“Maybe you’ve heard people talking about “a couple years of piano” being helpful before learning any other instrument”
There are so many fun instruments to play and although kids love them all, they often find themselves being drawn toward a particular one. My daughter really, really wants to play the violin. I’d like to keep her interest in violin, but I do know that we will avoid lots of tears and frustration if she gets her musical basis in piano, first. I’m all for her experimenting on her violin in the meantime. She can pluck and bow and learn to hold it etc. but as far as lessons, we are sticking to the piano. Maybe you’ve heard people talking about “a couple years of piano” being helpful for learning any other instrument. I’ll share the reasons why piano is key to a great musical foundation and why it makes learning any other instrument so much easier and more enjoyable! And that’s what this is all about anyway, right?
First off, you can SEE all the keys spread out in front of you. There are no “mystery” tones. On a cello, violin etc, for instance, there are many more options than on the piano. You can actually play tones that are “inbetween” the piano keys. So, with piano a beginner can accurately produce an IN-TUNE SOUND. Being able to produce an in-tune sound is encouraging to the kid learning (and his family!) whereas other instruments can be pretty frustrating to just simply find the notes, let alone play a tune with them.
Secondly, because you can SEE all the keys you can also see MUSICAL PATTERNS. This is important because every song is written in something called a key. A key is just a group of notes that belong together because of the tones they produce. Different songs are in different keys and use different groups of notes. You can get familiar with these and it’s so much easier to visualize them when you have the contrast of black and white keys as pattern markers for you.
Lastly, with the piano you do not have to hold the instrument, or any piece of the instrument to play it. Kids are building their coordination and it’s hard enough for them to simply get their minds to tell their own hands what to do. It’s even harder to try to hold a drum stick, bow, trumpet etc. while they’re trying to make music. If they build the coordination of just using their hands to articulate different types of sounds (loud, soft, smooth, staccato/jerky), in the long run they will be very ready to pick up another instrument and it won’t be nearly the struggle to coordinate the fact that they are making music and also holding something up.
There are probably many other great reasons to have piano as a foundation, but these were the most important ones. Growing up, I joined 4th grade orchestra after having ~3 years of piano lessons. Learning the violin was a breeze. I excelled and understood it and stuck with it. It wasn’t the same for the kids around me who had not had piano lessons, previously. They struggled to understand many concepts (because they had never visually seen them laid out), and most of them didn’t continue. Theirs was one of those classic “I took violin for a year” stories. If you still decide to begin your child on an instrument other than the piano, go for it! I do think it can work. Some kids skip crawling and go straight to walking and that’s just fine for them. But, for a sustainable music experience, one that is not frustrating because it’s too hard, it’s safe to give them a positive, simple beginning that is a proper building block to enjoy making music. In the long run, if they don’t become frustrated, can conquer the basics and mentally visualize the notes and keys, their experience will be sustainable and they can go on to enjoy making lots of music on lots of instruments for the rest of their lives.