July 26, 2012 at 4:29 PMFinding the 'correct' instrument for a child is something which can take a lot of time and money. Some people are more suited to the violin, such hundreds of us on this site, where as others are suited to a wind instrument and some to the likes of the piano.
How many people have you met who have said 'Oh I wish I could play the piano,' or 'I started the clarinet but gave up after grade 5?' The likelihood is you've come across many, and the fact that you've revealed your musical skills to them seems to trigger one of the many common regrets people have - their lack of understanding music.
I was lucky to find my instrument the first time around. I remember at the age of six watching the Proms on television and it was the first time I had ever seen an orchestra (or at least, taken notice of one). The violinists captured my imagination, and for three years I dreamed of one day becoming a violinist. When I was nine and received my first violin, it was probably the most life changing event I have ever been through to date.
My parents aren't musical, and if I would have lost interest in the violin, I expect they, as so many parents sadly do, would probably not have invested in any more musical activities other than the church choir I was a part of. I was already in many clubs and enjoyed dancing at the time, and I had further passions in writing, sports and science. If the violin wouldn't have been 'my instrument' then I doubt I would be doing the amount of music (which took over my dancing) today.
Talking about how someone - especially a child - is suited to a particular instrument is something which I find intriguing. What makes a child 'right' for an instrument? Why does one thing capture the imagination so much more than another? There are a few books out there which I have had a quick look at which delve into this new 'science' about music, children and instruments.
Some children don't remember not playing their instrument. Their parents may have started them on the violin or piano so early on that it just developed with the child. I think I'm right in saying that only one in ten children who start in this way succeed at their instrument. Others pick it up later and take to their instrument like a duck to water. Then there's those people who go through several instruments before settling on the one they like the most. And finally, there are those who start an instrument, lose interest and never really get given the opportunity again.
If I use my own experiences as an example once more, then it is obvious that piano has never felt suited to me. Piano was always a struggle; I've never been able to play it well, my technique is probably shocking and I've never really had any interest. I can just about play to the standard of a piano reduction of Beethoven 7, but put me next to a 'real' pianist and I'm outshone by a mile.
Finding your instrument is something which is a personal journey. Many of us on violinist.com had the opportunity and privilege of starting an instrument as a child, and for many, succeeding in finding the right one straight away. Those who never had the opportunity but have started later are to be admired; many people out there have no feeling of worth and refuse to even try, or at least give up very early on.
Everybody has the potential to be musical. Parents who are not musical should encourage their children to find the right musical instrument, and if they don't get it right first time then they shouldn't give up. In my opinion, one of the many beauties of music is the fact that human beings have a natural instinct towards the pure, universal language which can express so much emotion, and many more people out there should have the opportunity to express that.
Unfortunately there are so many people who believe they have not got an ounce of musical talent, when everyone most definitely has. Even tapping the beat to a piece of music which everyone can do shows some sort of natural edge.
There's a fairly shocking statistic for those who are pianists out there - most children who start piano below the age of eight will not succeed and will feel that they are no good at music. Most likely, they could not be more wrong! :)
Back then I thought "my instrument" was really the piano--because I was able to teach myself how to play simple pieces on the piano without lessons, and because playing the piano was, for me, a lowess activity. The stakes were low and no one expected me to be any good. I could just sit at a piano and make pleasant sounds, work out patterns, noodle around.
Then I actually did take a few piano lessons as an adult, and while they were okay, it made piano a lot like violin. Someone gave me the Hanon book, for example--a lot of scales and exercises for velocity and accuracy. I did it for a while, and it did me good, but it wasn't at all why I enjoyed playing the piano. I eventually got bored and stopped taking lessons or doing Hanon exercises.
I also at one point thought that viola was really "my instrument." I liked the lower register, and the sound. For a while it was kind of a relief to get off the Eing. I still own a viola, and I still play the viola from time to time, but I came back to the violin as my primary instrument about 2 years ago. I think it is "my instrument" as much as anything is.
Then there are people like my parents, who felt that everyone was expected to have a familiarity with music for good breeding, but a serious pursuit was a waste of time preparing for a financial future. Which is related to another person I know who though a “church musician”, believes music a tool and has no value in and of it self and has pointed out the amount of waste serious practicing can be. It detracts from the practical aspects of life.
But as bad as these may seem the absolute worse in my opinion are some musicians who also see only the practical. Decades ago I lived where I had to keep the doors and windows open. A group of children would come and listen to me practice the Recorder / Wooden flute.
One of the little girls was so excited, the next year she was going to learn the flute. When I asked after the school year started how the flute was going she told me she decided not to take band. They told her there were enough flute players and she should play percussion.
Sorry to be a downer, but I really wish I knew how to change this utilitarian aspect of our society.
My parents often played classical music on radio and recordings. Even before school age, I always enjoyed listening to it. I'm sure I told Mom and Dad, "Play it again" -- more than a few times.
I was 7 when my parents enrolled me in elementary piano lessons. Mom was a piano whiz herself, and my parents wanted me to get some experience in playing an instrument. We had a piano, so that was a logical starting point.
Even then, the little geek in me was evident -- I seem to remember being more fascinated with the above-mentioned Hanon book -- I believe it's the book of 60 exercises -- than with the simple tunes that most neighborhood kids could hum along to.
But then the violin muse grabbed me. A professional orchestra played at my elementary school, and now I could hear and see for myself how string players made this music happen. I told a classmate I'd like to learn violin. He was already into cello lessons. He told me, "Violin is a lot harder than cello." That didn't deter me.
I asked my parents if I could switch to violin. They consented -- after a short interval, that is, to be sure this wasn't merely a passing fancy. It wasn't. My piano teacher wished me well.
I started fingering and bowing elementary tunes on a half-sized fiddle several months before the first lessons. Watching two other kids play from what was to become my first instruction book -- this no doubt helped a lot. I could already read music, thanks to piano training, and I played right through several beginning violin pieces at my first lesson -- to the delight of my first teacher.
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