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Patty Rutins

Playing with a violin and a toddler...

July 18, 2008 at 3:31 PM

Given that I simply cannot play the violin anymore without my child's direct involvement (like, him holding the bow, fingering for me, etc.), I'm seriously considering getting him a violin, or perhaps a toy. Then we can actually play together -- him on his, me on mine... well, that's wishful thinking. Mine will have to stay in the case or he'll drop his and say, "I want to play on Mama's violin!" because of course, everything that Mama uses is by definition better than the things that Alex uses.

He's going to be 2 in August. He has no conception of treating things gently (though he has learned how to pet the cats without whacking them, most of the time). Does anyone out there know how sturdy the teeny 1/16th child violins are? Can they be whacked around a bit without doing too much damage? Maybe a $20 toy that plays its own tunes (and is labeled ages 3 and up... :( ) would fill the void until he's ready to obey some directions. :)

I've read some of the posts about starting kids young, and before anyone tells me that I'm forcing the violin on my kid and will alienate him forever, I have no intention of making him do anything that he's not interested in. (I'm also not planning on giving him "lessons", per-se. It'll just be him and me, playing around for a few minutes here and there). We're teaching him two languages at home, too, for the same reason -- because learning stuff now, before he's conscious of having to make an effort to learn, will give him a head start on things later. Whether or not he plays the violin when he's four is of no consequence -- the fact that he learned how to hold it and to move fingers somewhat independently and to finger while moving a bow in a totally different direction can help him play soccer just as well. The concept that strings make different pitches depending on where you put your fingers is just huge! If he enjoys the violin and stays with it, great. I suspect he'll switch to the saxophone somewhere along the line, though!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 18, 2008 at 4:13 PM
You would both love Music Together, forget the fiddle for a few years !
From Patty Rutins
Posted on July 18, 2008 at 6:07 PM
Agreed, we've been to a couple of Music Together classes and had a great time; working full-time kinda cuts down on the time for classes, though. :P In any case, I'm not sure that forgetting the fiddle is an option! He finds the case in my bedroom and climbs on it and says, "Open, please, the violin!"
From howard vandersluis
Posted on July 18, 2008 at 6:34 PM
I second the recommendation for Music Together. It's a nice program and a lot of fun for parents and kids alike. I am a violinist and my 21 month old daughter has a little violin. She will occassionally try to throw it or bathe it or whatever, but we keep an eye on it and it actually is pretty sturdy. With very little direct instruction on our part though, she is picking the violin up "just like mommy" (and daddy!) and playing with the bow between the bridge and fingerboard with something that looks like a bowhold. Honest. We leave the little violin out on the couch in the room where we practice while we practice, and she usually comes over and plays with it, or the case for awhile. Soemtimes she prefers to spend the time taking the violin out of the case and putting it back in over and over again, but that's ok. We are not overly worried about what she does with it at this point.

By the way, we are also raising our daughter bilingually- in our case Spanish and English. Turns out it's pretty simple. My wife just speaks Spanish to her, supplemented by a couple of days per week at a columbian friend's house (her "nana"), and I speak English to her. Around the house we speak English for the most part. Our daughter is using both roughly equally and addresses me in English and my wife in Spanish. I was worried that it would mess my daughter up in some unforseen way, but so far, so good.

From Tobias Seyb
Posted on July 19, 2008 at 10:31 AM
Why not buy him a Ukulele for 30 bucks and tune it to an open chord?
They are sturdy and sound fine, even when a child can't use the left hand.
And it's the sound of strings and a real instrument as well.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on July 19, 2008 at 1:30 PM
Welcome back, Patty. It's good to hear from you again.
From Sean Gillia
Posted on July 20, 2008 at 1:10 AM
When my nephew was about that age, he became fascinated with my daughter's violin.

I gave him a super tiny (super cheap) violin, bow and case (I couldn't quite manage to get the thing in tune, but it didn't matter) just for messing around.

He loved placing music on a music stand and pretending to play it, and also walking around with it in its case on his back.

When he was visiting me one day, a few days after I'd given him the instrument, I asked him about the violin and he told me matter-of-factly "I'm not old enough to have a violin."

His dad explained that he had -- in less than five unsupervised minutes -- managed to remove all strings, pegs, bridge, button, chinrest, the frog and hair from the bow, etc. Another five minutes, who knows, he might have had the top off the thing.

The moral: music together might be the best option, but if you must hand him any sort of violin, perhaps best make it a cheap one, and employ constant supervision.

From Patty Rutins
Posted on July 22, 2008 at 5:37 PM
Thanks, Pauline! I stop by when I have a chance. :)

It's good to hear that I'm not insane, that other people have done the same thing (... though, I suppose that doesn't mean that we're not all insane ...) with varying degrees of success.

I've thought about a ukelele and will probably get one of those too. ;) But it wouldn't solve my problem of "mee-too-ism" when practicing the violin with my son around. You see, we can't actually let him wander around unsupervised (and I'm rather stunned that some of you can let 23-month-olds out of your sight) so if I want to practice, he's got to be with me. Or, he's got to be asleep and I have to be in the basement with a metal practice mute.

He's also got super-hearing, you see. Well, that and our house has no soundproofing at all.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 22, 2008 at 6:24 PM
Awww, how cute! I argue for getting a teeny cheapie on E-Bay that still comes across to him as "the real thing." That's so precious. Have fun, however it turns out!

Love these other comments and stories too.

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