Beethoven's first music teacher was his father. A traditional belief concerning Johann is that he was a harsh instructor, and that the child Beethoven, "made to stand at the keyboard, was often in tears". However, the New Grove indicates that there is no solid documentation to support it, and asserts that "speculation and myth-making have both been productive." Beethoven had other local teachers as well: the court organist Gilles van den Eeden (d. 1782), Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer (a family friend, who taught Beethoven piano), and a relative, Franz Rovantini (violin and viola). His musical talent manifested itself early. Johann, aware of Leopold Mozart's successes in this area, attempted to exploit his son as a child prodigy, claiming that Beethoven was six (he was seven) on the posters for Beethoven's first public performance in March 1778.
Some time after 1779, Beethoven began his studies with his most important teacher in Bonn, Christian Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed the Court's Organist in that year. Neefe taught Beethoven composition, and by March 1783 had helped him write his first published composition: a set of keyboard variations. Beethoven soon began working with Neefe as assistant organist, first on an unpaid basis (1781), and then as paid employee (1784) of the court chapel conducted by the Kapellmeister Andrea Luchesi. His first three piano sonatas, named "Kurfürst" ("Elector") for their dedication to the Elector Maximilian Frederick, were published in 1783. Maximilian Frederick, who died in 1784, not long after Beethoven's appointment as assistant organist, had noticed Beethoven's talent early, and had subsidized and encouraged the young Beethoven's musical studies.