Harsh, right?

But it’s no secret–the cost of piano lessons can seriously add up. (Less here than at some other places, but still…)

You want the benefits of music study for your kid – the increased focus, resilience, and improved academic performance.

And you want them to have music as a life skill too. A lifelong hobby that will continue bringing them joy even when they’re 90!

And when you consider how the cost of lessons adds up over the years, you really want to make sure that your money is going toward actually accomplishing those things.

So here it is: the top 5 things you can do before you start piano study, to make sure your kid will get the most out of lessons:

1. Listen to lots of music at home.

Simple enough, right? But this is the absolute most important thing you can do to make sure your child is prepared to get the most out of piano lessons. Just listen to lots of music. Listen to their favorite music, to your favorite music, listen to classical music and jazz and rock. Listen to music you’ve never heard before. Expand your own horizons. Turn the radio in the car to a classical station for a month.

…and on the other hand, if they want to listen to the same *bleeping* song for the hundredth time in a row? That’s ok, too. Repetition is so important for kids’ learning.

2. Go to concerts with your child.

In this age of YouTube and Spotify, TV singing competitions and autotune, it is more important than ever for kids to see real live musicians in the flesh. The law seats at Wolf Trap are a great way to take little kids to the symphony without disturbing other patrons. Check out their Young at Arts tickets to make it super affordable for the family! If your child is a little older (5 or so), you can also check out their Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods.

The National Opera also does an Opera in the Outfield event every year, where an opera is livestreamed to Nats Park. There are games and activities before the show, and kids are able to run around and be themselves. I took my toddler to it last fall when she was barely 1, and it was great! Yes, she spent part of the time testing out her newly-learned running skills. But she also spent part of the time watching the opera! And when we left a little early, since it was past her bedtime, she protested and didn’t want to go! Don’t assume that kids can’t like classical music. For that matter, don’t assume that you can’t like classical music!

You can also check out the shows at Imagination Stage (for age 1-5 and for age 5+), or Adventure Theatre.

And there are also free outdoor summer concert series in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville, Wheaton, and more!

3. Do a music class with your kids.

I recommend Music Together for the 3 and under set. Although the kids will never realize they’re learning, kids who do those toddler music classes come out of them with a taste of lots of different styles of music, different meters and tonalities, and that leads them to have a wide musical comfort zone later on. They also internalize the concept of a steady beat, and generally match pitch very well, after being in class for a while. It makes learning an instrument so much easier for them later on.

They also get the benefit of real, live, in-the-flesh music like I mentioned before. Music that doesn’s require any machines or technology, just our own human voices and sometimes an acoustic instrument.

4. Get your piano set up in your house, and live with it for a while.

Whether you’re planning on getting your parents’ piano from your childhood home, buying a piano, or renting one, let it just live in your house for a while before you start lessons. Give your kid a chance to get curious and enthusiastic. Let them play around with it!

Worried about financial risk? A piano’s actually a lot less risky than a keyboard, because a piano holds its resale value well. Keyboards become obsolete in a few years. But a well-maintained piano could play as beautifully in 50+ years as it does today.

You can also rent-to-own, if you want to minimize your commitment.

5. Start teaching your kids resilience.

“If at first you don’t succed, try, try again,” right?

Well…that’s easier said than done.

Especially if you’re a kid.

One of my biggest goals as a piano teacher is to teach kids resilience. Trying hard things even though they’re scared. Picking themselves up after a mistake and giving it another go. Working toward a goal until they achieve it.

Music skills are life skills, after all.

But, y’know, I sure do appreciate it when kids come to lessons with a little experience in those areas already.

When they’re six and they’ve never had to work hard at anything before, then we need a lot of remedial pep talks in lessons, just to get them to try hard things at all.

I can certainly do that, but kids who have tried hard things before have a much easier time of it. I love the picture book Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, to teach this concept.

If a kid starts lessons with me with these things already under their belt? They listen to a wide variety of music at home, they see real musicians performing live, they can match pitch and keep a steady beat, they’ve been playing around on the piano at home for fun, and they are accustomed to accepting challenges and accomplishing them? Those kids take off immediately and make fast progress. That builds momentum, which builds enthusiasm, and lessons go really well. 🙂

Want to know if your child is ready for lessons now, or how close they are to being ready? Take the quiz!

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