Violin lessons for a young 3 year old? How should we approach her teacher? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 09-30-2013, 12:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We're considering violin lessons for our DD who has turned 3 not that long ago. Out of nowhere, she requested violin lessons and while we don't understand where her drive is coming from, we'd like to get her started if we can afford it. 

 

Traditional violin teachers normally do not accept 3 year olds and I do not blame them. Suzuki teachers work with younger children but the idea of putting DD on a foam violin or keeping her on the same song for a year makes me want to run away as fast as we can. 

 

Since lessons start around $30 for 30 minutes, I'd like to wait until she is at least 4 but DD says she really wants to learn and promises to practice everyday. 

 

What I want to do is find a teacher who uses a blend of Suzuki method and traditional method. The problem is that these teachers often only take older students (4+) but DD does not exactly function like most three year olds. Yet, I don't want to contact a teacher and give a whole speech about how gifted my little one is. Really, really do not want to go there. 

 

So, I'm tempted to just wait out a year and let DD "play" with a cheap violin. DH thinks this is a terrible idea as she'd pick up bad habits and we'd have to pay more later to undo them. If I explain to DD that she'd have to wait a year to start violin lessons, she'd understand although she'd be disappointed and I'd feel terrible about lying to her. 

 

Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated. :)

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#2 of 18 Old 09-30-2013, 05:26 AM
 
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Why would you lie to her? Look around and see through trial lessons if there's a teacher who would be a good fit. If not, PLEASE tell her the truth. The truth us always the best.
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#3 of 18 Old 09-30-2013, 05:37 AM
 
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It's ok for a child to hear she needs to wait until she's older. It's counter to my basic parenting philosophy to always run out and provide for my child what he/she wants, no matter how educational or exciting I find it. It's ok to wait.

After 12 years sitting through piano and violin recitals as a student myself, I came out with a clear pattern: by age 6, you can't tell the difference between kids who started at 3 and those that started at 5.5. So much of that early time is working on basic skills that aren't that age appropriate. Even for a gifted child with a huge capacity for self-regulation, there are other skills, like fine motor and gross motor integration that are so key.

Get her into general music classes where she can learn rhythms, listening for high and low notes, dynamics and basic musicality in an age-appropriate way. At the same time, keep her interest in violin by watching youtube videos, listening to music, and seeking out symphony concerts aimed at kids. Our professional symphony does kid concerts once every quarter. See if you have something similar local to you.
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#4 of 18 Old 09-30-2013, 09:39 AM
 
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I'm a veteran here, I guess. I have four gifted kids, all of whom started violin at fairly young ages.

 

Eldest dd started at 3.5 and is HG/PG.

Middle dd and ds started a year or so later and are HG.

Youngest dd started at not-quite-3 and is probably HG/PG.

 

All started within the Suzuki paradigm. All took between 4 and 7 months to be ready to move off the first piece (which is really six pieces: a theme and set of five variations). Two of them started on pretend violins. It didn't make me run for the hills. If you haven't experienced it, it can sound daunting, but it isn't months of working to perfect a piece that they can only play rather badly at the outset. It's a case of starting out with the most basic of (silent) skills that are layered one on top of another as each solidifies. I didn't feel frustrated: I could see my kids progressing, the layers of skills being accured atop each other, and for the most part they enjoyed the process so the journey was what mattered, not the goal. The first few lessons were about postural and fine-motor skills. After two or three weeks they started working on getting a nice sound on open strings. After two or three months they were ready to start stringing pitches together, playing in-tune notes with the left hand fingers, crossing strings, getting a staccato sound here, a legato sound here. Each accomplishment is exciting. I didn't spend my time waiting for them to be competent enough to play that first piece on a recital: I was too busy noticing all the hundreds and hundreds of steps along the way. Getting myself free of a goal-oriented mentality was essential, and freeing. 

 

On the other hand, i think Geofizz is right: the learning is not terribly developmentally appropriate for very young children. Playing the violin involves an exceedingly complex skill-set. Playing that first piece ... well, 90% of the basic violin skills have to be well-learned to play that very first piece well. The one advantage I see in starting children on violin before the more traditional age of 6 is that they are much more process oriented and don't have the impatience of older kids. They tend to be willing to set up and consolidate the early skills properly before moving on. If their parents aren't communicating impatience to them, anyway.

 

My eldest took the longest to move off the Twinkles (7-8 months). She is stubborn, has very high needs for autonomy, and was relatively goal-oriented even at 3, and she wasn't willing to try much until she was sure she had learned it internally and was ready to do it well. That went for all the tiny steps in her early violin learning too. There was some longer-term fall-out, I think, from the tension between her desires and the her developmental limitations for the complexity of integrating all those intellectual, musical and fine-motor tasks. Even though she was incredibly bright and incredibly focused, it took her a long time to find her stride on the violin in terms of owning the process, motivating her own learning, knowing why and how she was best to accomplish the day-to-day stuff. Really she was 12 before she hit consistently smooth sailing. She's now playing professionally and part-way through a performance degree and a highly sought after college music conservatory program. So it all came out in the wash, but it was a challenge, one that might have been avoided to an extent if we had waited a little longer before starting.

 

My middle two did much better through those early years. I think partly because of the later start. And also I was more laid back about making it work. I knew I had to be fully committed to supporting them, but I had less anxiety about expressing that support in exactly the right way. I became really convinced (still am, actually) that around age 4.5 is the best age to start lessons on the instrument, even for intellectually gifted kids. 

 

But alas my youngest child would have no part of that plan. I completely agree with Geofizz that there's nothing wrong with telling a child that they're too young for something, but my poor 2.75-year-old had to come and watch her three older siblings have violin lessons every week, and observe their immensely fun multi-level group classes, and we *had* a hand-me-down tiny violin in our house already just waiting for her, and she knew what practising every day looked like and felt like. There came a point where it just seemed cruel to keep telling her that she couldn't join in on what everyone else was doing. And so eventually the violin teacher and I both caved in and allowed her to start her own little 10-minute lessons. And because she had in essence had years of introductory teaching by observation she actually moved fairly quickly through the early steps. She was off a pretend violin within 3 or 4 lessons, and playing all the Twinkle variations within 5 months. 

 

Still, she was a special case: she'd already had years of being steeped in the pre-learning of her Suzuki beginner skills, and it was impossible to keep her waiting in a family full of children doing exactly what she wanted to be doing. Furthermore, as she's grown up it has become apparent that she is this incredibly unique kid who has not only a very high level of intellectual giftedness but an unbelievably cheerful, resilient and creative attitude to challenge -- and none of the emotional intensity that had come to seem normal to me as part of the gifted-kid psyche. 

 

I do want to make a pitch for Suzuki teaching. If you find a good Suzuki teacher you will not find formulaic snail's-pace teaching; you will find someone with a framework and skill-set that allows for excellent highly individualized creative teaching within the developmental limitations of children younger than 6. For some children some skills will come very slowly; for others they'll come quickly. A good Suzuki teacher will take great joy in the accomplishments of both groups of kids, and will not be attached to particular expectations for rate of progress. And you should also find within the Suzuki program a multi-age, multi-level community of fellow learners and similarly supportive parents. 

 

One thing I also wanted to mention is that traditional teaching tends to rely on gradual mastery of music-reading skills from the beginning, and despite all signs to the contrary, intellectually precocious kids may not be ready for note-reading as young as is expected of them. My eldest was reading proper novels at 4, but note-reading did not really click for her in a meaningful way until she was 8 and into student concerto repertoire on both violin and piano. My ds also had a considerable lag in his note-reading skills. Youngest dd began reading music fairly well around her 5th birthday, but she was already heading into intermediate repertoire at that point. Reading on-instrument is considerably more abstract and complex than reading language, because there's no one-to-one correspondence with anything: that blob means one thing if it's there, something different if it's there, something different again if there's a sharp way over here, and has a different value entirely depending on the numbers at the beginning of the piece and depending on how many beams are above it and the whether you're counting in half-beats or beats, etc. etc.. The Suzuki approach allows kids not to be held hostage by their developmentally appropriate lags in note-reading ability: the approach allows them to continue to be challenged musically even when their decoding isn't yet up to the task.

 

Having said all those nice things about the Suzuki approach, it's not a rigid training system that qualifies and certifies the best teachers. There are crappy teachers who consider themselves Suzuki teachers, some of whom have loads of "training" and experience, there are people who are wonderful teachers who believe many of the same things philosophically and pedagogically as good Suzuki teachers but without calling themselves Suzuki teachers. And there are great teachers of all stripes who probably won't jive with your child's personality. So the most important thing is to find the teacher who is right for your child and whatever age and stage you're at. 

 

Keep an open mind. Consider waiting a year. Don't lie if that's the route you take, just say "The best teachers we can find don't really know how to teach children as young as you are. They want you to be older, so we will plan on starting when you are 4." In the meantime, observe lessons, recitals, group classes, fill your home with opportunities for general (non-violin) musical experimentation and exposure. 

 

Miranda


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#5 of 18 Old 09-30-2013, 04:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Geofizz View Post

It's ok for a child to hear she needs to wait until she's older. It's counter to my basic parenting philosophy to always run out and provide for my child what he/she wants, no matter how educational or exciting I find it. It's ok to wait.

After 12 years sitting through piano and violin recitals as a student myself, I came out with a clear pattern: by age 6, you can't tell the difference between kids who started at 3 and those that started at 5.5. So much of that early time is working on basic skills that aren't that age appropriate. Even for a gifted child with a huge capacity for self-regulation, there are other skills, like fine motor and gross motor integration that are so key.

Get her into general music classes where she can learn rhythms, listening for high and low notes, dynamics and basic musicality in an age-appropriate way. At the same time, keep her interest in violin by watching youtube videos, listening to music, and seeking out symphony concerts aimed at kids. Our professional symphony does kid concerts once every quarter. See if you have something similar local to you.

 

I agree with this. Of course I don't know your child personally. My own children were made to wait for formal lessons until they were kindergarten age so they had the patience to practice and sit through lessons. Their teacher is an excellent music theory teacher and that goes along with the actual piano lessons. We had the keyboard around and I enjoyed watching them learn on their own and get used to the feel of the keys. When they started their lessons it was an easier transition.

My friend's little girl is extremely gifted at dancing. She was dancing before she could walk practically. She also was made to wait until age 4 or 5 to start lessons in the art she wanted to learn (traditional Indian dancing). It does not seem to have hurt her at all. 


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#6 of 18 Old 10-04-2013, 03:11 PM
 
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I can't top the fabulous response you already got about Suzuki, but I can add my experience, my daughter started requesting to play the violin at age 2. We started her in group Suzuki lessons at 3.5. My daughter loved her styrofoam violin. It took her a good year and a half to play twinkle, and she enjoyed every step. It was not burdensome or irritating as a parent, but I think it's important to have appropriate expectations for the very slow pace that most three year olds will have (with some exceptions).

My daughter is HG and does not respond well to "you have to wait until you're older." At 3, she was much more like a typical 4-5 year old. Suzuki is specifically designed to teach very young children,and they do it well. She's nine now, and an excellent little violinist. She probably isn't any further ahead than if she had started later and moved faster, but that wasn't the point of starting early. She had a strong interest, and we found a way to meet it. That's kind of been our operating method with her ever since!

Best wishes.
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#7 of 18 Old 10-05-2013, 11:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you everyone for taking the time to respond. :stillheart Your replies made it so much easier for me to think clearly. Special thanks to Miranda for the details accounts of all of your four children's early violin years. I know almost nothing about violin but my intuition that earlier isn’t always better seems to align with others’ experiences. 

 

If I could find a fun, high-quality group music lessons, I’d opt for that instead but we aren’t too crazy about what we can find where we live. There are so many choices when it comes to sports, martial arts, dance/ballet, and preschool/k prep (!) but not so much when it comes to music lessons for six or younger.

 

DD rarely asks for things so when she does ask, it’s hard to say no to especially if it’s an educational activity. I’m learning not to jump at every opportunity that she asks for in the name of “child led approach.” I also can’t help but think that $40 per 30 min lesson for a 3 year old is excessive to the extreme no matter how “advanced” the child may be. Group lessons would be great but they are not available here for three year olds and most of the time, it’s offered as a supplement to private lessons. I have to weigh the cost with what she may get out of the lessons including what she’d be learning beyond music.  

 

We managed to find a teacher who has all the right qualities and credentials. I think we’re going to bite the bullet here and let her try one lesson before we make a decision. We’ve let DD know that this doesn’t mean that she is starting but I am not sure how much of that she actually processed since she was beyond excited by the prospect of meeting her violin teacher.

 

 The trial lesson is early next week so I’ll come back with another update. :)

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#8 of 18 Old 10-05-2013, 07:04 PM
 
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I teach Suzuki violin for kids as young as three! Most kids are fine to start at three, but of course, you need to have the right expectations. Yes, you will be working on Twinkle for months. What's wrong with that? Don't three-year-olds love singing the same song over and over? I know my students do. The idea isn't that you're working on a piece. You're learning to play the violin: how to hold it, how to make a good sound, how to move your arms. With a three-year-old, you're learning how to focus, how to concentrate, how not to get frustrated. It can be good times, and it is hard work, but hard work is ok.

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#9 of 18 Old 10-06-2013, 09:09 AM
 
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You have many replies here from people with more experience than me, but I just want to add that it isn't all or nothing.  We have had an on again/off again relationship with music lessons that hasn't hurt anyone.

 

My DD begged for violin lessons and we started her around 3.5 with a teacher who taught middle school music during the day.  DD's playing got better, but her behavior became a problem and around 5 we stopped and switched teachers.  It was no better with the next teacher.  DD still insisted that she wanted to play the violin, and frankly I didn't want her to quit because I could see that this was the one truly difficult thing in her academic life. Her behavior in all other areas was excellent and my theory is that violin was difficult in a way that reading, writing, and math were not (for her).

 

We stopped lessons for 7 months, mostly because of scheduling problems, and have recently started again with a young college student who speaks to her as if she were 18. DD is now 6.5.  Her behavior during lessons is now excellent, and the skills she learned as a very young child are not lost.  Yes, her playing stagnated and she is starting again at the point where she was earlier, but she is not goal-oriented when it comes to violin and I feel good about her once again receiving a musical education.

 

Just my $0.02.  :)


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#10 of 18 Old 10-12-2013, 02:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So, the first lesson went well. We rented a tiny little violin for her.  I think we'll see how it goes until the end of the year. 

 

I'm still on the fence about the whole thing. It's wonderful that she wants to learn an instrument and is willing to work at it but on the other hand, I wanted her first 5 or 6 years to be free of formal learning as much as possible and this seems quite formal to me. I will do the best I can do to support her learning of course but my heart isn't quite in it. 

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#11 of 18 Old 10-21-2013, 03:27 PM
 
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I started violin lessons at 2.5. It was very slow going, but I played all the way through high school. I started teaching violin to my kids at age 4. My oldest didn't start formal lessons until 1st grade. My younger one hasn't started formal lessons yet, but is learning to read music. For her, the note reading seems to come easier than finger positions on the strings.

I think 3 is a great age to start, but agree with having the right expectations. She may not be playing any 'real' songs for a year or more. As long as she enjoys it, it will be beneficial. smile.gif


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#12 of 18 Old 10-21-2013, 09:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you KSLaura. I do agree that lessons are probably quite beneficial for DD.  

 

I think what was really bothering me is that this feels like the end of her toddlerhood. The other day, I had to get her a size 4/5 dress instead of 3 and it hit me that I wasn't ready to think of her as child who is big enough to wear a dress that size or mature enough to handle violin lessons. We've entered a new phase.

 

Whether I'm ready or not, DD is definitely ready to move on and she is thriving so instead of focusing on the loss, I'm going to enjoy each moment I spend with her, including her daily violin practice. :)

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#13 of 18 Old 11-29-2013, 09:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Just a quick update. It's been about 7 weeks since DD had her own 1/16 violin and she not practices everyday but she practices throughout the day. I'm not sure how our neighbors are feeling about this so I try to take her to a park whenever I can and she gets her outdoor time afterwards. 

 

It took 6 lessons to get her to do Mississippi Hotdog consistently to a metronome on all open strings and we've finally started on the first Twinkle variation. It is slow moving for sure but not painfully so. The way it's going, I don't know if we'd ever get past book 1 but it doesn't seem to bother her that we're doing one note at a time and the smile on DD's face when she gets something she couldn't do on her first try is priceless. 

 

I ended up renting a full size violin for myself so I could help her practice and it's a lot harder than it seems. I was ready to give up after the first day. I'm a lot screechier than DD and she thinks that's hilarious. 

 

This was a rather big financial and educational decision for us so I really appreciate the support, advice, and perspective you've all shared with us. :)  

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#14 of 18 Old 12-11-2013, 09:45 AM
 
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Meant to reply when you posted this: thanks for the update! It's really good to hear that things are working out well so far. It's tough when our kids' affinities and needs challenge our own assumptions, but you sound both well-grounded and flexible. Happy Twinkling!

 

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#15 of 18 Old 12-12-2013, 10:54 AM
 
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I also cannot top Moominmomma's response.Great to hear you went with Suzuki! My children have never been as motivated as your daughter, so keep it up!

 

My now 14 year old started cello at 3 and four months--I thought I would challenge him tremendously... (joke was on me, since he took off in his musical ability but hated practicing until he turned 10..). He finished the first Suzuki book by the time he was 4.5 and at 9 was done with all 9 books, and playing full concertos. The teacher did not hold him overly long on any one piece but I do think she held him to build up his form and his technique. We started supplementing with etudes and note reading at the beginning of Book 3. 

 

My younger son (8) has spent 2 years on bass Suzuki 1. We are finally out of the woods and he is learning fast. Like his older brother, he does not like practicing, but lack of music education is not a choice in our household.

 

I have seen many kids who started studying music early, and the Suzuki kids have the advantage of being able to play better by ear, improvise better, and memorize pieces faster. But for a musically gifted child, it would be necessary to switch to more traditional approaches rather quickly.

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#16 of 18 Old 12-16-2013, 08:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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moominmama, thank you for your kind words. I might have spoken too soon, however. It didn't take that long for me to stop screeching and catch up to DD and she didn't like it at all that suddenly, I was the "star" student and she had fallen behind. She still kept up with the practice but oh my, the attitude. I was ready to return my violin to the store just to end the conflict but DH dug in and said this is a perfect opportunity for her to learn to cope with frustration and not being the fastest and best student in the room. He felt very strongly about this and DD could tell how determined he was. DD being the oppositional defiant child that she is, did everything she could think of to put a stop to it for two long weeks but now, she seems to have come around and even offers to help me practice by reading the music and keeping the tempo. I am getting a lot more than I bargained for when I sighed her up but we're having fun and it's rather special to be learning an instrument together :)

 

dessinsmama, thank you for sharing your sons' experiences. I would have thought someone as talented as your DS1 had always enjoyed practicing. When DD starts protesting, at least I'd know that doesn't meant that it's time to give up. 

 

I'm not sure if DD has any talent as a performer but her ability to appreciate music is a different story. When her teacher occasionally plays for us at the end of her lesson, DD seems completely transfixed. Learning violin seems to be deepening her love of music and that is truly exciting!

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#17 of 18 Old 12-17-2013, 02:21 PM
 
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OP,  good job with learning how to play the violin.  Don't give up on it!  In many cases, beginning violin students whose parents are involved with the Suzuki instruction like you are, end up progressing the most rapidly.  So keep up with the lessons.

 

One suggestion.  Perhaps it is time for you to have your lessons separate from your dd, at least for a little while?  Maybe you could have a private lesson for yourself? If dd wants to be present in the room, that would be fine, but then there would no longer be the side-by-side comparison.  Possibly, but not necessarily with your own set of songs to learn that are different from dd's?

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#18 of 18 Old 02-18-2014, 07:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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In many cases, beginning violin students whose parents are involved with the Suzuki instruction like you are, end up progressing the most rapidly. 

 

hide.gif

 

I ended up returning the violin after 2 months because it felt so bulky and heavy to me. I think I need a lighter violin and will pick one up when I find the right one. When & if I start working more hours, it might be in our budget to pay for double tuition. Violin lessons are expensive around here but I'd love to continue if we can afford tuition for both of us. DD doesn't want to practice with me and prefers using her metronome but I think it's good for us to learn together so she can see that learning is a process, even for grownups.  

 

A quick update. Once she was able to put the first Twinkle variation together, learning other variations came relatively easy. Now we're polishing up Lightly Row and learning Song of the Wind. DD was not kidding when she said she wanted to learn violin. When she finally got the green light to move on to Lightly Row, she couldn't stop rejoicing by jumping around and running in circles all day and night. Her exuberance spills over to her playing and I think she's at a stage where she thinks faster means better so our biggest challenge right now is to get her to stay calm and steady. violin.gif 

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