Back in the days before Suzuki, it was generally accepted wisdom that anyone wanting to play an instrument should first start on the piano.
With Suzuki and the widespread availability of fractional-sized instruments, plenty of people nowadays start on the violin first, then piano later. After all, an octave on the piano remains at a fixed distance for any-sized hand, but there are violins that are specially-sized to fit three-year-olds!
Yet, there is a something to that old idea of starting on the piano. Certainly, note-reading and key signatures make much more sense, when explained through the medium of the piano. And with the piano, you don't have to create the sound and pitch for every note you play; to a large degree the notes will be in tune and in tone if you hit the right keys.
Personally, I did not start on the piano, for the simple reason that we did not have one when my interest in music emerged. I became interested in playing the violin after my elementary school music teacher went around to fourth-grade classrooms and several kids played for us. When I excitedly told my mom I wanted to play the violin, she countered that I should play the piano.
"But we don't have a piano!" I said. She couldn't deny this salient point, and thus I started on violin.
We did get a piano a few years later, and though I was intensely interested, I didn't start any lessons until late in high school. I also had to prove piano competency, getting my music degree. So I can play, but my piano playing lacks real foundation and fluency.
A few of my violin students also play piano, and I think that this has been very helpful in both their reading and musical fluency. The one drawback, for the very young students, is that the fingers are numbered differently, and so that can get confusing! And the other drawback is simply the limited hours in the day to practice.
How about you? Did you start on the piano, or on another instrument? Did you learn to play the piano at some point? How far did you get with it? Perhaps you are even better at the piano than the violin? Or equally adept? Or a wannabe like me? Do you think playing the piano helps with violin playing, theory, or music reading? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts about piano playing.
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