“How early do you recommend starting piano lessons? 3 years old? Kindergarten?”
Music teachers hear this question over and over. It’s normally asked by parents who have just journeyed through the transformation of baby stages to toddlers and on to the brink of school days. A grandparent buys a toy piano as a Christmas gift, and the parents wonder if it’s time to think about getting their child piano lessons. Maybe an older cousin performed a Christmas song at a family gathering.
There’s many reasons that lead a child to ask and a parent to inquire about piano lessons, but there’s several things you can know that will help you navigate the new world of private music instruction. If you have any questions about piano lessons in West Chester, please get in touch!
Know Your Student
As you consider starting music lessons, you already have the most important knowledge of anyone involved—more than the teacher or the students. You know your child. Now you can take that knowledge and apply it to your child as a student. You should know….
Is Your Student Physically Ready?
Most young children are able to use gross motor skills to keep a beat. You can see this in the way they dance, clap, and stomp. Watch for how your child’s fine motor skills are developing— can they hold a toothbrush, feed themselves? Can they count with their fingers? Piano involves individual finger movement and control. This takes time to develop, but if a young child’s fine motor skills are not developed at all, they may need to wait a year before starting piano.
Is Your Student Cognitively Ready?
Being able to count, recite the alphabet, and follow directions are essential skills for private piano lessons. Attention span is another factor to consider. All young children need lots of activities and most teachers are sensitive to changing up the pace and providing breaks when needed. However, you as a parent can assess and know if your child is able to focus on a task, even for a short amount of time.
Does Your Student Have a Musical Background?
This is one question that many neglect. Music is like a language, and exposure to it at an early age can profoundly impact a student’s private lesson experience. Do you or anyone in your house play an instrument? Is music listened to often? Is there a family history of musicians? The more musical background and exposure, the more likely a child is to be ready for private lessons.
Does Your Student Desire To Play The Piano?
This last idea to consider is normally a simple yes or no answer. Many families have some sort of musical lesson requirement for their school age children. This often ends up being a good thing, as children enjoy music and end up being thankful for their training later in life. For young students though, having a strong desire to play might be an indication to start lessons—and vice versa!
Know Your Options
You’ve considered your child’s physical and mental readiness, their musical background, and their desire to play. You now know roughly where your child is at in relation to music. It’s important to know that you have several options based on those answers.
Group Music Class
If you discovered your child might not have the fine motor skills yet, or is still clapping totally out of sync with their favorite CocoMelon video, a young learner’s music class might be a great option. Many studios offer options like KinderMusik or Music Together programs. Here in West Chester I offer a Young Learner’s Readiness Class, where I teach a small group of 2-4 year olds the basics of rhythm, melody, and both gross and fine motor skills. This class specifically focuses on skills needed to play the piano, so that each student can transfer seamlessly into piano lessons when ready.
The more traditional setting for music instruction is the private lesson. If you’ve determined your child has all the readiness factors present for learning to play the piano, enrolling in a private studio would be the next step. Make sure you have a piano at home available for your child to practice on!
Virtual lessons are private lessons over the internet. This is certainly an option for a ready student, but does require substantial parental involvement—especially for the younger students.
Know Your Goals
Finally, think through what your goals are. Is it simply because your child asked for lessons and it’s in your power to give? Is it something you did as a child and you want your child to have the same experience? Being clear in your mind about your goals will help both the student and the teacher. Here are some ideas for you to set as goals as you dive into private music lessons.
Enough cannot be said about the importance of exposure to music. Studies have proven that the earlier a child starts listening to and participating (even by dancing or clapping) with music, the more likely they are to develop perfect pitch. Music reaches our subconscious and settles deep, even at an early age. Exposure to music can be a goal of any type of music training.
This is a long-term goal. Setting this goal for your child might mean starting very young with a music class. It could look like sitting in on private lessons to help your child practice more effectively at home, or communicating frequently with the music teacher to better understand how to support the student musically (which, by the way, is a great idea regardless of your goal). If skill is your goal, start early in some form, and understand that you are in it for the long-haul, regardless of any obstacles that pop up.
Enjoyment or Hobby
Simply enjoying making music is an admirable goal for any student. Not everything has to be about trying to make your child smarter or read at an earlier age. There is certainly a level of skill required to be a musical hobbyist, so it is important to understand that this goal will also take some time. Starting at school age and watching the progress through popular method book series is a pleasant way to reach this goal. Exploring other instruments and styles could be a part of this goal as well.
Knowing your student, your options, and your goals will help you find the answer to when your child should begin piano lessons. Don’t hesitate to reach out to local teachers as you go through this process. When the cuddly baby stage has somehow accelerated all the way to high school graduation, you will not regret choosing music for your child. The memories, the skills, and the joy of music will last each student through their entire lifetime!