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V.com weekend vote: Do you play the piano?

January 16, 2022, 4:55 PM · Back in the days before Suzuki, it was generally accepted wisdom that anyone wanting to play an instrument should first start on the piano.

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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Replies

January 17, 2022 at 12:13 AM · My mother played the piano. There was often a violin player visiting playing together with my mother on the piano. Sometimes she had a paid job playing the piano, but most of the time she played just for the love of playing.

My grand father played the viola as an amateur.

Thus I knew both what a piano, a violin and a viola was.

I started playing the piano as my first instrument. Sometimes my parents asked me what about playing the violin. Thus the idea of playing the violin was born and at some point I started playing the violin. I didn't practice that much on piano, but I did learn how to read music. So when I started on violin I could already read music.

I didn't play by memory as a kid and teenager. Thus when I many years later took a Suzuki violin teacher education I got students who learned to play in a totally different way from how I learned it myself.

Around the age of 17 I started composing music. I composed some small pieces for strings with myself on violin my brother on cello and my grandfather on viola, thus a string trio. A friend of the house also played violin, so I also made a quartet. Since I could already read both the G clef and the F clef from my time on piano I just had to figure out the alto clef in order to compose those pieces.

In my class in high school we were three students playing the violin. One day a teacher asked us if any of us would be willing to take up the viola, so we could make a high school string quartet. My brother would then play the cello. So I told the teacher that I could already read the alto clef, thus it would probably be easier for me than the other two to take up the viola (besides the other two didn't show any interest in playing the viola). Thus I became a viola player and later on became a viola student on the Royal Danish Music Conservatory.

January 17, 2022 at 12:45 AM · I started piano before I started violin. I had a little electric keyboard before I was even born, and the keyboard was my toy of choice as a toddler. I was since enrolled in piano lessons at age 4 and have been playing ever since.

January 17, 2022 at 01:57 AM · I started piano a year before my piano teacher stated "I think you'll make a violinist". After about a year of 2 instruments, I had a bad day at the piano with my mum beside me. I swore at her, she slapped me in my mouth, my wiggly tooth came out and she said "I'm stopping your piano lessons" I said "GOOD!!!" and that was that.

I think I was at about grade 2 level at the time, and though I wish now I could play, I know my short pinkies and thumbs would have been just as much of a challenge on that instrument as on the violin. Frustration on one instrument was enough for me.

And I'm pleased to say that I got far enough on the violin to play the first violin part of Shostakovich's Symphony 5 last night in the Adelaide Summer Orchestra concert, which was a triumph for all of us in covid times.

January 17, 2022 at 01:59 AM · Lars, being a composer, did you latinize your name, as the earlier Schultz composers did?

Ella, your having a little electric keyboard before you were even born - In which of the obstetrics journals was THIS case published?

I started violin at 5 (I'd played around a bit with it before) and viola at 8. but my parents couldn't afford a piano until some time after they bought one for me when I was 9 and hired a local teacher for me. At 11 I insisted on learning the organ and had organ lessons all the way through school (Mistake - I should have gone back to piano after a year, I'd have made more progress - only had access to an organ - outside my lessons - for half an hour a week. On the other hand, I know an older teenager who's changing to organ from piano because his hands aren't quite big enough for him to make it big on the piano), but I was headstrong)

January 17, 2022 at 05:42 AM · I'm extremely impressed by anyone who didn't start on a keyboard instrument first, because I'm pretty sure all the other instruments that I've played would have been far more difficult to learn without already being at least familiar with the keyboard and the basics of music theory.

I was a late starter on strings but started piano at 5, so when I started learning violin I had already passed ABRSM Grade 8 in piano, and earned a DipABRSM in piano performance only a few months later. The violin was in fact my fourth instrument, after piano, euphonium, and trombone. But eventually the viola (I switched after playing violin for about a year and a half) became my main instrument when I graduated from college and no longer had regular access to a piano. It was not until 13 years later that I finally bought a piano, and by then I was extremely rusty.

January 17, 2022 at 06:04 AM · {#6} Daughter of both a Violinist and Pianist-Mother, & pianist for Arnold Schoenberg's UCLA advanced classes in Theory; Form & Analysis + Orchestral Structure & Composition, for her 2 full year studies, & as a tiny 2 yr old tot I loved Music being made from Day 1, and evidently began playing the Piano, naturally & composing a first little piece, "Momma, Tie My Shoes" in C Maj with Momma then close to me, age 2, on piano bench, smiling and encouraging her little daughter who loved to explore! {And I'm sure Nothing comparable to composer, Lars Peter Schultz!} yet interesting enough to still remember it w/lyrics yesterday, on 15, January, 2022!! Given at home piano guidance at first, I asked for a 'biolin' for my Third Birthday which my Juilliard Top Grad father got for his then tiny pianist in the making daughter! My first 'biolin' - not Violin, was shiny in an immediately loved green velvet emerald case with a bow which Poppa placed under my thumb with instructions how to hold the bow turned upside-down to learn pressing my thumb next to a little lump w/fingers atop on wood & placing me close to a corner to sort of help me then hold my baby violin without dropping it! Thusly, I became both a pianist, composer & apt violin beginner in All 3 music disciplines!! Very late here in America, due to viewing Simona Halep on to AO Ladies Tennis Semi Finals from

Adelaide in AU, & Rafa starting {!!}, I will continue Monday, on the 17th of January 2022, with my little story! Nite' nite! tbc em

Returning with a bit more, my piano and violin lessons led to a developing passion to become a professional musician and at a given point both my parents felt the Violin would be my first instrument so one had to part 'Lesson Company' on Piano for a long time which, in retrospect, my pianist Mom expressed truly deep regrets. Actually, once on the Pro Violinist training 'Highway', my brief familiarity with the piano {Bach & Czerny, etc.} was incredibly vital in learning all concert violin repertoire on the Piano, harmonically, & knowing all full scores which were & remain invaluable as a violin soloist; Violin/Piano Duo, & Concertmaster at an interval sabbatical off full international concert touring ... My mentor after 1st marvellous Poppa, was Jascha Heifetz in his original JH Violin Master Class USC - & NY in LA filmed available via SHAR VHS, CD, DVD & on YT (YouTube) starting 2011. Recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to London, studies were with Antonio Brosa, Spain; Sascha Lasserson, Greatest Auer Rep/Friend & Auer classmate of Mr. Heifetz, who told me, "Liz, Lasserson in London!", and much later, peer of JH, Nathan Milstein, moved to London, referred by Mr. Lasserson, in person, to Mr. Milstein backstage at the RFH after NM's LvB VC in the Green Room, 'dragged' by Lasserson to meet his other class-mate, Milstein! NM transformed my bow arm in to his image which liberated one's ideas in Mind to portray all on the violin, opening up an international concert-recording solo career across Europe, UK, Asia and the US ... My love of the Piano has helped me greatly as a violinist & particularly in all Unaccompanied Bach and in knowing all 6 sonatas/partitas at the piano yet as on the violin manuscript of Bach. Milstein felt it a back-up system ensuring Memory, harmonically & musically not reliant on 'violin-speak' Only ~ Having 3 + music 'back up' systems minus bowing's & fingering's liberates one's imaginative mind from pure technical issues on a string bowed instrument & if a Pianist, might try a bowed string instrument to practise Piano Concerti, i.e., Rach II or the Brahms Piano Concerti #1 & 2! As great music Live representatives of the Composer genius's we offer to public audiences, we need alternate avenue's to know all music on our own instruments then publicly share the best we are able to present throughout varied times in our musical journey's!

I would not prescribe only Piano first, yet via my experience at the Piano, having gifted me with harmonic stability, unshakable rhythmic assurance beyond & knowledge of Full Scores of All Concerti for Violin (&/or) Violin/Cello; Violin/Viola Duo Concerti, etc., it shone when impromptu sitting 'Second Violin' to Heifetz; Viola, Primrose and Violoncellist, Piatigorsky in String Quartets while studying w/Jascha Heifetz at USC's Institute for Special Music Studies including Friday afternoon Chamber Music with All Three Great Artists!!!

It matters not how professionally involved one is or is not in order to be friendly with the Piano, for Life is full of surprises & if injured or unable to continue on a bowed string instrument, the Piano is always a kind caring & sympathetic Friend to then Speak from your Soul ...

Thank You, Laurie, for a rare opportunity subject!

~ Musically from Chicago ~

.... Elisabeth Matesky ....

Ref: https://www.facebook.com/elisabeth.anne.775?fref=nf

Submitting January 17, 2022

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January 17, 2022 at 06:25 AM · I started violin at five, piano at six. I actually liked piano a bit more in those early years but at twelve my parents decided I would stop piano and concentrate on violin. (This was the correct decision, obviously.) When I got to Oberlin, I successfully auditioned for secondary piano lessons with a faculty member, so added four more years of piano study. My ability to accompany my own students has been invaluable.

I highly recommend the Frustrated Accompanist versions of concerto accompaniments, by the way.

January 17, 2022 at 11:13 AM · I wish I had learned the piano. My grandmother had one and played quite well so I'd tinker about with it when we stayed there - she was very tolerant. But I was one of six children in a not-very-musical family and my mother liked peace and quiet.

A few years ago I tried some lessons to 'hold the fort' with my husband's new piano teacher - he was recovering from an illness. I enjoyed it but it just took too much time to have two instruments and the violin is my real love.

My understanding of music theory is very weak. I really do wish we'd had a piano in the house and my mother had let me learn. Too late now.

January 17, 2022 at 11:19 AM · Yes, for just over a year only piano. Reason, playing the violin is just to expensive, I think that it costs £1 an hour to play, 50p in string and 50p in bow hair, it will have to wait until I am richer.

January 17, 2022 at 11:44 AM · I love the graphic!

January 17, 2022 at 01:09 PM · I never learned how to "play" the piano. my interest in instrumental music only started in Jr. High (Middle School) and my family would/could not fund lessons. Therefore I started the Violin as I turned 30.

Many years later I was conscripted to become the DJ for our church. The Electronic Keyboard also plays floppy disks that were pre-recorded. Many of them had no introductions. So I taught myself (with the assistance of the internet) how to play notes with the right hand only so I could tap out an introduction before hitting "play."

I cannot "play" the piano but, one waggish member of the congregation noted that I might be able to transition to the accordion - which he dubbed to be "the most dangerous instrument in the universe."

I'm sticking to my violin and I still cannot read the F or C clefs with any fluency.

January 17, 2022 at 05:58 PM · Thanks Jean!

January 17, 2022 at 06:06 PM · I learned the violin first, then about 2 years later, the piano. I was taught Suzuki Method on the violin, and traditional on the piano. In my case, they complemented each other as far as musical theory went (goes?). But I always preferred to play the violin, so I was a better violinist than I was a pianist...lol.

January 17, 2022 at 06:46 PM · When I was in my late twenties, I decided to learn classical guitar. I found a great teacher and got pretty good on it. After three years, I decided I also wanted to play a piano. I took lessons and had my first -and only recital. I practiced my three little tunes for hours. At the recital, when I got up and played them, they were over far too quickly. So, I turned to the audience and told them I was going to play them again, and I did. My career didn't last. My piano teacher kept insisting I cut my fingernails, because they kept making a tapping sound on the piano keys. If you don't know, classical guitarists use their fingernails on their right hand to pluck the strings. I had to choose between piano or classical guitar. I chose guitar.

January 17, 2022 at 07:45 PM · My mom played piano and sang beautifully. She taught me some piano using the colorful books that were in the house. I took a few lessons when I was in junior high. My sister played piano and stuck with it. I began violin at age 9 and viola at age 16. Then, of course, I had to take piano and get a passing grade to get my BA. As an adult, I've taken piano lessons for a couple years at a time. But I just don't play very well. I'll stick to strings.

January 18, 2022 at 06:03 PM · Does anybody remember group lessons?

My first two years at piano (60 yrs ago) were group lessons.

There were 10 of us, each with a little wooden two octave keyboard in front of us. There was only one real piano for the teacher or whomever he designated to play.

January 20, 2022 at 07:10 PM · I always wanted to play violin, but my dad had a rule that we first had to take three years of piano (I’m not sure why, since he isn’t a musician). I didn’t get very far, but learned some music theory basics. After a few years, I taught myself guitar, which helped me understand how chords work, and developed my ear for harmony. All of a sudden, the keyboard started to make sense, and I played piano obsessively as a teenager. Piano is now my main instrument.

I did eventually study violin, and I believe that my foundation in piano helped me learn faster, since I already understood theory and had a good ear. I was able to focus more on instrument technique, which of course is completely different from piano.

January 22, 2022 at 01:11 AM · John, I wouldn't know how to latinize my name.

Elisabeth, the title of your first litle piece "Momma, Tie My Shoes" gives me the idea of a great litle piece.

January 23, 2022 at 10:49 PM · "I started on piano, before any other instruments." I don't play it now, although piano was my first instrument. I started at age 7 but didn't get far with it. The violin muse got hold of me when a professional orchestra played at my elementary school. What happened then, with a change of instrument, is a bit like what happens when a second language you acquire at an early age overtakes the first and becomes the one you use most.

If my parents were still among us, I would thank them once again for starting me in piano on a trial basis. It was a definite plus when I started violin, because I could already read music. And it helped me gain a good amount of music theory. It helped me once again as a violin major. During the first 2 years, I had to have x number of semester hours in piano as a minor. Since I could already read treble and bass, learning new pieces wasn't a big stretch.

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