Thursday, 10 January 2013


The piano is probably the most popular instrument in the world. A conservative estimate of all the people globally who play piano is well over 300 million. Add to this the millions of keyboard players and you will arrive at a truly staggering number of players.

Piano or Keyboard?
This is a really important question to answer before getting started.
Classical piano and electronic keyboard are two very different animals, and you should discuss with your child what their actual preference is.
The main question to answer is the type of music your child is interested in - if they are dreaming of playing in a band and love pop/rock/jazz, they might be better off learning keyboard.

Do I need a piano or can I learn to play on a keyboard?
A fully weighted seven octave keyboard with 88 standard size keys (ie exacty the same size as on a piano) can suffice for the first 3 years or so of learning. If your child is progressing very fast  you will need to invest in a piano though. You can buy very good instruments second hand, but you really need to take someone knowledgeable with you to try the instrument before you buy.
There are electronic pianos, which are pretty good at emulating both touch and feel of a real piano, and they have the advantage, that they can be practiced with headphones - a plus if you live in a modern flat and have difficult neighbours, A good electronic piano will not be cheap.

Begin with your child
Both piano and keyboard are wonderful instruments with fantastic repertoire, but they can also be quite a difficult because your child will have to negotiate playing more than one note at a time. This is quite a mental challenge, both for hand eye coordination and general pattern recognition.

What age can my child get started?
Between 6 and 9 is when most children start, but both Keyboard and Piano would be suitable for younger children.

Many musicians learn piano, before they learn another instrument, as it gives a good grounding in learning to read music and harmonic awareness. (the same applies to the keyboard)

If your child is  opting for the keyboard you need to choose your child’s first keyboard very carefully. Modern keyboards can be quite complicated and have 1000s of feature, which can potentially be confusing. Also, your child needs to be aware of the dangers of electricity.

A very young child, or an impatient beginner might enjoy playing the keyboard more than the piano, as they can achieve impressive results very quickly.
Sample libraries and sounds on the keyboard are becoming ever more realistic, your child will have real opportunities to develop their musical imagination.

Some questions for very young beginners 3+ for Piano and Keyboard
Is your child able to sit still and listen, when you read them a story or a short picture book?

Are they asking questions related to that story or are they going completely off-piste in their questions? If the latter, then it is probably a warning sign that they are not quite ready.

Can they recognise simple patterns, like ‘the odd one out’ in a series of images?

Can you find a piano teacher who is experienced or willing to take on very young beginners. You might look out for teachers using methods which do not require reading skills initially. (for example suzuki, yamaha, or others)


There is plenty of music for  four hands, which your child can play with another student or maybe a sibling. Pianists should be encouraged to play music for 4 hands, accompany other instrumentalists or play chamber music, Your child will need a reasonable level of proficiency for most chamber music repertoire.
Pianists are always welcome in swing and jazz bands, but there is usually only one pianist, so it can be hard to secure a place.

is a very suitable instrument for group teaching, or even for having a keyboard orchestra. Many schools have opted for keyboard groups as part of their implementation of the governments Wider Opportunities Program.
If your child’s school is not offering tuition on the key-board you might like to instigate this at a PTA or governors meeting, or you could moot the proposal with your child’s head of music.

Piano can be a solitary experience of making music, there are some measures, which your piano teacher should take to alleviate this. At the same time the piano is a wonderfully self- sufficient instrument, it means you do not need other players to perform a piece of repertoire!

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