How an instrument is chosen?

said: Aug 31, 2006
 2 posts

Here goes my secong big question…
How is the instrument selection process? Piano or violin? Is a 3-yr old kid capable of choosing an instrument and remain loyal to it.
When I was 9 I started taking guitar lessons, but a year after I changed to saxophone. Two years later, I went back to guitar.
I feel lucky because my parents did not push or made me decide for an instrument.
Should I let my almost 3-yr old son decide freely, or should I encourage him to “prefer” one?

Candace said: Aug 31, 2006
 Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
6 posts

We let our child start on both and had so much fun. Eventually we stayed only with violin. I would consider which instrument you like and want to teach, hear recitals, go to concert of ect.. It will be easier if you pick your favorite.

Corinne said: Aug 31, 2006
 Violin, Piano
44 posts

I would probably start my child on piano lessons, because piano proficiency provides great preparation for studying another instrument. If they decide 4 years later that they want to play a completely different instrument, the time they spent learning to play the piano will not have gone to waste.

That said, studying two instruments is great if you have the time & commitment necessary!

Debbie said: Sep 1, 2006
Debbie MiViolin
138 posts

Sometimes, kids don’t know what they want. If you give it a go with violin, the kids may eventually discover that they really like it! Or they may discover after a few years that it’s not not one for them. If you start with violin and then switch to another instrument, the skills that were learned on violin will only enhance your study of another instrument.

I had a student who started on violin, got most of the way through book 1, and then switched to cello. Cello was very clearly a much better fit for this student, but his study of violin made the switch to cello a piece of cake!!! :)

Laura said: Sep 1, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

At the tender young age of 3, most major decisions are made by parents anyway, and the kids just pick up on whatever their parents have established (a.k.a. Suzuki Mother Tongue approach!). I started in Suzuki when I was really young, and I honestly have no recollection of those earliest days. It’s like I’ve been playing all my life. It’s different for older children who are more autonomous in their likes/dislikes, since they have several lifetimes more of experience by then, relative to a 3-year old.

I agree with the other posters who mentioned that you can never go wrong starting with anything, including more than on instrument, as long as it’s introduced properly and at the child’s level. (Suzuki is the way to go here, particularly for a 3-year old!) Everything they learn can and will be carried forward into future experiences with other instruments, should they have them. The foundation you’re providing is in music itself, not simply in a chosen instrument. I can attest to this, having picked up a second instrument in the school system, and now a third instrument as an adult.

If time and budget are limited, go with whatever instrument you would enjoy the most, or would enjoy your child enjoying, so to speak. If your child decides later on to switch instruments, you wouldn’t have lost much, except possibly the cost of the instrument—but even that is minor relative to an entire musical education.

Good luck and have fun!

said: Dec 7, 2006
 56 posts

Dear parents,

i’m new to this forum…my kid took up piano 9 months ago(via a mix of traditional/right brain method for young toddler), and subsequently violin via suzuki method 3 months ago.

For the piano, the 1st teacher wasn’t very helpful,(she had a musical degree from a prestigious univ, but didn’t have the heartware to teach) and also, we as parents didn’t have the muscial background to coach our kid at home. Midway we switched to another class with a different teacher. However, the damage was done, and my kid is among the slower students in the new class.

For the violin, I made sure she had lots of home practice and did everything a suzuki parent could do. Hence she found the violin lessons and home practices very fun.

now, i’m in a bind, as she says she prefers the violin over the piano. At a tender age of 3+, how do we as parents help her decide ? where do we differentiate a 3yo kid’s whims and fancies, and what is really best for her ? is it too late if we switch her to a suzuki piano lesson ? can a kid take up both suzuki piano and suzuki violin concurrently ?

much appreciate any advice !!

Talent is not born, but created

Laura said: Dec 7, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I’d recommend switching to Suzuki piano. I wouldn’t always recommend this if the current approach is fine, but in your case several things come to mind:

  • If she’s doing Suzuki already, there is no way that non-Suzuki can compete. Once her brain is “wired” to learning the Suzuki way (which is more natural at that tender age), anything else will seem too cebrebral and therefore frustrating by comparison. I have a number of former young traditional students that used to hate music, and now love it under Suzuki because they quickly get into making music, rather than tripping over music theory. In Suzuki, there is plenty of time to learn all of that once they are already able to swim, so to speak.

  • The Suzuki approach seems to be working for her on violin, so it will be natural enough to apply the same process to piano. She won’t find it confusing. I know several kids who learned both at the same time with no problems. If anything, learning both instruments with Suzuki will consolidate her overall experience and make her more comfortable.

  • Your child is still very young, and still open to many things. Years from now, she likely won’t even remember any of the former piano experience.

Good luck!

Kelly Williamson said: Dec 8, 2006
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
258 posts

We are lucky that the Suzuki method is offered for so many more instruments than just “piano or violin”!

My own experience with choosing an instrument was in grade seven band. I’d been playing piano since I was three or four (not Suzuki method), and when we were offered a choice at school, I wanted to play saxophone. My mum vetoed that, because she said I couldn’t play sax in an orchestra. Why didn’t I play something else, like the flute? Since I had no strong feelings about it, I did, and it stuck—mostly because of my fabulous teacher. (Not the first, who was useless for me, and who I left after a year, but the second, who actually taught me how to play and to be a musician.)

I think the teacher is the most important element in most cases. Where a child does not already have a strong desire to play a particular instrument, the teacher and class environment will either sell the experience, or make it fail.


said: Dec 11, 2006
 56 posts

Thanks for your replies !

I have 2 more qns :

  1. how does the initial suzuki piano lessons go about ? my kid’s existing piano lessons involve readin the score and playing from it. Understand that suzuki piano does not. For students going from non-suzuki to suzuki piano, what are the things that we should prepare them mentally ?

  2. In my area, there are non-affliated schools who purport to teach the suzuki method(mixed with traditional method), but their management says they are not related to the local Suzuki association. I wonder what is the difference between such schools and those “real” suzuki schools ? or is there such a thing as “real” and “artificial” suzuki teaching schools ? (sorry, i couldn’t think of a better word).

Thanks !

Talent is not born, but created

Rachel Schott said: Dec 13, 2006
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

As for real and ‘artificial’ Suzuki schools, I think the better question would be about the teachers themselves. Most private teachers see themselves as a part of a co-op, or as an independent contractor at a school. Therefore, even though the school or program itself may be unaffliated with the Suzuki Association of Americas the individual teachers might be.

I am a better Suzuki than Suzuki/Traditional teacher but I know a number of excellent teachers that would say they have a ‘blended’ approach.

Though truthfully, for a three year old, I’d find a well-trained teacher who sticks pretty close to Dr. Suzuki’s original Mother Tongue Method.

I think the key is to observe and speak personally with the Suzuki teachers on the roster of your local school and see where they fall.

Laura said: Dec 13, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I’m a Suzuki piano teacher, and my own kid is taking Suzuki violin but also picking up Suzuki piano on the side (it can’t be helped!!). Violin started first, then piano. I was surprised how easy it was to introduce piano.

For starters, there are the recordings. Kids will pick up anything they hear regularly, no matter what instrument. There is a sense of familiarity with the common repertoire, and kids light up with anything familiar. Twinkles don’t have to be entirely relearned, just adapted to another instrument and its techniques. Same with Lightly Row, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Allegro, Bach Minuets, etc. The order in which these songs are presented are different, but there is enough overlap to build familiarity nevertheless.

If your child’s Suzuki violin experience is already well grounded, her ability to pick up things by ear should be quite strong, so it shouldn’t be hard to decrease her dependency on piano books. Besides, a Suzuki piano teacher won’t teach a beginner via music reading anyway. He or she will begin by demonstrate, hand-hold, talk, get the kid to listen, etc. Anything but use the music book, so the student can focus on the sound, technique, and keyboard familiarity. I can even get my kids started on transposing (i.e. into different keys) without even realizing what they are doing—it all becomes that natural. Reading comes later, usually introduced toward the end of Book 1.

The biggest difference for piano is starting on C rather than A. But my daughter easily distinguishes this in her mind, perhaps not even consciously. I think it’s because beginning pieces of almost any method are always presented in keys that require the least amount of thought. It makes sense for string players to first learn using open strings and all-on-one-string fingerings, hence A is a great example. Likewise, pianists first learn in C because only white notes are used.

Another difference is the finger numbers, but again it’s easily distinguished in my daughter’s mind, since violin fingering is learned with the left hand, and piano fingering is learned with the right hand first. There’s also the visual effect of all the fingers working (4 of them for violin vs. 5 of them for piano), seeing them end-on for the violin vs. top-down for the piano. It’s different enough that it is easily distinguished, and I’m not noticing any sort of inner conflict between the two instruments.

Hope that helps! I know other students who started on two instruments at the same time, and as far as I know there were no complaints. I think it’s similar to speaking English in the home, another family language to grandparents, and perhaps learning Spanish or French at school. The kids sort it out very naturally, much better than we adults can. More power to the Mother Tongue approach!

Kelly Williamson said: Dec 13, 2006
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
258 posts

I have never really understood the reasoning behind a “blended” method. Since the Suzuki method is a philosophy first and foremost, does that mean that teacher who claims to use a blended approach sometimes thinks there is a child who cannot learn, given the right environment and teaching method? Does it mean they think the mother-tongue approach is only good until children are of the age to read, and then kids can no longer benefit from the superior ear training and tone development that the mother-tongue method offers? What is it in the Suzuki philosophy that cannot apply to any person who undertakes to learn music, or anything else for that matter?

Is it an issue of repertoire? I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Suzuki myself, but I understand that he meant that repertoire pieces should be offered to each child in the way that best supports that child’s technical and musical development. I don’t think there is anything in the method that says we cannot introduce supplementary repertoire such as additional pieces or etudes, or any other materials we might deem appropriate, at any stage.

Is it that subtle and sneaky issue of competition? I know lots of Suzuki teachers who do not encourage competition of any kind, and lots whose students participate in music festivals (whether in competitive or non-competitive classes), youth orchestra concerto competitions, and other such events. I personally think it is possible to do this and still hold onto the values that Dr. Suzuki outlined. (It would be impossible to have a career in music and not come to terms, in some form or another, with competition. It is often not even possible for students to join a youth orchestra without having to compete for a spot.) Why not show kids how they can engage in these activities, challenge themselves, and remain supportive and encouraging to other musicians, and always play for the joy of it?

The way I see it, some of us think primarily of our approach as a guiding philosophy (and our inspiration), and some think of it primarily as a method. If being a Suzuki teacher meant that every student had to begin before the age of five, and the pieces in the books were to be followed religiously, and no one was to learn to read music till they were in book X, and no supplementary pieces were to be introduced until the student was past book 8 (or book 14, or whatever is the limit) at which point they’d leave the method… how many of us would really be “Suzuki teachers”?


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