"Hello, Marge? You won't believe what my little Billy learned to play on the piano today . . . and he's only three-and-a-half years old!" These days, we believe in starting 'em young. But when it comes to piano lessons for kids, just how young becomes an important question. Experts agree that early exposure to music is beneficial to children—just witness those progressive parents who play recordings of Bach's third Brandenburg Concerto to Junior by placing tiny speakers on Mommy's tummy before Junior is even born! But if you are not already committed to the camp that insists the-earlier-the-better, we invite you to consider the following points as you seek the ideal piano lessons for your toddler.
Junior is not a miniature adult
For starters, how involved do you want to be? As you can imagine, starting a child playing the piano not long after he or she has first achieved the ability to sit up unassisted will likely be a matter of significant participation on your part. Already resigned to that? Great, but understand that the ability to be still! and sit up straight! and quit fidgeting! for minimum periods of 10 or 15 minutes will be expected of Junior. Now consider that the piano teacher on whom you settle must bring a little something special to the party. He or she must be able to capture and hold the child's interest, but simultaneously must possess—at times—the patience of Job. (Sound like Mrs. Anderson from the second grade? Just might be.)
Acoustic pianos versus electronic pianos
Additionally, Junior will have a better chance at grasping "the basics"—as deemed appropriate for toddlers—if he's picked up familiarity with single-digit numerals, specifically "1" through "5" (as in four fingers and a thumb), and the letters "A" through "G" that represent the notes in a musical scale. The child should also be encouraged to continue his or her exploration of rhythm through hand clapping, marching and other cadence-driven activities. As for a practice instrument, you'll need one. There's some debate about whether a traditional acoustic piano is best, or if an electronic keyboard will meet the need. While these days electronic instruments have come a great distance in terms faithfully simulating the characteristics of an acoustic piano, be sure to take into account such factors as keyboard size and number of keys, as well as touch-sensitivity, a critical acoustic-piano characteristic. And, of course, please be certain the practice instrument available to your child is in proper tune!
Did we start piano lessons too early?
As you see, there is no "right" age at which to commence piano lessons for children. The main things to remember are to select the teacher with care and, having done so, nurture an open-ended dialog about your child's progress. And do not be closed to the idea of perhaps having started too young. It happens. But if it does, don't quit. Simply put the project on the back burner for a few more months of growth and development, then try it again! No harm, no foul.
About the Author: Mark Buchanan
I am an avid musician with 20+ years experience. I have performed live in the Midwest area with various bands performing mainly as a sideman. I enjoy all types of music and approach the study of music with an open mind. Though my performing schedule is heavy, I have a small group of students I teach when time allows. Music is a lifelong journey and I'm proud to be a part of it!