A handy guide for parents of young, budding pianists
Are you thinking about enrolling your child in piano lessons?
Learning to play the piano can be a great experience for your child. However, sometimes as parents we can become so excited about our child learning the piano that we forget to make sure they’re actually ready!
Having worked as a piano teacher for over 16 years, I’ve developed a pretty good idea of things you can do to prepare your child to take piano lessons. While some of these steps simply involve waiting (waiting for them to grow, to learn, and to mature), there are also plenty of things you can do to help prepare your child for piano lessons. While every child is different, this checklist for preparing them to take lessons applies to all young potential pianists.
Expose Your Child to Music
One of the best things you can do to prepare your child to take piano lessons is to expose them to music – especially piano music. After all, why would your child be interested in learning to play an instrument when they don’t know what it sounds like, or what it can do?
There are lots of things you can do to expose kids to piano music. For instance, you can take your child to piano recitals at the Sydney Opera House, or the Sydney Conservatorium (which offers some free concerts). You could also watch my “Piano Fingers” showcase page, where your child will see several examples of other young children performing on the piano.
I also suggest that you try to play music in the background at home. One good, free place to start is to listen to radio stations such as ABC Classic FM (92.9 FM in Sydney). You can also buy recordings for your children to listen to. I particularly recommend Mozart and Bach, as the first years of your child’s piano journey will focus on classical piano. However, you can also expose them to other genres such as jazz.
Teach Them Their Left and Right
Playing the piano requires an understanding of the difference between left and right, the ability to tell the two apart, and the ability to control and use each side of the body independent of the other side. Teaching your child their left and right is one of the most simple and important things you can do to prepare them to take piano lessons. By making it a fun activity you do together, it can also be a great bonding exercise!
Make Sure Your Child Knows the Alphabet
Music employs its own alphabet – F A C E G B D, which your child will become familiar with as they begin taking piano lessons. But first they must be familiar with the English alphabet. As such, an important step in preparing your child for music lessons of any kind is to teach them the alphabet. If you make learning the alphabet as fun and interesting as possible, this will help your child to learn.
One Reason You May Need to Wait
Many young children have difficulty differentiating between letters such as “b” and “d”, or “p” and “q”. If your child confuses these letters, they will almost certainly confuse the written musical alphabet too. It’s normal for a young child to struggle with this aspect of reading, so don’t worry! You just need to be patient and encouraging. You may also want to speak to your child’s school teacher to learn how you can help your child to overcome this difficulty.
Teach Your Child Basic Reading Skills
Playing music involves reading. Before your child begins to learn to read music, they must learn basic reading skills. They need to know that reading involves going from the left to the right, and they need to demonstrate that they can do this by reading simple sentences or children’s books. Once your child can read words, they will be ready to read music.
Check Their Concentration Levels
The reality is that if your child can’t concentrate for at least ten minutes at a time, they’re not ready to take piano lessons. We might all occasionally wish it were otherwise, but concentration skills can’t be forced on a child (although you may be able to help them learn).
Try testing your child to see if they are able to concentrate for ten minutes at a time. One easy way to do this is to sit them on a chair and start asking them simple maths questions, such as “3+2=?”. Young children think with their feet. If they start moving their legs and feet, you’ll know they’re not concentrating.
Be Prepared to Invest in a Piano
In an ideal world, you would have an acoustic piano (i.e. not an electric keyboard) for your child to practice on from the moment they begin taking lessons, but I’m enough of a realist to know that this isn’t always possible right from the get-go. After all, pianos are expensive, and require space in your home.
However, once your child has been taking piano lessons for a year, it’s time to seriously consider getting them a real piano to play on. Proper piano techniques such as playing with a relaxed hand and fingers, and producing different sounds, tones, and colours, cannot be taught or practiced without a proper acoustic piano.
Always talk to your piano teacher first before buying a new piano. My advice is to stick to popular brands such as Yamaha and Kawai. I also have partnerships with some of the piano and music stores around Sydney, so my students can get discounts for instruments.
Wait Until Your Child is 5 Years Old
This can be a somewhat controversial topic, but as an experienced piano teacher, I can assure you that most children under five years old are not ready to learn the piano. Children under five generally can’t read very well (if at all), they don’t know their alphabet or their left and right, and they have very short attention spans. In other words, they don’t yet meet the criteria we’ve been discussing.
Five years isn’t very old, and as any parent can attest, the time flies! In the meantime, you can concentrate on helping your child to prepare by following the guidelines I’ve outlined above.
Recipe for Success
Letting your child begin piano lessons when they’re ready, and not before, will improve their learning experience and mean they will become a better pianist, sooner. If you teach your child the alphabet, reading and their left and right, and expose them to piano music, you will prepare them for the first steps in their musical journey.
Over to You
Do you have any questions about preparing your child for piano lessons, or other thoughts you would like to share? Then I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Did you find this article helpful? Do you know someone who is planning on enrolling their child in piano lessons? Give this post a friendly share on social media so your friends and followers can learn about preparing their child for piano lessons too.
[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”7262185″]