Once their child is enrolled in a pre-school or kindergarten, one of the things that parents may fret over is the potential learning activities for their children.
Typically, most of us feel a bit anxious before starting something new. So before your child begins taking lessons, we would like to give you some useful tips. These may help you and your child have more fun with the piano.
Recently, we had the chance to speak with Yumi Sasada on the latest developments in piano lessons. Ms. Sasada holds seminars for piano teachers and also runs her own piano school. She also makes frequent radio appearances and writes on this topic.
Contributed by Yumi Sasada for the Roland Japan Blog
What age should my child begin piano lessons?
There is no clear-cut rule for how old your child should be before beginning piano lessons. That said, it is true that the starting age has been coming down. This is not just for piano lessons, but for many other learning activities.
But the key point here, is to ask how well these learning activities match up with your child’s physical and brain development.
Modern pianos that adults can play comfortably are huge from the perspective of young children. Violins come in child sizes, but not pianos. Piano keyboards are big and heavy for young children. They can place considerable pressure on their fingers. On top of that, piano playing engages your whole body, not just your fingers. Some say that children’s bone structures only begin to stabilize at around the age of six.
Sometimes, children are drawn to the piano at a young age and are able to play it well. Some children may start when they are not physically ready and have a hard time playing well. The student will also need the concentration to sit still when facing the keyboard. This is another aspect that will be different from one child to another.
By any measure, it is not too late to start piano lessons at primary school age. This is when your child’s physical and neural functions are more in balance. There are actually many children who start in their lower primary school years and go on to become excellent players. I think the important thing is to start at an age that is appropriate for your child.
What are some of the important things to keep in mind for very young children?
That being said, there are many children who begin taking piano lessons at kindergarten age. Some begin even earlier. Faculties that develop by leaps and bounds when a child is still very young include hearing, memory, judgment, recognition and thinking ability.
In other words, even if they are not physically mature enough to play the piano, these years can also be a time in their life when they can nurture the basics of their musical awareness. This is essential for them to express themselves musically. It also helps to strengthen their sensibilities and sense of time, as well as their ability to listen to sounds and to sing.
For this reason, activities such as eurhythmics and dancing are great when children are still young. They will be moving their bodies to experience rhythm and music. Consequently, this forms the basis for more expressive activities later on.
In our piano classes for younger children, we are moving towards more balanced and age-appropriate methods of instruction. Our emphasis is more on learning rhythm, notation, singing and ear training than on actually playing. And we also make sure that what the children do play, they can play with their small hands.
During your child’s early years, it would be great to make singing, dancing, storytelling and drawing pictures together a part of your everyday lives. This is also a very precious period of time in their lives, when they can hone their sensibilities through exposure to beauty and through experiences that nurture and enliven their hearts. My belief is that having music and a piano in their daily lives is one element that can have a significant impact on their development.
The key is to notice the changes in your child
The best way to find out whether your child is disposed towards music lessons is to observe them first. The most critical factor in deciding when your child should begin lessons is observing the changes that you see in them!
For example, if your child responds to music coming from the TV or in your car by singing along, moving their body, or becoming enthralled in dancing to it, it would be safe to say that your child is ready to take lessons. Some children may love moving their bodies but not be interested in music. So, a prerequisite would be that your child likes music!
Children often learn to play the xylophone in kindergarten and move on to the recorder later. If they enjoy playing it at home, or hear songs that they have not learned at kindergarten and then go and learn those songs on their own by ear, they may have a gift for music! Children like these are likely to do well.
There are other signs as well, such as if your child’s sibling or friend is already taking lessons and your child tries to mimic what they are doing. Or, perhaps your child will show signs that they want their siblings or friends to teach them.
So, please keep an eye on whether your child is responding to music and take note of these small signs to help you decide when to start their piano lessons.
Graduated from the Kunitachi College of Music (Department of Music Cultures & Education, Faculty of Music Studies). Studied piano with Yoshiko Koizumi and vocal training with Emiko Akiyama. While still in school, she became a demonstrator for Roland. After graduation, she taught music at a high school and then became a teacher of classical and popular piano for junior teachers.
She is currently director of the MUSIC OASIS VERDE school at her home. In addition to giving lessons and writing on this topic, she is also actively engaged in developing pre-school learning materials, course co-ordination and giving instructive seminars in many parts of the country. She is also featured as a live DJ at a community FM station and involved with program planning and production, as well as serving as navigator in musical events.