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How to Learn to Play PianoShould My Two Year Old Child Start Studying Piano?

Should my two or three year old child start learning piano? For sure, you have either thought on this question or at least a friend has made a comment. As parents and carers, our role is to support the development of our child and make an array of crucial decisions in the early years of their life. Obviously, we cannot expect two year old children to make decisions about their future professions and hobbies so, until they grow a bit more, we take the responsibility of choosing for them.Whatever decisions parents take, they will always be subject to a certain degree of criticism – from other parents or sectors of society that think in a different way. So the aim of this article rather than judging the parents’ decision as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, is to provide some practical guidelines for decision making. We hope that our feedback from a professional point of view, may help parents to understand what realistic alternatives are available for their children. Based on our extensive experience teaching children from the age of one, we feel it is our duty to inform the parents what can and can’t be done. In other words, what it is possible to do, or not do, at certain developmental stages. The first thing parents should ask themselves is what they really want, and why.
For example:
-         I want my child to became a professional performer-         I want my child to impress prospective head teachers when applying for  school places-          I want my child to excel in many disciplines, including music-          I want my child to build upon his or her clear love for music-         I want my child just to have fun by playing an instrument

If parents understand what they want to achieve, and why, that insight will certainly help them choose the most appropriate strategy to achieve the expected result. For example, if they consider the ‘fun’ element as the most important one, the reality is that entertainment can be provided by many other activities, probably at a lower cost and with a lot less effort than music lessons.

However, if parents decide that they truly want a musical education, they need also to understand what a real musical education is and if learning to play an instrument at an early age is the best way to fully develop a child’s natural musical abilities.

The joy of playing music comes directly from the ability to understand music as a language. That is, feeling the music both inside and flowing out as a vehicle for expression and not simply as a translation of symbols or note sequences into sounds.

In the area of language, when we talk, we only get to feel what we are saying if we understand the meaning of our speech. The opposite of that would be “parrot talk”. Thus, only when we understand the meaning of what we say, and feel confident enough to express a thought or feeling, can we give a natural emphasis to our speech without somebody coaching us all the time.

Similarly, sometimes in music we risk developing  ‘parrot talk’ if we just focus our effort on laboriously reading piece after piece of music, mostly training our fingers but not our ability to express and feel the musical language.

The problem is that most of the teaching methods available out there, work on the ability to simply decode music symbols into sounds, producing an approximation of what the music really is. Obviously, people teaching with these methods don’t make parents aware of their limitations. Hence the confusion of many parents who believe that the earlier a child sits at learning the piano, the better for his musical education. In fact, the result of this early exposure to the instrument can be quite the opposite. The problem is that many children that have their musical education focused on the ‘reading and practicing’ of the music piece, suffer the problem that they do not easily connect with the musical language and later stop playing music as they grow, because nothing comes out of their fingers unless a music sheet is in front of them.

On the other hand, some other methods with a different approach teach children to make music in a freer way and by leaving the sheet music aside. Unfortunately, although the ear development can benefit from this approach, the problem is that some children struggle later on to read music sheet, feeling very frustrated because they have become distanced from the traditional musical notation.

Thus, though with differentiated approaches and divergent results, what both approaches -and subservient methods- have in common is that they do not offer a holistic and comprehensive approach to the complex and multi-faceted issue of musical learning. There are many ways of enjoying music, but unfortunately there are also many ways of developing hatred for music because of the limitations of the sometimes appalling training methods, offered under the wide umbrella of ‘musical education’.

At Stringnote we believe that, when talking about how to learn music, the development of the innate musicality is the most important task in the early years of the life of your child, as musicality will be there to help the mature learning. We especialize in young children from the age of 12 months and until they are 7 year old, as this is the best stage to develop an intimate understanding of the musical language. Stringnote’s method mixes fun and learning, education and entertainment, also introducing classical notation in an unique way that supports the development of children’s innate musical abilities. Whatever reason you have to for wanting your child to learn music, musicality will be always an essential component to understanding and speaking the language of music.

Turning to the question that many parents have about the possibility of teaching piano to their two or three year old infant, the answer is clear. Rather than ‘learning to play an instrument’, considering children’s developmental stage, at the early age of 2-3 years old we should try to provide an all-round musical education for the child. Thus, the issue is not IF your child should start an early music education but HOW to start it.

The earlier your child starts learning music, the better, but the emphasis in the learning process has to be the development of musicality rather than the mechanical repetition of a musical piece, as we need to avoid the musical equivalent of ‘parrot talk’ at all costs. Parents should be reassured that this approach will not be a waste of time, as your child will earn a clear advantage for the sustained practice of a music in any instrument, as a developed musicality will enable them, in years time, to learn the same pieces as other students do but in a fraction of the time.

Finally, and together with what we can offer you as a professional tuition, we also believe in the essential role that parents and the family environment have in the progressive development of a healthy musicality in young children. Get your child not only to listen to music but to make it, too. Make him play with other musicians, even by using a very simple percussion instrument, or using just one or two notes. If you are not a trained musician, just try to make any spontaneous accompaniment, enjoying the rhythm and energy that music provides. Everybody is able to make some music by tapping on the table, so go ahead and do it with your child. Share with your him the music you love, he will be inspired by your example. Teach your child the little stuff you know and, above all, share the love and joy of music. Whatever you do, make sure that your child learns, as with spoken language, firstly to ‘speak’ music and only later, how to read it.

…and book now a Free Taster session at Stringnote academy!

Marcello Palace

Director of Stringnote Music Academy

-Additional Research by Sylvia Corona-