Why Early Years?
Many Piano teachers will tell you that the minimum age to start the piano is 5.
I agree with them – if we are talking about formal, structured piano lessons.
However, the approach I use – “Dogs and Birds” – is designed specifically for very young children and can be used from the age of 3. It is based on the famous Kodaly principles for music education and has been developed over the last 12 years by Elza Lusher who trained as a piano teacher at the Liszt Academy in Hungary.
To quote from the very informative Dogs and Birds website:
“As with any other language, the language of music is best learnt from an early age. The benefits of teaching music to very young children through the keyboard are enormous. As well as learning to read, sing and play music, they also develop a basic sense of pulse, and improve their inner ear”.
I learnt to play the piano from the age of 4, and learnt to read music at the same time as learning to read. In fact, I cannot remember there ever being a time when I could not read music – just like most of us probably can’t remember not being able to read.
And, whilst I am not suggesting that starting the piano young will automatically turn any child into a prodigy we should remember that Mozart was already composing by age 5 and Lang Lang started at 3, winning his first competition at 5!
Again, to quote from Dogs and Birds:
“Learning to play the keyboard or piano from an early age has a tremendously positive effect on a child’s development, in particular reading and maths. It also boosts memory and relaxation and teaches concentration, co-ordination, patience and perseverance. It is therefore an excellent preparation or support for schoolwork”.
The study of music engages both the left and right brain – the intellectual, logical half which is used in subjects such as maths and science – as well as the creative, intuitive part used in english, and art appreciation.
So studying music from a young age should help with a child’s academic achievement and school career. Is that all?
No. Developing a love for music is something that will be with the child for life – if taught effectively from the beginning. Whether or not they use music in any type of career, they will always have a very special past-time that will be with them throughout the highs and lows of their lives. In fact, studies show that being able to play music – and the piano, in particular – is an excellent form of stress relief (I write more about this here).
The piano will repay efforts from day one – no months of learning to create a beautiful sound with a screechy violin or breathy clarinet! It requires no accompaniment and yet is also an excellent form of accompaniment for all other instruments. Therefore playing the piano can be both a fulfilling solo pursuit or a way to create music with others in groups of any size. It is, in many ways, more difficult to learn than other solo instruments – particularly when it comes to doing very different things with each hand! But it is therefore intellectually and culturally fulfilling.
So – in my very unbiased opinion – music is a wonderful skill to learn, piano is the best instrument to learn it on, and early years is the best time to start learning it!