Children & Teens

Music lessons are a wonderful part of a well rounded education for children. These are some common questions that are considered in the process of deciding to provide lessons for a child.

How old should children be to start lessons?

Most children do best with formal lessons when they are age six or older. Some children are ready for lessons at age five, but it is important to remember that the younger the student, the more consistent help is needed from a parent or caregiver. Progress is significantly faster when children are more developmentally ready to focus, accept direction, structure their time, and tolerate frustration. When children are in their young elementary school years, the schedule tends to be fairly manageable, coordination is developing, and children are exploring interests. For optimal brain development, it is ideal to begin lessons when children are young.

My child is not reading words yet. Is it too soon to start lessons?

Reading music is less complicated than reading the English language, so beginning piano lessons before reading begins is not a concern. Many children experience a growth spurt in their reading skills during the first months of piano lessons as their spacial skills and pattern recognition become more developed. Sometimes reading the words in songs can be a distraction for beginners, so we play plenty of music without words and make adjustments as needed. Also, students who are not reading much yet will need extra help from caregivers to go through their assignment list. Students explore playing by ear, improvising, and copying patters as well as learning to read music, and the pace of learning is always adjusted to the student’s stage of development.

What about starting piano in middle school or high school?

Students who begin piano in middle school or high school typically learn very quickly, but there are outside challenges such as homework, sports schedules, and social calendars. If adequate time is available for practicing, playing the piano can be a terrific outlet that helps students find a way to relax and deal with stress.

I am concerned that my child did not get started with lessons at a young enough age–is it too late?

Piano is mostly an individual pursuit. When it really matters how much a student has learned by a given point in time is if the student intends to enter a music degree program directly after high school. Students who focus on competitions will also be affected if categories are set by age rather than length of study. In general, the most important issue is how diligently the student practices and applies what is taught–it is not unusual for a child who begins lessons from age four but practices haphazardly to be surpassed by age 10 by a serious student who has played only two years.

Does it matter that I as the parent or caregiver do not know how to play the piano?

Not at all! Some of the most patient and enthusiastic support for students has come from parents who appreciate every step of learning music. This is often an opportunity for parents to learn something they have always wanted to know. It works best if parents who are not familiar with the piano attend as many lessons as possible. I bring parents over to the piano and show them what we are learning so that the process at home is easier. Sometimes parents are inspired to take lessons as well, which can be a great role model for children as they notice that parents also have to practice and figure out how to solve problems at the piano.

Should siblings start lessons at the same time?

Whenever siblings are beginning lessons together, we begin with mostly separate music to prevent comparison. There is so much excellent material available that siblings can pursue their own interests as their skills improve. One may like pretty flowing pieces while another plays more boogie, which is just fine. It is most important to help each individual child work to do his or her own personal best. Progress will always vary from one child to another, but it is the effort, enjoyment, and learning that matter.

I’ve heard that piano lessons are good preparation for playing a band or orchestra instrument or singing. Is that true?

Absolutely! The piano is a very linear instrument, with notes on the page corresponding exactly to whether a note on the piano is higher or lower rather than being located in a different position or finger pattern. So, in a sense reading music for the piano is less abstract, and all knowledge of reading music at the piano transfers to other instruments. Those who pursue serious study of voice or other instruments are also required to reach minimum proficiency on the piano.

I’m concerned that my child is ‘tone deaf.’ ¬†Will lessons help?

Music can bring joy to every single person, no matter what challenges that person faces, and every person has the ability to learn. Music lessons do help to improve listening skills, focus, coordination, spatial development, and pattern identification. Music also helps children to find a helpful and constructive way to express their emotions and feelings. Taking piano lessons can help students learn to match pitches and distinguish between different sounds. I have never met a person who could not improve their skills–in my experience those who describe themselves or their family in general as “tone deaf” have simply not had the opportunity to learn a specific skill.

Is my child musically gifted?

Some children do have an unusual aptitude for music. It is important not to be overly concerned about whether a student has “talent,” though a child who is truly gifted will greatly benefit from being provided with the best possible instruction and opportunities for development. Over the years I have noticed that those who have a love of music and work hard can go much further in the music profession and in life than children who have natural ability but lack discipline or a good attitude, so I work on helping students be prepared with the mental aspects of music study as well as the physical aspects of playing. If a student with aptitude, humility, a love of learning, and plenty of time dedicated to regular practice wishes to pursue opportunities, there are many options along the way. I have prepared many students for college study in music, which is a joy and a privilege.

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