18 answers

Starting Piano Lessons

My son is 2 and my husband and I are considering purchasing a piano within the next year or two. I know how to read music, and can teach him the basics. What age is appropriate to start teaching piano? Any ideas as to how to ease a little one into learning an instrument? Does anyone know of any good resources - websites, games, books, videos, etc.?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

First, I want to thank all of you who responded with so many wonderful ideas. I'm definitely going to start slowly, mostly with games. My son is bright, but from a maturity perspective he is still very much a typical 2 year old boy. So I think I'll wait a little longer before introducing more "formal" teaching or anything that requires a significant attention span. I loved all of your ideas. Thank you so much!!!

Featured Answers

Hi,
I'm a musician and would recommend not starting formal lessons until 5-6 years old, when he can read. I've been taking my 2-year-old to Music Together classes for almost a year, and now he actually picks up his little guitar, plays and sings! I think just giving him access to an instrument, and playing for and with him would be great.

All the best,
S.

My husband is a partner in a music teaching operation. The rule of thumb that they follow is usaully 3-5yrs of age is appropriate to start piano. The child needs to be able to sit still and pay attention for a 15min stretch of time or more.

More Answers

Hi A.,

It appears that you've already received some great advice!

I, too, am a piano and public school music teacher. I would say that readiness definitely varies from child to child. That being said, the youngest student I have worked with was four years old, and in a group music class with two other teachers. The class focused on fostering an appreciation for music and musical exploration using the body, voice, and instruments (small hand percussion). Within the group time, I would take a child for an average of 7 or 8 minutes for individual piano time. During the individual piano time, I taught pre-reading skills (finding the groups of 2 or 3 black keys, etc.).

It really helps if the child knows the alphabet - that way you can start to introduce the white keys by their letter name. You can also work on high/low/same. Singing with the notes helps develop aural skills. Get creative with games, if your child demonstrates an interest.

My oldest son (now almost 3) has been exploring with the piano since he was only 6 months old! I used to put him in his bouncy or exersaucer while I played or practiced, and he would try to reach his arms out to touch the keys. I would sit him on my lap and let him explore. When he began walking, he was just tall enough to reach his arms over his head and push the keys down. Now, he pulls the bench out, and climbs up to play on his own. He loves music, in general, and loves to have Mommy or Daddy (we're both musicians) play one of his favorite songs - like the theme to Little Einsteins on the Disney channel.

There is a music software program that I am a big fan of, called Music Ace. If you go to www.harmonicvision.com, you will find a free demo download to try it out. It has some of those pre reading skills, but gets pretty complex as well. It would be a good tool to use later on for reinforcement of what is learned at the piano. I think it's well worth the investment if your child demonstrates a true interest in learning more about music & piano, as it builds on previously learned skills and concepts.

One of the best things you can do for your child at this age is to simply let him explore, and give him lots of praise for what he discovers both on his own, and with your guidance. Love of music doesn't have to come just from the piano. You can make homemade instruments and find things around the house that make musical sounds, too!

Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi A.,
I am a private piano teacher in Fairfield. As to when to start formal lessons, it really depends on the child. Some children do very well with lessons at age 4 while others really need to wait until they are 6 years old. In my 20 years of teaching, I have never encountered a child younger than 4 years old who was ready for formal lessons. This has to do with eye development, coordination and readiness to follow instructions. But, that does not mean that you can't introduce your son to piano and all the fun that one can have. At the age of two, most children will have some trouble using the correct fingers even for the fun stuff. Some exercises you may try would include playing fun games at the piano such as "two black keys." With this game, your son plays a set of two black keys with the middle and index fingers of his left hand all the way to middle C and then the middle and index fingers of his right hand will play two black keys all the up to the end of the piano. Once he can go up, then you can reverse it and have him go back down again. You can then play "three black keys." You can introduce rhythm by having him say two black keys as he is playing them. Same for the three black keys. This type of pre note reading playing gets the child acquiainted with the keyborad and where things are. I would advise that you stick with the games until he is 3-4 and then you can try him with reading some notes and music. Some teachers teach pre note reading children with funny looking notes that have a letter in them and other methods but I don't believe in it. That is not the way we play piano and in my opinion it shouldn't be started that way. I have never picked up a student who was started that way that didn't have to start over and do it the correct way. Start as you mean to go on - learning about the keyboard, using correct fingers, finger exercise games, reading the notes, counting the beats and having a lot of fun doing it! I would be happy to explain the other games to you if you are interested. They are for pre note reading young children and they include getting familiar with the piano, basic counting and establishing a beat and learning to play a children's song by rote. My e-mail is ____@____.com me know if you have any questions or if I can help you.

J.

1 mom found this helpful

HI A.
I was a piano teacher for about 10 years. The youngest student i ever taught successfully was 6. For teaching from mom it could start earlier - but the child really needs to have some fine motor skills as well as a more developed attention span. Some kids have these at 4 or 5 - but 6 is usually where it settles in - as a general range. Otherwise the child just gets frustrated and will have a negative association. For now - you should get the piano and play FOR the child and encourge him to watch and play along and just improvise on high/low, loud/soft, slow/fast...and HAVE FUN!

Really their is no age to start playing piano. Right now let your son play by air so he can get the feel of the keys. Sometimes it would sound so good that yopu are saying to your self that sound so good and others it may not. About5and 6 yrs old you can teach him the read music. For example, Make fun by saying space lines on the right hand f a c e which spell face line notes every good bird does fly which is egbdf. Get the most easy book you can find. For example,Sam Ash has some great ones.

Hi,
I'm a musician and would recommend not starting formal lessons until 5-6 years old, when he can read. I've been taking my 2-year-old to Music Together classes for almost a year, and now he actually picks up his little guitar, plays and sings! I think just giving him access to an instrument, and playing for and with him would be great.

All the best,
S.

Hi A.,
I've been teaching piano for more than 10 years now and I think appropriate age for piano lesson is at age 5. You can start at age 4 but will be really slow learning,like listening to CDs a lot and play more with the teacher than actual learning. There's a music classes for infants and toddlers and I think it would be great for your son to start learning what music is...there's a lot of classes but most popular ones are 'Musik Garten' and 'Music Together'. They will teach about the rhythm,beats,tunes and also teach some instruments that they can easily learn and play with it. I hope my sharing kinda helped you.

Hi A.,

I have a 10 year old daughter who plays piano, and she didn't start until 3rd grade (8/9 yrs old). I wish we had been able to start her sooner, but in any event she has caught on very fast and seems to really love playing.

She takes lessons from an instructor at a Catholic School, and when I inquired about my 5 year old starting lessons, he said it's much easier to take lessons as soon as they can read words. (Usually around 1st-2nd grade.) My son is just starting kindergarten this fall and we are working on his reading skills so maybe I can convince the instructor to start lessons sooner!

That being said, I have heard of kids playing piano at ages younger than 5-7, so somehow, somewhere, someone is teaching some kids, (perhaps with exceptional intelligence?) at younger ages.

Given your son is 2, and you can read music, I would say get him involved in music programs for his age, (my son started a program at pre-school called "muscially yours" in which they come in once a week and learn about notes, instruments, sing songs, etc.) Also you should begin to make sure he learns how to read at a young age. If he can begin to recognize letters & the sounds they make, music notes & those sounds and you lable the keys for him and teach him what is what, he will be ahead of the game. You may want to call a few piano teachers in your area and get their opinions on how to "prep" your son!

Play lots of classical music for him while he's playing in the house etc. Does he watch Disney's "Little Einsteins?" My son loved that show. It's very musical. There are lots of musical programs for pre-school kids to attend on a weekly basis. Like Kinder-music or Musically Yours programs. Google them in your state and see what pops up for your area. Often they have a 1-800 number to call and get a location. Good Luck! I hope this helps.

D.

Hi A.
My son, now 8, started suzuki style lessons on the violin at age 3 1/2, and started learning non-suzuki style piano at age 5. He is a brilliant child with so many musical gifts and talents. He also started voice lessons this year. 3 1/2 was a great age for him to begin his learning becuase he was able to actually sit and pay attention for a half hour to my husbands teachings (he is an accomplished pianist himself). My son was also very anxious to learn and once he started there was no stopping him. We found the "DOZEN A DAY" instuctional books to be the best for beginners. My other son now 5 just started piano lessons himself this past Dec. He had no wants or patience for any instruments before this so I guess it solely depends on the child and when they develop the attention span necessary. Good luck with all the beautiful music your home will soon be filled with.

I was in a very similar situation with my children, which resulted in creating my own program for parents to introduce their kids to the keyboard. It's called, 'KinderBach'. Website: www.KinderBach.com. Check it out!

Hi A.,
I used to teach piano lessons first to my own children and later on to a bunch of other kids. I think staring informal lessons now is ok finger positions and note reading comes later around the age of 4-6. Letting your son distinquish tones in various keys and playing tunes by color are fun ways to get him used the the keyboard. Then you can advance as you see he is grasping. I genreally started most kids with the Bastien series. There may be newer better stuff on the market now but it is a great product.
M.

The best method for teaching little ones is the Suzuki method. Do a little research online to get the gist of the method. There are also several books on the subject, the best one being "To Learn With Love". They encourage private lessons and group lessons. The best thing to do now is to have him listen to classical music (or any kind of music for that matter) to develop his ear. Since piano is a rather large instrument, they say that it's best to start them at around 4 years old. Having said that, I will start my 3 year old daughter when she's 3 and 9 months (she has big hands). The Suzuki method also teaches the violin, cello, and other string instruments. Those are considered more social instruments and group lessons are certainly easier. The best time to start is in September when the year starts. There are several Suzuki schools on Long Island (Manhassette, Setauket, Pt. Jeff., Mineola, Huntington, & CW Post campus). I am in the process of researching them all now. Two things that I hope to find in a facility: one that can accommodate group lessons because I understand that they are very important in motivating the children (there's nothing worse than having to push your child or bribe them to get them to practice), and one that has continuous lessons throughout the year (including the summer). I will visit the schools next week and then interview the teachers. Although many people may not think so, I think the personality of the teacher should jive that that of your child. So don't overlook that detail. You can reach me directly at ____@____.com if you want to talk further about this subject, as it is one that I am very passionate about. Good luck with finding your piano.

I just recently looked into this. I was told that it would be better to wait until the child can read. Unless the child is a prodigy, they all end up in the same stage by 2nd or 3rd grade. Starting before they can read can cause unnecessary frustration and then lead to the child rejecting it. I am going to teach my daughter the basics for the fun of it, if she is interested. This was just one teacher's opinion. Maybe you could get a little electronic keyboard to let you son play around on and develop an interest. That way, if he never does, your not out big bucks on a piano.

A.

The problem with starting this young, I believe, is that his hands are not large enough to start with. He is still developing and does not have the muscles to play the piano. My son's first piano teacher would not take anyone under 5yo for these reasons. She felt that the child would learn poor habits that would be difficult, if not impossible, to break at the appropriate maturity level. There's alot of fine and gross motor skills involved, as you know. Maybe letting him just make his own music and learn a beautiful sound from a harsh sound is more to his age level. IMHO-Pat

As a musician & music educator, I think it's fantastic you want to teach your son piano! As for age, it varies with the child, but generally around the time most children start Kindergarten, they're motor skills and attention spans are ready for short, fun lessons. You will want to work on things like steady beat, high and low sounds, and even note names (but not necessarily note reading) to prepare him for lessons. A Kindermusik-type program would be great for this, or you can teach these things yourself at home by playing music and marching together for the steady beat, using scarves or toys and lifting them up over your heads for high pitches, putting them near the floor for low pitches, etc. A set of pitched bells or a small, colorful metallophone (often mislabeled xylophones in toy departments) would be a fun activity to use, too, with you telling your son to play a high note, low note, or middle note.

As for piano books, there are the Alfred & Thompson books which are really good for teaching notes & technique, but I use the Faber series to teach my own daughter. It's a more "fun" approach, but still teaches the basics very thoroughly. I'd suggest you head to your local music store to see what they have in stock; flip through the various beginner books to see which you think you could teach from and your DS would learn from best.

One final note: Some people say it's harder to teach your own child, but if you keep it no-pressure and remember it doesn't need to be perfect (just think of it as laying a foundational apprecation of music), you both should enjoy your piano time together. My DD begs me for lessons!

Best wishes. :o)

Hi there - I have 3 children myself and my oldest started piano lessons in 3rd grade. Before that we encouraged him to experiment with the piano but felt formalized lessons would be frustrating for him until he turned 8yrs old - you do have to be disciplined about practicing and they need to have the handspread to reach the appropriate keys. I play piano and my husband the guitar and we agreed that my son should start with the piano before any other instrument as it is a great basic way to learn to play music. I hope this helps!

Hi there. It sounds like you've received a lot of good advice already. Just my two cents - there's a program called Suzuki which has been used to teach music for along time. I learned to play the violin through this method, and I know others who have used it for piano. Kids can start this program as young as 3, but they usually need to have the stamina to sit still for 15 minutes or so. It's an ear training method, which adds on reading music as the kids get older.

Either way, good luck, and kudos to you for passing on your love of music to your child.

My husband is a partner in a music teaching operation. The rule of thumb that they follow is usaully 3-5yrs of age is appropriate to start piano. The child needs to be able to sit still and pay attention for a 15min stretch of time or more.

I would suggest starting piano at the age of 4 in a program that makes it fun. Both my daughters started at that age in a Yamaha program. They learned rythm by clapping hands, singing songs and marching. They also learned the beginnings of music. Each year more and more music was added to the class. They are now 14 and 15 and are very accomplished musicians. The most important thing you can do is either make it fun or find a school that will. And you have to be the one consistent about the practicing - keeping in mind the age of the child.

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