How to find a good match? (of instruments and teachers)

Ghost People said: May 13, 2006
 93 posts

Hello!

My daughter is 5 and best described by thinking of a typical 5 yr old boy. She’s quite intelligent but a passive learner and an active kid, so I anticipate most of her learning to take place in class but most of her progress to take place at home. I think it takes a certain personality to be able to work with children of this age group and disposition. I have no question that with the right teacher she is more than ready to start lessons. (With Mary Poppins she’d love class, with Prof. McGonagall she’d cry mainly, with Prof. Snape she’d refuse to return. Know what I mean? Well, only if you know Harry Potter, I suppose. :D But I just thought I’d clarify what I mean by the “right” teacher.) How do I go about finding the right match for her when choices are not exactly abundant? What should I be looking for?

Also, do you believe one instrument would be advantageous over another in this situation? Please briefly explain what the advantage would be if you believe there is one. I look forward to your responses!

said: May 13, 2006
 122 posts

I don’t think the instrument matters unless your daughter expresses a strong desire to play a certain instrument even after exposing her to other instruments.

I’d focus on finding the right teacher for your daughter. Take her to observe the Suzuki teachers in town teach a lesson and see which one your daughter likes and the teaching style fits.

Most of us are more Mary Poppins than Snape-like. Prof Snape style teachers don’t fit well into the Suzuki philosophy. You will find a few Prof McGonagalls but by observing you will more than likely weed these teachers out.

From,
A teacher who is a big kid herself (and a Harry Potter fan :)

“When love is deep, much can be accomplished.”
-Shinichi Suzuki

said: May 13, 2006
 9 posts

I teach both violin and piano, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say piano first. I’ll give reasons in a later post; pressed for time right now. As far as a good match goes, observations, conversations and trial lessons should do it. You know your child—trust your (and her) judgement.

said: May 14, 2006
 26 posts

I agree with Junebug—find the right teacher. A couple of suggestions…

Speak to a potential teacher about your daughter, and ask if they have any similar students you can observe, so that you would get a good idea of how lessons would be with your daughter.

Don’t bring your daughter when you observe a teacher for the first time. Attend alone. After observing, make your own decision about whether you would like to take the next step and introduce them. (You wouldn’t want your daughter falling in love with a teacher you couldn’t work with.)

Once you have chosen a teacher (with or without your daughter’s input—either is fine), actively ‘promote’ the instrument. Listen to the Suzuki CD of course, also other CDs, attend concerts, buy DVDs, observe lots of lessons and group lessons. Be excited yourself. ‘Build the desire’ to learn that instrument. Don’t say things like ‘Would you like to learn the piano?’ Say ‘Wow—I’m looking forward to our piano lessons. What a wonderful instrument!’

Give your daughter the opportunity to ‘get to know’ the teacher before lessons officially start. Take lessons yourself and bring her along (giving her some jobs to do to assist you) and/or observe several weeks’ worth of lessons (ideally the same student each week, perhaps an older girl who can be a good role model) before starting. These few weeks of preparation will be worth their weight in gold.

Good luck!

Laurel said: May 14, 2006
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

I’m a violin teacher and suzuki parent, so I just might be a little biased!

However, one consideration I point out to parents is this: Is your child the type to really like playing music with other kids? or would they thrive more on playing on their own? It’s not likely you’ll find a “piano class”, whereas instruments like violin are more suited to playing in groups as well as individually.

Good luck in your decision!

Laurel

Mariam said: May 14, 2006
Mariam GregorianViolin
Ashburn, VA
34 posts

I think that it is very important for your child to choose the instrument that “speaks” to them the most. This goes to the very heart of what we are doing…the desire to play should come from the child. Take her to as many concerts as you can and see how she reacts to the different instruments. Play a variety of music at home and observe what seems to pique her interest the most.
I don’t agree that it is necessarily better to start on the piano. (Granted, I am a violin teacher! ;-)) There is a misconception out there that regardless of what the child wants, it is always best to start on keyboard. This is false. If the piano is what the child really wants, then absolutly go for it. But starting on piano if they are clearly asking for something else is a recipe for disaster. I have had several families come to me whose children had been begging for the violin for years. The parents attempted to have them start on piano, and the children resented that they were not playing the violin!
I strongly believe that you will have the greatest success if your child is the one that makes the choice of instrument. In my studio, the children that really “burn” for the violin are the ones who truly thrive. Good luck!

Rebecca said: May 17, 2006
 Piano
23 posts

I agree with most here—the instrument the child is really and truly drawn to is always the best choice. I happened to be drawn to piano. I played violin for years, too, and it never even came close to how important and vital piano was to me. Now I love piano more than ever, teaching it, and working on grad. school, and couldn’t be happier that I’ve chosen this as my profession and focus right now.

\But not everyone is that decisive, or strongly pulled to one intrument or another, etc., in that case, CHOOSE PIANO!!! (hee, hee, I’m a bit biased) The student gets such a clear understanding of musical notes and pitches, good training for the fingers in evenness, excellent musical understanding through playing melody and accomp. together, etc. I could go on and on. For some, playing hands together stuff proves to be too much at a certain stage, and they might choose to try a melody instrument such as violin, flute, clarinet, etc. And of course those instruments have challenges the piano does not!! Piano is not the right fit for everyone; do what works. Find it, stick with it, and practice your heart out!! :)

“Life without music would be a mistake.” -Nietsche

Diana said: May 17, 2006
Diana Umile
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Coatesville, PA
36 posts

And yes, you do have to invest a good deal of money on a large, space-taking instrument, but it’s one-size-fits-all…you won’t have to move up in size every couple of years!

said: May 17, 2006
 122 posts

But violin is a very social instrument if a teacher does group classes (especially weekly group classes), which can keep a young child very motivated to continue playing!

AND a young child’s ears and brain are very open to learning the minute details of pitch and intonation that good training on the violin can teach.

From,
a biased violin teacher

“When love is deep, much can be accomplished.”
-Shinichi Suzuki

Diana said: May 17, 2006
Diana Umile
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Coatesville, PA
36 posts

But, piano is a social instrument in that, many places you go there are pianos you can play, and you can accompany Christmas sing-alongs, etc. Most Suzuki piano teachers also have group lessons.

said: May 17, 2006
 9 posts

All other things being equal (cost, space) and agreeing with what everyone above has said, I like piano—for certain kids—for a few other reasons that haven’t been mentioned:

  1. Kids who like to explore—to mess around, improvise, discover. This is more often a boy trait but not always. The piano lends itself to “play” (aka stealth learning) like “gee, I wonder what it’ll sound like if you play this tune up high? down low? with the hands switched? what if you take these same notes and scramble them around to make your own tune? what if we change all of the b’s to b-flats?
    Some children absolutely need this kind of learning to be part of the package.

  2. Children who respond to a wider rande of pitches/colors. The beginning violinist has access to less than a dozen notes, the pianist has 88. Some children sense this “limitation” quite keenly.

  3. Children whose families have less previous music exposure. Some parents are simply not yet ready to provide reliable pitch guidance—or even physical correction. Piano is much more accessible for the adults as well.

But then, I’m speaking as a more “traditional” piano teacher, whose students improvise/compose/arrange from day one, and who does not stick only to the Suzuki repertoire—it’s way too relentlessly major-Baroque for me. (I use the Waxman/Pageants series for my reading-ready students.)

said: May 17, 2006
 122 posts

I don’t think the instrument choice matters if the child isn’t begging for a certain instrument. I think it’s far more important to be with the right teacher. Because the parent said there are limited options in his hometown, the choice of teacher might need to take precedence over the instrument.

From,
a teacher who wholeheartedly disagrees with the notion a child should learn piano before other instruments :D

“When love is deep, much can be accomplished.”
-Shinichi Suzuki

Mariam said: May 18, 2006
Mariam GregorianViolin
Ashburn, VA
34 posts

I actually believe that it is best to wait until the child IS begging to play a certain instrument. It’s like ice cream…everyone is going to have a favorite eventually. ;-) This is why I love a lengthy observation period…it gives the child (and parent) the chance to get really excited!

Laurel said: May 18, 2006
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

Just a thought here: Suzuki himself reported NOT taking into account what the child wanted. In “Nurtured By Love”, he talks about little Koji Toyoda playing the violin just as a matter of circumstance; what he wanted was not considered—just as no one thought to ask your children “Would you like to speak English or another language?”

Also—kids can be quite different people at 8 than they were at 4. They may have said “I want to play X” when they were just starting kindergarten, but can grow bored or start to dislike something once Grade 3 rolls around.

Sorry, no answers here, just some thoughts!

Laurel

said: May 19, 2006
 6 posts

I want to put in a plug here for guitar. Although there are not a lot of Suzuki guitar teachers, the program exists and is as terrific as those for the other instruments. The repertoire is classical, the guitar is portable, and it is a lovely instrument to listen to during daily practice.

Eve Weiss said: May 26, 2006
 
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
16 posts

I’d say go for guitar as well. Location is everything when it comes to finding a good guitar teacher.

But really, base most of it on what she gravitates toward. And never force a child to learn to play the bagpipes…

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