Piano Lessons: Is it ok to start them early?

 

Two year old son tinkles piano with full expression.

Two year old son tinkles piano with full expression.

 

 

Many piano teachers find teaching children ages 3 to 4 challenging.  Actually, there are many proponents of delaying formal piano lesson until 5 to 6 years old.  This age range is the right age for emotionally maturity in piano lessons.  It will also jive with the child’s mascular development and avoid  problems later on.  

Well, I have great success teaching children in the range of 3-4 years old even before they can actually recognize the alphabet (A-G)) or the numbers (1-5).  But, was it easy?  No.  Was it worth it? YES!

When I studied in the Conservatory for my piano degree, I have several classmates who were concert pianists and child prodigies.  I am in awe at their finger’s dexterity, velocity and artistry.  There is precision and accuracy.   Even with their advanced knowledge and skill, we still get to have classes together in the subjects like Music History and other academic general arts and sciences subjects.  

They are the “favorites” of the professors because they are representing the quality of our university.  But, I tried not to be intimidated by their persona and try to mingle with them as often as I can.  I found out that they started their formal piano lessons at 3 years of age.  Their mother was their first teacher and they eventually found another teacher in the process.  

So, there is an exposure to music already.  There is also an interest.  We all know that we cannot force a 3 year old to do what we want.  

I know that at such a young age, my parents would tell me that I am drawn to the piano.  I would tinkle it and enjoy the sound that came from it.  My parents knew that I would be a pianist.  But, they could not find a teacher willing to take me in at 3 years old.  My parents have no background in music except that my father is a solo tenor singer at a Catholic Church. 

When I had my two boys, none of them was showing interest in piano studies though they were exposed to it a lot.  So, I decided to wait and not push them.  

But, when I started to convince them, my oldest son at 11 went through three levels of a typical piano method in three seatings.    My other son at 8 years old, maybe went into two levels right away.  The oldest son lost steam right away, the other son persevered and started formal piano lessons with me.  It is at this point that I decided to start accepting students other than my children. 

Three parents found me wanting to teach their children at 3 years old.  I warned them that there is a dearth of piano method for this age group in 2003.  And, that I have to do a lot of customizing the lessons.  They agreed.  

I taught these children  the music alphabet and numbers, keyboard geography, lots of movement to feel the note beats.  They also learned a lot of music theory.  But, the challenge was to make them play.    My goal is to let them touch the piano and learn a skill in every lesson.  Sometimes, the child is manipulating their parents and won’t do anything because of a tantrum.  

I persevered and the parents persevered.  It seems like a long journey but there were lots of positive developments in the child’s academic life as well.  Their math skills were taking shape and they were leading the class.  So, when I started math tutoring, you could just imagine how many students I got just from the older siblings and friends of my parent’s students.  

I have some success stories and I have failures too.  But, after two years, all these children that dropped out went back to me to resume their piano lessons.  I understood that their parents did not have the patience to stand the tantrums and emotional immaturity and pay for it.  

But, my success stories are also worthy.  Matthew is performing well in his academic life.  At 5 years old, he was tackling level 2 piano methods.  One day, he just grew up.

I plan to take only a few students in this age group but what is a priority for me is more the parent’s commitment and understanding of the process.  Their goals must be long term.

7 Comments

  1. How can I find a teacher such as yourself that would be willing to teach my 3 and 4 year old daughters? I live in Stockton, CA. Thanks!

  2. It is possible to teach four year olds, but this is the exception. I’ve had success at this age level only when the parents supplement at home in practice asistance.

    Congratulations on having success at that level. Personally I would always recommend a minimum age of five, with an better starting age being at six or seven.

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    I’m afraid the piano teachers for the age group of 3 to 4 are not organized, that is, there is no association or group. Thus, it is very difficult to find a teacher who specializes in this age group. The methods are still evolving so I would suggest you enroll first in a group program and keep your eyes and ears open for a piano teacher.

    I wished you were in our area. Good Luck.

    Mrs. Treasures

  4. Hi Dan,
    Thanks for your comments. I actually enjoy that age group (3 and 4) and as I said in my blog, it is very difficult to get a methods book on this group to make my life easier. But, probably this is one area I can specialize in. I don’t even require these kids to practice at home but parents say that they insist on goofing around the piano. I had one kid who just turned 4 years old and composed a song with notes on a sheet of paper and he interpreted it with the same notes several times. It is amazing.

  5. My 2 boys are now at nursery- 3 and 3/4 and 2 and 2 months and are starting to get very musical, so much so i’m in efffect teaching them the basics. I’d like to share my knowledge so what is the best way to piano/drum/guitar teach pre-schoolers??
    Regards. Ade

  6. Hi
    I teach piano and have just had a family approach me with their 2 and half yr old son. My youngest student ever is 4, and she appears to be exceptionally talented. My first meeting with this boy he was quiet un-happy as he had not had a long enough nap! So we’re going to try having morning lessons, but I have no idea what to do with him! Do you have any advice or suggests/lesson plans that have worked for you?
    Thanks,
    Bree

    • Even if a 4 year old can learn the piano, the maturity levels gets in the way. Thus, in my experience, I did a lot of preschool stuff to explain every single lesson. For example, to explain the technique of fingers moving up from C-D-E-F-G, with finger 1 on C, finger 2 on D, finger 3 on E, finger 4 on F, and finger 5 on G, I cut a green paper into green blades of grass. I cut out a bug to show how a bug goes up from the lowest height of the blade of grass to the next level up to the next level and so forth. And, then I let her move the bug herself from lowest to the highest height. And, then, we did it on her fingers in the keyboard. Tap finger 1 and let’s move up to finger 2 like how a bug moves up on the grass.

      You can get ideas from preschool books in the library in terms of activities.

      It is a lot of work and there were times, they were uncooperative. Do not take that personally. Kids just have bad days. The key is not to get stressed out about it and just enjoy the learning process. You might get guilty about the days were no lesson is done simply because the kid is having a tantrum. Parents force the kid to the lesson and I just wait patiently when they are willing to learn. If the parent succeeds and the child obeys, it becomes a very fruitful learning experience. I am always ready to give them a good lesson, it is up to the child if he or she wants to learn. But, I stay away from disciplining them.

      Other lesson is making up a song that will help them remember where the key is in the piano. For example, “Hey Diddle diddle, D is in the middle”. Then, I cut out a shape of the key of D in the piano and I sing a song and give them enough time to put the cut out Ds in their proper place in the keyboard. They love that very much. It is huge hit in my lessons.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      God Bless,
      Mrs Treasures


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s