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Janeway

Is piano a good start for playing other instruments?

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I would like ds9 to play an instrument in middle school and high school. So far, nothing really has clicked with him much. I would like him to have an activity he can do in a group.  I was thinking maybe taking piano now, as a 4th grader, would help him in middle school when he can play in band. I already suggested stuff like theater and he says no interest. Or would I be better off finding classes directly in whatever instrument he might be interested in?  I was hoping he would play the Marimba so I thought piano would be a good start. These are both things he has expressed an interest in. 

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8 minutes ago, Janeway said:

I would like ds9 to play an instrument in middle school and high school. So far, nothing really has clicked with him much. I would like him to have an activity he can do in a group.  I was thinking maybe taking piano now, as a 4th grader, would help him in middle school when he can play in band. I already suggested stuff like theater and he says no interest. Or would I be better off finding classes directly in whatever instrument he might be interested in?  I was hoping he would play the Marimba so I thought piano would be a good start. These are both things he has expressed an interest in. 

 

Our school starts the kids on recorder in 4th grade.  I do think learning to read music makes a lot of sense.

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Piano is probably the best instrument to start on for music reading beyond a single line and understanding of theory. It makes a good starter instrument and is one where children can have success quite quickly.  However, it is not generally going to be a group activity. I will say that keyboard carries over well to mallet percussion and vice-versa, to the point that I use mallet percussion extensively in my group classes for my piano students. One benefit of piano is that you learn to read both treble and bass clef well-most other instruments only teach one line, and as a result, the other will tend to be weaker. Upper level mallet percussion requires reading both lines. 

If he is interested in Marimba, another option would be an inexpensive bell set or table xylophone. Both are inexpensive-a good one can be had for under $200, sometimes less, and you can work on music reading and basic keyboard percussion skills on them, even without an instructor. There are many resources for kids for keyboard percussion because Orff uses such instruments as their primary pitched resource. This is one of my favorites for kids your DS's age-it is designed to be self-teaching. https://www.musick8.com/store/alphadetail.php?product_group=4203 It is far easier to learn basic mallet technique from a book or video because it is very self-correcting-incorrect technique simply does not sound good.

Be aware that bands usually have a surplus of kids who want to play percussion, and that you don't usually get to play just mallets. Also, be aware that a full marimba is several thousand dollars, and a good one can be over 10K. Not all schools will have one at all.

Recorder is also an inexpensive way to start learning a musical instrument, but will not carry as well over to Marimba. Having said that, it is a VERY inexpensive way to start reading music. This is one of my favorite resources for home use. There are many, many more out there. https://www.westmusic.com/recorders/recorder-instrument-book-packages/yamaha-20-series-yrs-24b-soprano-recorder-with-do-400247?ppc_keyword=&gclid=CjwKCAjw36DpBRAYEiwAmVVDMLkX6VHxWwG3urQ1X4V-W1XXH5Z7StRvJcBZ9leBdU5af1QjtKs7UxoCnIgQAvD_BwE

 

If you have younger DC who would use it as well, the Prodigies Music subscription has some nice resources that could be used with a mallet percussion instrument and a pretty good set of recorder lessons. The presentation is a bit on the young side (one of my piano parents says it reminds her of "Blue's Clues"), but the "Primary Prodigies" and "Recorder Prodigies" would both be a good set of pre-band lessons to work through for a few months. I'm field testing it as a "while waiting" activity for siblings in my piano studio now, and I'm rather impressed with the depth of materials offered.

 

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8 minutes ago, dmmetler said:

If he is interested in Marimba, another option would be an inexpensive bell set or table xylophone. Both are inexpensive-a good one can be had for under $200, sometimes less, and you can work on music reading and basic keyboard percussion skills on them, even without an instructor. There are many resources for kids for keyboard percussion because Orff uses such instruments as their primary pitched resource. This is one of my favorites for kids your DS's age-it is designed to be self-teaching. https://www.musick8.com/store/alphadetail.php?product_group=4203 It is far easier to learn basic mallet technique from a book or video because it is very self-correcting-incorrect technique simply does not sound good.

 

My dd did a year of bells in a home school band class when she was 8. It was a great starter instrument for her. She decided to switch to violin and she still plays (in the string ensemble of the same organization).

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Piano is great for learning to read music, which can help with any instrument he picks up later.  Can he carry a tune when he sings?  The music-reading learned for piano can transfer nicely to choral music, too.   

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So does he go to school?  Or is he homeschooling now and going to middle school eventually?

I always think the right first instrument for a kid is the one the kid is enthusiastic about and is willing to practice.  A kid this age will do best if you will partner on practice with him and be enthusiastic about music making.  If he isn't feeling anything, maybe the timing isn't right?  I think doing music through the elementary years into middle school as a school subject can work well.  But once they're older tweens/teens it's much harder to force the issue to start or continue.  I do think it's fair at this age to say "for school the next 2 years we are studying music.  Choose option A,B, or C.".  

Does your community have any group options if you think he might enjoy that more?  I know there are group guitar and piano options locally here for kids that age and if that clicks it could transition well to private lessons.  Another thing to consider is a youth choir program?  That can be a nice intro to music for kids as well.  

Edited by FuzzyCatz

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20 minutes ago, FuzzyCatz said:

 

I always think the right first instrument for a kid is the one the kid is enthusiastic about and is willing to practice.  


This. 

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21 minutes ago, FuzzyCatz said:

So does he go to school?  Or is he homeschooling now and going to middle school eventually?

I always think the right first instrument for a kid is the one the kid is enthusiastic about and is willing to practice.  A kid this age will do best if you will partner on practice with him and be enthusiastic about music making.  If he isn't feeling anything, maybe the timing isn't right?  I think doing music through the elementary years into middle school as a school subject can work well.  But once they're older tweens/teens it's much harder to force the issue to start or continue.  I do think it's fair at this age to say "for school the next 2 years we are studying music.  Choose option A,B, or C.".  

Does your community have any group options if you think he might enjoy that more?  I know there are group guitar and piano options locally here for kids that age and if that clicks it could transition well to private lessons.  Another thing to consider is a youth choir program?  That can be a nice intro to music for kids as well.  

He home schools and I can see ads for various home school bands that start at middle school age.

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Does he plan to do classical orchestra or Jazz band in middle school? Our local jazz bands have pianists/keyboardists - so, if he is going to take piano, then, he can even continue on in Jazz bands. As for learning instruments, piano provides a solid foundation for music theory and reading multiple clefs. Also, a pianist can very easily visualize most chords, scales etc when they pick up other instruments because they can visualize the mapping of the notes using images of keyboards in their brain. My city's community program offers group piano lessons for very young beginners. Those are good, but, a 9 year old might feel out of place in those settings. Also, in my experience, a group lesson never worked beyond the first few months and we moved to private lessons at that age.

Our local music conservatory and museum hold open house days where kids can go in and try out all instruments and pick what instrument they like (they call it "Instrument Petting Zoo"!). If you can find such an opportunity near you, or even a music school with free tryouts, he can familiarize himself with instruments. Also, check on choirs and voice lessons because the voice is also an instrument that he can learn to cultivate.

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It is highly unlikely a homeschool band will have a marimba. Usually they will have whatever instruments the kids can bring with them, and tend to be VERY limited in percussion, which students often do not own. And any mallet percussion bigger than a table xylophone is just plain too big to carry around, so you need one at each location. 

 

And I agree-the best instrument for a child is the one they want to play. The single biggest predictor of longevity on an instrument is timbre preference-a student who finds high pitched sounds very irritating will not do well on violin, flute, clarinet, trumpet, oboe, etc, but may do extremely well on saxophone, viola, cello, French horn, trombone, bassoon....and vice versa. 

Edited by dmmetler
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Ds10 plays the marimba.  There is an organisation in NZ that does it is schools and ds did some free after-school lessons.  The marimba we have was loaned and then gifted to us and was home made.  The marimba teacher did evening classes in woodwork and can now make them as well.  Apparently with an automatic tuned and some tools it is not that hard (though I am not so sure myself).  

My stepmother used to play and she had one that was reasonably portable. More so than a piano but less than most other instruments except a double base and a large brass instrument.

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8 hours ago, Janeway said:

I would like ds9 to play an instrument in middle school and high school. So far, nothing really has clicked with him much. I would like him to have an activity he can do in a group.  I was thinking maybe taking piano now, as a 4th grader, would help him in middle school when he can play in band. I already suggested stuff like theater and he says no interest. Or would I be better off finding classes directly in whatever instrument he might be interested in?  I was hoping he would play the Marimba so I thought piano would be a good start. These are both things he has expressed an interest in. 

If he has a strong interest in a particular instrument, and you can find a great teacher, this is a wonderful combination for starting music education. Even if it's not an instrument he will play later in a school band/orchestra, laying a strong foundation based on his interest will go a long way. It's nice, but not even necessary for them to be learning to read sheet music right away. 

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My sons both take piano.  My younger son flirted with the violin.  He’s going to start trumpet in the elementary school band program here in the fall.  

My older son has flirted with guitar (which my husband can teach) and would like to start cello lessons but had a hard time finding the time.  

I wish I had realized how easy it is for homeschooled kids to do the band and orchestra programs in my school district.  It’s free and kids are eligible from 4th grade up.  I would have put my older son in orchestra had I known.  My younger son will be in 5th grade and is super excited.  

I think piano is a great entry point to music.  

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