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Old 10-01-2012, 01:39 PM   #1
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Violin lessons

Anyone have any advice? Or any experience with playing a violin? My DD6 (kindergartner) has been asking to play the violin for months now. She even just asked if Santa can bring her a violin. (I paused and said that was a little big for Santa!). I told her I would research lessons for her and see what I could find. (I would definitely look into renting before buying any instrument.

1. Is a just turned 6 year old too young for the violin? (She is an advanced 6 yr old I would say though - she is reading at a 4th grade level).
2. Where should I look for the most budget friendly lessons? How much is average? (Do college students sometimes give lessons? - we have a major University here).
3. Any advice would be great. I told her I do know (or have heard), that the violin is one of the hardest instruments to play.

BTW - her school has band (no orchestra) that starts in 5th or 6th grade, so that isn't really an option either
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Old 10-01-2012, 01:53 PM   #2
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Suzuki method teachers start even younger than age 6. Your daughter is old enough. In a city as big as Kalamazoo there had got to be a teacher or two for her. In our area in NC, there are actually a couple Strings stores where teachers put up their names for lessons (much like a piano teacher would). Look around for a music store that deals with String instruments and ask the staff.

My kids didn't start until middle school, but there were two little boys that lived across from us that started at age 3-4 when my kids were little.
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Old 10-01-2012, 02:20 PM   #3
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My DD9 started asking for violin lessons, right around her fifth birthday. I put her off, thinking she wouldn't have the drive for daily practicing, plus it's supposed to be a hard instrument, etc. She wouldn't give up, so when she was 6, I started her with a rental instrument and a HS senior taught her.

After a year and a half, she switched to cello. Now, she takes cello lessons with a private tutor, in addition to playing with strings at her elementary school. She's also in a prep orchestra at the local college.

So, it can all work out, but I strongly recommend that you start out small, and not have much in the way of expectations. Honestly, I thought she'd have 3 lessons, and then decide she wanted a pony. The joke is on me! But I will tell you, strings starts in third grade at our school, and there's a high rate of attrition, because so many of the kids don't want to do the daily practicing.

P.S. YOu can rent the right sized instrument, they'll trade you up as your child grows, and usually you eventually own an instrument.
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Old 10-01-2012, 02:31 PM   #4
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Don't have any first hand advice to give other than having taken a few months of group violin lessons in elementary school (between maybe 8 to 10 years of age). I did not want to take the lessons so it is a great thing that your daughter is asking to take them. We live in the Austin, Texas area and I know that our major university here, The University of Texas at Austin has something called the "String Project". At the time I looked into it for my now 14 year old (he was a toddler then), the price was around $500/year. I believe the program is mainly staffed by graduate students but those I know whose kids were involved in the program said it was a good thing (very affordable) and there was a long waiting list and you had to sign up years beforehand. My brother owns a music store and discourages people from spending a lot of money on an instrument until their child is in a full sized instrument. I talked to him about an instrument for a friend whose daughter is in 8th grade now and in a full sized instrument. She has been taking private lessons and has been in her school orchestra for 2 years. She is also able to rent an instrument from a store near her for $20/month. I don't know what violin lessons cost but I pay for private lessons through the school for my 9th grade son for bassoon and sax. Fees are $16.00 to $20.00 per 30-minute lesson and $12.00 to $15.00 per 23-minute lesson based on the experience and degree of the respective instructor. In the summer we opt for longer lessons and I think I have paid up to $32/lesson (for an hour?). My son did not have any music lessons until he started middle school band and those who had earlier exposure (piano lessons, etc) were at an advantage. I believe my nephew started violin lessons at age 3 and he is now a music major in college. But after 10 years of violin lessons he does not play the violin in college!
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:36 PM   #5
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I've got a 15 year old daughter who is a pretty serious violinist. She's in a regional orchestra and has a quartet that plays for weddings, parties, etc.

Personally, I'd hold off on the lessons until the child was older, probably 8 or so. Dd's tutor doesn't like to take really little kids, but has on occasion. The tutor holds recitals twice a year and I'm often there before our lesson and hear the other kids.

The ones who start very young tend not to learn much. They get nagged at to practice and get frustrated. When they are older, it only takes them a few weeks to learn what the little ones learn in a few years. It's also much more fun for them when they can play in a school orchestra with their friends, which begins around 4th grade here.

Around here, there are lessons available through a town summer enrichment program that are very inexpensive, and are often taught by certified music teachers. They are a great way to gauge whether or not the child is ready.

In general, I would be leary of trying to go for "budget" lessons. Some of my dd's contemporaries did that. What happened is that they learned poor techniques and acquired sloppy habits, and it's extremely hard to undo that kind of thing. The kids with great tutors tend to stick with it. The others don't.

We pay $60/hr for private lessons with a professional.
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:46 PM   #6
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My 9yo DD has been taking violin lessons for a couple of years, and I know when she started her teacher had several kids that were younger than her. So I definitely don't think that 6 is too young in general. Like most things, it will just depend on the kid.

I will say that my DD just in the last couple of months has started really taking to it - until then I always had to nag her to practice, and she dreaded lessons, to the point that we almost quit several times. But all of the sudden, she started just loving it and practices willingly now. Don't know if it was an age thing, or just getting to the point that she was good enough to finally be able to enjoy it more. So don't be discouraged if it takes a while.

I would definitely recommend renting a violin for now. My DD outgrew her first one after just a year, and I was so glad to be able to just take it in and swap it out for a new one. I would have been really frustrated if we had bought one and had to try to sell it that quickly. It would take us several years to break even on the cost from renting to buying, so it just doesn't make sense.

As for finding a teacher, you will find that prices can vary a lot. Typically, individuals teaching out of their homes are cheaper, and can be very good. For us, that situation didn't work out well (I had a 5 month old at the time - sitting on her couch during the lesson trying to keep him quiet was a disaster, so we had to switch to a big studio that had a waiting area. It's a bit more expensive though). Just do a Google search for violin lessons and your hometown and you'll probably come up with several lists.
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:58 PM   #7
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Just a few pieces of advice:
  • DON'T BUY A VIOLIN. Renting is perfectly acceptable for the first several years. Most reputable string shops will allow you to "trade up" as the child grows. Speaking of:
  • ONLY DEAL WITH A STRING SHOP. If the music has other instruments, turn around and walk out. Strings are a very specific specialty, and like any other specialty, you need to use a specialty store.
  • LESSON ARE A MUST. Even group lessons are okay. Do not simply hand your child a violin, it's very simple to cause long term damage to the child's body, their technique, or to damage the instrument or bow.
  • Don't pressure the child to practice relentlessly. Nothing kills the desire to learn like parental nagging.
  • Prepare yourself for years (like 5-10 years) of absolutely horrid sounds. Literally. Getting a decent sound on a violin takes absolutely years of practice.
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:16 PM   #8
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Well, it's not ALWAYS true that you sound terrible for the first few years on strings. As I mentioned, DD9 has been playing cello for 18 months. Her "Amazing Grace" has brought grown men to tears. I have actually witnessed this. Now, she's actually been playing strings for 3 years, but violin and cello have different strings, bowing, music, etc.--violin is treble clef, while cello is bass clef--you get the idea.

I will say that my DD loves the cello. She even brought it on our vacation this summer, despite breaking a string just prior to leaving. I had to spend half the vacation, running around in a strange town, finding a string shop to re-string it. But, she's probably more dedicated than the average bear.

OP, I would definitely look into lessons at this point, but try not to be too discouraged if your child doesn't stick with it. Also, it's better if she learns to sight read versus Suzuki--I've heard horror stories about kids ahving to basically start over reading music after learning Suzuki. If she's a good book reader, there's no reason she can't learn to read music.
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:33 PM   #9
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Yeah, my kid never really sounded all that horrible. I wasn't confused that Sarah Chang was in the next room, but it wasn't ever really bad at all.

We rented until dd was in a full sized instrument (rent to own) and I certainly don't think you need a strings-only place. You do need a place that has a good selection, and very knowledgeable staff. Our place did repairs just fine and offered very good advice.

Re the pressure to practice, if the kid doesn't practice, they don't make progress, period. If you have to nag a whole lot, you will suck the joy out of the whole thing. If the kid doesn't have some level of self-motivation to improve or get some enjoyment out of playing, I think it's a waste of time all around and maybe it's time to move on to soccer.
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Old 10-01-2012, 05:00 PM   #10
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Six is not too young, especially if she wants to play. Start by finding a teacher. If your local high school has an orchestra, give the director a call and ask his or her advice. You can also contact local music store (a store specializing in string instruments is not necessary and may be hard to find). I agree that you should start with renting a violin rather buying.

I do not agree that it takes 5-10 years of practice before you can play something which doesn't sound "horrid." This is quite an exaggeration. If your child practices and has only a small amount of talent, she will improve quickly and you will not need to invest in ear plugs.

Playing a musical instrument will help your child in many ways. Go for it!
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Old 10-01-2012, 05:37 PM   #11
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This is coming from a high school violist (similar to a violin, but we play in a lower range and use a different cleft). I was 9 when I began the viola, and I do recommend starting a bit younger off than beginning in the early teens.

Rent until your child is in a full size, when your child is in the largest size the store carries for rent, or your child is finished growing. I started off at a 12 inch viola (1/2 size violin), but over the span of almost ten years, I grew into a 16 1/2 inch viola (roughly an inch and a half to two inches longer than a full size violin). The company I rented from only rented up to a fourteen/fifteen viola, and by the time I grew out of the largest rental possible, I knew that I would be sticking with the viola for the rest of high school (and, hopefully, the rest of my life).
Start Early. For me, I find reading and playing an instrument to be like learning a foreign language. It will be easier for a person to learn a stringed while around the ages of 7-10, when they are willing to try anything and good habits can form easily with the instrument, than it is to learn when they are in their teens.
Practice, but do not force. Of course, practice makes perfect, and even I am sill trying to catch up because I refused to practice during the crucial first years of learning. If you force it down your child's throat, your child will not want to play the instrument.
Look around. If you have any older children or can easily talk to the school orchestra teacher, talk to him/her about private teachers (if you want to). At her age, I do recommend getting a good private tutor or waiting until she can join the school orchestra in order to prevent developing bad habits some teachers teach. When your child becomes a bit more advanced and able to easily read music and play decently, I do recommend YouTube for additional and more advanced lessons, such as shifting and vibrato.
Earplugs I also agree that your child will sound horrible for a while. It takes a few years for your child to fully become comfortable with an instrument and find ways for it to produce a beautiful tone. Even when I do my own "cramming sessions" (particularly for events that I perform in for my school), I sound absolutely horrid when sight reading and trying to get a run correct.

As for stuff like the Suzuki method, I do recommend learning how to READ music first before you learn stuff like tone, pitch, etc. I've only really begun to focus more on making sure "ring tones" are correct, I am producing a good sound, etc, until I began high school. I did begin with the Essential Elements collection (they offer it for violin), and it did help set up some sight reading essentials I needed to master to survive the rest of orchestra.
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Old 10-01-2012, 08:04 PM   #12
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I haven't read everyone else's responses, but 6 is not too young to start at all. My son started at 5 years old, and has been playing for 4 1/2 years. The younger beginners sometimes sound pretty rough (I am talking about 3-4 year olds here). But most sound pretty decent fairly quickly with regular practice! We have a friend whose college-age son is studying violin and I think he is phenomenal. But his mom says those who play even better started at around 4 or 5 years old.

I did see the suggestion to rent first and I agree with this. Many places will have a rent-to-buy policy, so that part of your rent will roll over to the purchase price of the full-size violin when you are ready. Which probably won't be until she is 12 or 13. My almost 10 year old is still in a 3/4 size, and he is slightly above average in height.

I would definitely call the music department of the local university to check on teachers. Also, a smaller symphony orchestra might have some musicians who are also teachers. Both of my sons teachers (first and current) play for the county symphony orchestra.

We have not had a problem with the Suzuki method; of course, we began before my son was reading, so that was the only real option at the time. A good teacher will know how to transition the child to reading music and when they are ready. He reads quit well now.

Like your daughter, my son asked to begin lessons. While there are times I have to nag him to practice, that is usually when he has just begun working on a new piece and it is harder for him. So we push, and once he begins to get it, he is more motivated!
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Old 10-01-2012, 08:24 PM   #13
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Both DDs started piano at 3 year. We have used the Suzuki method. You may want to research it and decide what will work best for you. Suzuki method teaches playing by ear before note reading. It is called the "mother tongue" approach. When you learned language, you first heard the language, then learned to speak, then learned to read. Suzuki is the same. You learn to play by hearing the music over and over and over and then learn to play and later learn to read. Both my children can read music well. The are 9 and 7 years old. In fact, they now combined reading and their ear to play the Suzuki pieces. I don't want to start a debate about Suzuki. I had no idea what Suzuki was, so I thought I would give some more info. It has worked for us. It requires a lot of parent involvement. Parents attend lessons and act as coaches for practice. The method is not for everyone for many reasons.

So, yes, you could begin violin. I started piano at about that age with traditional lessons. Good luck.
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Old 10-02-2012, 01:44 AM   #14
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Absolutely not too young.

Suzuki started with violin, and what he developed has been going strong for decades.

I'm of the 'as soon as they show any interest and can actually hold or vaguely correctly use an instrument, it's lesson time' school of thought.

Also don't agree people will sound bad for years. It's like anything, you learn, you improve - and also as anything else, little kids learn faster. I mean 2-3 or 4 yeah, it's not the greatest, but nor is it an hour of practice at those ages, but you're well past that mark.

She wants to play, find a good teacher experienced with her age group and let her!
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Old 10-02-2012, 09:46 AM   #15
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starting young

My daughter started violin lessons when she was 4 1/2 as a preschool enrichment class they had at her school. She loved, loved, loved it. They started out learning the parts of the violin,how to hold it, the names of the strings, and plucking the strings to a few songs. Then they moved on to using the bow. There was an adorable recital in the middle and end of the year. You really did see growth. This year she is in a more advanced class for elementary school kids (she's in Kindergarten now). Again she really loves it and is learning to play basic songs. We rented a violin for $60 from August to May and we bought a book for about $10. She practices at home when she wants to. I don't push it at this age. I don't think it is too early if you have the right mind-set. At this age it is about enjoying music and learning an instrument, not joining an orchestra and becoming a prodigy. Go for it! You and your child will be happy you did!
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