When to start a 2nd instrument

Anne said: Sep 9, 2016
 1 posts

When is a good age or point in development for a child to start learning a second instrument? To develop a well-rounded musician, would you opt for Suzuki instruction in another instrument or more conventional instruction for a varied approach? My daughter currently plays violin (still in Book 1) and has expressed interest in learning piano as well. She has been really into practicing lately (requesting to several times a day), so I feel like I should look into piano at least. We have a fairly flexible schedule since we homeschool.

Mengwei said: Sep 9, 2016
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
124 posts

My top criteria would be 1) consistent and effective practice habits and 2) solid basic technique and physical comfort. I almost put technique first but if you’re practicing well, technique should be in good shape, right? Whereas if you have the technique but aren’t spending time actively developing your skill, are you sure you’d be more diligent about a second instrument?

Age is secondary, but in my studio, it happens that the youngest one who would meet the above criteria is 5. I did have a violin student who started (Suzuki) piano within 6 months later though at age 4. Another aspect at that age is the parent willingness to be involved in practice and support (double the time, for starters). Even if you are taught instrument technique in a “non-Suzuki” way, you are still a family that experiences music together.

I believe piano or keyboard skill is regarded as necessary for a more complete understanding of music theory, chords, analysis of harmony, voicing, etc. If you choose Suzuki piano and the teacher focuses on posture and tone, that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get to reading and other stuff—just means you’re working on posture and tone first. You could ask questions about a prospective teacher’s overall approach and goals though and decide what kind of process or results you’re looking for in terms of “well-roundedness”.

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