Child Age 9, Wants to quit playing violin

May 11, 2007 at 04:59 AM · My son is 9 years old. He has been playing the violin for 4 years. He is in Suzuki Book 4. He has been struggling with practice for years but recently it has gotten unbearable. He says playing the violin is making him HATE the violin. We try to have him practice every day for 15-20 minutes which doesn't seem unreasonable (to us). He HATES reading music and practicing pieces that are harder for him. The situation is causing WW3 in our home...him crying, his father angry, and I'm frazzled. He has a nice patient teacher. He has performed with groups and plays as a street musician when he wants extra money (during these street performances he averages about $50 an hour). His teacher states he has promise and perfect pitch. We are absolutely heart broken over what to do. He also has a piano (he does not take lessons) but will play by ear for up to an hour without prompting. I believe he might prefer the piano but his parents (my husband and I) cherish the violin and wanted that to be his first and primary instrument.

Replies (66)

May 11, 2007 at 05:40 AM · Could be that the real problem here is the note reading.This is a common problem with Suzuki trained children especially those with a good sense of pitch .In book 4 the pieces are much longer and trying to cope with all those notes and take in note reading is often frustrating.When we learn to read we buid up the word letter by letter and the brain computes logical patterns, music reading needs to be approached in the same way.Look through the archives on this site for theory and note reading books designed to help Suzuki students.

May 11, 2007 at 05:51 AM · Hey Marilyn,

I'm 17 years old right now, and when I was about your son's age, I acquired the "I HATE VIOLIN" bug. My parents forced me to practice and forced me to take lessons from then on...but when I turned 13, I became a classical-music fanatic!

I became very passionate about the violin, and began practicing 3hours a day! (partly due to the fact that in the summer of '03, I attended Interlochen Music Camp which helped spark this interest)

And now as a high school junior, I thank my parents everyday for not quitting on me during my earlier years. Violin playing has become such an integral part of myself that I can't wait to get home from school just to practice! I just can't imagine a life without violin!

I believe you shouldn't give up on him...especially since he's only nine years old. I believe that every violinist goes through this "stage" in different periods of his/her life. Just the other week, I felt like ripping apart my violin because I was so fed up with practicing etudes, scales, etc! So I think you should see how long this "bug" plays out and continue his violin-education in the meantime....i mean my mother literally forced me to practice even though I was crying, screaming, and hitting her! And i'm sure if you continue your son's lessons and violin-education, when he is mature enough, he'll thank you with all his heart!

Here are some suggestions to spark his interest:

-Take him to see a violin soloist in concert (this always worked for me when I was younger)

-He might be a little young, but try sending him to a music camp for a short period of time! Somewhere where they make violin playing fun and enjoyable.

-Put him in chamber music organizations to help him interact with other kids his age

-If you are willing to negotiate with your son, maybe allow him to start piano lessons only IF he promises to practice violin every day (for however long you wish)

Hope everything works out!


May 11, 2007 at 06:33 AM · I was in his shoes at that age, and eventually quit at age 9. Now I'm 36 and taking up violin again. I wish my parents forced me to play, no matter what at this age. But maybe some tips to help, introduce him to people his own age with music talent. Or even those that like to listen an watch him play. I stopped because the girls wanted to hear guitar, but if there was one that liked violin, I'd have made her my best friend for life. Also, you might allow him to dress his violin to be more 'cool'. stickers on his case, streamers off the neck, kind of like a rock star. Yes, they might affect the sound a bit, but at least he'd be playing and enjoying it. Take picts of him like that, make your own music video. Or some violinists now are playing electrics with guitar effects on them, and let me tell you, that's way cool.

Oh, and be on the lookout for people that inject pop culture in violin playing. Here's a video to get you started...

May 11, 2007 at 09:22 AM · If you know that deep down, he has a passion for the sound of the violin, then make him keep at it. The struggles will work out later, but only if he dukes it out.

May 11, 2007 at 09:52 AM · Have you considered letting him take a break? My 7-yo daughter is currently on a break from the violin. She is taking piano lessons instead, which she currently seems to prefer. I wouldn't let her give up on music altogether, but my feeling is that forcing a specific parental instrument agenda is not worth it.

I think it partially depends on what it is that you want for your son in music. Do you want him to be a professional violinist as an adult or more generally to enjoy music and keep it part of his life?

I never had any parental forcing, and I had two big breaks from the violin, and I think they were good for me. This attitude towards breaks (among other things) probably did keep me from being able to be a professional, but I wasn't interested in that anyway and have no regrets about making my primary career something other than the violin. I'm self-motivated as an adult and have kept playing and enjoying music even in the face of a demanding day job and personal life.

May 11, 2007 at 10:39 AM · I like the "let him take a break" idea, but here's another:

If you can afford it, get him a simple digital recording set-up. Maybe a cheap laptop & one of those "all in one" recording interfaces, plus a cheap mic.

Then, he will have multi-tracking capability. Since he enjoys the piano, he can start be recording piano. -And then what? well, what goes nicely with piano?

Bingo. He might start recording violin parts to go with the piano (reverse accompaniment) Maybe even try a cheap electric violin, or add a cheap midi keyboard, so he can play some computer-generated sounds like bass, french horns, whatever. Who knows, maybe he'll not only play more violin, but start composing symphonies in a few years.

Or maybe he'll just play football.

May 11, 2007 at 11:00 AM · it breaks my heart to hear that.

but, out of curiosity, as a matter of personal interest, i have been asking young, very advanced (or successful) players this question: starting what age have you really wanted to play the violin yourself, without influence from parents/teachers/etc?

i think the average, quite consistently, is about 10-11 and all of them have started around 5-6. in other words, for 5 years or so, it is not a walk in the park, willingly.

i think fundamentally, we would lose interest in things if they are too easy or too difficult. too difficult in this case may mean, at home, while attacking seemingly difficult passages, the kid has not received enough help. and with violin, until/unless the notes are played just right, it simply does not sound good, unlike piano.

of course this is my speculation, but i got that sense from the original post, that, at this point, on the violin, practicing and learning at home, is considered too difficult, thus no fun. i don't care who the teacher is and how great the teacher is,,,that has no bearing on this precise issue because one session per week with the teacher simply cannot sustain all the help that is truely needed.

not sure what the parents are capable of in terms of helping the kid musically. that will be the angle that i will approach to afford the kid the luxury of more guidance.

May 11, 2007 at 11:11 AM · You could also try positive reinforcement. Skinner tactics. Your description of angry hubby doesn't paint the most glowing, supportive picture.

Try ignoring him when he ignors the fiddle, and when he practices a lot or learns a new piece, give him lots of attention, praise, and ice cream.

Ice cream should work every time! I hear you can even get pigeons to play ping-pong with it.

Or something like that.

May 11, 2007 at 11:17 AM · Obviously what goes on in your family is totally your concern but since you posted the question I say let him stop for awhile. If he has been playing for four years he has certainly had the chance to decide whether he likes it or not. If he really likes it then he will come back to it on his own and like it that much more. If you force him to do it because you and your spouse really love the violin and therefore he should love the violin too, then that is kind of selfish of you. He's 9. Let him be 9 and do something else for awhile. Always have it available for him and certainly give him encouragment to come back, but don't force him. He has stated that playing the violin is making him hate the violin. Listen to him. Let him breathe a bit. You have said that practice has always been a problem with him. Have you considered that maybe he really does hate the violin but has done it because he perceives how much you want him to do it? Again, make it available to him but cut him slack, I say. Maybe get him involved in something else for awhile...send him to the NASA space camp this summer or something. Maybe he'll decide to be an astronaut instead of a violinist. Not a bad choice really, if that is what makes him happy. We need more professional astronauts/amateur violinists in my opinion.

May 11, 2007 at 11:28 AM · Have you thought about letting him fiddle? Summer is a great time for fiddle festivals---you could take him to one of those and let him see how much fun other people have playing violin. No music to read, no scales, kids and older people playing together---it's great stuff. He could challenge his ear and learn new techniques. You could buy him a few cds while you're at it to give him new ideas.

May 11, 2007 at 12:36 PM · Kids age nine don't generally have the same sort of time sense or the means to evaluate themselves effectively as do adults. You could try setting up very (to you) finite parameters for your boy's violin studies. Say " We (Dad HAS to weigh in positively) hear how frustrated/angry/tired you are right now. From our life experience, we know that mastering the thing we thought was too much is really a wonderful feeling. SO you will be (detail a finite plan, ie, continuing your lessons for the next two months and practicing ...minutes per week. Or some other plan.) Then we will have another talk to see how you are feeling and where you think you have gotten. Write this date on your family calendar! YOU can't forget, though he is allowed to. Good luck! Sue

May 11, 2007 at 12:48 PM · I second the note reading issue. I would have a conversation with the teacher about how to facilitate better note reading.

Or, maybe switching to piano is a good thing. After four years of piano, I switched to violin around your son's age, and that worked out well!

If you and your husband prefer your son to play violin over piano, well, that is interesting. Why? Would you force him to play baseball if his real dream was basketball? Just curious...

May 11, 2007 at 01:15 PM · Does your son play with others?

For many younger players, and probably many older players, too, the best motivation to improve is seeing others play. Comparison, role modeling, and yes, friendly competition can really motivate children to work.

If the violin playing he hears is limited to his own and recordings of Itzhak Perlman, he might feel frustrated; those sounds are so distant from what he's able to draw from the violin that continued effort might seem pointless.

However, seeing a slightly older student who is just one notch more advanced than him might really give him something to work towards.

We are social animals.

May 11, 2007 at 01:34 PM · As a parent I completely understand your sadness and frustration. In your shoes I would probably end up allowing him to quit or take a break to preserve everyone's sanity. BUT, as the parent of teen musicians I have heard more stories than I can count from kids who quit at your son's age and returned later with a real passion. These kids felt that they missed very important formative years. It's very hard to make up for lost time at age 14 or 15 and they all wish their parents had forced them to continue through the rough patch. So I don't have any useful advice. If you allow him to stop now, he may well resent your decision in a few years, even though this is what he wants now.

May 11, 2007 at 03:02 PM · What would you do if he wanted to stop going to school? I suspect there's a problem here only because he senses the possibility of getting his way, eh?

May 11, 2007 at 02:58 PM · There's something that makes me uneasy about the statement that "it's hard to make up for lost time at age 14 or 15." Where would this idea come from that the time was "lost"? Probably from teachers and peers. I would be concerned about putting any kid into an environment where that's such a big concern--and especially one that leads to kids resenting their parents like that, "lost" time or no.

May 11, 2007 at 03:10 PM · I suspect many factors are at work here. The key is motivation. You will need to take many steps back to see the forest from the trees, for all of you, and determine what is killing his motivation, and then step forward with him to gain a new level of motivation. Sounds easy, but actually very difficult. Sure, you can beat the violin into him as many suggest here, but with kids the odds are greater the mal-consequences will come later to haunt you, and in various ways. Anger and stress only worsen matters. Did you ever learn anything when you were angry, in the midst of a fight or argument? Parenting has no guide, no magical formula - we must simply do our best. The key is motivation. If you cannot determine how and why your son is motivated, you cannot lead him. If you cannot lead with him following willingly, he will only fight you every at every step. Fights will lead to more fights, and bitternes, and rejection, which must all be avoided. You will know very quickly, if not already, if YOU have the stuff it takes to lead. If not, then perhaps you should allow your son to choose his own instrument, and let him follow his natural talents. Is it written somewhere that he shall play violin, only? Actually, he could be more musical than you think, if he wants already to spread his talents across various instruments. IMHO, if a child keeps interested in music, the benefits are far greater than otherwise. The instrument should not be the object: music is the object. Personally, I am forever impressed by people who can play more than one instrument well, as all I have met are multi-dimensional people. The key is motivation.

May 11, 2007 at 05:28 PM · for kids that are very young, this motivation thing should be taken with a grain of salt since they are not yet required to study philosophy or calculus.

even though we all chime in with our own perspectives, to readers with different perspectives, our best intentions can be easily intepreted as mean, moronic, useless, insensitive, harmful, practical or helpful.

for young kids, what is the motivation to brush teeth 2 time per day? um, david, i know you are tired, but remember, tartar control rocks. motivation or habit forming?

how about eating vegies? why does something good for you always taste iffy? eh, david, you know you can actually cut down the risk of colon cancer according to the american cancer society if you ingest that whole plate of that not very yummy plate of green?

hey, how about you and i, coming into the house, kicking up our legs and channel surfing with the remote control? how about the chores? umm, hmm, where is the motivation again?

then we have the issue of what kids want vs what the parents want, that we parents know better. dictatorship (however you phrase it) vs democracy or lassie fare.

whatever we do, keep in mind the long term mental health of the kids. for each kid, the dosage of how much to push can be very different. whatever we do, it is a gamble because the outcome will be revealed later, or much later. "i hate it" may be interpreted carefully because some kids mean it and some don't. i think parents should be able to assess that, with a clear head. still, it is so much easier to point fingers when discussing others' problems than our own.

here is a little experiences with my 2 kids for illustration purpose.

the older one plays the piano, very reluctantly, for years. is it pain and suffering? not quite, but it will be pleasant to do without if you ask her. she is meek, introverted, brilliant intellectually, but simply have no connection with music (piano). my wife told her long time ago, nicely of course, if that is how you feel, fine, just do it for me.... as long as you live in the house, do it for me. do we force it upon her? not quite, but her purpose with piano is that i love my mom dearly and i am doing my mom a favor. so be it. a bit like how the prior admininstration dealt with terror. not the best arrangment, and not the worst either.

the younger one plays the violin. i am pretty sure i am the father, that the 2 kids have the same genes, lol, but this one is just different. since the age of four, she already reminds me whether it is time to practice before the school bus comes. as she was brushing her teeth, she screams to get the violin out and ready. often during practice, she giggles. one time i asked her why...her reply: the music is so pretty.

the older one, whenever possible, grabs a book and finds a quite corner and reads and reads and reads. never once have i seen her going to the piano on her own initiative. the younger one often walks over to the her older sister's piano and just pounds it away for fun.

now, same family, same food, same water, same house, but 2 very different kids musically speaking. what can you do except shrugging your shoulders?

do i think less of the older one because of the Piano Dificiency Syndrome? no. we think she is special, special in her own way.

do i think the younger violin player a greater kid because her heart is clearly open to music? again, no. only special, in her own way.

May 11, 2007 at 04:19 PM · You'll probably get resentment at some point no matter what you do--and, eventually that resentment will probably fade as the kid gets older and obtains some perspective.

So I don't think the potential for resentment on the part of the child should play much of a role in your decision. I think it should be about values: what do you value in life? What of those values do you want to pass on to your child? How specific do these values have to be (music as a whole vs. violin)? And what are your goals? I think as long as you're clear and true to these things, any resentment (or "hating" the violin) is likely to fade with time.

May 11, 2007 at 06:32 PM · Al has an interesting study going. I actually didn't start wanting to play the violin within myself until I was 11. I started when I was 8. But, I still procrastinated and complained (parents had to intervene on occasion) until I was 14. Occasionally I'd hit a wall and want to quit, but that's when you push through. Here's a list of common walls for Suzuki kids:

Gossec Gavotte

Bach Bouree

Book 4

If my students want to quit, it's right around the time when they're studying this stuff. Actually, I hit a wall in my own progression just recently. It was time for Paganini. It's been at my door, but I had a mental block. For me, unfortunately, it's too late. I already have the violin disease, so there's only one choice--push through the Paganini. Think twice about inducing this sickness in your son! :)

Actually, I have a nine-year-old boy student who just finished Book 4 and is on to Book 5, but he's experiencing the same burn-out. It's WW3 around his house too and his Mom is pulling her hair out. I just keep telling them to hang in there, it's gonna get better. On my end, I've decided it's time to give him a little break. It seems to be working. We've veered off the Suzuki path and we're exploring "Millionaire's Hoedown" and "The Entertainer" and "Phantom of the Opera." This seems to be yielding positive results at home. Practicing is not the chore of yesteryear. It slows down his progress in some areas, but it gives him a chance to take a breather and solidify all the new concepts he learned in Book 4 (which is essentially what Book 5 is about anyway).

May 11, 2007 at 05:47 PM · kimberlee, i like that approach... when one door is closed, knock on another. everyone needs a breather. the whole thing is a game, how do i trick you to give me your best...and when you grow up, you will understand my game and learn to apply that to yourself, simply because you have been conditioned.

as kids grow, their priorities shift faster than you can say, huh?

currently the top 5 priorities for our 6 yo is, in descending oh my god importance: karate, swimming, golf, violin and TV (computer was banned because mom considers it too time wasting).

often, i pitch the 5 things around to gain advantage, which means, karate, swimming, golf are all good bargaining tools for better quality violin practice. because it is postured as a game or a challenge, our 6 yo loves it because she feels that she is competing against herself.

no free lunch in this house:)

May 12, 2007 at 02:43 AM · There was no free lunch in my house either--of course, I'm the oldest of 12 kids, so I was lucky to grab a couple bites off the table before my brothers got it all.

Yep--things are in constant motion and you've got to roll with the punches. Funny thing is, I keep learning to roll with them while getting punched. Eventually I might get ahead of the game :). I try to give my students as much freedom as they can handle.

BTW, Al, your daughter is charming and I think it's incredible that a six-year-old can handle the Preludio and play it relatively in tune. I've got a six-year-old doing the Bach Double, and I thought THAT was cool. I showed her your daughter (on youtube) and she was so inspired!

May 11, 2007 at 06:57 PM · Al and Kimberlee,

Thank you for your honest and relevant postings. I would add some except my daughter is one and still trying to walk - but your thoughts give me ideas to ponder for the future.


May 11, 2007 at 09:40 PM · kimberlee, thanks for the kind words,,,she is a goof ball.

i think that is the beauty of so called "competition" in that for some kids, it is one of the most powerful incentives to better themselves (although it is also true that for some others, if handled poorly by the parents/kids, it can leave long lasting scars). but if the adults truely pay attention, they should be able to guide the kids into the right track.

terry, i have seen some 6 inch long violins on ebay. we are

May 11, 2007 at 10:29 PM · "What would you do if he wanted to stop going to school? I suspect there's a problem here only because he senses the possibility of getting his way, eh?"

Sorry, Jim--not a great analogy. As a new father, I think if my daughter says she hates playing an instrument, I won't make her do it. I'll put that lesson money in her college fund. Kids who hate their instrument make life miserable for everyone involved: teacher, parent, and kid. It's not like the world is desparately in need of violinists. So he'll find something else he enjoys--photography. Stamp collecting. Lettuce. Whatever.

May 11, 2007 at 10:48 PM · Scott, I wasn't saying the 9 year old should learn violin. I was saying the 9 year old doesn't make the rules, putting the parents in a turmoil :)

May 11, 2007 at 10:48 PM · Well.... somebody has to take the unpopular POV. My feeling as a professional violinist and violin teacher is that the child has to want to play. Occasionally I have had a student who did not seem to want to play. I will sometimes ask, "are you playing the violin because you want to or because your parents want you to?" If the kid say it is because his parents want him to I will usually have a talk with the parents and recommend that he stop. And who knows? Perhaps the parents turned right around and took him to another teacher and continued forcing him to practice. And maybe tie kid eventually came to love it. Maybe not.

In your case, I feel it certainly would not hurt to stop for a while. Also he could start piano lessons and see how that goes. If he comes back to the violin, his piano experience will make him a better violinist and musician.

It sounds like your son has a lot of talent and a love for playing music. I think he will stick with it one way or another.

Good luck.

May 11, 2007 at 10:58 PM ·

May 11, 2007 at 11:23 PM · Why not let him try viola? And if he likes it, great. One day, he can switch back to violin if he wants and usually there aren't too many problems....I think.

May 12, 2007 at 12:05 AM · Get him a set of drums.

May 11, 2007 at 11:59 PM · Wow, is this ever bringing back memories. The rebellion, the screaming fights with my mom, the grand pronouncements that practicing made me HATE the violin, spending three hours moping and whining for fifteen minutes of practicing.....been there, done that. My mom refused to let me quit, and boy am I glad she did! When I was about 12 or 13, I suddenly had this epiphany and have been a violin geek ever since. (I think it had something to do with hearing my first Maxim Vengerov CD, but that's a long story for another day.)

Although now that I think about it, I never actually hated playing the violin, no matter how much I despised and detested practicing (still do sometimes!). My mom had this crafty little technique she would use occasionally when the war got really hot, namely pretending to let me quit. Later in the day, a few hours after I had thrown some-or-another tantrum and declared that I never wanted to touch the violin again, she would completely nonchalantly and matter-of-factly start saying stuff like "Well, tomorrow I'll call your teacher and tell her you won't be coming back, and I guess we should start looking for someplace to sell your violin...." and then I would panic, thinking I was on the brink of life without the violin. A frantic recantation of everything I had said earlier would immediately ensue.....this must have happened about ten times. Other telltale signs of latent violin love were stuff like, whenever there was a tornado approaching and we had to hide in the bathroom, the first things I would grab were always my cat and my violin. After two weeks violinless at summer camp, I was feeling generally blue and music-deprived. Etc......I don't know if your son is the same way as I was, but it's something to keep in mind. Nobody really likes practicing when they're 9 years old, what's important is, does he really love the violin?

One slight off-topic, but I have to disagree with whoever it was that suggested looking into "crossover" and pop-infused classical as a way of keeping him interested. I know I rant about this topic all the time here, but classical music is plenty interesting enough as it is, without adding gimmicks.

May 12, 2007 at 12:42 AM · Let him see a Chucky movie, and then when you need to, threaten to call Chucky to come over.

May 12, 2007 at 02:27 AM ·

May 12, 2007 at 02:43 AM · I'm going to give you some advice that will fly in the face of everything said above me. I fully expect you to ignore what i am about to say because it is not what you want to hear, but here is my advice:


Put the violin down. Stop the lessons. Not for a week, not for a month, FOREVER.

BUT. Here's the catch.

There will be no idle time. Your son has to replace his former violin lessons (which he hates) with another hobby he loves, or he has to get a part time job. One of the two.


You will NOT spend a cent to support him in his new activity until AFTER he has achieved the same level of accomplishment in that hobby or job that he now has on the violin.

By doing this, you show your son in a realistic way that he is now old enough to make his own choices in life, but with choice comes responsibility.

If he's up for the challenge, he will find something he really enjoys and develop the perseverance and stamina to develop skill in that area. What parent wouldn't want that from their kids?

On the other hand, your son may realize that the violin isn't so bad, or he may miss the inherent support he gets from you for playing it. In which case he'll return to the instrument on his own and take it up with more vigour than he now displays.

Either way you win.

Think about it. The final decision is yours.

May 12, 2007 at 03:48 AM · I like the idea of choice with consequences / responsibility. Worked well with my own kids.

I should have been a musician all my life, I think. Had a passion for it when I was small, but my parents had a knack for taking anything I was interested in and shoving it down my throat. Made for a lot of anger and resentment, and 20 years of not speaking to them, plus I missed out on decades of playing. I did lots of other stuff, but I wish I had spent as much time then on music as I do now.

The only advice I can give is to listen and give the kid some respect. Really listen - Don't just wait for the next opportunity to speak. Chances are, the problem can be identified and worked out. I believe that discipline is a good thing for just about everybody, but so is balance, and so is respect.

Parents who seek to fulfill themselves by forcing their kids into things end up with everybody losing, in my experience. Parents who lead their kids with discipline and affection generally do pretty well, it seems.

May 12, 2007 at 05:10 AM · Most 9 year olds hate to practice. Especially if there are other fun things they'd rather do, like play video games or watch TV. My parents did this routine. If I didn't want to practice, I still had to sit in my room and do nothing else, no book reading, no TV, no talking to them, and no arguing. I mean I used to pick an argument just to get my mom engrossed in it that she forgot that I was supposed to be practicing. Kind of like running out the clock. She got wise to that and said, just sit there with your violin and your music. Inevitably I realized that it was better to fiddle around than do nothing.

I also remember that I hated some of the pieces I was given. And I'd go to the library and check out some orchestra scores, and play them with more gusto. But I hated the exercises and scales. I think my parents never enforced what I had to play. Just as long as I played something. Eventually, my teacher would catch on that I didn't practice the exercises and scales. Then I'd be resentful and rebellious and declare that I hated the violin.

Then my parents would announce that I'm quitting violin. And I wouldn't want to give it up. I distinctly remember thinking it would be a loss, and I would lose what made me special. And in order to not quit, I'd have to practice the etudes and scales.

It was definitely hills and valleys. I'd get a piece I liked, and play it over and over again. Then get a piece I didn't care for and slack off. I think I also said I hated violin whenever I ran into something difficult. Back when I was a kid, I didn't think of it as a challenge like I do today. I just thought, these exercises hurt my fingers, and sound horrible. I don't think as a 9 year old, I understood that mastery of these exercises would let me enjoy new techniques to play harder songs. I would just feel it was too hard and lose interest in practice.

What really motivated me was the desire to play a certain concerto or a piece. My teacher would then hold it in front of me and tell me that someday I will be able to play it if I did this or that. But that I'm not ready for it. I was motivated by Mendelssohn concerto, Ziguenerwiesen, the Hungarian dances. I would ask my dad to buy the books at the music store and he bought a few, so I could leaf through them and wish I could play them.

Maybe playing CD's and having your son do music appreciation and identification of some of the great violin pieces will help. Don't tell him why you're doing this. Just make it a game. Hey, who composed this one. Do you like it? Then work with his teacher to plan a path to a set of pieces he likes.

For me, I hated Mozart and Schubert. So asking me to work on something by them was boring. I liked Baroque and Romantic, and anything Eastern European, Hungarian dances, Russian and Jewish songs. I hate Spanish dances. Maybe your son hit a few pieces he either dislikes or is frustrated by it. Maybe it's the music note reading that is unnatural for him.

In any case, I do remember my thoughts as a kid and it was clearly, "I hate this one, yuck." with no thinking that it might be useful or helpful in my development. And then just hating violin in general until I got to something I liked.

Hope this helped somewhat.

May 12, 2007 at 05:40 AM · If my parents hadn't made me stay with violin i wouldn't have gotten so many scholarships to college and if i didn't have violin in college... i would've been doing a lot of other things..

May 12, 2007 at 04:05 PM · "Scott, I wasn't saying the 9 year old should learn violin. I was saying the 9 year old doesn't make the rules, putting the parents in a turmoil :)"

Jim, I agree with you--to a point. It's a question of what battles the parent is willing to fight. If a child is well brought up, I think it's ok to concede a battle here or there.

And in reply to Nigel: yes, kids who continue against their will sometimes go on to accomplish great things and get scholarships and get in the Cleveland Orchestra. But it's hard to predict the future.....for every one like you, there are 99 who really should have quit. As parents, we have to take things as they come.


May 12, 2007 at 05:05 PM · I agree that we parents should take things as they come. Parents are most likely to know when to go along or against when kids hate something. Sometimes, kids hate something with a good reason sometimes they don't know what that means. Knowing when to listen and ignore is probably the hardest thing in parenting.


May 12, 2007 at 05:38 PM · Nobody seems to have mentioned talking to the child ,this isn't a win or lose situation.Maybe asking the child to list the things he likes about playing the violin and the things he dislikes will pinpoint the problem area. There is probably some small area of frustration that at the moment is looming large for the child and once it is analized and looked at in small steps will soon become irrelevant.All children go through problem times which could be related to note reading,starting to go into position,starting vibrato or changing violin size.Depending on the child these steps have to be approached in a logical manner.Some children sail through all developments others need more time.

May 12, 2007 at 07:22 PM · My brother was like that, only with euphonium...the teacher really did not want him to stop because he had caught on extremely quickly.

In the end, my brother quit, but he still loves music and has picked up electric bass.

The child is 9 years old...I know some people act like if one doesn't start before or by that age seriously studying the violin, then the person will never go anywhere but I do not really believe that. He has time to explore what interests him and I know parents have dreams for their children, but I think it's important for parents to avoid pushing their own dreams on their children so can't live vicariously through your children that way (not saying you're necessarily doing that, but everyone hears of parents who do)'s not fair or responsible to do that to children. It's just as important for the children to realize their own dreams, ambitions, and interests. It has to be a good balance between supportive and not overly pushy.

If he's interested in another musical instrument, and pursues that for a little bit, he'll still develop musically and I think a lot of those skills, from most any instrument, can be transferred to another.

I don't think it's too early for your child to start learning to think of consequences of decisions. Try and speak with him, weigh the pros and cons, see what his ideas and feelings are.

It's important that children don't do too much and actually have time to play and be a child. Play is such an important way to learn as a kid. It scares me to think of some of the schedules some kids have these days...

May 12, 2007 at 08:46 PM · There are so many variables as to why some like and some don't. Is it peer pressure-is playing the Violin "uncool"? Is it perception, does the student see the tedium but not the joy of performing on stage? Is it the time-do his/her friends do things he/she can't because of the schedule of lessons or practice times? All of these can be easily overcome, but sometimes we also have to realize that kids are actually young people, each with their own likes and dislikes.

As far as starting early, does a child that starts early but doesn't enjoy playing, actually progress much more than someone who starts later, but enjoys playing and (hopefully) practicing.

I play, my son doesn't. All the sports I enjoyed, my son didn't. Even those that he did well in. He still found both athletic and artistic outlets (acting and tennis) that were different than my original choices but still ended up where I wanted-being involved, an appreciation for the arts, and things that HE is passionate about. In my case, I let my son (for the most part) make his decisions, with the understanding that he needed to participate in something. If it wasn't my choice, then he had to find something on his own. Who knows, maybe your young player, making his own decision, will end up being a happy Cellist or talented Clarinet player. You won't know without asking, good luck.

May 13, 2007 at 02:13 AM · I can totally relate to this... I didn't even read the rest of this thread.

I have a 11 year old daughter who started out 3 months before her 3rd birthday with suzuki lessons. After about 3 and a half years she started displaying some of what your son is doing.

My daugher was very talented at 4 so the teacher would put her in many many concerts and recitals.

Long story short... we quit lessons for a year and a half.. my choice. I thought she was getting burned out and I know that I was too.

She started back with lessons about 4 and a half years ago... her choice and it has been great guns ever since. She is playing in a college orchestra and has a great teacher.

The key thing is to listen to your child.. if he quits. That's ok. If you are concerned about not having violin lessons take up the piano.. we did that.

Open communication with the teacher really helps too... Good luck it is a tough age.

May 13, 2007 at 04:31 AM · Let him take piano lessons and drop violin. My daughter didn't like violin and hated Suzuki and violin lessons. Now at the age of 15 she loves piano. She doesn't practice a whole lot, but keeps it up.

May 13, 2007 at 05:20 AM · Jodi and Bruce (among many others) have given you some great advice. Maybe your son just wants to get on with the music-making side of music and not struggle with the instrument. If that's the case, your options are thus:

a. let him switch to piano.

b. If you really insist on him playing a stringed instrument, let him take up the guitar for a while.

May 13, 2007 at 11:36 AM · one thing we should bear in mind is that it takes a while to know someone and in one post, without follow-up additional info/feedback, it is not easy to really pin something down as reliable info on the kid. specifically, it is not easy to answer whether the kid should stop violn or not, whereas it is pretty straight forward to suggest that the kid continues his time on piano.

one of the points that i have raised is my speculation that the kid, finding the learning process difficult (although having perfect pitch and promise, whatever they mean, esp the latter) may not have received adequate level of help throughout the week on a practice session to practice session basis. and the frustration is building up. simply suggesting/ordering/threatening the kid to try harder or pay more attention won't do.

i was reading a piece on yoyo ma in a newspaper mag in which there was a description of his very first public recital in paris at the age of 5. reportedly he played a very difficult piece by bach and i take others' word that he rocked the house.

afterwards, they inquired how a little kid could play that piece so well, how could he even possibly remember all those notes?

yoyo's father revealed a very simply approach. since the age of 4, together, they learned only 2 bars per day of that piece. only 2 bars per day, but with time, things become possible and possibly easy.

now, this divide-and-conquer approach is something that even a kid can think of, but in reality, it is seldom done, or seldom done with consistency, thus seldom done with consistent outcome.


1. this happiness thingy is way overblown. this overcaring approach gives me goose bumps.

2. adults are teaching more with words than deeds. may want to try the other way around. you think your kid have not tried enough or hard enough on violin, well, why not get a violin yourself and show him? ahhh, to play on a level field is not easy, huh?

3. classical music training is not for the faint of heart. if you adore the beauty brought forth by the giants in the field, you must also acknowledge that they have labored. you simply cannot eat the cake and have it too. those of you who suggest otherwise are either telling lies or have very low standards. ouch.

May 13, 2007 at 01:35 PM · Jodi - I think there is difference between quitting at 5 and quitting at 9. This boy is not far from entering middle school. Starting something in middle school with its fixed culture may not be so easy unless school culture is inducive for classical music. I don't know how reliable this is but I heard people say if kids don't play in middle school, they don't play.


May 13, 2007 at 02:09 PM · But it says that he has been struggling with practicing violin for years. What's wrong with taking up piano instead of violin. I personally would rather have my child take up any instrument whether it's piano, violin, percussion.. or whatever for the sake of loving music.

I like the idea of making something else replace the violin and not having time for tv, games, etc so maybe the mindset is "maybe playing violin isn't so bad"

But when there is screaming and yelling and fits so bad that it makes life difficult.. that is different.

If you wish to have your child go into music in college, he will need piano skills. There are several musicians who have started out with piano or piano as secondary instrument.

May 13, 2007 at 02:22 PM · I wasn't saying parents should force him to continue. Just pointing out that your experience won't translate directly to their case.

I maintain that only parents can know his disaffection is genuine and applies to violin itself and not temporary or just one aspect of violin that can be overcome. As Maura stated, she protested every inch of the way but her wise mom knew it wasn't genuine and found ways to keep her at it. That's the hard part, knowing which is which in my opinion.


May 13, 2007 at 03:32 PM · I'm not sure if I completely agree with you al ku.

"1. this happiness thingy is way overblown. this overcaring approach gives me goose bumps."

Of course it's important to work hard and not baby a kid, but at the same time, things might get to the point where it's more of the parent's dream than the kid's. Why is it fair to make your kid fit the predefined image you had of them before he was born, or just when he was born? What about cherishing who he really is? Letting someone begin to weigh consequences for him or herself and realize his or her own interests is hardly babying someone, I think that's preparing them for real life! If he really despises playing, someone trying to teach them the grunt work of it is not going to be effective. What about intrinsic value?? He's got to want to do it in order to want to work hard on it.

"2. adults are teaching more with words than deeds. may want to try the other way around. you think your kid have not tried enough or hard enough on violin, well, why not get a violin yourself and show him? ahhh, to play on a level field is not easy, huh?"

If the parent's dream is to play the violin, the parent should play it. If the parent wants to learn along with a child who wants to learn along, that's great, one of the things I actually like about Suzuki. That's one idea, and a great idea at that...but not the only one...nobody in my family played violin, yet I am pursuing it professionally.

"3. classical music training is not for the faint of heart. if you adore the beauty brought forth by the giants in the field, you must also acknowledge that they have labored. you simply cannot eat the cake and have it too. those of you who suggest otherwise are either telling lies or have very low standards. ouch."

What type of training at any high level is for the faint of heart?

It takes just as much to be a great jazz player, and honestly, I think more to be a flamenco player, etc.

Also, there are all these studies with cognitive thinking and levels of thinking now and how people learn. When a child is 9, he will learn differently than when he is 15, 18, and past his early 20s. There are actually physical changes within the structure of the brain that will change this. Right now, he is just at the brink of being able to understand abstract thought, similar to the way an adult would. Reading music is actually an abstract concept, so maybe that factors into this dilemma?

Why not let him study piano, since if he actually chooses to pursue classical music, they tend to value piano skills just as much as skills on your major instrument (which I do not always agree with, but trust me, it won't hurt his development).

Marilyn, I beg you, for the sake of your child, PLEASE do not be like some of the parents I have met on audition days. These parents come, and grilled me with questions about the music program and violin program and teachers, while the student could not think of any questions on their own and just kind of zoned out and stared at the wall instead of listening to what I had to say. Not that I'm trying to accuse you of this, but it is something I have noticed more and more and I think it's terrible.

In order for your child to be successful, at whatever he does, he needs to be able to make his own decisions, judgements, goals, etc. This is a great opportunity for him to start learning these life skills! And it's not babying him, it's teaching him responsibility for himself, which can also transfer to how he practices, if he pursues music. Give him the tools to run his life rather than telling him what to do, just like a violin teacher should be developing the student with the tools to become a musician, not just telling them what was wrong or what to do.

If you just tell them what to do, what happens when nobody is there to tell them? Will he feel comfortable making decisions on his own? Will he be able to evaluate his practicing, playing, etc. and formulate ways to solve his problems?? Or will he solely follow the teacher or parent suggestions until the next round of advice?

Try and think if there is a way for him to value the violin from the inside, intrinsically, or music/piano from the inside. Why did he start in the first place? What made him enjoy it? Maybe take him to concerts or let him see other students, older or peer, that play. Even let him enjoy the diverse world in music through other genres. (I'm not sure what the local culture is like and what other kinds of music are influential there, but sometimes that can work as a bridge, or even be a serious pursuit in itself).

It's wonderful that you're involved with your child's life and supportive of something like the violin, which sadly not all parents are as supportive with. Good luck to you and your family and son in whatever choices are made.

May 13, 2007 at 03:30 PM · I read this topic yesterday and was pondering it this morning as I did my practice. What strikes me is that the little lad is only 9. If he was, say, 12 or 13, I would certainly agree with those people who suggest putting their foot down and finding a compromise to ensure he keeps on playing/studying violin. But he's so young. Let him have a break, he has articulated strongly how he feels about the violin right now and it seems to me to be much more deep-rooted than just typical kid-related laziness or boredom.

I believe if music becomes something he can enjoy again - i.e. far less pressure and expectations from parents/teachers, just the fun of picking up the violin or going to the piano and simply playing - he'll probably go back to it in a disciplined way when he's ready emotionally inside of himself. If he really loves music, he'll find his way to "his" niche. Maybe right now what he needs most as a 9 year old is to be out playing baseball or soccer with his friends?

I find this notion that he should be given something else "productive" to do instead of the violin - if he is allowed to give it up - rather a worrying one. Why can't he have the practice time free to choose himself the kind of things kids do to chill out? Play in the yard, watch tv, make/paint something, read a book, go on the computer etc etc? Sometimes I get the impression from reading about the lives of children these days that they don't really have a childhood at all! Everything about their lives is regimented from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep at night. That's sad.

Anyway, I just hope the lad is happy, whatever the end decision.

May 13, 2007 at 05:04 PM · Often I've heard people say that when they spent a summer at a music festival/camp, it motivated them to practice on their own. I suppose 9 is a little on the young side for that, but there are places that would take kids that young if the parents were around.

May 14, 2007 at 08:14 AM · Having an awe-inspiring influence at this point would be good. A muse works wonders.

May 14, 2007 at 09:49 AM · Al, as far as setting a model to encourage the kid to practise - precisely what happened with me. I saw my son learning and remembered I had always wanted to, so started lessons. He was 10, I was 43. We shared the same teacher for a while, she was always wondering aloud to me where I got my practise gene from, and where it wnet to in my son.

Whilst he loved me practising, he still didn't. He has not pursued the violin or any other instrument.

I keep letting him know that I think when he's ready, he'll do really well.

He's said that he thinks he'll leave learning an instrument until he is older, only doing it for himself, and he can choose to practise without anyone else feeling that he should. He was certainly no prodigy, just a bit good, so it was never going to be a career thing. He rides horses.

May 14, 2007 at 01:48 PM · to me what is special, sharelle, is your acceptance or tolerance of his not pursuing violin at this time because above all, whatever we do should be for their own good. if he is not connecting with violin under the circumstance, choosing other alternatives makes sense, espicially when this decision is mutually respected and made with calm and cool. he may come back to violin. or not. playing violin or not, for most people in their human experiences, is just a drop of the ocean of living.

in our family, starting intruments have been, still is and most likely will be about mind training, not about music training, not about getting into julliard precollege. it is a means, like hopping on a train for the sightseeing which trains! the mind. to achieve that, it is perfectly ok to choose painting over music, sports over be "happy".

ah, "happy", the most absurd concept ever coined so that people can dwelve on it to get unhappy.

some prefer the easy touch. no sweat, no stress hormones, let it happen and they call it happy. my older one fits this model. Ommmmmmmmmmmm. the zen may seem odd in this fast paced world, but, hey, you never know.

others are born to attack life, to compete, to excel, to win. they won't be "happy" until they seek out and overcome the obstacles. they make it happen. my younger one is more like that.

so you see, even the siblings are different and to guide them to their highest capacity mandates different styles of nurture. it is really not about what the parents said or did, but about what really went inside the kids, what they have accepted and cherished. for some families this may be an easy task, but for us, it is navigation over uncertain terrains. we adults have so much to learn. independent study with no credit, duh!

still, above all achievements, talents, hard works, competitions, shortcuts lurks something called "heart": either you are born to be considerate and caring, or you need to develop it, which reminds me of another bit on yo yo ma that i read recently...

when ma was at julliard precollege, one day his mom got a phone call from the school alerting the mom that ma had not signed up for the highly sought after opportunity to collaborate with the orchestra. the mom was all worried that something had gone wrong.

the mom confronted ma later and here is ma's explanation: i have had the chance last year to play with the orchestra. besides, our agent is lining up other performing opportunities. i did not apply this year so others will have a bigger chance.

ma was 10 when this happened.

with hard work and time, it is not difficult to sound fantastic on violin. is that all?

May 14, 2007 at 02:30 PM · In the original post she states two very important factors; 1)the child has perfect pitch and 2) he does NOT take piano lessons. He already has one of the essential elements for playing the violin and the parents hate to see it wasted, and he probably enjoys the piano because it does not come with a practice folder. By letting him switch you are setting a precedent. If piano lessons started to get harder all he would have to do is say you are making me hate piano and that would end piano.

The posts who advocated "taking a breather", must have missed the fact he only plays 15 or 20 minutes a day. Instead of quitting when things get tough you should change the practice around and get Dad off his back. In my opinion Janet, Maura and Kimberlee have all hit the nail on the head. My daughter also had a good ear and also played Suzuki and consequently had poor music reading skills, this made practicing a lot more difficult then she wanted it to be.

In addition to all the other good advice you might try changing the practice time and reworking the way of practice. Renaming is sometimes a good way to break out of a rut. There is a documentary on you tube, Maxim Vengerov "Playing From The Heart" part 3. you might find very Interesting! Good Luck, I hope you find the answer.

May 15, 2007 at 04:18 PM · Marilyn

I read your post and it struck a chord. 17 years ago I was a nine year old with promise and perfect pitch learning the piano and the violin. My parents had to fight me, cajole me, persuade me every which way to practice each instrument for half an hour a day... though they only started persuading me along those lines at the age of 9.

In any case... it was worth it and I am so grateful. I'm now not playing the violin so much... I even went to university initially to study physics but switched to music and in the end moved away from classical music as well. I'm mostly singing, playing funk bass and funk and jazz on the piano! But the grounding that classical piano and violin gave me has been a massive advantage and continues to be helpful in the new directions I'm moving into. In particular the violin develops the ear.

So... I'd stick with it if you can... ...and encourage the piano.

Good luck!

p.s. Some of my music can be found at

May 15, 2007 at 05:03 PM · Aloha Everyone,

I would like to thank each and every one of you for your time and detailed attention to my family.

It is still difficult to know which direction to go since the collection of ideas are varied, each providing a valuable look into our trying situation.

A few questions were raised in your prose. Some answers might help clarify our situation. At three years of age our son was thought to be "profoundly gifted." This proved to be true. The violin was suggested to inspire him mathematically. It was clear that he had advancements in language acquisition and reading (he began reading at age 3). It turns out he is slightly advanced in math (he should be in grade 3 and he is in grade 5). In science, he is in 7-8 grade curriculum. His passion for life is reading. His vocabulary is at the 8th grade level.

Maybe you can read between the lines but one phenomenon in his life is that generally things come very easy to him. Violin (and mastering any musical instrument) is going to take WORK. And a fair share of frustration. This point was made several times in your responses.

He has TONS of interest. He took a summer camp questionnaire that indicated the problem would be trying to decide which camps to go to and paying for all the camps he finds interesting. Unfortunately, there are no violin or fiddle camps in our area this year.

Our hope for our son musically is to love, value and appreciate music as we do. We have no notions of him becoming a concert violinist.

We have no TV in our home. Our son attends a school for Gifted Learners so almost all of his friends play either the violin or piano.

We are also involved in a Saturday music enrichment program that meets one or two Saturdays a month so he has the opportunity to play with other children.

We regularly attend concerts of classical music. His teacher plays in an orchestra (first violin) so we want to enjoy her beautiful music.

As his parents, we have little to no music training. So it is difficult to help him.

After posting my original plea, I began focusing on what can I do to help him. Here's what I tried: 1) We are more structured with the practice list. He was just playing what he loved. Which seems great but then it adds to frustration when he doesn't know a piece with his teacher. 2) I have been having him play a personal concert for me...not practice at all really more of a performance for one. He seems to love this! 3) We have a timer limit on practice (20 minutes) with about three minutes of note reading.

In addition to these ideas, I will re-read your suggestions and see if we can come up with an even stronger plan for music appreciation (not necessarily a strong violin plan).

I can't express my appreciation for your willingness to offer your ideas and kind thoughts. It has resulted in me feeling so much more hopeful and VERY supported.

I welcome your additional feedback.

With our appreciation,


May 15, 2007 at 06:08 PM · hello marilyn,

couple more for you.

1. on camp pickings, do you know if there is indeed a violin camp that your son would have picked it on his own initiative? i am not sure what "tons of interest" means, his interest in violin per se?

2. if there is no TV at home, i assume your son has not had much opportunity to watch tapes of others play? i for one think that there are many wonderful programs on TV/DVD players.

3. you and your husband are not musicians (which i have suspected). do you have an interest or ability to learn music reading along with him (playing is probably too much to ask)? what i mean is that every time he practices or plays, you know where it is, and how it is supposed to sound like... that you become the teacher's eyes and ears? not trying to post a road block to you and your husband--imo, by getting involved deeper is the most concrete help you can provide.

imo, violin playing is way more challenging than grade school subjects where you are rarely required to control 5-10 factors simultaneously. it is at par with studying calculus for a 9 year old at book suzuki 4. he needs all the help he can get.

any kids that breath through book 4 with seeming ease have done it WITH HELP. the faster they progress, the more help they have received.

May 15, 2007 at 06:54 PM · IMO, playing real chamber music with other kids is the most fun, and by next year your son will be old enough to apply to the junior session at Kinhaven (or one of the other excellent chamber music camps). My kids started playing chamber music at summer programs (Kinhaven in our case) at around age ten, and it made a huge difference in their enjoyment of music. We just got back from the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition where numerous Kinhaven alums were among the competitors (and I would imagine most of the kids there have been enjoying chamber music since they were in middle school). Real chamber music (not that there is anything wrong with unison playing in Suzuki groups) helps develop all kinds of skills-- communication, sight-reading, listening. And it's fun. If there are no summer programs in your area, might it be possible to hire a coach and put together a small group. You might have trouble finding a violist at that age, but a third violin part can be transposed from the viola part to give a taste of what's to come in the future. Or you might be able to put together a little piano trio. Just a suggestion. If time and finances allow, you might consider taking him to Mark O'Conner's San Diego String Conference.

May 16, 2007 at 03:41 PM · Ok, now that I know a little bit more about your son, I can relate. My daughter, too, just like your son; read at 3 showed profound musical ability is in the Talented and Gifted at her school and working 2 to 3 grade levels ahead. We don't watch tv except movies about other violinist.

Suzuki is great for a very young child to start violin, however most suzuki teachers I have ran into don't start note reading until after book 4 which is a shame. I think when suzuki teachers run into a profoundly gifted student like your son, they should started note reading sooner (obviously he likes a challege).

With my daughter, I had to beg and plead for her to note read by age 6. We had to finally quit lessons because our teacher at that time was turning out violinist who were in high school not being able to read music.

Anyway... this will always be somewhat of a struggle for you as his parents, because as you know; you put a challege in front of him, he will take it until he gets it right... but put too much of a challege in front of him.. he will want to quit.

Everytime my daughter is faced with a challeging piece of music, she gets upset too. But she takes it slow and now knows that it is ok that she doesn't have to get everything right the first read through.

My suggestion is to supplement suzuki with other note reading books that have fun songs in them. Setting the timer per song helps too.. we used to do 3 minutes per short song.

I recently read an interview with Perlman who said that he didn't think that he was a prodigy, but just simply one who "survived his talent"

Good luck with your son... one step at a time and listening to him is key.

May 16, 2007 at 03:24 PM · I thought I'd add a little more.

Music and math do seem to go hand in hand - I ended up going to university originally to study physics, but ended up switching back to music and what I truly loved.

It's one of the most difficult things to learn in life that the best things worth having in life have to be worked for... and again I empathise with your son as it sounds like (and this will continue to be the case) that a lot of things come easily and it is thus very difficult to push yourself when you suddenly come up against something that you can't do almost straight away.

It helped that my parents are both musicians admittedly, but they did still have some trouble persuading me of the worth of music theory, and of simply reading :)

Here's why the piano and violin go so well together. The violin is probably the most difficult instrument to master to a high level. With this difficulty though comes the widest variety of expression. This is what makes the violin and indeed any bowed string instrument so compelling - it comes closest to the most expressive instrument which is the human voice. Once you have struck the note you can alter the volume, the tone, the intonation...

Learning the violin certainly focusses you on phrasing, 'singing' a line, expressing yourself.

The piano is one for the brain when you're learning it. Especially if you improvise, but even if you don't you start to get a grasp of harmony, and multiple lines... and the reason theory can suddenly become interesting is when you want an explanation of why certain things work and why others don't. Once you've struck a note on a piano you don't have control of it other than when it ends, so certainly initially the art of phrasing is more difficult... but the learning of the violin, or just singing compliments this... and being able to hear what the piano part would be doing (in your head) while practising the violin is a big help.

Going back to your problem though, I think the best thing you can do is expose your son to as much music as possible, even some that might not be to your taste! See what piques his curiosity.

My personal experience was that I struggled with interest on the violin and classical music right up to A-Levels (british exams pre university degree). I couldn't summon the interest in analysing Beethoven symphonies at all.

Around that time I started listening to jazz. Some of it I couldn't get a handle on at all at the time, it was too far out... but what was most fascinating to me at the time was that even with my quick ears I couldn't quite follow what was going on, even though I liked the sound of it.

My parents took me to see all sorts of music in my childhood, and whether it was classical or jazz it was the interaction between the players that was fascinating. Sight-reading is a wonderful skill to be really good at... it allows you to sit down with a group of other musicians with similar skills and with little notice or sometimes little rehearsal make wonderful music.

Your son won't see that straight away... it tends to be that the best way is by example and frequent exposure before the message sinks in :)

So again, good luck!

May 16, 2007 at 04:07 PM · I did just think of another thing... one of the best things about the violin in my youth was that it was such a social instrument ...I played in orchestras, string quartets and all sorts of miscellaneous ensembles.

Is your son a member of any of the above? There's no greater incentive than having some friends who enjoy the same thing.

May 16, 2007 at 04:54 PM · agree with the above posts and would like to comment on couple things:

1. suzuki: i am not too familiar with how the orthodox suzuki is being taught, but i doubt that the original concept is to leave the students lacking in sightreading ability. it is like saying we have led the horse to the water and we have not told the horse to drink.

i think, if a "smart" kid has problems with notereading, it is more of an oversight by the teacher (suzuki or not) rather than the weakness of the suzuki method. suzuki is a tool, or a method,,,for a PHASE. it is the job of the teacher/parents to think ahead of the inevitable transition to come and prepare for it. that is all and there is really nothing more to it. when college graduates go into the work force, they also face hurdles that they have not completely prepared for. but people learn to anticipate and adapt. it has been the human nature ever since we first crawled onshore. suzuki students/parents/teachers need to do the same. it is inconceivable that if a kid can be forever "lost" with notereading. if mr joey corpus can get where he is by starting at 14, i say everyone else has it real easy. agree?

the core isssue here is when the kid is ready to note read, is it provided timely or late? imo, suzuki has allowed very young kids to be familiar with music/instruments early, which may have afforded some more talented ones an advantage. i read somewhere julia fischer started with suzuki and i am sure FMF did not just sit back and let the suzuki wagon takes its course when the next stage, a cliff, is upon them. i think each very young kid should receive an individualized program, based on suzuki or not, but catering to need.

2. branding a kid smart is vague, like calling a meal nutritious (a piece of fruit offers some that a piece of steak cannot). that a kid is good in math or verbal does not necessarily lead to easier music learning (conceptual and physical). the kid's overall higher cognition may have helped but there are enough exceptions to the rule as people have attested. it is tough to grade hard work and patience.

3. the only way to speed up the music learning, for most kids, is to slow it down. if the kid does not understand, he does not understand, regardless of screaming and yelling or even encouragement. go back to square one and learn it at the kid's pace. let the kid demonstrates his ability to understand and apply. give him a chance to show how smart he really is:)

May 16, 2007 at 04:59 PM · Be nice to kids. Expect the most out of them. Make them work. It's good for them. Don't treat them like things, they're people. Inspire them with your own good actions. Realize they will carve their own path and watch for it to happen while continuing to push them through when things get tough. That's how to help. That's "hardcore" Suzuki.

May 16, 2007 at 05:04 PM · Music and math is over rated.

I think it just makes musical people able to deceive themselves into thinking they are mathematical when in fact many couldn't differentiate their way out of a cardboard box.

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