My feed

to access all these features

For free parenting resources please check out the Early Years Alliance's Family Corner.


Musical instruments - how young is old enough?

59 replies

TataMamma · 07/11/2021 17:54

Now my DD is almost 11 months, so I'm aware this is not for a while!
I never learnt an instrument as a child and I really want my kids to have this opportunity. I'd always thought of starting with piano at maybe 4 and then - if they wanted to - learning another instrument of their choosing (but not drums or harp lol) around 3 or 4 years later.
When did your lo start lessons? I was thinking individual lessons, because I don't see that you can learn much in group ones. I've read recently of some starting at 3. Obviously I'll have to play it by ear (!) a bit in terms of how my DD is at each age, but any general recommendations? I'd like to start as soon as possible, but don't want to pay/organise/have things when she is too young, not least because it will probably backfire!

OP posts:
purplesequins · 07/11/2021 18:00

many music teachers take the ability to read and write as basis for starting to learn an instrument, age 7 or thereabouts. those are just indicators of being physically ready (eye-hand coordination).
for some instruments an earlier start is possible, for others waiting a bit longer is advisable.
for now look at baby/toddler singing and percussion.

TheTurn0fTheScrew · 07/11/2021 18:01

IMO if they're not motivated to practise between lessons it's not time to start, which rules out most (but not all!) preschoolers.

And it's instrument dependent. I know all of the violin prodigies started at three, but the majority of professional brass/woodwind players I've encountered didn't pick up their instruments until junior school, senior school in some cases. My DC started her second instrument at 13 and is racing along.

TataMamma · 07/11/2021 18:06

Hmmm yes I'm aware it's instrument dependent. I remember reading somewhere you couldn't learn the saxophone before 8.
Obviously if she started at 3, 4 or 5, I'd be "doing" practice with her - but that's fine. I thought starting young would mean that you'd be of a a certain higher standard whilst still young and so might provide more incentive to practice as you feel you're making real music.
I'm not looking for a prodigy at all; just for her to have an opportunity that I didn't, and to be able potentially to join in school orchestras in secondary school - which I was always very jealous of :).
I'm inclined towards the piano as a starting instrument, but no strong fixed views at all, if someone can come up with a better instrument!

OP posts:
Pacidove · 07/11/2021 18:12

We got this second hand for DS when he was about 10months old

Of course he is not actually playing anything tuneful but he loves banging on it and my hope is that it'll breed familiarity so if he is musical when he is older he may take to the piano

winesolveseverything · 07/11/2021 18:19

Not my children but me...

I started to learn violin at 4. You can get tiny ones for tiny hands.
Piano when I was about 8 and flute at 11.

To begin with I learnt by ear- a program called the Suzuki method. I learnt to read music at about 7 I think.

I think for violin I did a bit of a mix of individual lessons as well as group lessons- at the teachers house- hard to remember now.

By 7 I was definitely having individual lessons for violin and piano- half an hour each time. This rose to an hour for violin by the time I was about 10.

Hollyhead · 07/11/2021 18:24

I wouldn’t consider it before 6 unless they show a natural interest and aptitude. Otherwise you waste time and money - the progress takes 3 times the time it does when they’re a bit older. For instance DC1s friend stated an instrument at 4, DC1 3 years later at 7, now a year on from that they’re not that different in standard.

PermanentTemporary · 07/11/2021 18:25

A violin teacher i know said 7. Ds started cello at 7.

He never liked it much though quite enjoyed school orchestra, it was a massive struggle to get him to practice, and we eventually gave up aged 11.

At 13 he asked to learn piano and he loved it from day 1 - He's 17 now. He's quite good but the main thing is just how much he enjoys it. I occasionally suggest 'why don't you do 10 minutes before dinner' but it mostly comes from him.

careerchangeperhaps · 07/11/2021 18:27

With the exception of some prodigy types, few children below the age of about 5 cope well with music lessons as they don't have the attention span and can't read well enough to read the music. Even then, by age 9 or 10, most children will level out regardless of whether they started the instrument at 5-6 or 7-8 (i.e older children make more rapid progress as they are more capable of learning at that age than their younger peers).
The exception is if you can find a Suzuki method teacher as this is a very different way of learning which suits small children. It's available for a range of instruments - I know kids who learnt flute and violin this way starting at age 4/5 (reception) and were amazing - grade 5+ before they left primary school.

HerRoyalNotness · 07/11/2021 18:48

We started piano at 5 and they’ve both started second instruments at 11, one brass, one woodwind. They second ones they do at school daily (and a year of private lessons to get them going) and they progress quickly. It’s a struggle to get them to practice but they insist they love it and want to keep learning.

rhowton · 07/11/2021 18:50

My 4 year old has started music lessons privately. They are a mix of singing, piano and music tempo. She will begin more formal piano at 5 or when the teacher feels like she would be ready. She loves it.

MusicTeacherSussex · 07/11/2021 19:19

Depends on the child - some of them take to it younger, but generally I don't consider children below 7 unless the parent insists they are ready, then I'll try.

The ability to read and write is desirable, motor skills and attention span must be good, and manners and maturity.

You won't know until it happens!

Some teachers specialise in teaching tiny kids like suzuki teachers, but if you don't enquire, you may find your wasting their time and your money! A lot of professional instrumentalists that teach do not particularly specialise in children, just imparting their skill. I can and do teach a few young ones but I certainly don't know much about early years teaching as a rule.

skkyelark · 07/11/2021 20:21

Not lessons or a 'proper' instrument, but we got my daughter a xylophone for her first birthday (this one:, which has held up very well, but mostly you want to avoid the surprising number that say in the small print that they might not be in tune). She's liked it and known it's for making music since the day she opened it, and at two and a bit, she can hit the notes with reasonable clarity and volume control (when she wants to...) and enjoys experimenting with little sequences of notes. I wouldn't go quite so far as to call them tunes, as they're seldom the same twice. We do have some song sheets it came with where the notes are colour-coded so they can read the tune before they can properly read music, but we haven't given those to her yet.

Mc3209 · 07/11/2021 21:25

OP, I am classically trained in piano and singing, and I have a 12 months old DS. I am planning to start him with suzuki method at the age of 2. Meanwhile I do a lot of singing to him, not just nursery rhymes, but all sorts, throughout the day. I also let him play around on my acoustic piano, he seems to enjoy it! I am trying to expose him to a wide variety of music throughout the day too.

Mc3209 · 07/11/2021 21:27

*and when I say 'play around' I mean he just bashes the keys... Sometimes he presses them individually, but only when the mood strikes him.

BuffaloCauliflower · 07/11/2021 21:30

My SIL teaches music (violin, viola, cello and piano) and I asked her this for DS, she said around 4, or when they can concentrate for 20 minutes. She started learning at 4 but also comes from a musical family so they were all playing.

Kerberos · 07/11/2021 21:32

Mine started in year 3 and have progressed to local and county groups. I don't play anything but did when I was younger.

Can be a struggle to get them to practise. Gets harder when they are teens.

Yorkshirelass04 · 07/11/2021 21:43

I learnt violin from 7 and clarinet from 8.

I remember being told that woodwind and brass instruments aren't really an option until the child's adult teeth are all in place at the front, as you can't really make the right mouth shapes with gaps or wobbly teeth. Makes sense to me.

Seeline · 07/11/2021 21:54

There is no point in starting them at all unless it is something the child wants to do.

BabbleBee · 07/11/2021 21:59

I had recorder lessons in infant school, equivalent of current year 2 at a guess. I started violin in juniors. We had a marching band in our town and I was desperate to join so was playing clarinet by 8 and I joined the band when I was 9. I’ve taught myself a few instruments, but I can only read treble clef. I wish I’d had opportunity to learn piano early so that reading bass came a bit easier.

Felinewoman · 07/11/2021 22:08

I have quite a few friends who started at 2 or 3 with piano or violin. Suzuki method.
Just short sessions, no pressure.

TataMamma · 07/11/2021 22:08

But isn't that a good reason to start at 4 rather than 8? At 4 it is easier to persuade them that this is a good/fun thing, whereas at 8 they've made their minds up without you! It is something I want to encourage, though not force.

OP posts:
Kerberos · 08/11/2021 07:48

It also depends hugely where you live. Where I am, we have an excellent council run music service.

In year 2 they do a revolving schedule of African drums, recorders and ukulele. Then year 4 (?) it's cello and violin. There are endangered species sessions when they get to year 5 that are totally free tuition and instrument hire for rarer instruments (cello, horn, tuba).

We then have local children's orchestras and county available plus specialised ensembles (ie flute choir, folk bands) when they get to that stage. They get to go on tours when they get to teen age.

randomsabreuse · 08/11/2021 07:57

I'd look for some kind of Kodaly (accents missing) or Dalcroze based music group now (colourstrings - leads to violin and Musical Steps are 2 I've used in different locations). They gently teach the fundamentals of pitch and pulse, plus sharing and turn taking but in a baby/toddler friendly way - lots of percussion instruments and singing and moving to the rhythm.

Also dance classes help with rhythm.

LaTomatina · 08/11/2021 08:07

Play based fun singing classes from 4. Instrument from around 7 at the youngest but only if the child is keen. They need to practice every day and it takes some grit/understanding on top of whatever other homework/sports etc.

If you push them into stuff too early there is a good chance that they will get sick of it and want to quit by the time they are actually old enough to enjoy it. Unless the child is a gifted genius (spoiler: most aren't).

CloudPop · 08/11/2021 08:10


It also depends hugely where you live. Where I am, we have an excellent council run music service.

In year 2 they do a revolving schedule of African drums, recorders and ukulele. Then year 4 (?) it's cello and violin. There are endangered species sessions when they get to year 5 that are totally free tuition and instrument hire for rarer instruments (cello, horn, tuba).

We then have local children's orchestras and county available plus specialised ensembles (ie flute choir, folk bands) when they get to that stage. They get to go on tours when they get to teen age.

Wow that's impressive, what a great resource.
Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.