Feeling fed up... Why bother learning an instrument in ptimary school to drop it in year 7?

(162 Posts)
stillenacht Wed 18-Sep-13 19:39:46

Exactly that. Feeling very impotent as a secondary music teacher, going through my registers "Yes Miss I can play the violin/trombone/viola/flute/clarinet. I played it at Primary school but gave up before my 11plus/at the end of year 5/4/3".

Every bloody year more and more kids tell me this. Why cant kids commit to learning for the long term?Argh!!!!

schilke What????? Music should be about talent and joy. Forcing a kid to relentlessly practice an instrument they have no interest in destroys any appreciation of music. I loathe music, because I spent from age 6 to 10 having to play an instrument I hated. I was one of those kids you are talking about - first day at senior school saying.... 'yes I have grade 5 distinction but I've just given up'. I have no talent. I got grades through relentless practice, time I could have spent doing something that would have inspired me creatively... art for example. I am a very talented artist, but there was never any time for me to do that. Allegedly hmm

I certainly didn't get an ipad, I got a clip round the ear, but at 11 you can to some extent stand up to parents and teachers and say no more

It's not always about people taking a free ride, it is about parents pushing their own aspirations on children, who are too young to stand up for themselves.

schilke Thu 19-Sep-13 08:38:51

Er, I didn't say they had to play if they didn't like it. I never said anyone should be forced to play. I said in dh's experience children now seem to expect to be great at playing an instrument after a few lessons. He has been teaching for 20 years and has noticed a real change. Something has changed in the fact numbers for orchestral instruments, not just brass, in his schools have dropped.

Music should be about having fun. Dh had a great time in his youth orchestras - trips abroad etc.. Obviously you have to put a bit of work in, but the aim is to play together isn't it?

I also think stillenacht was emphasising the fact that at primary level money is thrown at some schools, but they get nothing at secondary. My boys are at a comp - 240 in each year. The orchestra is tiny. Personally I think it's a bit sad.

Bonsoir Thu 19-Sep-13 08:43:13

Because, as others have said, learning an instrument is hard work, expensive and requires the commitment of the whole family.

Personally I think it is easier to maintain the impetus and commitment in a conservatoire than via school.

MadeOfStarDust Thu 19-Sep-13 08:52:11

Mine do piano - not orchestral - but we have a piano and they wanted to learn, one DD wants to do the exams, the other just wants to play for fun, so we continue lessons. DD is the only grade 3 - or above - in her school's KS3 at ANY instrument so I do see where you are coming from a bit....

but, they did not enjoy the other instruments they were introduced to, so we carried on with piano - which, to be honest, you seem a bit dismissive of....

valiumredhead Thu 19-Sep-13 09:03:41

I think it was very different 30 years ago when I was at school and you could have a free instrument from school and free lessons, all you had to do was sign a form.

It costs ds and I nearly 100 a month for lessons and that's with mates rates as my friend is a teacher and ds's is part subsidised through the school.

OldBeanbagz Thu 19-Sep-13 09:05:22

I think some kids are giving up because of the workload they're faced with in Y5 and Y6. There's so much pressure for them to get L5/L6 SATs that they've being overloaded. It doesn't leave much time for practice with homework and after school activities.

Plus the harder it gets as they work up the grades, the easier it is for kids to give in. schilke's DH is right that a lot of kids do just expect instant gratification these days.

My own DD has a wobble every time she moves up a grade and has been know to be in tears because the pieces are too hard & wanting to give up that instrument. But with a little time & patience we've worked through it.

She's gets a lot of support from us despite the fact i've never played any instrument and DH played neither of the ones she's chosen.

PavlovtheCat Thu 19-Sep-13 09:06:52

Because, they are children.

Lancelottie Thu 19-Sep-13 09:08:05

That's a good point. DD coped fine at primary, but at secondary she wants to try new clubs and activities, and is irritated that our established pattern of music lessons gets in the way.

I've just switched her to in-school lessons instead to free up an evening (so this morning's whinge was, 'But I'll miss PE if it's at 11:30! And it's swimming today!' Can't win).

Lancelottie Thu 19-Sep-13 09:10:53

Stardust, only one grade 3+ in KS3? Bloody hell. She must feel rather a fish out of water. Well done to her if she perseveres in it though.

I suppose it makes a change from the scholarships-and-bursaries realms of MN where any child without grade 5 in two instruments by 11 is viewed as a bit below par.

curlew Thu 19-Sep-13 09:11:40

And in some cases carrying a musical instrument (with the possible exception of a guitar) makes you a bully target. Sad but true.

Lancelottie Thu 19-Sep-13 09:13:48

Yep. That happened to DS, too. He also got picked on for being the only boy in the choir.

He's at a different school now.

itshowwedo Thu 19-Sep-13 09:14:40

Isn't this in part to do with the kind of music people like to listen to? I had subsidised lessons on the alto sax and loved to play, but I didn't like the music that the sax is used for - jazz. I should have learned guitar or piano, because those are the 'gateway' instruments for the music I DO like - rock. I could conceivably have made violin work (I do like a bit of folk too) but that was far from clear to me as a child. It's better that children learn the instruments for the music they're going to listen to.

And before anyone says anything... I KNOW there are some famous rock tunes which feature strings or brass - but they are in the tiny, tiny, tiny minority. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the person writing them did it with a piano/guitar in their hands.

MadeOfStarDust Thu 19-Sep-13 09:16:44

lol Lancelottie - I know, I do wonder sometimes where all these grade 5 11 yr old kids are - I guess you don't see them because they are practising.... ?

DD is over the moon that she is "the best" at something....

musicalfamily Thu 19-Sep-13 09:21:35

I agree that there isn't just one reason but many and most of the ones on this thread I agree with, including the financial and time commitment from the family.

I also think that if a child manages to get to G5 before the onslaught of exams/homework starts, they have a better chance to stick to it because hopefully they can get some satisfaction out of playing and have come to enjoy their instrument. That's what I am hoping for my children anyway, who all play (primary aged).

Everincreasingirth Thu 19-Sep-13 09:24:58

It can be a real struggle though if you are not musical yourself as a parent. One on my sons plays cello. He is 10 and I really hope he continues it in year 7 as I think he really gets a lot from it, not just learning the instrument itself but the discipline to practice, getting together with other children, concerts etc HOWEVER it is really gard to help him with his practice. This week he came home with a piece and tried to practice it this morning and came to a phase he really couldn't remember the fingers or technique or whatever that his teacher had shown him. I couldn't help him as really had no idea what he is talking about, so have encouraged him to practises the bits he knows and scales etc but it is frustrating as I know he needs to practice. Not sure what the answer is .

Jux Thu 19-Sep-13 09:24:59

DD's primary didn't even have a proper choir, let alone instruments. There was a music teacher who couldn't get an instrument in tune if you paid her. The choir was done after school with one of the nursery nurses. The HT was only interested in sport. Their well-equipped music studio was not allowed to be used as the HT didn't want other lessons disturbed.

Extra curricular lessons are very expensive. We couldn't afford them. We have many instruments here, at home, but they are all guitar-like (lute, mandolin, banjoleli, etc or violins). The music shop didn't hire out instruments because the guy who ran it "couldn't be bothered".

DD is now in secondary where there are many opportunities. She is grabbing them with both hands, thank goodness.

I still shudder at the music evening her primary put on. We left after 3 hours of untuned instruments and Abba songs. That was at about half time.

Now, does anyone know of a hurdy gurdy teacher?

Lancelottie Thu 19-Sep-13 09:33:56

Jux, our primary's orchestra was similarly tooth-shatteringly bad. I suspect some of the children were playing two different pieces at the last one.

Takver Thu 19-Sep-13 09:42:40

Do you not think they might come back to it?

I learnt piano & flute from age 7, got to grade 5 by end of primary so not too bad (individual lessons not school!) and gave up when I started secondary because of the extra homework etc.

I picked up flute again around yr 9 and started playing sax too once I'd settled in secondary & felt more comfortable

Having said that guitar and also drum lessons are so oversubscribed in dd's new secondary that you're only allowed to take them if you've already started learning in primary, so it obviously isn't universal.

OldBeanbagz Thu 19-Sep-13 10:02:34

Maybe all primary school orchestras are the same? Ours sounded like they were playing different tunes at the same time!

I was shock when DD's new guitar teacher said he's never had a child start her high school with Gr3 before. Apparently they've all been Gr2 or below.

My two are having subsidised woodwind lessons in yr 3 and 4 now, with loan instruments.
They do swimming lessons (essential for safety imo) and one does gymnastics. There is a football club at school they want to join. And a fishing club down the road that their friend goes to. Will they commit to these long term? Who knows, but at that age they want to try everything. One already packed in gymnastics, but he tried it and got a few badges then decided it wasn't for him. Nothing wrong with that at all.
They have homework that takes up time nearly every day on top of the usual reading. Spellings, projects, maths sheets etc.
So we are fitting in the practise for the instruments but only just. And we are affording the subsidised lessons for two of them for now.

If one or both is really keen then I think they can carry on the lessons at this price till they leave primary school, but the thought of having to actually buy the instruments at several hundred pounds a pop, and pay full price for lessons when they are older... well I'm just not thinking about it.

I had piano lessons as a child, we were bloomin lucky cos a retired concert pianist lived near us and gave lessons to local kids for 50p/half hour. My mother could afford to send all 4 of us for lessons.

When you have more than one child in a family everything doubles, trebles, quadruples the cost. So if my children get to the end of primary and say they don't want to continue with their current instruments, I certainly won't be putting any pressure on them to continue when the lessons won't be subsidised.

I had free lessons in primary school of violin, and then paid £2 a session for private violin lessons until year 8, when I did my grade 3 but everyone told me violin wasn't cool, I joined a youth theatre, and started playing guitar. Fast forward 7 years and I don't regret it; playing violin taught me to read and appreciate music, but my real passion will always be guitar and singing, and the youth theatre essentially shaped my life to what it is now.

People grow out of things - sometimes they grow into new, similar things, sometimes they don't.

Ooh, posted before I was finished - I don't mean to say that my reasons for quitting violin were right, particularly with regards to people telling me it wasn't cool, but we're all impressionable at 12. Just that in the long run, I would've grown out of it anyway. I still occasionally play violin for fun, but it's not something I'd be interested in taking more lessons in.

Peetle Thu 19-Sep-13 10:22:21

You plateau in an instrument - you can quite quickly get to playing some basic tunes, which is exciting, but then each step of improvement gets harder. Eventually it feels like all you're doing it practicing and not getting any better.

I played the violin aged about 8 - I was dreadful and rapidly lost interest. I played the clarinet about 13 for about a year but again lost interest when it got hard (I can still get a note out of a sax, clarinet, etc). My mother said I could give up but only if I took responsibility and didn't regret it later (which I probably do a bit).

Off my own bat I picked up an electric guitar at about 22 and now play in a covers band. Not well and I probably plateaued about 20 years ago, but I got there eventually.

Doolallydolly Thu 19-Sep-13 10:31:50

I also think there's a lot more club choice these days.

My dd does choir, stagecoach, speech and drama, swimming and brownies... Plus she plays the recorder. She is in yr 4. At some point something will have to be dropped along the way especially going into senior school I guess.

They all also offer lots of opportunities as they get older - guiding/scouting in particular offer lots, plus all the shows/trips that come with musical theatre type stuff and the schools do world challenge/d of e.

They can't do it all. I guess as you improve and go up the grades unless you are naturally very musical or really love playing, I can see how musical instruments are easily dropped.

wordfactory Thu 19-Sep-13 10:31:58

OP, DC try lots of things and don't take them forward.

Music, dancing, sports, you name it.

They are finding their way, trying things on for size, discovering who they are.

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