Son, 7, in book 5 cello-wants to add piano

said: Mar 27, 2008
 5 posts

Hi-

My son is seven years old and is working on the Vivaldi in book 5 cello. He loves to play, and participates in group class, improvisation class, and a challenging orchestra with enthusiasm. When excited about the music, he will practice cheerfully, even independently. Other times, we have to nag :)

He has begun to ask about adding piano. Although we do believe he would participate well and practice, I am concerned that this might be too much music at such a young age. The owner of the school where he takes cello says that this is the perfect time to start, since he does not have much homework yet. He has always loved music, and I think music will always be prominent in his life.

How have two instruments worked out for others? Parents’ thoughts? Teachers’?

Thanks!

Mother of twins (11/16/00)
Son began cello at 3 1/2 years
Daughter began violin at 4 1/2 years

Connie Sunday said: Mar 27, 2008
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I have always had lots of students who take violin or viola with me, and piano (I teach all three). It does take a very musical student, and an organized one, but I think it’s wonderful for their musicianship. Also, in terms of college preparation, studying piano relieves the student of having to take remedial courses in order to pass their piano proficiency.

I only teach piano up to the fourth year, but I think the advantages for the student are enormous, even if they only take a few years of piano and then focus on strings (though of course they’re free to choose the opposite route.)

Having keyboard skills helps enormously with understanding theory, harmony, form, musicology. If the student is very musical, it’s a good choice.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

said: Apr 2, 2008
 1 posts

My son’s situation was similar to yours. He’s a 9-year-old newly-book-7 violin student who added Suzuki piano a little over a year ago. It’s working very well for him.

A few things in particular, I think, really helped make it an enjoyable addition:

  • A flexible teacher: A lot of stuff carries over from strings to keyboard, and his piano teacher was great at adapting her approach to accommodate his existing skills. For example, as he could already sight-read treble-clef and had an intellectual understanding of the bass clef, she gave him the option of progressing through book 1 hands-together if he wanted to. He did choose to do this, and found it more interesting than going through the whole of book 1 hands-separately first.

  • Realistic piano commitments: We’ve been treating piano as a second instrument for now, and not overcommitting. It’s easier to add on later than to have to cut back on something he loves just because of time restraints. In our case, the piano school allowed him to opt-out of group class. I’m sure he would love piano group, but he has other interests outside of music, and given his existing orchestra commitments this really was a question of balancing music with the opportunity for non-musical activities.

  • Short practice time: Since his violin experience has already taught him how to practice effectively, he can get a lot out of a very short piano practice. This worked well to keep things manageable and motivating. While working on piano book 1 he was practicing only 10 minutes a day, four days a week, and took the summer off (compared to a violin practice of about one hour a day, five days a week, with just a few weeks off in August). Now halfway through book 2, he’s practicing piano a maximum of 15 minutes a day, four days a week, and will probably again take the summer off. I realize the practice sessions will increase in length if he chooses to continue with piano at an advanced level, but for now it’s working just fine.

  • Tossing out any expectations: Though he’s relatively advanced on his primary instrument, he shouldn’t be made to feel that people have similar expectations for him on piano as well. No child needs that kind of pressure.

Of course these are just some of the things that made a difference for us. Different things may be more relevant to your son. But if you can find a suitable balance between music and other activities, strings and piano can complement each other beautifully.

I wish you both all the best in your journey!

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