First Instrument - Piano or Cello

Updated on January 26, 2011
L.A. asks from Acton, MA
18 answers

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.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

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.

Featured Answers


answers from Rochester on

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 should be getting him one on one lessons.

Edit My Answer
2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

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!

Edit My Answer
1 mom found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Kansas City on

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.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

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.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

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

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Johnstown on

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.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

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!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

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,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My sister has been a music teacher for 20 years, she has 3 boys. 2 play the violin, one plays the cello, they started playing at around your sons age.
I asked my sister what my son should play, he is 8 and I wanted him to learn something, she said he is on the edge of being to old, but you still have time, but she said the piano is a very lonely instrument, not portable, and if you want to play for a crowd, they have to have a piano - you can't play in an orchestra.
Her middle son who is 17 now, loves the cello, he didn't use suzuki because my sister teaches traditional, but he plays in orchestra, and next year will be going to the royal college of music. it has opened a lot of doors for him - plus the girls LOVE to see a hansdsome boy embracing a cello!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I do not like Suzuki method, because my sister was taught that way and the beginnings of this do not warrant enough songs to inspire in some cases. Although quite talented she completely gave it up. She didn't feel successful. I think whatever he wants to try in life he should be allowed the opportunity. I play the piano, guitar, my sons play guitar, piano, (the oldest one just learned how to play piano and is about to be twenty six!) and although I am older I would like to learn the banjo! But I agree with the other poster if it ceases to be an interest then stop, I stopped and started myself. And my mother is an example as far as learning goes, she got her bachelor's degree after age 75. NO ONE SHOULD EVER STOP LEARNING.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

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!)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Typically the cello isn't chosen as an instrument for toddlers because of the size of it. It takes quite a bit of finger pressure on the strings themselves, as well as a larger body size to hold it comfortably / reach the fingering while bowing. Hence the violin or viola is usually chosen for children because they can actually hold either correctly. Not being able to make music because of being too small to do it at all, or without extreme discomfort can be lethally frustrating.

If he's big enough to reach, however, and the class has a great feel... I'd probably switch, although I might add. AKA I'd experiment, and see if my son was happy doing both... or just 1.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I played the cello starting at age 9. I continued to play for 15 yers, but then gave it up. I know of only one person in my circle of friends that still plays. However, all the folks that I know that started on piano still play piano. Why not listen to him and let him set the way. Personally I would start him out in less intense lessons in both and then let him decide further on down the road if he wanted to give one up, but I would wait a year or two before doing it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

I would say let him choose. I played the cello starting in the 4th grade thru my senior year in high school. I loved it. My kids like it when I take it out and play it, it is only occasionally. It even brought my senior class orchestra to Carnegie Hall in New York City! He's only 4 and 1/2, who knows what his career will be one day. He's a kid, so let him have fun and enjoy everything!!!



answers from Washington DC on

I tried to answer earlier. My puter is being ornery today.
I have four kids. Oldest plays the trumpet, next one the violin
My younger two play the piano, My third has taken drum lessons, violin lessons and she just started the flute. She is 13.
My 4th plays the piano and has taken trumpet lessons and just started the clarinet.

Suzuki Method teaching does not teach the key signatures or how to read music at the very beginning. It teaches them to play by watching the teacher and copying. I am not a fan of that.
My violinist was taught Suzuki method.
She wished that I had started her out on the piano. She can't read the bass clef.
My son plays the trumpet, he also says he would have liked to learn to play the piano, if for no other reason than to know how to really read music. He still has trouble wiht his guitar books, he is teaching himself guitar.

My little ones started late, at 11 and 9. In other countries to really be the piano or violin virtuosos they start the children at 3 and 4. Do you really think your child will want to play at Carnegie Hall? I dont' think mine are headed there, they want to learn becasue we have a huge grand piano in the house and they are not allowed to play it unless they are playing a song.
I would start him on the piano, private lessons. Get him the cello after he can read music or has a grasp of it.
I had 8 years of piano lessons as a child. Because of that the only musical instruments I cannot play are the brass. I can pick up any instrument and once I know where one note is I can figure it out, woodwinds, strings, flutes, recorders, etc. He'll get there too. Plus knowing how to play the piano is just a great skill. Every church has them, most schools, even some hotels.


answers from Chicago on

My daugher is playing Violin since first grade,she is a sophomore in high school now...when I looked into it...I learned, that it is better to first learn a string instrument to train your ears to get the sound right and all the other instruments are than easier to learn.Since let say, a piano ...the key you push down, is the sound you always get....
My son 6 wants to learn the piano, I let the end, it just matters if they wantn to do it and they should have fun with it...



answers from Oklahoma City on

In my experience with life and music goes like this. I learned Clarinet starting in 7th grade. I wanted piano lessons but mom and dad said no. I tried learning piano later in life but had no experience with playing chords. It is also hard for me to learn to read 2lines of music since Clarinet only requires looking at the Treble clef line. So, my advice is keep the piano, if nothing else comes of it he will know chords, and be able to read music both lines, easily. As for playing the Cello, I can't iomagine anything more fun. If he ever gets burned out just put some Yo-Yo Ma on youtube and let him watch him play something fun. He'll want to be just like him.


answers from Austin on

Piano is a great first instrument, but a s a child, I wanted to play the Violin and since I was the one that was going to have to practice, my parents made sure I had violin lessons. Make sure he WANTS to play the instrument.. Follow his lead.

Later he could also take piano lessons.. He may realize on his own it is the instrument he really wants.

Also when our daughter was 8, she was given an electronic keyboard and taught herself how to play the piano..

Next question: Violin or Piano?