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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My almost 7 year old son has been wanting to play the violin for about a year. I'm at a loss here...I've called around to different places that offer lessons, many will sell us a violin for about $160. Lessons, are an additional $60-75 per month. I'm saving up to buy the instrument and then I notice on ebay a lot of child sized violins for around $20-40 which probably means they're not good?? These are new instruments like this one...
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...330911868&rd=1
I'm wondering about the Suzuki (I think that's what it's called) method??? I've heard great things about it. I've heard there is a great deal of parental involvement, which may not work for us with a 4 year old and a baby in tow. TIA!!!
 

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I played the violin for a couple of years in grade school (4th and 5th grades) and I don't know specifically about the lessons or quality of instruments (we rented mine). My guess about the less expensive price is that b/c it's not full size, there isn't too much demand- therefore cheaper.
 

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I'm not an expert, but my DD has taken violin for 2 years so I've learn a little. Many places rent violins and that can be a good way to start. My DD's first violin cost us $14/per month. We felt this was a good option because we didn't know if she would stick with it once she started and we didn't want to force her because of the money for the instrument. Also, the violin has to be the right size for the child and they can hit a growth spurt and outgrow their violin. If you are renting, you just take it back and they give you the next size up. If you own, you start all over again.

There is a wide variety of quality in violins, even in small sizes. I don't know how to judge the quality. I think that if you found a teacher, they should know enough to be able to help you find a decent violin.

One way to find a teacher is to contact a symphony or university in your area. Most keep a list of good teachers for instruments. $60-$70 a month is pretty typical.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Pigpen
I'm saving up to buy the instrument and then I notice on ebay a lot of child sized violins for around $20-40 which probably means they're not good?? These are new instruments like this one...
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...330911868&rd=1
I'm a Suzuki violin teacher and I would not teach a student on a violin of that quality. I insist the instrument have decent quality tone, proper perlon-core A, D and G strings and a properly and expertly-fitted bridge and soundpost. Why? Because it's hard enough to make nice sounds on a violin when you're a beginner playing a small instrument -- why make it well-nigh impossible by adding the challenges of poor acoustics and tinny strings? In my experience the attrition rate of young string students is inversely proportional to the quality of the instrument the child is playing. No point in loading the dice against your child


There's no way for me to be sure that this particular instrument has a terrible quality sound without hearing it, but I've seen enough eBay purchases in real life, and watched violin auctions on eBay enough to know that there are a lot of dealers working the on-line auction market who know what they're buying and selling and so you get what you pay for.

Good violin teachers come in all stripes, but I grew up in a Suzuki program and swore I wanted that experience for my kids. The Suzuki approach is holistic in that its primary aim is not to produce fine musicians, but to produce fine human beings through the vehicle of disciplined study of classical music playing. It is built upon the foundation of a triangular relationship between parent, teacher and child, all playing active roles. It is particularly suited to young children because it starts with aural learning, adding visual learning (reading music) once a solid foundation of good posture and good tone production has been built, at a time when developmentally speaking kids are more capable of dealing with the mathematics and symbolic decoding of written music. It's also unique in that Suzuki children are part of a community of other students who share a common repertoire from the very start and play together regularly. We have a tiny Suzuki program in my town, and I just returned from our end-of-year Celebration Performance where advanced teenagers played together in groups and then joined with 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds to play early repertoire together. The warm mass of sound, and the sight of teens and preschoolers playing together with obvious joy, is something very magical indeed.

If you are strapped for cash I agree with renting. Find a teacher first and get hands-on guidance in sizing your ds correctly. Different teachers have different preferences for sizing, due to their differing emphases and styles of teaching. Get advice about good places to rent. Many have good rent-to-own programs, and generous systems for trading up from one size to the next as your child grows.

In choosing a teacher, observe some lessons first and consider your decision thoroughly. As one of my teacher-trainers was fond of saying, "Any idiot can teach and intermediate violinist, but it takes an expert to teach a beginner." Go with the best teacher of beginners that you can afford. It pays off hugely.

Miranda
 

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Miranda,
Excellent post. My 9 year old wants to play the violin. We have a Suzuki program at our local university. Some hs'ers here go to this program. I have talked with some of them about it but none of them could explain it very well. Your post was very helpful to me. Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
yes, thanks Miranda for that very informative post! I'll look into a Suzuki teacher in my area...I am concerned that I won't be able to do it because of my younger children, it almost seems as though I'd need to get childcare for them during his lessons, which is not a possibility.
Linda, I was planning on buying the instrument because I have 2 other children that may end up playing it at some point, but I hadn't thought about the fact that he'll need to change sizes at some point. thanks for the heads up!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Pigpen
I am concerned that I won't be able to do it because of my younger children, it almost seems as though I'd need to get childcare for them during his lessons, which is not a possibility.
That's unlikely to be necessary, at least not most of the time, in most studios. I have four kids and I've always taken all the younger siblings to lessions. Suzuki lessons are meant to be observed by others, and in fact observation is a large part of the learning. Often the teacher's studio will have a table at the back with crayons and paper and coloring books and lacing toys for younger siblings and waiting students to putter around quietly at. I mean, if you have a 2yo who is shrieking and pulling things off shelves, obviously that's not going to work, but reasonably non-distracting younger siblings are part and parcel of the family-based nature of Suzuki lessons. In fact, Suzuki teachers talk about the Sibling Effect, which is the incredibly quick pace of learning a younger sibling exhibits upon starting his own lessons after years of being witness to lessons, group classes and home practicing and experiencing all that passive listening to the reference recording.

Miranda
 

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Quote:
there are a lot of dealers working the on-line auction market who know what they're buying and selling and so you get what you pay for
With a stringed instrument, you do *not* always get what you pay for. A child starting the violin is going to sound like a child starting the violin. Rent a violin, sure -- see if your son enjoys the instrument.

We just bought our dd a 1/32 size violin on eBay for $30 shipped. Included the violin, 2 bows, strings and a case.
I can give you the name of the online music store if you would like.

I won't go into how much money you *can* spend on a violin, but will tell you that it is the player, not the violin that makes the difference.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Kim
I couldn't disagree more. With a stringed instrument, you do *not* always get what you pay for. A child starting the violin is going to sound like a child starting the violin. .... I won't go into how much money you *can* spend on a violin, but will tell you that it is the player, not the violin that makes the difference.
Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree. I'm a professional violinist and a teacher of little kids for many years and my experience has been that of course, a great violinist can make even a lousy little violin sound great ... but a beginner cannot. A beginner can make a great sound, but it helps vastly to have a better-than-entry-level instrument. And hence the attrition rate it significantly reduced by insisting on a decent instrument.

Of course it's possible to pay too much for an instrument, especially if you're dealing with a medium-sized music store or a private vendor, rather than a reputable strings-specialist dealer. But I was speaking specifically to the converse situation -- someone hoping to get "a steal" by paying very little on eBay.

Anyway, to each his own. Obviously there are conflicting opinions on this. I happen to think it's a false economy to spend $30 on a young child's instrument.

ETA that one of main reasons for starting tiny Suzuki students on cardboard boxes is so that from the very first moment they have real violins on their shoulders, they have the skills they need to make a beautiful sound. The Suzuki method very much about beautiful tone from the get-go.

Miranda
 

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I just wanted to point out that chosing a teacher is just as important as a violin. Suzuki is not trademarked and anyone can say that they are a Suzuki teacher. I've heard awful stories of kids who were taking 'Suzuki' lessons and came to HATE their instrument because of the teacher. I would read some of Suzuki's work (Nurtured by Love is a good way to start) to get a feel for the ideas behind the method.

Diana
 

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Another trained Suzuki Violin teacher her (in fact, Miranda, do you run a Suzuki website for Canadians? I think I ran across it a few weeks back and loved it...) and I also have worked for a large music store as a string specialist for years. Miranda's post was excellent about the Suzuki Method- I just went through some pretty extensive Suzuki training, and am more convinced than ever what a good fit the Suzuki approach is with AP ideals.

And, as someone very well educated about the string instrument world, I have to agree with what has been said about violins found on ebay. In our shop, we very often call them (bluntly) violin shaped objects. They look like violins, but very often, they are simply not playable. We can do everything we can at a music store with luthiers and everything else, and never get them tot he point that they can actually make a sound. The pegs will slip or stick, the bridge won't stay in place, and very often fundamental angles and things are off to the degree that makes playing the instrument impossible. My advice is to find a music store near you and rent for awhile- often a portion of each rental payment goes towards eventual purchase. Plus, a lot of stores will have a guaranteed buyback program in place, where if you buy a 1/4 size, and then trade it up, you get most, if not all of the money you paid on the smaller one towards the larger one.

I agree wholeheartedly about bringing siblings to lessons. Younger siblings are welcome at lessons in my studio if they aren't tearing through the house or anything like that. Plus, my kids love the bonus playmates. Good luck in your journey!

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by moominmamma
A beginner can make a great sound, but it helps vastly to have a better-than-entry-level instrument. And hence the attrition rate it significantly reduced by insisting on a decent instrument...
Miranda
This makes a lot of sense to me...I might consider buying a $30 one on ebay more for a "toy" than to really learn the instrument. At this age, my son gets frustrated more easily than he used to. I don't want to make this harder for him, to the point where he might want to give up.

Quote:
quidditchmom ... I just wanted to point out that chosing a teacher is just as important as a violin. Suzuki is not trademarked and anyone can say that they are a Suzuki teacher. I've heard awful stories of kids who were taking 'Suzuki' lessons and came to HATE their instrument because of the teacher. I would read some of Suzuki's work (Nurtured by Love is a good way to start) to get a feel for the ideas behind the method.
I went to the SAA website and found a couple teachers near me. I emailed one of them with a few questions and he answered right away, seems very friendly...we're going to make an appointment to observe one of his classes soon. I'm definately going to check out "Nurtured by Love", it sounds great!

Quote:
Stacymom ...My advice is to find a music store near you and rent for awhile- often a portion of each rental payment goes towards eventual purchase. Plus, a lot of stores will have a guaranteed buyback program in place, where if you buy a 1/4 size, and then trade it up, you get most, if not all of the money you paid on the smaller one towards the larger one.
I think this is what we'll do...thanks for all the help!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Stacymom
(in fact, Miranda, do you run a Suzuki website for Canadians? I think I ran across it a few weeks back and loved it...)
Yeah, that's me. I'm risking the wrath of the SAA by even having it up there, but so far no one's said anything, perhaps because my mom's on the SAA board
. Glad you enjoyed the site. It's just a skeleton at this point, as I try to decide how brave to be in putting info out there that's not sanctioned/condoned by Suzuki powers-that-be. They're so concerned about poor and incomplete information getting out there -- fearing that parents and teachers will try to do untrained, DIY implementation of the method without a full understanding of it. Yet there's such a hunger for information and knowledge-sharing out there. I don't get it. </end rant>

Miranda
 

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I just bought my dd a 1/10 size violin (overseas), and at a great price, imo. I also got myself another violin, the price was so good.

I violin I've been half-heartedly playing the past few years, was very old and cheap, and it did not sound good at all. Until I got this new one home, I thought it was all me! That break I took for a few years got all the blame.

I started playing this new one, and said, "Holy moly! This doesn't sound like shit!" It's very exciting


I was apprehensive regarding spending so little for the violins, but the price was affordable enough that I could risk it being a waste---but it wasn't!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Pigpen
Miranda...one more question for you! I just realized that if we use a Suzuki teacher, we'll need two violins right? One for ds, and one for me?
Sometimes/often/maybe.
I have a couple of loaners that I use for parents to learn along for the first 3 months. Sometimes, if the child is on a 1/4-size or larger, I'll just teach the child on the parent's instrument. My personal goal in teaching the parents directly is just to give them the experience of grappling with the basic motor tasks their child will need to learn (making a bowhold, holding the violin, positioning the left hand and using the fingers in a basic way to make half-steps and whole-steps) ... so they understand the complexity of the tasks and how it feels to be the student in the equation. I don't expect parents to learn how to play the violin along with their kids. Other teachers do things slightly differently, but I don't know of any teachers who expect the parents to learn to play alongside their kids every step of the way. The parent has to learn, yes, but to learn how to be an effective practising facilitator and guide at home, not to play the pieces.

However, many of my parents do want to learn along with their kids and go out and rent or buy their own full-sized instruments. The enthusiasm is infectious -- once there are one or two parents playing along in the back row of group class, more want to join. Generally speaking the kids leave their parents in the dust before the mid Book 2 level, so the parents who decide to continue playing are those who have a certain lovely mix of un-self-consciousness, humility and good humour about their "lagging" skills. They're a heap of fun.

Anyway, this is all to say that you may not need a second instrument -- and if you do, it will likely only be for a couple of months.

Miranda
 

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Hi there,

I'm a professional musician and piano teacher. And though I am no string player, I have to second Miranda's post. Any musical instrument bought for $30 will not have the sound necessary to learn on. You are far better to rent, than to waste $30 on such an instrument.

When people ask me about pianos for young children, I tell them that if they want to wait to see if their child will like piano first, go buy a cheap keyboard from Costco, then in a year you can think about investing in a real or good digital piano. However you cannot compare piano to string instruments. For piano, the first things you learn is about the keys, about where your fingers go etc... You don't learn about creating good tone for years.

On the Violin, you have to learn to develop the ear right away, and to create good tone.... so you need an instrument that can do this.

I will put my daughter in Suzuki violin in a year or so. There are two programs here. One through a local community college and another through a music conservatory.

I second the opinion of a pp who said find a good teacher. It's good to meet with a teacher. I know for piano in any case, there are all types of teachers, and all different abilities. There are many piano teachers who can barely play themselves, let alone teach. Each music teacher has his own way of teaching and philosophy on how music is taught. Some are very strict, some are not.

Personally my philosophy is that with children at a young age, the prime importance is to make music enjoyable. Not to create a trained monkey.

So interview your music teacher, make sure your child likes him/her, most especially if this is to be a private lesson.

I have seen children in the Suzuki method in some of the conservatories I've taught in and think it's a great way of teaching music to young children.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Music-mommy
When people ask me about pianos for young children, I tell them that if they want to wait to see if their child will like piano first, go buy a cheap keyboard from Costco, then in a year you can think about investing in a real or good digital piano. However you cannot compare piano to string instruments. For piano, the first things you learn is about the keys, about where your fingers go etc... You don't learn about creating good tone for years.
I think even beginning piano students do better with a good instrument to play on. An instrument with a good sound is going to much more motivating to practice on. I think even the youngest child needs to feel like a "real" musician. In my dream world (ha!) every child would start out playing on a nice baby grand. Even as an experienced musician, my music always sounds better on a nice piano or organ--I think the same holds true for kids. I"ve taught students on cheap keyboards and it's really challenging.

Also, I think that a beginning piano student does indeed have to worry about producing a good tone. I have to admit that my practical experience teaching piano is far less than my experience teaching organ (probably the one instrument where the student truly doesn't have to worry about producing good tone), but one of the things I do remember well from my piano pedagogy classes in college is the importance of teaching piano students right from the beginning how to produce a good sound on the instrument.

Just respectfully disagreeing...
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Laurel
In my dream world (ha!) every child would start out playing on a nice baby grand.
Laurel (and anyone else too), mind if I pick your brains on this one? My daughter takes piano lessons. We had a Clavinova for a couple of years but then "saw the light" and traded up to a nice newer-used upright with a bright sound and nice action. It made a huge difference.

But what about a baby grand? We don't have the space, which is why we never even considered it when we traded up from the Clavinova. To bring a baby grand into our home would require a fairly major renovation and would eliminate our basement workshop/storage area. (It's a semi-finished, humidity-controlled basement already, since I use a corner of it for my violin teaching. But walls, floors and ceilings would have to be moved and re-done.)

Anyway, I'm wondering at what point a baby grand might be considered a 'necessity' or at least 'very helpful'. Erin (dd) recently turned 11. She is working on the simpler Chopin Waltzes, and recently performed the middle movement of the Bach E Major concerto with orchestra and the Mozart 12 variations on "Ah Vous Dirai-je Maman (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)". She's made a lot of progress in the past couple of years and seems quite committed to the piano. She's also a fairly advanced violinist, but piano seems to be her primary instrument even though she started studying it later. She doesn't practice a lot, but she does care about the work she does and has a lot of good musical and intellectual instincts.

We live in a community that doesn't have a baby grand. However, when she performs in the town where she has her lessons, she performs on a baby grand or a grand. And her lessons are on a Kawai baby grand. But there's nowhere she can practice on an instrument like that (lessons are over an hour away ... we can't drive all four kids there every day to use a church or music store or theatre piano).

Is it inevitable that we'll need a baby grand? It's hard to get a clear answer from her teacher, who has no students on baby grands and doesn't want to cause anyone any trouble or guilt. At what point do you think pianists need a baby grand? Only if they're wanting to pursue a career in music? At a particular level?

Thanks for any thoughts!

Miranda
 
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