What is the best age to start learning the piano? There are 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; you will need to sit with your child everyday whilst they practice and attend their lessons too. 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. Therefore, 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 as 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.
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
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