By Matthew Gladden
Having taught piano lessons for the past nine years, I am often asked a variety of questions from parents regarding piano lessons. What is a good age to start? What instrument should they start on? How much should they practice? And so on.
The answers to such questions are usually complex, and I often find myself trying to fit a long detailed, caveat-ridden answer into a short and simple response.
This article contains the answers I’d like to give to such questions along with other tips on how to make music lessons a positive experience.
What is a good age to start lessons?
In short, it depends on the child. Ages 7 to 9 is the most common age to begin piano lessons, but some students are ready at age 5, and others wait until 10 or 11. The key is to address the individual needs and readiness of the child. Some parents may believe that starting early is better to gain a head start, but often a child can get “burned out” from starting lessons too young.
Here are some things to watch for when assessing the readiness of your child:
- Does your child like to sing?
- Can they clap or dance in rhythm?
- Do they enjoy listening to music?
- Are they asking for lessons or for an instrument?
These are often good indicators of readiness for lessons. If this sounds discouraging and you were hoping to enlist your 4 year old in lessons, consider signing them up for a group music class, such as Kindermusik, which will give them exposure to many musical concepts in a less structured environment.
What instrument should I start my child on?
I always encourage parents to support the desires of their child. If they want to play drums or bass guitar, support that desire, even if this means they won’t follow in your footsteps in the marching band. As your child is deciding which instrument they want to play, consider giving them a year of piano lessons to lay down the foundational concepts of music theory. This knowledge will be beneficial no matter which instrument they later gravitate toward.
Can my child practice on a keyboard?
Starting piano lessons on an electronic instrument is perfectly acceptable for beginning students. However, make sure the instrument is an “electronic piano” rather than just a “keyboard.” This means it will have 88 fully weighted keys, such as a Yamaha Clavinova or Roland digital piano.
How can I make sure my child is successful with music lessons?
It depends on what you mean by successful. In my mind a successful piano student is one who walked away with a positive experience. We must remember that our children are indeed talented, gifted and full of potential, but their gifts lie in different areas and with differing intensities. Be ready to accept the unique path that your child will find with music.
The best thing you can do is to listen and support them. Be their biggest fan and shower them with praise. And then listen and acknowledge them if they are having trouble. This support coupled with quality instruction is the best combo in creating a truly successful music lesson experience.
This post is sponsored by Matthew Gladden, a piano instructor in the Champaign-Urbana area.