Sibling Problem

said: Feb 2, 2007
 21 posts

My daughter, 9, started violin this summer. According to her teacher, she has a lot of natural ability. Another daughter, 6 plays the piano, she started this summer and has a lot of natural ablity.

Younger daughter has shown interest in the violin and tonight the older daughter’s violin teacher let me know he had an opening and would take the younger daughter for lessons. He teaches both girls piano.

Well, the older daughter is furious and cried for 30 minutes claiming younger daughter would be a better player than her. She doesn’t want the younger daughter to take lessons. Well, this is just obvious jealously, but part of me sympathizes with her concerns.

Has anyone been through this situation? Any suggestions?

Kirsten said: Feb 2, 2007
 103 posts

When I was a Suzuki violin child myself, my younger brother began violin lessons. He quite obviously has more “natural talent” than I do. (We are supposed to hate that term.) My mother encouraged him, because he was less motivated to practice, by pointing out how much faster he was learning than I was learning at the same age. He dropped his music, and I majored in Music at university.

I would have preferred that my brother not play violin, and I think my mother also regretted putting us both on the same instrument. I usually suggest to my student’s parents that they consider another instrument for the sibling if there is any doubt at all about “rivalry.” If the younger one plays piano, there is no disadvantage at all to delaying her second instrument until fourth grade. This is the grade when children are usually introduced to band instruments at school. The flute would be great, because it sounds so good with the violin. It is a fairly easy instrument to learn for a child who already plays piano and can read music. Your girls could eventually play duets together.


Jennifer Visick said: Feb 3, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

perhaps you may want to encourage the younger to actually try something the elder one has not yet tried—thus forcing her to forge ahead in some area on her own, without the example of someone else in the household doing it before.

said: Feb 4, 2007
 16 posts

I have one older (age 10) nd two younger (age6). I considered different instruments.We decided to go with everyone playing the same instrument. (Both twins wanted to play) We explained to the older child that she was a role model, and that is one of the reasons her sisters seem to show “natural ability”. Its called modeling. We also constantly point out that each child is unique and will play at their own unique pace. I do not compare abilities. (They are all so different and excel in different ways).

I guess I don’t understand why we allow children to become predatorial over their instrument. If one was better in math, and the other enjoyed math, I’d just be glad I had two children who enjoy math. I would never try to divert the younger child’s interest to, say science, just to prevent competition. We removed the competition and made it just another aspect of our family life. (Besides, they can practice the repetoire together, bonus!)

Also what I noticed is that all the advanced suzuki violin players I know pick up piano easily.(Even my twins can now play their violin songs on the piano by ear). This does not work as well in the other direction. I did not want to give one child a musical advantage over the other. (How unfair would that be?).

Jennifer Visick said: Feb 4, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

spiker, I think you have a healthy way of thinking about it! That’s the way it should be.

A side note, though: playing the melody of their songs on the piano is very common amongst suzuki students who play a melody instrument (violin, viola, cello, flute, etc.). This does not mean that the student is picking up piano as it would be taught by a piano teacher—what I mean is that they are often very strong on playing single line melodies on the piano, but have a tougher time when it comes to playing two hands together.

said: Feb 5, 2007
 16 posts

You are correct. The children I know, including my daughter, started with melody. Then, after book four, they (three advanced students)began piano as a second instrument. They were able to move rapidly through the piano books. (The traditional piano teacher thought they were prodigies!—They were her first suzuki trained students.)

I also know several piano students who have tried to pick up violin. They may be atypical. They have to work just as hard on set up, tone, notes as anyone who had never played an instrument. I would bet after they get the setup, and are able to produce good tone, they would move quickly, but they don’t seem to have the immediate edge.

Mia said: Feb 6, 2007
Mia HagartyViolin
7 posts

Coming from my own experience, I have an older brother that also plays the violin. (so do I, see screenname) I started playing at three and it was just what I did. It wasn’t a decision that I made myself. My mother just started me in lessons. Sure, we compared ourselves to each other every once in awhile, but my brother was always ahead of me. (That’s what you get with a brother 6 1/2 years older.) He went one way with his playing and I went another.

I am a teacher now and have sibling students myself. I actually started twin girls and their sister on violin all at the same time. They compare themselves constantly (no matter what I do!) but they are all doing extremely well. They kind of feed off of each other. I also have 2 families that has one in violin lessons and another in cello.

I think it all depends on the student (how Suzuki is that?!). Since she’s distressed (all the crying) maybe it would be better if the sister does not start. But, we need to remember that we shouldn’t suppress anyone. Everyone should have a chance to shine in their own way. But, then again, everyone should have their own thing, too. (like the older sister being able to have violin to herself.)

Wow, I’m just not very helpful, am I? And I think this is my first post…


said: Feb 7, 2007
 104 posts

I think the benefits of having each chld pursue study of an intrument that interests her—regardless of the interests of her sister—outweigh the negative consequences. It is normal for the older daughter to experience jealousy or feel threatened—but part of your responsibility as a parent lies in helping her to face up to those feelings and learn that there is in fact no threat. Each child will develop in her own way. Point out to your older daughter the differences between other children at group or recital who are performing the same piece—they don’t all sound the same. Play for her recordings of the same pieces by different artists so that she can appreciate the differences. Offer individualized praised—such as “YOUR Aunt Rhody has beautiful tone.”

My own experience is that I have three children, and all three play violin and piano. One also plays harp. The two younger ones started at roughly the same time, and consequently they are at the same point in the repertoire—up until now, the younger one (who is speedier) has always decided to “wait” for her sister to advance to another piece—younger sis just works on note reading or supplementary pieces while waiting for her sister to catch up. I try to stress that it isn’t a race—and differrent people learn different things, even from the same piece. For example, my 7 year-old is being asked to play the substitute fingers in Minuet in G, while the 5 year-old is playing the piece without minding the substitutes—therefore, the 5-year-old learned it faster.

In the final analysis, you will need to decide how you would react if your older daughter asked you to keep your younger daughter out of any other activity because it is “her thing.” I know many parents feel very strongly about eliminating all competition between siblings. I don’t know if that’s possible, but it does offer opportunities for a lot of reflection.

said: Feb 7, 2007
 21 posts

Thank you all for your feedback. The situation has resolved itself for now. My 6-year old got her violin on Saturday. When the older daughter returned from her sleepover Sunday afternoon she was so excited to help her younger sister learn the proper bow hold and play some open strings.

(I know some of you are cringing that I even let her get it out of her case before the first lesson.) Older daughter went along to younger’s first lesson and has been tuning the violin for younger sis. According to the teacher, the bow hold of the younger was just right.

Now a few days later, the sisters are playing a fun game with the violins. The older sister plays A, E or F# while the younger has her back turned. The younger then tries to reproduce and name the note. Then the younger gets a turn, but she gets to make a note anywhere on the violin and the older must reproduce and name.

I’m sure we’ll have our ups and downs, but for now, everyone is happy.


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