Listening to music is one of the greatest joys in life. Making music gives us an even more profound sense of enjoyment and a deeper understanding of this universal language. Providing yourself/your children with a musical education is a wonderful gift of a lifetime.

For decades, different studies show both explicitly and subtly the many benefits of music learning, including improving IQ and enhancing children’s learning capability in all areas of learning even in academic subjects like mathematics and languages.

Piano training is in fact a great way to train one’s mind and discipline, and requires both physical and mental coordination. To start with, it is already difficult to coordinate both hands together playing materials with different notes, rhythms, articulation and dynamic markings. Then we need to use our feet to control the use of pedals, changed frequently without coinciding with the hand movements at times. We need to understand and present the various styles and forms of music by different composers in different periods and genres, listen to our own playing. Indeed, piano playing requires concentration, coordination, intelligence and memorization.

When should a child start learning the piano?

I would say usually no younger than age 4. It is very hard for a child to sit still and concentrate on a 30-minute lesson every week. It is also difficult for him/her to be able to understand the teacher’s direction, react to it and perform. It takes time for a child at a young age to adapt to such a new learning concept, but it is good training and it requires much patience from the child, the parents and the teacher, especially during the first six months. The progress might seem slow and minimal during the first year, depending on the learning mode and maturity of each student. Do not expect a child to play something very fancy quickly at the beginning: it’s actually quite the contrary, and we should take time to build a solid foundation of piano playing and musical concepts right from the start. Naturally the fancy things will come later.

If you really want your child to have music education earlier than 4 years old, I suggest you bring him/her to one of those music group classes offered at many music centers/childhood music education centers. In those classes, toddlers learn rudimentary music knowledge and at the same time enjoy music-making and social interaction with other children. Examples of such programs would be Music Together, Kindermusik, Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Kodály Method.

How do you choose a teacher?

Parents and students should understand that it is of utmost importance to choose the right piano teacher, especially the first one, for the precious you and your precious children. Although a student might have many piano teachers in life, the first teacher can almost determine how s/he feels, thinks and responds to his/her musical training. It also depends on what kind of piano training you want for yourself/your children.

Before looking for a teacher, think about what you want for yourself/your children. Do you want yourself/your children to feel the joy of music? Or do you just want yourself/your children to pass exams in the shortest period? You should find a suitable teacher who can fulfill your requirements. Do not look only at the qualifications of a teacher or just how many years the teacher has been teaching (or how old s/he is). When you find the teacher with the desired potential, just contact the person first. Prepare some questions you want to ask the teacher and talk to him/her. If you can schedule an interview with him/her or set up a trial lesson, that is good. You can get to know that teacher better. If not (as some teachers do not offer this), then try for a month and see how you/your children react to the lessons and the teacher. Other than professional qualifications (not just obtaining some piano diplomas by exams only) and teaching experience, you should also look for a teacher with some performance experience and knowledge in teaching methods and music in general. Look for someone who is passionate in teaching, compassionate towards students/children, and who possesses good communication skills with parents and students. The best way to find a teacher is of course through referral or suggestions from friends and family.

Teresa Wong

(Excerpts from the upcoming book “Piano Freedom” by Teresa Wong)

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