An extremely common question we receive is how young can a child begin learning music lessons. As with most questions that deal with music, the answer is ‘it depends’. There are many factors to consider when deciding what instrument to start your child on.
We always tell prospects that the two instruments that a child will most likely be able to start on if they are as young as 4 or 5 is either the drums or piano. The two most important factors to consider when deciding is how broad the child’s attention span is and how meticulous the instrument is that they are trying to play. Chances are that a 4 or 5 year old child does not have a very broad attention span. This means that for an instrument to be interesting to a child that young, their interest needs to be captured quickly. This is achieved by giving them an instrument where they can feel like they are accomplishing something practically right away and this is what a drum set or a piano offers. Any child can grab a stick, hit the toms and cymbals, and hear the sound that a drum set is supposed to produce. This excites the child immediately. Furthermore, any child can play single notes on a piano and make them sound exactly how a note is supposed to sound and this can also immediately capture their interest. This is due to the fact that these instruments are not very meticulous in their nature. An interesting tactic that we have successfully used recently in helping kids become immediately interested in piano is that an instructor will play a simple 2 chord groove in the key of F sharp and tell the child to play any black keys they want. Since all the black keys are part of the key of F sharp, it sounds pleasant to the ear and at the same time is fun for the child to play. No other instrument really offers these aspects. A guitar, for example, requires meticulous and careful fingering that is placed in the absolute perfect positions and then strummed at the same time to produce a pleasant sound. This is very difficult to teach a 4 or 5 year old child to do in a short period of time. Same with something like the flute, violin, bass, guitar, and even vocals.
Although a guitar, violin, or flute may have a lesser likelihood of capturing the child’s interest, this doesn’t mean a prospective child student should automatically not give an instrument like that a chance. When it comes to guitar, most 4 and 5 year olds will have difficulty strumming a chord or not complaining that their fingers hurt when they press on the strings but we have had many success stories of 5 year olds starting on guitar and becoming very successful at it. One of our vocal instructors has always had a strict starting age of 7 to begin vocal lessons. But as of today she has a 5 year old and a 6 year old student on her roster that have been taking lessons for months and are doing absolutely well. We also have many 5 year old guitar students as well. This just goes to show that although we recommend certain ages, one size does not fit all.
With all of that said, the great thing about the Music Lab is that the first lesson is free so it never hurts to try and see if a 5 year old child seems to be showing much more interest in a guitar rather than drums or piano. If it doesn’t work out, you can always switch! After all, they are only 4 or 5 years old so they have plenty of time to find their niche. J
Here is a list of instruments and the ages that are loosely recommended by us as far as starting age. These are just approximate numbers. We definitely have a number of students taking lessons with us at ages smaller than these for their respective instruments and they are absolutely successful at it. Use this as a loose guideline combined with your child’s knowledge of attention span, understanding of left/right, etc…
Bass Guitar: 7