Music Education... Piano, Violin OR Both? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 06-04-2012, 02:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am not sure is this is the right place to ask these questions so if it is not please tell where i should post this :)

 

 I am looking for some guidance in regards to my almost five year old daughter's desire to play the violin and the piano.  I have several questions that i am hoping to get some thoughts on.

1)  Can she begin lessons for both instruments at once?  If not why?

2)  If she should only start one instrument now which would you recommend and why?

3)  I think i have decided to get her both instruments even if she only starts lessons for one.  Is this a good way to get her use to the instruments?

4)  Would a keyboard suffice as a beginner instrument?  I am planning to get a good quality piano but right it is not feasible.

5)  If a keyboard is acceptable what kind should i be getting?  Are there certain features it should have?

Unfortunately my husband and I have no musical training so i really appreciate any advice i can get.

Thank you so much!


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#2 of 16 Old 06-04-2012, 03:28 PM
 
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Lessons can be very expensive. I've got my boys in piano right now, getting lessons from an uncle at a discounted rate. We still spend about $75.00 a month.

 

It is often possible to get a beginner's piano out of the classifieds (either craigslist or the newspaper) for a very reasonable price.  I do not think a keyboard is a suitible substitute, as the action of the keys is quite different than a piano.

 

Most teachers want the child able to read before starting lessons.

 

Considering the time involvement in the practice of each instrument, I'd start with one, and switch or add as your child continued to show interest.  Being as you say you have no musical instruction in your past, have you thought of how you'll help her practice and learn the notes?

I know for me it was no time at all before my boys were reading bass cleff better than I could. I was a terrible piano student for years, and never mastered bass cleff.  Those boys, however, have smoked me.


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#3 of 16 Old 06-04-2012, 04:43 PM
 
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We have a digital piano that I adore.  We got it off Craigslist for about the cost of tuning a real piano once.  It has a full size keyboard with touch sensitive keys, and it never needs to be tuned and we can stash it in the closet when we have a lot of people over.  Some piano teachers only like "real" pianos, but our daughter's teacher (who is an excellent teacher with talented students) was fine with digital pianos and even had one of her own. There is a difference between a keyboard and a digital piano-- keyboards don't necessarily even have the same size keys as a piano, so look at what they're offering carefully if you decide to get one.

 

Having said all of that, piano can be tough for little kids because their hands are small.  I would lean towards starting with violin lessons.  I wouldn't give a child a violin without lessons, because it's so hard to play without direction.  

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#4 of 16 Old 06-04-2012, 04:57 PM
 
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Unless you feel confident that you can learn to tune a violin, I'd start with piano lessons and get either a second-hand piano, or a decent, keyboard or digital piano (touch sensitive with full sized keys) to begin with.
 

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#5 of 16 Old 06-04-2012, 05:23 PM
 
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I'm a parent to three kids who have studied both violin and piano beginning at ages 3-6. I would strongly suggest starting with only one, and waiting until at least 6 months after a consistent pattern of cheerful daily practicing is established on the first instrument before beginning the second. Do not underestimate the challenge of establishing this habit! Starting two at once is a recipe for burnout on one or both instruments... or else for cutting corners on practicing, which prevents optimal progress ... and progress is what motivates. So pretty soon you have a kid who isn't very interested any more, and a parent who is tired of nagging.

 

Personally I believe that at age 5 violin is the better instrument to start with, providing you can find a teacher skilled at working with children of this age in a developmentally appropriate way. Why? Partly because it's so difficult to learn and requires such a strong foundation in physical/postural skills right at the outset. Being older and smarter doesn't help you learn physical skills any faster, and younger children are far more likely to be willing to take their learning in small bites, to digest each bite thoroughly through the use of games for repetition. Also, in most places skilled Suzuki teachers (who are especially trained to work with 3-to-6-year-olds) are far more ubiquitous in the violin world than the piano world, and the violin is easily scaled down to small sizes for small students. Furthermore, unlike with the violin, a student can make a pleasant sound on the piano at her first lesson and be playing a couple of simple tunes within a month. To start with the easy gratification of the piano at, say, age 5 and then begin violin a year later is a rude awakening! You think you know something about music, but you can't make a pleasant sound and you have at least a couple of months of work ahead of you before you can begin to play anything approaching a tune. 

 

Conversely a student who starts with violin then finds piano to be a lovely gratifying addition to her music learning. It comes more easily than violin did, at least during the critical first 6-12 months, and this comes as a pleasant surprise. Which is helpful, since the workload has now just doubled. Furthermore, a 6- or 7-year-old who has had a couple of years of violin learning is probably ripe to begin learning some keyboard music theory: the piano is a wonderful place to learn music theory. Five-year-olds don't usually have a lot of the experience with visual-symbolic learning and mathematics that helps sight-reading and music theory make sense. Piano requires (and facilitates) more music reading ability, and older kids are better suited to that.

 

An electronic piano with weighted, full-sized keys that are touch-sensitive may be a suitable substitute for an acoustic piano for a beginner. These are not particularly cheap. You could probably find a decent older acoustic upright for the same price. A basic electric keyboard is not suitable, at least not in my opinion and not according to the vast majority of skilled piano teachers. Electric keyboards are good tools for playing around with improvising, composing and learning to read music, but there are a lot of crucial piano skills that cannot be learned on a cheap keyboard. 

 

A decent student violin with properly adjusted fittings and synthetic strings should stay quite well in tune from lesson to lesson. If not, a teacher can guide a parent in tuning it over the phone, or alternatively a basic electronic tuner can be purchased for about $15 (this one is fabulous for parents). Tuning is not a problem in my experience. 

 

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#6 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 08:39 AM
 
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As a professional musician (viola/violin) I would definitely recommend that piano as the starting instrument. In fact we intend to start our kids on piano when they begin lessons. The reasons are somewhat complicated, but basically the fact that the piano has all the notes laid out on the keyboard for you is great, plus it prevents the child associating a particular note with a fingering pattern (as on violin). Basicially it promotes more "correct" music pedagogy. Also, the piano helps them develop better intonation. I can elaborate on this if you want to know. FWIW, I started on violin and I have ended up being a professional, but I can see that it would have definitely have been better to begin on a keyboard instrument.

 

I would try and get a real piano as soon as you can, however I think a keyboard would be ok in the very short term, provided it has *full sized keys*. A digital piano (better touch) would be a step up from this. Beware of used pianos as they often cannot be brought up to concert pitch which can cause the ear to become trained incorrectly.

 

That said, if she is really set on violin, do it. And tuning is no problem. I would actually discourage parents from trying to tune their child's violin in between lessons. It is easy to mess things up if you don't know what you are doing. They don't have machine pegs like a guitar and there is a lot more to go wrong. It shouldn't go too out of tune between (weekly) lessons. If students aren't taking lessons over the summer (they should be) then you can probably organize to drop in on your teacher and have them tune it (2 mins).

 

under no circumstances buy her a violin and let her 'play' on it without lessons. This can be really disastrous. I have had several students who came from this and it was, honestly a nightmare. They had 'played' on it with incorrect technique for a while. This set their technique and they were resistant to the correct way as it was more difficult than the way they were used to. The piano is a different story.


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#7 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 08:43 AM
 
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I started with the violin when I was about 5. I did have a very little piano under my belt. I would recommend starting with the piano because it is an easier tool for children to learn how to read and understand music. Once you can read music, I think other instruments may come a little easier.

 

Or you could just ask your daughter which instrument she wants to learn more. Give her some say and make sure she follows through before you spend a lot of money on multiple instruments.

 

Is she going into kindergarten? Some schools offer classes and even loaner instruments, so that may be something worth looking into. My mother never could have afforded to pay for a violin and lessons when I was a child, but I was fortunate enough to attend a public school with an outstanding arts program.

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#8 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 10:04 AM
 
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My son started a year ago, at 6 and a half, with both the violin & piano.  At home we only have a keyboard, but we occasionally practice on friends' pianos, which has worked for us so far. 

 I think that he enjoys the shorter time that he practices each instrument, rather than a longer period on one instument.  Usually, he practices 15 to 20 minutes a day on each, and lessons started with 15 minutes of each.  If he's getting ready for a recital on one instument, then he practices that one more than the other.

I believe that he is advancing slower than if he spent more time on one, but he seems to enjoy different aspects of both instruments.  He can play a nice simple tune on either, so he gets satisfation from that ability.  We're not on a schedule, so a slower pace is fine, it's just how it goes.

I have no musical experience, so I'm learning beside him, and he is beginning to outpace me in some things.  I am learning piano along side him, but I can't play his 1/4 size violin with my big fingers and hands, so he is learning that without me.

I would say that he gets more frustrated with the violin, but is maybe more pleased with mastering that much harder skill.

 

My other child will start one or two instruments in the fall, after she turns six.  She says she wants to learn flute & piano, but I'm not sure that she's ready for the flute.

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#9 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 10:08 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redvlagrl View Post

As a professional musician (viola/violin) I would definitely recommend that piano as the starting instrument.

I would agree with an older child, one who is intellectually for systematic music theory, say a 7-year-old. A 5-year-old, though, should be learning more by ear, playfully, using a developmentally appropriate pedagogical approach. Later the piano, with its theory-oriented visual layout, will be a great asset in learning theory.
Quote:
Originally Posted by redvlagrl View Post

Also, the piano helps them develop better intonation. I can elaborate on this if you want to know. FWIW, I started on violin and I have ended up being a professional, but I can see that it would have definitely have been better to begin on a keyboard instrument.

As a professional, a violin teacher and a parent to an aspiring violin performance major, I'd love you to elaborate. I don't see how playing a tempered instrument that is likely tuned just two or three times a year (if that) is going to develop better intonation than learning to hear and tune to the internal harmonic resonance of a stringed instrument. my kids all started on violins, and they all have amazing intonation. I think that's because on the violin you have to create your intonation, so you have to learn to listen for it.

Of course I'm assuming a home environment rich in opportunities to hear accurate intonation in good-quality recorded music. For most modern kids, who have homes filled with digital stereo hardware, and for Suzuki students in particular, this is pretty much a given in my experience.

Miranda

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#10 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 10:49 AM
 
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My husband and I are both professional orchestral violinists. Yes, it's fine to start at 5! Most violinists start between the ages of 3 and 6, so you guys are on track.

 

Piano is fine to start at that age, too.

 

I disagree that there is a "correct" instrument to start with. Start with whatever you and she would like. I'll throw in a plug for violin and point out that they are much more portable!

 

I'd say probably start with lessons on one instrument, then add the other one later. The most important thing is that you guys are committed to starting a daily practice routine at home. It can be a bit much to fit both instruments in at first.

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#11 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 11:13 AM
 
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I would start her off with one instrument at a time. As a life-long musician,it would be easier for a child to focus their attention on one,and then,when they learn the second,they already have the base for the other. From experience,if you started her off with piano,all other instruments would come so much easier for her. I started the piano when I was 5 and then started the trumpet when I was 10. I was first chair in everything I played the trumpet in,and I owe that to having the piano as my first instrument. Even when I first picked up the trumpet,I was always the best in the class,and one of the best musicians in general,as were all the other piano players. Trust me,piano first,she'll have time to learn other things. Besides,you want to be sure she even has the interest! No sense wasting a bunch of time and money,as well as stress,to make your kid do something they don't like. Age 5 is fine,but I would say only if she's already showing interest in playing something. I actually asked my parents to let me learn the piano when I was 4 or 5,right after they got a cheap piano. So,they felt it wouldn't be throwing away money to start me that young. None of my other siblings showed interest until later,so they waited till they asked. The best thing they could have done. To force something on you child because you think they "should" do it will only push them away from things and build a gap between the two of you.

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#12 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 11:19 AM
 
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Oh,I missed the other questions about the keyboard. A keyboard will be fine,especially if it has a really good piano sound. You're going to want one with weighted keys,in case you don't get a real piano for a long time (years),because she'll need to learn how to control her hands and fingers for the volume. Also,in case you decide not to bother with a real piano,you want one with 88 keys as well. Any other sounds aren't important,but you'll really want the features I mentioned. She needs to get used to the sound,the weight and how to hold her hands and everything. You'll also want 2 pedals,well,at least one-the sustaining pedal. The other,the damper pedal,isn't quite as important. I would wait on the instruments until you're sure she even wants to play. Then,I would wait on the 2nd instrument in case she hates playing music.

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#13 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 12:58 PM
 
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Suzuki would be a good method for both instruments :)

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#14 of 16 Old 06-05-2012, 06:54 PM
 
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I agree with all of the replies that recommend violin because in order to play piano your daughter would have to be able to read sheet music (this is what the professionals told me). Most 5 year olds are just beginning to read simple books, so sheet music might be a bit daunting. My daughter started Suzuki violin at 3.5 years of age, by her choice. I will say from experience that the gentle structure necessary for a proper learning environment can be rather trying at times. So in other-words be prepared for the days when they don't want to practice. There are times when we don't practice, because in order to accomplish the end goal, it might be to stressful. Our instructor, Debbie Markow @ Manchester Community Music School in Manchester, NH is simply amazing. Our first instructor, in Exeter, NH, was not a proper fit. Find someone who will be patient, kind, and committed. Also, look into renting the violin with the option to purchase because if she/you decide this is not the path you wish to follow then the investment has been minor compared to the cost of $250-$300 for a 1/16th size violin. Cost is a big consideration, so look around around and find out how much classes are, the length of time, and the cost of renting a violin is. This way you will be able to make an educated decision. One other suggestion involve your daughter in the process. Good luck with your venture & God Bless!
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#15 of 16 Old 06-11-2012, 11:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you everyone for your thoughts.  Yesterday we bought her a violin.  She is beyond thrilled and looks forward to starting lessons.  smile.gif


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#16 of 16 Old 06-11-2012, 12:08 PM
 
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That's great that she's so excited, but please try to make sure that she doesn't "play" the violin without the help of a teacher. It is so easy to learn wrong habits, and so much work to undo them. I speak from experience.

 

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