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how many instruments are too many.

(56 Posts)
morethanpotatoprints Tue 23-Apr-13 23:21:52

Ok, so if money, time, school, work, sanity and other restrictions don't apply how many musical instruments would be too many?

My dd wants to play 6, she plays 4 at present. I don't have a reasonable answer as to why she shouldn't but I'm sure there must be one.

Obviously I know about getting good on one etc, but this doesn't seem to be a problem either.
I am not trying to "blow own trumpet" here but she can get to about grade 3 standard in about a month or two.

Can anybody think of a reason why not? Or knows other dc who have been like this, she is 9

ZZZenagain Thu 25-Apr-13 13:07:37

oh no, don't run her down. If she is good, she is good.

It is true if the instruments are there, it would be odd to say she cannot try them and if your dh can teach her and it costs nothing, why not?

Wafflenose Thu 25-Apr-13 15:54:47

My DD is 7 and plays two seriously - she is about to do Grade 4 Recorder, and is between Grades 1-2 Flute and Music Theory. She can play the piano reasonably well for her age, but doesn't want lessons, and dabbles with the treble recorder and ukulele. She's asked for a violin, and we have said no, because realistically she only has time to practise two properly. I imagine being older and HE, the OP's daughter might manage lots of instruments more easily though.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 25-Apr-13 22:37:43


It is quite strange really, but over the years i have automatically switched off. Sometimes I hear, other times dh can ask if I heard a particular student playing something and I hadn't heard. Other times yes, I have a flaming tune stuck in my head and it won't go. Either something dh, dd, or a student have been playing or something heard on the radio. grin


I don't know and I don't know is the answer, I'm sorry not very helpful. She is only lower levels in terms of grades, and has played the violin for longest. However, within a month she can nearly play the sax as good. Her singing is around gr4/5, but she's not having outside lessons at the moment. I think singing is her best as this is what she has won the competitions in. But as for first study she really doesn't consider one over the other. She practices all of them everyday but will prioritise what is important at the time.
I don't think she's a protege or anything, although the singing receives lots of praise from many. Dh insisted on piano as he can't play much and feels its important. She is only a beginner with this, although picking it up quite well. grin Much to dh's annoyance.

I do tell her I'm proud of her but don't want her to get above herself so play it down a bit. I also never want her to feel that she has to do it for us, so I think its better sometimes to not make a fuss and let her decide. The only thing I really control are some choices of songs, in terms of lyrics.

BeckAndCall Sat 27-Apr-13 13:51:40

Well, you'll go with your own priorities I'm sure, but I'd have thought that for instruments which naturally group together - like the sax and the clarinet, it's not a big stretch to play both. Similarly if she were playing violin and viola - lots of people do. And most musicians also sing. And most musicians play the piano too. So it's not all that unusual, in my experience.

But I wonder if she's a bit young yet to go with the scattergun approach? - maybe after she's achieved higher grades in the first three, say, then branch out - you may be in danger of diluting here time too much.

( I speak as parent of a DD who is grade 8 in 4 instruments, also plays kit and sings)

ZZZenagain Sat 27-Apr-13 14:43:09

so violin is her first instrument, but she is best at singing, with sax and piano she is starting out and finding them easy.

If she is going into music seriously at some point she probably needs piano. Singing is always good and if she is good at it, don't think that will take up too much of her time.

At some point she may have to decide between violin and sax. Especially if she is doing sax + clarinet or sax + clarinet + flute.

dd is 12 now so 3 years further on and I have to say it would be difficult for her to fit in daily practise of 5 instruments and singing on top. Now she is at the point where there is a lot of vocab to learn for languages each week, Latin has leapt to a much more more difficult level and moving fast now. There is also a lot more required rote learning of facts at this point which you have to get to grips with, longer reading passages, essays. It all takes up more time than at primary. Still, so long as you H.E. , maybe you can make that work.

Atm dd has 2.5 hours orchestra rehearsal twice a week. You also have to get there and get back which is about an hour either way - and the evenings are gone. The whole business of music is taking up a lot of her time (and mine) and you can't do everything, so in the end something has to give.

I think sometimes less is more but as you have said the instruments are lying about and the instruction costs you nothing. She does sound as if she has a knack for learning instruments. I would try and get her onto a high level on one instrument and let the others take a back seat if possible.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 27-Apr-13 16:31:27


I think you have a good point there about diluting her time too much.
I have always been aware that most music students who play several instruments are usually a good level before starting a second, this was one of my concerns.


Yes, she has played the violin longest but within a month or so was as good on sax, and her singing after a years lessons (which have stopped now) she is working towards gr4 at winter session and singing gr4 and 5 material in concerts and competitions. Piano she was half way through first study book in 4 lessons, but no grades yet.

MMollyMum2 Sat 27-Apr-13 16:51:16

I played three at school from year three-sixth form(piano, bassoon and recorder) and I barely had time to pratise 3 let alone 4! I suppose I did lots of lubs too, but I just don't think you can do as well on 4 as you can on 3/less. I think she would be better off sticking to 4. What cleff are they in? I mean 4 in treble cleff has got to be easier than a variety-I remember getting bassoon (bass cleff) and recorder (treble cleff) mixed up. the only way i did it was because i played the piano-both. It also depends what cleff the new instrements are to be.

BeckAndCall Sat 27-Apr-13 17:03:12

And one more point - it's not just about getting through the grades and having the breadth of instruments: there needs to be depth to their repertoire and if she wants to be a musician ( and go to a conservatorie) shed be better getting 3 distinctions than 4 merits.

All that's down the road, I know, but at this stage she needs time to cement the basics and cover the range of styles and pieces at each grade before she moves on.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 27-Apr-13 18:09:59

Totally agree BeckAndCall

I know some dc who play more than one instrument and they seem to be constantly working on 6 exam pieces at the cost of building a repertoire. I think an exam every couple or few grades is good if they have motivation already. Plus it is far cheaper than doing them all. I know others who have taken every theory exam, ime not essential until gr5 then 6,7,and 8 if you need UCAS points. I also know two other people, students of dh who came to him last minute really, had a years lesson, did no exams at all and got offers from every conservatoire. It is true that if you have innate musicality grades don't matter.
I will of course remember what you said about the distinctions and totally agree. thanks

thesecretmusicteacher Sat 27-Apr-13 20:24:09

how long has she played the violin?

morethanpotatoprints Sat 27-Apr-13 21:36:09

Hello Secret

She has been playing violin for 2.5 years and doing gr3 in summer. She hadn't read music prior to this though, so started from scratch (pardon the pun). There are also no string players here, so technically have been no help to her at all. Apart from odd lesson dh has sat in on to enable him to remind her what she needed to do. This hasn't been recently though.
We still think she chose violin out of spite, as its all hers and nobody elses. grin Dh and her play some lovely simple duets on flute and violin.
I am getting some practice in on clarinet but haven't played in ages, so we can play little trios. grin

hardboiled Sun 28-Apr-13 11:11:37

hello OP,
your daughter is not a freak, she sounds like a lovely child with a very strong passion!...Hope you don't mind me saying this, but the only thought I would add is that children with specific passions still benefit from a broad input and IMO the best musicians will bring to their interpretations their knowledge of history, art, literature, etc... Also, in the times we are living, it is risky to narrow one's options too soon. I'm just saying this because as she is HE it may be a temptation to dedicate most hours to music which is clearly what she wants but make sure her education doesn't suffer, that she learns a foreign language (actually very useful as a musician!), on top of getting physical outdoor activities. DS will choose music over sport anytime but I insist in sport twice a week, one of them a team sport!

morethanpotatoprints Sun 28-Apr-13 13:20:41


I really don't mind your comments and you are spot on and the music is taking over most of her day, which concerns me a great deal.
We do live near the park and we go to run around there and climb etc, and she dances a few times a week. I know this isn't PE but we try and keep her active. Maths and English is a chore but she has to do a little each day both dh and I are insistent in this. She loves history and will read quite a bit about periods she is interested in. We do need to fit a language into her week at some stage, she doesn't seem to make her mind up which, although she says she wants to. First it was Italian, to help with Arias, then it was German as she found a few little songs she liked, then French and finally Spanish. I think we had better decide for her or it will never happen. grin This is her though, she has to relate everything to music.

bombyxmori Sun 28-Apr-13 16:47:14

Nearly everything has been said! Except I'm not sure how old your DD is?

If she is currently convinced she is a musician, and you want to make sure that the option remains open, is she making the progress she needs to make if her child's dream is to be a real possibility in the far distant future (it comes all too soon). Alarm bells rang because you said her no. 1 at the moment is violin. In that case (or for any popular instrument) she needs to keep up with what other children her age are doing in term of development of technique. Also, if you don't mind me chucking this in, if she doesn't have the in-built fire to want to be able to do more and better on violin, is she a budding violinist?

A visit to a junior conservatoire on an open day - if you're near enough to get to one - would give you some idea of what some of the budding future violinists are capable of - tho' it might be a nice surprise!

morethanpotatoprints Sun 28-Apr-13 19:00:24


She is 9 and has been playing violin the longest, I think she is progressing at a normal rate but certainly not prodigy material. I am also aware though that subsequent instruments could reach the same level as the first instrument in a relatively shorter time as some ground work has been done already. In terms of reading music, learning how to practice effectively etc, this was done through violin so may seem to have taken longer.
I know where you are coming from though as dh has sometimes said he thinks it is the wrong instrument for her. When I ask the teachers at her ensembles they disagree, she plays first in the string ensemble and the others are teens, she is the youngest. I don't think she is exceptional moreover, they are probably below average for their age. grin

thesecretmusicteacher Sun 28-Apr-13 19:34:50

Grade 3 in 3 years is great,well done her. It's within normal levels though I think....... I believe sax is considered to be far far easier (having just reread that "right instrument" book) to get through the early levels.

I told my son, who is 10, that he could not study a fourth instrument. This was because it would slow down progress on his first. It would have been worse in his case as the existing ones don't use the mouth and he asked about sax. He plays main instrument electric guitar and also cello and piano. No exams on electric guitar - no extrinsic motivation needed there. Exams on the others (3 on piano this summer, 1 on cello last term). The techniques on cello and electric guitar are related. I would expect him to be able to join in on bass guitar or jazz double bass using a combination of the techniques he has - if you can play guitar and cello you are 90percent there really. So I am trying, badly, to explain that in a way it gets easier after the first three.

I am not from a conservatoire background but I do follow trends in music education. A true multi instrumentalist would tend to flourish as a specialist classroom music teacher. Arguably this is a far more attractive career than being an orchestral musician, which seems to involve low job security, constant family-unfriendly travel and sometimes playing music you greatly dislike to earn the orchestra's keep (string sections on pop music, composers you don't enjoy).

How exciting to educate with music at the centre though.... You can use Pythagoras' forge to kick start her science career, you can get her to complex proportion through even tempering, I am envious!

thesecretmusicteacher Sun 28-Apr-13 19:44:31

Sorry, still musing..... If she keeps them all up, she'll never be a concert violinist, but she could end up better placed in the teaching jobs market than those who played violin seven hours a day, went to conservatoire and then either didn't get into a professional orchestra or did but then struggled to combine the lifestyle with parenthood and end up with narrow skills.

I suspect perhaps 30 times more people teach music through to retirement than play it in a steady job.

VinegarDrinker Sun 28-Apr-13 20:06:21

At her age I played violin (g5), piano (g4), treble and descant recorders (g5) and sang. I then took up harp which I loved but has always been the poor relation in terms of time to practice etc. My Mum taught me all but harp, so it wasn't difficult to fit them in, although I moved to an external violin teacher after g5 - at her age - for reasons of mother/daughter relations!

I never wanted to be a professional musician and although I reached g8 on violin, I never was realistically anywhere good enough to make it to music college even if I had wanted to. However, a decent broad musical education - including conservatoire standard sightsinging skills - have led to me bring a very handy amateur and opened up a huge number of opportunities throughout my life so far.

In my experience those of my school friends who did the conservatoire "thing" (of which I know quite a few) mostly settled quite early - certainly by 12/13 or so, on a firm first study instrument. If you are going to be putting in 3 or 4 hours a day of practice, it happens naturally I think.

My other half is a woodwind teacher too -first study saxophonist, did the conservatoire route, he plays a silly number of instruments but most of those he taught himself once his sax was already at g8+ standard.

I do think anyone with any wider interest in music should definitely be doing singing and piano though, I will be encouraging my DC to do them alongside any first instrument they might choose.

seeker Sun 28-Apr-13 20:18:11

I have musical children too- although at school. I'm going against the trend of the thread, sorry!

I honestly think 9 is too young to be spending so much time on music- I would be firm about other activities- sport, or Scouts, for example. What does she do for science? You really don't want to close any doors......

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 28-Apr-13 20:51:59

If DD2 was spending 3-4 hours a day on her instruments rather than 3-4 hours a week she'd be a lot further on than grade 4 and grade 3 (as for her singing, well, she sings all the time, but rarely practices her proper songs as she tends not to like them except for the show songs. She spends most of her singing time being Barbra or singing self accompanied folk songs). But then she wouldn't have time for 3 or 4 dance lessons, theatre group, and school. And watching the heavy load of Sci Fi and friends that is apparently compulsory at her age. And reading all the books she can pinch from her sister's room. So, you know. I think she has the balance right. I was diploma standard on 3 instruments and never practised 3 -4 hours a day except maybe in the last couple of days before an exam when I needed to nail the scales. DD1 who intends to follow a musical career (and who is grade 8 level on her first two studies) doesn't practise 3-4 hours a day. Well, not every day. Although since listening is an important part of a musical education too, and since she also composes, I think she is spending more than that doing music. But that's slightly different.

That having said - I wonder how many non musical science enthusiasts are asked what they do for music, hmm? Science is not the world. This country really has gone a little bit mad in recent years, it seems to me.

VinegarDrinker Sun 28-Apr-13 21:05:47

Apologies if I have confused things with the 3-4 hours a day comment, I certainly don't know anyone who was doing that at age 9!

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 28-Apr-13 21:12:50

Vinegar - the OP suggested her 9 year old will be doing that if she takes up the new instrument(s)

VinegarDrinker Sun 28-Apr-13 21:24:29

Ah yes I can see that now! clearly I am far too self centred!

I think it is different with HE. I doubt she'd actually want to keep up with 6 instruments daily, either, so on that basis and the fact it would be her Dad teaching her, I would probably be tempted to let her have a go and see how she does. She could make reasonable progress on the clarinet practising 2-3 x a week if she's already fairly competent on the sax.

seeker Sun 28-Apr-13 22:35:49

"That having said - I wonder how many non musical science enthusiasts are asked what they do for music, hmm? Science is not the world. This country really has gone a little bit mad in recent years, it seems to me."

I would! I'm all for balance. I would ask scientists what they do for music- artists what the do for maths, literature freaks what they do for sport..........

BeckAndCall Mon 29-Apr-13 06:40:32

I'd ask it at 9 ( as would the OP, which is why she's here!), but I wouldn't ask it at 16........

There's a time when you can confidently specialise and a time to still hedge your bets and look at the bigger picture and the wider options. IMHO.

Mind you, if you go to a specialist music school, or a ballet school, then you're effectively spending that much time from age 11 onwards......

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