Should she quit piano?

Rhonda said: Aug 24, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Edmonton, AB
13 posts

Hi there,
I am looking for the advice/opinions on whether I should allow my daughter to quit piano and start a different instrument. She has resisted piano for the last 2.5 years (out of 4) and very rarely plays unless it is practice time.
She does accept that she needs to practice, but has very little interest in progressing through the pieces or even playing really well.
I am not her teacher, but I do teach piano. She often asks why I signed her up. She says she just wanted to try it out, not to keep playing it for so long.

I’m worried if she tries another instrument the same thing will happen. But, I also don’t know if she’s ever going to enjoy the piano, and in that case, what is the point of continuing? She loves music, and would enjoy playing an instrument that Mom doesn’t already play/teach. Maybe I could be a more relaxed/positive practicing parent if she was playing a different instrument.

I had thought before that I should wait until she finishes Book 2 (she’s in the middle now), but that might take another year. Is there any point in finishing it, when she could start another instrument that she might actually enjoy?

We have faithfully practiced almost every day for 4 years. What would you do in my situation?

Anne said: Aug 24, 2011
 Violin, Piano
1 posts

Letting her switch instruments may help keep her interest. I started on piano at 4 and grew to hate it, but when I started the violin I loved it. My mother was also a pianist and maybe her expectations were different towards the piano compared to the violin? Though I continued to play piano I went on to major in violin performance. I did enjoy the piano more after I was no longer forced to play it, I quit for 2 years and decided to start again on my own.

Students that truly do not like the instrument they are playing and want to switch, personally, I see nothing wrong with that. If a student does not enjoy playing their instrument, they do not accel the same way as student who does.

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 24, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts
  1. Discuss the issue with your current teacher.

  2. How old is the student?

I would definitely set a goal with the teacher and the student—perhaps it doesn’t have to be the end of book 2, but maybe a polished performance of the current piece she’s learning.

Having a clear goal with a “tangible” milestone (e.g. a performance) can allow for you, your daughter, and your current teacher, to all have a sense of “closure”.

  1. Before you set the goal, or—at the same time as you are setting up the goal with the current teacher, I would also spell out a plan for the new instrument with your daughter.

I would set up a goal—with a tangible milestone—with the new teacher and with your daughter—on the first day of lessons on the new instrument. Preferably, this new goal would be a performance of a song that your daughter has already heard, likes, and wants to be able to play on the new instrument, and preferable it would be something at or near the end of book 1 technical level.

I would also set up a pre-planned list of limited options that you and your daughter would have to choose from once the new goal on the new instrument is reached. Options might include:

  • Hey, I like this, I want to challenge myself and see if I can go a lot farther, let’s set a new tangible milestone on the same instrument that’s a lot higher—say, the end of book 4?
  • I like that song in the middle of book 2, but I’m not sure about after that, so let’s make that Book 2 song our new tangible performance goal.
  • Hey, this is terrible, let’s set a new tangible milestone on yet another new instrument.
  • Hey, I like this but I also like something else, let’s set a lower goal on this instrument AND let’s start a secondary instrument with a goal, too.
  • I’m done with musical instrument performance, can we set a new goal in a different performing art, like dance or drama or musical theater classes?

P.S. I once heard a parent talk at an institute that advised it’s time to quite when all three parts of the Suzuki triangle—parent, teacher and student—have been wanting or quietly wishing to quit for at least 6 consecutive months.

Irene said: Aug 24, 2011
Irene Yeong160 posts

The last time I thought about letting my daughter quit violin or stop for some time then continue again, a blog friend, advised me not to let kids stop on anything that they started on. I heed her advice, and after my daughter’s first violin recital, she enjoys playing.

Does your daughter have a piano recital? Maybe find a studio that does that? Having a short term goal is helpful, like practise .. for the coming recital. Otherwise, it seems like a long , long , never ending road. Practise piano till … when?

Or bringing her to more piano concert or just music concert? Any interesting pop idol that plays the piano and sing at the same time? I still like Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in your eyes”, with piano playing, singing at the same time is so cool.

Do you criticise her piano or compare her to your students? I am just guessing, I guess not. :)

What would I do if i were in your situation?—sorry baby, you can’t quit.. It is just the tiger mum in me ..

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 25, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

p.s. I may have given the impression that I think it’s OK for kids to constantly switch instruments—I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I would put a very low limit on the number of times a kid can switch instruments before they turn 18. Once would be more than enough; twice would be unusually high; three times ought to be nigh unheard of.

The reason being that getting to a high level on one instrument raises the chances of the student being able to use, enjoy and share that skill—or transfer those skills to another instrument—whereas “jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none” seems rather self-defeating as far as music is concerned.

Now, ADDING instruments… that’s different…

Nightingale Chen said: Aug 25, 2011
Nightingale ChenTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
44 posts

I love Irene and RaineJen’s sharing of their thoughts! They seem very wise and I totally commend their principals!
Thank you for sharing your strong conviction to help your kids succeed!

Rhonda said: Aug 26, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Edmonton, AB
13 posts

Thanks for the thoughtful answers! I like the idea of setting a finishing goal, as well as goal setting on the new instrument. I don’t want her to think she can switch instruments at the drop of a hat.
At the same time, she has been more accepting of practicing for the past few days. Maybe I just need to ride the storm when these difficult periods come along.
How do I know that one day she will enjoy the piano enough to go to it and play on her own accord? We hear of people who are forced to play all of their childhood and then never play again.

I’m still on the fence on what to do!

Irene said: Aug 26, 2011
Irene Yeong160 posts

Yes,, but we also heard of adult kids asking their parents “Why did you let me quit? I was just a child then, you should have ignore my request to quit”.. I think I read this somewhere, is that in this Suzuki forum?
When the day comes that my daughter can practice violin independently, I will miss the time when I practice with her, even the storms. We all do, don’t we?

Sue Hunt said: Aug 27, 2011
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

The piano may not suit your daughter’s temperament, physique or mind power but please don’t let her quit. She is learning to follow a project through which is a very valuable life skill.

If you want to look for a second instrument, have a look at Choose the Perfect Instrument for Your Child before deciding. I have based this summary for Suzuki instruments on Atahah Ben-Tovim’s wonderful book, The Right Instrument For Your Child

Allison Sargent said: Aug 27, 2011
Allison SargentViolin, Viola
13 posts

Have you read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? By Amy Chua. It is a
frustrating book at times because I don’t always agree with the writer but
really easy to read and I couldnt put the book down.
The story is of a Chinese mother bringing her 2 daughters up with violin and
piano and the daughter that takes violin lessons starts to hate it and begs
to quit. In the end she allows her to quit and feels really guilty about it.
Her daughter ends up telling her she’s really glad she forced her to play
the Violin and she will always have a love for the instrument.
On Aug 27, 2011 6:41 AM, “SAA Discussion”

Allison K. Sargent

Lori Bolt said: Aug 29, 2011
Lori BoltPiano
San Clemente, CA
262 posts

I am also curious to know your daughter’s age. As student’s approach middle school (grades 6-8 here in so. CA), they want to be able to make some of their own choices. If your daughter is of this age, maybe it is time to “let go”. As piano teacher/mom, you may find it refreshing also.

I like RaineJen’s suggestion about talking (privately) w/the teacher to see what she feels about her part in the Suzuki Triangle. How does she feel it’s going at this point?

One more thought re: giving the student choices—if I sense a student’s interest is waning during those middle school years, I offer fun supplementary pieces to be learned. I’ve found that they enjoy the break from the Suzuki repertoire and usually increase their reading skills at the same time. I insert these pieces one at a time, then get back to the Suzuki book.

Lori Bolt

Rhonda said: Aug 29, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Edmonton, AB
13 posts

My daughter is 8. I have told her that she will continue with the piano, but in the meantime she should start thinking about which other instrument she would most like to play. So far she can’t really pin it down to one, so we will see if she’s able to that anytime soon.

We will see how it unfolds. For now, we will continue with the piano. Maybe all of this discontent will blow over.

Malgosia said: Aug 31, 2011
Malgosia LisInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
West Hartford, CT
18 posts

I think there is no one right answer. I am in the same triangle as you are. I am a piano teacher but do not teach my daughter, she has a different teacher. And incidentally, she had a hard time connecting with piano when she was 8. She 9 and 1/2 now. Sometimes there is a big slump in book 2, especially in old book 2. It seems that it takes sooooo much time to go through all the Minuets, many kids feel a bit frustrated. The New International Edition makes it easier, the minuets are split and intertwined with other pieces. And then once things go easier there comes Sonatina with it’s complicated 2nd movements and quite difficult new articulations. I think I would not give up, at least not until she finishes book 2. But I do have a story of a student of mine whose mom was a piano teacher and whose older sister was an amazing pianist. In our town children start playing instruments in public schools in grade 4. When my student, Jay was in 3rd grade, all he could talk about was what instrument he was going to play in 4th grade because “I am sorry MRs. Lis, but I really do not like piano”. Whne I asked him what instrumetnt he was going to play he answered: “something that my mom has no clue how to play.” He chose saxophone, quit piano and now is going to famous college to major in jazz studies on saxophone and was one of the most talented saxophone players in our town. So, really there are great stories on both sides of the spectrum. You have to make your own depending on your family dynamics.
Good luck!

Emily said: Nov 29, 2013
 59 posts

It’s hard to remember that you are the parent when you teach an instrument that your child is learning when you are not their teacher. It sounds like you should relax a little and not be a “teacher” when you are at home, but a parent instead.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

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