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Need advice please- should we allow dd13 to learn dd10's instrument at these ages?


littleacorns
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We are trying to decided whether to allow our 13yo, who is very musically talented, to learned to play her sister's instrument now or wait a few more years. To be clear, I mean instrument in the generic sense (ex. piano), not the one particular one (ex. Kimball). I'm just not mentioning which instrument so it doesn't cloud the issue.

 

For background, dd13 plays one instrument very well (winning contests at 10) and can learn a song, without mastery, on any of the instruments we have within 1/2 hour. Most things come easily to this child. She excels at academics, dance, and music. She loves music and is self-motivated in that area. She tends to be very competitive and although she does fight the urge to brag and never does with others, she IS likely to remind those within our house if she can do something better than they can. She wants to play her sister's instrument because it seems more fun than the others available and the kids in her music circle can usually play more than one instrument.

 

My dd10 is also musically talented, although probably not quite as much. She has been playing three years and loves music, but she is easily bored and doesn't want to play if she can't learn something new and challenging. She chose to stop lessons when her teacher stopped giving her new material. We haven't been able to find a higher level teacher yet (which her previous teacher had recommended), so she stopped playing as often. She is not ready yet to learn very much independently and she loves playing with people, but she can't get her sister or her father to play with her often. She still practices 2-3 times a week and is very against her sister playing the instrument because she says she'll pass her in a month.

 

My husband very proud of their talent (in large part because he is a musician and they "get it from him"). He wants them both to play as many instruments as possible. In the past, he agreed that dd13 should not play dd10's instrument yet. He has changed his mind because he says dd10 doesn't show enough interest and dd13 might be great on it. He says if she does pass her, dd10 should be happy because then she can learn from her.

 

I admit I am a worrier and have been told I think about the feelings of others too much. That said, I'm afraid dd10 (who is against this and can be very stubborn) will just stop playing if her sister passes her. She already feels her sister can do everything better than she can. DD10 always seems to have to work harder for the same result, no matter what they are doing. She is also more sensitive to the feelings of others and seems more easily hurt. The girls have a very close relationship, but are somewhat competitive (dd13 more than dd10). I feel like dd13 should wait a few more years before she plays it, so younger dd10 has time to grow a little musically. I don't want dd10 to always be in dd13's shadow any more than she has to. DD13 has four other instruments available in the house that she hasn't learned to play yet, but she shows aptitude for all of them.

 

So what would you do? Make her wait a few years or let her play it now?

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To me, since the younger is not actively taking lessons and progressing, she's not seriously pursuing the instrument. So I would definitely not let the younger hold the older child back. That said, I would actively make sure that older is not being in your face competitive to younger if that is hurtful to younger. And that goes for anything - not just this particular instrument.

 

Your kids are 3 years apart, so I would remind your younger it's not fair to compare them. They should each be pursuing their own interests and doing things that are meaningful to them. My kids are 4 years apart. My 8 year old does get frustrated seeing his brother seemingly doing things ever easier than her. I like to tell her stories "well, when your brother was your age he was ...." just to keep it real for her.

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I think both your children ought to be encouraged to play what ever they want to play. Your youngest should look at learning a new instrument if she is stagnating in the one she has. Hopefully they will each find the instrument they are passionate about and settle in to learning it well.

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Is the older child being competitive by choosing the youngers instrument? My older dd chose not to play her younger brothers instrument because she knew she would pass him by when they were young. It made a big difference in our younger to have his own activity. 10 is young to grab an instrument and learn and practice on your own. She still needs some care and help.

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My oldest had a naturally great voice and was singing even before she talked. The youngest, not so much. The older was not only in church choirs but in special auditioned choirs as she was growing up. The younger continued with church choirs and both girls were in a few musicals. Well oldest is 19 and due to medical problems, can only sing sometimes and usually is not as strong a singer now as her sister, though still perfect pitch just weaker voice. Her sister, on the other hand, developed a great voice and now, after years and years of choir and praise singing in churches, is a very good singer. I am so praying that the older one actually gets medical help and gets her voice back. She was recommended to go to a voice specialist doctor but we have put that off until we find out what is her main problem since her current voice problems may have been an early sign of the later much bigger problems.

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This one can be very sticky if you have naturally competitive kids (I do!). All my kids had at least one instrument they concentrated on, but once they got to high school they wanted to branch out to have more playing opportunities. Fortunately for me, they were old enough to negotiate their own instrument-sharing and practicing by that age. My older two ended up trading instruments for a while so they could both play saxophone in the pit orchestra for a musical.

 

But your are little, and I think you run the real risk of turning your younger one off music completely if her big sis "takes over" her instrument. I would probably cough up some money and get big sister a different instrument to learn for now. Picking up lil sis's instrument can wait a few years until they both get a bit older. Alternatively, get a different instrument and lessons for lil sis if you hand over her old one.

 

The exception at our house is the piano - everyone can learn to play on it. Big instruments are sort of a different issue.

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Let her play...

If one child runs faster than the other, you don't stop that child from running...

This. Don't protect your younger child from someone who might be "better" than her at something. That will not do her any favors in life. My dd is a ballerina (professional now). She is very talented, but from the time she was young, I always told her, "There will ALWAYS be someone who is better than you...more flexible, more gifted, more musical, more something. If you compare yourself to other dancers, you will NEVER be a success in dance or in life." And besides, nobody likes a whiner...or someone who is bitter. And that's what you will set your younger dd up to be if you foster this in her. Not to mention the "it's not fair" anthem. Life's not fair. Tough. Suck it up buttercup, and move on.

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I'll disagree with the majority on this one. If there is even a teeny, tiny hint that the older sister wants to play this instrument because the younger one is playing it, it would be a no go for me. If the older daughter would make even one comment or give one look as she sailed on past her sister, it would be a no go for me. Your Dd10 was progressing when she had a teacher, right? I'd work really hard on finding Dd10 a new teacher and see what she does with it. You have FOUR other instruments for Dd13 to pick from. She could spend some time with one or all of them. I may be biased because I have a highly capable 9 year old and perfectly average 8 year old. Dd9 does not give Ds8 a hard time, but he often feels "less than" when they do the same activity. I really need to build him up when I can.

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I agree with Meriwether as long as your younger dd's instrument isn't a piano. If it's a piano, then I would allow older dd to learn it only because I feel like that's such an important instrument for a musician to play. However, I would add the caveat that if older dd makes any comments to younger dd that about her ability then lessons would immediately stop.

 

Good luck.

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I would not stop any of my children from teaching themselves any instrument they found in my house.

 

I would not pay for lessons if dd13 is as capable as you say. She can teach herself. Maybe that would give dd10 some time to decide if she cares to "compete" or not.

 

It is OK if dd10 is not into music. It is OK if dd10 has none of the talents of her older sister. Help her identify and feel proud of the talents she does have.

 

I have two 6-year-olds who have been taking piano (and for a while, guitar) at the same time. Their talents are entirely different. My youngest blows past my oldest and leaves her in the dust in many areas, including overall ability at their instruments. However, I note that my oldest is superior in some skills - such as counting time and remembering scales. She's way more responsible and has more stamina. In short, she holds her own, and sometimes she kicks butt.

 

I will not cater to attitudes like "I won't do it if I can't be the best."

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To me, since the younger is not actively taking lessons and progressing, she's not seriously pursuing the instrument. So I would definitely not let the younger hold the older child back. That said, I would actively make sure that older is not being in your face competitive to younger if that is hurtful to younger. And that goes for anything - not just this particular instrument.

 

Your kids are 3 years apart, so I would remind your younger it's not fair to compare them. They should each be pursuing their own interests and doing things that are meaningful to them.

 

i agree with this, but I want to add a caveat - unless this is a hugely expensive instrument like a piano, harp, french horn or the like, I'd buy your older daughter her own instrument so that the younger one has her own available at all times.

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If the ages were reversed, I would be concerned. Since the oldest is...older, I wouldn't worry about it. The older would be expected to outperform the younger within a short while. She should be able to be more disciplined about lessons and practice. I would not tolerate boasting, however. A bit of discussion before being allowed to start a new instrument is in order. I would even make a signal to use if I heard her starting to be boastful. If she cannot control her tongue, she loses the lessons.

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That said, I'm afraid dd10 (who is against this and can be very stubborn) will just stop playing if her sister passes her.

 

Dd10 will just stop playing if she doesn't make progress. If she doesn't get lessons, she is unlikely to make progress. She is, at best, maintaining her level. That's going to get boring. Unless she's a prodigy, and maybe even then, she needs lessons.

 

Meanwhile, dd13 still has lessons for her instrument?

 

The real problem will come when dd13 starts playing, turns out to be really good at it, and THEN mom and dad suddenly can find a teacher for it (further away, more expensive, whatever than you're willing to do for dd10.)

 

Have you considered Skype for lessons?

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Normally I would say to let dd13 learn the instrument, but it sounds like there is a dynamic between the girls. Is this really an instrument that dd13 passionately wants to learn or is she just doing this to show up dd10? If the girls are hyper-competitive and dd13 has a history of rubbing her talent in dd10's face, then I would be skeptical about dd13's motives for wanting to learn little sister's instrument. I would be inclined to tell dd13 "No, for now," while helping dd10 find a new teacher. That will also give you time to work on the dynamic between them. I know that arrogance can be very common among those with musical talent, but I consider that kind of gloating, bragging behavior to be absolutely unacceptable between family members.

 

If this is the piano we are discussing . . . then I think the situation is tougher. Dd13 needs piano proficiency if she is going to be a serious musician. If it's piano then I would allow dd13 to start the instrument with the understanding that any competitiveness or bragging will be a deal-breaker.

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I'll disagree with the majority on this one. If there is even a teeny, tiny hint that the older sister wants to play this instrument because the younger one is playing it, it would be a no go for me. If the older daughter would make even one comment or give one look as she sailed on past her sister, it would be a no go for me. Your Dd10 was progressing when she had a teacher, right? I'd work really hard on finding Dd10 a new teacher and see what she does with it. You have FOUR other instruments for Dd13 to pick from. She could spend some time with one or all of them. I may be biased because I have a highly capable 9 year old and perfectly average 8 year old. Dd9 does not give Ds8 a hard time, but he often feels "less than" when they do the same activity. I really need to build him up when I can.

 

Normally I would say to let dd13 learn the instrument, but it sounds like there is a dynamic between the girls. Is this really an instrument that dd13 passionately wants to learn or is she just doing this to show up dd10? If the girls are hyper-competitive and dd13 has a history of rubbing her talent in dd10's face, then I would be skeptical about dd13's motives for wanting to learn little sister's instrument. I would be inclined to tell dd13 "No, for now," while helping dd10 find a new teacher. That will also give you time to work on the dynamic between them. I know that arrogance can be very common among those with musical talent, but I consider that kind of gloating, bragging behavior to be absolutely unacceptable between family members.

 

If this is the piano we are discussing . . . then I think the situation is tougher. Dd13 needs piano proficiency if she is going to be a serious musician. If it's piano then I would allow dd13 to start the instrument with the understanding that any competitiveness or bragging will be a deal-breaker.

 

 

:iagree: :iagree: :iagree:

 

The relationship between your dds is more important than your older dd wanting to play the same instrument as her younger sister, and it sounds like there is at least some possibility that your dd13 is looking for bragging/gloating rights.

 

If your dd13 had always had a passion for your dd10's instrument, it would be different, but it sounds like she just wants to learn to play something new, and I can't imagine that there are no other options she would enjoy other than the one instrument your dd10 plays.

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I was going to say, let the other one learn. she's motivated and the other one can continue or not as she wishes (and currently seems to wish not.)

 

But then I read this . . .

 

He says if she does pass her, dd10 should be happy because then she can learn from her

 

absolutely SCRATCH that attitude right now. THAT is the kind of comment that will spur a very unhealthy competitiveness between siblings that only time may or may *not* heal. (and I will add, since dad is feeding the competitiveness, he may well end up alienating at least one daughter.)

 

 

with your dh's competive attitude, and if dd13 is also going to be competitive, I'd say make her wait. I agree with the others, this may well be more about bragging rights than playing an interesting instrument. see if you can find a teacher for your already playind dd to encourage her in an instrument she likes and give her an opportunity to shine.

 

(I have a nephew who is a professional classical musician and can play just about whatever he picks up. I understand that gift. those who are truly gifted are behooved to learn graciousness to those differently gifted.)

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I wouldn't let the 13 yo play the 10 yo instrument either.

 

Their father needs to rethink his attitude entirely. Unless he wants the 10 yo to quick music and possibly have little relationship with her sister and father when she grows up.

 

Find an appropriate teacher for the 10 yo now. And I might look for another activity outside of music for 10yo to do that is hers only and not allow the 13 yo to try it. If it's physical (sport or dance) have the 13 yo do something else physical. She just not permitted to do the thing 10 yo has chosen.

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I'm surprised that so many people feel that a long-term sibling relationship can hinge on who plays an instrument better, or some childish bragging. If that is the case, is it really the 13yo's problem, or the 10yo's?

 

I agree that the 13yo needs to learn to hold her sister up instead of ever "showing her up" or putting her down. However, she does not need to be ashamed of / punished for having a talent her sister doesn't have.

 

I have a sister 2 years younger who couldn't match me in much. She told me she always looked up to me and felt less than because she could not do as well as me in academics, music, art, physical stuff - in her childish mind, just about anything. (As a kid, I also felt rather superior, though I would not rub it in her face on purpose.) However, she didn't blame me for that. She eventually realized that she does have great talents; for example, she is an excellent cook while my signature dish is boxed mac'n'cheese. We're very close.

 

I wonder whether, in the OP, the parents are making too big a deal of who is better or who wins contests. Are the 13yo's awards always in the 10yo's face? That is not necessary. And why are we blaming only the 13yo for what sounds like a family culture of competitiveness? I understand the dad is a musician, but his kids need to decide for themselves how important music should be in their lives. Or if the problem really is that 13yo is belittling to her little sister based on her musical superiority, why isn't the consequence to take a break from the 13yo's lessons, so she can understand that being great in music is not the most important thing on earth? It isn't, right?

 

ETA: Thinking more, I recall that my younger sister actually had paid piano lessons for a while, while I taught myself at home. The fact that most of the older siblings played made her want to play too, though she never was great at it (she doesn't have a good ear). She still plays for fun, actually more than I do. So there may be some merit to the OP's dh's idea that seeing 13yo play might inspire 10yo. However, 10yo needs to first get over her insistance that "if I can't, nobody can."

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My boys are two years apart and when they were young I had them pick the instrument they wanted to learn. I purposefully had them pick different instruments (lucky for me that wasn't a problem) because I knew my youngest always felt like his brother did everything better than he did and I wanted him to have his "own thing." In high school, they had a class available for guitar and my oldest took the class even though guitar was his younger brother's instrument. He played it for the class and still picks it up now and then to mess around or ask his younger brother to teach him something on it.

 

I understand the dynamics at play in your situation. I don't think I would have purposefully allowed my oldest to learn guitar when they were both younger. By high school, my younger ds was already very advanced on the instrument and practicing often so there was little chance of his brother passing him up on it unless the younger ds was not putting any effort into it and his brother really took up practicing a lot....differences in effort rather then just the fact of one being older then the other would have caused that.

 

I would suggest finding a teacher for your younger dd and see if she is willing, then, to pursue her instrument actively. If not, then her older sister should be allowed to. If she does put in the effort to learn the instrument, then I would give her a few more years before her sister takes it up. You said there are plenty of other instruments available in the house for her to master so it isn't like she can't study an instrument at all. I think younger siblings sometimes need something that is theirs especially when the older one is more competitive.

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Thanks for all the replies. I should have been more clear. My dd10 absolutely wants to continue learning, but is just unable to progress without a teacher. She did choose to stop lessons, but her teacher had run out of things to show her, and she hadn't learned a new song in five months. We are looking for a teacher, but clawhammer (old-time) banjo teachers are in short supply, and none that we can find are taking students.

 

The girls have each competed in only one annual competition (three times) and both did well. Last year, they each won their division, so it isn't that she lacks talent or interest. Their father encourages contests, and he wants them to enter more. I tell him to enjoy music for themselves and for the pleasure others get from it, not to prove they are the best. They always decide whether to enter a competition. I discourage competition between them, but their interests are always the same so I expect there will always be some at this attitude. My husband, however, thinks it is a good motivator and does encourage it.

 

DD13 says she doesn't just want to learn because it is DD10's instrument, but I have my doubts. The other instruments are also strings, and she loves listening to all of them, so I wonder why banjo is so important NOW.

 

We have a piano which both girls play around on, and we are getting dd13 a few lessons to improve her technique. I don't really feel like we can hold her back by withholding the banjo. She has the other instruments she can learn.

 

I totally agree that music is not and should not be the most important thing. Music is important to me only because I want them to use whatever gifts they have, and they both are very talented. They both would love music even without pressure from their father. Still, he places a huge emphasis on music and it is the main way they get praise or interest from him. Of course it shouldn't be that way, but I can't seem to change that.

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Honestly, I think the 10-year-old needs to learn and accept that someone will ALWAYS be better than her on that instrument. The older daughter needs to learn not to gloat. This is the opportunity to teach both.

 

Maybe if the oldest can go two months without gloating about anything, she can be rewarded with lessons. I don't mean never talking about her accomplishments, I just mean eliminating the "I'm better than you, one-upsmanship behaviors.". Better to be competitive with actions than words. It might help to make sure she spends time with gracious, more accomplished musicians so she gets the point.

 

Has oldest tried playing the mandolin? It's physically harder to play so she might be sufficiently challenged for a while. :-)

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I hadn't tried skype. I'll see if I can find a teacher that way.

 

Mandolin is one of the instruments we already has that she could play. She isn't interested because she plays fiddle and the left hand notes are apparently the same as fiddle and therefore not very interesting to her.

 

She started working on guitar last night, so hopefully that will satisfy her for now.

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I'm surprised that so many people feel that a long-term sibling relationship can hinge on who plays an instrument better, or some childish bragging. If that is the case, is it really the 13yo's problem, or the 10yo's?

don't underestimate how hurtful that "childish bragging" can be - *especially* if fed by rewards of dad's approbation for the accomplishments. (from your experience, it doesn't sound as though your parents were part of it. when children are competing with each other for a parent's approbation that is dispensed only in one or few chosen fields - that changes things. *big* time.)

 

I agree that the 13yo needs to learn to hold her sister up instead of ever "showing her up" or putting her down. However, she does not need to be ashamed of / punished for having a talent her sister doesn't have.

no one is suggesting she be ashamed of/punished for having a talent her sister doesn't have. the suggestion is she learn graciousnes and not constantly brag about how much better she is to her sister. (she should be able to enjoy playing an instrument WITHOUT going on about how much better she is than someone else.)

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I hadn't tried skype. I'll see if I can find a teacher that way.

 

Mandolin is one of the instruments we already has that she could play. She isn't interested because she plays fiddle and the left hand notes are apparently the same as fiddle and therefore not very interesting to her.

 

She started working on guitar last night, so hopefully that will satisfy her for now.

 

My ds, along with guitar, plays mandolin, banjo (4-string), and Irish bouzouki. There are lots of other options for your 13yo. Yes, left hand notes are the same with fiddle and mandolin (or 4 string banjo)...my dd has picked out some of her fiddle tunes on mandolin but lost interest because her hands were too small to hit the frets easily. I should remind her of it now that her hands are getting bigger.

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I discourage competition between them, but their interests are always the same so I expect there will always be some at this attitude. My husband, however, thinks it is a good motivator and does encourage it.

 

 

Even if your dh thinks competitions are a good idea, I don't understand the mindset of wanting your dds to compete against each other. That seems counterproductive to building a supportive and loving relationship between them, and it's also incredibly unfair to your dd10, because not only is she the younger and less experienced sister, she's also the one who tends not to be as naturally talented as the older sister.

 

I would much prefer to see siblings rooting for each other at competitions, not competing against each other and gloating (or feeling sad) about it afterward. It might be different if the dds were good-natured about competing and had the attitude that a win for either of them was really a win for the whole family, but it doesn't sound like your dd13 would be able to stop herself from rubbing her victories into her sister's face.

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This. Don't protect your younger child from someone who might be "better" than her at something. That will not do her any favors in life. My dd is a ballerina (professional now). She is very talented, but from the time she was young, I always told her, "There will ALWAYS be someone who is better than you...more flexible, more gifted, more musical, more something. If you compare yourself to other dancers, you will NEVER be a success in dance or in life." And besides, nobody likes a whiner...or someone who is bitter. And that's what you will set your younger dd up to be if you foster this in her. Not to mention the "it's not fair" anthem. Life's not fair. Tough. Suck it up buttercup, and move on.

 

 

Exactly this.

 

Also, in trying to protect your younger dd's ego, you will be stifling your older dd's talent. Egos should get a little jostling every now and then. Talents should always be encouraged.

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Oh! I just read that the instrument is banjo. I play banjo (and other things). I came to the banjo a bit later in teenhood, but once I started picking, well... I just knew.

 

Let me just say this... you cannot keep a real banjo player from a banjo, whether she knows how to play it or not. If your dd13 is really a banjo player at heart, I can't come up with any justification in the world for why you'd try to keep it away from her.

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Our kids are both boys, and 2.5 yrs apart. (And both learning the same instrument, at different levels.) I would tell them both that they have the freedom to pursue any instrument that is in the house, and that any that could be affordably rented could also be considered. I would not make any instrument off-limits to one just because the other plays it. They can each be responsible for their own musical learning, and I would make it clear that it is not a competition. I feel the same way about sports and other hobbies. I do not like the idea that one kid gets to "own" an activity so that the other is restricted from also trying it. IMO it would be a good opportunity to address with the younger child what her own motivations are....if she likes learning the instrument for its own sake, she shouldn't worry about comparing herself. On the flip side, if the older child has a tendency to gloat, it's a good opportunity to teach her how unacceptable this is.

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Is the older child being competitive by choosing the youngers instrument? My older dd chose not to play her younger brothers instrument because she knew she would pass him by when they were young. It made a big difference in our younger to have his own activity. 10 is young to grab an instrument and learn and practice on your own. She still needs some care and help.

 

 

Good question. What a considerate and mature dd you have!

 

Even if the motives are mixed (ie the instrument is "cooler" too),if being competitive with younger dd is *part* of the motivation, I would have deep reservations for the older one's sake as well as the younger one's.

 

It's also really important that dd 10 not get overshadowed in *everything* by older dd. Is there anything that seems to be her niche that dd 13 is not as good at? I would work very, very hard at finding that thing.

 

Is dd 13 likely to be a musician? Is the instrument that dd10 plays an important one?

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Now that I've read more, yeah... let dd 13 choose another instrument for the time being. If she's going to be a music major, being very proficient on piano would be more helpful than adding another stringed instrument.

 

 

 

This is true, but.... but... it is banjo. Banjo! You can't pry that away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**I'm joking... a little tiny bit. True, piano is more beneficial, but the joy of picking is just irresistable.

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