A little boy learns how to play piano

What’s the Right Age for Children to Learn an Instrument?

There’s significant value in exposing young children to musical sounds and activities when they are little, but when is it time to take the next step in their musical journey?

Research has shown that the earlier one starts learning to play an instrument, the easier it is to progress. Music lessons can also present fun challenges for kids. However, it’s important that your child doesn’t start too soon. So, how do you know when it’s time for your child to learn to play an instrument?

How Do I Know if My Child is Ready?

There isn’t a recommended age for all children, so the better question is: Are they ready? When considering this, there are two main factors to keep in mind: musical readiness and emotional readiness.

When Can My Child Learn to Play an Instrument?

Musical Readiness

To determine if your child is musically ready, ask yourself this: Can he sing in tune and accurately match rhythms? If the answer is no, he will have to rely on others for feedback, which will slow down the learning process and cause him to focus on the mechanics (pressing the right buttons, counting numbers for rhythms, etc.) rather than the outcome (musical sound). But if your child can sing in tune and accurately match rhythms, he will be able to use his ears to determine if he is playing the right notes or not—a process that will lead to appropriate progress and a natural, musical approach to playing.

Many children reach this stage between the ages of 4 and 6. If you need help determining musical readiness, The Music Class has a short assessment test you can use. You can also view these other blog posts with more information about musical milestones for infants and toddlers and for 3- to 5-year-olds.

Emotional Readiness

There’s no getting around it—learning to play an instrument requires practice. How much practice depends on the age of your child and the expectations of her teacher, but she should practice regularly–typically at least three days per week—to ensure continued progress.

Consider how she approaches homework, chores or other recurring responsibilities, like feeding the family pet. This will provide insight as to if she is emotionally ready to commit to regularly practicing an instrument. Since success is linked to a regular practice routine, it really is best to wait until your child is mature enough to make this time commitment.

If you feel your child is ready to embark on this musical adventure, you may be wondering about the best music activities for kids. Check out this blog post for tips on what is suitable for young musicians and how to support your child as she begins to learn an instrument.

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About the Author

Rob Sayer is founder and director of The Music Class®, a music education organization that offers programs to maximize the musical potential of young children. The Music Class programs are available at over 800 locations worldwide. Rob helped develop the Primrose Schools custom music curriculum Rhythm & Notes®, which fosters a lifelong love of music in children. Rob holds degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and studied at The Juilliard School.