I’ve been asked many times about what the best age to start piano lessons is, and while there’s not a clear answer, there are some general guidelines one could follow that can help with ascertaining an appropriate answer. The same question can also be asked regarding piano lessons for adults as many older potential students will question whether it’s too late to start lessons. In this post, we’ll examine both perspectives.
When Should You Start Piano Lessons?
The short answer to the question of when you should start piano lessons is any age! As long as you have the time to devote to regular practice, and it doesn’t have to be hours per day (even just 30 minutes per day of focused practice can be enough), then just take the first step and start. However, many people ask this question with regard to young children, and here is where it can get a bit more nuanced, especially when one considers the potential cost of private piano lessons in some major metropolitan areas, though the answer isn’t so simply.
The short and easy answer is that if your child can read and write, they will likely have no problem starting piano lessons. So any child around the age of six and over should be able to start piano lessons. Knowing the alphabet and being able to recognize letters will give the student a huge advantage when it comes to learning how to read music. However, it’s not an absolute necessity.
If your child doesn’t know how to read yet, it’s still perfectly fine to start piano lessons. However, you’ll want to find a teacher who specializes in young children and who has a detailed plan for how to teach this age group. As the music staff and notes are based on the alphabet, you’ll need a teacher who knows how to work around this. Ideally, the teacher will see this as an advantage as this will allow them to teach the student in a manner which more closely mimics how we learn language. The note names are really just a way to place names on this element of the musical vocabulary. At this stage, a digital piano will suit your child perfectly well, though an acoustic piano is always preferable as that can serve to stimulate the child’s curiosity a bit more. I can still remember being transfixed by watching the hammers hit the strings as I struck keys on the grand piano in our home. I’m in favor of anything like this that excites curiosity and makes children want to learn more.
Some music educators have speculated that one’s musical “IQ” becomes solidified between the ages of six and nine, so by age six seems to be a sweet spot for starting piano lessons if the goal is to develop as far as possible musically. If you hope for your child to have the opportunity to become a virtuous musician, then they should start piano lessons no later than six years old. Of course, if the goal is enrichment and enjoyment, then any age is a great time to start music lessons.
Piano Lessons for Adults – Is it Ever Too Late?
The short and direct answer is a definitive no! It’s never too late for adults to start piano lessons. My father is 82 years old and just began taking piano lessons in his mid-70’s. He’ll never be a virtuoso, but playing the piano certainly provides a lot of fun and enrichment for him. He’s even begun playing the organ for meetings of a fraternal organization he belongs to.
For older adults, starting piano lessons can be quite challenging, but with a patient teacher, they can also be extremely rewarding. Personally, older adults are my favorite students to teach. They understand how they learn and they understand how to be diligent with their practice. With life experience on their side, they have a strong sense of how to approach learning a new skill, and it brings me a lot of joy to see someone enjoying a new experience such as playing a musical instrument. As long as the student has the cognitive function to understand and execute the concepts and the physical ability to depress the keys, they can derive a lot of joy and many benefits from piano lessons.
Benefits of Piano Lessons for Children
There are an endless number of benefits of piano lessons for children. For one thing, for a child to have the opportunity to become a virtuoso, it’s absolutely essential to start early. Generally, by age five or six would be the ideal time to begin lessons.
More importantly, as children’s brains are still developing, music lessons are an excellent complement to their other studies and activities. Piano lessons, and music lessons in general, help develop eye hand coordination, a sense of discipline, are an excellent creative outlet, and are great for self esteem. And even more importantly, it’s fun!
It’s been observed that children who study music do far better than their peers in academics, most especially in math. Music also helps children to develop better problem solving skills. It also helps to enhance their appreciation for music in general, which greatly enriches their lives.
Benefits of Piano Lessons for Adults
If it’s too late to become a concert pianist, you may be wondering, “What are the benefits of piano lessons for adults if I can’t realize my dream of performing at Carnegie Hall?” I’m here to tell you that there are many other benefits of piano lessons for older students.
Piano lessons, and music lessons in general, help you to relax from the stresses of everyday life. When you have many responsibilities such as work, childcare, family, etc, piano lessons can be an excellent way to unwind and relax. It’s a sort of meditation. Part of this is that it’s fun and exciting to learn a new skill as an adult. It makes us feel younger to be challenged and it keeps our minds healthy and stimulated, which leads me to the second compelling reason to study piano as an adult.
Studying music as an adult helps to prevent dementia and other cognitive issues. My 82 year old father has been going strong since beginning piano lessons in his mid 70’s. While this doesn’t serve as proof that piano lessons have prevented any cognitive decline in him, it does offer some support for the idea.
Taking piano lessons as an adult also puts us outside of our comfort zone, which is something that too many adults avoid as they age. It’s not easy to feel like a beginner again or to feel so exposed while learning a new skill, but that’s exactly why it’s so important for adults to do something to make them uncomfortable. Without this type of discomfort, we stop growing as human beings. Experiencing this type of healthy discomfort helps us to continue growing emotionally and mentally. And once we achieve each short term goal in our studies, it fills us with a sense of accomplishment.
And most importantly, taking piano lessons is a lot of fun! It’s gratifying to learn to make beautiful music, and when working with a supportive teacher, it’s an amazing experience to learn to see new connections and relationships within the repertoire we study. And given all of the unusual events happening in the world today, sitting down to play music has the potential to transport us to a different and simpler time, and can make it easier to cope with any negative energy we take in from news or social media.
Is there a Best Age to Start Piano Lessons?
In short, the best time to start piano lessons is now. If you or your child want to learn piano, don’t wait. It’s never too late to begin your musical journey, and you’ll be more fulfilled for having done so. Even if your child is too young to begin private piano lessons, find a group music program for toddlers that will help them to develop their appreciation for making music and use that as a jumping off point for private lessons. Studying music has the power to greatly enrich one’s life and nowadays there are a myriad of ways to approach the learning process. So if you or your child is considering starting piano lessons, take the first step today!