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Giving up a musical instrument

(56 Posts)
petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 18:25:32

DS is in his third year of learning the cello - he wanted to do it initially but it has always been some what of a battle to get him to practice and, with all his other activities, nightly practice is never going to happen.

I have just sat with him while he tries a new piece and it ended in tears, he says he is finding it really hard. He would like to try guitar.

At the moment I am saying that we don't give up on things as soon as they become hard/ guitar will be hard too etc. but how far do I run with this?? He's never going to be YoYo Ma so do I just cut him loose now and let him settle on the sofa with Minecraft and telly???

It's so hard finding the balance, I want him to try things and stick at them but I am no Tiger Mother!

Any shared experiences would be gratefully heard.

GoatBongoAnonymous Tue 04-Feb-14 18:29:45

Does he like his teacher? I find that this is the most important part of keeping someone playing - lots of the kids I taught music to in primary school would go on with both flute and clarinet in high school but would drop the one with the teacher they didn't like as much. Also, would group music making help? A beginners' orchestra maybe?

Timetoask Tue 04-Feb-14 18:36:53

You say he is in his third year but you don't say if he is talented at it. Which grade is he on? If he is very good at it then I would try to get him to continue.

petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 19:30:36

He seems to like his teacher and I have spoken to her about him giving up but she is keen for him to continue. He hasn't yet done an exam which the school music teacher (as opposed to the cello teacher) said he would expect him to do. He takes part in a string group and has performed to assemblies, evening concerts etc.

Is he talented at it?? Honestly, I don't think so…. it doesn't seem to come easily to him and he doesn't seem to get any joy from it. I guess my instinct is to let him stop but I am worried about teaching him you can just jack things in if you don't like it….. Do I think he has a future as a cellist??? NO! But I guess that is the advice I am asking, do I accept that he had a good go at it and let it go, do I suggest he tries another interest or do I ask him to stick at it??

petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 19:31:15

*another instrument

Let him jack it in. Of course his teacher wants him to continue. As they get older their extra curricular activities shrink to what they enjoy and/or are good at.

Middleagedmotheroftwo Tue 04-Feb-14 19:36:25

How old is he? String instruments are harder to learn than wind because you have to "find" the right note - it doesn't happen automatically when you press the right key.

Guitar would be easier because of the frets.

You mighty find he blossoms with the right instrument. I think 3 years is plenty long enough to decide whether or not you like something.

Does DS play in any kind of orchestra or smaller group? Making music is much more fun when you do it with other people, and you're effectively practising without realising it.

ShatnersBassoon Tue 04-Feb-14 19:37:23

Let him give it up. It's a hobby, it's supposed to be enjoyable.

LyndaCartersBigPants Tue 04-Feb-14 19:38:48

At least learning the guitar he will have a head start as he has experience of a string instrument, so it's not like it's totally unrelated e.g. Trumpet!

Fwiw, I learned loads of different instruments at school, a few terms of each, plus piano outside of school. I firmly believe that experiencing different kinds of instruments helped to cement a musical understanding, especially as reading music is more or less the same for most (he may learn tab for guitar, which is also another handy skill).

I think enthusiasm is key for all learning, so if I were you I'd let him try guitar instead. The novelty will mean he's more likely to practice often and the guitar is also easier to play anywhere and to take into adult life, so I think it's a great instrument to learn.

In fact I've told my DS (14) he'll never be without a girlfriend if he can play the guitar wink

Merrylegs Tue 04-Feb-14 19:49:58

I have just had the same conversation with dd tonight.

She's said that once she's done her grade 3 next month she wants to give up.

She's capable but not exceptional.

I've suggested joining an orchestra or playing in a group because that would be fun and you get to go on trips and tours but she said it's not fun for her and she doesn't even like classical music anyway.

I feel I ought to encourage her to keep on - (and her teacher is absolutely lovely). But I'm not sure why.

I guess I think playing an instrument is a Good Thing and Character Building.

So, no advice, just solidarity!

petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 20:04:14

Thank you all, some excellent advice, Lynda your's particularly struck a chord.
Merrylegs - you have verbalised exactly what I am feeling, he should stick at it just because… well, he just should!! He gave up fencing this year after doing it since year one… 'capable but not exceptional' pretty much sums up DS in everything. Not a bad thing at all I just know that he would like to find 'his thing' but I guess age 10 is rather young for all that. Can you tell he's my PFB? I am sure I won't stress like this with my older children.

I will let him finish this term as it is paid for then maybe try guitar. How much do guitars cost and would anyone like to buy a sodding cello???? grin

Thanks all

I can swap you a clarinet.

or a horse

petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 20:06:49

shatners and exit - you are so right, he is meant to enjoy it.

motheroftwo - yes he is in a string group but resents it because it is at playtime and he'd rather be out kicking a ball. I'm glad that you think 3 years is long enough, reading the way you put it makes me realise he has really stuck at it.

whereisthewitch Tue 04-Feb-14 20:07:43

I was forced into playing viola from yr4 in primary school, I was so rubbish at it. I perservered until yr1 at high school because I didn't want my parents to be disappointed but I detested the instrument and I couldn't be arsed to practice. I wish I had learned the clarinet instead.
Let him pack it in and do something he actually enjoys.

petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 20:09:22

witch - we should know better, DH put his violin under his Dad's car!! I guess because I never learnt an instrument, I want him to have the opportunity...

morethanpotatoprints Tue 04-Feb-14 20:12:14

Hello OP.

I would agree that stringed instruments are difficult, not only because you have to find the note but you have to hear it too.
It can also take quite some time to get a decent sound and this can put many off as they don't see an immediate improvement.
I think the fact that he has been playing for 3 years shows determination and commitment and suggest that maybe strings or cello in particular is not his instrument.
I totally agree with your point on sticking to something and not giving up, but I also believe that if it gives you no pleasure you shouldn't continue.
Besides guitar is there anything else he likes? One suggestion would be to talk to all his music teachers and find out his musical ability regardless of instrument and then you know whether to carry on and encourage or support him with other choices.

LyndaCartersBigPants Tue 04-Feb-14 20:53:24

Mine have also had a bash at various martial arts etc, I paid for the outfit, terms and terms of lessons, belt gratings etc. then one day they just decide they don't want to do it.

It's frustrating, but what's the point in forcing them? Out of school stuff should really be fun and think of it as a taster for later in life, the more he tries now, the more experience he has to choose from when he's older.

You can pick up a guitar for very little, whether a cheap starter from Argos or a second hand one from Facebook/eBay.

petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 21:27:27

Thanks again- I will talk to him again tomorrow and let him tell me honestly what he wants to do. I think being an adult it's easy to think 'I wish I'd stuck at that' but it's just not in my character to push him hard. I think he's in year five and my attitude has always been 'they'll do as they do' but all the talk around me of 11+ and tutors and school applications has made me wonder if I should be more 'tiger mother'.

I know in my heart that is not who we are as a family and DS is such a good boy, likeable and kind. I will give myself a stern talking to!!

Dromedary Tue 04-Feb-14 21:32:10

I'd hesitate about the guitar. If he wants to do classical guitar, it's very difficult. A lot easier if pop / folk. It's not an instrument you cna really play in groups. A really fun part of music for children is playing in groups and going on music holidays.

Viviennemary Tue 04-Feb-14 21:36:27

If it's ending in tears then it's time to stop IMHO. Mine did piano lessons and I made them continue after they wanted to stop. It wasn't really a good idea. If he really wants to do guitar I'd let him have a go at it.

My parents made me carry on with piano for many years after I wanted to stop. I resented it so much and there were so many other things I could have done instead, but no, years of slogging away at something I had no talent for. I've never regretted giving it up.

petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 22:03:57

Thank you- I don't know much about the different types of guitar and haven't asked why he'd like to do it, I will ask him tomorrow.

I will then pin all my hopes on dd1 who wants to start piano in year three wink

petitdonkey Tue 04-Feb-14 22:05:18

My hopes of him playing Bach's cello suite #1 at his sister's weddings have been dashed....

JulieMichelleRobinson Tue 04-Feb-14 22:55:04

As a string player... it's blooming hard.

Realistically, you probably have to give a term's or half term's notice to the teacher anyway. Make him stick it out for a bit longer, especially if it's because he's just found something hard (not sure on cello but for violin you have to learn third position between grades 2 and 3, or did in my days), but also let him know that you're listening to him. Also, he may just want to play guitar coz it's cooler than cello (it's so not), especially at that age - why not let him do both for a while, if you can afford it?

Dromedary Tue 04-Feb-14 23:11:39

There are easier instruments. You could swop him onto something easier, on which he could make faster progress and play in groups again pretty quickly. I'd consider clarinet, flute, cornet/trumpet. The latter is great as v useful for classical, jazz and brass band (cornet for brass band but basically the same as trumpet). Cellos are more limited anyway. Is there a junior brass band near you?

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