I’ve heard that in order to reach absolute top level musical instrument skills, you need to start early, but I wondered if that is true and how early this starting age should be. The paper “Is early music education necessary in order to reach a professional level?“ by Fieke Werner attempts to provide an answer to my questions (by performing a literature study on a collection of studies on the subject).
She came to the following conclusions with regard to starting age:
- most classical expert musicians started before the age of nine
- on average the excellent students started earlier than the good students did
- there have been no reports of children starting ‘too early’
This corresponds with other studies that I found that suggest that there is a certain developmental window when children appear to be especially efficient at learning certain skills.
Of course there are other things to take into account too. Since a young starting age appears to be important to achieve “ultimate excellence” there can be a lot of parental pressure. This raises an ethical question. If the child thinks the lessons are boring, or would rather do something else than practice their instrument, how far can the parents go in pushing the child to continue? I’ve heard about situations where the child is thankful for the lessons later, but that cannot always be the case, can it? Also, apart from starting age there are a lot of other factors that determine musical skill (in the paper for example they also focus on the importance of one-to-one teaching).
Since I discovered my interest for creating music relatively late (and therefore will apparently never be a master musician), I have no personal experience with this. Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. Anyway, I want to know your stories and opinions!