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.
- The child just needs to press the key to produce a sound.
- The concept of positioning both hands on the keys is easily understood.
- Kids who start taking piano lessons at age 4-5 naturally curve their fingers, giving them an edge in learning proper hand position.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 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 MusicTeacherLA.com.