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A good age to start piano lessons?

(80 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

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).

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