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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

morethanpotatoprints Mon 29-Apr-13 18:38:55


Of course, we will drink champagne and drink to their sheer magnificent talent and success. Will book the royal box now grin

BeckAndCall Mon 29-Apr-13 18:15:00

Why, thank you morethanpotatoprints grin.
I'll be in the audience, applauding your DD. And mine too!

Theas18 Mon 29-Apr-13 16:10:51

Hmm we seem to have a "lot" of instruments here...

But for a child who has a musical interest I think piano and singing are the bedrock of a musical education. My gut feeling is something around grade 5 standard in both is worth pursuing ( though clearly you don't have to take the exams!). That allows you to sing pretty much anything to get the " sound" of it in your head from the look on the page, and sight read anything and play through your accompaniment a bit and understand what it's up to. You also have enough vocal and piano skills to busk, play with mates in a bar or mess etc

Other instruments... Mine have all had recorder as first study. They were good and have the best teacher so dropping it as "proper instruments" (blows big raspberry that's not my phrase) came along wasn't really contemplated. The girls did clarinet (Dd1 has dropped it like a hot potato on leaving school as she never liked it, it was a means to orchestral playing for her!) and DS for some reason (probably being big for his age at primary) ended up with a french horn but also has a cornet and a trumpet (they are mine) that he plays.

Russians I'm so heartened to ear your comments re practice time. 3-4hrs a week is the best we get. There are so may other demands on the kids time!

Seeker I'm with you about rounded kids. " what does the child do for science, literature etc " are all valid comments. I know this child is HE but at my kids school they are not unusual in their musical commitment, and there are many kids of grade 8 standard who aren't even doing music AS/A level.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 29-Apr-13 13:15:23


Exactly, no arguments or having to say no. That was my main problem. If she ever becomes famous, not that the riches usually follow, I will remember you. grin

BeckAndCall Mon 29-Apr-13 11:49:55

Sounds like you've reached a good resolution and it came about naturally - sometimes the right answer just becomes apparent doesn't it?

morethanpotatoprints Mon 29-Apr-13 10:26:05

Thank you all very much for your comments and advice. thanks

We are making a bit of headway in some respects. After a long day of practice and other lessons, I suggested she caught up with an old school friend. She does see them often, but not her best friend from school. Well they had such a good time they are going to do it more often which means no time for clarinet and flute, hooray.
Seriously, I agree with comments about too many to be able to reach a good level on 2 or 3. I did think that violin would be the first to go but she is having her lesson atm and has just asked her teacher if she can skip gr 4 and work towards gr5 next year. I don't hover but can hear from kitchen or if I'm walking past. Teacher said yes!
Finally, I would like to say even though I said she was a freak, I meant it in the nicest way. I love her to bits and am very proud of her, but hate these parents who are constantly bigging up their dc, so I tend to do the opposite at times grin and I think all musicians are a bit weird/different anyway. smile

Thanks all smile

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......

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..........

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.

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 21:05:47

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 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.

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......

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.

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.

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!

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

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 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.

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 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

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

how long has she played the violin?

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

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.

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.

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