What age should a child start music lessons?

We all know those inspiring stories of musical child prodigies. The likes of Mozart, who wrote his first piece by the age of 5, and Chopin, who created piano music pieces at the age of 7. It’s no secret that there are a lot of benefits to getting your children to play instruments early on. But what is the right age for a child to start learning music? They should start learning music from day 1, but ages 6 to 9 is the right time to start formal lessons.

Read on for an in depth look about how children learn music, and the bests ways to have them engage with music in the early years.

The window of opportunity

Children aged between 0 and 9 years old are in the so-called “window of opportunity”, which is one of the most sensitive periods of their life. According to the research, the earlier the child starts playing instruments, the better they will be at it when they grow up. Like learning a language, things are just easier to learn when a child is young.

Learning during the “window of opportunity” period also can produce positive long-lasting effects on their music performance skills. When scientists compared the brain scans of adult musicians who learned music from early childhood with those who started later on, they discovered that the former had better musical training and experience, especially in terms of accuracy and coordination.

During that sensitive stage of life, a child’s brain is better at developing neural plasticity in its visual, auditory and sensory regions. Often, it’s the cause of a more advanced musical ability in adulthood.

Ages 0 – 3: Expose them early

Even if your child is too young to know how to play an instrument, you can still start their musical education. Exposing kids to music can be a great way to prepare them for their musical learning journey. Before your toddler reaches the age of 3, it’s perfectly appropriate to play different melodies for your child to listen to. You can play songs and instrumental performances for them, so that they grasp the nuances and get used to learning the art of music.

Checkout our in depth guide on how you can weave music into the life of your child:

Ages 3 – 6: Informal and playful

Experts believe that starting musical training for kids when they’re between the ages of 3 and 9 is ideal. While you want to seize that window of opportunity, it could be helpful if you slowly ease your child into music. It’s important to encourage kids to immerse themselves into the music environment at their own pace. Otherwise, they may find it too stressful.

Children in the age range of 3 – 6 years old can start with informal sessions that incorporate elements of play and fun. For example, at first the parents can be the ones initiating one-on-one music lessons or playing music at home. They can teach their toddlers about melody, harmony, rhythm and beat. That way, kids can attain the level of training and understanding of the music basics. It may also be easier for them to start learning an instrument if the environment is more relaxed.

Little girl sitting at the piano
Getting acquainted with the piano

The goal here is to let the child try it out in a familiar and safe environment and observe their reaction. If they are excited about learning it, then they may be ready for a formal training. (And if you take it slow, they could still be ready earlier than you initially planned)!

Having the stage of informal learning can help the young ones to learn the foundations of musical knowledge. They will be prepared to enter a music school to attend group classes or private lessons with a tutor.

Ages 6 – 9: Child start music lessons (when ready)

Once again, it’s important to keep in mind that every child is different. There’s no cookie-cutter approach when it comes to learning music. Some kids would be ready to start the formal training very early. Others may need more time to explore what learning an instrument means for them. But this stage is as good of time as any for a child to start music lessons.

If you are looking for guidance on how to find a teacher for child, see our step by step guide:

Best ages for different instruments

Another key aspect is that the earliest age to learn music can also vary depending on the instrument. Kids can start piano and violin as early as between the ages of 3 and 4, while the recommended age for trumpet or trombone is thought to be 8 years old. There are a lot of things to keep in mind, ranging from how easy each instrument is to play to the child’s level of physical strength and endurance. For example, some instruments are big in size and the child will need to hold them for long periods of time. That’s why it’s important to know your child’s natural abilities and sensitivities. 

Overall, every parent should define their goals for their children’s musical education. If you’re a trained musician who wants to expose the child to the world of music, or you think your child may be gifted, then starting early is definitely a must. At the end of the day, music lessons should be a fun activity that brings joy. It will also inspire your child to pursue music on their own as they get older.