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Giving up music lessons - talk to me about how/when your dcs did it

(22 Posts)
breadandbutterfly Mon 20-May-13 23:16:06

dd1 has been learning the clarinet since year 3 and is now in year 8. She has always hated practicing it but has struggled on to grade 3 and is now working towards grade 4. Initially, I said she had to get to grade 2 or she wouldn't be allowed to learn another instrument - as I didn't want to buy a quite expensive instrument and have her try for 5 minutes, give up, take up something else, give up etc etc ad infinitum.

But she's now well past grade 2 but won't give it up - even though she's admitted she doesn't really enjoy it and doesn't play for fun, ever, and never practices without extensive nagging.

Surely she should give up?? She enjoys mucking around on keyboards and guitar at home, neither of which she can play - I'd be happy to get her lessons on either or for her to just continue mucking around...

Tell me how and when your dcs eventually gave up their music lessons - was it a long, slow, painfully-drawn out process or a snap decision? Your choice or theirs? Replaced by another instrument or delightful silence?

And how did you break the news to their long-suffering but impoverished music teachers? wink

Mutteroo Tue 21-May-13 01:25:44

The practicing is the boring bit or so my DC always told me. A friend who plays the clarinet stopped playing for six years after she left school. In the end the lure of music called her back & she was grateful her parents didn't sell her clarinets. My friend now plays in orchestras & local ensembles & practics much more than when she was a child yet still finds it boring!

DD played the clarinet from yr7 until yr11. She had told us she wanted to continue playing, but we felt at 17 we shouldn't be nagging her to practice. If she was that keen, it wouldn't need us moaning! So I suppose it was us who made the decision which in the end, DD was quite happy with. DS only played the saxophone for 2 years. He chose to stop once he passed his grade 3 & I doubt he'll ever play again. DD insisted we kept her clarinets as she would like to go back to playing them 'when the time is right'. She was at grade 7 & so as you can imagine, she was very, very good! If she does return to music then that's fantastic, if she doesn't? We have 2 clarinets for the first two grandchildren who decide to learn them.....& a saxophone too.

Saracen Tue 21-May-13 08:11:23

"she's admitted she doesn't really enjoy it and doesn't play for fun, ever, and never practices without extensive nagging."

I wouldn't be happy to have to nag my child extensively to do something she claims she wants to do. Reminding is one thing, if she asks you to, but nagging is another.

What about stopping the nagging and telling her that at the end of each term you'll review the situation. If she has practiced regularly enough during the previous term then you will carry on paying for lessons, and otherwise you'll stop paying and let her pay for them herself. If that means saving up all year for a few lessons, so be it.

That has been the arrangement I've had with my dd from the beginning. I hate nagging so much that this was the only way I would agree to let her start lessons in the first place.

Moominmammacat Tue 21-May-13 08:23:49

No practice = no lessons. Tell her she has a month to mend her ways or give up. No one has to learn an instrument, giving up isn't failure ... just not for her at the moment. And if she's happy just to muck around on other instruments, that's fine. It's just too expensive a business not to take seriously, not to mention demoralising for teachers to deal with children who don't practice. Good luck!

MsAverage Tue 21-May-13 08:32:36

DD started piano at 8, dropped by 11. I did not feel bad, I gave the baby a chance. Two years later, in the new country, she asks for lessons. I paid under condition that she takes an exam. She charges ahead to grade 5, passes it and drops out again. Tries viola and singing, but without looming exam pressure does not arrive to any audible results.

anniesw Tue 21-May-13 10:08:48

It sounds like she enjoys the lessons - I would take the view that it is 30 minutes well spent. Learning an instrument is challenging and so she is doing something which extends her. If she did gym or netball once a week would you tell her it had to stop if she didn't practice? What will she do instead - it could be a much more expensive hobby or just a waste of time - sitting on facebook/going shopping?
Speak to her teacher - if s/he feels the lessons are a waste of time, then you have the answer but if the answer is she works hard then continue.
Whatever you do, try to give your teacher lots of notice and be very honest about why she is stopping

Takver Tue 21-May-13 10:12:41

breadandbutterfly does your dd play in an orchestra / band? If not, is there one nearby which she'd be able to join?

I had lessons from about your dd's age, and gave up I think 2nd year of secondary, because of pressure of homework (and probably social life wink ), same situation, my mum got fed up of hassling me to practice and basically said NO MORE.

But, I moved to playing in an open-access orchestra, which was much more fun, and gave me the incentive to practice a bit within the week as I knew we'd be playing the pieces together at the weekend.

As it happens, I then took up the saxophone age 14, arranged my own lessons through school, and spent hours practicing to the extent that I drove my poor DPs round the bend . . . (didn't help that the dog howled continuously while I played). So a few years off doesn't have to be the end of it.

KatieScarlett2833 Tue 21-May-13 10:14:45

Both mine dropped it in second year. Both played clarinet. I was a bit sad but was not going to force them.

VinegarDrinker Tue 21-May-13 10:22:19

If she doesn't enjoy it, why doesn't she want to give up?!

If she enjoys lessons but not practice, I agree with those who say try not nagging and see what happens. Her teacher may well give her a proper talking to/motivational chat which usually works better than parental nagging!

I agree with finding a band/orchestra/group to play in if possible. Also consider a change of instrument if she isn't inspired but enjoys the music. Clarinet to sax is a fairly easy jump and opens up genres of jazz, pop etc.

dozily Tue 21-May-13 10:34:18

I agree playing in a wind band / orchestra is the way forward and also adds social aspect. Does she enjoy the lessons? If she doesn't enjoy any aspect of playing then probably time to put your foot down!

Madmog Tue 21-May-13 11:12:13

If she wants to play an instrument, then it does need to be practised so she has to realize this is a condition of you paying for lessons. Her school probably has a band/orchestra club - would she be interested in this, as at least she will be getting some practise in there? Do you think she would want to take music as an option, ie does she enjoy music enough to want to do more? If so, then playing an instrument is a good thing to do along side it. My daughter's teacher gives us feedback about once a month as to how she is doing, if she needs to practise a particular piece or scale more. Think this helps, as my daughter knows we know!

Not sure what other children are like, but my daughter started playing violin in year 6 and seems to enjoy it - we had a couple of months when she didn't practise much, but she gets her violin out most days again and even tries to play tunes she knows without having the notes. She's about to take her Grade 2 and her teacher has told her she will be skipping Grade 3 and she is already practising some Grade 4 pieces.

5Foot5 Tue 21-May-13 13:28:42

As others have said on this thread - does she play in any sort of musical group? IME this is much more fun than just practicing alone and could be an added incentive to her.

hellsbells99 Tue 21-May-13 14:18:58

I hardly ever hear DD playing her violin, but she does play in a strings group at school as well as having her lessons. She is about to take grade 5. I have suggested giving up if she wants to but she says she wants to carry on. Its better than her being on facebook etc. Her teacher seems fine with her so I'm happy to just leave the situation for now. But if there was points for playing her yuke and guitar (no cost involved except the instrument and access to youtube) then she'd win hands down!

Theas18 Tue 21-May-13 15:33:04

What does she like about it? Why does she want to keep going. Doesn't sound like it's got a lot going for it at the moment!

We've gone through phases where practice has been very little, especially if they have school exams etc on, but then at other times loads.

About grade 5 is where they can really enjoy playing I think and " tootling around" with the sound track from Les Mis or whatever actually starts to happen spontaneously.

don't dismiss it as a bad job if she can justify the lessons and you can afford them though, we, certainly with the older 2, have had times when one instrument ( their favourite, learned and played completely out of school) has I'm sure been put aside for a bit of a "therapy" session with the teacher instead. Having a wise adult, outside the family to bounce your stresses off then play some duets with (under the guise of " sight reading practice") is sometimes what they needed.

Theas18 Tue 21-May-13 15:34:58

and if the teachers are any good I wouldn't worry about bowing out graciously, they'll have a waiting list!

Kez100 Tue 21-May-13 18:06:41

Son wanted to play an instrument in year 4 and he is now year 10 and had had term time lessons all that time. He loves playing, rarely practices unless there is a performance in the offing, often gets it out and jams with mates, plays in school band and is thinking of starting a jazz group with some friends and, in amongst this, he picked up Grade 2 somewhere along the line while I refused to ever nag because why? it's music and supposed to be fun (unless you have a protégé on your hands).

He has seen many children give up instruments and says he is sorry and can't understand why they'd want to give up something that is such fun and when they are so good. He reckons they may regret it later.

So, my advice, is keep going but lay off the nagging and let the enjoyment return.

creamteas Tue 21-May-13 18:37:09

I'd second joining a youth band, this is what made music fun for mine.

DS1 started recorder at school (doesn't everyone) gave up within a term. I should imagine the teacher was pleased given the noises it made.

DS2 is a drummer, lessons at school and also at his youth band. Travelled over quite a lot of the UK, plus trips to Europe and the US. He didn't practice that much at home, but figured this was his choice.

DD never wanted to try

DS3 played the trombone, lessons at school again. He also joined a junior wind band. He is quitting this term, and I have already told his teacher. Again I never asked him to practice and the amount he played has dropped off over the last year.

None of mine have ever taken exams, as I wanted them to play for pleasure. I don't see the point of the earlier grades. It is exams for exams sake. The one ones that I took as a child were Grade 5 and Grade 8. And that seemed to work out just fine.

teacherwith2kids Tue 21-May-13 18:59:53

DS was a 'duty not plasure' clarinettist - learned at school in a group lesson with a peri teacher - until he discovered the County jazz groups.

Was lucky enough to find a teacher outside school who is similarly keen on jazz, and, in Year 7, his music has relally taken off and he is playing in school orchestra and wind bands and concerts as a solist / with a mate on the keyboards. He seems to cope with the fact that the orchestra doesn't play jazz, but everything else is.

He will take Grade 5 later this year, the first - and possibly only - grade exam he will take unless or until he reaches Grade 8.

He does practise, because he plays with people better than he is and he wants to be like them (he also wants to play the sax, so that's the next step).

Madsometimes Tue 21-May-13 19:34:43

Dd played the guitar throughout primary school, and then in Y7. But she rarely practised and struggled with the logistics of catching up with lessons missed, checking the music timetable for when her lessons would be. So we suggested that she should stop, and she agreed. She enjoyed playing the guitar, and loved her lessons, but it wasn't working out. It wasn't painful.

We emailed her guitar teacher. He was fine, children give up musical instruments all the time, and new ones start.

daytoday Tue 21-May-13 20:31:01

I don't ask my children to practise at all. I don't really draw any relationship between music lessons and actual attainment (as in progress in music exams). If they want to practise then fantastic.

They all really enjoy their lessons - playing with the instrument, engaging with the music teacher. I apply the same rules to music lessons that I would apply to any other extra curricular activity - enjoying it is enough. I know they won't 'get the most' out of their instruments this way.

shaggymaggy Tue 21-May-13 20:42:55

She should quit. I'm a music teacher and can't stand children going on and on for no reason. I actually suggest to parents (tactfully) that they stop if they won't either practise so that they can take pride in improving and playing lots of lovely music, or join some sort of group/band/orchestra so there's a social reason for it. Preferably both of course.

breadandbutterfly Wed 22-May-13 09:34:56

Thanks for all the feedback - lots of food for thought. Esp interesting to hear from shaggymaggy the music teacher's perspective. dd's music teacher is really nice and patient and seems good at making it 'fun' - but doesn't seem to understand how unmotivated she is!! He says she is very musical and just needs more involvement to enjoy it/do well - but maybe he is just saying that to be nice...

She chose clarinet aged 7 because an older friend did it - and I suspect because I suggested she play the piano, which we already owned and which she seemed to have a natural talent at - she was therefore determined in typically stubborn style to do what we hadn't recommended!

She has never really listened to clarinet music of her own volition, classical or jazz, both of which she's done at school (her current teacher suggested she switch to jazz clarinet, which was better initially). Whilst the friend who she copied has turned out to be a clarinet prodigy, grade 8 by age 13, etc - so probably a bit demoralising for dd who is still only at grade 3!

I think she wants to continue only out of a sense of not giving up and because she's already learned some of the grade 4 pieces. She also says she wants to work 'in music' (rather vague, teenage-y ambition) and has talked about doing music GCSE - would she need to keep on with the clarinet for this (or get another instrument up to a high grade v quick)?

She did play in the school wind band in year 7 but dropped out because 'the pieces they were doing were too hard' and I suspect she only wants to do lunctime/after-school activities if her friends are doing them too - none of them play a wind instrument. The music she actually enjoys listening to is all guitar bands, so clarinet doesn't really fit in there - if she could 'join a band' like her pop idols, she might enjoy that, but she'd need to learn the guitar/bass/keyboards or sing instead.

I think having the lessons at school has also been part of the problem - she has to miss normal lessons to get to them, so misses some academic work and not all teachers are helpful - some of them tell her off for being 'late' or absent even though she was at her clarinet lesson! The lesson times change and she's missed several lessons by getting the time wrong - I then get cross and she doesn't progress, but I think this factor does make her feel even less positive about the music lessons, as she's not the most naturally organised person. At her old school, she had problems with the music teachers too - they kept changing/were ill and missed loads of lessons etc and only 1 had clarinet as their main instrument - most did a bit of clarinet 'on the side' and none were very good teachers. Her current teacher IS good and does turn up for lessons - but think it may be too late to get her motivation back. I certainly can't 'nag' it back. hmm

Overall, I think giving up this term is the way to go (unless she needs to keep it up for GCSE music or is determined to pass grade 4). My parents - who are retired - pay for her lessons and it's not really fair on them to pay for something she makes so little effort at. But am pleased to hear of others whose dcs did later take instruments up again. So will keep hold of the clarinet and hope...

I do see a difference with dd2 - she's learning piano and I have never needed to nag her to practice - she's naturally probably less musical, but seems to really enjoy it. Which is how learning an instrument should be, surely?...

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