Second instrument for 7 & 9 year old

Nagaja Sanatkumar said: Jun 4, 2017
8 posts

Hello parents and teachers!

I’m sure many of you have children who are learning multiple instruments, and I’d love some advice on the same. My children have been learning the violin for the last ~5 years (both currently in Book 6). They really enjoy music (even daily practice) and have been asking for a few months now to add another instrument to their repertoire. Both my husband and I work full time, and don’t have any formal music education or training other than what we’ve picked up with them in the last 5 years. Ensuring time for lessons and daily practice (in addition to school work, sports and just kid-downtime) as well as overall music enrichment like workshops and professional concerts is a huge priority for us, and we are not sure whether adding another instrument will put a huge strain on all of that as we’d want to be just as committed to it.

My questions (notwithstanding scheduling concerns):

  1. Will adding another instrument at this point distract them from violin (which will continue as their primary) or will it enhance their musicality and appreciation?

  2. Any pros or cons for choice of second? Flute, piano and cello are the top contenders but not sure which one to go with. We love the sound of the cello; the piano seems to have the most synergy relative to the violin study; the flute is so different, most portable, and Dad plays some flute already.

All ideas appreciated, thank you!

Kurt Meisenbach said: Jun 4, 2017
Kurt Meisenbach
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Plano, TX
45 posts

This can be as tricky decision, since it won’t be for many years until you know if it was the right one. If they have potential professional ambitions, piano is a good choice for a second instrument. Much of piano technique and string technique are compatible (in fact I have written a book of piano exercises for violin and viola players that I give to my more serious students). Plus the fact that when you teach you can accompany your students, which is a real advantage. This was true in my case where my principal instrument was viola and my second instrument was piano.

Having said that, if it were my child I would say that as long as they will give their second instrument proper attention (at least 30 minutes a day) and won’t neglect their current one, then they should pick the second instrument that interests them most.

I would also advise them that playing one instrument really well is better than playing two in an average fashion. Your children will have more fun, develop greater self-respect, and will have the admiration (and envy) of many of their friends. The decision should be theirs, since they are more likely to commit to a course of action of their own choosing rather than to one that is chosen for them. My perspective is simply one way of considering the options. If your children are enjoying music and have an appetite to broaden their scope, their desire to branch out can only be interpreted in a positive way.

It is important that if they do this that they have a primary instrument that they give priority to when practice time is scarce or events compete with each other. This prioritization will help you as busy parents make balanced decisions with your children as to which extra-curricular events and concerts you can attend where time is scarce or opportunities overlap. If you clearly agree this priority with them in advance, it will simplify many of the decisions you will need to make in the future.

Good luck to you and to them.

Nagaja Sanatkumar said: Jun 6, 2017
8 posts

Thank you so much for the thoughtful response, Kurt, much appreciated!

Joanne Shannon said: Jun 7, 2017
Joanne Shannon
Suzuki Association Member
Los Angeles, CA
142 posts

I have several piano students who grew to the age of band and orchestra in their schools. This was an ideal place for them to add an instrument that they could play in ensemble at school. Every once in a while I ask them to bring their school instrument to group lesson. Gives everyone else the chance to see a flute, viola, and a bassoon in performance.

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