Music Lessons: A Guide to Knowing When to Start

January 22, 2020

When to Start Music Lessons:

So, your child wants to play an instrument but you are not sure if it is time to start private (one-on-one) lessons.

I wish I could say “anytime! any age!” but that wouldn’t be entirely true. There are some things I look for when I have a student take a trial lesson. These are things you can look for as a parent at home before contacting a teacher and I can confidently say that any good teacher will be looking for these things as well. I look at these slightly differently for violin and piano. I teach both instruments and though many of these overlap, I am a bit more willing to take on a younger, less-focused student on piano.

While I do not give a specific age, this list gives an idea for what is expected in each lesson. If you have a 3 year old who is showing these signs, great! If you have a 12 year old who is not showing any interest in playing, for example, these are things you can work on before starting lessons.

Let’s jump right in.


This is probably the first thing I look for. If a student can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes, they really won’t get much out of lessons. This can quickly change, however. Some students just need to get into a new routine and understand what is expected of them. Give it a few lessons to see if there is ANY progress at all. This does not mean it will be perfect, but better. I have noticed with students who have not attended school ever before, it takes time to adjust to sitting one-on-one with a teacher giving assignments. It can be incredibly beneficial to have this relationship between student and teacher grow in front of a parent, because it will give you an idea of how your child may respond to instruction at school in the future.


There is nothing more frustrating than a student who is simply rude and does not listen to instruction. If your child has trouble respecting authority, a piano or violin lesson is probably one of the more expensive activities to work on this. They will need to be able to listen and heed the instruction of both parent and teacher. Sometimes you may need to step in during the lesson to direct their attention or have a quick chat with them about what they need to do. You are also there to praise wonderful playing and good behavior, so be sure to point those times out to the student after the lesson! It will be such an encouragement to them and will probably result in more good behavior.


It really helps when the student actually has an interest in playing the instrument. Try attending a concert or watching YouTube videos to see if this is something they actually want to do. Sometimes if it’s “I want to play that song”, it may be simply a song they like, not necessarily the instrument. Ask questions and take note of what your child seems to be motivated by.


Commit to at least a year. It’s amazing how many parents give up right off the bat because their child does not seem to be a child prodigy after 4 lessons. For students below school age, sitting still with a teacher is something fairly new. Give them time to adjust to the experience and the material. That being said, make sure the student understands this is an every day activity. Practicing needs to happen often to make any progress and is not something we do only on days we feel like it.

Why a year? The experience of starting a new activity and continuing with it is teaching them what dedication is and why it is important to stick it out. If you allow your child to give up when the going gets tough, they are going to know that is an option next time. There IS a reward for good consistent practice and that is beautiful playing!

Parent Involvement 

This is incredibly important, no matter the age. Once students are showing independence in practice WITH progress, the parent does not need to sit in the lessons. Some teachers give a specific age (age 12 is what some teachers will choose.) At the beginning, however, it is so helpful when the parent knows what the student needs to do to reinforce what happens in the practicing at home. The parent does not need to know how to play the instrument, but will probably have a good idea about the basics by just sitting in lessons!


Lessons are an investment. One-on-one instruction has its cost, so be prepared. It’s difficult for a student to start and stop lessons only to restart later. Bad habits can quickly creep in during “breaks” which will eventually set them back. Lessons will have to repeat concepts which can be frustrating for the student, teacher, and the parent paying for lessons and helping with at-home practice.

When looking for a teacher, do not just assume cost of lessons equals how “good” of a teacher you will be getting. I will write another post on how to find a teacher to shed more light on that process.

Learning an instrument is such a wonderful learning experience for any student, no matter the age! If you still feel unsure if your child is ready for lessons, meeting with a teacher can be very helpful. I am also happy to answer any questions!

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