Making a musician

May 26, 2006 at 06:21 AM · I can not check for your responses until tommorrow, but had a personal question. As some of you seem to be rather accomplished violinists, I was wondering a few things. I am a parent of a young boy who started at age four in Suzuki. At age eight, he studies with a new non-Suzuki teacher during school and a Suzuki teacher in the summer (these two new teachers are good friends).

I think he gets a great balance of different techniques this way.

My little survey for the pros/serious amatuers on this site:

1. How hard did your parents push you?

2. What input from your parents or others worked?

3. At what age did you start to push yourself?

4. Did you hit a point in your playing/age where you didn't want your parents around so much anymore and practiced WELL on your own.

5. Was there a "mentor" teacher that inspired you greatly?

6. What levels did you go through on your journey as an artist. Was there a "head" that went with it?

7. What musical pieces did you need to know at what age to move along?

8. When did your parents back off completely?

Thanks for this help. I was serous in piano and took violin to help him get going. He has passed me by in technique, but I am a smarter practicer then he so I help him sometimes on counting and how to use his time well. I don't even have to yell or push too much these days. Both teacher think he has extraordinary intonation and is super relaxed on stage plus really fun to watch. Any advice is appreciated.

I am tryng to hold back more these days but he is still pretty little. His new teachers really lit a spark but are really strict on scales etudes and technique along with Suzuki pieces.

Replies (20)

May 26, 2006 at 06:50 AM · I was pushed extremely hard as a child.

The benefit of that was that I learned a lot and reaped the benefits of an early start, the negative of that was that I learned a lot of things that didn't work for me and went through a lot of suffering. In retrospect, it WASN'T worth it.

Children can be pushed (more like pulled) up to a certain point, and it's amazing how much children can take if they're genetically suited for music. However there's a fine line between encouraging the drive to be excellent and pushing a kid beyond his limits.

My thing is that as long as your child isn't breaking down emotionally (I did as a child all the time due to the extreme pressures of living up to parental expectations), forge on ahead. All people need to learn where their breaking points are - it makes them better people in the long run.

May 26, 2006 at 07:19 AM · well my mum pushed me pretty hard when i was a kid, but i started mucg later, i was eleven. and she still pushes me now and i'm 23!! she can't help it bless her, although it can be really annoying at times.

i've always practiced by myself, my mum never sat in my practice room or in my violin lessons for that matter.

i think it's really good that your child is getting both non-suzuki and suzuki training, it's good balance that'll be beneficial.

May 26, 2006 at 06:04 PM · My parents started me on violin and piano at a young age (4 and 5 respectively), and didn't push me in the least. It's a little strange, since they *did* push me very hard in academics, but they were pretty uninvolved in my music education other than paying for lessons for 12 years. They almost never bugged me to practice or talked to my teachers about my progress. They did take me to lots of concerts and play a lot of classical music in the home, though.

Looking back, now that I'm in my 30s, I think the worst part of their lack of involvement was not my unwillingness to practice, but that they had no idea whether I had good teachers. Although I didn't know it at the time, I had a pretty decent piano teacher but a really lousy violin teacher. I think I've always known I loved the violin more, but I focused on piano instead because I seemed to do better at it. I didn't find myself a good violin teacher until I returned to the instrument a year ago, and now I realize how much time I wasted in my childhood.

The advantage, I suppose, of my parents never pushing me, is that I never had negative experiences associated with being forced to practice, and so I still love playing music and always will. Some of my college buddies who were much more accomplished musicians than I was at the time have pretty much given up their instruments altogether, and I wonder if that's because at some point playing music had ceased to be fun for them.

My 3-year-old daughter plays violin now, and I believe that one major factor in her enthusiasm is that she sees me playing and talking about it all the time. She also has a Suzuki teacher who is experienced with young children and knows how to handle their short attention spans. I do make my daughter practice almost every day, and sometimes she's resistant, but I think overall it's better than the "hands-off" approach my own parents took. It's a difficult balance and, as with all aspects of parenting, has to be fit to the temperament of the individual child.

Thanks for starting this thread! I expect to learn a lot from the responses too.

May 26, 2006 at 07:39 PM · Hi!

I started the violin 9 years ago because I had seen an orchesra on tv and fell in love with it.Unfortunately my parents did't know anything about music so they couldn't advice me about choosing a teacher(I started with bad teachers).They never pushed me because they know that when somebody pushes me I do the opposite from what he says.This "freedom" helped a lot because I was responsible for my actions and choises.I am now in my third year in the university in department of music and I believe that it is because my parents knew how to handle me and were always smilling when I was playing childrens songs out of tune....

When I first started I didn't push myself.But the last years I study very hard and have high expectations because I love the violin so much and making progress makes me happy!The truth is that if you want to be a proffesional you have to push yourself,and if it is your desition, even better.

I was always studying alone since my parents couldn't help me but everytime I learned something knew I was playing in front of them.

My brother playes the cello 3 years now and my parents are pushing him enaugh.I thing that each child is different and the parent must undertand how to treat it..

I hope I made myself undestood English is making my life hard. :)

Cheers!!!!

May 26, 2006 at 08:22 PM · i started violin at 8.

my parents didn`t push me.

they supported me by not pushing me in school (nonmusic stuff)

i think i could be a bit better today if they pushed me those times (i am 31 now)...but not a lot better.

the best help that parents can provide for their children practicing an instrument, in my opinion, is to keep a warm, lovely ambiance at home, suited for music; the fluid, positive mentality AT HOME towards art and culture in general and towards music particularly is the best support.

thanks

May 26, 2006 at 08:52 PM · 1. How hard did your parents push you?

My parents never pushed me but kept taking me to lessons even when I didn't practice and made sure that I was allowed to have other options (I started violin at 7, piano at 9 and I had been in dance from the age of 3) to explore my more "artsy" creative and personal expression route. I should note, I took up violin because no one else in my family played it, they all played piano and I had to be "different" :)!

2. What input from your parents or others worked?

Just having them continue taking me to lessons when I didn't want to practice and having them tell me that it was ok to get frustrated. I had the right teachers at the right time from about the time I turned 10 which was also a big part of my success and passion to keep playing. But not being judged or ever "forced" to do something, just encouraged and firmly reminded that practicing pays off and that music can take me places.

3. At what age did you start to push yourself?

I was 12, almost 13.

4. Did you hit a point in your playing/age where you didn't want your parents around so much anymore and practiced WELL on your own?

I always hated having my parents there for lessons and when I practiced, I still to be honest really dislike having them around (unless I request it) when I practice or play in lessons. Began practicing well? Same as above, 12, almost 13.

5. Was there a "mentor" teacher that inspired you greatly? In 2003 I got to go to a music camp for the first time. I had saved up for 2 years to go and was completely stoked. I had Simon Fryer as a coach all week and got to have lessons with Gwen Hoebig and Anne Shih as well as play in masterclasses and work with other amazing people and that was the first real inspiration for me and the big "kick" for my passion for chamber music (thank you Simon!!) and now it's my teacher in Vancouver who I see about once a month for lessons who inspires me to strive for that next level and who makes me feel like I'm getting somewhere when I feel like I've hit a brick wall.

6. What levels did you go through on your journey as an artist. Was there a "head" that went with it? There are some extreme highs and extreme lows...... I think I can attribute the majority of the lows to overworking and lack of direction in times when i really needed it. The highs...hard work paying off! (getting into music programs, getting to perform and having a good performance!)

7. What musical pieces did you need to know at what age to move along? There is no set formula for pieces at certain ages and as soon as you start associating a piece with an age to have learned it by, you are denying yourself the opportunity to grow and explore music plus setting unreasonable boundaries for yourself.

8. When did your parents back off completely?

Well mine still drives me to lessons in Vancouver and to other events that i'm im playing in (probably largely because I don't drive...) but they haven't had to say "Kelsey, go practice!" or that type of thing for a long time. They listen when I need them to and I don't think parents ever officially "back off" even if they aren't directly related to your improvement as a player.

May 27, 2006 at 08:52 AM · 1. How hard did your parents push you?

My dad was and still is very into doing some very well, and I wish I'd listened to him earlier.

2. What input from your parents or others worked?

Besides paying for everything, nothing. I've had to overcome my own inertia.

3. At what age did you start to push yourself?

About 3 months ago.

4. Did you hit a point in your playing/age where you didn't want your parents around so much anymore and practiced WELL on your own.

My psychiatrist has ordered me to not revisit this.

5. Was there a "mentor" teacher that inspired you greatly?

Mr. Hou and my current teacher have had quite an effect. They invested a lot in my development, at least for the few hours a week I saw/see them.

6. What levels did you go through on your journey as an artist. Was there a "head" that went with it?

I'm finishing book 3 Suzuki.

7. What musical pieces did you need to know at what age to move along?

It took me a year to do Minuet 3. "Down up up down up down up up" - my mother singing the bowing along with the music. To this day it makes me suicidal.

8. When did your parents back off completely?

As long as they're paying they won't, although they're hardly breathing down my neck.

May 27, 2006 at 11:00 AM · Ha,ha,this is real funny,you lucky people, I was given a violin when I turned 7 by an aunt who was a very good violinist. My mother hated the sound of it and I was not allowed to play and played the piano instead. When I asked her at a later stage ,she told me :I would never get a husband if I make that sort of music.I have had a husband and still have and after 40 years of marriage I started playing the violin at last.He loves it and even thinks it is melodi ous and misses it when I'm not home. IF only.....

May 27, 2006 at 03:32 PM · i'm enjoying this thread~

1. How hard did your parents push you?

not much at all- i started on piano, and was only 'allowed' half an hour or 'practice' a day (i was four, and my pianist mother had to practice).

2. What input from your parents or others worked?

well, i don't know if you'd call it 'input,' but violin was treated like a treat- my parents got me violin lessons for my 7th birthday because i wanted to learn it so badly.

3. At what age did you start to push yourself?

when i went to an arts high school, i started working harder for myself- and then really went over the top after i switched teachers because the old teacher suggested that i not go into music

4. Did you hit a point in your playing/age where you didn't want your parents around so much anymore and practiced WELL on your own.

YES. when i first sort of learned HOW to practice- it got exciting, and i could feel myself improving-

5. Was there a "mentor" teacher that inspired you greatly?

LORAND FENYVES.

he took me under his wing when i was completely lost- my teacher had gone on sabbatical, and i was thinking that i wasn't cut out to be a musician. then i met mr.fenyves and he showed me what real music was about- why performing felt so right- he showed me how small i was in front of mozart.. he also gave me my love for the string quartet!

6. What levels did you go through on your journey as an artist. Was there a "head" that went with it?

i'm not sure i'm understanding your question..

7. What musical pieces did you need to know at what age to move along?

This question is my least favourite- it all depends on the type of career you want for yourself. if you want to be a child prodegy, you'll probably want to learn tchaikovsky concerto when you're 5. if you want to be an orchestral musician, that can wait until you're in college. but you never have to play it if you don't want to, and you'll never need it for a community orchestra audition.

8. When did your parents back off completely?

musically? when i was 15. actually, they asked me to quit. they felt it was holding me back in school and whatnot.. but they've been super supportive (and proud) of me since i explained how important music was to me..

#*@$&* these questions were hard!

[EDIT] sorry- i hadn't read your question throughly- from observing my younger students, the ones who have someone practicing with them (a parent, a sibling) improve SO much faster. i don't think you should stop practicing with your child until he says he would like to try practicing on his own. but chances are, he'll do a lot better with you pushing him (even if it is very very gently) for many more years.

May 27, 2006 at 04:30 PM · I started piano at the age of 6 and violin at the age of 9. I was definitely pushed to pursue both of those by my parents and didn't enjoy it all that much. I was forced to play these instruments primarily to add something to the college resume and I think somewhere in there was personal enrichment.

Once I got to college, I was burned out and didn't want anything to do with violin or piano. I ended up taking a year off and when I worked at a summer music camp, it all really just hit me. To be exact, it was in the middle of performing the last movement of Tchaik 5, when I was like, "Dang....this is awesome."

So I started playing in the university orchestra and am now concertmaster my senior year. I'll be graduating as a civil engineering major, religious studies and music minor.

May 27, 2006 at 04:52 PM · My first post on the site so it has to be good, right? I also started Suzuki at age 4. Both my parents are professional flutists, though they teach primarily rather than performing. So they were a big help in the beginning because they could hear pitch/rhythm problems and knew exactly how to fix them. But they didn't know anything about the violin. My mother was the one who came to every lesson and practiced with me every day. I think that was the most important thing, and would have been important even if she were not a musician. After a few years, I think they knew more where we stood and made the decision to step aside for the most part. Not financially, luckily! But I started practicing on my own when I was 8 or 9. It's different for everyone, but there is an age for every child/parent combination where the parental presence hinders more than helps. From then until I went away to school at 18, I felt more supported than pushed. They directed major decisions like when to switch teachers (when I was 11) and whether it would be good for me to go to conservatory early (I didn't, which was a good thing). They applied subtle pressure to practice early on in the day so it would get done, but they never tried to push it beyond an hour and a half or two hours a day, even when teachers suggested it. (They've since told me that they told my teachers not to press that point either!)

I would say that I made my own choice for music at age 15 or so. Not much really changed practically speaking, but at least I had my own goals (get into a good school, do fun summer festivals). I always wonder if I could have made better use of the years 15-18, but I was a high school kid and my folks and teacher went along with that.

The most important thing is to find a teacher who will encourage his natural learning process, and that's different for every child. Some thrive on lots of scales and etudes, although my guess is not many. Others get bored after just a little playing, but manage to cram a lot of learning in there. It sounds like you are happy with who you have, which is great! And your son seems to like performing, which is also a good sign. The only reason to change what you're doing is if your son or his teachers are unhappy. You'll know if it is time to push.

May 27, 2006 at 07:38 PM · I'm just 16 but this thread is fun, so I'll respond too.

1. How hard did your parents push you?

They don't, so long as I'm not wasting their money on lessons and sheet music and doing absolutely nothing. On the other hand, when I used to do next to no practice they still wouldn't let me quit.

2. What input from your parents or others worked?

Nothing! I did, and do, what I want, and the best thing my parents did was back off at the right time and let me enjoy it for myself.

3. At what age did you start to push yourself?

Age 15.

4. Did you hit a point in your playing/age where you didn't want your parents around so much anymore and practiced WELL on your own.

As above. Well, I think I always practiced well by myself because I got into good habits from age 4! I never needed supervision, although sometimes I got it anyway, but rarely did it help. Now my parents make the odd comment or sing along, but I have trained them to keep away from my practice. Keeps all parties happy.

5. Was there a "mentor" teacher that inspired you greatly?

Not as such, I've had the same teacher for about 8 years now, but I'm getting a new one and my consultation lesson certainly gave me a kick start.

7. What musical pieces did you need to know at what age to move along?

I don't think it matters. Technically I'm not very secure, compared to musically, so I tend to learn pieces later, but well. I think there are some landmark pieces though, like Vivaldi A minor as the first "proper" concerto, then sometime later playing the Four Seasons, then Bruch, Mendy etc etc. I find it best to ignore the fact that people have played pieces years ahead of me, and instead just play them at my own pace, and make a really good job of them. You always have to re-learn big works anyway, so it's somewhat irrelevant, as when I finall get around to doing Bruch, I will find more in it than people who tackled it too early, but they will have looked at it again and found more in it for themselves.

8. When did your parents back off completely?

They haven't, I doubt they ever will. They have backed off in so much as I can practice what I want and they don't make technical comments, "that sounds nice" and "I recognise that" are about as far as they venture. However, they are starting to go for the "so are you going to music college" approach now...the only way to make them back off completely would be to make them pay for it...

May 28, 2006 at 02:05 AM · I like this thread...

1. How hard did your parents push you?

I was thinking to myself while reading all the other posts that my parents never really ever pushed me. Then I started remembering all the lessons, music camp, auditions, and so on. I would say they pushed in a subtle way, but without being "pushy" per say.

2. What input from your parents or others worked?

They never really commented much themselves until I was much much older (like last week). My teacher's input is what I've always listened to and taken to heart.

3. At what age did you start to push yourself?

Age 34 :) Ok, first time I started pushing myself was around age 12 or so.

4. Did you hit a point in your playing/age where you didn't want your parents around so much anymore and practiced WELL on your own.

My parents never sat in on my lessons or practice time. They just took me to lessons and made sure I practiced.

5. Was there a "mentor" teacher that inspired you greatly?

All my teachers have been mentors. My first private lesson teacher Barbara is probably the one that first got me really serious about what I was doing. Most recently, Alla Yanovich when I was overseas. She didn't speak English too well which made me more attentive to the style, intonation, etc...

6. What levels did you go through on your journey as an artist. Was there a "head" that went with it?

Up until I was 14 or so, I was striving to learn - anything and everything. In my teen years, music itself wasn't as important as the social scene that went with it. As a young adult in college and the beginning of my career (tech not music) it was a passing hobby. As an older adult, it is my sanity and my creative outlet.

7. What musical pieces did you need to know at what age to move along?

Starting off, I really wanted to learn how to play the Star Wars theme song (the movie just came out at the time). In my tweens, Eiene Kliene was a goal. Recently, It has been been my goal to be able to play all the bach 6 Cello Suites.

8. When did your parents back off completely?

They backed off when I graduated high school. BUT - now that I'm picking it up again, they are involved again. This time coming to my concerts, asking for recordings of pieces that I have recently learned, playing for them over the phone, and that sort of thing.

May 28, 2006 at 09:01 PM · My Father was a symphony conductor. After High School he strongly suggested I continue on with my goal of flying for a career instead of violin. LOL. Said I wasn't good enough to make a principle player. So I have/had the best of both worlds. I loved my flying and now work very hard regaining my music ability.

Dad, ou were right.

May 29, 2006 at 02:25 AM · In high school i was really interested and fascinated by the violin. But i hesitated to start learning it, especially when the violinists in the music classes said i'd be starting out a bit late, or that it would conflict with guitar playing.

May 29, 2006 at 04:01 AM · Eric Tremblay, I'm glad you went ahead and learned the violin anyway.

I'm a professional guitar player, and I definitely feel that guitar playing has helped me play the violin better. Often I wonder if I would've been PRIMARILY a guitar player and not a violinist had my parents not insisted that I play the violin as a youngster.

In general, I feel that violinists or anybody who plays a melodic instrument should spend some time getting a working knowledge of the guitar or piano for chord harmony purposes.

May 29, 2006 at 04:10 AM · I'm going to respond...even though I've only been playing for 3 years. (I'm 13)

1. How hard did your parents push you?

I started piano at 8 (going on 9...stop taking lessons at 11, but still play) and violin at 10. They didn't and still don't push me at all. Which I like. NEVER have they told me to go and practice...so they never really had to push me.

2. What input from your parents or others worked?

...umm I guess my teacher's.

3. At what age did you start to push yourself?

2 years ago...when I was 11 and started to play in an orchestra.

4. Did you hit a point in your playing/age where you didn't want your parents around so much anymore and practiced WELL on your own.

I always practiced well on my own.

There was this ONE time, when my mom sat in my lesson. It was the first lesson with my 3rd/current teacher (and first real professional violin teacher)...I begged her before the lesson to stay...and she did. And I must say...NEVER AGAIN!! It was way too awkward for me.

5. Was there a "mentor" teacher that inspired you greatly?

I guess all of my violin teachers.

But I would have to say, (although she's not a violin teacher...but she did play) I was inspired mostly by my musical theatre teacher (Lurrine Burgess, R.I.P.)...who was so much more to me than just a teacher.

6. What levels did you go through on your journey as an artist. Was there a "head" that went with it?

I'm not sure if I understand this question, but I'll try to answer it.

I wanted to quit really badly once...I think like after 6months of playing. But then I just decided to stick with it 'cause I had already switch from the flute to it (the violin) and I didn't want to have to switch again.

7. What musical pieces did you need to know at what age to move along?

All I know is that if I can play Paganini (which i can't...at least not right now)...then I have mastered the violin...but I'm not sure if that's completely accurate.

8. When did your parents back off completely?

Well they still drive me to my lessons and orchestra rehearsals...so I guess they haven't yet. Which I'm okay with...otherwise I would have no source of transportation. =P

May 30, 2006 at 02:38 AM · > I'm glad you went ahead and learned the violin anyway.

Thanks! "Am learning" the violin, slight difference =) .... and i'm at a quite beginner stage. what type/style of guitar do you play?

May 30, 2006 at 03:20 AM · I play fingerstyle jazz guitar, Eric. I put a thumbpick on and use my fingers pretty much the same way as Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel do.

That means that when I get hired to play at a corporate gig, I'll sit there for 3-5 hours and play jazz and pop standards with no accompaniment save my thumbpick. I improvise my chord melodies on the spot and have very few memorized arrangements. Keeping the rhythm going while making up a chord progression as I go along is really hard, but I've gotten pretty competent at that over the years.

Most of my gigging is done on one of two guitars: a Gretsch Tennessee Rose or a 1977 Gibson L-5. My amplifier is the humongously heavy Fender Twin Reverb, 1958. At least it's loud enough that I don't have to lug PA stuff as well.

I started guitar late: age 19. To be honest, I'd have shortened my learning time in half if I had someone really great like Chet Atkins teaching me. My teachers were all plectrum guitarists, but I've been a fingerstyle guy from the day I started. It's no different than almost all my violins being Franco-Belgian bow holders and my natural inclination is the Russian bow grip - I'd have saved years of violin suffering had I a qualified teacher to teach me that style from the beginning.

The interesting thing is that my parents have NO IDEA that I'm playing the guitar professionally. Even now, they don't really believe the fact that I am playing the violin as my job. They listened to too much BS from teachers and colleagues when I was coming up as a so-called "untalented" violinist. That's when I learned that when somebody calls you "untalented", don't ever let that stop you from making a career in music if you know internally that you're good enough to play professionally. Your career might not fit the standard that people expect from a violinist, but the hard truth is that there is no such thing as a "standard" violin career anyway. Every career is unique.

What really helped my guitar playing was doing Carcassi etudes. I'm not even halfway through the entire book yet and I've learned so much. Carcassi is the "Kreutzer" of guitar - if you can do the entire book of Kreutzer 42 etudes for violin, you can handle just about anything else thrown at you afterwards.

May 30, 2006 at 05:44 PM · You have all been very generous with your answers. Thanks so much everyone!

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