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Older kids starting music lessons?


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My oldest started last year asking for piano lessons. (I wanted to start all the boys when they were young, but we just couldn't afford it.) Part of his Christmas this year was piano lessons. I found a wonderful teacher for him, she's a newly married grad student and so enthusiastic. He's been taking lessons for three months (teacher had a personal situation that mostly ruled out February). I almost died this afternoon when I actually "knew" what my son was playing. I was changing sheets in another room and found myself waltzing with a pillow. It was a waltz from a Harry Potter movie and he totally did it. I was amazed. My gangly, skinny son was playing graceful music!!! What a hoot.

 

I'm wondering if our inability to pay for lessons might have helped our son. (None of the other boys show any interest in playing an instrument as of yet.) My son is so motivated to learn and practices without me ever having to remind him. Actually, sometimes I have to remind him to stop. He actually thanks me after each lesson! I don't know that music is his future, but I think he'll learn to play well and he'll retain that ability throughout his life.

 

I meet so many adults who took lessons as children who can't play anything. I was first flute in our city's young people symphony (I don't know what they call it now) in 7th grade. I can barely read music now.

 

Anyone else have experience with older kids learning music? Advice? How are they doing now? I'm so excited to see my son develop this side of himself AND to see him apply himself with nothing from me. (He even drives himself to lessons - I am the passenger lol - but he's always nagging me to see if I'm ready to go - do I have my book? a drink? do I need a snack? Can we go now?)

 

His teacher is wonderful. She treats him as an adult and is doing a lot of music theory. I sit outside and read during his lesson. She sends me or calls me with progress reports. She really understands letting his be all "his thing."

 

Final question - we have a really old piano (1920's upright) that someone gave us. It's out of tune, but not terribly. Are we better off having it tuned or just getting my son a decent keyboard?

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I don't know, but I just suggested to ds7 that it might be time for him to learn a hobby. I suggested learning an instrument (thinking piano). He nearly leapt off the sofa as he exclaimed with animated (yes, like cartoons!) glee, "The TUBA!!!"

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I'm a big advocate for early musical experiences, however, that is not the same as learning an instrument. There are certainly aspects of learning an instrument, particularly piano, which require a great deal of coordination, concentration and focus that is simply not as readily available to a young child. You will almost always see an older child advance quicker.

 

That said, there is a lot that goes on musically in the brain of a younger child that you just can't see but this does not require formal piano lessons. I'm going to assume your son did not live in a musical vacuum these years you couldn't get him lessons if he has such an enthusiasm and a good start.

 

I believe in most cases a good "ear" is developed young, though not always from a formal instrument. Often the younger children will learn an instrument more slowly because they just don't have the full required skills developed yet. This pressure can, if not handled correctly, backfire and waiting would have been better. On the other hand, despite slower progress initially, it's hard to see exactly what internal wiring is happening with those little brains that will show up later when their coordination catches up with their musical experience. So, I have no quarrel with starting them young on instruments either. It can be good for you in other areas of learning because it translate to other skills less tangible than coordination and note reading.

 

I know I just turned full circle and didn't really offer anything amazing. It's late.

 

You did not hinder your son by not starting piano young, which you have obviously found out. You only hinder a child when you do not provide exposure or any natural music making at all. I'm thrilled he is doing well. I knew quite a few who were late starters with piano, my brother is one of them. He still plays and enjoys it a great deal. Advancement is slower but much of that can be linked directly to the time restrictions of an adult with a job and kids compared to a high school boy with a bit more time on his hands, not a reflection of how old he started.

 

A piano that age may have more delicate strings that could break if note tuned with care. A digital piano won't have this added cost risk so in the long run you may be better off if you can afford it but I'm not particularly knowledgeable in that area. I just had our last piano tuner warn us about ours.

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Thank you - Cheryl and Jean. I think maturity is a big factor. And, Cheryl, you're right, he's been around all kinds of music (at home, live in various settings) since he's been a baby. Even now that he has his own money and downloads his own music, his choices are, even when not my thing, remarkably good. We'll see what happens.

 

Thanks, Cheryl for the tip on the old piano strings. His teacher recommended a tuner to us and we'll see what he says.

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He loves it, is very motivated and his ability grows by leaps and bounds each lesson.

 

My 9yo dd also started at the same time. She likes it Okay but doesn't have the same passion. She is no where near him in abilty yet, even though they have sat through each others lessons and had the exact same amount of instruction.

 

I think there is a maturity to music that is reflected in the child. I debate on whether I should just wait for dd to get a little older and restart her then or keep plucking along now. We have asked around and the general conscencious is that unless you have a prodigy, starting under the age of 15 is the key. If there is a real interest they will follow it with less parental involvement when they are older. They also agreed that a prodigy would have become apparent even without a piano. Most instructors suggest waiting until the child has interest so there is less struggle and more willingness to learn.

 

I would have the real piano tuned, if nothing else so the kids have a choice whether to play the keyboard or a piano. My old piano story.... I was given an old piano by my in-laws. It is very old and had be inherited by them in a family homestead. The original owner (a great-great grandmother) was a music teacher. I, too, was contemplating a good keyboard instead but decided to invest in a basic tuning and inspection. I had a very reputable tuner come out. He told me that the piano was in okay condition now and is very playable but that I needed about $1000-1500 in repairs if the kids continue to play it in a year. I about choked and visions of the $500 digital piano at Costco dance through my head! Then he informed me that the piano was one of the best quality he has heard in a long time and that while the repair bill would be steep, that the piano would cost about $15,000 to replace in sound quality! I guess that is worth the repair bill! He even offered to buy it if I decided to sell it.

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Ds started with the viola in 3rd grade. (OK - everyone was playing something, I'll give it a try) They had a choice in school of violin, viola or cello. We moved. The new school wanted everyone to play violin or cello. He was switched to violin for 4th grade (no enthusiasm, hated it) After complaining for a year, they let him go back to viola for 5th and 6th grade but produced music that had the violas "drone" in the background all the time. (All enjoyment for music had been stripped by this time. After 4 years, he was still in Suzuki Book 1.) In 7th grade, we let him quit strings and do the default recorder. Music was a total loss. Personally, I think it was entirely caused by the attitude of the music teacher at the school.

 

In 9th grade, we started homeschooling. Ds said he wanted to play piano. He'd had a keyboard for a few years, as a toy. We decided to give it a try. He practices on his own both on the piano and on his keyboard with a headset (no nagging), played recognizable music within a eek or two and is learning music theory too. It is the only thing he cares about being on time for.

 

The difference is amazing.

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Dd 1 begged to take piano. I finally allowed her to start lessons as 6. She loved it for a couple of months, then it became a struggle for the next year and a half before I allowed her to quit.

 

Dd2 started guitar lessons at 11. She is still taking and begging for an electric guitar NOW. The one she wants is not cheap. She has saved half the money for it and met all my conditions. Guess I may be buying it today.

 

Dd3 started violin at 12. Boy did this kid take off. No screaching! I didn't know that was possible. After only a year, the instructor asked her to join her ensemble group. She has never had a beginning second year join ensemble before. I recognized some of the other kids (this is a group of mostly adults). They have been playing since they were 3 and 4 years old. I've been told it is time to move up from the beginner violin. I have yet to make that purchase. I'm trying to hold out for her birthday. This kid does practice. We have to take that violin on every trip we take because she MUST practice every single day.

 

Same dd decided she should take piano the end of Oct., 13 yo now. By Christmas, she was in a recital at a nursing home. She sounded great. After 6 months, she is playing from the 3rd level books. I am absolutely astounded.

 

Ds started piano at 9. It has gone okay. I wish we had waited until he was older.

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