"When should my child start piano lesson?" - This is the most frequent question that I get from parents. First of all, perhaps we need to ask ourselves: why PIANO? Why not violin, or African drum, or erhu? We are the piano-generation. Our moms enroled us to attend piano lesson when we were around 6 years old; whether we liked it or not, we would have attained some qualification in piano-playing (perhaps Grade 8, or Grade 5, or Grade 2 accroding to the ABRSM syllabus). I was awed when I read about this whole obsession about piano playing was only a by-product from social change and economic upheaval.
Back in late 70's to the 80's, owning a piano at home = middle class; hence, our parents, who usually grew up in a poor neighbourhood in the 40's - 60's, are moving upward in the social ladder. They could provide us more than basic education - piano came into play. Why not the erhu then? Coz a beggar from a MK tunnel could own one - a Chinese instrument or a small instrument is not powerful enough to prove the change of social status. Our children are already growing up in a middle class family; we are more educated parents and teachers. That's why we should ask, before we put our children right into private piano lesson, is piano the only choice? I realize that some parents nowadays are becoming more selective and open-minded. The trend that I observe is that, parents are starting to see instrumental music as part of their children's holistic development; but learning piano is not the only channel to achieve it. They observe their children's interest and try their best to satisfy thier particular preference in instrumental music. I know a 3-year-old who is especially fond of the trombone and is destined to learn it when he grows up. He must have listened to the funny sound a slide trombone makes or how cool a trombone player looks during performance. He wouldn't suddenly fall in love with this strange brass toy, mommy must have showed him different kinds of instruments and he picked the one he finds the coolest. So, let your children listen to as many types of music as possible; it could be brass quartet, indonesian gamelan or jewish harp music. Little ones will enjoy the journal of listening very much and they'll tell you what they like. (If it's hard for you to let go of the "piano obsession," perhaps play them a little more piano music and bring them to piano recitals, they will admire the pianists - which is great!) Another phenomenon is dual-instrumentalism (a word that I just invented...haha...sounds so sophisticated). In this pluralistic world, we talk about multiculturalism, bilingualism; though I haven't done any formal reserach, from what I've seen, children are picking up more than 1 instrument nowadays. They may not become masters of either instrument, but I'm sure the course of learning each instrument has added value to their perception in music. Children from this century is facing phenomenal changes. There are composers from the industry these days who don't play any intrument - they use MIDI to compose great songs. We are in the age of technology; the function of music learning has shifted. Before we sign our children up for piano lesson, please, parents, ask yourself "why?"