Learn 2 Music Intruments at the same time

Irene said: Feb 29, 2012
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

My daughter has progressed slowly and doing okay in violin now. She is 3.5 years old and currently doing Allegretto in Suzuki Book 1.

Recently, I have sign up piano lessons for her. She was very , very interested in the piano , but not so after lesson. She still has interest though. I have yet to invest in a piano and I am wondering if it is okay to learn 2 instruments at the same time.

Please advise. Thanks.

Merietta Oviatt said: Mar 1, 2012
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

My primary instrument when growing-up was violin, but my mother always had me in piano lessons alongside my violin. I was never as good at piano as violin, but as I am now a professional musician and teacher, I am VERY glad she kept me in piano. When I began college I had to take a piano proficiency exam and was able to pass. Those who could not were in 2 years of piano classes (knowing piano basics is a requirement regardless of what school or what music major you are). Also, now that i am a teacher I am able to accompany my students, though only books 1 and some of 2 as I am not THAT great at piano. The other teachers/doctoral students around me also have varying levels of piano proficiency, but all know how to play at least at a book 2 Suzuki level.

If there was one other instrument I would tell any other musician to learn it would be piano. It is a necessity for professional musicians and music majors, even for theory courses. It is wonderful that you have her in piano lessons and I would recommend leaving her in those lessons. The more proficient she becomes in piano, the more proficient she will be as a violin teacher/student.

Also, I am assuming you have a keyboard for her to practice on? Most piano teacher’s I know require at least a full-sized keyboard if not a piano in order for them to begin lessons. If you don’t have a piano/keyboard that may be a necessary investment for piano lessons.

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Irene said: Mar 1, 2012
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

Thanks merietta. She may not turn professional in music but I hope that she will enjoy playing piano and violin like my husband playing Xbox or ps3. We are looking into investing in piano now. :)

Irene said: Mar 1, 2012
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

Should I buy the best piano that I can afford or normal cheaper model ? I plan to lay and learn alongside with my daughter for a long time

Mary Anne Polk O'Meara said: Mar 2, 2012
Mary Anne Polk O’Meara
Suzuki Association Member
16 posts

I have a slightly different opinion about starting piano now. In principle, I think it is fine if your daughter doesn’t do anything else and you really have the time to devote to two instruments.

However, when parents have asked me about their children learning two instruments, I recommend that the child get solidly into Book 2 with the first instrument before starting a second instrument. Another issue is to make sure that the time on the second instrument doesn’t take away from whichever is the primary instrument. Sometimes between piano and a string instrument the child gets confused with finger numbers, since they are different. Will you be ready for longer lessons and practices on both instruments in a year or two?

A lot that a child learns on any first instrument will transfer to the second instrument. (usually whatever the second instrument is, the child thinks it is easier). Also age 3.5 is pretty young to take this on. It has been my experience that children don’t seem to be behind on a second instrument if they concentrate on only one for 3-4 years. I think at this age you are better off to concentrate on one instrument, and add the second one later.

As for the quality of the instrument, whatever instrument(s) your children play, you should get the best one you can afford. If not, the child’s choice of the primary or favorite instrument may be decided just because the better instrument sounds better.

Lori Bolt said: Mar 2, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Hello Irene ~ I agree with Mary Anne that a three-year old needs to focus on one instrument at a time, and gain ability there before adding a second. She needs to also grow into her (currently “your”) commitment to practicing over the next few years. It won’t be a handicap to wait until age 5 or older to consider piano lessons, and she will have learned many general music concepts which won’t need to be explained and will transfer to the piano easily.

That being said, you could peak her interest in the piano by buying the best you can afford now and begin studying/playing yourself. Listening to the Suzuki piano CDs—Bk. 1 and another upper book—would also help both of you prepare and get into the habit of twice the Suzuki listening. Seeing the beautiful piano in your home and hearing the lovely music it can make would be a daily reminder that music is valued by your family and will be an important part of her upbringing.

Good luck!

Lori Bolt

Lori Bolt said: Mar 2, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

P.S. What does you daughter’s violin teacher recommend re: the second instrument?

And thanks Merietta for your insights re: the need for instrumentalists/vocalists to study the piano. I believe it is a great foundational instrument—the entire orchestra wrapped in one package!

Lori Bolt

Jana said: Mar 2, 2012
Jana MacKay
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Piano, Violin
Elizabethtown, PA
2 posts

I also agree with Lori and Mary Anne. Three and a half is quite young to start a second instrument. Not only are the finger numbers different but the letter names and notes will be different for many of the duplicate pieces (such as Twinkles). Teacher expectations and styles are different (unless it’s the same teacher) which can be difficult for a preschool child to manage and keep straight. She may be capable of playing both instruments and juggling two different lessons/instruments/CDs but she will also need to spend twice the amount of concentrated practice time. This will most likely begin to overwhelm even the most dedicated and interested preschooler. However, she can still enjoy experimenting on the piano on her own and might even figure out how to play some of her violin pieces all by herself. Starting a piano student that has already begun experimenting with figuring out songs on the piano would make me a very happy teacher indeed!

Keeping in mind that traditional students rarely start piano before age 5 or 6, waiting several years for her to start piano shouldn’t handicap her in any significant way. I agree that building an effective and regular practice routine and strong musical foundation on her first instrument is the best way to prepare for a second instrument. Remember to include her violin teacher in your decision!

For perspective, I began traditional lessons on piano at age 5 and traditional flute lessons at age 9. Flute is my main instrument but I teach both Suzuki flute and Suzuki piano. Playing the piano has been an invaluable asset to me as a teacher, performer and interpreter of music. Best wishes!

Elizabeth said: Mar 2, 2012
Elizabeth K20 posts

Hi Irene!

This is a great question. I read some of your blog posts about her trial lessons and it looks like she likes piano, and she likes the piano teacher you like too. Piano might be a great second instrument for your daughter to play.

Learning to play two instruments definitely helps kids become better musicians overall. The piano is a wonderful instrument to know how to play in addition to the violin. Just like Merietta said, music majors and teachers use piano—it gives you a better understanding of chords and notes. On the violin, we have to feel for these chords and notes, then move our fingers around a little if we’re off pitch. Piano keys aren’t like that. You play the key, and your note is on the right pitch.

I learned a few different instruments after I played the violin, but I didn’t add those instruments until I was 8 or 9 years old. Maybe if you give her another year or two, she will be so used to practicing her violin everyday, that she will be willing to practice her piano too. With younger musicians, it’s more important to start building good practice habits that will help her pursue any instrument she wants to play.

I can tell you that starting ballet lessons when I was young made me a better musician (and you’ll see your daughter benefit from this too). Ballet helped me understand the rhythm and feel of the music I played when I practiced my music at home. In ballet, you’re listening to classical music constantly. A dancer has to listen to the music very intensely and move her body on the beat so she’ll be on cue with the other dancers in the class. It works the same way when musicians play in a recital with a pianist, in an orchestra with the rest of the musicians, or during a lesson with their teacher so they’re all playing at the same time (not too fast and not too slow).

Some teachers are strict about their students learning other instruments until they’re older and a little more advanced (as you can in the comments above). Do you feel like your violin teacher is supportive of your daughter learning a new instrument right now?

And if she starts piano, would you like her to do Suzuki piano lessons or traditional piano lessons?

Practice for Parents Helping You Help Them

Irene said: Mar 2, 2012
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

Thanks for all your replies. I am planning to continue our violin practice 30 minutes daily and if we start on piano, it will be 15 minutes daily. And when turns she 6 , violin practice will be 50 minutes daily and piano on alternate days , 30 minutes.
Mary Anne is right, time is also my concern ,.

The main reason why I am considering now is because of the piano teacher. In her first trial piano with this teacher, my daughter plays the black keys, she was taught the position to place her fingers properly. That was it. Then she plays the rhythm stick while the teacher plays and follows along. The only benefit of starting early is to instill the practice habit and I found a teacher that emphasize on passion in piano. My daughter held the teacher’s hand after lesson and wants to go back to play piano. We’ll see how the next few lessons go , because though it is piano lesson, it is actually more of listening and following the rhythm. I am thinking that I learn the piano while she sits aside, and watches me till she is ready. Or just let her listen while I practice piano at home. Just like how we started in violin.

Yes Lori, I am looking into buying piano now, and learning to play myself.

She is learning the traditional method in piano. I am thinking that if she starts in traditional method, it will ‘blend’ nicely when she needs to read notes in Suzuki violin.

Oh, and her violin teacher wanted me to wait till she is doing Minuet 3.

There are many kids that quit piano halfway. My nephew who completed grade 8 says he does not want to play the piano anymore. How to prevent kids to quit halfway in piano? Why do some of them seems to hate it halfway through?

Elizabeth,—She loves ballet, maybe it is the tutu that she likes most.

Lori Bolt said: Mar 3, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

You violin teacher sounds like a wise person…be sure to consider her thoughts as an experienced teacher. How great that you are looking for a good piano, and will learn to play! I wish you many years of pleasure.

I have also experienced students who reach the age of your nephew and then stop piano lessons. I’m sure some say they “hate” it….actually, I had those feelings at that age (I began traditional lessons at age 5 1/2), yet here I am teaching piano these past 33 years!
When I saw during my high school years that my piano ability had some use (I accompanied our school choir), I became much more enthusiastic! I went on to major in music in college. Young teens often need something to make music study “fun” and relevant to their life in order to be willing to continue. They also have more home work and often, more outside activities at that age…..hence Dr. Suzuki’s premise to begin study at an early age. Your nephew may turn around and feel differently in a few years, and suddenly begin to play again for his own pleasure….so don’t despair!

Lori Bolt

Merietta Oviatt said: Mar 3, 2012
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Irene,

You have such great information now! I should have mentioned that I began playing violin when I was 2, so when I started piano I was 4 and already on Perpetual Motion on violin (I think). Talk to both teachers, and remember that you know your daughter best.

By the way, I took dance…and it was DEFINITELY only for the tutu and pretty pink shoes!!!! Maybe we should start considering having our students wear tutu’s to lessons :0)

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Irene said: Mar 4, 2012
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

I’ve decided to learn piano myself,, and let my daughter watches me in lesson. Probably until when she is playing Minuet 3, as advised by her violin teacher, then she will take piano lessons formally. I hope piano teacher is not too disappointed with my progress, I can only afford 15 minutes of practice daily..

Oh, and I’ve ordered the piano. Yamaha U3X.. 28 years old, but that’s the best I can afford.. Looking forward to welcoming it in our home on Wednesday.. yeah.. !!

Irene said: Mar 4, 2012
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

Just to add, I learned violin when she was 1 year old and constantly practise violin at home. She sees me practise violin and is now doing fairly well. I hope the same trick works twice.

Sue Hunt said: Mar 5, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Bravo Irene. I would be very happy if my parents would do 15 minutes of really focussed practice every day.

As you have found out with the violin, the trick really works. You will have some time before your daughter reaches Minuet 3, to show her by your example, how to practice effectively.

I don’t know if you praise yourself out loud when you practice. It certainly helps a child to hear you recognising and appreciating your good, focussed work.

Happy practising,
Music in Practice

Lori Bolt said: Mar 5, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

As Sue said, “Bravo!”, and congratulations on your new musical venture. A good decision. The Yamaha piano should serve you well. You can have a piano tuner/technician give it a good examination when you have it tuned (let it sit in your home 3-4 wks first) to see if it needs anything other than tuning.

You sound like a great Suzuki mom—I would welcome you into my studio :)

Lori Bolt

Anh Tran said: May 9, 2014
 1 posts

I strongly believe that exposure to multiple instruments is a blessing. My younger brother, when he reached his 9th grade he could play practically anything but stayed best with his 1st instrument guitar (mandolin, drum, violin, piano, harmonica, etc…) and I like very much the same for my child if possible.

My 9 year old son has been taking piano lesson for at least 4 years now, is on the 3rd set of books. We started with a full-sized keyboard and this year, we got an upright piano for him. Also, few month ago, a high school kid in the neighborhood started teaching him Cello, 1hr every 2 weeks, no practice, and no investment on a Cello either. My intention is to give him exposure to another instrument and to hang out with another older boy (mine is the only child). He picks up the Cello pretty fast and memorizes everything even after 2 weeks of no practice. I think when the pressure of practicing is off, he enjoys it a lot more. However, someone raises a concern that Cello can become a distraction to piano, and/or impact his hand coordination (key vs string playing). 1 hr every 2 week could not be a distraction, but about the hand movement? would that be a problem? Would you please give me advice?

Thank you
Anh

Barb said: May 13, 2014
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I do not think cello playing will be detrimental to piano playing. I have seen students learn both and excel at both. I would wonder, though, at learning good cello technique with no practice for two weeks between lessons?

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Phankao said: May 14, 2014
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

My 5 year old has played both the piano & violin for as long as he can remember, having started formal lessons on both within months of each at 3yrs old. He's now well into Book 3 for suzuki piano and Book 4 for suzuki violin.

Friederike said: May 14, 2014
Friederike Lehrbass
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Plano, TX
71 posts

It is a blessing to play 2 instruments. However age is biggy. I never could have gotten my daughter to practice 2 instrument when she was small. 3,5 is very young for playing 2 instruments. I seriously would reconsider think about waiting a while. You don't want her to feel overwhelmed. My daughter is now 11 and is teaching herself piano. And she is pretty good at music now after playing violin since she was 4. I learned piano when I was 8 , violin w/ 12 and taught myself guitar when I was a teenager.

Praise the Lord with the stringed instrument

Aeldra Robinson said: May 16, 2014
 1 posts

Hello, there was one other instrument I would tell any other musician to learn it would be piano. It is a necessity for professional musicians and music majors, even for theory courses. It is wonderful that you have her in piano lessons and I would recommend leaving her in those lessons.

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