What is the youngest age that children can start piano lessons?

What is the youngest age that children can start piano lessons?

Parents often feel that they must start their children’s piano lessons as early as possible in order that their child gets a good head start. We have all heard of young prodigies who can play Beethoven Sonatas at the age of 5 and consequently parents worry that if they leave it too late their children will never catch up. To some extent that is true. Very often I have beginners aged 12 or 13 who are very capable but who have found it difficult to catch up with their friends who may have started at the age or 7 – 8.

Is there a goldilocks age where it is old enough but not too old to start lessons? In my experience, having taught hundreds of children, the best time to start is between ages of 6 and 9. Please don’t expect 6 year olds to make quick progress though. They have fairly short attention spans at that age and usually progress steadily but surely. They are laying the foundations for much quicker progress later on.

Having said that, a well motivated 10 or 11 year old child will make good progress and at that age kids are often much more organised about practicing because they get the reward of being able to easily play well.

It really does depend a lot on the individual child but, in general, somewhere between 6 and 11 years old is the best age to start piano lessons. Beyond the age of 12, it is still VERY possible to start learning, but earlier is better for a number of reasons.

There are many reasons to start piano lessons young,  including:

  • A large part of learning to play an instrument involves developing left/right-hand co-ordination and this comes more easily to younger children who are, after all, simultaneously developing this skill in relation to other activities.
  • Another important aspect is learning to read music. This is more tricky and a longer process than many people realise and so better started at a younger age.
  • Younger children are more easily motivated to practice than teenagers, so it’s good if they can develop some proficiency before they reach the teenage years when they have so many other demands on their time. If they are already quite good by the age of, say, 13, it will be much easier for them to continue with their studies.
  • If they have friends who started at a younger age a teenage beginner will be acutely aware of their own relative lack of skill, which can be de-motivating for them.
  • It is easier for parents to be involved and to help with practice when children are younger.
    Most music tutor books are aimed at beginners aged between about 7 and 10 years of age.

It can, though, be a mistake to start lessons too young so parents must always be honest with themselves.

How do you know if your child is still too young to start?

  • He/she is usually pretty tired after school and needs the weekend to wind down and recharge.
  • He/she is having difficulty with any subject at school. For example, if they are still struggling to read words they are going to find reading music very stressful.
  • He/she gets muddled between left and right. This is especially a problem for pianists who need to learn to use either left or right hand at the correct moments.
  • He/she is very active and prefers to be up running around rather than sitting still.
  • He/she finds it difficult to sit and listen to music for more than a few minutes. (Although if they are simply getting up to dance along to or conduct the music that is fine!)

How to tell if your child is ready to start lessons?

  • He/she finds school work easy and has no problem finishing the homework set by their school teachers.
  • He/she sometimes gets bored at home and needs a challenge.
  • He/she likes to listen to music and often sings songs heard on the TV or radio.
  • He/she is good at reading and writing.
  • He/she is keen to please parents.
  • He/she knows which is right and which is left, instantly.
  • You, as parents, have the time and energy to help with and encourage practice.

So, is there a youngest age to start?

The short answer is ‘no’.  I have occasionally had brilliant students who were tiny and, although they acted their age in many respects, when it came to learning the piano they had a very mature approach and applied themselves completely (although usually only in very short bursts of a few minutes at a time!)