It’s only natural, in our current climate of the “earlier the better” in education, to want to start our little ones on string instruments as soon as they can walk.
But is it right?
Maybe, maybe not – as a teacher, I look for certain things that signal readiness for the violin. Most kids under the age of five do better in group musical movement classes than in the focused private lessons I and others offer on the violin and viola. That said, there are a few, for whom, the violin truly is a natural thing to learn. They should not be left out simply due to their age!
That said, here is what I look for in a young student:
First – does she have enough dexterity to hold a pencil mostly correctly, or is she at least on her way that direction? If not, then violin may be more frustrating than fun – exactly the opposite of what we want! Note: I’ve worked with students with disabilities that limit finger strength and dexterity, they were fine, just needed more time and help during lessons in these areas.
Second – can he focus for 5-10 minutes at a time? I break lessons into chunks of time that last no more than 5-10 minutes, alternating between note-reading practice and/or games, hold to hold the bow and violin, and practicing making good, healthy sounds instead of the shrieks and screeches about which we so often hear stories. Your child does not have to have an extraordinary attention span, just enough that he can get into an activity, learn from it, and move on to the next.
Third – Are you willing to help her at home? Attend lessons with her, and help her remember to practice, and at least try to help her remember how to do things? You do not have to be a musician to do this, just observant during lessons.
Fourth (and most importantly) – is he interested? Has she asked repeatedly over several weeks or months? If not, don’t bother. I once had a student (a teenage boy) who desperately wanted to learn guitar. His grandmother insisted on violin first – so he took violin lessons. I tried to help him understand how things could translate to violin, but he was angry, did not want to listen, and was unhappy. As a result, I had “the conversation” with his grandmother – explaining that he was not happy, that she was truly wasting money, and recommended two excellent guitar teachers in the area. I later saw him waiting for a guitar lesson – with a smile on his face.
Only you can decide whether your son or daughter is motivated to start – but I can help you decide if he or she is ready, and help provide motivation to continue.
I live and teach in Fort Worth, Texas. I also teach several students online. Are you interested in lessons for yourself or your child? Get in touch!