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My 4 year old daughter, Serenity, keeps asking for a violin. I really have no clue where she got the idea for a violin but it is what she wants. She was asking DH today if Santa knew how to make violins LOL. Anyway, when I asked a music teacher about lessons, she said that in her experience children who start an instrument before learning to read tend to not do as well as those who learn to read then start an instrument. She had some good points: they will already have the left to right tracking down and wont be learning that at the same time as the instruments, they are ready developmentally for the higher concepts of music, etc... I can definitely see how the two (reading and music) are connected. On the other hand she really wants to do it and I am afraid that if I say no, she will loose interest and then not want to learn any instrument later. But I don't want to set her up for failure. She has been asking to learn to read too, but when I sit down with her she has zero patience and is frustrated that it isn't instantly happening. LOL I am afraid she will be the same with a violin and I don't want to get one and a teacher lined up just to have her give up because it takes practice. I'd like to hear other's thoughts on this since I am obviously very indecisive LOL.
While your friend might have some valid points for some kids, my personal experience has been the exact opposite in almost every single instance. While teaching the music, you can also be teaching the child reading concepts. It's not a difficult thing to do, doesn't take any more time than an a lesson would if the child could already read. They just sort of incorporate themselves. It's actually a pretty fluid process. It could very well be exactly what she needs to give her that little boost of desire for reading. You just never know.
I've taught children how to play various instruments for years-piano, clarinet, flute, guitar and trombone are pretty much my primaries(though I can play others and can teach some on them as well, I'm not as good as I'd like to be, lol). I have taught children as young as 3 right on up to adulthood. My experience is that more often than not the younger they begin, the smoother it goes. They tend to absorb so much more at a younger age than an older one. They catch on faster, they remember far more of what they're taught than someone who has fifty million other things to think about. Most people don't learn to play an instrument-if they learn one at all-until roughly middle school to high school ages. There's a huge gap between the prime learning age for basic music concepts and the age when most begin to learn them. Basic music concepts, even if not taught while learning an instrument, really should be taught pretty early on. Not that they cant be taught later of course.
You don't actually need to know how to read to play an instrument. Most will need to know how to read to play really well, but it's not an all or nothing sort of deal. There are a LOT of people who learned to play an instrument long before they learned their alphabet. Some of the greatest composers ever didn't exactly have the best reading and writing skills in the world going into it-or even later in life for that matter. Just look at how many blind composers and musicians we've had over time, as well, who likely didn't have the best resources for learning what they were playing or writing actually looked like(long before most resources we have today ever existed, of course).
I'm not fond of people who poo-poo younger children learning an instrument. I've rarely found they have a good reason for it. What they usually give is a reason(or reasons) they think sound good, but in practice really aren't the truth at all. So I'm probably extremely biased. But most kids who DO have issues sticking with an instrument, or even learning it, in my experience, are the ones being pushed into doing it in the first place-no matter the age. The heart just isn't there. Sure some kids eventually decide they don't want to play whatever instrument they chose, but at least while they are learning it they're right there with you.
I say if she wants to, you're willing to shell out the money(because it's not always a cheap hobby, lol), you should pursue it. It can't hurt to at least try. If it doesn't work out, then it doesn't. It doesn't mean you, or she, failed. It just wasn't meant to be, imo. But if it does work out, just think of all the benefits to her. I think it's worth it, personally. Though it is something every family has to determine for themselves.
My kids know how to play piano, they'll be moving on to guitar next, or whatever other instrument they decide. I let them lead the way. I was quite happy when they showed interest. Though music is a huge part of our lives, I never wanted to push playing one on them. I wanted them to decide. They did, on their own terms, and they're really loving it. Ds started playing long before he could actually read too and he's never had very many issues. Even when he has the attention span of a grain of rice, his inability to read properly has never been a problem or even contributed to it.
Last edited by Frackel; May 6th, 2012 at 12:06 AM.
I can only tell you what I think from personal experience, because my music degree tells me to tell you she's too young. I don't agree with that 100% of the time, though. Most music instructors will tell you that a child can't seriously learn music until age 8, because that's when they're learning about fractions, can already read pretty well, have a longer attention span, and have the necessary fine motor control. Starting earlier than 8 can lead to multiple failures, frustration, and an "I'm not good enough" attitude toward trying anything new in the future. I remember BEGGING my parents to let me learn piano, but they were very strict with the age 8 rule as well. My personality being what it is, I was determined enough to just teach myself (and did... well enough to earn a music scholarship). Kids who are honestly determined to learn should at least be given an "if/then" chance to try.
My suggestion - get her a 1/2 size or 3/4 size, student model violin (fairly cheap), and tell her "if you practice and like it, we'll get a better one when you're older". If not, she has the option to back out, without it costing you a lot of time or money. If her motor skills are average for her age, she'll be able to bow pretty well, but may not be able to press the strings right. If her motor skills are advanced, she may do just fine with it.
I know absolutely nothing about violin, but I do know that a good friend of mine started playing the piano at 3 years old, and to this day I have never seen anyone more talented than he is. I think this may be something that is totally dependent on the child them self.
If you think it is something she is truely interested in doing go for it! We lost out on teaching Matthew the guitar when he was younger. We didnt know how to play and the few books we got were a bust. He really doesnt have an interest in it like he did before. Just remember like you said she will get frustrated when it doesnt work the way she wants but think of the reward she will receive when it does!!
I worked at a public preschool for a while that offered violin lessons to the four and five year old children. These were high-needs kids too, meaning they lived in poverty, didn't speak English, or had special needs. They really did amazingly well, and I thought it was a great program.
I love teaching piano to really interested 3 and 4 year olds. My duster teaches violin and prefers young children come with a piano background, but says that as long as they have a good ear they do fine.
Thanks for all the in put! Serenity has always seemed to have a special connection to music. She has been singing since she was a baby and everyone always commented on her "soft sing-songy voice" ... She LOVES music and will sing along in the car. She even plucks away at her little kiddie piano (we got her a melissa and doug play one when she turned 3) and sounds good. She has been so determined to play violin, that I don't want to discourage her. I actually found a 1/8 size for $40 online so if I can find a teacher in our area I think we are letting her go for it. I figure if she is interested and asking, maybe she is just meant to do it.
Most music teachers won't take students less than 7 or 8. It took me a while to find one that would work with Ady at 6. And it took some begging on my part. But it depends on the kid. Now Ady's music teacher tells me how great she is and that she is glad she said "yes" to Ady. Ady can read and I think that helps her read the music. She plays the piano. My suggestion would be to start with something easier than the violin. I have had music teachers tell me they struggle with the violin! Ady wants to play the harp, the flute, and the guitar. I told her if she masters the piano she can try other instruments.