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Musical toddler - what next?
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Indecision2020 · 13/07/2020 10:45

Hello, I’ve name changed for this as some details quite identifying.

DS is 27 months old and extremely musical. This isn’t surprising as DH is a classical musician (performer) and I used to be, so DS has been exposed to lots of music at home since birth (from DH practising and rehearsing several hours every day, to lots of singing and dancing with DS). I can set out some of the stuff he can do if anyone is interested.

Obviously DH and I are really well placed to help him develop in some ways, but we both started our instruments aged 9/10 and came from non-musical families who weren’t well off. We were picked up by chance through free school lessons, so have no experience of early music making. By contrast we are in a position to recognise DS’s interest and get lessons for him at a much earlier stage and don’t have a clue what to do (if anything). He’s obviously much too young to learn an instrument now. I don’t want to push him in any way at all, and would hate him to feel pressure or be put off something that has given DH and I so much joy.

Does anyone have any experience/advice? Or could recommend good teachers/groups for encouraging musicianship for preschoolers?

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Indecision2020 · 13/07/2020 10:48

Sorry should have said we are in London.

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Familyband · 13/07/2020 11:00

Hi OP. I have two sons (17 and 19 now) who are both very musical and were pretty musical as toddlers. The oldest is studying for a music degree, plays drums and makes a lot of electronic music. The younger is a sax player and (in normal times!), plays in several different bands. Currently trying to decide if he does a music degree. The oldest, particularly, showed an aptitude for drumming from a very early age. He spent a lot of time wrecking furniture by drumming on it (mostly perfectly in time) and then moved onto toy drum kits and various pots and pans. He and my other son had every kind of toy instrument imaginable and loved music. I did a few musical baby groups with them and always had lots of music on at home like you do. Both played recorder and ocarina at school and then did individual instrument lessons as soon as they were available at school (year 4 I think), and did choir in primary school and another one outside of school. We've just basically encouraged them as much as we can, letting them try everything, doing all the driving, etc, going to all the concerts, but I did make school band compulsory for them, even when it wasn't that great as I think playing in a group is really important. I think if you carry on the way you are, ds will be fine.

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Murmurur · 13/07/2020 11:08

This may sound a bit bonkers but I think youngsters' tap dance is great for children who are musical but too young for an instrument. Lots of clapping & tapping rhythms, gives them great experience of focussing on, feeling & responding to the beat.

I've come 360 degrees on this - I used to think it was pointless until they had the coordination to do a shuffle.

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4amWitchingHour · 13/07/2020 11:14

I think there are quite a lot of music toddler group options - Jo Jingles is a national chain / franchise, but I don't have any personal experience of it. My mum ran her own music club when I was a kid from babies up to end of primary school - she's a music teacher and my brother and I were both pretty musical. Started piano when I was 4 or 5, moved on to violin at 7. Remember my mum doing loads of singing with me when I was little, then I joined choir at junior school. Brother now has a career in music (I don't!).

I think just expose them to opportunities and follow their lead. Google toddler music groups in your area, and see what they're drawn to when they're a bit older - might like particular sounds or sensations more than others (although I'd say piano is often a good starting point from developing a good ear and a reading music point of view - means you know the exact pitch a note should be, and octaves/majors/minors are easier to understand)

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4amWitchingHour · 13/07/2020 11:16

Ooh yeah - totally agree with @Murmurur - movement to music really good when they're too young for an instrument

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SageRosemary · 13/07/2020 11:26

You could have a look at Suzuki music in your area, a private Suzuki teacher might well take a child as young as this or maybe a few months older, the parent attends each class with the child and helps them to practice at home. Yes, violins are made this small, other typical Suzuki instruments include cello, viola, piano, and sometimes mandolin. Teachers often have a basic music teaching degree before studying for years to teach the Suzuki method, working with young children usually from about age 4/5/6 but some work with pre-schoolers.

www.britishsuzuki.org.uk

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TaggieOHara · 13/07/2020 14:20

See if you can find a young children’s choir. My very musical DS did not get on at all with monkey music etc, but took immediately to choir, which he joined at 4 (it was a choir for 4-5 year olds). He successfully auditioned to be a chorister in an Oxford college choir at 6, and has since sung all over the world and made several CDs. Even if you are not a choral family (we are not!), I would recommend looking into the chorister route for any musical young boy or girl.

At 12, as well as singing, my DS is a keen violinist and pianist, although he progressed quite slowly instrumentally in the early years.

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HarrietM87 · 13/07/2020 14:33

Thank you everyone for the suggestions. Pre lockdown I took him to lots of toddler music classes. All the other kids would dance around and participate and he would just stand there completely entranced (and looking a bit gormless!), refusing to join in, and then come home and repeat every note of every song, so I was wondering about a kind of kindergarten stage of a formal music programme rather than classes where they just sing and bash things, if that makes sense? But maybe he’s still too young? His language is advanced for his age (full sentences at 14 months, proper conversations now) but obviously he’s still tiny.

@TaggieOHara that’s a good idea. We’ve thought about that for him. Not singers ourselves but went to oxbridge so know a lot of choral types including people who were choristers at kings as children and know it’s a wonderful training. I wouldn’t want to send him away to school though (getting way ahead of myself!) but in a couple of years will investigate local choirs for him.

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HarrietM87 · 13/07/2020 14:34

Name change fail 🤦‍♀️

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TaggieOHara · 13/07/2020 14:55

He sounds gorgeous. DS couldn’t stand the bashing and dancing either. He used to run round in circles or put his hands over his ears. As soon as he was in a more ‘serious’ musical environment, he was fine!

Regarding the choristership, we were lucky enough to live near Oxford, so DS does not need to board. There are quite a few excellent choirs (with associated Prep school bursaries), which are non boarding. But having said that I know several families who had never considered boarding, but who have been very happy with boarding choir schools. I wouldn’t write it off. Boarding these days is so different to what you or I might have experienced 20 years ago!

Feel free to Pm me if you want to discuss any of this further,

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Murmurur · 13/07/2020 16:59

Yes that's where I was going with the tap really. It's not a free for all, they are focussing on the beat, and it really spoke to my child in a way that sitting round singing Single Dangle Scarecrow didn't. When he started learning to read music he seemed to crack sight-reading from day 1. He's remained a superb sight reader. My completely unproven theory is that tap gave him a good grounding in, and feel for, the basic structure of quavers, crotchets, minims, bars.

But then he has always been very physical with music.

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Noteventhebestdrummer · 13/07/2020 17:54

I'm sure classes like Jo Jingles have their uses but I'd look for a class where the leader actually plays instruments to lead the class rather than using backing tracks.

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randomsabreuse · 13/07/2020 18:06

Look for something Kodaly or Dalcroze based. Basically Suzuki, Colourstrings or (much less common) Musical Steps.

Definitely need a class where the teacher sings rather than uses a backing track with the singing recorded.

I think there's something at Guildhall if you're central enough (in non Covid times). Certainly lots more options than in rural areas!

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Indecision2020 · 13/07/2020 18:15

Yes, the classes he’s been to are local ones led by musicians rather than the big chains. I wouldn’t pay to have him listen to a backing track when we can play to him at home (DH is a pianist, I play an orchestral instrument).

I think Kodály or similar was what I was thinking of. I just haven’t found anything for his age group. But perhaps that is a sign that he is still too young for the moment. Suzuki is an option we should investigate for sure.

We are east London so Guildhall is handy - will see what they have for little ones but have a feeling it’s more like age 4/5.

Thanks again for the comments and suggestions!

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writingandspelling · 13/07/2020 18:20

Similar musical background here.

Yes I agree, lots of singing and aural based stuff and people playing and singing live. Finding music he likes to listen to and talking about what he likes and dislikes or what it feels like (when language allows). Plus rhythm - just basic stuff like trying call and response patterns, movement to music as others have said. We knew ours was musical when she complained (accurately) about people singing out of tune at music groups etc before 18 months and we had to stop taking her because she couldn't stand it Grin In normal times there are great child-friendly concerts all over the place in London too.

Have a look at Trinity string time and the Guildhall string training programme, though you may be too late to get a place even though he is too young to start (!)

We didn't go the Suzuki route in the end but many Suzuki teachers take on 3 year olds and can have waiting lists so worth finding out more if you are interested. Ours started standard lessons at 4 and is now just about grade 3 standard 3.5 years later but I think she would have reached the same standard by now if she'd started at, say 5.

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Indecision2020 · 13/07/2020 20:12

Thank you so much @writingandspelling I’ve just checked out junior trinity and it seems the closing date for DS to apply for their “teenies” programme is March next year - phew! They have musicianship classes starting at 3 whereas the Guildhall kindergarten course and the equivalent at the RAM is for age 4 and up. Those courses look perfect and exactly what I was hoping for - musicianship without starting an instrument yet. I had no idea they existed!

I have some reservations about Suzuki - mainly because despite knowing many professional musicians I don’t know any with a Suzuki background - but I might have a chat to some teachers anyway and see what they’d recommend.

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DonaldTrumpsChopper · 13/07/2020 20:49

I know he's still young, but have a look at your local music centre. Ours runs Saturday sessions for pre-schoolers and once you're in the system, he can move on to other groups.

My ds started in the Reception age group, moved through the system and now (13 years old) plays in the youth orchestra. Loved every second so far.

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SageRosemary · 13/07/2020 20:50

The Suzuki programme seems mainly to be focused on younger children, those still in primary school. In our locality, by the start of secondary school the children progress to standard grade examinations often with the same teacher. That is possibly why you may not be aware of their Suzuki background at the start of their learning journey.

I was at school with a girl who studied Suzuki violin and now plays violin with National Symphony Orchestra. A local music teacher sent his own children to a Suzuki programme, they progressed naturally to the grade system, one is now an international soloist and the sibling is studying abroad and expects to have a solo career too.

In our local Junior Orchestras, more often than not, the lead violinist will have begun in the Suzuki programme. It's not for every family, but it certainly helps if one or both of you is musical and attends the lessons and helps with practice. A consultant I used to attend told me he learned to play cello himself as a result of being the parent who attended Suzuki class with his daughter. At least you would have an early opportunity to gauge the quality of teaching. One of my DC went through the Suzuki programme, will never be a professional violinist in any capacity but developed a love for music and brings the learning to her wind instrument.

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writingandspelling · 13/07/2020 21:03

Oh great. I have heard nothing but good things about Trinity teenies but we didn't get a place despite putting DD down on the waiting list at 1... Sounds like they have changed it a bit. If that geographical area is good for you there is also this and I think they normally have a colourstrings programme there too (there used to be one in the Shooters Hill area but I can't find it now)
www.conservatoire.org.uk/courses/remote-learning-courses/early-years/music

Suzuki wasn't right for us although with a probably similar network to yours I do know a small number of professional string players who look back on it fondly. But I think it depends on the individual teacher and the child as well. It wasn't right for ours.

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Indecision2020 · 13/07/2020 21:11

Yes it looks like you can put their name down between Jan and March in the year in which they’d be starting at 3 in September, and places are allocated randomly. I’m sure it’s very over subscribed but have diarised it to give it a go.

Thanks also for the other link - lots of good options there too! I’ll be on mat leave for a year from this autumn so will hopefully be able to take him to some classes like those, covid permitting obviously!

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writingandspelling · 13/07/2020 21:31

That sounds more helpful than the old approach - at least you're in with as good a chance as anyone :)

Fingers crossed!

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ThroughThoroughThoughTough · 13/07/2020 21:45

I wouldn’t rule out being a chorister because of boarding, though he’s obviously too young for any type of choir now. There are some parish churches with excellent musical training - my local one takes pre probationers from 6, and they do the full RSCM training, plus subsidised organ and other instrument lessons, and singing and theory. For a musical child, subsidised / free lessons is very handy!

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Noteventhebestdrummer · 13/07/2020 22:04

I think the success of a Suzuki learning "triangle" is very dependent on the personality of the teacher and child, the parent can adapt to these to a degree.

Our Suzuki teacher told me my kid should give up violin and that he'd never be able to learn an instrument, that he was too chaotic.

I let her know after he graduated in Music from a fancy university having gained multiple Grade 8s many years earlier Smile

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Indecision2020 · 14/07/2020 10:45

Yes thank you @Noteventhebestdrummer I’m sure that is right. If anyone reading this has recommendations of good Suzuki violin teachers in the London area please pm me (DS obsessed with violin)!

Well done to your son!

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Noteventhebestdrummer · 15/07/2020 04:22

Look at Suzuki Hub and Kate Conway's YouTube videos and you'll see how brilliant she is!

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