Is Your Child Ready for Piano Lessons?

By Olesya MacNeil

enrichment - early piano lessons

Olesya MacNeil, center, has been a private piano teacher since 1991

Parents who enroll their children in music lessons can provide a powerful boost for their youngsters’ overall development. A number of studies suggest that formal music lessons help develop hand-eye coordination, improve language skills, teach children to use both the left and right side of the brain simultaneously, instill confidence and develop discipline, patience and music appreciation. Additionally, studies show that adults who played instruments during childhood have sharper hearing in old age.

I have found that piano is the easiest first instrument for young children to learn.

  1. The child just needs to press the key to produce a sound.
  2. The concept of positioning both hands on the keys is easily understood.
  3. Kids who start taking piano lessons at age 4-5 naturally curve their fingers, giving them an edge in learning proper hand position.
  4. Knowledge acquired in piano lessons can later be applied to any other instrument.

So, what is the best age to begin taking piano lessons?

My personal experience teaching private piano lessons since 1991, backed by the results of research both here and abroad, shows that children benefit from starting formal piano training as early as age 4, when brain circuits for learning music mature. However, since every child is individual in his abilities and development, it is important to evaluate a child’s emotional, mental and physical readiness before engaging them in piano lessons. Your parental readiness and support are also essential.

Emotional Readiness

I long have noticed that it is easier to teach a 4-year-old to play the piano when he or she shows an interest in learning an instrument from the start. Those students concentrate on learning the material and look forward to studying a new song. Focus and the ability to listen to the teacher and follow directions are important parts of the learning process. The student who does not want to learn the piano, but gets enrolled in lessons by his parents anyway, will perform poorly, despite the entertaining and engaging music material and fun music games offered by the skilled piano teacher during lessons.

Mental Readiness

enrichment - early piano

Little piano students do need to have certain motor skills, and know basic numbers and alphabet.

To begin formal piano lessons, a student needs to have a basic understanding of counting. Young children learn to number their fingers, 1 through 5, and position the correct finger number on the keys. Additionally, kids learn to count music beats and rhythm.

Music is made up of notes, and each note has a letter name. The young music student needs to understand alphabet concepts, and know at least the letters of the music alphabet, A through G.

Physical Readiness

Students should have basic motor and hand-eye skills to coordinate note reading with key pressing.

Additionally, students will need to be able to move each finger independently in order to translate the note reading to the finger movements.

Parental Readiness

Parental support and willingness to help children develop a daily practice routine will help them to progress faster, take lessons more seriously and stay motivated.

Olesya MacNeil has been a private piano teacher since 1991 and is the founder of Music Teacher LA, a provider of in-home and in-studio music lessons for ages 4 and up in L.A. and the South Bay. Learn more at

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  1. Thanks for recommending the best age to start your child in piano lessons. It is interesting that you mention children as young as age 4 can take lessons. You make a good point about how there is not much knowledge that is needed to learn the concept of positioning your hands on the keys and pressing down. My son is going to turn five in a few months, so I might have to start looking for a piano teacher.

  2. I like this so much 🙂 🙂 🙂 I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces.Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.

    But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy., I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.

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