As a parent of two little ones, I often catch myself observing their interests and activities, trying to figure out what potential talents they have, then finding ways to foster and grow those talents. Have you watched your child play around with music and wonder if he/she is a budding Mozart? You may start to wonder, when should they start lessons? Where? With whom? How much will this all cost? As a piano teacher, I encounter many of these questions. Here’s a quick guide to help you determine the next step you should take with your child and piano lessons.
1. When Should I Sign up My Child for Piano Lessons?
There is no one age that applies to all children. It really depends on each individual and their development. One child may be ready sooner than another child. Instead of focusing on a number, answer these questions first:
2. Does Your Child Know the Difference Between the Left and Right Hands?
A huge part of playing the piano relies on knowing the right hand from the left, and eventually the child will have to perform two different actions with his or her hands. Knowing the difference is essential when beginning piano lessons.
3. Are Your Child's Fingers Ready?
A child will have to learn how to press down piano keys individually with his or her fingers. If children are too young, their hands may not be big enough and their fingers may not be physically developed to play individual piano keys with proper form.
4. Can Your Child Sit Still for Longer Segments of Time and Follow Simple Directions?
Piano lessons consist mostly of the child sitting at a bench and listening to instructions given by the teacher. If the child is high-energy or has a shorter attention span, the resourceful teacher should find ways to keep the child engaged with “off the bench” games and activities that reinforce the concepts being taught. But even then, the child should be able to sit at the bench for longer chunks of time.
5. Is My Child Ready to Develop the Discipline of Practicing on a Daily Basis? Am I Ready and Able to Provide Support and Guidance During This Time?
One of the greatest benefits of piano lessons is the potential for the child to develop discipline habits. However, discipline doesn’t just happen. It needs to be encouraged and cultivated with the help of an adult. While a few children are self-motivated and are able to practice without prompting, young children starting lessons need to have an adult sitting with them while they learn how to practice.
6. My Child Is Ready for Piano Lessons. What Should I Look for in a Teacher?
Find a teacher who has classical training. This doesn’t necessarily apply to all instruments, but learning piano definitely requires a teacher who has received classical training.
Find a teacher who is flexible in his/her approach with each student. An experienced teacher should recognize that each student will have different learning styles, personality types, and music preferences, and that teacher should plan the music lessons accordingly.
Find a teacher who offers rates that are comparable to the other teachers in the area. If they are under-charging, be aware that you may “get what you pay for” and your child may not receive a quality music education.
Find a teacher who is actively involved with music in the community and/or continuing education for the profession. Teachers who make an effort to improve their skills as musicians and teachers indicate they are devoted to the goal of being the best teachers they can be.
7. What Kind of Piano Do We Need?
The best you can afford. You are making an investment in your child’s music education. No child wants to practice on a low-quality instrument. The ideal piano that I recommend for a beginning piano student is a full-size (88 keys) acoustic piano or digital keyboard with weighted keys. Weighted keys help children develop the muscles in their arms, hands, and fingers to develop good form and good technique. If you purchase an acoustic piano, make sure you get it tuned on a regular basis.
Marcy Wankerl is the lesson program director at Morgan Music in Eau Claire (morganmusiconline.com). She has taught piano and music for 10 years, is an active member of the Chippewa Valley Music Teachers Association, and has a passion for instilling the love of music in her students. She is also the mom of two hilarious and adorable girls with a little boy on the way.