Very young, enthusiastic, little fiddler...how can I make sure he doesn't form bad habits?

December 7, 2009 at 03:54 AM ·

My 20-month old is very into playing his little violin...should I worry about him forming bad habits already, or just continue to support his enthusiasm?  Both his father and I are professional musicians, he has music all around him, and he wants to participate by plucking the bass, banging on drums, and most of all, grabbing his little fiddle and "practicing" (usu. for about 3 minutes...he taught himself to play after having been shown a couple of times, not really getting it, and about 2 months later picking up the fiddle, putting it under his chin, grabbing the bow and sawing away, while singing the name of his favorite monkey).  I want him to have fun, but I don't want him to decide at 3 that he knows what he's doing and be stuck with a stubborn kid with a terrible bow hold, etc...Any suggestions for gently re-enforcing good habits in one so young?

 

I have been teaching him that a little river flows next to the bridge and he has to stay over the river (we have a river in our town and he loves to cross it over and over again, so this has worked pretty well in getting him to bow in the general area)

Replies (43)

December 7, 2009 at 04:45 AM ·

There are possibly a couple things you could guide him with that will not conflict with later instruction, but will (hopefully) not dampen his enthusiasm for playing.

  • Care and handling of the instrument
  • Some guidelines on how to adjust the bow
  • Possibly a bit of posture for playing when sitting, standing, etc.

 

Aside from that, I am not sure what would help or hinder.

December 7, 2009 at 04:59 AM ·

Greetings,

I recommend you order the firts few books of Adventure in Violand (Shirley Givens- Shar)   Not to work through the course but to get a good sense of the typical problems and how they are delat with in a fun and fantasy way.  Then adapt what you see in entertaining ways as far as is possible.

The other thing I think is really improtnat is to have a lot of violin sound as normal in the environment that he will hopefully pick up and appreciate directly.  (Not to mention good singing)

Develop his ear by beginning to introduce soemthing like Kodaly hand signals in playful games.  You migth get some idea sabout this from the gIven`s book and then let your imagniation downgrade the potential seriousness for this age.  Simple fantasy stories that include these kinds of gestures as characters a swell as sounds might be a possibility.

There is no reason why you have to put bowing and instrument toghetr at this stage either. It might be fun to invent a lot of pluckign type game.  You pluck somethin,  he imitates and if okay get one lego block or move on a game board or similar.  Maybe the signal for dinner time or bedtime could be a little plucked fragment.  You could play with the bow and he could pluck holding the violin like a guitar.

Cheers,

buri

December 7, 2009 at 08:08 AM ·

Buri,

Nice ideas, thank you. The Givens books were what my first teacher used with me, but I hadn't thought about borrowing from them for someone so young...I'll have to try that! I love the notion of a "dinner melody" - I think he'll really respond to that.  Because he sees me using the bow, he's already attached to that idea, so I'll just try to make sure to do it correctly myself ;)...

Roland,

Thank you for your suggestions as well...care and feeding of the violin is one of the first things I teach my young students, and it's good to be reminded to teach my baby that as well.

December 7, 2009 at 01:31 PM ·

20 mos. old already? Why did you wait so long? ;-]

Seriously, let him be a baby and just have fun. Even Heifetz didn't start before the age of 3.

December 7, 2009 at 03:41 PM ·

@ enion-  I live in Laramie, Wyoming just north of you, about 2 hours away.  I'll keep you and your bands in mind so that I might can catch you all performing.  Would love to hear you live!

Royce

December 8, 2009 at 12:52 AM ·

Royce,

We don't play Wyoming much...is there a good folk society/house concert in Laramie? My husband and I played at the University a couple of years ago but didn't feel like the students were really "our crowd".

Raphael,

Honestly, it was his choice. He lives among musicians and wants to do what he sees us doing. I made the instrument available without making him go to it, and he voluntarily plays 5-10 minutes almost every day. I aim to keep it fun for him but I do remember a student I had briefly who taught herself to play and would refuse to correct any of her bad habits because she felt she was an expert already..I am hoping to avoid a similar situation.

December 8, 2009 at 02:14 PM ·

While the child is clearly interested, his fine motor skills are still in very much in the developmental stage.  I would not worry at this point about bad habits.  Buri's suggestions are good, and he is correct that even the best really do not start until three (I still remember seeing one of my teacher's 1/32 size violin that he used at that age).  At this point, it is probably more important to simply encourage his musicality than worry specifically about his violin playing.

December 8, 2009 at 03:18 PM ·

Am I  the only one who is just a little disturbed by this? This is a baby hardly more than a year and a half!!!

With motivation, "bad habits" can be corrected even at a much, much later age. David Nadien, whose pupils weren't exactly beginners or children said in an interview that all of the students coming to him had faults. And I'm sure he helped them. A stubborn attitude in this regard may be present in a child or in an adult, as a recent popular thread demonstrated.

I say again, let the baby be a baby and just have fun for a while. You can try to gently guide his positioning a bit. But if it doesn't take, don't worry about it.

December 8, 2009 at 05:29 PM ·

I have noticed that young children (age 3 or so) can learn to hold a bow quite correctly and to make decent open string sounds. Coordinating that with good left hand use is something else and should probably be delayed until the child seems ready.

My father practiced his violin at home every day of our life together, so I was primed and ready when his father (my grandpa) gave me a violin for my 4th birthday. My parents withstood my daily "practice" for 6 moths before offering to get a violin teacher for me, and I jumped at the chance - and took lessons from various teachers in New York for the next 8 years.

I think that if you can get the right hand half-way decent, you can let the child have fun "practicing."

20 months is amazing!!

Andy

December 8, 2009 at 06:01 PM ·

3 isn't 1 1/2. And even 3 for most children seems questionable to me. 

 I just got a private e-mail from someone in the UK who would like to remain anonymous:

Dear Mr Klayman,

I'm not a registered user of violinist.com so can't PM you that way, but I
wanted to thank you for your posts on the thread about the baby violinst.
To answer the question in your last post: no, you are not the only person
disturbed at the idea of a 20-month-old baby being encouraged to play the
violin. I don't know which flabbergasts me more: the parents' singularly
bad judgement in childrearing or the matter-of-fact responses the mother is
getting to a question based on a situation that never should have arisen.

The mother's protestations that this isn't being actively fostered by the
parents seem to me disingenuous: she talks about 'his [i.e., the child's]
little violin'. If the parents had really wanted to let the baby just be a
baby they wouldn't already be buying a diminutive violin and leaving it
where the baby can get hold of it.

It's important that someone of your stature is speaking out: all it takes
is a few people responding to a query like that one as if it represents
normality and it will come to be generally perceived as normal. Many of the
less experienced people will think 'well, being horrified at this is just
my silly idiosyncrasy' or think it's because they're ignorant, not being
professionals. So keep on injecting a note of rationality into the
proceedings!

I've learnt a lot from some of your other posts, so owe you a more general
vote of thanks anyway.

Best wishes

A.
 

December 8, 2009 at 08:01 PM ·


Raphael's points are good ones.  What I sense between the lines when I read the parents' post concerns me.  There seems to be (and this may not be conscious) a certain amount of hope/pride that they have an extremely talented child who could be a real world-beater when he grows up.  In the long run, this expectation could be real problem, particularly if the kid does not live up to expectations, which he may not. 

December 8, 2009 at 08:38 PM ·

December 9, 2009 at 01:22 AM ·

Thanks everyone for putting your thought energy into this, it's certainly given me a lot to think about..my response is not going to be particularly well-formed because I have low blood sugar right now and there is recording going on in my house so I can't move a muscle.

Of course I feel pride that my kid is interested and figured this out...our lives revolve around music and I am glad that it's something he seems to enjoy. I also feel pride that he has a vocabulary larger than many adults, speaks in nearly complete sentences, builds houses out of legos for his stuffed animals, that he pretends to cook while I'm cooking, that he's well on his way to being potty-trained...in short, I am proud an excited about everything my child does because he's awesome.  Total "1st child syndrome." If I have a 2nd child, I hope I feel the same way.

The notion that playing violin is any different from that stuff is at issue here. Obviously, some part of me feels that way, or I wouldn't have brought it up...in a way I was questioning whether it was a bad idea to let him have access. As a parent, I don't believe that my child should be limited in his access to anything that is safe for him...but still, as a teacher, I know how hard bad habits can be to correct, so I wondered.

But some of you, particularly the person who privately wrote Raphael, seem to feel like violin-playing is somehow a separate act, and that even letting a baby have access to an instrument is pushy and borderline abusive or something. To clarify, I didn't buy him a violin..I teach and as such have violins that my younger students can rent if they need to, and have allowed him to play with one of these. But how is letting my child play with a violin and showing him how to do it correctly any different than showing him how to stir imaginary soup in a pot, or put legos together....really? Am I pushing him too hard to be a chef, or an architect by doing these things?

My hope for my child is that he will enjoy music, and cooking, and drawing...all things I love to do and do with greatly varied skill-levels. I don't care if he becomes the next heifetz or not - I began playing at 3 and I'm certainly not. I have no plans for him to have a career in music. My thought in asking whether I should gently guide his technique a little now is based on the notion that if he has a nearly innate sense of how to play correctly, then it will eliminate potential battles in the future if he continues to play, and he'll have more fun. Upon seeing his enthusiasm, I wondered if there was a precedent for teaching kids so young, hence my question.

All that said, it's true that his fine motor is still developing and it probably doesn't matter, so I don't intend to correct too much at this point. We kind of live and breathe music around here anyway - not out of a desire to be famous soloists (we're more the starving artist type). I spend lots of time singing with him, and he loves to sing, too. He has several instruments at his disposal - an upright bass, a few drums, a guitar, a mandolin, and he enjoys playing them all. I guess I wasn't as worried about his "technique" on those...they seem so much more straighforward...and I don't play any of them well so it wasn't as personal of an issue.

Anyway, thanks again for your thoughts, and I'm interested to hear more if you've got 'em.

December 9, 2009 at 01:28 AM ·

Just read the letter to Raphael again. Is it really "singularly bad judgment in parenting" to let a baby have a violin as a toy? Zakir Hussein's ONLY toy as a baby was a set of table (not that I expect a zakir either, just to head off those of you with you're ire up)...Anghel Gheorge from Taraf de Haidouks lets his infant play with his violin...this is clearly just like allowing a baby to play with sharp knives and cigarette lighters with no child proofing...very dangerous!! 

December 9, 2009 at 02:26 AM · Hi everyone! Enion, your questions are valid and I think only natural considering you are a professional player, and your child is so keen to join in with the music making! At my music school I have developed a program for children from the age of one year, built around fun and play with music, in groups, with the parent joining in. I often play the violin for the toddlers, then invite them to have a turn on a 1/8 size violin. They love holding it and making any sort of sound, and I just help them position it somewhat correctly, then accompany them on guitar and singing any of the young childrens' repertoire of songs. So many of these toddlers have gone on to demand that their parents let them have their own violin and private lessons! They are so much more keen to learn, practice, progress, and also learn faster and more easily because of their early start, and that they associate music with fun and socializing. As far as correct technique goes, I would not worry in the slightest about how a one or two year old holds the instrument. The essence of good technique is that it helps you play better, and this is something that anyone interested in music must constantly consider. There are many opportunities to improve technique as the student gets older, especially when start taking lessons with a teacher, or when they move up in size with a new violin, and everything "feels different". It is only natural for a young child to want to explore music, especially when it is around them so much. There is a real art however to maintain the sense of wonder and fun, and allow a child to explore music without imposing on them the rigorous consciousness of your technique that you have for your own playing. Best wishes, Kym

December 9, 2009 at 03:36 AM ·

I don't think that much of kym's approach is all that different from what I have been saying, though it is more detailed. As a young todler, my mother and grandmother often sang to me, and I fooled around on toy instruments and a real piano without any supervision. To say much more at this point would only be repeating what I've already said. I'll just add that I'm motivated by anything but cynicism. I'm not even a parent, and the original posting really got me concerned.

If my private correspondant would like to comment further, I'll post it. She gave me sound reasons for wishing to be anonymous, and I'll continure to respect that. Then I'll probably have to take a break again for a little while. I'm on a brief lull in an otherwise insanely busy schedule...

December 9, 2009 at 05:10 AM ·

December 9, 2009 at 12:46 PM ·

My correspondent just wrote to me again as follows:

Many deficiencies can be compensated in middle age or later: you can learn
an instrument, a language, even learn to read, if you missed out on these
things earlier. The one thing no one can start or re-do later is childhood.
Each of us has just one chance to be a little kid and if, for what ever
reason, we lose out on the opportunity to be carefree, to run around, make
a mess and just be two or four, there is no going back later. That's why
it's so important that parents safeguard these precious years for their
children.

Appealing to the child's natural inclinations isn't a persuasive argument
in favour of encouraging children towards activities inappropriate for
their developmental level: children lack the judgement and wisdom to know
what they need. If a child wanted to eat large quantities of chocolate ice
cream, a wise parent would try to steer the child towards a balanced diet.
Children are natural imitators, and if they see their parents doing certain
things, they will want to do them too - but that doesn't mean it's good for
them to doing them. If Daddy is a sculptor, maybe the little one would like
to carve marble too, but it would be irresponsible to give a child a set of
miniature chisels, on the grounds you're giving him the opportunity to grow
into Michelangelo.

Pushing or even encouraging a child too early is in any case ultimately
counterproductive. The school systems that are currently doing the best job
of academic achievement are those in Scandinavia, where formal schooling
doesn't begin till 6 or 7. The Russians, who have produced more of the
great ballet dancers than any other nation, don't allow children to begin
dance training till they're 8. Starting too early doesn't put children
ahead, because they will get to the same standard if they start later, when
they have better motor and cognitive skills.

We hear the stories of prodigies who don't seem to have been damaged by
being pushed or encouraged too early, and forget that the people who were
damaged rarely make the headlines. Recently, one such case did make the
news. A few years ago in Britain, there was a little girl who was touted as
a maths genius. She loved maths (so her parents said) and her father's
intensive coaching was only encouraging her natural inclinations. She
became the youngest person ever admitted to study for an undergraduate
degree at Oxford (I think she was 13 at the time). There was a lot of media
hoopla and then everyone forgot about it. A year or so ago some journalist
decided to follow up. He eventually located her, though it wasn't easy
because she hadn't had any contact with her parents for several years. She
was still living in Oxford, though she had dropped out of university before
completing her first degree. She was now making a living as a prostitute
(I'm not making this up). She said she was much happier and that she liked
her job. The journalist talked to her mother, who was sad she'd lost touch
with her daughter, and wondered aloud 'if it was something we did'. What a
pity she didn't question her childrearing strategies earlier.

The appropriate musical activity for a 20-month-old is listening to
lullabies sung by someone who loves him enough to let him be a baby and
have a childhood.

I (Raphael) would add this. Let's keep in mind that we're talking about a 20-month-old infant for goshsakes! If it's so "awsome" to start giving any sort of structured, focused violin lessons to such an infant, then I must have taken a wrong turn into the Twilight Zone!
 

Enion, you say that you don't care if your son becomes another Heifetz, or even a professional musician. Then why in the world be so concerned with good and bad habits at this point? I may be wrong, but I also can't help but feel something further between the lines.

My correspondent mentioned that "the people who were damaged rarely make it to the headlines." But many famous prodigies were damaged as well in different ways - Mozart, Paganini, Menhuin. Many more could be mentioned. Probably the greatest of all violin prodigies, Jascha Heifetz, who began at the apparently late age of 3, called child prodigism 'an often fatal disaese'. He once said in an interview "I'd rather not talk about the past. Some of it was a dark, dark past."  Enion - no one is doubting your love for your baby. Please just take it easy.

And now, back to the salt mines for me. "Merry Christmas - and happy Chanuka - to all, and to all a good night!"
 

December 9, 2009 at 02:48 PM ·

The people being critical are reading way too much between the lines.  The parent never said anything about expecting a prodigy, nor about formal lessons or instruction at this age.   While it is apparent that they would like their son to learn violin formally when he is older, there is no mention of that now.  Point in point - they have noticed that, on his own, he picks up a violin and likes to mess around.  He enjoys it.  What is wrong with this?  Picking up a violin and running a bow across its strings isn't something that is going to harm the child.  He looks at it as a toy and as something that he can do with his parents.  Nothing here about prodigism or being forced hours on end to practice.  And to claim that the only music appropriate to a 20 month old is lullabys?  This is like saying that the only thing that is music is 'classical.'  The child was born into a musical family.  To say, no you can't do this too is to block him out from an important part of his family and family life.  There is a big difference in letting a kid pick up a violin because he likes it and wants to be involved and in making him do it and telling him day in and day out to do this or this or this. 

December 9, 2009 at 03:38 PM ·

December 9, 2009 at 03:55 PM ·

 This is an entertaining discussion. The baby is not even two years old. Let him play with his toy and when he's three or four, if he asks for lessons, consider trying. If he doesn't seem to have the patience, try again at 5 or 6. 

December 9, 2009 at 04:58 PM ·

I think that the tyke being exposed to Music, listening to and watching/listening to the parents play is a good start!  And children imitate the grown ups around them.  Right now just going through the motions he can do is about all that should be expected at this point.  Introduce only what the child can comprehend.

I agree to let the child play.  Maybe introduce a bow hold, oriental children are introduced to the use of chop sticks so why not a bow hold?

December 9, 2009 at 06:02 PM ·

By all means, introduce the child to the 'toy'. Speaking from my experience as a mom with kids starting violin at (a ripe old age of) 3, the difficult part is not with the child, but with the parent.

Children have a way of doing things - they have their own time and schedule for everything - eg potty training, you can encourage, scold, spank all you want, but they just won't/can't do it. But one day, voila, they can!

So it is with the child with the violin. The child may look at the violin in a way different from grownups. He can derive joy from it in a way dfifferent (and maybe incomprehensible) to a grownup. Eg, he may prefer to hold the bow in a particular way, as long as he is able to produce the sound he wants, he is happy. The problem is how much teaching/correcting the parent does. An observant  parent would know how much to correct, when to backoff, else it will put the kid off. Sometimes over-enthusiasm and expectations can skew our perceptions a bit..

Just my 2cents worth.

 

December 9, 2009 at 06:41 PM ·

You live in Boulder! Well, let me just say that one of the funnest things I ever did with my toddlers (back when they were toddlers!) was Music Together, and I'm certain you'll be able to find that in your area because I was in Denver when I discovered it. This is a music and movement class that introduces very young children to many different kinds of music, through weekly classes and quarterly recordings (I think there are 3-4 years' worth of them). You listen to the music on the recordings, then during class, everyone learns motions, singing, etc.

This kind of class gives children an outlet for singing and feeling the music physically, before they are expected to refine their motions into something as intricate as playing the violin.

Then after a year or two of this, you have some fine Suzuki teachers in Boulder, running some established groups that will make violin fun to learn.

As both a teacher and parent, I'd recommend delaying starting your child on the instrument until age 4 or 5. But certainly, with such an interest in music, find a fun music class. (There's also Kindermusik and other programs, I'm sure)  You'll love it as much as your child will!

December 9, 2009 at 07:34 PM ·

I'm so glad this has sparked an interesting discussion! I am still surprised by "Anonymous'" notion that a violin is a dangerous tool, but all the other thoughts and suggestions are very welcome. I do think, Raphael, that you don't quite understand what 20 months means. A kid that age is no longer an infant, it is a child who in most cases can engage, converse, do lots of things, and wants to be involved.  We do a weekly music class right now, similar to Music Together (which a friend of mine teaches for, and for which I'm considering becoming certified), and my child, like all the others his age, wants to sing, dance, play the instruments provided...

I will also add that my son's grandmother is a developmental psychologist, and as much welcome (and unwelcome) input as she has had, she has cited no research that says giving a SAFE plaything that a child may not be developmentally ready for is a recipe for damaging him. As long as a plaything is safe to play with (yes, bows can poke out eyes, but even after 29 years of playing, I still haven't figured out how not to do that :)) a kid is going to find fun, creative ways to use it. No harm done.

Jeewon, have to say that you seem like a smart, level-headed individual....you would've been a good parent!

LyeYen, yes, watching the way a child learns is remarkable. I love it!

EDIT: Raphael, I think you do get it, sorry...your anonymous poster doesn't, and should hang out with some toddlers. I respect her clearly researched opinion, and I agree, formal schooling should not be started so early, or not at all. But as for encouragement being damaging, or robbing a child of their childhood...I strongly disagree. 

What is childhood anyway? Is it being coddled in a pink nursery with only cooing sounds and stuffed animals to stimulate? Is it not the joy and freedom to safely explore the world around us, without unreasonable restriction?

December 9, 2009 at 08:14 PM ·

How was Mozart damaged by being a child prodigy?

December 9, 2009 at 09:37 PM ·

Well, Jeewon, you sure showed me…

While you object to any sort of sarcasm and judgementalism, you showed me that you’re more than capable of being quite sarcastic and judgemental, yourself. You also showed me that while you are pretty good at close reading, you’ve sometimes conflated –which Enion did not - my stated opinions with that of my correspondent. The latter is more understandable: we have compatible enough views so that I thought it made sense to add her opinions to this discussion in my posts. Our views are compatible, but not necessarily identical. I take full responsibility for my stated views, and I’m sure she will for hers. (I’ve also suggested to her that, if I’m not mistaken, it’s possible to register under a pen name here on v.com.) And where in the world do you get “paternalistic”? As a woman, does my correspondent get off the hook for that one? Yes, I’m not a parent. That doesn’t mean that babies are aliens to me. I too, have nieces and nephews - and grand nieces and grand nephews.

 

I hope that I’m pretty clear about when I’m occasionally sarcastic, and when I’m being nothing of the kind. I’ve said to Enion “let him be a baby and just have fun” I also said “no one is doubting your love for your child – just take it easy”. There was nothing sarcastic in this, and I stand by it. When I said “I could be wrong”, I meant that too. But Enion, I will stand by my concerns as well. The point of the examples I cited is that there can be a slippery slope in this sort of situation – particularly if the child turns out to be very talented. Few parents consciously think “well, let’s see what kind of cash cow might my little genius become” as did Mozart’s father. Just a cautionary note, Enion. I’ve been around for a number of decades now, and I’ve seen and heard a lot. (I suppose that “age-ism” can now be added to my list of sins!) That’s why in certain situations such as this, a red flag pops up. A red flag doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a problem, but that there may very well be. BTW, I never objected to the violin as a physical object – only to overly structured, overly concerned instruction at that age. I never thought about the bow! Maybe you could put some putty on the tip, or glue something soft.

 

And now I really, really must be going. I’m sure there will be some further interesting responses, but until after New Year, I’ll scarcely have time to read, much less post here. ‘Tis the season to be busy…

 

December 9, 2009 at 11:15 PM ·

I agree with E.  I have to say, though, I can't relate very well to the young child who is an amazing practicer. LOL

  Let's see, my oldest began violin at 6 1/2 at his own choosing since I never even thought of having one of my kids play violin. (My parents and sister were/are all professional musicians at some time in their lives but I never played)  He looked really good in his first solo recital at age 7 (we've been making DVDs for Christmas presents for the grandparents and came across his little recital) but has, ahem, developed lots of bad habits.  Maybe if I'd been more involved, this wouldn't have happened.  Oh well!!

Second child began cello at age 5 1/2 of his own choosing as he used to make every violin a cello.  He had a much longer attention span than oldest and seems to be a more "natural' musician, but he has learning disabilities and is just now blossoming at age 12.  (I'll post a link to a trio he, oldest, and a friend did)

Youngest is 5.  At age 2, I bought him a $20 violin off of ebay because he asked for one-truly a toy.  Since he's kind of violent, I didn't want anything that couldn't be broken.  He played with it for about a year and I donated it. :-)  More recently, he expressed interest in cello.  We borrowed a little cello from a former teacher but he seldom does anything with it. We taught him a few things that my middle son's cello teacher showed us but that's it.  If he had the attention span, I'm sure he'd be a good little player as he sings all his brother's concertos. First, though, he needs to get over being a violent perfectionist....and so it goes! LOL

Seriously, though, I know of a number of little kids who have the personality, attention span and family dynamics to make learning an instrument possible at a very young age.  Wish that were my family but it taint! :-)

Ok, enough whining on my half-baked family. :-)

December 10, 2009 at 03:14 AM ·

I love the idea of making the violin a cello; I think I may try that. Does anyone know where I can get a very small stool?

December 10, 2009 at 04:11 AM ·

Greetings,

find soemone who abstains from prunes?

Cheers,

Buri

December 10, 2009 at 06:13 AM ·

I have hesitated to jump into this thread as I am not a musician and know very little about teaching young children. I am however a Pediatrician, and also have two children of my own (ages 4 and 7) and can no longer restrain myself!

I think that there is more than one issue discussed here; firstly, the fact that this baby is playing with his violin does not mean that he is playing the violin. He is actually using it  as a toy, just like everything can be a toy for a 20 month old. That he picked the violin is probably  a result of his seeing his mother play all the time. I say his mother and not his father because for a 20 month baby, the mother is the most important person in that child's life .  I think trying to 'teach' or correct' a baby at this age can be fruitless and can lead to unnecessary stress. You wouldn't correct a baby who is scribbling with a pencil to teach him how to draw a square; or even a circle. Why should the expectation be that the baby will actually learn how to draw a bow if shown? And if that baby could not learn how to draw the sqaure, would that impact on his life-long mathematical abilty?

Also, while a  baby may not master a bow hold, babies are masters at reading their mothers. It is amazing how intuitive they are. This baby knows how important the violin is to the mother, and he'll know if she's pleased, or even a tiny bit dissappointed. My own kids immediately know when its important they do something (and immediately do the opposite). This baby has already figured out what makes his mother happy.

I'm certain that this baby has a huge potential, as he has not only nature but nuture on his side. I am only a little bit surprised that mom says this child is not a baby. He is still very much a baby. Of course he is growng and developing his personality and of course at 20 months, many chldren are very interactive and understand a whole lot. But he is still a very tender being and at this age I believe everything should be about play and happiness and gradually developing life skills so as to grow into well rounded little individuals. And please, I'm not saying that this mom has another focus at all, only that he should go ahead and have as much fun with that violin as with any other toy and withas little direction and guidance as with any other toy.

Catherine

December 10, 2009 at 06:28 AM ·

Oh Buri,

You couldn't have had a better set up line!

December 10, 2009 at 01:55 PM ·

"make the violin a cello"  -- The great cellist Emanuel Feuermann could take a violin and play it as if it were a cello.  Apparently, playing it this way, he could play the Mendelsohn violin concerto as well as any of the violinists of his day.

December 10, 2009 at 07:50 PM ·

No personally attacking each other, thanks.

Also, really if someone wants to write a detailed response, they can do it under their own name, we don't need straw people in our conversations. You can register now with a free-e-mail account, so no excuses!

My son also picked up the violin at age 18 months and was doing amazing things with it. Then he went to the piano, and he zoomed through Suzuki Book 1. Then he grew up a little and back-pedaled a bit, got himself on more of a normal-but-steady course of progress. So his initial enthusiasm and progress had to be tempered along the way.

So: big enthusiasm in a toddler = great! Let him enjoy it. Don't sweat the details until the child is a little more ready to sweat the details. You'll know if you've pushed too hard; just back off. And if the child seems receptive to a little detail work, go for it. And if the child is ready for lessons, then he's ready! Sometimes a 2-year-old is ready for lessons. Sometimes a 7- year-old can't handle lessons. Everyone is different.

December 11, 2009 at 01:15 AM ·

Catherine, Thanks for weighing in...good to have to opinion of someone very knowledgeable about kids in the room! My point about my son not being a baby was directed at "anonymous'" assertion that the only music he should be exposed to is lullabies while he's being held. I guess I meant that he's not  what I would consider an infant (my personal definition of an infant is someone who doesn't walk, talk, feed itself, etc)...Aah semantics.

At the risk of saying something I probably shouldn't, I suspect our anonymous poster is a former child prodigy (perhaps someone well known) who feels like she lost her childhood to overly pushy parents and teachers due to early talent. If that's the case, she has my empathy, and a good reason to wish to remain anonymous (as raphael said).  If I'm wrong, I apologize for reading between the lines and engaging in speculation.

December 11, 2009 at 01:18 AM ·

Oh, BTW, kiddo's been playing the violin like a cello lately...I gave him an old 3/4 to play around with, fitted with viola strings, and he loves to use that as his "cello."

 

December 11, 2009 at 02:04 AM ·

I know a violinist who have started at this age. The mother played the fingers and the daughter played the bow (her arms were to short to reach the neck) and she is now a superb happy musician. Close to national awards and everything...  We don't know this kid (the one in the post) and if I listen to people around me who have kids, they are all different and some can handle different things of different complexities at a given age.

Good luck with your son! I find it wonderful as long as he is happy isn't it a great gift you are giving him!!!

Anne-Marie

December 11, 2009 at 02:07 AM ·

Oh, BTW, kiddo's been playing the violin like a cello lately...I gave him an old 3/4 to play around with, fitted with viola strings, and he loves to use that as his "cello."

Hahahaha! How Cute!  I would love to see this!  Ya' just have to love children!!!! ;)

December 11, 2009 at 04:16 AM ·

My youngest student is two years old and we do the following:

Up Like A Rocket (First holding the bow in a fist, then we work on the pinky with a pinky pad, and then we work on the other fingers, until just the thumb is left)

Tapping fingers (Work on tapping the tip of each finger to the tip of the thumb, one at a time)

Rhythms (I was a Suzuki student so my students start with things like Mississippi Hot Dog, Raspberry Strawberry)

Zip and Step ( Start with feet together, toes pointing forward, then move toes so they are pointing out, and take a step with your left foot)

Chin Tap (Practice tapping the chin to the shoulder  where the violin should rest so the child does not learn to rest the violin in their chest)

Musical ABC's (Once the child knows how to sing their real abc's, introduce the musical version: A B C D E F G, A B C D E F G, etc...)

There are so many thing you can do at this age that are fun and educational.  And most importantly you are spending quality time together.  Have fun!

December 11, 2009 at 06:37 AM ·

Thanks Rebekah...that's wonderful that you have success teaching kids so young...

December 11, 2009 at 07:41 AM ·

My youngest students are in the 3/4 age range and I am not a Suzuki teacher.Through experience I find that the best results with very young children is exposure but not pressure.I tell lots of stories with hippy hoppy bunnies, sllthery snakes, heavy elephants and twittering birds in the group lesson and the children can choose or not whether they wants to gliss up and down the sring when the snake is named or not.At this stage my aim is to use the instrument as a creative tool, another voice , express pleasure (describe somethiing you like, express dslike.Have great fun-I also start teaching them to read music through games (and yes it is possible at this age inspite of general opniion that cognitive skills are not in place.With the help of A4 printed notes (thank you computer)  the kids have a whale of a rime rushing round the room finding Grumpy Giants castle or exotic Eagles nest.when the note sare playedThen of course there are the games with ta and titi rhythm cards.At first progress can be very slow and then suddenly all the parts come together and the student takes off.

December 13, 2009 at 03:52 AM ·

I believe Yo-Yo Ma started cello around this age, using a violin modified with an endpin.  He grew up to be a fabulous musician and a fabulously well-adjusted human being, despite being a child prodigy.  This baby is doing exactly what Shinichi Suzuki talked about with his theory of the mother-tongue.  It sounds like this child hears as much music as he does English around his house, and his desire to join in is perfectly natural.  If his mother has 1/8 sized violins around the house, she probably has students close to her son's size and level of maturity.  Of course he wants to play!  Don't worry about his bow hold.  Right now, his table manners would get him ostracized in a fancy restaurant, and his current grip on a pencil would give a grade-school teacher apoplexy.  As his fine motor skills mature, he will handle the bow, the pencil, and the fish-fork with skill and grace. He's way too young for 3-octave scales and Sevcik etudes, but not too young to explore the wonderful musical "toys" in his home.

December 13, 2009 at 08:10 AM ·

How fun!  It must be wonderful to watch him show an interest in the violin.

I believe your original question was how to avoid bad habits.  I loved Rebekah's comments above.  At his age, a fist bow hold would be the easiest for him, and would also not get in the way of learning a "good" bow hold later on.  I don't believe that would be harmful at all.

I would be more worried about the instrument getting injured! But by 20 months he should be able to grasp the concept that we treat a violin differently than other toys.  But, have you considered giving him a "box" violin? I mean a violin-shaped object and a dowel stick for a bow, so he could play with it without damaging an actual instrument.   Also, it would be less tempting for him to saw away and therefore develop bad habits down the road should you decide to pursue formal training.  He might protest this, though, having already tasted the real thing...

In any case, fine/gross motor skill development games and ear training in the form of fun songs would be good things to do at this age.  Someone else said Music Together, then Suzuki lessons....I agree!!  And Boulder, you couldn't be in a better place for that.  Some teachers start kids as early as 2, although I personally wouldn't touch a 2 year old with a 10 foot pole.  Just inexperience on my part.

Good luck!

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