18 answers

First Instrument - Piano or Cello

My son is 4 1/2 years old. He has learned group piano lessons for half year. He cannot concentrate very well at the begining but is doing better every month and starts to show more interests recently. He told me that he wants to continue learning piano but with a different teacher. I think that is because the teach often calls his name when he does not listen well. He is very sensitive. Last weekend, I took him to a music school open house. He fell in love with cello and wanted to learn that. The school offers weekly private suzuki cello with Repertoire Group Class. I asked him that if he can only pick one instrument to play, which one he would pick. He said cello.

My son has music classes since 2 years old. He loves music and dance. Is that possible for him to learn both at the same time? I don't want to burn him out, but don't want him to loss the momentum either. If not, which instrument should I start him first and when to introduce the second? I am not a music person, so please be patient with me. I appreciate your response.

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Thank you so much. I got lots of information here. They are very helpful. I think I will continue piano lessons for him but with a new teacher and having private sessions. I will definitly let him try Cello, but at a later time, maybe after he gains some confidence out of playing piano. I got the sense that boys like Cello. I don't think he will lose the interest. I don't have high expectations and I don't think he is super talented either. I just want him to be able to enjoy music and have fun! He is young. If things doesn't work out, I can still wait a while and start later again.

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As a lifelong classical musician, I recommend the piano first...because there is so much more to learn on a piano, and such a wide range. The cello is very limited, although beautiful, and I think the piano provides a lot more excitement and variety...with the right teacher!

That said, I don't believe in group classes...you should be getting him one on one lessons.

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I cannot answer regarding the cello, but I did have 6 years of piano. There were definitely times when I would've quit if my Mom had let me. I am soooo glad she didn't! Playing piano is something that no one can take from me and I will alwys be grateful.

I agree that a new piano teacher is a good idea. I would try a new teacher, to see if that makes a difference. If things are going better, great. If not, try the cello. At this age, they don't have to pick the instrument they will play for life. It's great if they can try several different ones. That being said, giving it a true effort should be addressed. If he loves music and really enjoys the lessons, etc. keep going. 4 1/2 is still very young, and at that age, it's hard to get them to understand sticking with something and I personally don't think forcing it at that age is a good idea. You do not want him to end up hating lessons and music, in general. It sounds like that's not going to be a problem if he's allowed a say in what he takes and with who. Bad teachers/instructors/coaches can make a huge difference. (Even if it's not necessarily a "bad" one, but one who's personality is not a good fit with the child's)

Good luck!

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okay i will be the odd woman out because i too am not a music mom - i was a band geek in high school and college but i did not start at such a young age. my theory for kids, is, if no one is having fun, it's time to stop. (at least with recreational activities) suzuki, from a band kid's perspective, always seemed to me sort of militant, and way too intense. if he loves it and has fun, great. at 4, my son is more interested in running back and forth after a soccer ball. in general 4 year olds lack a lot of focus. it takes a lot of commitment to be a good musician. that seems a lot to expect from a 4 year old. all that said - if he is super talented, and has a passion for it, i say go for it. let him try the cello. he can take both, or he can take time off from the piano to try it out. it sure won't hurt anything. as long as HE is interested.

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I have to disagree with Riley; a preschooler can play cello, and according to the Suzuki teachers I have spoken with, its actually slightly easier than violin, initially, for preschoolers because they can see their hands. They make small cellos, and at 4.5 your son will not even have the smallest size. My 3.5 year old has a 1/8 size cello, but they can come in 1/10 sizes.

Here's our story: I did a lot of research on whether to start with violin or piano, and found that there wasn't a good answer! I ended up choosing violin, primarily because that is what I play (so I could help more) and because I thought it would be better for building his hearing. I called up a local Suzuki academy and started talking with the teachers. On a whim, I asked, what about doing cello? Would that be really hard for a preschooler? The teachers replied, absolutely not. I ended up giving the choice of violin or cello to my son (age 3.5) and he chose cello. He is LOVING it. Literally. Now the most important reason he is loving it is that he has an AMAZING teacher. She is absolutely wonderful at making it fun and keeping him progressing with lots of little songs and games designed around what he likes. I would say, that if you DO stick with piano, find another teacher. Learning music, especially at such a young age, should be fun and if he is not getting along with the teacher, for whatever reason, then find someone else.

Good luck!

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If your son wants to play cello, then I would try cello--provided he could reach. I prefer to have piano be the first instrument because you learn both cleffs at the same time, but why force your child into something they aren't interested in?

To Melissa K's sister--I totally disagree that 8 yrs old is almost too old to learn; I have a friend who never took a lesson until she was in her mid-30s and she's now a member of a very well known symphony orchestra. It all depends on the determination and willingness to learn--not age.

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He told you he wants a new piano teacher. That is reasonable. Does he have the right personality for a string instrument. Is he introspective. My socially adept, friend making grandson told me after a year that he wasn't the right personality for the cello. He switched to the sax. And, he plays very well. He's first chair at his HS.
For now give him a new piano teacher and private half hour lessons. If he loves music he'll be happy to hear himself play. When he's 9 you can give him cello lessons and he'll be very good or he won't play it.

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piano.
Piano leads to all other instruments and makes it easier to learn the others.

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As a lifelong classical musician, I recommend the piano first...because there is so much more to learn on a piano, and such a wide range. The cello is very limited, although beautiful, and I think the piano provides a lot more excitement and variety...with the right teacher!

That said, I don't believe in group classes...you should be getting him one on one lessons.

2 moms found this helpful

I recommend cello or violin lessons at this age. It would help build strength in his fingers and he'd learn the bass cleff very well.

I am a musician and play piano. It is my opinion (obviously not your piano teacher's opinion) that a 4 1/2 year old is too young to take piano lessons. I believe he needs to be older. Strings will help him though, be more able to play piano later.

Does he have meaty fingers, or very slim "feminine" fingers? My son was interested in violin in 4th grade, and and the teacher looked at his fingers and said to him "Oh, you have cello hands! You are perfect for cello!" That made him choose the cello. He played piano well before this, but became upset when he made a mistake. I was happy that he started cello because that was a group exercise and he was able to see that others didn't get upset with themselves when they made mistakes. He stayed with cello lessons for 4 years, and although he didn't go back to piano, he sings now. I am fine with that because he isn't going to be a music major like I was.

I don't see any reason why you can't pursue the dance at the same time. Have at it - it's great exercise and will help him learn well where his body is in space.

All my best,
D.

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If he is really interested in the cello, let him start. Piano is good to learn because it's such an all-round instrument, but practicing two instruments regularly takes a lot of time and energy, and your son needs to have playtime as well as "play time." If he's really into it, let him try doing both for a while and see how it goes, but let him know he may need to cut back later. Talk to the teachers - they will give you good input on this.

While you're at it, please assure your son that when a teacher calls his name because his attention has wandered, it doesn't means she's saying he's bad. It just means his attention is wandering and he needs to bring it back where it belongs! In the same way, when Mama tells him to get out of the road and come back into the yard to play, she's not putting him down - she's giving him a correction. Corrections are good. In music you get lots and lots of corrections! (There may be other reasons for switching teachers, but let's not bring personalities into this!)

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