B.A. in Music Senior Capstone Projects

Document Type

Capstone Project

Presentation Date

Spring 2014


Musical learning and performance have traditionally been understood as the process of cognitive ability and physical action. If a musician lacks or is underdeveloped in one of these areas, it will either be harder or almost impossible to create music. In this paper, I will focus on the connection between them. Cognitive ability and knowledge increases with age as we gain more facts and experiences. Likewise, a child’s physical abilities expand and become more advanced with age. There is an increasing amount of evidence that links cognitive abilities and physical developments in children’s development.

I will present research on cognitive and physical development in children between the ages of five to ten years, the usual age range that children start piano lessons. This research will be framed by a brief summary of developmental theories that are currently held in the field of music instruction and Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development. I will present this information in the context of teaching piano in a private setting, but I believe many, if not all, the principles presented could apply to other settings where music is taught. Piano, like other instruments, involves multiple and simultaneous requirements from a child cognitively and physically. It is important to understand the cognitive and physical skills of experienced pianists because they constitute the goals for students and teachers. The next section will cover the stages of musical learning before the age of five. Children should complete these stages before starting piano lessons. The final section of this paper provides information of what a typical child between the ages of five to ten is musically capable of learning. Through this discussion, I expect that the important connection between cognitive and physical abilities in studying piano will become clear and that this connection will provide insight in teaching strategies.


Music, piano, pedagogy



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