Are you ever too young or too old?

What is the best age to start learning the piano? There are so many different opinions on this topic and are therefore bound to be disagreements. Some believe in order to play effectively you need to start aged two or three years old but that really isn’t the case. Several piano friends and colleagues who started at a very early age consequently lost interest in their teens and stopped altogether, sadly ‘burning out’. Similarly there are those who have begun at the age of four but have not been taught properly or haven’t really addressed technical issues adequately, so they still don’t play to a professional level as adults. Conversely, a couple of friends who are now concert pianists started learning aged twelve or thirteen years old! My introduction to the piano was at the relatively late age of ten.

At my last talk I met several parents who were keen to start their children aged just four. I didn’t dissuade them because ultimately it’s a personal choice, and if the parent is keen to put in hours of time (yes, that’s right, you will need to sit with your child everyday whilst they practice and attend their lessons too!) then perhaps their child will progress rapidly. A four or five-year old will have a hard time grasping the more demanding aspects of piano playing. They must be able to add up, keep a pulse (or beat), know the alphabet, read fluently and be able to multi-task as well as interact with a teacher. So it’s worth bearing all that in mind when you are considering lessons. Of course, there are many exceptions where children have started playing at a very young age and become fantastic players, but it’s not the norm.

The majority of children benefit from beginning to play aged around seven or eight years old. By this age they can converse with a teacher fully and don’t need too much parental help. Undoubtedly the most crucial determining factor is the child’s readiness to begin; do they feel excited and interested in learning? If so, then they are ready to play. They will be expected to put in a lot of time practising and working at their playing, so it’s imperative that they actually want to do it.

You are never too old to learn to play the piano. Adults often start learning in retirement and not only get much enjoyment and pleasure from this pastime, but sometimes go on to take exams and play at festivals too. A few of my adult pupils play to a high standard and take it very seriously, love practising and find it keeps their brain active. Muscles are less pliable with age and there are some limitations, but what they lack in movement they compensate for in concentration and persistence. Many adults are able to assimilate the mental demands piano playing presents much more swiftly than children, allowing them to make steady uninterrupted progress.

Piano playing is a great hobby and the crucial factor when deciding when to start is whether you feel excited, motivated and hopefully stimulated to have a go – good luck!

You can purchase my book, So You Want To Play The Piano?, which is packed with practice tips and important piano information, here.

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11 thoughts on “Are you ever too young or too old?

  1. I started playing the piano at age 27. It was my desire to learn most of my life but I did not have the opportunity until adulthood. My goal was to be able to play a song that could be recognized as a song. God has blessed me so much. I was able to learn to play hymns and play the organ so well that within a few years, I started playing in church. I am now 66 years old and have been taking piano lessons again to become more musical and even started writing arrangements and medleys. Through out the almost 40 years of my piano career, I have played piano and organ for several churches and several different styles. I have taken lessons on and off several times to improve my playing and even participated in a couple of contests.. I went through a time of depression when I did not want to play at all. I am retired now and have begun volunteering with a hospice company and have started playing at nursing homes. I have been “filling in” for a small church near me for 4 years that does not have a pianist (I am a member of another church). I am even considering some college courses. I am very thankful that God has given me this gift. I especially enjoy new music and am an excellent sight reader. One of my early teachers advised me to play through hymnals from first page through the last in order to develop sight reading skills. Since I am a committed Christian and already sang in choirs, etc., this was very enjoyable for me and I have continued this practice. Other more experienced and college trained musicians are amazed that I can play so well after starting at such an “advanced” age especially how well I an play hymns. I enjoy reading your blogs even though I know that I probably cannot attain concert pianist status but I can enjoy playing for churches, nursing homes, etc.

    • Hi Florence,
      What a lovely story – thank you for sharing this and many congratulations. It just goes to prove that you are NEVER too old to play – it’s wonderful that you enjoy sharing your talent with the community too. I was always told to sight read hymns too and found them an excellent way of improving. I also know all about not wanting to play due to depression. I experienced a similar thing when I was treated for cancer a few years ago.
      I really hope you continue to enjoy your playing – so glad you like my blog too,
      Melanie 🙂

  2. I have recently got to know a new local piano teacher who is specialising in “early years” teaching: her youngest pupil is 3 which I think is too young. Personally, I agree with your points, Mel, that the best age for a child to start learning the piano is around six or seven. Reading and understanding music are quite advanced/involved skills and I do not believe a younger child will be able to grasp these concepts, especially if they can’t read. The ability to communicate with the teacher is also crucial as the interaction between teacher and pupil is an important aspect of the learning process. I think I was 5 or 6 when I started having lessons.

  3. Before starting my own business I was working for somebody else in a music store in York, a lady came into the store and said to me that she wanted a keyboard. She went on to tell me that she had played piano when she was younger, hadn’t played for a few years but wanted to learn again. I told her she didn’t want a keyboard she actually wanted a weighted-action portable piano (a common mistake) and proceeded to demonstrate a Yamaha P-95.

    During the course of the conversation I tried as politely as possible to ask when she last played. She told me that she had played when she was younger, had given up at the age of 16 but was now keen to play again. As politely as possible, I said that I wouldn’t normally ask a lady how old she was but would she mind if I asked how old she was now. She told me, she was 84. To save you the maths, she hadn’t played for 68 years!

    I often tell this story to customers in my piano store and to people generally when they ask if they are too old too learn. It really is never too old to learn. If you have a desire to learn and are prepared to put in the practice then I would urge you to do so, so many people get so much enjoyment out of learning an instrument at just about any age.

  4. Pingback: Are you ever too young or too old? | ClassicalMel's Piano and Music … | Learn Piano Lessons

  5. I love music and always want to play piano but never had chance to do it. My family was too poor in China. When I came in Canada I had to fight to survive first. Now I am at the age of 50 and wanted to play piano so badly. I just got a used piano and started playing it this summer. My teacher didn’t say I am too old to learn but I can see what she means from her eyes. When I felt difficulty I thought maybe I am too old to play. Am I crazy to start at this age ? What can I expect my skill to be like ? After reading messages here I am encouraged. Thanks a lot.

  6. Thanks for the encouragement, Melanie. I needed this. A bit of history, I started piano lessons at around the age of 10 and soon became bored with it. Oh, how I hated to practice. I was learning and practicing pieces that I knew nothing about and did nothing for me. Other things were closer to my interests and I dropped the piano lessons after just a few years. My piano teacher was sad to see that; she told my Mum I had excellent musical ability and would likely return to music in some form eventually.

    She was right in a way. I started and ran a mobile DJ company for 19 years. Age and poor economic times allowed me to retire the DJ company. It was a blast while it lasted, we travelled and made many new friends over the years.

    I am now 57 and am considering taking up the piano again. I’ve always loved music and, to a degree regret not sticking with the piano when I had the opportunity. Oddly enough, I remember some of what I learned from reading sheet music although I will have to relearn sight reading and fingering technique. By the way, my Mum played advanced piano and was an inspiration for my love of music.

    A Casio PX350 is in my near future; figure I should start right with weighted keys and tones that emulate an acoustic piano. I understand that I’ll never be a concert pianist and that’s OK. That’s not my desire. I just want to learn to sight read and play at my own pace.

    All the best and thank you again. :o)

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