Experiences with Music Lessons for Young Children?

Updated on January 11, 2011
H.S. asks from Elkins Park, PA
12 answers

Hi, moms!

I am thinking about starting my 4 1/2 year old on music lessons. I was hoping to start her on piano, but I'm wondering if starting her on violin might be a more feasible, accessible, cheaper instrument for now. I'm interested in the Suzuki method, but I'd like to hear experiences and opinions of moms about music lessons of all kinds for young children.

Thanks in advance!

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answers from Philadelphia on

It is NOT true that you have to be able to read to do Suzuki. In fact, it teaches them to play by ear.

I agree with Cara K., it is definitly a commitment on the part of the parents. The program I experienced invovled listening to a cd of the song they were learning as much as possible.... Twinkle Twinkle Little Star x500, every week. So if you're not ready for that, you may want to take a different route.

I experienced one child who loathed Suzuki piano and cried every time we had to practice - her sister loved it and practiced without prompting. Both were 3.

Best of luck.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I think it really depends on your daughter, her interest level, and willingness to work on it along with your ability to practice with her. At this age, the parent has to sit and practice with the student until they are older and can be told to "go practice." My son is 4 1/2 and started taking percussion lessons about 4 months ago. We practice every day except the day of his lesson, for anywhere from 15-30 minutes. It is a commitment, and I'll admit I look forward to practice even less than he does some days! He is pretty good about it. Sometimes I have to remind him that the lessons are because he wants them, and that if he is no longer interested, we will not continue them. At this point, it is about him trying new things, following passions, and seeing how it goes. He does not read yet, but he has no trouble reading music. He keeps a steady beat, understands the different types of notes, dynamics, etc. He loves his teacher.

I know you're interested in Suzuki, so I'll mention that my husband played Suzuki violin for many years as a child starting at age 3 or 4. I think it is great. My son picked drums, so I don't have that option. I've seen students of the Suzuki method play with our orchestra, and it give me chills!

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answers from Washington DC on

There are many opportunities for young children to learn music. Check with your local churches to see if they have handbell programs for your daughter's age group. Chances are, they do! Handbells are a great instrument! Anyone can ring - all ages. They will learn how to read music, how to make music with a group - cooperation and teamwork, and more!
The best thing about handbells - no practice during the week unless you want to - you can practice with spoons... that's a very nominal monetary investment!!
That said, my children both rang - my son started at age 5 and my daughter started at age 3. They loved it because it was FUN!
My children started piano at 6 and 5 - she always started younger because she wanted to keep up and she was interested. He started his sax in 4th grade through the school - he could already read music, which made learning the instrument really easy. She started Trumpet in 4th grade -- on her own. She is a phenomenal trumpeter... She is motivated!
Both still ring handbells all these years later because it's still fun and it's a totally different way of making music.
So - my 2 cents - start with handbells and see where it leads.
(If you'd like me to help you find a handbell group, I can give you an email address of the mentoring coordinator in your area.)

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answers from St. Louis on

one of my friends teaches piano, & after a few years of misery.....changed her policy to accepting "independent readers only". She said the preschool age was a challenge & found that from mid-KG on was a more receptive, ready to apply themselves age group. Hope this helps!

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answers from San Francisco on

Our parks and rec has an introductory music class for little ones (with their parents). All of our kids loved it - dancing, singing songs, playing with drumsticks and maracas, etc. KinderMusik (I think that's how it's spelled) is a well known program in that vein. My daughter started piano when she was 7 or 8. Piano Adventures is a good intro to piano (my MIL is a piano teacher and this is the system she uses). My son took Suzuki violin and now does cello. He is 11 and is playing with an introductory orchestra. My experience with Suzuki is that it takes more parent involvement, meaning that you have to attend lessons and work with them, so if you know anything about music it is helpful. If you go with this (and I do recommend it), then expect to spend about 15 minutes per day practicing to start and increasing from there. You will also need to listen to the songs repeatedly (this is the most tiresome part, IMHO).
If you want to do the piano, you can get a keyboard to practice. Let me know if you have more specific questions.

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answers from New York on

My friends daughter started playing the violin at age 3. It's a challenge practicinng with a small child every day, but it's definitely worth the effort. Good luck.

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answers from Philadelphia on

My daughters both play piano. We bought our piano from Cunningham Piano ( on Germantown Pike in Phila.) about 10 years ago. Back then they had some kind of deal that if you bought a piano you had a year to return it and get a large percentage of your money back in the event nobody ended up playing it. So you may want to check them out.
Re: lessons - My oldest daughter played Suzuki for her first 5 years of playing. She started at age 5. She did not start reading music until age 8 which is when she completed Suzuki book 1. Then as she got older we wanted her to play show tunes (Les Miserables, Beauty and the Beast etc.) well this was not part of the program. The Suzuki method focuses exclusively on classical music.
To make a long story short we switched to a more traditional approach when my daughter was 10 and my youngest started playing at age 5 with a more traditional teacher. She was reading music by her 3rd or 4th lesson and now after 2 1/2 years she plays really well. Since she can read music she can play classical music or anything else she wants to play. This is in sharp contrast to my older daughter who although could play beautifully, did not know how to sight read anything until age 8.
The teacher we have now is wonderful, if you are interested let me know and I can give you his name. If you are still interested in Suzuki I know one of the best teachers in the country for this as well. She is located in Erdenheim. The teacher we have now comes to our house but you could go to his studio/ store located in Glenside.
Also, I have heard that Suzuki violin is far different and superior to Suzuki piano. I found Suzuki piano tedious. I can give you more details if you are interested.

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answers from Williamsport on

I started my daughter in piano at 4. She loves it. The teacher is using the same music theory I had. She did have to start with "finger numbers on black keys or white keys" since she was too young to understand the staff and notes from page to keyboard, but it was a great start to counting and rhythm reading measures and learning to play loud and soft.

Now just 6 months later, she knows the actual notes and all written music cues, and all her notes on the keyboard etc. We don't push it much, just a few easy songs for about 20 minutes a day together. You will have to practice with her until she's a bit older.

The piano is a great way to start, but any instrument you choose will be a great introduction to music. Just ask the teacher what age they will start for the violin. Our piano teacher thought she would be too young at 4, but let me try it and it worked out great. If her fingers will manage the instrument and the teacher is willing-go for it! I know the standard age for "starting young" is usually around 6.



answers from Chicago on

My son started piano lessons at 4 1/2, he's doing well. He just had a recital near Christmas and I was amazed of the improvements because he's been going to lesson for less than a year. I think it's great. If my son didn't show interest in it, then we would have tried something else. He loves going to practice and the rewards at the end. They have an awards ceremony in July and a Christmas recital. I will send you the link of my son playing at a College in Chicago. He is 5 now



answers from San Diego on

I teach young children piano and have noticed that my students who have started from age 6 on up have more long term success than the ones under 5. For example, it takes a child who is 7 or 8 way less time to learn basic musical concepts (like rhythm and notes) than a 4 or 5 year old. A 7 or 8 year old could possibly advance through two book levels in a year with lots of practice.

My parents bought a piano when we were very little and had lots and lots of wonderful music on records. This was great exposure and having the piano really got me curious about learning. Infact I didn't start official lessons until I was 14!

I would recommend group music lessons at this age like Kindermusik.....so there is good exposure without the pressure of private lessons.

Also when they are older you can see more clearly if your child has good chemistry with the teacher.

Mostly for me teaching really young students has felt more like a weekly music work shop than actual lessons.

I hope I'm not sounding too harsh but this has been my general experience.

That being said, I do have one 8 year old boy who started lessons at 4.5. He is doing well and his mom committed to working with him daily for the first 2 years until he could practice on his own. There were some tears shed in the beginning as her 5 year old was not always in the mood to practice....but I have to admit...he's a darn good piano player now. Would I have done than with my daughter?

I don't agree with any tears being shed around music at all....so no.....I couldn't take that risk. Also this particular mom is not having the same success with her younger son.

So I guess....it depends on what you want.....My goal is to cultivate a life long love of music in my students.....and to me starting too young can sometimes be a little complicated.


answers from Detroit on

When a child starts reading and can focus enough to learn an instrument then he/she is ready to learn. Also remember that learning to play also includes practicing a good deal at home. So you ca kinds gauge when your child is ready for that.

My dd started at 6. I did talk to her music teacher when the school year ended last year and he deemed her ready to learn. She is learning to play the guitar.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Kids need to have the ability to read very well before they start any kind of music lessons. The skills used in reading, going left to right, understanding the notes placement on the paper and that the lines and spaces have meaning....it takes reading skills to cognitively understand the abstract concepts of music. The theory part of it that is.

The fun part of doing activities during music time is a different thing all together.They need to have that ability to sit down and concentrate and apply themselves to the music and that usually doesn't come until they are reading better.

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