IS PRESCHOOL A GOOD AGE TO START PIANO?
It would depend entirely on what piano method you choose to use.
The Suzuki piano Method, for example, is militaristic and group oriented. There is little individual attention available in group piano situations, and I have taught many classes of this type.
No matter how hard you try as a group piano teacher, there will be moments when you cannot help a child because the process dictates that you move on and help another. My experience is that group classes benefit the teacher or institution charging the fees, not your child.
Seeking out a conventional disciplinarian is often the only other choice, usually when such a teacher has taught in a neighborhood for years and has a history with people.
There are other choices.
Kindermusic is a group music stimulation program that is geared to younger kids. It is warm and friendly, and is happily free of the Army-like Suzuki mentality. There are other groups of this type, often local. The problem becomes when your child needs more challenges and individual attention than is possible within even the most benevolent group.
Given these choices, one can see that it is wise to match the instruction to the child’s personality.
For example, a child who is very fast, hyper, intelligent and self motivated will be frustrated by group alternatives, and might be a better candidate for individual lessons, given a suitable teacher.
But which type of individual piano teacher is best? Should you look for a disciplinarian or a games-master?
The disciplinarian will lead your child through a standard text, page by page, and if your child likes it, that is good. But if they don’t like that process, don’t expect the teacher to bend to try to interest your child, for they will not.
Piano teachers of this type, for whatever reasons, teach only the standard curriculum from a standard text, and if you can’t keep up, you are a failure and are made to feel it.
On the other hand you might be able to find someone who specializes in introducing young children to the piano, a type of piano teacher I call the “games master.”
As the piano teaching industry grows, more and more teachers are finding ways to introduce “soft” piano methods into their beginning students curriculum, if the student’s needs call for it. Not every child is a prodigy, rather, far from it, and most average kids need a lot of help discovering how to have fun with the piano.
The benefits of “soft” piano methods (piano by number, by color, by ear, by eye) are many for the youngest children, not the least of which is the enthusiasm that it brings to the learning process. All work and no play makes Jack a dull pianist.
In short, preschool is a fine age to start introducing the elements of music and the piano, but you must be careful to scale the pool of ideas and tasks down to a small group of essentials, not the least of which is enthusiasm.
You’ll never get a child to read music fluently and without fear if they won’t go to the piano to have fun.
By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved