how early to start music lesson?

said: Jan 23, 2010
 2 posts

hello all:
I wanted to inquire as to when I should start my 3 1/2 twins in music lesson. They’re showing interest and can play first phrase of fur elise from memory from watching me play. They’ll “pretend” play on the piano singing their songs and I noticed the beat was right on. Also, do you think piano is a good foundation to start versus other instruments (violin/cello) knowing they can branch out later if they wish? But I noticed from reading this forum that Suzuki method was started with the violin, so I wonder…I appreciate your input and insight. thanks.

Diane said: Jan 24, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

How exciting! What a great age! It sounds like they have really active listening and a great feel for tempo!
This is a great time to have a lot of music playing in your home and a great time to take them for observing anything with live music. Your twins are dry sponges ready soak up anything music related. Whether or not they start an instrument now isn’t the question. Being surrounded by music, soaking it in, and being exposed to a wide variety of intruments including their voices so they can explore is where they are right now.

To answer your Suzuki question. Dr. Suzuki was a violinist so the method was developed first with the violin. The method has been adapted to many other instruments. Nurtured by Love is a great book for you to read to get a feel for the world of Suzuki. The method is quite successful in teaching little ones such as your twins. Not many other methods cater to this age group.

With regard to which instrument to start on—I can’t say. Many choose piano as a launching pad to music. Many choose a stringed instrument because you can get them in all sizes that are appropriately fitted to your child.

Best wishes with your journey!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Laura said: Jan 24, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I teach Suzuki piano, and my child started Suzuki violin at 3 1/2.

I don’t think that one instrument is any better than the other. As previously mentioned, at this age the most important thing is their musical environment and the fact that they enjoy music.

There are many pros and cons to choosing any instrument, but this is a big picture decision that you should make regardless of their age.

But it sounds as if you would like to start formal instrument study for sure right now, and you just want to know what is a good instrument to start for their age? Here are some thoughts:

The only possible reason not to start piano (i.e. until they are older) is if their fingers are still too delicate to handle piano keys. (Unless you use an electronic keyboard with an “easy” keyboard touch, but that is another discussion altogether and I doubt you’d get many Suzuki piano teachers who would recommend this, instead of just waiting another year or two for their fingers to get bigger!) How wonderful that they can already reproduce some notes of Fur Elise, so this might not be as much an issue in your case. However, the first Suzuki pieces they will learn (Twinkle Variations) require a certain amount of finger stability and strength not often seen in the 3-year-old age group. Ask a Suzuki piano teacher to look at their hands and give an opinion. In my experience, 4 to 4 1/2 is about the youngest I’ve started. I’ve seen a 3 1/2 year old younger sibling who had huge hands (bigger than some of my 5-year olds!) who could have started then, but they have delayed starting for other reasons.

Violin is really suitable for the 3-year-old age group. The beginning stages are much more “physical” and involve more of the entire body relative to other instruments, so I believe it suits some very young children a little better. At the very least, the child is not “constrained” to a chair! You can get violins as small as 1/32 or 1/64—perfect for any 3-year old.

In contrast, some of my young beginners on piano have had a harder time because they are asked to sit still on a chair and focus their attention almost right away on their fingers and maintain visual focus on the piano keys. In piano, there is less direct eye contact between student and teacher, too, which can be a consideration in terms of building the relationship.

Group classes (an integral part of Suzuki learning in addition to the private lessons) are way better with stringed instruments than for piano, simply because of the physical logistics.

I believe that your biggest constraint with cello is finding a small enough instrument. The smallest I’ve heard of is 1/8 but they possibly go as small as 1/10? (Anyone else know?) This would be suitable for a 4-5 year old.

If you have twins learning at the same time, that’s such a great situation in terms of mutual encouragement and motivation! Depending on your family dynamic, you should think of the pros and cons between having them learn two separate instruments, or the same instrument. One benefit of both of them taking a non-piano instrument is that you may be able to do some practicing with both of them at the same time (provided that they are on the same instrument, of course!).

said: Jan 24, 2010
 2 posts

thank you so much! such helpful insights for me to consider and think again about. really appreciate it :)

Karra said: Jan 25, 2010
Stockholm 113 43, Sweden
51 posts

I believe that your biggest constraint with cello is finding a small enough instrument. The smallest I’ve heard of is 1/8 but they possibly go as small as 1/10? (Anyone else know?) This would be suitable for a 4-5 year old.

The smallest cello I’ve seen is a 1/32, which is small enough for a two year old. 1/10 and 1/8 size cellos (which are not nearly as rare) fit most 3 year olds. I have not heard of these sizes being hard to come by, but that may be because I live in a large metropolitan area. In any case, there are many reputable violin dealers who are willing to ship instruments. Here are the websites for a couple such places:

Ladybug, my suggestion is to seek out as many opportunities to expose your children to as much music as possible, and allow them to hear as many instruments as possible. They may gravitate toward the sound of a specific instrument, and if so I would recommend you do what you can to allow them to study that instrument. There’s nothing like inspiration to get a person of any age to be willing to practice and hopefully excel. If they choose an instrument they won’t be physically ready to play for a few years (this applies to many wind instruments), piano may be a good starting point. I wouldn’t say there are more limitations for young children studying cello than there are with any other instrument. Yes, the kids have to sit in chairs, but certainly not for the entire lesson at that age. There are many activities at the beginning stages that don’t require the child to be sitting with their instrument (bow hold practice can be done standing up or sitting on the floor, for example).

“It may very well be music that will one day save the world”— Pablo Casals

Laura said: Jan 25, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

A 1/32 size cello? Wow—it must absolutely adorable!!!

Thanks for posting information about cello. The only reason I why thought it was more suitable for slightly older beginners is because all the Suzuki programs I’m aware of in my area will only start cello students at age 5, whereas they will take piano and violin students at age 3 or 4. So I guess it’s just a matter of finding a teacher who will start them at 3, and getting one of those teeny instruments.

I wanted to clarify for others that no early stages in Suzuki piano or cello should require a student to remain seated for an entire class or private lesson. There are so many mix-n-match activities to cater to really little kids, while helping develop their sense of focus, musicianship, and preparatory technique on the instrument. I only meant to point out that because both piano and cello require a sitting position for “proper” playing, that can be an extra challenge for certain types of kids at certain early ages. The parent may be the best judge of this, although in the hands of the right teacher, those challenges can also be overcome.

Jeremy Chesman said: Jul 28, 2010
Jeremy Chesman
Suzuki Association Member
Organ, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Voice, Harp, Piano
Springfield, MO
24 posts

I think it’s fine to start children as young as 3 1/2, provided you adjust your expectations. With such a young student, it might be an accomplishment to get through a 5-minute lesson. However, you’ll notice that after a few lessons 10-minutes or more will be easy. Also, getting their hands on the right key might be a big event, even if they can’t play it. But getting a head start is great, because it will prepare them for what’s to come in lessons when they’re bodies are more suited for them.

With children this young, I make sure to tell the parent what to expect. Then, when the lesson is ultra-short, I have a lot of music games that we play away from the instrument. That way the parent feels like they’re getting the time they paid for, and my students get some pre-reading skills.

said: Mar 8, 2011
 1 posts

You know that the minute your baby is born, he is interacting and learning in his New World. Sound and voices are all much louder in the outside world and there is nothing more pleasurable to him than the sound of his parents voices, especially his mothers in the beginning weeks.

You to begin now. And to start with your preschooler let him/her enjoy spending time with you and hearing you sing. You don’t have to go to any special classes to do this, just have a collection of songs or nursery rhymes ready that you enjoy. Ensure that you add lots of expression and animation as you sing it. Your child may not understand what you are singing at in the early days, but he will see that you are having fun and are including him in it. How many times have you heard from a friend that their child just loves an old 70’s or 80’s song. That is because they love it!

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