Piano lessons at school are often debated among parents. Are they a good thing or not? Well, studies almost universally show that music is great for kids and their development, so when they are old enough, why not start them with a musical journey?
Most people who go on to be musicians or have a life of loving music can trace this back to being a kid. Perhaps you have memories of starting music lessons when you were young?
The vast majority of schools in the US (and beyond) have music lessons. Not all focus on piano or offer pathways for students to increase their piano skills. We’re big believers that piano lessons can be amazing for all young people, helping their brains to develop. So when can kids start piano lessons at school? When do the benefits of music lessons kick in? We explore all in this guide.
Benefits of Piano Lessons At Schools
Firstly, let’s look at some of the benefits of piano lessons. This is something that we’ve covered a lot here at Pianu, and it is impossible to go through all of them as there are so many potential benefits!
- Improved math and basic counting skills. A study by Martin F. Gardiner and a team of professionals at the Center for the Study of Human Development at Brown University focused on the music training of second grade students, finding that those who were studying piano performed better in these areas than their peers who were not studying music.
- Piano can help with fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination, and studies have shown that it can help the brain to release a human growth hormone. In elder people, this has helped slow the effects of ageing, but for young people it can also help them to develop skills for their everyday life.
- Piano is a proven stress reliever. If you play yourself, you will know this to be true. Both listening to piano and playing piano can be great for stress levels, helping to calm the mind. This is important for people of all ages, and it is a myth that young people don’t feel stress.
- According to piano giants Steinway, a study showed that “children who had a few years of piano study under their belts could remember twenty percent more vocabulary words than their peers.” This means that, in theory, learning an instrument aids many other areas of learning. This is certainly backed up by a lot of the other studies.
- Helps to teach discipline. Ted Ed gave us some incredible insights into what music does to the brain and how unique this can be. Strengthening lots of areas of the brain, music is one of the most unique ways to teach discipline too. If you’re going to get good, you need to concentrate. You also need to persevere. These are lessons we all have to learn at some point but they can be tough for kids. Music is a great way to impart discipline.
- It could be a career option. There are many ways in which music can actually be an option for people in their future. Though nobody is pretending that piano lessons in schools are as important as math and science, they are a way to spark an interest. If your child gets good at music from a young age, their chances of making it their career are much improved. You could have a budding composer, performer, or even piano tuner or instrument tech on your hands.
The above are just some of the examples of the incredible benefits of piano. You don’t have to go far to find amazing stories about people who play piano and how it has helped their mental health as well as their development.
So, with this in mind it is time to take action. How can kids actually start their lessons and what age does it become viable?
When Can Kids Start Piano Lessons?
There is clearly a time in every kid’s development where they can actually start to gain knowledge and gain the skill of playing the piano.
Unfortunately, there is no specific set age at which we can definitively say that piano lessons should start, but there are a few different things to consider.
You’re Never Too Young For The Sensory Benefits of Piano
When you go into a toy store, there is every chance that you are likely to see piano-based toys even for very young kids. Mini keyboards and piano toys are great for children. You’ll find that these provide kids with an opportunity to explore and learn about the world around them.
At this stage in the brain’s development, though, toys are used to stimulate the brain and show kids about the senses. You’ll often see that they have flashing lights and other sensory stimulus. Your kids will love this, and it can help their brains from a very young age. However, we’re just talking about piano toys here, for babies and toddlers. This does not constitute a lesson.
Why Under Five is Probably Too Young
We know, there are going to be people who comment to say that Mozart learned how to play piano aged three, or to show us the video below.
There are always exceptions. You will find plenty of people who can start learning younger than this. But:
- Your body may not have developed enough. People of such a young age may have such tiny hands that playing even a basic melody is virtually impossible. This can add to the frustration, too. There’s no point in trying if your body is not going to be able to support you to learn piano just yet.
- Attention span is a huge issue. If your child is four years old they will probably have an attention span between 8 and 12 minutes, and that’s on a good day. In this time, it is very hard to put together a meaningful piano lesson or to help your child learn even the most simple concepts. They might also be confused by the concept.
- They might not be interested. If your kid hasn’t shown an interest, forcing it is one way that you can actually put them off wanting to learn. Instead, why not let them listen to piano music at this age instead. The chances are, this will help to spark an interest in the future.
There are kids who can learn at a younger age. If you think your kid has the dexterity and attention span to do so then by all means start them younger. However, remember we’re focusing on school here. Children who can cope with piano lessons in Kindergarten are in the minority. That means that introducing piano lessons this early is probably going to be chaotic and not particularly constructive. Private lessons may be a better idea for a young child who may just be a musical prodigy.
Ages Six to Nine – A Good Starting Point
Again, we are generalizing to a degree. However, the most successful time to start lessons may well be between the ages of six and nine. That’s not to say once you reach nine there is no point (far from it) but this is one of the earliest opportunities for schools and teachers to introduce constructive piano lessons.
At this age, most kids have developed enough physically to have the dexterity to play simple melodies in lessons. They are also able to grasp the basic concepts such as notes of the piano being assigned a letter. On top of this, their attention span is going to be good enough to at least concentrate for long enough for a lesson.
There actually aren’t that many studies on this matter, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence. Ask any piano teacher if they would rather start teaching a five-year-old or a nine-year-old and they’ll probably say the latter as it is much easier to get those concepts and ideas across.
10 and Above
Of course, if your child can learn aged nine then it stands to reason that they can start at 10 and have similar results. You can learn piano at any age, and take it up in adulthood if you wish. While some of the developmental benefits are best for young people, studies of adolescents have also shown piano to be a great help with their learning.
At this age, a lot of schools will have specific music lessons, but not specific piano lessons. If a child is interested in piano then it is possible to get them started on piano in after-school lessons, for example. However, here at Pianu we believe it is easier than ever to facilitate all children to learn piano. That’s why our academy is designed to simplify things for all ages. If your kid can use a laptop or a tablet then they are old enough to start experimenting with the Pianu Academy. Many schools are already using this as a way to make piano lessons accessible and affordable for all.
Signs Your Child is Ready to Learn Piano
There are some signs that can tell you if your child is likely to be ready to start to learn piano. If you are working within a school, you can potentially work out what stage of the curriculum they might be ready to take on these kinds of lessons. If you are giving parents the option to evaluate whether their child is ready there are a few things to look out for.
Your Child May Be Ready to Learn If:
- They understand left from right. This is one of the basics of playing piano. A child needs to know the difference between the left and right hands, and whether they are moving up (right) or down (left) the piano.
- They know the alphabet. Well, at least they know it from A to G. After that, it isn’t too important for us pianists! If your child can go through the alphabet from A to G then they can assign these letters to the notes. This also helps them to understand the relationship between the notes.
- Your child can count to four. They will need to count 1, 2, 3, 4 a lot in the early stages to understand tempo and timing within piano songs. This means that you shouldn’t really try to impart this knowledge if they’re not quite there with counting yet.
- They can follow instructions. Young kids really can struggle to follow instructions. If your kid tends to do what they want regardless of whether you tell them to, piano might not be ideal. They need to be able to follow some basic lessons. This is true whether they are having virtual or in person lessons. Though Pianu’s Academy lets kids learn at their own pace, they’ll have to follow some instructions.
- They want to learn. What is the point if they do not want to learn? As well as making things more difficult, this can be a sign that they are likely to give up when things get hard.
- They can focus for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. There’s not a lot of benefit to a five minute disrupted piano lesson. You need to dedicate a bit of time to it, and while 20 minutes is often enough, some kids struggle with this. If your child can focus on a task like reading for 20 to 30 minutes, it is a good sign they’re ready for piano lessons.
There’s No Harm in Trying…
A quick note about the fact that it is easier than ever to learn piano. We’ll get into this a bit more later in the post. For now, just know that an affordable digital setup with a keyboard is incredibly simple. It may well be in your budget. Some people even learn piano without piano.
So even if you are on the fence, or unsure if your kid will get on well with piano lessons, you can give it a go. In a school setting, music lessons can be tailored to give each child the level of engagement they are ready for. For instance, while some children will still be in the phase where they are just experimenting with sounds and touch, others might be ready for lessons.
It is true that at young ages, and in early school grades, many children will struggle to pick up a lot of knowledge. That does not mean it is too early to introduce lessons. You never know how a young person might react.
Introducing Piano Lessons at School
As we’ve already stated, a huge number of schools already offer some form of music lessons. This might not extend to piano lessons, however. In fact, lots of schools have rooms full of keyboards and no real lesson structure to learn to play them.
There are a few different ways that piano lessons can be introduced within schools:
If you already offer music lessons within a school environment, group lessons on piano can be introduced. This comes with complications. Not everybody will learn at the same pace, and this can make it tough for teachers.
One way group lessons can be made easier is ensuring each student has an interactive way to learn. Pianu Academy is the perfect solution. It can provide real-time feedback on your playing, so you know if you have made an error. This way, all the kids in a class can be at different stages on their journey. They can also enjoy a personalized experience without a teacher having to give each of them individual feedback.
Individual lessons are often popular, too. One of the reasons is that they can take place outside of school hours. Often, there is a cost attached to this.
These lessons may be something parents choose to get their kids involved in. If the lessons are not a part of the curriculum, they can still have similar benefits. One of the best things about optional individual lessons is that kids that show promise can participate. If a young person doesn’t have any interest, there’s no reason to force it.
Just like group lessons, individual lessons can also be aided by online piano lessons. Pianu’s Academy is one of the best ways to continue with the lessons and new skills you have learned. It allows people to feel supported through every step of their lessons.
Whether someone has a tutor or not, they can learn using Pianu. As well as the Academy guiding you through all of the very basic steps of playing, through to more advanced techniques, the course also offers full song lessons. Whether you love Queen, The Beatles, Taylor Swift, or Beethoven, there are lessons for you.
Pianu is a manageable cost for people who want to learn piano. For schools, a bulk license can be a way to help all your students if they are interested in piano.
What Equipment Do You Need?
As well as asking when kids can start lessons, you should think about equipment. How much equipment do you need?
Of course, for a school, kitting out a room with a lot of acoustic pianos is not realistic. Fortunately, digital pianos and keyboards have got to the point where they offer all the quality needed. Even a basic keyboard or MIDI keyboard can help with your learning journey.
Most schools are already equipped with some for of laptop or computer setup. On top of this, all you need to add is a piano or keyboard capable of connecting via USB. This is technology that most modern keyboards have.
You can also set up workstations individually with headphones. This means that everyone can hear what they are doing individually. It can also help kids to be more confident during their practice and not worry what people think.
Pianu is the missing piece when it comes to lessons. Logging into Pianu gives your kids the chance to learn at their own pace. You can go through the whole of the Academy before learning songs. It is structured in a way to keep things interesting, and the course is split into bite-sized chunks. That way, it is not overwhelming even for kids.
What age should kids start learning with Pianu? Well, the answer is “whenever they are ready”. You can try the course with a seven day free trial and see if it is right for your children.
What Age Should Children Learn to Read Music?
There are different schools of thought on reading music. Sheet music exists so that musical ideas are easy to communicate. It is a skill to be able to read music. However, it isn’t always essential.
The Pianu Academy teaches how to read music. It is definitely worth trying to teach your kids, but not essential. They can pick up plenty of melodies and skills without the ability to read music. This is something you can then teach them at a later date.
Learning to read music is a challenge for people of any age. It can be a great exercise for your kids, but it is not the only way to do things these days.
Summary – The Right Age to Learn Piano
Of course, the truth is that there isn’t one specific age you should learn how to play the piano. Young children may struggle if they haven’t quite got to grips with their motor skills. Attention span is another challenge for many kids. However, it is a good idea to try and challenge children to learn from a young age. This can help them with their development and even spark a lifelong interest in music.
Schools can benefit hugely from music lessons. We’ve explored more on this topic here. It is also easier than ever to provide the technology and tools to learn piano, so even the youngest among us can give it a go. You’re never too young to experience the benefits of music.
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