One might assume that there is a universal age to start taking music lessons. However, different instruments have different demands, and voice is in a league of its own. In this article, I will point out a few things to consider before making a decision. Needless to say, each student is unique, and consulting with different teachers as well as trying out a few lessons will give you a better idea of what is possible.
Piano is one of the most popular musical instruments. From a physiological point of view, the only aspect we should consider is hand-size. Unlike string instruments, which come in different sizes, the size of the piano keyboard is universal. 5 is generally accepted as a safe age to start. Method books for beginners follow the development of students’ hands. As students mature and their hands grow, so does the span and technical demand of the repertoire they play.
While 5 is still a solid age to begin with violin lessons (and music lessons in general), the variety of instrument sizes allows to start grooming violinists even sooner. It is therefore possible to begin with children as young as 3. However, while possible, one should be mindful of the cognitive development of each child. Some develop later than others and the goal is to challenge children, but never overwhelm them.
There is a lot of variety in the guitar world. However, the differences in size are not as evident as with string instruments. Due to the size of the neck, and finger strength necessary to press down on guitar frets, even the smallest guitars are realistically suited mostly for children 6 or older.
Singers are in a league of their own. Students should start nurturing their aural skills as early as possible. Even pre-school courses are highly effective in developing “good ears”. However, when it comes to proper vocal lessons, the story is a bit more complicated. Vocal lessons aim at refining and expanding the possibilities of our vocal apparatus and learn the repertoire that makes use of it. In order to make that happen, we need to let it mature first. I would generally discourage vocal lessons for students younger than 12. Since this is relatively late to start, I recommend that children interested start with an instrument or at the very least music theory first.
Wind and Brass Lessons
For both, lung capacity is probably the biggest consideration. In order to learn the proper breathing technique and build up capacity, many wind and brass teachers recommend taking at least one year of recorder lessons. This is particularly important for young beginners. Most wind and brass instruments are suited for children aged 6–10.