How should a young beginner practice?

Edited: October 24, 2018, 3:42 AM · Hi, please give some suggestions about how to guide a young beginner. My daughter is 7.5 years old, and has learnt violin for about 1.5 years in a public system. Her teacher is kind and experienced, and I do not sit in the classroom nor supervise when she practicing. I do keep an eye on how she is going, but do not comment. She made a notebook to track all her activities including violin learning, so I know she is satisfied with her progress. However, I have some concerns:

1. The real practicing time is very limited, around 0-10 minutes per day. She practices about 5-7 days per week. She has a sort of shortcut strategy, that she allocates more time on the songs that she cannot sightread fluently. So she is always able to get new sheets the following week. It seems she has strong preferences of the songs she learnt, some of them she still plays for fun after a long period, and some of them she just stops practicing when she thinks it's acceptable.

2. She likes to play with the violin, with very bad postures( e.g. laying on the carpet or sofa, holding the violin in front of her body, using different kinds of bow hold), plays the songs except the ones she is learning. Sometimes she just plays through a Suzuki book(her teacher doesn't use suzuki method, but she got a set of the books from grandma), or plays the pieces she has learnt but often changes the rhythms or transposes.

My questions are:
1. How should I hint her to practice the violin with more patience? I talked with some other parents whose children are in the same age, but seems all of them sit in the classroom or using incentives(e.g."if you practices ten times/finish the homework, then you can play games for xx minutes"). To be honest, I am not a fan of external incentives, it would be my last choice, and I think in that case, I would probably let my kids quit. Her teacher thinks there is no need to push her, I have followed the instruction well if not too well.

2. Should I provide the music sheets or books she wants? I confessed the issue to her teacher, but seemed she already gave the kind gentleman a headache. If it is OK, which books do you recommend to a young beginner?

I am sorry I am not a native speaker, nor a sufficient English user. Thanks in advance!

Replies (50)

October 24, 2018, 3:43 AM · > I do not sit in the classroom nor supervise when she practicing.

I would encourage you to not only observe her lessons, but also take notes and help her structure her practice. A child in the single-digit years needs gentle guidance to achieve an effective practice strategy.

My son's Karate teacher does not expect him to retain everything with only one dojo session a week. I have to practice his basics at home, review his kata, etc. so that when he returns to class he can demonstrate what he has practiced.

It's with this sort of structure can one is able to achieve the discipline that allows for continued forward progress. As they child ages and takes ownership of their skill development, parental involvement can be changed to be less of a teacher role and more of a support role.

Edited: October 24, 2018, 4:16 AM · Do you mean that she does good practise 10 minutes a day and then does all the other activities after that or do mean that she plays with different holds and stuff in the 10 minutes she practices?

The answer would probably also depend on what is her and your goal? Quite impossible to become a good violinist with 10 minutes of uncoordinated practise in 5 days especially as she plays around with postures. She cannot cement good technique and posture in that amount of practise, even I can say that for sure. But if you and she just want to play around with violin for a bit, maybe just fiddle around, then whos to judge? Bad postires can cause physical trauma, but not in that short amount of playing. Bad postures are also exptremely hard to set right, if the child suddenly takes great interest in playing.

Its all about expectations. Few are the children of her age that are able to do good practise on their own and without any external encouragement from their parents, Playing violin is one of the most difficult activities humans do. I think its too hard for the child to expect that the child practices properly on her own without parental support. Would you expect her to study lets say latin every day on her own free time just buy herself with only one lesson a week from a teacher?

Fiddling is another thing, everyone can say they can fiddle and noone can disagree. Playing the violin is another thing.

To give you an example, we practise together with my 5 year old 30-60 minutes a day. Some scales, 2-3 pieces and some music theory. Posture and playing in tune are the most important, posture being the most important because as I wrote bad posture does great harm for the body. I attend every lesson, take mental notes always and we both have to try hard to learn the things that we are supposed to learn. I started playing when my daughter started playing and I think violin is a very hard instrument and it needs a lot of work and effort, but that its better to quit if one is not willing to put the effort into it as playing the violin can do damage to the growing body (my view as a GP) if done wrongly.

October 24, 2018, 4:34 AM · What Gene said. By observing the lessons, you'll be able to help way more at home.

I personally require most of my young students to have their parent present at the lessons, primarily because it's important that the parent acts as the teacher at home, and they need to know exactly how to do this.

Also, something regarding external incentives: I think monetary incentives are best, if you must use one. Trading practice time for game time can be problematic in its own way, but "working" towards actual money is a skill that eventually will be utilized in the real world, so it's not exactly detrimental to their growth. Good quality violin practice often resembles work more than play, so don't get too caught up with the idea that the intrinsic value of playing should be enough to keep them going all of the time.

Edited: October 24, 2018, 5:10 AM · Thanks for the reply.

- Gene Wie: my daughter thinks it is more comfortable for her to learn when parents are not presented. So I chose to respect her. As a teacher, what would you suggest to focus when a kid practices?

- Maria Lammi: she has a OK practice 0-10 minutes per day, but then plays what she wants with bad postures. I take music lessons as part of the education, have no ambition to make a musician. I think if she can fiddle around later on, it will be good enough. However, I think violin learning is a good way to teach her how to learn things, and she already learned a little. Now she thinks violin learning is easy, it is of course because the standard is low. I think if I am involved and be strict, then it will ruin her self-confident and interest. How could you make a 5 years old practice for more than 30 minutes?

Edited: October 24, 2018, 5:11 AM · to Erik Williams: thanks! I actually have used monetary incentives: in some Saturday evenings, she and her brother want to make "shows" and I have to buy tickets, it is often circus shows but violin accompanying is sometimes used. I think she likes to play for fun, but thinks the practicing is sometimes boring.

How long and how often would you expect a young beginner to practice every week?

Edited: October 24, 2018, 6:29 AM · Sophia, just to give you some ideas for practise. Our teacher sets us goals to reach and then I divide them into a set amount of repetes and tasks in my mind before we start. The tasks are short and she can sit down in between and generally goofs around in between. I use those rest times to expain the next task and also to motivate her to try the harder ones. So she does not stand for more than 5 minutes at a time, usually its even less.

Sometimes I use pictures, which she can colour part by part after completing the tasks, sometimes we play a boardgame and she can move after completing a task. Sometimes she gets stickers as a reward. Motivating encouraging talk is very important and one must also have perseverance as her attention span is not long. After practise and only after practise she gets to watch TV on our IPad. And she gets one small icecream after each lesson with her teacher. And as a reward she gets to play her own things with the violin but only with a good posture as I have learned that every note played in a bad posture requires several notes palyed in a good posture so its very detrimental to let her play her own invented tunes in a bad posture,

But generally playing the violin is not forced on her in that sense that she enjoys the lessons and playing at recitals, we started at her initiative but when the going gets tough and there are difficult things to be learned I do make her learn them and not skip. Its a balance between free playing and hard work. I dont really think any child who is not a prodigy has the ability to learn to play the violin well without a certain amount of pressure (hopefully positive pressure) from the parents, it is so hard. Had she chosen piano, which is my instrument, the going would have been so much easier as piano is so much easier.

Edited: October 24, 2018, 7:20 AM · I'm not a fan of bribing children- it's important for kids to develop an internal sense of motivation. What happens to motivation when there's no treat involved? Or do y'all intend to keep giving treats and prizes for the rest of their lives? (BTW, I'm not talking about allowance- that's money given in exchange for work.)

Advice on how much to practice by teachers and other parents is always interesting to me, given the extremely high percentage of kids who drop out of violin. And the extremely high number of teens and young adults who suffer from anxiety and depression. The answer I give to parents is this: 10-15 minutes a day for younger kids should be sufficient. Once they start get toward the end of Suzuki book 2 or beginning of book 3, it might need to be bumped up to 20-30. But it should never be forced. And if they want to practice 2 hours, let them. Parents are always trying to turn their kids into Sarah Changs or Hilary Hahns, but their efforts actually drive their kids away from music.

Your child's teacher should tell you what they need to focus on. For example, if I have a kid who's collapsing their left hand, I ask that the parents make sure they practice with a little rubber animal in their hand. I give my kids a practice chart with a list of their tasks for the week and some stickers, and they are responsible for their own practice. All I ask parents to do is make sure they practice every day with their chart.

If motivation to practice is an issue for your child, have a talk with them about goals: It's important to be able to play your orchestra music because the rest of the group depends on you to know your part. You don't have to play the whole piece, but how about just doing that one tricky part your teacher was talking about- I know you'll be proud of yourself if you can play the hardest part of the piece. I know you don't want to practice now, but when you do well on your audition, won't it feel great? Etc, etc.

October 24, 2018, 7:26 AM · Maria,you are really a great mom! The efforts you made is out of my imagination, thanks for sharing. I always assume piano is harder. My daughter tried several instruments when she was around 5 to 6 years old, shortest for 3 lessons, and longest for 8 lessons. She decided to learn violin first, I hope it will last long. I must learn some parenting skills:)
October 24, 2018, 8:13 AM · Although I gave private string lessons over a 40 year period and have experienced
(1) parents learning with their kids so they can help them
(2) parents in the room.
(3) parents not in the room
(4) parents helping their kids at home
(5) parents not seeming to help their kids at home but being aware
(6) Parents not in the room not helping their kids and home and not seeming to care.

My only really intimate experiences of young students learning experience involved my violin studies the 10 years I gave my oldest granddaughter violin lessons for 10 years.

First my experience. My father was an amateur violinist who practiced every day after work and played chamber music at home and elsewhere all the years I knew him. When I was 4 my grandfather gave me a violin for my birthday and I played it everyday, sometimes standing on the large wooden toy box below by bedroom window overlooking west 176 Street, NYC. It must have sounded awful, but after about 6 months my parents asked me if I wanted lessons and I did and thus I started actually learning how to play violin. My father never interfered with my lessons or my practice - I think I practiced about 30 minutes daily. I think my greatest violin motivation (besides my father's playing and enjoyment of it) occurred when I was just about 5 years old my father took me to see the first-run 1939 movie "They Shall Have Music" starring Jascha Heifetz. I still remember turning to my father when Heifetz was on screen (20 feet high) playing Hora Staccato and asking "Is that a real man?" It still motivates me.

I remember the one time Dad spanked me - I was between 5 and 6 years old and had not practiced that day but when my father came home from work and asked me if I had practiced I told him I had. He later told me he had spanked me not because I had not practiced but because I had lied about it. I found out later that because I kept my violin case under the baby grand piano in our living room he could tell if it had not been moved. Anyway, I pretty much practiced every day after that (although one or two times I just moved the case a bit instead). I kept at the lessons until I was almost 12 (through at least 2 private teachers of NY-professional quality and 2 (final) years of lessons and theory at the Manhattan School of Music) and finally had the guts to tell my parents I wanted to quit - they were glad I told them. And I "stayed quit" (except for playing my violin every 6 months or so) until I was about 13 and got back in shape in time to join high school orchestra. I never stopped after that - still going 80 years after getting that first birthday violin.

My other intimate experience of childhood lesson was the 10 years I shared the violin experience with my granddaughter from the time she was 6-1/2. It all seemed smooth and loving to me. But her mother, out daughter let us know that there were sometimes lots of tears of frustration when I was not there - but she kept at it with me until she was 16 and constantly improved and although there was not spectacular progress she made it through all the Suzuki literature, including the Mozart concertos before high school. She played and performed with the HS "Chamber Gladiators" for her first two high school years and then practiced and performed with "roots music" ensembles. She did take her violin off to college and took one music class in improvisation (she majored in English and is now a published writer).

I think if you have a child who is motivated and enjoys playing the violin but is unconventional and undisciplined about it you should tread carefully about changing the scenario. Having a child that age that is sight-reading music is a real plus. I would certainly provide any music the child wants. Providing the opportunity to see some real professional violinists perform might be motivating. Playing music with other kids is something she must be doing in school - how do their skill levels compare with hers and how does she feel about it? It can be very motivating to play with some people who are better than you are, but not so much better that you can not see how to get there yourself. It can be a delicate balance.

October 24, 2018, 8:59 AM · I have never encountered a 7yo who can come out of a lesson knowing what to do without assistance, nor have I ever met a 7yo who practices in a productive way without assistance. I don't think it is developmentally appropriate to expect that.

Both of my kids' teachers (all of them!) required a parent at the lesson. My older one is 13, and his teacher still has the parent attend the lesson! And let me tell you, it is way harder to go to lessons with a 13yo then a 7yo...tweens/teens think they know everything. I think your daughter's progress will increase dramatically if you start going to the lessons. You don't have to actively participate, but you do need to take notes (or record) and figure out what the teacher wants practiced for the next lesson.

As for practicing, I also have always practiced with my kids. My 9yo now does some on her own (usually review pieces) and my 13yo does most of it on his own (though he still likes to play for me some each day by his own choice). In order to avoid battles, I found it best to actually play along with the child for much of the practice. If you don't play, it's a good time to start! You can learn along with your child. I also strongly advocate short sessions. For a 7yo beginner, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon is more than enough.

October 24, 2018, 9:32 AM · Sophia, thank you for your kind words :)
October 24, 2018, 10:27 AM · I just saw this on another website:

https://nspireme.co.uk

Edited: October 24, 2018, 12:46 PM · Julie, I totally agree with you that it is important to develop internal motivation. I am happy to see a teacher says that a beginner does not need that much practice time. My daughter is about Suzuki 2 or 3, I guess, she can sight-reading Suzuki 3 fluently with mistakes here and there. The book she uses now is about shifting to 3rd and 2nd position, plus some other elementary techniques, it seems she took it quite easy, but I have no knowledge in violin playing, I can just say the intonation sounds OK. I guess it is where the learning really begins, that is why I wonder how could I inspire her to practice more.

Andrew: I take kids to some children concerts, not too often, maybe once per season, but not violin concerts. Her teacher is good at motivating kids, I think, because I can attend several concerts played by the students and teachers every term, it must have added a lot extra work for her teacher. It is a public system, so the atmosphere is ease and warm, no kid want to compete with others, only team-working and fun. The problem is, unlike most kids, my daughter actually does not enjoy playing in concerts. I do not know why, during the concerts she seemed quite happy and enjoyed, when her teacher asked how she felt, she answered quick and positively. But she complained every time when her teacher announced there would be a concert. Maybe sometimes the time conflicts with her other activities. I suggested she to talk the issue with her teacher honestly, but she refused. I am confused. About the music sheet, what she asked is far above her current level, I guess. Last week she imitated the first few bars of bach a minor violin concerto(she heard it from other students at the music school), so I changed the topic. I wonder which books are suitable for young beginner to play just for fun.

October 24, 2018, 1:53 PM · Who likes concerts anyway? You have to wear itchy clothes, you don't get to eat a proper supper, you have to sit up straight for hours.

Really wonderful that she seems to want to play beyond just enough to get through her assigned pieces. All for Strings is a good, inexpensive series with lots of short recognizable songs she can play through. There are three books, but your daughter would be in books I and 2. Christmas is coming up, and if you celebrate that holiday, then a book of Christmas songs would be fun. There's one called Christmas Kaleidoscope that can be found here:

https://www.amazon.com/76VN-Christmas-Kaleidoscope-Robert-Frost/dp/0849732123/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1540406995&sr=8-1&keywords=kaleidoscope+violin+christmas

Otherwise, books with songs from Disney movies, cartoons, etc. Violin shops and music stores usually have a rack of violin music that she can look through and decide if any look interesting. Just make sure she goes through her assigned music before she starts the fun music.

October 24, 2018, 1:58 PM · "How long and how often would you expect a young beginner to practice every week?"

My students of that age are generally required to practice 20-30 minutes 5x per week.

If I've noticed that they consistently miss too much practice each week, the *first* thing I do is address their parents. I don't say "hey, force your kid to practice!" Instead, I just ask them to help encourage and be interested at home. In my experience, kids will often practice more if they simply feel like the parent cares about it happening. So texting/cooking/etc... isn't ideal, because you're not giving full attention.

In the situations where the parent tries their best to help/encourage practice at home but the kid is being difficult, I have the student sign a contract.

Actually, these days I often just bypass the parent method and go straight to the contract because it's so effective. Basically, it's a little informal contract that they sign and date that says they'll practice a certain amount (it's an amount of time we both talk about and agree upon). It makes them feel like they're in charge and they're a professional, and it also makes them accountable to me. It's amazing how well the contract has worked for me, but I don't know if it would work for all teachers, because the style of relationship other instructors have with their students might be vastly different from the ones I have with mine.

Anyways, the big change is going to be your participation and interest in her lessons. That's the first thing I'd address, before trying anything else. And remember to be positive, not punishing.

October 24, 2018, 8:07 PM · "My daughter thinks it is more comfortable for her to learn when parents are not present."

Yes -- I can relate strongly to this, because that's the way I was. A lot depends on the personality and temperament of the child -- and preferences of the teacher. My parents weren't string players. They paid for my lessons and required me to practice; but they didn't sit in on my lessons, nor did they directly oversee my practice time.

I was the same age as your daughter when I started piano lessons. Once a week, right after school, I walked by myself to my teacher's home for a lesson. When the lesson was over, I walked home on my own. During practice each week, I was on my own.

I switched to violin not long afterward and followed the same routine -- except that my first violin teacher, who lived nearby, came directly to our home each Friday after school. For 1 hour each week, she and I had the living room to ourselves. For practice during the week, I was on my own -- in my own room.

I went on to major in music and completed a degree in performance. My experience bears out that it's not necessary for every child to have a parent present during lessons or practice sessions.

October 25, 2018, 12:31 AM · I agree that parents in the room is not the approach for everyone. It depends on personality, the type of relationship the child has with the parent, and whether the parent has the time. So many act like it isn’t up for debate. There is literally no way I would have been able to get as much from the lesson of either of my parents had actively observed, especially my father. He coached my soccer team when I was this girl’s age, and we butted heads A LOT.
Edited: October 25, 2018, 1:04 AM · There's a recent article in The Strad in which Viktoria Mullova mentions her father starting her off on the violin, learning alongside her. https://www.thestrad.com/artists/life-lessons-viktoria-mullova/8287.article

"I learnt to play the violin at the same time as my father, who was an aerospace engineer. My first teacher agreed to take me on only if one of my parents came to the lessons and followed up on his instructions at home, which my father did, but he studied and practised alongside me as well."

Sophia, yours and others posts here I think reflect a lost opportunity, whereby children are treated as if they're independent and able to guide themselves and parents are afraid to be more involved. A good part of Suzuki's success in my view is due to its active encouragement of parental involvement, though met with some odd reluctance in the west. Viktoria Mullova is of course far from alone in having parental guidance - there are many other recent examples, and of course historic examples including Mozart.

I started violin at the same time as my son (after starting piano at the same time as my son). In the beginning, I would directly supervise all of his practices, and significantly help him improve, by adding my awareness to his actions, and guidance to what could and should be done to improve, as well as experience and knowledge drawn from my own greater though limited musical experience. Even as adult learners, I think we can benefit from some such supervision and guidance, as we're all more likely to do what's easy instead of what's needed to be better and don't have an external perspective. Now that my son's older and has surpassed me, I have much less involvement in his practicing, and I think that my own reduced involvement has also had a lost benefit to his progress.

Edited: October 25, 2018, 3:43 AM · Thanks for all sharing. What a relief:), it seems some grown ups agree that active parents involvement is not always necessary. I have no intention to raise up a professional or amateur violinist, just think music education is a necessity. I am neither a fan of speeding up kids, I know a bunch of people who were really talented kids and turned out to be normal people without a childhood. That might be a reason why I go to the other extreme, maybe respect kids too much, spoiling? On the other side, I think it's easier for my kids to learn how to surpass difficulties and how small steps go a long way gradually, in the areas which they are interested in or relatively good at. Thus, I truly want my daughter to keep a longer interest in violin learning.

Back to my questions, I realized 5 x 10 minutes practicing would not support learning largely. I'd better try to improve my parenting skills first. Another question is, do you have experiences that a kid does not want to play in student concerts? She had no difficulties in memorizing or playing, and usually daily school clothes is enough. But she never wanted any other family members come to listen except her brother and I. During the concerts and afterwards, she was always focused and happy.

October 25, 2018, 3:36 PM · "I have no intention to raise up a professional or amateur violinist, just think music education is a necessity."

That's fine, but if your child came home with math questions, you'd be able to help them. But, if they come home with music questions and you haven't been attending lessons, you're not going to be able to help.

I have plenty of parents that attend lessons but don't really help at home; these aren't the parents that I'm talking about. In that situation, it would probably be better if they weren't at the lessons, since they only act as a reminder to the child that their music isn't cared about.

But I still think it's ideal, for 90% of young kids, for their parents to attend *and* participate in their child's lessons and their at-home practice, until good habits have been developed.

There are exceptions to any rule, of course.

October 25, 2018, 4:59 PM · "Since they only act as a reminder to the child that their music isn't cared about"

I am on the opposite side, I care about music and music education. I am not the kind of parents who take notes and remind kids they have mistakes here and there. Although I usually remain silence, I tried to help from other aspects: when she felt it's too boring but dared not say to the teacher, she asked me to walk into the classroom and tell her teacher(once she felt a vibrato practicing song was too boring and wanted to change one, the 2nd time she felt that she already tried hard but still couldn't get the ornaments sound right. Maybe from a teacher's perspective, I hadn't done my job); I exposed her to different kinds of music, sometimes took her to live concerts if they were young kids suitable; I tried to not let she feel too much time allocated in violin, which I thought would make a normal young kid feel tired (there is already 2 lessons per week, one 1V1 and one group, there would be one extra for ochester but I didn't register). Maybe some other parents who don't show up in the lessons have the same thoughts:)

October 25, 2018, 5:40 PM · "too much time allocated in violin"

Is she involved in other extracurriculars?

Edited: October 25, 2018, 6:05 PM · > my daughter thinks it is more comfortable for her to learn when parents are not presented.

Yes, and plenty of kids would prefer that we not supervise their tooth-brushing, their math homework, or cleaning their rooms.

A child in their single digit years has no context yet to understand what *could* be possible with parental support of their lessons if they've never really had it. The number one problem that nearly every new student that I get, from the youngest ones in preschool to the older ones in college and beyond is that they do not know how to practice. Setting up an effective strategy together with the teacher and the parent in the early years is supremely important...it's like putting money in the bank! :)

October 25, 2018, 6:53 PM · I started taking violin lessons at 11, so this may make a difference. But I would have been mightily annoyed if my mother had been micromanaging my progress. She used to prod me to practice though, saying she couldn't afford to pay for lessons I couldn't be bothered to prepare for; "unfortunately" everybody can hear if their child is practicing...

She sent me to recorder lessons when I was 7 and I went there alone and practiced without parental input and I did ok (as ok as you can on a treble recorder...). BTW I would have been equally annoyed if my parents had insisted on supervising my school homework.

Frankly if a child is not yet mature enough to digest lessons on his/her own, isn't it better to just wait a few years? For all of us who are not Hilary Hahn those years won't make much difference at the age of 20.

As to supervising toothbrushing: This is exactly the point: There are enough areas where supervision is unavoidable. Yet children need spaces for themselves. Music lessons can be those spaces without serious damage, personal hygiene can not.

I state this here as a counterpoint to the obviously majority view of these things.

When a child plays or fools around with her violin I would find that encouraging. It shows curiosity and interest in the instrument. If she tries out unconventional postures in the process I wouldn't worry either. I am sure she knows when she is doing it correctly and when not.

October 25, 2018, 9:51 PM · " I have no intention to raise up a professional or amateur violinist, just think music education is a necessity."

What's your own music education? Do you see a chance to continue that together with your child?

October 25, 2018, 11:44 PM · ---"Frankly if a child is not yet mature enough to digest lessons on his/her own, isn't it better to just wait a few years? For all of us who are not Hilary Hahn those years won't make much difference at the age of 20."---


Umm, no?

It's one thing for a child to be so young that they can't read yet, and deciding that it's best to wait a few years. THAT, I get. But to wait until a child is "mature enough" to digest lessons with 100% efficiency on their own is like waiting until high school to begin simple arithmetic.

No one *starts* knowing how to practice, no matter what age they are. If they start at 8, they might know how to practice very efficiently by the age of 13. But if they start at 12, then they won't have reached max efficiency by 17. And so on. ---- Point is, the earlier someone starts learning/struggling, the sooner they will know how to deal with problems. And once they know how to deal with problems, that's when their true progress begins.

October 26, 2018, 12:13 AM · "Maybe some other parents who don't show up in the lessons have the same thoughts:)"

Of course, all the parents have the same thoughts. It's easy to do the minimum or less. The hard part's doing something different, but that's where the benefit is found.

As a part of being a music parent, I've been to many student concerts, most not particularly advanced or competitive, more inclusive, so that all the kids (and even some adults) have a chance to perform, and play for their families and others. I've especially enjoyed seeing the very young kids perform - because they're delightful, and clearly very proud and happy to be performing and getting the support from their families and teachers to do that. But I also see that many kids could be doing a lot better and being happier with their music making. I don't think they can do it by themselves even with good private teachers.

Not meaning to boast, but as a statement of fact, if one of their parents had had some knowledge themselves on how to play and learn to play, and been involved, their kids would have played better, and been able to continue progressing, instead of likely being dissatisfied and dropping out early. That's just the way it is. Nobody should be surprised about that, and think that working with your children, helping the learn is the same as being domineering.

Edited: October 26, 2018, 5:07 AM · "For all of us who are not Hilary Hahn those years won't make much difference at the age of 20."

Im guessing if Hilary Hahn's parents thought that way, we wouldn't have her to compare against. I know now that it would be an investment and a gift to the child to cultivate and encourage such skills and talents for when she or he grows up whatever the child chooses to be later on.


Edited: October 26, 2018, 2:44 PM · Tammuz Kolenyo, here's a quotation from a 1991 article (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-12-15/news/1991349004_1_jascha-brodsky-steve-hahn-hilary/2) about Hilary Hahn and her father:

"Grace Yin, Hilary's piano teacher, jokes that after years of scrupulous note-taking, Steve Hahn can teach violin and piano. Steve and Anne Hahn don't consider themselves particularly musical.

Ten years ago, Steve had never heard of the Curtis Institute. Now he can read and help analyze Hilary's music. He has sat through almost every lesson, taking notes, since his daughter was 4.

"I love these people because they are always very calm," Klara Berkovich says.

They are also flexible: With masters degrees in both library science and theology, 42-year-old Steve recently left his part-time job as manager of special collections at Goucher College to help Hilary manage her special gifts.

He provides feedback on her violin practice. He grades her homework. He updates the promotional material that lists her concerts, recitals and awards. He fixes lunch. He figures out how to make the violin's chin rest less abrasive. He drives to and from Philadelphia, ballet lessons, piano lessons, the dentist. Steve and Hilary call their station wagon Homer because they spend so much time in it."

Even for a child less gifted, I imagine that parental involvement makes learning easier and helps avoid frustration during practice. Of course, the parent has to figure out a way to make practice fun and behave in a gentle, authoritative manner without being domineering.

October 26, 2018, 8:53 AM · You say you have a good and kind teacher and instead of looking to the teacher for lead, you are asking a crowd of anonymous people?
What do you do if our advice contradicts the teacher's? Go to her and ask her to follow the recipe of unseen voices in the winds of Internet?
Micromanaging works only when you know the topic very well. Otherwise, let the expert you hired take the wheel and release control.
Edited: October 26, 2018, 11:36 AM · Carlos, I second you in trusting the teacher. I was not going to ask for any micro level advice, but wanted to seek for ideas to boost the interest and focused practicing. My daughter has learned for over 1.5 years, I've never said one word about her mistakes or how should she practice, though I don't have deaf ears and have some basic music knowledge.

The interesting thing is most people here think a kid needs a parent to help consistantly in order to learn better and faster. That is the point I don't understand, I always think no need to harry up, kids are kids, turely talented kids are extremely rare.

It was after a student consert, a mother chatted with me like I was an idiot, because I seemed indifferent and I did not take photos and videos. Another mother was kind hearted, told me I'd better get her a bigger size violin and can rent a better one, because it would sound better, I could only thank her and smile. To some extent, I suddenly thought I might be the frog in the well, so I posted. It's great to learn from others' experience selectively.

Edited: October 26, 2018, 11:15 AM · Carlos, what if the teacher was not all that you had in mind?

I think it is really helpful to pose such questions here, while maintaining mindful respect towards one's teacher. The only thing I have my reservations about is that it is difficult from the get go, without supplementary background information, to know who is qualified here to give advice. But that is another topic

October 26, 2018, 12:37 PM · There are many ways up the mountain; don't feel like you have to pick one path or fail. Between being a violin student, violin parent, and violin teacher, I've seen it all. To reiterate, violin has a dropout rate of 80 something percent. That's really high, and I think as much due to all or nothing approaches by parents and teachers as to the difficulty of the instrument. Don't worry about the other parents in the orchestra- time will tell. My high school's concert master (a Texas All State violinist) had very controlling parents, and hasn't touched his violin since he graduated high school 20 something years ago. One of my students had a late start to violin (age 10), and her mom was made to feel bad about it by the orchestra moms. She's now outpaced that group and made top youth orchestra in our city. We hear lots of advice from tiger parents and teachers about high levels of parental involvement, but nothing at all from the kids who are the recipients of it. There is a connection between overly involved parents and adult anxiety disorders. (I think some parents also confuse involvement and control.) Have you asked your daughter what she wants you to do? Does she want you to sit in on her lessons, or would she rather that be her thing?

What are your daughter's goals for music, what are yours, are they realistic, and are you supporting them? Those are the only four questions that you should answer. Don't beat yourself up that you're not pushing her as hard as other parents; who knows what's going to happen to those kids in the future?

October 26, 2018, 2:50 PM · I agree with all of the points about giving children space. Some societies, especially English-speaking ones, seem to have evolved in the past few decades into stripping children of every last shred of autonomy and privacy in favor of round-the-clock supervision and control. Parents are even seeing more legal trouble for not being essentially helicopter parents.

Also, the thing that almost no one brings up in these discussions, is the classist assumption that parents have the time and resources to sit around and supervise every moment of their child’s early musical development. I think it’s a small part of why classical violin is mainly seen as a rich kid’s sport. If a parent is working a few jobs, they most likely aren’t going to get to sit there and watch their kid practice. You don’t see this really in any other genre, or even more than a few instruments in the classical world ( show me a neck-breathing clarinet dad, or a tiger bluegrass guitar mom ).

Edited: October 26, 2018, 3:06 PM · Im not really educated on the subject but it seems to me that there is no shortage of famous violinists who didn't come from rich families at all.

Also I strongly disagree with this "Some societies, especially English-speaking ones, seem to have evolved in the past few decades into stripping children of every last shred of autonomy and privacy"

In fact, tendency is towards more privacy and more autonomy, less family time. Children are much more likely to have their own room, their own telephones...

While yes, one doesnt want to stifle the character out of a child, the fact remains that children are not adults. To pretend that they are able to make their decisions alone or that thet do not need an adult building a comfortable, secure structure that has their future in mind isnt in their best interest imo. At the same time, that means nourishing their self esteem, their self confidence and ability to be equal with others (not less not more).

So we dont need to be raising contradictions here. Mindful discipline is not the opposite of giving kids space, listening to them.

October 26, 2018, 3:22 PM · Jeez, guys, you DO realize parents can be heavily involved in the pursuit of violin without being crazy controlling tiger parents, right? And without taking autonomy from other aspects of their lives?

You should already know based on OPs disposition that they're never going to become a tiger parent, even if they felt they were supposed to be. So there's no risk here of them going off and suddenly becoming an over-zealous monster.


I've seen both sides and there were definitely some parents that I needed to scold (in the nicest way) for being too controlling or picky about what their kids were doing.

But a vast majority of my students would benefit from more parental involvement, not less. And not mean involvement, but gentle suggestions.

One of my most successful young students has a parent that also takes lessons, and gives as much input as he can get away with at home, but stops if things escalate. Eventually the daughter was able to take over practice completely and is able to utilize lessons efficiently on her own now, but if her dad hadn't *started* by being involved in a gentle but persistent way, then I actually think she would have given up fairly early. Now, she loves the violin and it's her source of pride, and she no longer needs much parental managing.

October 26, 2018, 3:41 PM · I was deliberately a bit provocative in my post above. This is why: When I was 12 my mother let me go on hours long bike rides without even asking where I was going, so long as I was back in time for the meals. How manyy kids have this sort of freedom nowadays? And or course my parents had even more such freedoms in their own youths (though they were also asked to work more at home).
This is why I am always feeling sorry for our kids and why I feel that we should let them have the freedoms and space we can still afford them.

BTW I doubt the assertions about learning how to practice. For a beginner it is easier to practice efficiently than for an advanced student who has many more issues to consider and observe. Also a seven year old learns slower than a ten year old, so there is room to catch up for late beginners.

October 26, 2018, 4:45 PM · Erik, I did make the distinction between 'controlling' and 'involved.' Controlling parents are always bad; however, it's important to recognize that some students don't want or need their parents involved, and that's okay too. It doesn't make you a bad parent, it won't make your kid a bad musician.
Edited: October 26, 2018, 6:46 PM · "To some extent, I suddenly thought I might be the frog in the well, so I posted. It's great to learn from others' experience selectively."

Well, I think I just learned the expression 'frog in the well'. Thank you.

Sophia, with respect, I'm not sure that you're quite appreciating the degree to which some of us believe that parental involvement in music can be beneficial. It's not usual for Erik, a music teacher, and I, a music parent and student, to agree entirely - I just wanted to make a point of that observation for what it's worth. The point I'm trying to make now, is that we/I respect your inquiry and attitude, and ability to choose the manner and degree to which you involve yourself, but from our personal experience, the potential benefit from greater parental involvement is significant, and we, or at least I, wouldn't trouble ourselves to try to convey that point unless it was so.

Moreover, that greater benefit is not for professional pursuit of music or winning competitions or anything like that. The general benefit of music education, participation, is having better understanding and appreciation of music, and to have it more in your life.

October 27, 2018, 1:10 AM · Julie said: ---"it's important to recognize that some students don't want or need their parents involved, and that's okay too. It doesn't make you a bad parent, it won't make your kid a bad musician"---


I'm assuming we must have different types of students, as it has been my experience that in a vast majority of cases, when a child specifically requests that their parent stay out of lessons and out of practice at home, it's because they want to be able to mindlessly play for their required time and be done, instead of slowing down, playing in sections, and engaging in other high-quality practice habits.

Of course there are always a couple of exceptions and I identify these kids right away, because their overall temperaments and behavior demonstrate that they are different. They have a naturally independent aura. Also, these types of kids usually have an attitude of apathy about their parents watching, rather than actively resisting.

October 27, 2018, 3:30 PM · I have taught a few students ( in violin/viola, music theory, and math ) and there were sometimes some extenuating circumstances as to why it was impossible for the parents to be involved. It would have been awful of me not to accommodate. One was part of a program for low-income elementary school students. I taught him for free, his parents only spoke Spanish, and the dad was a low-functioning alcoholic. One kid was a homeless teen who took the bus to meet me every weekend and I think he may have been in and out of the foster care system.
Then there was one girl in elementary school who came from a much more stable living situation, but was extremely independent and organized. She was involved in gifted programs and her parents placed high expectations for her adaptive skills. I communicated almost exclusively with her about scheduling, and she took care of several pets, and also cooked some meals for herself using YouTube tutorials.
Edited: October 28, 2018, 2:34 AM · J Ray, it is off topic, but I don't agree with that there is much connection between "music appreciation" and "greater parental involvement", especially if the involvement refers to parent learning the instrument and guiding into details. On the contrary, I doubt that too much parental invovolment might lead music education to the other direction, which means ruin the love of music. I value free choices and free time a lot in kids' development. It could be cultural difference or personality related. But I did see some talented kids, who were too busy and supervised too well, struggled in finding meanings of life when they became independent, though not in violin playing.
Edited: October 28, 2018, 6:12 AM · " it is off topic, but I don't agree with that there is much connection between "music appreciation" and "greater parental involvement", especially if the involvement refers to parent learning the instrument and guiding into details."

Allow me to explain why it is not off topic. I know from my personal experience that music education, performance, is greatly beneficial to the capacity for music understanding and appreciation. There are probably formal studies which support that view - that those who have a greater degree of music performance experience are more likely to be aware of and appreciate certain types of music - one is much less likely to be a specific music fan if one doesn't have some appreciation of the grammar and language of that music, which is learned when one learns to play the music. Even if one comes into this life with a sort of pre-existing tendency towards music, further involvement in that is necessary. And while we might want our children to do music because we believe that it will help get them a higher-paying job or better university admission, if we do it out of an ignorance of the value of music itself, it may still become a happy ignorance whereby the child develops that appreciation.

Greater parental involvement in music as I intend it doesn't mean being overbearing and preventing children from the free play of their own minds and abilities. It means supporting and enabling them so that they can succeed better in the process of their own music education. That process is not exclusively performance-based, as even with Suzuki, there is an emphasis on listening, and the parental support can and should extend to facilitating and creating greater opportunities to hear great music.

Greater parental involvement beyond enabling the circumstances so that that happens is not necessary, as music teachers can and do take up that task, with love, expressing and sharing their love of music with their students. But a music student has a greater chance of being successful with help, and if they find that they are not being successful they will be discouraged and drop out, and conversely if they are successful they will have greater self-motivation to succeed further.

I'm still learning to appreciate music better myself. I've found that not only am I able to be more critical of professional performance (which is a mixed blessing, but at least if I find that I don't like something I might be able to better identify why that is so), but also to hold and be aware of and appreciate more complex music in my mind. I find this to be continuing - that I can listen again to music which I heard many times decades ago and hear new dimensions of it. I'm not listening to more music now, but I am playing better, and as a consequence am also more eager to play more. Is it odd how that works or just an obvious correlation?

October 28, 2018, 7:01 AM · " I did see some talented kids, who were too busy and supervised too well, struggled in finding meanings of life when they became independent, though not in violin playing."

On this point, what exactly is the meaning of life if it is not also in the enjoyment of the great things one can experience in life? And what is the meaning of life? How does doing music exclude one from finding that?

It seems to me that you suggest that translating success in music to a paying job in music is difficult. Few, and notably few even on this board would dispute that. That's a fact of current life, and also a consequence of the lack of music appreciation in the general public as a consequence of their limited experience, and also a consequence of the performances not 'speaking' sufficiently to the audience, sometimes by having expectations which are greater than they can manage. But it's not a challenge that anyone is free of, and doing music doesn't necessarily make it harder -- there is documented evidence to the contrary. What might be harder is thinking that you have to give up the joy of music to work, for example, as an programmer, but this is not so.

October 28, 2018, 8:28 AM · J Ray, thanks for giving me a English lesson:). I've never connected music education to school admission or job paying in the future. I appreciate parents who provide opportunities to let kids explore the world in their own ways. It may sound a little bit irrational and illogical, but I treat the investment in education as sunk cost. World is diversified, I understand some parents like graded exams to evaluate their investments, some others take it as a chance to improve their own abilities in certain areas, and some enjoy doing together with their kids as it is family time. Since my kids are rather young now, I don't consider too much when they ask for some courses. Of course, if they really show interests even after encounter small difficulties, I tend to encourage them to work hard and dig into it. That is the initiation of my post, how to motivate and encourage kids in violin practicing. However, I like loose management.
October 28, 2018, 8:35 AM · " I think it’s a small part of why classical violin is mainly seen as a rich kid’s sport. If a parent is working a few jobs, they most likely aren’t going to get to sit there and watch their kid practice. You don’t see this really in any other genre, or even more than a few instruments in the classical world ( show me a neck-breathing clarinet dad, or a tiger bluegrass guitar mom )."

Two points. One: I'm a 'clarinet dad' too. My son started on piano and then I had him add violin as an ensemble instrument so that he could have the experience of playing in a group as I had, in high school. In middle school he was forced to take another instrument, which I resisted, trying to substitute the violin instead of having another instrument detracting from his piano and violin. We had some great success with that - the school expanded its string program, but I was not able to avoid having him take on another instrument, which was chosen to be clarinet. And when he did, I worked with him, and his music teacher then told him, as a manner of speaking, "you went from zero to hero!"

Second point. I'm not rich in local terms at least. But when I attend lessons with my son, and hear the teachers sharing their love and knowledge of the higher aspects of the music with my son, and I hear him playing Chopin or Debussy at home, I do feel enriched and privileged.

Edited: October 28, 2018, 8:45 AM · What I mean "struggling in finding meanings of life", has nothing to do with contribution to the society or a decent job, but fighting with depression because do not know where their true interests lie.
October 28, 2018, 10:22 AM · "if they really show interests even after encounter small difficulties, I tend to encourage them to work hard and dig into it. That is the initiation of my post, how to motivate and encourage kids in violin practicing. However, I like loose management."

Sophia, it is sometimes difficult to understand you, but that has little to do with your English - it is excellent (for a second language) - and probably more to do with my own soapboxes. (I also apologize that I'm not making any effort to simplify my language usage for a non-native speaker (though perhaps I should?), in part out of respect for your ability.)

On my soapbox, I declare that if you want to help someone learn, you have to learn yourself, and the subject here is worth spending the effort to learn, and that children in particular can be and are greatly helped by their parent's efforts in this. I would continue saying that the parent's involvement in music will be taken as an example, as a facilitator, and as a shared activity, and none of this necessitates micro-management or any other negative aspects we might associate with giving direction.

I understand and appreciate that while one might agree with my principles in abstract, it's a very different matter to try to act on those, and bring them into realization, and that some of the lack of acceptance might be because it is difficult to imagine, or even appreciate, without some of that experience or knowledge. Unfortunately, I cannot solve this problem without contradicting myself -- knowledge, appreciation, and willingness to lead by example are necessary.

However, I think even the expression of interest in the child's musical progress is of significant benefit to the child as motivation.

Edited: October 28, 2018, 12:40 PM · J Ray, thanks for your kindness. I am sorry that I seldom use English since graduated, but I have much less difficulties in reading. Hopefully I've understood your suggestions right.

I think we don't have disagreement about parental supporting. But when it comes to executing, you choose to show yourself as a role model, put more efforts into the same subject and lead the way. While, I choose to support kids phychologically, which might means easier and less time consuming. I appreciate your enthusiasm in instrument playing.

I have to reiterate that I like music. I book concert season tickets for myself every year, not because I have a kid who learns violin. My kids listen to different kinds of music freely as they want. I merely can not accept the idea that turning a parent into another teacher at home. Located in north continental Europe, most kids receive music education from public music schools, the more aggressive parents usually try to get their kids into music specialised elementary schools. Maybe parents like me have low expectations, or maybe “rebellious kid” is more accpetable than in English speaking countries.

There are different ways to climb up a hill. All the best!

October 29, 2018, 5:32 PM · Sophia, I think you're right. I think there is a major difference between America and Europe. Overhere, it's not common for parents to sit in class (besides Suzuki). That has nothing to do with how supportive you are.
About your question about "bribing" or using incentives: I use that sometimes, rarely though. For example: my daughter had a big concert, so for 5 weeks long she only had to practice one piece. If she practiced this piece seriously for one week (like 3 times with the metronoom on superslow, practicing difficult parts extra) we would go for an ice cream. And sometimes a new technique on the violin that is hard and not going the way she wants to I would lay 3 candy's in her violincase. She can eat them if she practices that difficult part 3 times. The fun thing is that by doing that she sees for herself that practicing works. Not for the candy, but that she can play that difficult part. (sorry not native English as well, I hope you'll understand what I mean :))


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