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What age is better for a child to start a violin lesson?

Life in general: I am a mom of a 3 1/2- year-old girl. She has expressed her interest in learning violin.

From Tina Lee
Posted November 17, 2006 at 07:12 PM

I am a mom of a 3 1/2- year-old girl. She has expressed her interest in learning violin. I am wondering what age is better for a child to start a violin lesson?

From al ku
Posted on November 17, 2006 at 08:26 PM
hello tina,

i think you may want to consider at least 2 things:

1. are you ready for it? meaning, can you provide enough time and energy for daily practice? often, you end up doing more than the kid and even playing along:)

2. can your child sit through some structured program yet? if no, no problem, as long as your family and the teacher can accept that. if yes, great!

also, keep in mind that playing around with a violin may be a fun thing, but sticking to a routine, with daily, weekly requirement, may not be. there will be times where tears will fly and you have to make a call on whether to back off or march on.

good luck!

From Sue Bechler
Posted on November 18, 2006 at 01:31 PM
You could start with some things that Suzuki parents/teachers, especially in Japan or Japanese-model American/European programs do with the very young. Planting lessons, where the child is expected to place feet on a mat with tracings in the Suzuki stance, and stay there in a relaxed but focussed way for some time span. Playing-position games with a box, box-violin or foam violin. Rhythm games with bow grip on a wooden spoon, etc., etc. Have violin music playing whil driving or when your child is at quiet play. Get some sing-along CD's or downloads, and sing together a lot to help develop attention to tunes, pitch, ryhthm, ensemble, etc. Her ability to master this kind of play is one indicator of how lessons with an actual violin will go for her at this age.
From Elizabeth Smith
Posted on November 18, 2006 at 11:09 PM
As a parent of four girls who began with Suzuki lessons (and had four very different results in how they reacted to these lessons) I'd suggest that you first find a program/teacher that you feel very comfortable with and which will offer lessons that are of good quality (anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to teach Suzuki violin). Next, I'd suggest you give it a try, realizing that progress may seem glacial with such a young child, and knowing you will be making a commitment to a daily practice -- your own practice of parental patience. The rewards are great, but great patience is the key. Additionally, if your child is very resistant to practice once the bloom is off the rose, consider taking a brief break and returning to lessons later. Lessons are a privelege, not a burden. For some kids, there is going to be a power struggle. I'd say pick your battles, and don't make it a battle over violin. Good luck with your adventure!
From Jamie Han
Posted on November 19, 2006 at 02:48 AM
My 4 1/2 year old son just started Suzuki violin lessons this month. He's a very patient kid who has a relatively long attention span for his age and endures almost an hour long lesson pretty well. But I can tell you it's a lot of work to have him practice daily. It may be more so with me since I have a 1 yr old girl too.
Like pp said, the questio is more about parents' commitment and patience rather than kids' readiness.
And if you think your girl is not ready for 15 min of very boring daily violin practice, you may want to try an Eurhythmics class until you two are ready for an instrument.
From Stephanie Jeffries
Posted on November 20, 2006 at 04:49 AM
My son started begging daily for a violin at age 3. I started him on lessons at 3.5 (Suzuki). The first few months were very frustrating for us both - he expected to be able to play right away and didn't want to learn the nuances of a proper bow hold, etc. I am now glad we stuck with it - once he learned twinkle, the rest became easier. He did have very slow progress at first but is now progressing nicely. I think although he hasn't learned songs as quickly as older kids, he often has better intonation and he has great form.

As others have mentioned, it is a significant committment from the parent. Unless your child is really eager to play, I'd tend to wait until age 4 to start (I think I'll do this for my younger son, who wants to play because his brother does but otherwise is not nearly as musically oriented). My older son is high energy, intense, and strong-willed, and his Music Together teacher didn't think it was a good idea to start violin at the time. But learning violin has taught him so many life skills besides the instrument: patience, hard work, listening, and joy of mastering something difficult.

Good luck on your journey! Cheers, Stephen's mom

PS My son's current teacher doesn't like to start children before the age of 4--she feels that most children younger don't have the fine motor skills necessary. Stephen's fine motor skills have always been quite good, so I wonder if that helped him a bit.

From Tina Lee
Posted on December 3, 2006 at 07:40 PM
Thank you all for your precious advices. Does any one can point me a direction to find a good Suzuki violin teacher in Central New Jersey area? I visited Suzuki Association of America's web site but nothing is listed. Thank you in advance.
From Jessie Vallejo
Posted on December 3, 2006 at 09:20 PM
As far as violin programs, you may want to check about the National String Projects that are in various music colleges. There is one in my school and we deal with a lot of kids from the Northern New York area, some very tiny and young!

Some kids are impulsive and want to learn something but as soon as they get frustrated they lose interest, and others will be on a one-track mind. I would say make sure the child understands that they have to be disciplined and choosing this is a type of (very special, beautiful!!!) committment, but it doesn't mean it can't be fun: when children are as young as your daughter, they tend to learn better through play. For your own reference, you might want to check out books like "Playing the String Game" by Phyllis Young (I have not personally used this, but a lot of my friends in the NSP program and music educators will use this, more for cellists, but a string teacher might be able to help you adapt the games to violin).

It's true that with disabilities, short attention spans, and all sorts of characteristics that might make you think a child SHOULDN'T learn an instrument, sometimes it is the best thing for them, to learn how to focus, to develop muscles or breathing, to over come disabilities, IS learning music and an instrument.

Like some people mentioned you might want to explore other musical activities that she can be involved with to help develop her musical undertsanding which will be applied to instrumental playing later on...listening and playing are really important.

From Maura Gerety
Posted on December 3, 2006 at 10:59 PM
3 1/2 is exactly the age I was when I started to play. (It was actually sort of chance I came to the violin--I just wanted to play an instrument, and violin was the only one that came small enough!) Judging from my own experience, my intuition and what I've seen of other your students, I must respectfully disagree with Al's comment about the structured program etc. At that age, I think there shouldn't be too much structure, the emphasis should just be on learning to play and having fun. Practicing wars are inevitable (I sure launched my share of uprisings!), but if the kid really loves music and loves the violin he/she won't quit....unless the work rate and maturity expected of her is far too great for her age.

So, basically: by all means let your kid start playing violin! Just be sure to keep it fun and stress-free while she is still little. :) Good luck!

From al ku
Posted on December 3, 2006 at 11:29 PM
maura, let me clarify a little:)

by structure i do not mean something that is hard core with whistles and whips:)

i have seen many kids crawl all over the floor, refuse to pick up the violin, unable to pay any attention to the teacher during lessons. simply kidos acting their age and ability,,, nothing wrong with it.

is that level of exposure to violin beneficial? i feel waiting for another couple months or half a year in those cases won't hurt.

in the same vein, if i see a 2 yo who loves to hold a violin and pretends to play with music, that little sucker is begging for lessons.

also, just like not all doctors are pediatricians, not all teachers are great with kids. so it is going to be a match between a kid that is ready ( or not) and a teacher that loves teaching kids ( or not).

tina, i do not know new jersey very well, but i do know new jersey has a music teacher association of some sort that holds annual piano and violin competitions. i have been to the piano one almost yearly, but never been to the violin one. i am sure someone on this forum can direct you to that association where you can find a good teacher in your area.

From Maura Gerety
Posted on December 4, 2006 at 12:07 AM
OK, makes sense. :)
From Laura Yeh
Posted on December 6, 2006 at 05:55 AM
"And if you think your girl is not ready for 15 min of very boring daily violin practice, you may want to try an Eurhythmics class until you two are ready for an instrument."

Wow, Jamie, you guys do that much practice every day? With my littlest students (3 and 4 year olds) I ask for a few minutes a day. Unless a child WANTS to practice 15 or more minutes a day at the age of 3 or 4, I think it's better to keep it really short, maybe in a few 1 to 2 minute sessions. Lessons are of course the exception. Kudos to you for getting that much practice in though. That must take a lot of creativity on your part!
-Laura

From Allan Speers
Posted on December 6, 2006 at 06:13 AM
"And if you think your girl is not ready for 15 min of very boring daily violin practice"

-The problem there is thinking of it as boring. Why should it be? The trick is to make it enjoyable.
---------------------

Tina, one thing you should consider, irrespective of actual lessons, is providing your daughter with cd's and videos of great violin playing. Let her absorb the music, and (if videos) get a good sense of what proper technique looks like. Let her absorb the passion of a great performance, etc. If possible, do it together, and discuss various elements.

A great DVD to start with is "The Art Of The Violin."

If she shows a serious interest in THIS, then she is probably ready for some lessons, and the exposure will certainly help her development as well.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 6, 2006 at 06:32 AM
Music Together is another really great program for the very young. Whether you start violin lessons now or not, I'd recommend doing some kind of music that gets the entire body going and introduces many different genres of music. (That's why I like Music Together so much!)
From al ku
Posted on December 6, 2006 at 12:02 PM
the art of violin for a 3 yo?

nah. try andre.

and start the kid on golf:)

From Terri Bora
Posted on December 7, 2006 at 02:34 PM
I also think the "Art of the Violin" is way to "heavy" for a 3 year old. We have a video which chronicles the Suzuki Violin tour from Japan there's lots of children playing the violin. There is a 4 year old playing Vivaldi A. Children can relate to another child doing it better than an adult especially the old black and white films in The Art of the violin. I would look for simple things like "can follow directions" knows right hand from left. Can listen. (is potty trained) (lol)!!!!!!!!!!!!
From Parent of Student
Posted on December 7, 2006 at 03:34 PM
Why not Tina? ...BTDT..Below are some opinions. I am a mom too. Kids don't know what they want, so I would not rely on her to show interest for more than a week in anything at this age. Don't get hooked on the fast result by watching too many Suzuki videos! All that glitters is not gold, and it depends on the child. Much of early Suzuki is rote learning vs. conscious playing, but can be very inspiring for little kids, as Terri so accurately points out. Your goal needs to stay focused on a well rounded musical education for the long haul. In my view Suzuki is like Montessori School education, good for little ones, but not always where you want to stay until high school and college! The advantage to starting so young is that the child will not remember a time they didn't play...however simple the tunes.

I found the Suzuki approach at this age very good and the quality of social interactions very positive. Of course, it is up to you to manage your expectations of how much actual playing will occur. The little 4 year old playing Vivaldi can easily set expectations that are not right for your child. I would also recommend working with an experienced Orff teacher if you do Suzuki violin. The Orff classes at this age are fun and allow more gross motor movement which contrasts the fine motor work needed for violin. It also helps counting.

My son started Suzuki at just older than 3 1/2..almost 4 and took Orff classes at the same time. (He never used a box, and I think that the whole box thing is pretty worthless. Get a cheap, real instrument.)At 6 he started recreational piano, for note reading and theory that the violin teacher was not covering in a 20 minute lesson. At around 8 we switched to a more traditional approach and all things combined have produced a little guy who, now 9, enjoys playing, plays well in tune, can read notes and counts, and is able to play intermediate chamber music with others and perform solo recitals with minimal stress for him and us. We decided to stop Suzuki at the end of Book 4, and in retrospect think we were 1 book late for that switch. All total, it remains an interesting ride and the start of a fine musical education. Starting very young seems to make the playing a bit more fuild, combining left and right brain approaches. These are only my observations after going to many recitals and seeing many different children play Suzuki songs and other beginning-intermediate (with shifting) material.

Good luck

From al ku
Posted on December 7, 2006 at 05:52 PM
i have had the misfortune to play the role of a feedback provider as well as a reluctant, teacherless, hopeless violin student playing along with our kido, who started at the age of 3 something and, defying familial genetics, managed to play vivaldi in less than a year as seen on youtube, with decent bow control and excellent bowl control. it is doable with planning and follow through, and a simple concept called work. it is not talent and certainly not prodigy.

i have since talked to at least 50 parents and hundreds of kids about violin through youtube. some provide feedbacks, some ask for advice. many have started playing violin because of that exposure. many kids have convinced their parents to get them a violin, at last. some have said, her intonation was poor, techniques awkward and provided harsh criticism and i begged them for more, because you cannot whip out tasty treats unless the kitchen gets hot. if i go as far as shamelessly putting those videos on youtube, i might as well get something in return.

talking about return, i have sent 5 fractions violins to needy kids from SA and Asia. i bought the sob stories and i do not believe music for the sake of music. it is for fun and hope for the better, be it a C hall debut or an escape from the sewer stench.

every parent is different and every kid is different. our view is that a kid who is reasonably happy and healthy is already a blessing; anything above and beyond that is a megamillion winner!

faimly started her on violin because the neighbor's kid started on violin. Bah! i got jealous and started her on golf because one, it is my duty:) and two it is my impression that swinging a club is a very effective way to strengthen upper arm strength and fine tune motor control. when you hold onto a club in motion, your hand grip muscles get appropriate level of exercise corresponding to the speed of your swing. the dynamics of the swing sequence in golf can be easily transposed to violin. tough for a 3 yo kid to find another playful setting to condition the above mentioned muscles.

then you have the walking in golf, from 40F to 100F, rain or shine, which builds character and stamina. no choice but to walk because the car is in the parking lot, not where you want to drop. in my humble and baseless opinion, one, intonation has as much to do with ear and brain as power for hand and finger execution for a kid. two, to overcome the immediate urge to quit at the first sight of difficulty which must be abolished early if anything of value is to be achieved. learn to suck it up. there is ice cream but only after you fulfill your promise. positive reinforcement served cold. three, learn to put setbacks in perspective and be professional early on. miss a shot? suck it up and focus on your next. miss a note on stage? suck it and focus on the rest. the pianist cannot help you play the violin so stop looking. kids are troopers and respond very well to rules of play. often, it is the parents that mess things up,,,,for and out of "love". ... oh, but we want johnny to have a normal childhood! (and we want him to be good at blank but do not give him a chance!).

we do not have any goals as far as music and sport are concerned except the short term goal of preparing her as a well rounded college applicant:) as far as violin playing goes, any kid can do it if you have a teacher who provides good direction, family member that puts in the time and meddling, and a kid who likes beautiful sounds. nurture the attitude above all.

kids love watching andre, you don't, fine, just like kids love to eat 2 lbs of candy a day and you don't. andre's stage presentation is colorful visually which corresponds well to the music style he provides, which, imo, is a neat introduction to classical violin music for a 3 yo. all the ballon poppping, people dancing, fun and laughters everywhere, why not?

want to set the mood before trick or treat next year? show the art of violin:)

From Terri Bora
Posted on December 8, 2006 at 12:54 PM
I certainly didn't mean to imply that showing the child playing Vivaldi at 4 was supposed to implant that same expectation, however I don't think it is as rare as we think. The child in the tape was realistic. She still had tapes on her violin and bow, hadn't started vibrato yet. I may be going out on a limb, but when I read Suzuki's books I get the feeling that this kind of level was the norm for his students. It was really no big deal. He believed that with proper nurturing the young child could play Vivaldi with ease. Obviously there are tons of variables, but in general I think he thought small children had enormous capacity to learn and quickly at that. I just brought up that particular performance because a young child could relate better to another young child.

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