Is there an age limit on music lessons?
A magic number where suddenly students are ready to learn music?
I wasn’t allowed to start piano lessons till I was 7. I don’t really now why, except that that was when everyone else in my family had started music lessons. I certainly began playing piano much earlier than that though – ever since I could, really.
It’s a common thought that children are ‘ready’ for music lessons when they turn 7. And, as an educator, I do think that it is an age where students begin to have the energy for extra-curricular activities, and the attention span to sit still with an instrument for at least 10 minutes.
But does that mean music lessons are not for younger students?
Well, that depends.
I once had a music student who was three years old when I started giving her piano lessons (although I believed her to be 4). She was not ready, and I don’t claim to have taught her the piano. She threw tantrums, ran away, didn’t sit down, hid behind the stereo and flat out refused to play the instrument. But she loved me, and she learned a lot of music from our lessons together.
Another student I had was 4. He also struggled to sit still for long periods of time, occasionally threw tantrums, ran away and refused to talk to me. But he did learn a lot of music (and actually a surprising amount of piano) from our lessons together.
Essentially, I had become an early years music teacher.
So why did I agree to teach these students, when that was not my qualification (at the time)?
The short answer is this: because their parents had reasonable expectations of the outcome.
What goes wrong for young students is that they are given expectations that are not reasonable. They are expected to be able to sit still, process information, follow instructions and engage in conversation with their teacher, all at the same time. I say this is the expectation because this behaviour is how they will learn to ‘play the piano’ in the way their parents expect them.
This is not achievable for the vast majority of children.
I am not disappointed that I didn’t start piano lessons younger. I used to think that it might have meant I was more advanced, but I sometimes wonder if those few years of just exploring sound without any expectation set me up to be the musician I am today.
But I have a young student, and they’re not learning anything?!you.
Well, maybe it’s time to rethink your lesson.
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