in my opinion is somewhere between the age of 6 and 8. By then most children have learned to read and coordinate the hands and fingers and are open and happy to acquire a new skill.
Later school aged beginners:
All the students I had who started at a later age (10- 14) made fast progress and learned the basics in a short period of time. What some of them lacked was confidence and ease; they tended to feel they were behind their peers who started earlier and had reached a higher level. Kids in their early teens who wanted to play "cool pieces" before the foundations were properly learned had to compensate by rote playing during the first stages. But with time and motivation and lots of practice they caught up. Older beginners have the big advantage of potentially being able to take responsibility for their own disciplined practice. They still need help in getting themselves organized, no illusions here, but it is easier for them than for the very young.
As a seven year old student once said to me, after understanding that piano needs to be practiced at home on top of the weekly classes: "Wow! Luckily, I don't have a swimming pool and a tennis court at home, otherwise I would have to practice them too!"
Younger and older adults came to me for lessons over the years, many of them with no former musical experience. The grandmother of a student of mine started learning the piano when she was 70 and is loving it. Adult students I taught made steady and impressive progress if they kept at it and remembered to practice (one of the biggest challenges for adults is having to be their own motivators!)
So in my opinion it may be a little early but it is NEVER too late to start learning the piano.
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