The question of when to start your child with music lessons is one that is often asked and comes with two definitive sub-questions, if you want to put it that way.
The first sub-question is: when is too early to start music lessons? The second – you guessed it – is: when is too late to start music lessons?
The bonus question is part of the back-story. Are music lessons really that valuable to a child?
All my life, I have heard the answer to that is yes. Music and math skills are the most intrinsically valuable subjects for a child to study, because they offer a limitless expanse of possibilities. The hard sciences – they’re fine, but they’re also finite. A second language is an expansive subject, but not quite as stimulating to an infant as music or math.
As a sidebar, it is well known that language is a phenomenon when it comes to human development. The brain is able to pick up language skills exactly when you might suspect: At age two and a half to age five.
That might be a good starting point on the discussion about music. The youngest reference I found online for when to begin music lessons is age two, compliments of someone with experience in the Suzuki music training process, which involves using a parent as a role model and just starting by learning the music by ear. Figuring out you are playing notes or that the music can be written out on paper can wait.
Two, of course, makes logical sense. Before two, toddlers don’t have much coordination. It would be like teaching a bobble-head to ice skate. On the other hand, it stands to reason that if your child never heard a lick of music until age two and then you started on lessons, you would be terrifically out of sync. Music appreciation starts as soon as the infant can hear and the advice on music and mathematics, point of fact, specifically is hinged on classical music, not a confining (fun, but confining) musical tradition, like rock and roll.
The second question – how late can you start music lessons – is easier to answer, although there is no definitive age, per se. There is a solid source for information, which comes from Noah Adam, the National Public Broadcasting news announcer, who wrote a book about the piano lessons he started at age 52, having spent five decades wishing he had played the instrument.
Of course, everyone has a story about a child or a neighbor or even a parent trying to learn some kind of instrument and sounding like a wounded pelican for the first six months, then becoming obsessed with whatever instrument they are learning. Many people look for a teacher they can trust to guide them through the basics and then on to an intermediate and advanced level. If this is you, poke around at LessonRating.com and explore some options.
That’s the terrific truth about music. It is like having a friend for life. Wherever you can tote a guitar or wherever you find a piano or a quiet place to play your flute, clarinet, cello, violin, oboe, or whatever, there is a friend waiting for you. Old friend, I’ve missed you. And you begin to play.
In the meantime, the other truth is I have never heard of a musician of any note who wasn’t on some level addicted to the instrument they play. I don’t think a bomb would separate my kid from his guitar. He started at age 16. He arrived late to the party, but he certainly didn’t let that stand in his way.