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#957951 - 04/29/04 10:40 AM How young is too young for piano lessons?
lkplatow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/02
Posts: 218
Loc: Philly burbs
Hello all. My daughter, who recently turned 3, is showing a lot of interest in banging on the piano and singing songs. She also pretends to read the music. I know she is just imitating mommy, but I am wondering if I should start her on lessons. Around here, there are Suzuki method teachers that recommend starting at age 2. I don't know anything about the Suzuki method though. I was trained starting at age 5 with the classic "Middle C" method (we used the book Teaching Little Fingers How to Play). Obviously, since my daughter can't read yet, that method is out. Would lessons be any benefit to her at this age? Or should I just wait til 5 or 6 (or even later)? If we did do the Suzuki, what should I expect? I don't want to push her into anything she isn't ready for - I know that even though I enjoyed piano lessons, there were many times in my childhood when I begged my mom to quit just cause I resented all the time I had to spend practicing. I just thought that perhaps I could take her current experimentation and turn it in a productive direction. Thanks!

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#957952 - 05/03/04 04:47 AM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
Friday Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/05/01
Posts: 405
Loc: South Bay, CA
I was in a similar situation a few months ago. I have a 5 and 3 yo. My 5 yo has been in piano classes for six months now. We sat in on several different schools and spoke to half a dozen teachers before deciding on a program. We decided not to use Suzuki, instead we put her in a group piano class. She enjoys it so much that I don't have to ask her to practice.

My 3 yo is actually more musically inclined than her big sister, but I've yet to put her in piano class. Instead she is in a music class geared for little ones her age, where she is learning about notation, rythym, harmony, etc. I don't think that she has the maturity to sit through a piano class no matter how fun the teacher makes it. (Your child may have that maturity though.) Right now I let her bang and sing and pretend, but I also teach her "the rules" eg clean hands, short nails, close the fallboard gently, etc. Nothing is "formal" at this point, everything is "play".

I actually liked Suzuki's philosophy, but the reason I didn't go with them was because I didn't care for the particular teacher that would have taught my child. I feel that the teacher's rapport with the student is key. Hope this helps.


#957953 - 05/06/04 09:25 PM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
starmender Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 461
Loc: Australia
Follow the child. If she is ready she will tell you. Sounds like she is. Can she sing in tune? If not she will need aural development, and Suzuki is not a bad way to do it.

Just avoid any competitive pressures to kkep up with anyone else in the studio. Your child is perfect, and whichever way the family can do it without stress and unhappiness is the right way.

#957954 - 05/16/04 10:33 PM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
Candywoman Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 1050
I like to teach students beginning at age seven, although I also take six year olds. If you knew how beautifully things go when they're seven, you would feel no anxiety about waiting.

Kindermusik, and other group programs are well and good if you want to spend money and time but they have virtually no effect on your child's future success at private lessons. I see them as money making businesses playing on parents' concerns and fears. Trust your instincts and keep doing what you're doing!.

#957955 - 05/16/04 10:42 PM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
Candywoman Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 1050
I like to teach students beginning at age seven, although I also take six year olds. If you knew how beautifully things go when they're seven, you would feel no anxiety about waiting.

Kindermusik, and other group programs are well and good if you want to spend money and time but they have virtually no effect on your child's future success at private lessons. I see them as money making businesses playing on parents' concerns and fears. Trust your instincts and keep doing what you're doing!.

#957956 - 05/19/04 09:23 AM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
obrother Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/04
Posts: 182
I, too, have found 7ish to be a perfect age, however, I've taught succesfully as low as 5 1/2. That seems to be about the cutoff for me. Rapport, teaching style, etc., is indeed the key.

I use Edna Mae Burnham step by step method. It's not a primer, but it is very simple and starts in middle C position. It only teaches one note at a time..not a whole position. I have found teaching one whole position at a time to be a recipe for disaster - especially for young kids. I've been using Edna for twenty years and endorse it as it's not as popular as some of the others.

As long as the kids know the first few notes of the alphabet, I can usually teach using that book. I know there are primers that go into discussions of all the different aspects of timing, staffs, etc.etc. In over twenty years of teaching, I've never used a primer book; if they can't start Edna book 1, I suggest holding off just a little while. But that's just me, I'm sure many teachers use primer books and that's fine. I have a lot of patience because the Edna book is so simple, even for 6 year olds. If they can't get started on that, I just don't know that I have the patience, desire, or ability to teach them..due to their age. Some teachers can take a 4 year old and teach a primer book...all I'm saying is that I don't think I could...so I leave it alone.

You've received some great advice already. Regarding Suzuki, this is 'only' my opinion and I wouldn't sway you against starting a child out on that if they are too young to do any note reading, etc. and you really want to expose them to music at that particular time. That said, from personal family (relative) experience, I caution you from circumventing the infinitely important benefit of teaching a young child (6ish and above, I suppose) how to read music. I had a nephew whose piano playing parents started him on Suzuki at about that age. After a year or so, they realized that, yes, he was playing simple classic melodies or whatnot without reading music...but...that he could not sight-read nearly as well as his parents when they had studied for the same length of time. They switched to a more traditional teacher and did just fine. His parents understood that learning to sight read at an early age is something that sticks with you for the rest of your life, if you stay with it long enough, and they thought the Suzuki was stealing that experience from him. That's just their view, and I, personally, don't have experience with the method. Maybe the best solution is to train the ear very early, but in addition to an easy sight-reading method.

And as an aside, I wonder if the Suzuki method is more useful to those that have an inherent musical talent/ear. As I imagine most teachers would agree, it doesn't require any musical 'gift' to learn how to sight read music and eventually better yourself to more accomplished music (while training, your ear...granted). I wonder how many young kids who were trained with Suzuki, but gave it up after two years or so...I wonder what recall they have, or what they can play. My question is, does suzuki routinely turn out students who play by ear (even after giving it up after a couple years) the way traditional lessons routinely turns out sight readers..even after they give it up after a couple years?

My opinion only. Happy to follow up if asked.

#957957 - 10/27/04 01:59 PM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
pianocamel Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 11
Loc: Lillington, North Carolina
I have recently begun taking students as early as age 4 1/2. With that age group, I use the Alfred method "Music for Little Mozarts." They learn a lot more than it appears at first because they introduce one small idea at a time.

I cannot give you advice on the Suzuki program yet, though I am looking into becoming a certified teacher myself.

I hope this helps!

#957958 - 10/27/04 10:20 PM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
cranky woman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 282
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I'll agree with Candyman about age 7 being the best age, sometimes 8 if it's a boy (motor skill development is slower for boys than girls). I have the best success with 7 year olds.

I respectfully disagree with Candyman regarding early childhood programs. Kindermusik isn't my favorite, I prefer MusikGarten. I've found that students who participate in these types of music classes really are prepared for private lessons. These early childhood programs focus on large motor movements, and singing and dancing to music. They are really delightful programs. That being said, I think ages 3-4 is plenty early to begin these classes.

Cranky Woman \:D

#957959 - 10/28/04 08:22 AM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
DW_mod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 117
According to the belief of 'Timely Education', which is really reliable, since they had an entire school ciriculum planned out of this...
2 to 3: Imitation period
3 to 4: Imitation, Rhythm step ex and hearing development
4 to 6: Hearing development and creativity skills.
7 : Fingers development( can start to drill them on elementary technic from 7 onwards. While it is not so advisable to do so any earlier than 7, as their fingers or muscles group are not yet that developed. )

Do not misunderstand what timely education has to offer. It doesn't mean that your child can only start attending keyboard lessons at the age of 7( which is generally considered late actually ). What it means is that your child will start playing, preferably at the age of four, among developing his others or hearing anility. But during the next 2 years ( 4 to 6 years of age ), you need not drill him on technical developments or instill discipline into his practice. His fingers are not ready for it, neither is his whole mental being.
And do not underestimate the power of imitation playing. Kids develop scute sense of hearing and sound musicalities by imitation singing and playing.
In fact, you can start simple rhythmic imitation exercises with your child as early as the age of 2.
All you need is a big pail or box, invert it, tap simple rhythms and have him tap back the same. Then gradually develop it into beats with strong and weak accents and so on. And lastly , incorporating simple movements and tapping ex while reading interesting verses( which is what we call Rhythm Step exercises). Children who respond well to rhythm step exercises are generally noted as being more alert, responsive and definately more musical.
And when they actually get to start their jeyboard lesson at the age of 4, you'll be glad that he/she is rhythmically alert, and is capable of picking up every little details in your instructions and playing.
And with that, comes the method of imitation playing and notes recognition which I will not dab on and leave it to your child's future piano teacher to work on it.
Have fun with your child's musical journey. For we ( even in our capacity as parents or teachers ) will grow with it too. \:\)

#957960 - 10/28/04 08:29 AM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
DW_mod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 117
Yeah, one more thing... with this method, children need not read notes first in order to play. But eventually, ( normally 2 months or so after initial keyboard imitation ex which requires you to sing and show the fingering with a mirror image ) they'll be able to read as much as middle Doh to high Doh.

Basically, I don't recommend the suzuki method as a mainstream. It isn't beneficial to the child in later years.

#957961 - 10/29/04 09:08 AM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
susan9 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 8
Loc: Canada
I agree with several of the other posts; you know your child best, and what is good for her. I started my son in piano lessons when he was 3 1/2 or 4, for very similar reasons, but I was very fortunate to find a teacher who specialized in young kids, had group classes, and with keyboards. It was all made to be fun, lots of rhythm work (keyboards are great for this) and just learning the names of notes and their location. It may be quite true that at 7 children will learn faster, but I have never had any regrets about encouraging an enthusiasim when it was in full bloom. The absolute joy and love of music my son had as a 3 or 4 year old, was nurtured, and is still there (he's 13 now, and still playing).
I remember watching the kids in the group class (parents were required to be there), bopping their bodies in time with the rhythm, and thinking that 'internalising' rhythm like this was probably a really great thing that would be with them always, and was a great foundation to build muscial skills on when they were older.

Kids are such sponges at this age; I think encouraging their interests when they happen is so exciting.

As for the Suzuki method, we went through about a year of that too, but in conjunction with other material. In hindsight, I wouldn't do it again. Sure, he was playing some wonderful pieces of music, quickly, and wowed everybody; it was easy for him because he has a great ear. But I wish the importance of good sight reading skills had been drilled in then. Once he had figured out that it was so much easier to just imitate what he'd heard, getting him to actually LOOK at the music when he was playing became a bit of a struggle. And as you progress, you actually have to be able to sight read!

Good luck with whatever you decide to do, but keep that girl singing and banging!

#957962 - 10/31/04 07:56 PM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
PianoMum9 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/19/04
Posts: 19
Loc: Surrey, BC
I also disagree w/ Candyman about the group programs. There is one in Canada called Music For Young Children that is really good for younger children. It starts them at anywhere from 3 yrs to 6 yrs, takes them through 3 programs and ends them ready for about 3rd year RCT level study.
I agree that 3 is far too early to start in private lessons. I like about 7 yrs for my own teaching, although I have two 6-year-old boys at the moment who are progressing wonderfully.
I agree w/ a lot of the comments about Suzuki. They play well quickly, and develop a good ear, but often have some major problems w/ reading down the road.
If you don't have a good group program in your area, sometimes an Orff class will give them a good smattering of music and tide them over until they're ready for private lessons. Just a thought.

#957963 - 11/01/04 06:35 AM Re: How young is too young for piano lessons?
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I get a little worried when I hear about folks taking their kids to piano lessons before about age 6. I've seen several cases where the child is absolutely not ready, emotionally or physically, to take a "traditional" piano lesson, yet the parent still insists. (Friday, this isn't directed at you, just got me thinking.)

Like others have said, a fun group class is probably the best way to go. It gets the child thinking about rhythm, pitch, tempo, at a level they can manage, and it's fun! And if your child doesn't like it, then for heaven's sake pull him/her out of the class. I know of 3 children who returned to piano at the ripe old age of 7-9, and are now going great. If your child takes a detour at a young age, it doesn't mean they won't return (unless you make it a Big Issue that they quit).

My 2c!



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