A good age to start piano lessons?

(79 Posts)
WiganKebab Sun 03-Mar-13 16:10:04

We have a piano and I'd love the kids to be able to play. They like to play around on it, but I haven't organized lessons yet as they're only young (eldest is 5). What age is a good age to start (without being a pushy mum...) wink

OldBeanbagz Sun 03-Mar-13 18:01:50

My DD started piano at 9 and in the space of a year and a half, has managed to catch up with many of her friends who'd been learning for 4+ years (so has saved me a lot of money in lessons). I waited until she was ready to commit to the piano as she already play another instrument.

DS on the other hand has just started at 8 and it's his first instrument. He seems to be getting on quite well.

I'd probably wait until they express an interest in learning. Do you play? Can you teach them a few things in the meantime?

multitasker Sun 03-Mar-13 18:07:11

I tech piano and generally find that 7 - 8 is the earliest that works. As Oldbean has said her dd caught up quickly, this is so true. In the mean time keep the piano tuned!

ElizaFyfe Sun 03-Mar-13 18:56:56

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

WiganKebab Sun 03-Mar-13 20:31:01

Thanks Eliza, unfortunately we song live near Bristol, but great ad though!

WiganKebab Sun 03-Mar-13 20:31:38

"don't" rather than "song"..... What the?

WiganKebab Sun 03-Mar-13 20:32:10

Thanks all for all the tips!

sittinginthesun Sun 03-Mar-13 21:03:50

Was just thinking about this.

DS1 started at 8 years, and is making steady progress.

DS2 is only 6, but has suddenly developed a mad interest in it. Since last weekend, he has found his brother's first book, taught himself the basics (including the dynamics, staccato and slurs, note lengths etc), and has just started two hands together. He's asking for lessons, and I think I am going to ask the teacher for a trial - hadn't quite factored in the additional cost, as I'd assumed he would start at 8 too!!

What do you reckon? Should I let him play at home for a bit first (I don't play the piano, but have very rusty grade 8 in another instrument so know the basics), or should I just grasp it while he's so passionate?

DeWe Sun 03-Mar-13 21:04:04

I think the general advice is around age 7-8. I've heard that from various different teachers.

You need them to be able to concentrate for a whole lesson, ideally do independent practice, hands big enough and be ready to learn to read music (reading fluently is apparently a good measure of this).

As others have said, they catch up fairly quickly if they're a bit older anyway.

DeWe Sun 03-Mar-13 21:08:39

Sitting is he just 6yo, or coming up for 7yo? I think there's quite a difference at that age.

If he's coming up for 7yo, then I'd go for it.

If he's just 6yo, then consider: can he concentrate on something difficult for 20 minutes? I'll assume his reading is fine as he's using the book already. Does he take instruction? (as in if you say "this is a better way" will he do it, or say "I prefer this way")

If he can concentrate, take instruction, then ask your teacher for a trial and see what she says.

You may find that him doing it himself is much more fun at present to him than having a formal lesson, so see how it goes.

BackforGood Sun 03-Mar-13 21:14:19

When we first talked of it, I was advisd by lots of people to wait until AT LEAST 7yrs. They also need to be quite good readers was what I was told - I guess it's all to do with the fact that with piano you are reading 2 lines of music at the same time - your brain has to compute the top one is telling your right hand what to do and the bottom one telling your left hand what to do. I suspect this is quite an advanced skill! smile

sittinginthesun Sun 03-Mar-13 21:20:29

Thanks. This is what I was wondering. He was 6 in January, but reads fluently. I have watched him read the music and he is just teaching himself - he is basically sight reading, including the dynamics etc.

My gut feeling is to carry on as we are, but he does get obsessed by things. He started this last weekend, and has been playing for an hour at a time. I had to drag him off to the bath this evening!

I reckon, if he's so keen, he'll probably teach himself anyway.

sittinginthesun Sun 03-Mar-13 21:22:01

Oh, he is playing with both hands. Reading both lines at once, which is more than I can do!

ISeeRedPeople Sun 03-Mar-13 21:24:49

I started at 5 but was pretty much on my knees begging for lessons. My brother was 8 and didn't want to be left out but wasn't as keen. I stuck with it, he gave up pretty quickly. The moral of the story is that age doesn't matter it's enthusiasm that counts. I will send my DD at 5 if she is showing an interest.

Muppeeeto Sun 03-Mar-13 21:33:08

Dd announced she was ready to start 2 weeks ago. She is keen to please, follows instructions, perseverance .....
However although she reads well (ort 10) she doesn't quite have the visual discrimination to sight read the difference between say d and e notes. She is improving in this though so I think in 2 or 3 months she will crack it really quickly.

She has only just started being able to hear the different notes and repeat them back.

ZZZenAgain Sun 03-Mar-13 21:33:42

I think 7 is probably the youngest it makes real sense tbh but if he is 6 and already teaching himself, I would look at lessons so he does not develop bad habits

sittinginthesun Sun 03-Mar-13 21:39:46

I think I will just run it by DS1's teacher and ask her just for a trial lesson. She's pretty sensible so she'll tell me straight!

Knowing DS2, though, I suspect this will be his "thing".

stealthsquiggle Sun 03-Mar-13 21:41:22

DD was nearly 6. I agree he would have caught up quickly if he had started later, but he has always loved it and he and his teacher have a mutual admiration society going.

DD started guitar at 3 shock (very much her idea, facilitated by my DM) but for the first 18months was basically doing 'listen and repeat' and is only now (at 6) really reading the music.

ZZZenAgain Sun 03-Mar-13 21:41:36

well that's nice. It is good when they find something they really like doing.

stealthsquiggle Sun 03-Mar-13 21:42:35

Gah. Why does my phone auto correct DS to DDconfused? Sexist object

ZZZenAgain Sun 03-Mar-13 21:44:25

they are just maddening. I wish they didn't have the auto-correct function

ElizaFyfe Sun 03-Mar-13 22:22:55

I was 7 when I started playing piano.

And you can disable the autocorrect function in settings. wink

ByTheWay1 Mon 04-Mar-13 15:38:00

my girls were 6 and 7 - but we started on the understanding it was initially for fun - no exams etc.... they loved it, just being able to play music made their confidence grow so much..

then when they got to 9 and 10 they started asking about doing the exams, one has now done up to Grade 3 and wants to keep going, the other grade 1 and is playing at grade 3 but does not want to do exams... they both love music and want to keep playing - I think the lack of pressure early on helped a lot in that.....

sanam2010 Thu 07-Mar-13 17:46:13

Is there any famous pianist who only started aged 7 or 8? Not trying to say that the point of piano lessons is to become a famous pianist, but clearly given that most top pianists started much younger it can't be right to claim it doesn't make a difference to start earlier? I started when I was 4 and could read notes before reading books (I am completely useless at the piano, however, as I was much too lazy to practice).

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 21:44:30

My DD started at 7.5 and loves it - I put no pressure on her other than the occasional nudge to practice. Lots of DC we know who started at 5 or so gave up quite quickly. I think DC need to be ready to take on the responsibility of practice and learning to read music and I wanted DD to be a fluent reader in English and French (the languages of school) before adding piano/music.

ZZZenAgain Thu 07-Mar-13 22:03:44

it is not down to starting age, don't know about pianists specifically but Fritz Kreisler was one of the best violinists in the history of the instrument and he started lessons aged 12. That a lot of world class musicians started at 5 or even younger is just down to it having become a bit of a fad to start dc off very young IMO. Those people are the 1 in 1,000,000gifted among us lesser mortals and they would have reached the same levels, I believe, if they had started lessons 2,3 or 4 years later.

ZZZenAgain Thu 07-Mar-13 22:08:48

In anycase, I'd listen to music teachers, they are the ones who know from experience. If a piano teacher says s/he prefers to teach dc from the age of 4, there will be good reasons for it. If violin teachers are advising you to start your dc at 3, there you go.

Meloncita Thu 07-Mar-13 22:18:14

Most people seem to say around age 7 is a good age to start. However if any of your DCs are showing an interest earlier then it may be an idea to start lessons if you can afford them. My 4yo DS has been learning piano for nearly a year but we only started so young because he showed a real interest and is happy to practice.

Many teachers won't take children that young or will only do so after some trial lessons to see if they can maintain concentration through the lesson.
I would also say that unless your DC is willing to practice regularly, i.e. most days, then there is not much point in forking out for lessons at a young age as they probably won't make much progress. A better alternative in that case may be to find a general musicianship course which develops rhythm etc, Kodaly or Dalcroze Eurhythmics are well regarded but there are plenty of similar classes around these days. That will set them up well for formal lessons when they are a little older.

mrsshackleton Fri 08-Mar-13 10:59:17

Sanam, in answer to your question, Benjamin Grosvenor who's a huge up and coming pianist started around 5, didn't really like it, so his mother - a piano teacher left it a year or two -then bam.

sanam2010 Fri 08-Mar-13 17:32:29

Mrsshackleton, I was referring more to the likes of Horowitz, Rubinstein, Rachmaninov or Glenn Gould who all seem to have started around 4 or earlier, certainly before they could read. Of course, it may just be because most were from musician's families / had pianist mothers etc.. Or they were exceptional in terms of their concentration and passion because they were prodigies.

I don't really get the arguments about discipline though, I am not sure 7 year olds are any more disciplined about it than 4 year olds, I would imagine few kids will sit down and practice daily unprompted regardless of age - arguably a 4 year old might do it more easily than a 14 year old!

I have a guitar and my 2.5 year old keeps asking me to play it, wants to hold it and try out the strings etc., she'll happily explore the instrument for 30min or so without getting bored (granted she also likes to throw her lego figures into the guitar!). But yes even if they have the attention span, I see the point of other posters that dancing and singing at this age might make more sense - I am just surprised at the idea that 4 or 5 is definitely to young - if you went to Russia or Austria I doubt people would agree with you.

ZZZenAgain Fri 08-Mar-13 17:34:36

In Russia ist is usual to start learning piano aged 7. Austrians don't start dc any younger on the piano than anyone else. You'll get 6 years olds starting the piano but not many dc younger than that.

ZZZenAgain Fri 08-Mar-13 17:40:24

To explain why I feel able to say that : my ex is a concert pianist from Russia, both his parents are professors of music (violin and piano in Russia), his sister is a concert pianist and lives in Vienna where she teaches and her dh is a prof of piano and so on. (Just saying, this is how I can say what I did below). It is what they told me. They all advised me not to start piano before the age of 7 and my dd's grandad would not teach violin to 3 and 4 year olds and he has taught some people who have gone on to become very good. I don't know much about music but these people do and this is what they told me.

Bonsoir Fri 08-Mar-13 21:23:46

My understanding from my Russian friends is that when DCs do any extra-curricular activity, they do it with a vengeance ie 2 or 3 lessons a week and lots of practice in between.

FastLoris Fri 08-Mar-13 22:45:25

Sanam2010 -

I think your point about most of those people coming from musical families is the key thing. There's a world of difference between a child going off to a formal lesson once a week and being expected (even with parental help) to practise in between, and learning organically through family life. Parents teach their children altogether differently than teachers do, and children respond to their parents altogether differently than they respond to teachers.

I'm a piano teacher and have also taught my own children and the amount you can achieve through that kind of work, without having to make it actually seem like "work" is staggering.

In answer to the OP - my opinion is that the best progression is some kind of group general music class as early as possible, eg Kodaly, followed by instrumental lessons some time from about 7 when the child can sing and keep a rhythm and has some musical understanding. That was Kodaly's suggestion too.

Of course that's a factor with great musicians from musical families too. Formal musical training - like any kind of training - works best when it builds on and is supported by a body of informal, intuitive learning and experience. People brought up and nurtured in musical families often get that initial experience very young. If they get it from the moment they're born and are right into it at 2-3, then starting learning an instrument at 4-5 is not the same thing as it is for a kid who has hardly had any musical experience at all.

pianomama Mon 25-Mar-13 23:50:13

DS started violin at 5 and piano just before he was 6 and never looked back.He practiced 15-20 mins daily and loved it. He learned to read music first and then somehow suddenly knew how to read books.
I would not compare children , if your 6 year old is interested , I would go for it now while he is keen.
By the time he is 10 he will play so well that it will keep him keen and interested into his teens and hopefully into his adulthood.
And I don't entirely agree that DC who start much later catch up.Some do , but generally speaking, 5-6 for a keen musical kid is the right age to start.

LucyLucas Sat 27-Apr-13 16:56:53

ds1 started piano at 6 and did grade 1 at 8. is still going strong and he enjoys it.

LucyLucas Sat 27-Apr-13 16:57:55

We are musical though...wonder if that helps

Theas18 Mon 29-Apr-13 16:13:15

On the fence here.

Mine started at 7 (DD2 probably started at 6 though as she was year 2, we were already dragging her to the lessons!). Maybe DD2 hasn't the piano aptitude of the others , but it's always seemed like harder work for her.

maggiethecat Thu 02-May-13 10:13:14

Piano, I'm with you on this. Apart from physicality issues I cannot understand why people put age restrictions on learning an instrument. Important thing seems to me that if your child is keen and can concentrate then go for it.
What is the point about them catching up eventually? - it's not a race.

They can get a lot of pleasure from playing.

titchy Thu 02-May-13 10:27:50

Just be aware of hand size - dd (14 and fully grown) is around G5 standard and is finding herself limited for the first time because she cannot do an octave stretch!

Theas18 Thu 02-May-13 10:59:38

titchy the comment on hand size is interesting. My DD1 didn't ever take grade 8 as she has tiddly hands and the syllabus just wasn't OK for her to do.

maggiethecat Thu 02-May-13 13:26:15

dd1 has that problem too - teacher has to be finding pieces to suit but dd1 is not bothered.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 06-May-13 10:42:08

I don't think hand size matters tbh. My dds Piano teacher has a brother and sister she teaches. The eldest is 7 and passed gr5 distinction at 6, her brother is 5 and is doing gr3 in July. They have extensions to reach pedals and the teacher chooses pieces their hands can cope with.

I'm not sure if there is a right time to start, it depends on the child tbh. Some children are motivated and disciplined to practice from a very early age and are driven, some need the occasional nudge and reminder, some need to be supervised in order to do effective practice. They are all different.

My dd has started piano at 9, however it is her 4th instrument. It is a lot easier for her to play and progress easily but I think this is because musically she has done all the initial requirements for years already.

I wouldn't push but encourage if dc show an interest, until this happens I think it is a bit of a waste of time.

mrspaddy Mon 06-May-13 10:44:28

One rule of thumb I've heard a child can learn the piano is that once child can master handwriting.

pianomama Tue 07-May-13 15:54:00

I think it is the teachers who prefer to start with older children as it can be quite frustrating I would imagine to teach a 3 year old smile. But as I mentioned before, DS started before he could read/write fluently , but however it seems have helped with both.There are no rules of thumb - it depends a lot on the child and the teacher

singinggirl Thu 09-May-13 19:15:27

As a piano teacher I say never before Year 2; and usually those who start later rapidly catch up there peers who started earlier. Younger ones take longer to get to the same place, which can put them off. (I found this particularly so with children younger than Year 2 - they often ended up giving up because they were frustrated and feeling they were no good at it). As an example, I started two children at the same time - one Year 6 and one Year 2. Two and a half years later the Year 6 has just passed her Grade 3, while the Year 2 is preparing for his Grade 1.

An older child can concentrate better in the lessons and focus on practice more - counting and reading words are automatic. Obviously there are exceptions, but I stick firmly to my Year 2 rule now.

EnolaAlone Thu 09-May-13 20:04:10

My DS started piano lessons when he was 4, mainly because my friend is a piano teacher and she thought he could give it a go. He's 5 now and really enjoys it and practises quite a lot without me having to mention it. He is quite quiet and likes to sit and concentrate on things, and it seems to have made him a bit more confident. Generally my friend seems to start them anywhere between 5-8, depending on the child.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 09-May-13 22:28:54


The children I mention in my post above are finding they have nowhere to go now as it is difficult for them to have the expression required for the later grades. Their teacher is stretching them sideways rather than more exams. I can quite easily see how their peers will catch up with them in due time and how older starters could reach the same level in a shorter time.

HSMMaCM Fri 10-May-13 21:48:41

My dad was a piano teacher and wouldn't teach me until I learned the entire alphabet backwards, even though I only needed A-G. Probably because he knew that would keep me busy until I was ready to learngrin.

thesecretmusicteacher Sat 11-May-13 19:59:45

The right moment is when the child has a fully developed ear (see Kodaly, etc but many will have this by lucky genes and musical exposure) plus can do whatever it is they need to do physically (independent strong fingers in the case of piano). Can your child sing London's Burning and hold their part in the canon?

Until that point it's best to only have a playful relationship with the instrument. Otherwise you may never get the integration of the aural, visual and motor going.....

I don't buy the concentration thing - that only applies if you are teaching rather traditionally and linearly (ABRSM etc). And the idea that you need to read only applies if you are going to be taught to read standard notation.... I teach violin to an illiterate child ... there's no problem and I wouldn't hesitate with piano either (but obviously I wouldn't use the traditional books).

sittinginthesun Tue 14-May-13 22:05:54

Just to update - my ds2 had a trial lesson, loved it, and we agreed to start 20 mins per week.

After one lesson, he was complaining it was too short. smile He is now having half hour lessons, is well into book 2, and is still playing at home all the time.

I'm glad I started the lessons, because he seem to have headed off a few bad habits already.

ZZZenagain Wed 15-May-13 10:27:58

it is really easy to develop bad habits I think - even with lessons. Glad he is enjoying it.

pianomama Wed 15-May-13 13:16:22

thesecretmusicteacher -

And the idea that you need to read only applies if you are going to be taught to read standard notation.

How else can you play music if you can't read "standard notation" ?

thesecretmusicteacher Sat 18-May-13 20:43:35

Hi pianomama,

On the piano, you can learn aurally, as millions have done before us, including some virtuosi ...... nowadays you will be copying recordings of your favourite music aurally - have a look at Lucy Green's book "How Popular Musicians Learn".

And on the violin, there is a fine folk fiddle tradition. You have to look at the instrument in a different way, that's all.

A child who struggles to concentrate on written symbols and linear instructions can flourish in "round and round" music (like much rock'n'roll, for example), where the endlessly repeated riffs mean that you can dip in and dip out in a more circular way, with varying levels of focus.

ABRSM-style learning is great, but it's a specialist way of doing music, and it has a great weakness in that many teachers actively discourage children from picking out by ear. The exams don't reward or recognise ear-learning or improvisation. Chopin would have been disgusted, as he refused to teach any pupil who played his music just as he had written it.... smile

boogiewoogie Sat 18-May-13 22:30:37


How do you suppose one should learn music if not by reading it first? What about rhythm? What about sightreading? Do you teach music mostly aurally then?

Wigeon Sat 18-May-13 22:46:42

Pianomama and boogiewoogie - of course standard notation is only one way in which anyone learns music. A parallel is that you don't need to be able to read to be able to talk. You learn to talk by listening and talking, experimenting, and by being corrected (on your grammar and pronunciation, for example). The vast majority of music in the history of the world has been made without recourse to standard notation. Even now, a huge amount of music is learnt and made without standard, or indeed any, notation.

A child can certainly learn quite a bit of piano playing without reading notation. Stevie Wonder is a good example of a pianist who doesn't read notation, and never did!

thesecretmusicteacher Sun 19-May-13 10:44:56

Hi boogiewoogie,


There are two reasons to teach aurally.

Firstly, I think all classical musicians would agree that you need to develop your ear to be a musician. That is the solid foundation upon which technique sits. Technique without ear is like a wobbly wall - tends to fall over. Now, although ideally we would have every child singing, some children don't/won't/can't sing for various reasons, but can develop their ear via an instrument. The various applications of Kodaly for instruments are along these lines.

Secondly, you can teach aurally not as a precursor to learning it "properly" (with a book) but instead learn to play based not around paper but around the shape of your hand/mouth and the shape of the instrument and to have a direct link between your tonal awareness (ear), your body and the instrument. This is how the majority of the world's virtuosic electric guitar players have learnt - they have still put in those 10,000 hours of playing (and then some!), but the structure is based around ear, hand, guitar and probably also recording devices if they risk forgetting something..... do you see? These methods tend to teach the communication side of music faster than notation methods can do (notation can often be the reason for poor communication between learners). And they allow musicians to do the things that notation is very bad at - rhythm lengths, timbral changes, etc.

pianomama Sun 19-May-13 22:40:51

Interesting. DS is a "promising pianist" , I guess he learns piano "professionally" which is not necessarily what everyone wants from learning an instrument. I can hardly play myself (or read music) but am very good at figuring any melody by ear with one hand on the piano.
He, on the other hand, is surprisingly less fluent (but will figure it out after a while).
However, his playing in never robotic and he has a very definite taste and style of playing, creating lots of moods, colours and characters on his playing.

I noticed that his teacher never plays new piece for him or recommends to listen to any recordings while he is learning it - I am sure that important part of learning the piece is his own interpretation of the written music.

Surely if you learn a piece by listening to a recording, you are copying whoever is playing it?

I am not sure about the statement about Chopin would not be imp
I can't imagine learning Bach inventions and sinfonias by ear - with 2/3 voices?

Chopin would have been disgusted, as he refused to teach any pupil who played his music just as he had written it.. - is that really so?

I remember watching an interview with a great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter who in reply to a question about his "interpretation" said something like "I do not add anything - everything is written by the composer - it's all in there"..

thesecretmusicteacher Mon 20-May-13 20:47:11

"However, his playing in never robotic and he has a very definite taste and style of playing, creating lots of moods, colours and characters on his playing"
sounds lovely! wonder if you can attach an audio to your profile smile

interesting about his teacher's approach.
Yes, if you learn by listening, you must be learning to play that musician just as much as that composer IYSWIM. I don't think that's a bad thing...

I'm sure some music is hard to learn by ear - but most isn't. You do tend after a certain level to diverge between greater freedom for the musician to work out the content (in some genres) versus greater detailed notation of what is intended (Beethoven!)

I admit, the Chopin thing is something DS1's piano teacher told me... mind you, she does know an awful lot about the lives of the composers. But I'd better make way for any passing Chopin scholars....

Re the Richter quote: yes, that is one way of looking at music. The idea is that the music belongs to the composer. One person, and one person only (the conductor) is allowed to have some creative input in delivering it. But the music is an object - like a Greek Vase in the V&A - our job is to see who can revere it best. Apparently, Beethoven has a lot of responsibility for introducing this idea of the great master whose works are untouchable - there is a book called "music - a very short introduction" which introduces the history and politics of this kind of idea.

Alternative ideas are that music is essentially made in the mind of the listener - I absolutely love that idea! Philip Ball wrote a terrific book called The Music Instinct. It's really good!

pianomama Tue 21-May-13 13:39:13

Wigeon - sure Stevie Wonder did not have a choice being blind..
Thank God Beethoven knew how to write down his music when he got deaf though.
I see your point about learning to talk without needing to read but then if you cant read, you are only ever relying on who is around you and what they know / music they play.
The whole point of having books and written music is to collect and preserve the knowledge and music. Reading a novel is not the same as someone telling you what happened , I think music is similar.

pianomama Tue 21-May-13 13:45:32

thesecretmusicteacher - sorry, I don't actually have audio recordings..
Still I think missing out written notation will limit enormously what and how one can play. Out of interest who are the piano virtuoso who learned piano by ear?

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 21-May-13 19:52:45

Being somebody who relies heavily on reading, I'm also interested in how far you can go without reading music. My friend's DS learns Mozart sonatas by ear, which is magic as far as I'm concern! smile

I teach my kids to play by imitation (sort of Suzuki style) as well as by reading notes. They can play more "advanced" pieces by imitation than by reading notes, but the difference is not astounding. But we are quite lazy ...

thesecretmusicteacher Tue 21-May-13 20:09:25

I think most of the jazz pianists never learnt to read music.

Nor did Irving Berlin.

Nor has Paul McCartney.

Maybe I should call the latter two "genius long-lived happy millionaires" rather than "virtuosi"

thesecretmusicteacher Tue 21-May-13 20:12:57

should have said yes you're right pianomama lots of the classical repertoire would be hard to make out on a recording.

I can work out Bach by ear but can't work out the fingerings IYSWIM. I sometimes if I have learnt an alto or tenor part by ear I find myself playing the bass part or tune which is not very good.

my older son prefers to improvise and memorises quickly so unfortunately his teacher thought he could read music quite well and got a shock when she entered him for grade 2 and gave him the sight-reading smile.

My younger son is rather rule-bound and loves reading the music. I have to pretend we are only playing by ear "while we find the books".

thesecretmusicteacher Tue 21-May-13 20:15:11


perhaps it's not "how far you can go" but "in what directions you can go?" (Jools Holland being an obvious example of a virtuoso who doesn't need to read music to go as far as he wants to).

I don't think you could play classical music the same way each time if you'd picked it up by ear - you'd start turning the chords upside down and interacting with it rather than playing it.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 21-May-13 20:42:01

thesecretmusicteacher - that's what I don't know. And you never play the same piece the same way everytime anyway, do you? I'm not such a good player, but I find that I try different things out everytime I play a piece. But maybe that's easier when it's all written down. But then that may be because that's how I process information. confused Do you really think it is impossible to learn a Beethoven sonata, say, by ear? Does the Suzuki program go as far as that by ear?

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 21-May-13 20:42:19

Sorry, a slight distraction from the OP. blush

pianomama Tue 21-May-13 21:05:27

sorry OP, but interesting topic though..

thesecretmusicteacher Tue 21-May-13 21:18:10

well, if someone can find me a nice easy andante Grade 6 or below Beethoven sonata 2nd movement I'll give it a go and report back.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 21-May-13 21:30:56

1st Beethoven sonata - the third movement. grin

pianomama Tue 21-May-13 22:02:41

How about "A Flight of a Bumblebee" by ear smile ?

thesecretmusicteacher Wed 22-May-13 12:13:06

Ooh those are both well-judged challenges! Just about not out of reach (if you don't mind the bumble-bee being more of a slug!)

Wouldn't it be fascinating, given that we know that blind classical pianists are out there, to find out about their methods? Not because it would be better than notation, but because we'd be able to see the structure of their learning?

My oldest son has electric guitar lessons which are nearly all aural with occasional tab. But the syllabus is highly structured and logical - it's fascinating to read his reports. They talk about "achievable licks" and things like that....

The children I work with tend to be at the less able end of things (it's about enrichment, social music-making, etc), so I don't get them to the progess levels where we would be able to answer these interesting questions....

By the way, I noticed that Jools Holland has a very basic introduction to boogie-style 3-minute lesson on his home page - I think that gives some good ideas.

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 22-May-13 14:40:41

smile Will you give it a go?

I also wonder about the link with memory. When I teach DC the suzuki tunes I read, play, memorise, and then teach them from memory. I've had to psych myself up to this, telling myself that of course I can learn to play "Long Long Ago" from memory. grin And of course I could. But I still had to tell myself that. Does learning by ear automatically mean memorising? I suppose it must! So it has advantages.

I remember hearing on the radio about some ancient Greek philosopher who pooh-poohed the idea of writing things down - it would mean that you would lose the important skill of remembering things. grin

Other "achievable" music:

How about the 3rd movement of Mozart's A minor sonata? Notes are easy ...

And Schubert's 4th D899 impromptu (minus the middle section) - almost all just broken chords in logical procession, plus a few other chords.

Weegiemum Wed 22-May-13 14:44:17

My ds started at 9, got distinction in grade 1 at 10 and is about to sit grade 2 at 11 (he's in primary6).

Dd1 started at 12 (already played accordion) and is skipping grade 1, going straight to 2 at Christmas.

Dd2 started most recently, at 9. She's got grade 1 violin already, doing 2 soon, and will sit grade 1 piano around her 10 th birthday in nov.

I can recommend a fantastic teacher in Glasgow!!

thesecretmusicteacher Wed 22-May-13 19:36:30

I could have a youtube version as permanent background noise so it sank in a bit for a few weeks...... I'll bump the thread if I progress

[can I join those apologising to the OP for the hijack please, though I see she has long ago wandered off to do something more relevant]

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 22-May-13 19:46:28

Looking forward to your report!

lambakins Sun 23-Jun-13 21:11:38

DD is 6 and started piano lessons a few weeks ago. She is into it and will go off and practice by herself but I prefer to kinda hover when she is practising as don't want her picking up bad habits!
She is a very good reader as is her little sister who is 5. Lil sis is wanting to learn too but her fingers are so small so I am justing having fun showing her the very basics and she is learning 'Mary had a little lamb'.
Their main bad habit is not keeping their hands up but my piano teacher said to practice balancing a penny when they are playing and not let it fall off!
Piano lessons stop over the summer so will resume in Sept. Its all fun for now as don't want to turn them off.

SaveMeNow Sun 23-Jun-13 22:54:56

To be honest I get a bit cross with the whole - let them wait until they are 10, they'll soon catch up those who have been learning for years - kind of argument!! So what if they do - how about the 5 years of enjoyment the child who started at 5 has already had???? My dd is 6 and her piano lesson is one of the highlights of my week- the pure enjoyment on her face is fantastic!!

boogiewoogie Mon 24-Jun-13 14:28:18

No need to get cross as it's not a competition Savemenow. No one is depriving a child of 5 years of enjoyment just because they start at 10, once they start they have the rest of their lives to learn it to a level that they want to and that they are happy with. What if your a child started at 5 and hated it for 5 years by the time they were 10 but parents still insist that they learn it because it's a "good thing to learn an instrument"?

It doesn't really matter whether they start at 3 or 13 (unless of course you are trying to get your dc into music college and need to get grade 8 by the time they're 16 or whatever) as long as it is the child who is enjoying it. I believe that it hampers the child's enjoyment and progress if they are forced into it from an early age. DCs started at 4 as DH teaches them. It has had its advantages but DS used to throw tantrums at DH for finding it too hard or just not being able to get things right first time. We got proper lessons for him at 7 and he has been better since. He's very diligent with practise and now reluctantly admits that he actually likes the piano. Piano tutor reckons once, they show a keen interest in it then they are ready to learn.

FWIW I'm glad to hear that piano lesson is the highlight of your week. DS has his every fortnight and though dreads his tutor initially, he's always relieved to hear that he's done well. Then it's my turn and that is one of the highlights of my fortnight!

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