• Craig Birchfield

Can Preschool Age Children Really Learn to Play the Violin? (Guest Post by Christine Goodner)

As a violin teacher who specializes in starting young students I get this question a lot! It can be hard to believe that 3, 4 & 5 year olds can learn to play such a complicated instrument at a young age. While starting this young may not be the right fit for everyone, if it’s done right it can work beautifully.

I want to share five must haves for a successful experience:

  1. Listen to Music: Students who I have seen stick with the violin into the teen years and beyond are the ones who grow up in a musical environment. As a parent you can create this environment by playing classical music , or any type of violin music, at home and in the car. You can attend concerts (there are many free and inexpensive musical experiences around Portland) and even let your child see you play an instrument yourself. We all love music for different reasons – make sure you share your reasons with your child.

  2. A good violin: Find the best violin you can in your price range and make sure it has good strings. Sometimes the tendency is to with something inexpensive and then if the child loves to play and gains skills over time, to invest in a better instrument. Even though is seems counter-intuitive, the opposite is true. When the instrument sounds good, students want to play more and will stick with it and keep playing.

  3. Patience: Learning to play on the instrument is done in the tiniest of little steps for young students. Sometimes it can seem like nothing is happening for a long time. There are so many little skills to be learned! My best advice is to find a good teacher (with lots of experience working with this age) and trust them. Learning to do things slowly and carefully now means they will have a great foundation and will move much more quickly in the future.

  4. Practice in short bursts: 5 – 10 minutes of high quality practice is great at the start! Take notes during the weekly lesson and try to re-create some of the same activities at home during your practices. Ask your teacher what the main thing to focus on is that week (if it is not clear to you). Also, stop practicing before your child is begging to be done and you’ll have much more cooperation when you say it’s time to practice.

  5. Work as a partner with your teacher: Violin lesson with very young students are not just an exchange between the teacher and student . . . unlike older students, they will not be able to structure their own practice themselves, or remember the details of what the teacher asked them to work on. As a teacher, I depend on the parent to come to each lesson – keep track of what to practice at home and direct (and later as students gain more independence at least supervise) practice. Together we can discuss ways to make practice fun and engaging so that the student loves music and loves to play their instrument. At the end of the day, I am the expert at teaching the violin, but the parent is the expert on their child and knows what motivates them, makes them willing to cooperate, and gets them excited to learn. If you are not sure about this yet – I promise you will learn this about your child along the way.

Teaching (and parenting) these youngest musicians takes a lot of creativity and patience but it is also my very favorite part of teaching. When students learn to play music this young, music is not something they do, it is a part of who they are. I started playing violin myself at 3 years old, and wouldn’t have it any other way!

Christine Goodner is the owner of a violin studio (Brookside Suzuki Strings, LLC) in Hillsboro, OR and the Co-Director of Bethany Strings & Woodwind Camp. She is passionate about teaching, connecting with other teachers, and helping parents and students succeed on their Suzuki Journey. You can also visit her blog at www.Suzukitriangle.wordpress.com.

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