Music Lessons- Switching Instruments....

Updated on July 27, 2015
T.R. asks from Altamonte Springs, FL
15 answers

Hi All,
My 7 year old daughter has been taking violin lessons for the last 2 months and has discovered that she now wants to play piano instead. Actually she's been saying this the last month, so her fascination with the violin was short lived, although she had asked for lessons for about a year and was so excited in the beginning. Also she doesn't practice her violin but has been fine with going to the lessons until today. Obviously I don't want this to turn out as a struggle and her hating lessons all together, BTW we have been renting the violin @ $27/mo and now if she switches I would have to buy a keyboard which is $150.Which could be cheaper but not if it's only a 1 or 2 month fascination like it was with the violin. So, Is it ok for them to just switch instruments? Have you had a similar situation with your child?

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answers from Boston on

I HATED music lessons at age 7. 1/8 and1/4 notes were just hard to understand. But then at age 10 I started again (on recorder) and LOVED it. I played for 11 years actively and performed in baroque groups. I added guitar and loved that too. Now I still enjoy playing occasionally. I would let her quit and let her have a recorder or cheap keyboard. Amazon has some that start at $50. We have one that has light up keys to teach you songs. No lessons required. Just let her watch some YouTube videos to learn. Less stress more fun. She can always take lessons later.

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answers from Boston on

I don't think kids always find the right instrument the first time. I played violin and I must say it's not an easy instrument - it's hard to get the note on pitch unless the fingers are perfectly in place. My concern with your daughter is that she doesn't practice. So she's not all that interested. A lot of kids think an instrument should be easy - it's not. What I would suggest is that you allow her to stop violin lessons if she is not practicing during the week. (I think, at 7, something like 10 minutes a day is fine.) Tell her you're giving music a rest because she doesn't have enough interest to practice, and you can suggest that the teachers really need to give that time slot over to children who will "do a little homework" every day (or 5 days a week, whatever the recommendation is).

Tell her you will consider piano for when she is older and able to commit to practicing.because all the instruments are expensive (rented or purchased). If she argues and swears she will practice piano, tell her she needs to prove that by practicing her violin regularly, no arguments or delaying, for a month. Let her know that learning to read the music for violin is the same skill she will need for the piano, but piano has more notes (more keys, and ultimately she will be reading 2 clefs for right hand and left hand - you don't have to detail that, but just let her know her violin studies are applicable to piano). Tell her if she does this, you will start looking for a piano teacher and a keyboard to purchase. (You could consider a used one on Craigslist just to save money for starting out.)

If she will practice as directed, then one of 2 things will happen - she will enjoy the violin more and stay with it, or she will at least prove that she understands the discipline of practicing for the piano that will make it worth the time, effort and money to switch.

If she balks at this, tell her she can quit violin and you'll wait until she's older to start another instrument.

Kids often want to join something - music lessons, sports, Scouts, whatever - but then they don't want to stick with it or actually do the work it takes to be even passably accomplished. I used to teach music and I believe in the value of it absolutely, but if a young child isn't ready for the structure of lessons and the frustration that comes from not being immediately gifted at it, then I think it's wise to expose them to music in many other ways (concerts, musical plays, CDs in the car, good musical TV shows, etc.).

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answers from Miami on

I think it's fine to switch to piano. Right now she has no one to play violin with. If she were a little older, she'd be doing it in school and that would help her stick with it.

Piano is easier to play by yourself and will still help her learn to read music. Unlike violin, she'll be learning both the treble and bass clef. So, IF she decides later to join her friends in the orchestra and play violin, she will be able to read the music very well, and only have to concentrate on bowing and fingering.

I would rather let her change instruments than have her lose interest in music overall.

About piano - a keyboard is fine. But PLEASE get her a good teacher. Learning proper hand placement and good fingering is so important. I've seen some awful hand and finger placement, and that just makes it so hard to play anyting, and hard to unlearn the bad mistakes.

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answers from Norfolk on

I've been through both violin and piano lessons.
I hated them like you wouldn't believe.
Practicing was worse than pulling teeth and there was a lot of crying involved.
It turned out my musical talents were more geared for singing.

My sister on the other hand never enjoyed singing very much but she plays piano, guitar and flute very well.

Your daughter has barely started violin - 2 months in is hardly any time at all.
Violin is not easy and it takes a lot of time before you can make any music that sounds good.
Piano is another one that takes time - and you really have to work those hand muscles.

Instead of going for instruments that take a long time to master, why not try her out on lessons for playing a recorder?
They are cheap and portable and very easy to learn.

Our son played recorder for a year in elementary school and switched to clarinet in middle school.
He LOVES it and has auditioned for parts and played in regional bands several times.
I've never had to force him to practice - he does it all voluntarily!

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answers from Boston on

Let her switch. If she doesn't stick with the keyboard you can always keep it around and learn to play it yourself.

My kids learned to play several different instruments. Child #1 stuck with her first one. She did switch over to something else in high school but that instrument was loaned to her by the music department (because they needed more kids playing that instrument for the band). Child #2 switched twice before finding what she wanted to play. Child #3 played 4 or 5 different instruments and child #4 played drums so everything was provided by the school.

As a parent we try to expose our children to a lot of stuff. Some of it sticks and others are tried and tossed to the side.

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answers from Beaumont on

My 14 year old son started renting a sax for his school band and quickly came to hate it. I let him quit. While I don't typically encourage quitting I personally would hate practicing something I disliked. While he's no longer in a school band he's joined his youth group band as a bass guitarist and loves it. Can't keep him off the thing. I think the most important thing is that they enjoy it, otherwise, what's the point?

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answers from Chicago on

Switching instruments is not unusual. My son was in the band at school and played the baritone. He liked it a lot. Teacher at the end of 6th grade decided to switch him to a tuba. Which he hated. He dropped out of band. In highschool had a different teacher who was in the field to teach kids to love music. He played baritone again for a year. Then switched to clarinet. He also did the cymbals in the marching band. He also started playing guitar. In college he picked up classes in classical guitar and piano. He is very well rounded and plays all of them well. He is super good at math. Music helps all aspects of a child's well being. Let her play a bunch of different ones and don't buy anything major instrument wise until you are sure. As an FYI my son got his keyboard at a thrift store for $40. so check that option out when purchasing. you might find a deal.

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answers from Washington DC on

As a parent of a child who takes lessons in both violin and piano -- your daughter might find piano hard too, once she's past the early lessons. Piano at first is an instrument where it's attractively (and deceptively) easy for anyone to make some form of music -- one finger plunking on keys can sound sensibly like music, whereas on a violin, it's much, much harder at first to get a musical sound; there can be a lot of scratching and screeching at the start that discourages kids. That's why your child might have started too young (for her) on violin; she's not ready to work enough to get past that initial barrier.

Have you asked her why she wants to quit it? For instance, if she's not practicing, have you asked her why? Maybe she will admit "It's too screechy" or "I can't get it sound like music or hear the tune" or even --and eight weeks in this is typical -- "I've got a blister on my finger and I hate that." Ask her. Do you feel she's with the right teacher? She might be fine with going to her lessons, but is the teacher experienced with kids this young, and does the teacher give her specific things to practice each week? Does she "click" with the teacher and want to please this person? That helps a lot with younger kids--wanting to get the teacher's approval.

I might talk to her violin teacher. I would bet that the teacher sees this all the time -- kids who drop out after a few months. Ask the teacher what the teacher and you can do to motivate her; for younger students, some teachers offer little rewards for completing certain pieces or for practicing so many minutes in a week, for instance. Or the teacher might have insight such as "Most kids feel frustrated at 8 to 10 weeks but if they stick with it and practice even a little they tend to get music out of the instrument by around the fourth month" and so on. These are the kinds of experienced insights our daughter's violin teacher always has and they do help.

Based on what the teacher says, I might cut a deal with your child where she continues for another two or three months-but with a plan and rewards for practicing. It can be minimal but needs to be consistent. Yes, it is fine to provide incentives -- bribes if you will -- for a kid this young, and to set up practice charts that result in, say, ice cream at the weekend for X minutes of practice in the week. When she's older you won't need to do this with instruments or anything else.

I'd talk to the teacher (without your child present) to talk about some incentives and a plan for practice times with a specific time and place for practices. If a kid is just told, go practice, it might have the same effect as "Go clean your room" -- it's overwhelming, it doesn't give specifics, and many kids this age need a little more direction or they'll give up. That's why if the teacher cheerily says, "Spend 10 minutes a day on these 10 measures of this ONE piece," and you support that with a good music stand and a time each day set for practice, plus incentives, it could help. A practice chart is good (they sell them at music stores but you can make your own; it might go better if the teacher gives her one, so it's something she's doing to please the teacher, and doesn't feel like a chore assigned by mom).

But if you just don't want to go there with another few months and more emphasis on practice, then do have her stop. But I would not let her jump to piano. If she's not ready to practice violin, she won't practice piano either once the initial fun has worn off and she has to use more than one hand, and there is no point doing lessons without at least some minimal habit of practice that she's willing to do. The catch is, if you wait too late, she won't want to try at all. But I'd tell her that if she wasn't willing to practice violin, she can't just switch to piano lessons as it's not fair to teachers to take a slot in their time and then quit on them, and you and she can revisit instruments in a few months. Meanwhile, expose her to a lot of recordings of good string and piano music and take her to concerts if you can --doesn't have to be expensive professional stuff, take her to the middle or high school orchestra concerts which are free!

Does your elementary school offer a strings program? If you decide to just stop for now, consider having her do strings when she's old enough. In our school system kids can start strings in fourth grade but not earlier. By fourth grade, the kids are more ready to try, and even better, they are doing it in a group setting and performing as a group. Does your school system offer violin (orchestra) as a class in elementary school? If so, I'd find out when it starts, probably fourth to fifth grade, and wait until then but try again. Playing in a group can be very motivating for kids, and if the school has a good strings teacher, your child will be required to practice a certain number of minutes a week as part of her grade (also a big motivator).

My daughter (now 14) started violin in school orchestra in 4th grade and piano lessons at home at the same time (yeah, crazy, I know, to start two at once). So she's pretty aware of the different demands of the two instruments, and she has said that she prefers violin because piano requires a lot more note-reading!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Wow, I hope she enjoys the piano. Let her know it's a lot of practicing and she'll need to go over and over and over her assignments. So she'll know it's work.

But playing the piano is awesome!!! I hope she loves it and stays with it.

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answers from Jacksonville on

My son took a school year of lessons on piano when he was in 2nd grade (same age as your daughter). He never really took to it, and by half way through the year, he hated practicing. Hated. It was more structure added to an already structured day, and he was involved in martial arts as well (more structure). He needed more free time. Just that kind of personality.
Now that he's a teen, last year he expressed an interest in wishing he could remember what he'd learned all those years ago. He was interested in a stringed instrument, the mandolin. We got him one and he went online on his own and looked up Youtube videos, etc. For Christmas we gave him some lessons (which he went to faithfully and actually practiced, until he started working a part time job that interfered with the only time slot available). He discontinued them, but if it worked out where he could, he'd probably want to take more lessons.

Daughter, on the other hand, began piano lessons (at her request) in 2nd grade also. She kept with it. We've been through a few teachers due to changing schools and her other activities, etc. (she also did martial arts twice per week and the older she got the more involved with other things--reading bowl teams, math bowl teams, volleyball, etc.)

She is a freshman in high school this year, and still takes piano. She practices on her own without any prompting (her interest level fluctuates from time to time). She goes at Christmas each year and plays for the patients/staff at Hospice. She was our Church pianist for several years. She also began on the clarinet in 6th grade with band at school (going to district band as a 7th grader), playing in jazz band on piano as an 8th grader, and now is a freshman marching in the competition band at the high school on her clarinet. For Christmas last year, she wanted a flute. She got it. And she plays around on it some, but still primarily plays on piano at home. She loves playing music. She buys music she likes or downloads from online, in addition to her lesson music.

So, listen to Diane B. She gives good advice. You just can't know if your child is disinterested or lazy or maybe just hasn't found her instrument yet. Not everyone ends up loving playing instruments. Even if they *want* to.
But Diane has given you some good ideas about how to proceed so that you don't cut off your daughter's interest or desire to play, and yet don't waste the expense of just floundering and switching instruments repeatedly.

Good luck. The piano is difficult, but if she actually does stick with it, you will enjoy years of listening to her practice. How's that credit card commercial go? "Priceless."

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answers from New York on

Piano is a fun and satisfying skill, I say let her try it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I know of three kids same age who went from violin to piano and love it. I would encourage and support it, especially if it is a. Heaper option. As long aS the child continues to play an instrument and has truly tried the one for a good term, which it sounds like she has, then it sounds terrific. Good luck

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answers from Springfield on

i went from clarinet to piano about that age. i stuck with the piano for 5 years before other activities and sports and work got in the way. (would of continued if my piano teacher was better)

so i say let her switch. (i have a keyboard that only cost me $90 so look at other options of a less pricy keyboard if you are worried about cost.

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answers from Washington DC on

i would be far happier letting my kids test-drive several different instruments and find the one(s) they really love than force them to slog away at something they dislike, and turn it into a chore and a drag and something they hate.
the 'finish what you start' mentality among too many parents is applied with far too little discrimination and far too heavy a hand.
my kids didn't take music lessons beyond the recorder in elementary school until they were in their teens. my older loved it, and went on to get a degree in music. my younger had had enough after a year. they both played bass, but hell, we bought a piano just in case anyone were to develop the interest!
no one did. but it makes a beautiful shrine for Apollon.
:) khairete

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answers from New York on

Definitely let her do piano. So much more rewarding and can be fun once she gets the basics down.

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