We have many calls asking about piano lessons for children age 4-5. Generally, we do not recommend private music lessons for children this young. Our experience has been that children this age start out very excited, but quickly loose interest and become frustrated as the lessons progress. The end result is a child who drops out after a month or two. Even more importantly, the child is turned off of piano lessons in the future because of their negative experience at this young age - a very real downside.
Why does this happen? Well, generally, young children lack the physical dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and especially the attention span for private lessons. Early lessons, where the child is only playing one or two notes or the hands are kept in one position on the keyboard, are fun and easy for the child to grasp, and they are excited to quickly “play songs.” However, when we start moving to different places on the piano, the child becomes frustrated as they never really grasped the concepts of notes and rhythms.
Is there a strong benefit to starting private piano instruction very early? Not in our experience. Older children, who are able to read, move much more quickly, and as a result "catch up” to students who started earlier. Based on our experience and our discussions with many other music professionals, the child who starts at age 4 and the child who starts at age 7 will both be at the same place at the age of 8. We have found our that almost all students who start lessons at age 5 or younger will drop out within 6 months, while students who start after age 6 will generally continue their studies for three or more years.
That doesn't mean that we don't believe in music education for children! Exposing children to music at a young age is extremely beneficial, but remember a great deal of that benefit is simply from listening and being exposed to a wide range of songs, music types and tonalities. We frequently have the idea that structured lessons are the best choice, when a young child benefits from less structure and more free exploration. Young children also benefit from activities that include both music and movement. Children must first experience the concept of rhythm in their bodies through movement activities such as marching to a steady beat before they are able to grasp the concept of rhythm in their minds.
We believe that the Kindermusik for the Young Child class is the best music curriculum available for children in Kindergarten and first grade. This class teaches the same music concepts as private lessons in a developmentally appropriate way to help maintain and increase the child's interest in music. Based on our experience with young children and the needs of the community for early piano lessons, we have added beginning keyboard instruction to this award-winning Kindermusik program. This allows parents to have the best of both worlds- a fabulous general music program combined with beginning keyboard skills that will engage your child, and ensure a strong foundation in rhythms, note reading and other important concepts needed to succeed in further music instruction. We call this new combined class "Kindergarten Keys."
Children ages 5 - 7 (as well as older 4 year olds at the teacher's discretion) may enroll in the two year Kindermusik for the Young Child / Kindergarten Keys program. This class is designed to introduce the fundamentals of music theory to children in a fun group setting. Children learn to play the glockenspiel, a dulcimer, and a recorder, which helps to prepare them for private music instruction and establishes good practice habits. The class includes a great deal of movement, dancing, singing, and other fun activities. The gradual class progression builds on each fundamental learned- we start with the concept of a steady beat,and then move into reading rhythms. These rhythms are played on sticks, drums, and other percussion instruments as well as on keyboards. Children will write their own rhythms and take down rhythms from teacher dictation using manipulatives and flashcards. We sing simple two and three note songs and then learn the notes and put them on a staff. Once these concepts are mastered, the notes and rhythms are put together. The gradual progression means that children become very confident and secure in these very important musical concepts. All Kindermusik classes are based on the most up-to-date research in child development and are based on the music education concepts of Kodaly-Orff.
When children have completed this course, they have learned the same concepts they would have learned in private lessons- they can read rhythms, notes, know about measures and the musical staff, and in addition have learned about composers such as Mozart and Bach and music from around the world. They have also had practice in good practice habits as they are given weekly assignments, but the practice has not been too overwhelming for them. As a result, they are still excited about coming to music class! Because they have learned to play their songs on multiple instruments, they have not learned the bad habit of playing "finger numbers" instead of notes (which is common in beginning piano students.) They are primed to succeed in private lessons, and in most cases will move at an accelerated pace when they begin private instruction.
If your child is still in Pre-K or is very active or energetic, we recommend Kindermusik Imagine That! This class, for ages 3-5, helps young children explore music, percussion instruments, and simple musical terms such as accelerando and glissando. Children will have the opportunity to explore the keyboard in this class, and will explore concepts such as high and low, loud and soft, and fast and slow on the keyboard. These very young children will not yet be "playing songs," but will be learning important concepts and terminology they will use in later lessons. More importantly, they will be exposed to a wide range of music in a variety of styles and tonalities. This class is a good choice for very active 4 and 5 yr olds who have a hard time sitting still.
We hope to see you in class!