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Can A 3 Year Old Learn Piano?

Preschool Piano

Can a 3 year old learn piano? Yes, if you are extremely patient. I'm talking "biblically" patient.

It's better to think in terms of "game" rather than "lesson."  In addition, your success is entirely dependent on which method you use.

Compare The Difficulties of Various Methods

Most difficult are the "reading music" methods. The reason for this is that a 3 year old's brain is not completely developed, and they may have extreme difficulty with concepts like "up and down," or "left and right."  Facility with these concepts, and many others, are essential to the art of reading music.

Easiest are the methods that delay reading music, such as piano by color, piano by number or piano by symbols, such as animals. The downside of some of these "easy" methods is their irrelevancy to actual music theory, except for numbers, which are relevant to musical construction even at the highest level.

Number Your Keyboard Keys

The easiest way to get started in a meaningful way without reading music is to number the piano keys, as in the drawing below. The numbers are identical to the numbered "intervals" of classical music, so you will be able to make use of numbers long after you have left them behind as your primary musical language.

 Numbered Keyboard

There are lots of games you can play with your keyboard set up in this way. You could also add letters. The basic principle is to give the child a visual reference point (the stickers) that is impossible to forget (the numbers.)

You might begin with a game called FOURS. You can try it below. It doesn't matter which hand or finger the child uses.


| 1 1 1 1 | 2 2 2 2 | 3 3 3 3 | 4 4 4 4 | 5 5 5 5 | 6 6 6 6 | 7 7 7 7 | 8 8 8 8 |

Create Tasks Carefully

You have to be careful what you ask of a three year old at the piano. Make sure that the task is one at which they will surely triumph. This means that tasks must be carefully thought out: don't ask too much and risk failure.

And consider first that a 3 year old has only a dim idea of what a task is. This applies especially to the piano, because tasks tend to be multi-part and multi-dimensional.

 How I Got A Typical 3 Year Old To Play

I taught a 3 year old who had two older siblings that took lessons with me. Thus he was primed to want to try the piano. Let's call him Tyler.

Tyler could barely keep from sliding off the smooth wood piano bench. But he was bright and cheerful, so I devised a simple task at which he could not fail.

His first job was to find Middle C, a white key to the left of a group of two black keys. I showed him where it was. It had a big red sticker on it.

He easily found it, so I advanced the game and played a "stupid guy" who played every note except Middle C, and claimed it was Middle C.

Tyler corrected me, and was delighted to be correcting an adult.

I pushed a little harder, and said, "Can you find another C? It's any note next to a group of two black keys."

This was Tyler's first lesson. He was stumped and I saw that, so I immediately switched to the note he knew, Middle C, with the red sticker.

He found it right away, and grinned. "Had enough?" I asked. He smiled and nodded yes. I said "Get outta here." The whole "lesson" had taken three minutes.

We repeated this same lesson about five times, always with laughter, before we got to that second question, "Find another C." Finally he mastered that task, mostly because I had not insisted upon it.

The basic rule of a 3 year old's piano lesson is: "The lesson is over when the kid says it's over. Come back and try another day, another time."


 (This title comes in two versions: Printed $19.95, and eBook $9.95)


We've turned notes into numbers for happy beginners at the piano!


Our PLAY ALONG SONGS are produced by Grammy Award winner Joe Castellon of Sesame Street. They're such an important element in making the piano fun for kids!



Our books and videos are created by Emmy Award winning composer and leading children's educator John Aschenbrenner. Get your child happily started at the piano!



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