Enrolling your children in piano lessons will give them the opportunity to develop a skill they will have for the rest of their lives.
The gift of a musical education has the potential to enrich their lives for many decades to come, and it has the added benefit of developing discipline, language skills, fine motor skills and listening skills.
As a parent, you may be itching to get the lessons started (did anyone say “family band”?) but you’re probably wondering if there is an age where kids are deemed ready for piano.
In this guide, we will discuss what age to start piano lessons. We'll also look at what you can do to prepare your children for their musical education!
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Is There A “Right Age”?
Your toddler has discovered that pressing on a piano key makes noise – and you just watched a video of a three-year-old playing “Moonlight Sonata” – it’s time for lessons!
Your excitement is admirable, but let’s take a step back.
Just because a child shows interest in the instrument does not necessarily mean they are ready for formal lessons.
Formal lessons don’t usually suit the learning style of most children under 5.
For one thing, kids have a short attention span. If most of the lesson is spent trying to get the kid to focus on the piano, that will be frustrating for everyone.
In most cases, kids under the age of 5 should be allowed to learn on their own time. This fosters a sense of fun and discovery.
But if your child seems particularly keen, here is a readiness checklist to determine how ready your child is for piano lessons.
Having small hands can be frustrating as an adult learning an instrument, but even more so as a kid.
If your child can place five fingers on five adjacent white keys, they will be able to play basic melodies, so you should feel comfortable signing them up.
If not, there are other ways you can foster their musical abilities, which we’ll cover later.
Interest In Music & Curiosity
Motivation and interest are the two most important qualities a student can have.
Children are drawn to the piano from a young age because it’s physically easier to play than a guitar or a saxophone.
Their little hands can easily produce a pleasant tone and basic melodies.
If your child is curious about the piano and wants to learn more, that is a good sign they will benefit from lessons.
Fine Motor Skills (Dexterity & Independence)
Before a child begins lessons, they should be able to move fingers independently of another.
A good way to test this, is to teach your child a simple melody – “Hot Cross Buns” or something similar – and see if they can play it using different fingers for each note.
If they can only play by pecking out one note at a time, they may not be ready for lessons.
The Ability To Count To 4
Most children can learn to count to four before the age of 5.
If your child is unable to count to four, they should spend some time learning this skill and understanding it before taking lessons.
Having a good sense of numeracy will help when teaching the musical basics of rhythm.
If you’re reading this, you're probably aware of the musical alphabet. So, it's key for your child to know the alphabet (or, at the very least, the first seven letters) before getting started in lessons.
Teaching your children how to sing the alphabet song is a great first step.
Then, get them to practice saying “A, B, C, D, E, F, G” forwards and backwards.
Doing this before you start piano lessons will speed up their learning curve, because their teacher would otherwise have to spend a lesson or two covering the first seven letters of the alphabet.
Left & Right
Another basic, but helpful skill to have is the ability to tell apart left from right.
Of course, it’s okay if they get it mixed up every once in a while (I still do from time to time), but you child should be able to figure out which hand is their left hand and which is their right, which side of the piano is left and which is right, and so on.
An Attention Span
Being able to focus for even 10 minutes at a time on a skill they are not yet good at is important.
Many children struggle with their attention span, especially in the age of screens, video games and other distractions.
Practicing piano is a great way to cultivate their attention span, but you should work on that a little bit before putting them into lessons.
Basic Reading Skills
Some book based methods of learning are better taught at the age of 6 to 8, when kids have some literacy skills.
Other methods, like the Suzuki method, are taught by ear. In this case, there’s no reason why a student couldn’t begin earlier.
Ask the teacher whether or your child will need some literacy skills to follow their program. If your child has all required skills, they could be signed up for lessons.
Usually, this describes kids aged 5 and up, but there is no reason a child younger than 5 shouldn’t be enrolled if they have interest and physical dexterity.
What Should Kids Do If They Are Too Young for Piano Lessons?
Did you read that list and decide that your kids are in fact, too young?
Don’t fret, there are some fantastic options for preschool children to learn some musical basics.
I took Music for Young Children when I was three and half years old. I don’t remember much of that, but apparently, I loved it and I have no doubt it makes children into better students when they are older.
If your child is not ready for formal piano lessons consider enrolling them in a good preschool music program.
Kindermusik, Music Together, Music for Young Children, and Musikgarten are all great options.
These programs foster musical concepts like rhythm, pitch and musicality. They lay a foundation for learning an instrument and developing a love for music.
In your home, encourage your children to sing, dance and listen to recorded music. All of this will help them when they are ready for lessons!
How To Prepare Your Child For Lessons
While you’re waiting for lessons to begin, there are definitely things you can do to give them a good shot at success and speed up their learning curve.
Ensure There's A Piano In The House
Before your child even starts lessons, buy a piano.
Give your child the opportunity to play the piano and plunk at keys on their own time.
Encourage them to explore and have fun without being forced to practice anything specific or go to any lessons.
If you buy a piano (even a used one) in advance, you’ll also save yourself the financial stress of paying for piano lessons and a piano at the same time.
If you can play the piano, even a little bit, sit down at the instrument and play every once in a while. Seeing parents playing the piano will only increase a child’s curiosity about the instrument.
It doesn't matter whether you get an acoustic or digital piano. Buy the best quality you can afford, and look for the ideal instrument for your space.
Place The Piano Away From The TV & In A Busy Area Of The Home
A piano in the basement will get played far less than a piano in the living room.
Kids will be less likely to play and practice if the piano is in a far corner of the house – they may feel lonely and upset, as though they’re being punished, if they have to practice far away from their family.
Separate the piano and the TV.
Not only will this save you conflicts down the road, but it will cut out potential distractions when your child is trying to practice.
Get An Adjustable Bench
Make sure that your child is able to reach the keys.
Your best bet is to get an adjustable piano bench. This will come in handy for years as your child gets taller!
Show An Interest In Your Child's Progress
Tune in when your child is playing the piano.
Are they playing the same thing over and over again?
Did they change what they were playing today? Did they discover a new chord?
Talk to them about what they’re learning. Noticing how your child learns and experiments with the instrument is the best way to have meaningful conversations about it.
Talk to them about music in ways they can understand. Is it “smooth” sounding? Does it sound happy or sad? What does “spikey” sound like on the piano? What does “sharp” sound like?
See if your child can demonstrate for you.
Take Note Of What Your Child Likes To Play
When your child is starting out, their method books will be teaching them all sorts of songs in different styles.
What songs do they like playing? Do they keep coming back to the blues song? Maybe it’s the popular song they already know? Maybe the like playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.
Whatever it is they like to play, take note.
Over time, your child’s interest in the instrument will wax and wane. One of the best ways to keep a child interested in practicing and playing is by making sure they’re playing songs they like.
Explain The Difference Between Low & High Notes
The concept of low and high notes is surprisingly tricky.
Show your child the difference between low notes and high notes on the piano.
Then, show them the difference between a singer with a lower vocal range, like Johnny Cash, and a vocalist with a higher vocal range, like Michael Jackson.
Again, this is a good way to build a musical foundation and save their teacher a few lessons.
Is It Ever Too Early?
If your child is not ready for piano lessons, their teacher should tell you.
If your child doesn’t meet many of the requirements I listed above, they may not be ready and would be better suited taking preschool musical education.
On that note, it is never too early to foster a love for music.
Listen to music, dance to music, sing aloud, play the piano for your kids and get them interested in it.
Is It Ever Too Late?
It's never too late. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's true.
An adult learner can pick up the instrument rapidly, especially if they took any music in high school or elementary school.
You can advance to any level you feel comfortable with. There is no need to become a professional pianist if that's not what you want to do. You could set the goal of becoming more musical.
Maybe you want to jam with a band, play along to songs or accompany yourself – whatever the reason, just do it.
Take online lessons, take in-person lessons, teach yourself.
Anything you learn about music is worthwhile!
What Age Is Best To Start Piano Lessons? Final Thoughts
I hope that's helped you determine what age you should you start piano lessons.
I'd love to hear what you decide, let me know in the comments.