When to Start Music Lessons
I am asked all the time what age is best to begin music lessons. Parents want the best possible start for their child, and knowing the best time to begin is an important part of ensuring commitment, growth, and success in learning any instrument. My education and experience is in teaching the violin and piano.
To respond to the enquiring parent, I always ask them to tell me a little about their child who is interested in beginning the violin or the piano. Do they love music? Have they been to a performance or concert that really moved them? I also ask the parent a bit about themselves and their desire to have their child begin lessons. Are they willing to encourage their child’s efforts and commit to practicing consistently? What is their goal for their child in taking private music lessons? Knowing these initial expectations helps me as a teacher to give the best recommendation for a child to start private lessons.
The best age? My flat answer is 6-8 years old. During these years a child has learned to read, and their fine motor skills have become more refined. Their attention span is long enough to stay engaged with a great teacher for a 30-minute lesson. They are able to practice mostly on their own, following directions from their teacher. They feel a great sense of achievement and pride in their work as they see their skills rapidly increase from the start. The whole lesson experience starts off on a much more positive and progressive note than beginning at younger ages.
I have taught many, many children that are younger than my recommended age to begin, the youngest ones being age 3. In this situation, it is imperative that the parent understands the rate of progress of the student will be different, and the commitment and involvement of the parent is somewhat greater. Lessons for younger students take on a different format to utilize a shorter attention span and maximize their enjoyment of the instrument and the time together. This is to ensure that their love of the instrument will grow as they spend time with their teacher and the parent in practicing together. I involve the parent in the lesson as much as possible, enlisting them to take notes, teaching them alongside their child so that quality practicing can happen at home together. Some of the best musicians and performers were introduced to their instruments at very young ages. Knowing this can help parents to be patient with a slower rate of progression in skill and capacity with their young child.
Each child is different and I love teaching all ages. Parental involvement and support is important at any age. While I recommend parents wait to pay for formal private lessons until their child is age 6-8, I also feel it is important to say that any age beyond that is a great time to start. I know musicians who developed a love for their instrument during Junior High or High School, or much, much later in life. Sadly, it is all too common for these later ages to have difficulty finding great teachers who are willing to teach any age. Some teachers only know how to teach children, or do not see the point to teaching older students.
I feel strongly that music is a source of great joy and deepens our life experience. Music is for all ages, stages, capacities, and abilities. Many of my favorite students are adults. What courage and dedication it takes to begin a musical instrument later in life! I have so much joy in seeing them perform and reach goals that they thought were impossible when we began lessons together.
The best way to ensure success in beginning private music lessons is to find a great teacher. Find one that gets you, one that you feel a connection with, one that is as committed to your goals as you are. You can read my previous blog post on how to find a great teacher here.
Here are some great resources on the best age to begin music lessons: