We’re assuming that if you’re on this blog, you’ve likely already crossed over into the dark side of life, aka adulthood. Being an adult can be rough. You’ve got stress to deal with on a daily basis, you feel you become less relevant with every passing year, and you’re finally beginning to understand all the mistakes you made in your youth and that it’s too late to fix them now. Bummer. Meanwhile, your youthful counterparts are just beginning their great life’s journey, oblivious to worries while experiencing new and exciting things every day. Well we’re here to tell you that this picture we’ve painted need not look so dim. You see, just because you’re deep in the two-digits club doesn’t mean you’re passé. So if you’re itching to play piano, but didn’t get started (or weren’t serious about it) in youth, it is not too late! Let’s examine some necessary must-haves of piano-playing, and identify who’s better suited for each trait, adults or kids? The answer may surprise you…
1. Hand Span
If you want to learn to play those fancy chords, your hands will need to be on your side. Little kids have appropriately little hands, and those little hands can only stretch so far and reach so many keys. On the other hand, your giant grizzly bear paws, apart from completely screwing up your texts, come quite in handy when you want to reach the ‘c’, ‘f’ and ‘a’ all at once.
2. Available Time to Practice
Oh how times have changed. During childhood time is your friend, betraying you perhaps only when you have to go to sleep at 8pm. In adulthood, time, which was once so readily available to you, mutates into such monsters known as deadlines and 9-5 workdays. These monsters take up your life and leave you busy, stressed and with no time to even begin to think about playing the piano. Practicing the piano requires dedication and availability of time, and in this battle, the kids win by a landslide,
3. Concentration Ability
There is a child running in this picture, it’s just so fast it is barely seen.
It is generally common knowledge that children have the attention span of a goldfish. One second they are practicing their chords and the next second they’ve most expertly broken the most expensive piece of china in the house. Adults on the other hand, are well-trained in sitting in one spot for hours on end as they perform less-than-enjoyable tasks such as paying bills, essay-writing and computer coding. So while kids may have more time than adults, adults make more OF their time, and that makes all the difference.
4. Interest in Music and Desire to Learn
I’ve been sitting here for at least 10 minutes pretending to enjoy myself. Can I have that cookie you promised me now?
Musical taste, an essential for playing piano, is something that is acquired. One is not usually born with an ear for Tchaikovsky, and a song as deep as “Old McDonald” is enough to induce a smile from a toddler. So in this sense, adults have the necessary musical appreciation and the more fine-tuned ear to set them on the path to musical success. In addition to an affinity for music, motivation is a key factor in determining a good or bad pianist. You see, when you have willpower and a desire to learn, it can be heard in every note of the music you play. Without it, the music sounds as sleepy and as bored as you feel. Since children generally tend to view piano practice as a modern form of slavery rather than a fun hobby, it seems that the adults, who choose to learn piano, will be more prone to succeed.
5. Ability to Absorb New Material
Seen here: A child’s brain
It’s true that we all learn new things every day. But if you compare the amount of new things a child learns every day to the amount an adult learns, the child wins with ease. There are numerous studies that show that young children can learn complex brain skills like languages or note reading more easily (though not necessarily faster) than adults because their brains are still developing. Imagine your brain is like a fresh dry sponge in youth, ready to absorb the wisdom of the world, only to become a fully engorged sponge in adulthood, no longer able to retain too much of anything else. In this sense, these years of youth are really a window of opportunity to develop musical intelligence. Older students can learn too, it will just take more effort.
6. Finger Independence
I’m almost free!!!!!
Chances are you have at least one person in your family who’s never mastered the art of typing and writes excruciatingly slow emails by hitting one key at a time. The ability to control the movement of multiple fingers simultaneously is called finger independence, and it makes all the difference between a professional and an amateur on the piano. A child who has just started to learn the piano will likely find this task much harder to carry out than a beginning adult, simply due to the fact that their motor skills are still developing throughout childhood. So while adults are likely already seasoned pros at the multitasking fingers skill, children might find it easier to play their scales by just playing one note at a time.
7. Finger Flexibility
Uh… sorry, not sorry.
You’ll need some pretty nimble fingers to perform some of those trickier staccatos. Children who are eight or younger have more supple hands. Older children who have never studied an instrument, and even adult learners, often have to deal with more finger awkwardness. This can be overcome with desire and practice, but it will take more effort, and who wants that??
So in conclusion, what age is best to learn piano?
Final tally: Kids-3, Adults-4. That’s pretty close! So uh… teens?
Bottom line: The earlier you start, the easier it will be. But while it may be easier to start playing at an early age, there must be a certain degree of maturity to be able to play well. Kids who are new to the piano may find the piano-playing technicalities easier to learn than adults, but adults who are new to the piano will generally be more skillful at producing tear-jerking and pathos-filled music. So the answer to our question is that there is no definitive answer. Starting early surely gives a head-start in developing piano skills and all the accompanying perks, but there are certain things a young pianist just won’t be able to master or fully appreciate until they’re older. 🙂