When to let your child give up a musical instrument

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Image from the article titled When to Let Your Child Give Up a Musical Instrument

Photo: Uriel Sinai (Getty Images)

For many parents, the following scenario is painfully familiar: the child becomes interested in a particular instrument after watching a performance on that instrument. The child begs for one of his own. Also asks for lessons. Promises that they will practice “every day”. Three months and several hundred dollars later, every workout is an argument and the kid says he “hates” the instrument he loved before. They want to stop.

I am a music teacher and have been in this situation with my own child. I have a master’s degree in musical interpretation on the viola, and I also play the violin. My five year old son was very interested every time he saw me play, so it just seemed natural to buy him a tiny little violin and start teaching him.

And it was great for a while … kind of. My son was good at the violin, but if he didn’t hate it, he didn’t enjoy it either. He didn’t like me harassing him when he put up resistance to training. He didn’t like practice interfering with his playing time. He didn’t want me to criticize his bow grip or the shape of his finger on his left hand. He wanted to go play Legos.

Reluctantly, I packed the little violin and let my son give up.

I taught probably about 40 violin and viola students over the past fifteen years, and my perspective on whether and when a child should be allowed to quit smoking has definitely changed over this time. I used to think that if a child signed up, they had to follow through, and I even went so far as to think that if a child was talented, parents were justified in forcing their child to overcome their resistance. .

What I have learned since is that children have temperaments better suited to different instruments. For example, the violin is extremely focused, requires a high level of coordination, and does not produce what you would call a “nice” sound for several months, even for children who are quick learners. Wind instruments and brass instruments are similar. The piano takes dexterity and concentration, but as long as the piano is tuned and you don’t hit it indiscriminately, it’s hard to make a truly unbearable sound on the piano. Ditto for the guitar. Unlike the violin, guitars have frets to show you where to put your fingers. Follow a chord chart and boom, you play music.

My son switched to the guitar shortly after giving up the violin. And guess what? He’s good at it, and he loves it.

It’s time to let your child quit smoking when:

  • Every workout is a battle
  • Your child does not want to go to class even if he loves his teacher
  • They tell you they want to stop

Yeah, it’s that easy. Basically, if your kid is obviously not in it, there’s no point in forcing him or her. No need to torture the music teacher by dragging your child into class with their lower lip sticking out. We teachers don’t appreciate it any more than your child.

Having said that, it is quite reasonable to set an end goal like “play your recital, then you can quit” or “finish the lessons we have already paid for” in order to encourage continuation. Most children will enjoy lessons if they know the end is in sight.

THEand your child tries another instrument

You can often rent an instrument from your local music store or, if you find a teacher first, they can help you find a budget-priced instrument on Facebook Marketplace or similar to get you started. That way, if it turns out that this instrument is not your child’s jam, you can resell it for the same price you bought it for. I did this with several violin students who later determined that the violin was not their thing.

It is also useful to find a teacher who will allow you to pay by the lesson or by the month rather than a studio which charges a large fee up front for an entire semester. This way, if your child is unsure, you can back down without wasting money. Or maybe your kid just doesn’t like music. I am fine too. Try a sports or art class and see if it sticks better.

The point is that forcing a child to do something he hates just because we want to or think he is good at it is not healthy for anyone and does not yield positive results.

And it might just prevent your child from figuring out what their jam really is.

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