Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The instrument question

I apologize for the gap in time since my last post. I've been trying to figure out what to write about -- not because I don't have topics to write about when it comes to the challenges of raising gifted kids, but because I am experiencing many of those things personally right now. I'm trying to figure out how to write about my children given that I am not particularly anonymous on the internet and they're increasingly literate.

But here's a topic I can write about -- starting kids on an instrument. My 6-year-old is quite interested in music. I have a keyboard he's talked about playing, and he has tried a few notes on. However, he also heard one of his friends' older brothers play the violin and was quite taken with that.

I think he'd like learning to read music and I think he'd find studying an instrument challenging in a way that aspects of school work are not. So what direction do we go? I'm curious what age Gifted Exchange readers started their children with various instruments and your thoughts on which are good for beginners. Are there good ways to try different instruments given that we probably won't take on lessons in more than one instrument at a time? I suppose one option would be to try violin first in a more structured lesson setting, given that I can show him how to play the piano. But I'm curious what people think, and your children's experiences with learning music.


Erica said...

My son was reading before he was three and he started on the piano at four and a half. I found a used piano simply because I wanted to start playing again. He never expressed any interest in music, but the beginning books were only $6.00 each, so I figured it wasn't much of a risk if he didn't like it. As it turns out, he not only loves it, but seems to have a pretty incredible talent for it. He went through all the Alfred Early Beginner books, then levels 3-5 of the regular books within the first year. When I could no longer help him , we found a teacher who is just right for him and he is loving it. She teaches theory, technique, and other elements of performance that I never learned. I would say that if you can help your son for a while, give it a try, and if he shows a real interest, then look into lessons. If not, nothing is lost.

calee said...

Is there a (high quality yet still fun) Childrens chorus in the city? Audrey is in one here where they start learning to read music in 1st grade and they are sight singing by the end of 3rd....

'Nother Barb said...

If a child is expressing interest, it's time to start. My younger son pestered us for a piano (the electronic one wasn't his cup of tea) when he was 5; finally got one when he was 8 or 9. He played a lot of pieces by ear (I play), then started lessons. I wish we'd been able to accommodate him sooner! Did you know you can find the sheet music from video games online? He has a lot of fun with those (except they never end, just loop...and loop...)

Oh, and now he enjoys the electronic piano more, playing around with the different settings.

nicoleandmaggie said...

I meant to start DC1 on piano age 5. He probably could have started age 3, but there aren't teachers that take 3-4 year olds and I was too lazy to push it. I did try to get him started with a children's keyboard, but he can be difficult/overly silly when I'm trying to show him a new thing so I gave up.
We decided to get an electronic keyboard rather than a piano to start. Then the baby was born and I kept meaning to find a teacher and finally pushed that task off to DH, who took about a year to contact a teacher. So he started age 6, which is the same age I started.
Music is supposed to be good for brain development, the earlier the better. But life intrudes.
They're starting the recorder at school (3rd grade) this week. My ears are already bleeding, especially since we also have a smaller cheap Scholastic recorder that DC2 (age 1 year) likes to blow on while DC1 plays hot cross buns.

Kristi Lea said...

My older child took an after-school keyboarding class in Kindergarten and 1st grade. She loved it, though she didn't exactly leave a virtuoso. Santa brought the kids a keyboard for Christmas, one with keys that light up to help teach songs. It's mostly a toy at this point, though they both occasionally like to play on it (and can follow the lights to play a little). She is now in 4th grade, and her school has a band program starting with 4th grade, so she's learning the flute.

I feel guilty about our younger child. He's in 1st grade and hasn't had any structured music class outside of school (we changed schools, so that afterschool keyboarding class is no longer an option). He loves to play around on the keyboard, and we have a couple of guitars (my husband plays), and he will sit and strum and make up songs with those. Some songs even sound not-quite-earsplitting. My husband took piano lessons as a kid, but taught himself the guitar after college (and played regularly at church and for weddings for years-he's quite good).

We don't have the time to add yet another activity into the weekly schedule--hubby and I are already driving both kids around pretty much every day of the week for soccer, gymnastics, and scouts, and adding music lessons would make a hectic schedule even more stressful. So for now, we're letting the 1st grade just explore music on his own and will happily sign him up for band in 3 years.

nicoleandmaggie said...

For us our priorities were/are:
1. Swimming
2. Piano
3. Other extracurriculars

So far we've made it to step 2 with DC1. We're pretty lazy parents.

Joanna said...

I started piano at 6,and my sister at 5. My parents bought a used Baldwin upright at first, and years later they bought a nice Kimball upright

Gail Post, Ph.D. said...

It seems that starting with whatever you child wants may be the best way to go. However, some instruments pose challenges due to a child's age. String instruments may be more frustrating at first, and require greater patience than a piano. Very young children may not be able to master the embouchure, or facial muscles required to manage a woodwind or brass instrument. Given this, usually a piano is an easy first instrument. Children can transition later to something else if they choose.

What is most important is finding the right teacher who connects with the child, can inspire and encourage, but never shames or harshly criticizes.

Parents also can work to support the emotional needs of their musical children, as I discussed in a recent blog post.

Anonymous said...

If there's any chance he might be interested in being in a serious boys' choir, and if there is one in your area, this would be the age to start thinking about it. The one I know on my side of the country has boys start in first or second grade and go through a series of training choirs. It's wonderful ear training and so forth even if he doesn't keep on with it through the performance level.

Nother Barb said...

Do you play the piano with/for the kids? My father would keep us out of Mom's hair during dinner prep by playing children's songs and "Sing Along With Mitch" songs and we'd sing along. We had quite the repertoire, and memorization is a terrific skill. It also got us reading the words and music along with him, before we "formally" learned to read either.

Somehow, though, our younger brother who missed out on much of this is the only one who can carry a tune in a bucket now.