Many friends and acquaintances have asked me what the best age is to start piano lessons. I think they are really asking, "What is the youngest age my child can start piano lessons?"
So with that in mind — Everyone is different! And every teacher has a different opinion!
I think a better question to ask is, "Is my child ready to start piano lessons and have I found the right teacher for my child?"
Let's start with the first part of that question:
"Is my child ready to start piano lessons?"
Answer these questions:
Do you have a piano for your child to practice on?
Does your child show interest in playing the piano?
Can your child count to 10?
Can your child recite their ABC's?
Can and will your child follow instructions?
Can your child stay focused for a minimum of 30 minutes? (Note: 30-minute lessons have many shorter activities within the lesson.)
If your answer is yes to all of the above questions, keep reading. If not, you may want to wait.
The youngest age I've worked with is 5 years old. (Update: I have now worked with 3 and 4-year-olds in the WunderKeys program with great success, too!) Many 5-year-olds have wonderful success! But there are some teachers I know who won't teach children until age 7 or 8. Before I tell you about my breakthrough, let's consider the next part of the question:
"Have I found the right teacher for my child?"
You may not know until you dive in and try a few lessons. I suggest you interview the teacher to get a feel for their personality, find out about their education and experience, and ask about the curriculum and lesson material they use. Many teachers offer a free or reduced rate consultation or first lesson. You, the parent, are probably the best judge of knowing if the potential teacher will be a good fit for your child.
I believe that the reason I have so much success with 5-year-olds is the funtastic curriculum I discovered after attending a workshop with Randall Faber. "My First Piano Adventures" is specifically written for 5- and 6-year-olds. It comes with a CD of every song in the book. Kids love the variety and playfulness! (Before using this curriculum, I would not start students until age 7 using the basic Piano Adventures series.)
(Update: And now, having used WunderKeys, I happily engage 3 and 4 year olds in private and semi-private lessons.)
But I did notice that age wasn't the only factor in my students' success. They still had to be ready.
Sadly, I once had a 5-year-old that could not count to 10 and did not recognize her numbers. She struggled to remember her right and left hand and was not able to complete many of the early assignments because she did not receive help at home.
So that reminds me of another question you should ask yourself:
"Am I ready to practice daily with my child?"
Beginning students must have help during the week! If you as the parent are not able to commit to attending each lesson and spending quality time (5–15 minutes a day) helping your child practice, PLEASE WAIT! Simply sending your Kindergartner off to weekly lessons will not produce mastery of the piano. You must be ready to take the plunge with your child.
And if you can make that commitment, then taking the time to find a teacher and a curriculum that your child connects with and learns from is a great place to start!
Clara McDonald — As a music educator of almost 20 years, my passion is infusing others with music!