best age for starting piano

One of the big topics of discussion among parenting groups in my neighborhood is music lessons. What’s the best age for starting piano? Violin? Guitar? When I wanted to know, I went straight to my sister-in-law, Erin. Percussion teaching was her major in college, and she’s currently a piano teacher. (Did you know piano is considered a percussion instrument? It’s in the same family as drums!) Here’s what Erin says:

As a piano teacher, the question I am most asked is: “When should my child start piano lessons?” Keep in mind that my goal for my students is that music will be an enriching part of their lives, a creative outlet, a useful skill and playing the piano may serve as a bridge to other kinds of musical education and instruction. I do not approach this from a competitive viewpoint.

Question 1: Has your child learned to read?

After a child starts to read is an excellent time for them to start playing the piano, around age 6-8. The mechanics of reading come in handy when learning to read music and it’s helpful if they can read practice instructions. By this point they are also learning how to be responsible for their own homework and gaining greater independence in completing tasks. But there isn’t necessarily a “magic” age. I have students that started to play the piano at age 10 and 12 and they progress more quickly than the younger student and have the strength and dexterity to play more complex music from the beginning. I also have students that started much younger who do beautifully partly because of the time their parents spent helping them practice:

Question 2: Do you have time to help your child practice?

The younger the child, the more time you will need to spend helping them practice. If they can’t read you will need to sit down with them everyday. If they can read you may just need to help them for a few minutes at the beginning of practice the first few days after lessons. Of course, this is also dependent on personality. My daughter started at age 5. I had more time to spend with her and once I got her started, she was able to do some practicing on her own. My son is turning 7 soon and I tried to start lessons with him. He wants me with him every time he practices, but I don’t have the time right now, so we’ll wait until he’s a little older and begin again. He also wasn’t very excited about playing the piano, which brings us to question three:

Question 3: Does your child talk about playing the piano or try to play the piano?

If they are excited about it, they are more likely to be self-motivated to practice and the better they practice, the more successful they will be and the more they will enjoy playing the piano.

If you can answer “yes” to two of the above questions, consider starting piano lessons with your child.


Thank you, Erin! I really appreciate definitive advice like that so I’m not forced to guess.

What about you, Dear Readers? Have you found success starting your kids with piano lessons at a certain age? What’s your advice?

P.S. — Painting a piano. And my favorite ukulele for kids.


Credits: Photo by Kristen Loken for Design Mom