How to Teach Children to Play the Piano

Updated July 20, 2017

Many parents want their children to learn how to play the piano, and many children want to learn how to play the piano. Few people, however, know how to go about teaching a child how to play the piano. Moving from pianist to teacher isn't a difficult process as long as you keep in mind the strengths, weakness and desires of each student.

Assess the child's readiness. A desire to learn is not always enough of a foundation on which to start lessons. Trying to learn too young or before she's ready can lead to discouragement and failure. A clear understanding of counting and the alphabet are minimum requirements; a basic understanding of reading and addition is even more helpful. The child needs to be able to sit still and pay attention for 15- to 20-minute intervals. It's not usually recommended to begin one-on-one piano lessons before the age of 5. Many group music classes are available for toddlers and preschoolers.

Use an age-appropriate method. There are hundreds of options available for teaching piano lessons---most methods are designed for students between the ages of 7 and 12. An accelerated or adult method is best for teenage beginners or preteens who have studied other musical instruments. Methods for children younger than 7 are usually designated by the phrases "Young Beginner," "Early Beginner" or a similar term.

Assign scales, chords and other technical exercises. These technique-building skills are not always fun to learn, but they're necessary for proper form and to train a student's fingers on how to move around the keyboard. Knowing proper fingering for a scale and for chords makes playing a complicated piece easier and more intuitive.

Emphasise practice. Daily practice is an absolute requirement for learning to play the piano. Without it, important concepts and techniques are quickly forgotten and progress is slowed. A child under the age of 7 should practice for at least 15 to 20 minutes every day, longer if she has the attention span for it. A good guideline for older children is to practice for the length of their lessons (generally 30 to 60 minutes every day).

Watch for cues that the child is overwhelmed. Don't be afraid to cut a lesson short if this is the case. In the first one to two months of lessons, there's a lot of critical information to learn in a short period of time. If the student has stopped progressing in his music, take a few steps back to review recent concepts. Often a concept is introduced briefly and then built upon several lessons later. Make sure the base concept is completely understood before adding to it.

Add to the method books with your own material. Play games with your student to reinforce new concepts. Rhythm and note-reading lend themselves nicely to game-playing. Use flashcards to review recent theory. If your student is particularly energetic during a lesson, stand up to sing songs or dance. Find out your student's favourite songs and then assign arrangements the student can play. This is an especially effective technique to motivate preteens and teenagers to practice.

Things You'll Need

  • Piano
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About the Author

Rachel Shipp has been writing company-specific newsletters, advertising copy and press releases as part of her career in marketing for more than 10 years. She has had a second career as a piano teacher for seven years and counting. In 2000, Rachel received a B.A. in mass communication from the University of Utah.