What Is the Best Age to Begin Piano Lessons?

Parents who give their children the gift of a musical education start them out on a path that will enrich their lives in so many ways. Studying music develops discipline, hand-eye coordination, intelligence, and creates a skill that can bring happiness to both the performer and to all who listen. According to a recent article in the LA Times, 6-year-olds who received keyboard instruction had more brain growth and better fine motor skills than their peers. Piano lessons are such a great thing, why not get started as soon as possible?

Is It Ever TOO Early?

Toddlers given regular piano lessons may have a head start in developing the reasoning used in maths and science, according to a neurological experiment in California. Three and four year-olds who learnt Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and other simple tunes over six months performed 34% better in IQ tests than those who had computer lessons or no lessons, scientists from the University of Wisconsin found.

The Requirements for Readiness
The best time to start piano lessons will be different for every child.

Size of Hand
A child who is taking piano lessons should be comfortable placing five fingers on five adjacent white keys. 

Finger Independence
A child who is taking piano lessons needs to be able to move individual fingers. A good test of this is to try Lesson Number 1, “Hot Cross Buns.” A child who can use three different fingers on three black keys to play “Hot Cross Buns” is ready for lessons.  A child who can only play by picking out the tune with one finger is probably not ready.

Interest in Music and Desire to Learn
At any age, motivation is an important factor of readiness. If a child does not want to take piano lessons then the parent should instead spend time cultivating interest in music.

A Word about Reading
Piano students who use a book based method may do better if they begin at age seven or eight, after they are beginning to read words with more fluency. Students who begin with an ear-based method, such as the Suzuki Method or the Hoffman Method, can start earlier at age three.

Is it Ever Too Late?
Piano students can start lessons from age three and all the way up to adult, but it is true that there are some advantages to starting earlier. For one thing, children who are three or youn have more supple hands. Older children who have never studied an instrument, and even adult learners, often have to deal with more finger awkwardness. This can be overcome with desire and practice, but it will take more effort. There are also several studies showing that children between the ages of three and five can learn complex brain skills like languages more easily than older children because their brains are still growing. These years are really a window of opportunity to develop musical intelligence. Older students can learn too, it will just take more effort. Another reason it is easier for younger children to start piano lessons is the amount of available time they have to practice. Older kids and teenagers usually fill up their lives with other interests. A child who starts in first grade and gets in six years of piano by middle school is more likely to be advanced enough to want to stick with it even as life gets busier.

So what is the best age to begin piano lessons? For a child who meets all the requirements of hand size, finger independence, and desire, the answer is, as soon as possible! Take advantage of the opportunity to immerse your young child’s mind in the language of music. If those prime years of opportunity have already passed, it is never too late for a child with a real desire to learn. Studying music at any age is good for body, mind, and spirit, and something to enjoy for a lifetime.