What is the best age to start formal music lessons?

When should my child start formal music lessons?

This is the most frequently asked question from parents! I have a strong opinion about this as I really care about children and their love for music making. I highly suggest waiting until the following elements are ALL there:

1. Wait until your child has basic music competence. This involves having the ability to sing in tune (in any key for an entire song) and to keep an accurate beat (in duple, triple and asymmetric meters).

2. Make sure your child has 30 minutes of solid focus. 30 minutes is a long time for a child — 30 minutes without talking to the teacher about the frog they saw in school, or 30 minutes without leaving the piano to go do something else. Most children do not develop this focus until they are 6 years old.

3. Wait until your child has great eye-hand coordination and excellent fine motor skills. Can your child hold a pencil correctly? Does he or she have enough strength to throw and catch a small ball?

4. Wait until the child ASKS for lessons. If the request comes from the child instead of from you, there’s great excitement for everyone. I suggest taking your children to as many live music performances as possible and talking afterwards about the instruments and pieces you heard. At Prelude Music Classes for Children, we put on more than 10 family concerts a year, where your children can sing along to string quartets, harps, and wind or brass ensembles. Your children can also talk to the musicians after the concert and ask them questions! And there are lots of other performances in our city for children: Take a look at the family series by Mercury — The Orchestra Redefined, The Houston Symphony, Musiqua, and more!

5. Once your child has met all of the above requirements, be sure to find a teacher who understands early childhood music development — and childhood development in general. This is MUCH more important than signing up with a famous teacher. What children need is encouragement to PLAY their instruments and to enjoy the process! The product (performance) will come from great encouragement and joy for music making. If you need help finding teachers in Houston, please contact us. We have a list of teachers who meet this criteria.

Unfortunately, many students who start lessons too young end up quitting or hating the process. It is, for example, too difficult to play an instrument without having a solid music foundation, and that is basic music competence (see #1 above). And if your child’s hands and eyes are not ready (see #3 above), it is too difficult for them to be joyful trying to do something their body can’t do yet.

If you expose your children to music making — and live musical experiences — from a young age, chances are high that they will ask for lessons! They also love to see other children making music, so once you find some teachers or schools that have recitals with 7- through 10-year-olds, take your child to those performances!

Our goal in a Music Together®® class is to help young children achieve basic music competence. This process takes years of singing, dancing, and feeling the beat in their bodies. We do this is in a playful, non-performance-based environment using repertoire that is musically rich. Young children are not developmentally ready to perform, and if they are forced to do so, they might quit forever.

If you do not have a Music Together class near you, sing with your child every day, and sing and listen to music from all over the world — not just songs in major mode, but songs in all kinds of tonalities and meters. This will help your child’s musical development.

Playing an instrument can be such a pleasure and a joy. In our home, we often have “musical desserts” after dinner. When my children were younger, we would make music as a family singing and or dancing to one or two of our Music Together songs. Now, we play, sing, or dance with and for each other. You too can do this!

Our daughter started piano at age 5 and our son at age 6. They both enjoy their lessons and their short daily practice. Our daughter also started violin lessons at age 6, and our son is just exploring with violin now (he’s 6-1/2). They both LOVE to make music and PLAY! That said, I have many professional musician friends who started lessons much later in life. A child is NOT behind if they start playing an instrument at age 10 or later! What’s important is having basic music competence prior to starting any instrument.