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What age to start learning a musical instrument?

(21 Posts)
redskyatnight Fri 20-Mar-09 11:41:47

SiL announced last night that her DD was going to start learning the violin when she starts school in September.

I immediately (as often the case when talking to SiL) felt like a bad parent. I'd kind of thought that mine might learn "something" if they showed any interest when they got to about 7 or 8.

Any thoughts on when a good age to start learning an instrument is? When did your DC start?

ZoeC Fri 20-Mar-09 11:42:40

dd1 has abortively tried recorder - she is 6 and just doesn't have the commitment atm. Maybe in a year or so. I started violin at around 7 I think.

PrimulaVeris Fri 20-Mar-09 11:47:28

Mine didn't start till 8 and 11 respectively - though at their primary not at all unusual to start when much younger.

I thought it best to wait till they had real motivation and they both chose their instruments - dd didn't start till secondary. They really do have to practise too. So though they're both behind some of their peers in terms of grades & exams they totally enjoy it for its own sake.

AMumInScotland Fri 20-Mar-09 11:54:13

When they show an interest. DS was 7 - I've known others to start at 3, or much later. If they don't have an interest themselves, they won't be motivated to practice.

snorkle Fri 20-Mar-09 12:38:18

Mine started piano at some point in year 3, which worked well for one and was too early (or the wrong instrument) for the other. Then they both started group strings lessons in year 4 as part of the curriculum. I wouldn't have thought to do that if it hadn't been for the school, but they both enjoyed it & began proper lessons in year 5. One subsequently gave up in year 7, the other is still going.

When to start depends a lot on the child and the instrument. Several of ds's friends started violin very young (age 3 to 5), but then progress is slow and the keen ones that started in year 4/5 had caught up with all but the very best of them after a couple of years or so.

'The Right Instrument for your Child' is a good read if you are thinking about this sort of thing. It doesn't favour starting too young and (obviously) supports making a careful choice of an instrument that suits your personality type and physical attributes rather than just automatically choosing piano or violin.

cornflakegirl Fri 20-Mar-09 13:12:11

I started piano at 6 and violin at 8 IIRC. Stayed with them both to a pretty high level. Starting at the same time as starting school sounds a bit much though.

thirtypence Sun 22-Mar-09 07:03:42

Ds started cello at nearly 4. He had a whole year before starting school and it helped him cope with ready for school but can't go boredom.

7/8 is a great age to start. Year 1 not so much.

sarah293 Sun 22-Mar-09 07:35:05

Message withdrawn

notagrannyyet Mon 23-Mar-09 12:07:36

Mine didn't start proper lessons until year 4/5. They enjoyed music before then, and could play simple tunes on the recorder. They didn't read the music really I don't think. Just played simple tunes from memory.

I wouldn't have wanted mine to have started having lessons at the same time as starting school. I would certainly have waited until they were settled.

They are 15,13,12 now and all still play. Two are very keen and now play 3 instruments. They are only doing exams in 1 each at the moment, but both now want to do exams in second instruments......££££!

I would agree with Riven....when they want to. I found that my DS really got into playing different instruments when he started GCSE music...... drums/bass anyone! He now want to teach himself keyboard from his little bros piano books. Fine by me but he must get GCSEs out of the way first.

MollieO Mon 23-Mar-09 20:52:05

Ds started piano when he started in reception aged just turned 4. He had been begging for a year so he was very keen. I think that is necessary in order to get them to practise. He is now desperate to learn the electric guitar (he is 5 in the summer) but he has to learn acoustic first and can't do that until year 2. I've told him he also can't do that unless he is doing well on the piano. After that he said he wants to learn the french horn, trombone, trumpet, drums.....

As far as physical attribute goes ds has massive hands which I think is good for piano playing!

ShellingPeas Mon 23-Mar-09 22:03:56

As a music teacher I would recommend concentrating on a specific instrument no earlier than Year 2 or 3 (7/8 years). Lots of reasons for this, but primarily because starting any earlier takes the majority of children a lot longer to progress. Of course, there are exceptions, but I have found that most children who have started learning piano at, say 5, are at the same level aged 9, as other children who started when they were 7.

I only take children younger than 7 if they do an introductory 'general musicianship' course for a term before starting 'proper' lessons. Using percussion instruments (tuned and untuned) this provides them with the foundation skills they need (reading music, being to play in time, and also listen and distinguish pitch) before commencing on learning an instrument.

I would also say that I didn't start formal music lessons myself until I was 8 when I learnt piano and cello, and didn't pick up the flute until I was 13, but had got to Grade 8 in all 3 by the time I left secondary school. I don't think it's age so much (or even natural talent) but a willingness and dedication to learn, concentrate and practice, which many children under the 7 or 8 just don't have at that stage in their life.

Hulababy Mon 23-Mar-09 22:18:56

DD started learning the piano this January (so 6y8m and in Y2) and is doing well. She has a half hour lesson a week and the teacher is lovely and takes things pretty gently. She is learning to read music as well as play. DD had expressed an interest in playing the piano for a while now, since starting school infact. We felt this year was about right for her, and bought a piano at Christmas. Neither DH or me play so I am trying to keep one step ahead at the moment; makes DD's piano practise sessions interesting, lol!

At DD's school they don't start learning instruments until Year 3.

SlightlyMadScotland Mon 23-Mar-09 22:25:38

DTds started playign the recorder in class in Yr 2 (a teacher spends 20mins 1 luchtime).

They are doing brilliantly and DTD1 can simulatenously play and read hte music if she wants to (now Yr3). She seems to have agood ear for music though as she can spot a wrong note a mile off. DTD2 can read music if she wants to. I have to say though that most of their classmates had given up within a term or two and they are the only ones in their class that have continued the recorder.

I think the recorder is a good starting instrument as it is cheap and relatively easy to start to understand the mechanics of music.

They are now learning - as part of the music curriculum in class to play a string instrument. They had a choice betwen violin, viola, cello and double bass. One is doing viola and the other cello. At the moment it is free. I have to say they are finding it quite hard work - despite having what I think is a pretty good understanding of music.

stealthsquiggle Mon 23-Mar-09 22:28:53

Y2 or Y3 is about right I think.

DB2 started violin at 3 - but he desperately wanted to, and the teacher's grandson was the same age, so she taught them both together. The exception that prives the rule, I think. (mind you, he also started suzuki piano at 4 and he still plays both grin)

mimsum Tue 24-Mar-09 11:52:14

I wouldn't have thought there's any fixed rule other than if your dc don't really want to do it then it'll be a hideous experience all round!

I started violin when I was 4 but was absolutely desperate to do it and had to have a 1/16th size violin for the first few months grin - it worked for me because I was really motivated so never had to be nagged to practise and because I was so young I was so delighted just to be making any noise at all that I didn't mind it sounding like strangled cats

sadly none of my dc has so far shown much interest - ds1 started violin in y4 but gave up after a year, ds2 started piano in y2 and ditto and dd (the most tone-deaf of the lot hmm) is "teaching herself" recorder in y1 ...

Everhopeful Tue 16-Jun-09 00:22:30

DD did piano for a bit aged 6 but wouldn't practice so I stopped it. I'll wait now till she asks and I don't think she will for a bit. School teaches them ocarina and recorder anyway. You can worry too much (and I often do blush)

frAKKINPannikin Tue 16-Jun-09 20:23:06

My 7yo charge plays piano and has done for 2 years but really could have done with a general mucisianship course first. He's so obsessed with getting the notes rights with both hands that he still has no concept of tempo or rhythm and can't read music to name the notes or sing - only identify where they are on the piano. Not good.

Do it when they're ready and get some general musical skills into them first is my take on it!

apostropheisback Fri 25-Sep-09 20:21:06

My DS1 has just started violin aged 3.10. But he's desperate to do it (don't know why violin as he's a big double bass fan so I thought he'd prefer cello). He heard a saxophone being played shortly after his 3rd birthday and got the music bug

ZZZenAgain Sat 26-Sep-09 12:41:53

wouldn't it depend a bit on the instrument redskyatnight? Maybe some instrumetns can be started earlier because the motor skills needed are already well developped at an earlier age. Also depends how playful the lessons will be and how long.

With piano you need to be able to comfortably reach the keys I should think so I don't know about tiny little hands being able to stretch that far. Maybe they do more fun stuff, learning to recognise the notes etc if you start piano very early and just using one or two fingers (?).

Dd started violin at 7 and I think that was right for her. The little ones I know who do violin do Suzuki and learn to play by ear (with no notes at all) and they don't use any fingers so just bow and hold. Some people think the method is great, others don't think it pays off but seems to be what the younger ones do. Dd had notes from day 1 but as I said she was 7 and ready for that really.

I was considering cello when dd was younger (4 I think) and the teacher had her sit and hold a small instrument and try some things and she advised me to wait so the fingers could grip around the neck (?) better and also push the strings down. I think for dd that was the right decision. At 7 she also knew which instrument she wanted so I think that was ok too.

When dd was 5 she began learning a simple German string instrument called the Saitenspiel (without the notes, just copying the teacher in a little group of 4, singing the tunes, doing little dances and things and then playingthe tune by ear). It was not at all stressful and I think the teacher did it very well.

ZZZenAgain Sat 26-Sep-09 12:48:34

this kind of thing but smaller, kind of zither which is quite good because it is on the table in front of you and you can see which strings you pluck as you do it. You can sing along as you play too. I was quite happy with that for dd , it was a good grounding for violin as it turned out (not that I was planning on dd learning violin at all)

ZZZenAgain Sat 26-Sep-09 12:53:32

no , she was 4 when she started that and did it for 2 years.

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