Is your child ready for piano lessons?
You know that music is important and you want your child to have a positive experience with it. You want to expose them to it as soon as possible!
I’ve taught piano lessons for a long time. I’ve taught kids who were ready, but I’ve also taught a lot of kids who weren’t ready. If your child begins piano lessons before they’re ready, it can stick in their mind as a negative experience, and they may decide they never want to play. If your child is very young, it’s very important that you make sure they’re really ready before starting.
Here are six things for you to consider to determine whether your child is ready for piano lessons:
1. Has your child shown an inclination to music?
Do they enjoy listening to music? Do they move with the music or sing when you have the radio on? These are signs that your child is musical, and they may be ready earlier than average.
If your child is musical, they should begin exploring music as soon as possible! This might mean taking traditional piano lessons, or if they’re too young for that you can enroll them in a music and movement class. Or, just make music a big focus at home!
2. Can your child count at least to five?
Playing music requires counting beats. Whole notes last for four beats, and your child will also need to keep track of finger numbers. It’s ideal if your child can count to ten.
Music (especially the rhythm part of music) is strongly tied to math. Music without rhythm isn’t music, it’s just sound. If your child can’t count easily yet, they might not be able to understand rhythm.
3. Are your child’s hands big and strong enough?
When your child puts her hands on the keys, can they span across five white keys? Playing the piano involves playing in “hand positions.” Each finger gets its own key. If your child has trouble stretching her fingers across five keys and is instead clumping more than one finger onto a key, her hands might not be big enough.
It’s also important that your child has enough hand and finger strength. Can she hold a pencil easily, or use scissors? If not, she’ll have a hard time pressing down the piano keys, especially when her fingers are spread across five different keys.
4. Does your child know the difference between left and right?
This might be a big indicator of whether your child is ready. It will make things a lot more difficult and frustrating for your child to constantly be getting their hands backwards.
Some kids occasionally get it mixed up and that’s different — I’m talking about children who are still struggling with the concept of left and right in general.
When I was four years old, I remember being at a sledding party with my family. I was speeding down a huge mountain with my dad (or at least it looked huge to four-year-old me!), when somehow my arm went all the way under the sled while we were going down. I got some nice scars on my right wrist.
After that, I was always able to look at the wrist with the scars to figure out which was my right hand. I might have had trouble distinguishing the difference for another year or two if not for those scars! Regardless, I didn’t begin piano lessons until I was seven years old… and that was okay!
5. Can your child read?
The musical alphabet is A-B-C-D-E-F-G, and your child should be able to recite that easily before beginning piano lessons.
It’s helpful if your child can read, since this means they’re used to decoding symbols on a page. But if they’re musically inclined it might be okay to start piano lessons before they’re reading comfortably. However, if you don’t anticipate your child being able to read anytime soon, you may want to hold off on piano lessons.
6. Can your child focus for at least 20 minutes?
Most five and six-year-olds aren’t dying to sit still doing nothing for long periods of time. I was recently at a coffee shop on a rainy day and someone had their young son running circles in an open room right next to the cafe to let him get some energy out — I think that kid ran circles for 15 minutes straight!
Children can seem to have endless reserves of energy, but this doesn’t mean they’re incapable of sitting still from time to time! I’ve taught many five-year-old children who had just as much restless energy as any other kid that age, but I was amazed at their ability to sit still and listen during their lesson.
I’ve taught other kids that age who probably should’ve waited another year before beginning lessons! You know your child better than anyone else.
Is my child too old to begin piano lessons?
If your child is a teen or or preteen, that doesn’t mean it’s too late! In fact, I’ve seen a great deal of students twelve years or older who began lessons because THEY wanted to (not their parents!). These students often excel very, very quickly because they’re developmentally further along than the younger kids and have more control over their fingers. If your preteen or teenager has shown interest in piano or music in general, they can make up for lost time if they’re motivated.
Keep in mind, when your child is a teenager, he’ll be a lot busier than he is now and he’ll have less time to practice. It’s helpful for him to already be proficient at the piano before then so he can make the decision to make piano an important part of his life.
Can an adult learn the piano?
Absolutely! Make sure you’re at a stage in your life where you have the time to dedicate to learning. If you’re working full-time and have three kids at home, it might not be the right time for you.
Learning piano is a commitment. You’re probably not going to be as proficient as you want to be in only six months or a year. Once you begin lessons, you’ll want to plan to stick with it for awhile!
For very young children, parents need to be ready to be directly involved in practice time every day. Plan to sit with your child at the piano for 10 minutes a day and make practice time fun!
Children under 5 probably shouldn’t take traditional piano lessons. Music and Movement classes are a great alternative and will prepare your child to begin piano lessons early.
I find ages 6-8 to be the best ages to begin piano lessons. Some kids are ready at 5 years old, but if you have the choice don’t wait beyond age 8 or 9! Remember, music is another language. Children who learn a second language early are much more likely to become fluent in that language than kids who didn’t start until middle school.