Best Age To Start Violin Lessons – Is Your Child Ready?

Best Age To Start Violin Lessons – Is Your Child Ready?

What is the best age to start violin lessons?

This is a question that I am asked time and time again and one that I cannot answer either quickly or accurately without knowing you, your child or the ins and outs of your everyday lives.

In the following article, I’m going to discuss my experiences with teaching very young beginners, and in particular, what you need to consider before enrolling your young child into violin lessons.

 

Starting Young – The Story Of Jessica And Taylan

About a month ago, I met with Jennie and Andrew who’s little boy had only just turned 3. Taylan was a cute little guy who loved dinosaurs and monster trucks. His parents had both learned piano when they were in high school and wanted Taylan to start formal violin lessons as soon as possible.

Jessica, one of my current 12-year-old students also came for an introductory lesson at the tender age of 3. She was extremely shy and a completely different child to the confident and competent young violinist I continue to work with today. Jessica’s mum, Cathy wasn’t musical in any way but wanted to give Jessica the best chance of musical success in later years.

Both Jessica and Taylan presented as intelligent and full of potential and although I began lessons with Jessica a week after meeting her, I advised Taylan’s parents to look into a kindergarten music or dance class and come back to me in a year or so.

So why the difference? What was it about Jessica that made me feel that she was ‘ready’ to start. There are so many factors that go into my decision to take on a new student and these are very rarely linked to age.

Are We Ready? The Essential Checklist

While I’m sure you’ve considered your child’s readiness for learning the violin, have you considered whether you and your family are ready to support a young student? Here are the five essential questions you should ask yourself before enrolling your young child in violin lessons:

  • Am I aware of the hidden costs of learning an instrument?
  • Can I commit to being a violin parent?
  • Is my child mentally ready?
  • Do I have the patience to work through difficult and/or boring patches?
  • Have I found the right teacher?

Although each of these questions is pertinent if you have a child of any age, they are particularly important for the parents of a young student who will need far more support and external motivation than an older beginner.

The Hidden ‘Costs’ Of Learning An Instrument

When you enroll your child in violin lessons, there is an obvious financial commitment which accompanies the weekly class. Very few parents are surprised by this but do, however, seem surprised by the other, often more significant commitment of time and

energy which must be invested in order for adequate progress to occur.

Young children cannot take responsibility for their learning; they need a committed and motivated adult to work with them every day. If you cannot provide this, then starting before the age of 7 or 8 is not a good idea.

No matter the age that you begin your violin journey, you’re going to need to invest time into attending lessons and practicing each day. For potential young beginners, I always ask which parent will be responsible for supervising daily practice. Not only do children need reminding about their practice commitment, but in the first 6 months at least (longer for very young students) an adult is required to ensure that correct technique is being observed and practice is goal oriented and purposeful.

Can You Commit To Being A Violin Parent?

When I met with three-year-old Jessica, I discovered that Cathy was a stay at home mum with no other children. She was able to commit to attending lessons on a weekly basis and then supervise daily practice to ensure that Jessica was playing in a way that would help, rather than hinder her developing technique.

Jennie and Andrew, on the other hand, were parents not only to Taylan, but also to a pair of 10-month-old girls. To attend lessons, Jennie would need to bring the twins who would no doubt need attention and care during the lesson. As well as distracting Taylan, they would distract Jennie from listening and participating.

Neither Jennie nor Andrew were in a position to concentrate fully during Taylan’s lessons and therefore would not have been able to knowledgeably guide his practice sessions at home.

Very young children need a lot of assistance during their lessons and during their practice. While a good teacher will enforce correct technique, this is not enough if it is not followed up at home. To practice alone in the beginning stages is often detrimental to secure technical development and can do more harm than good.

If you are not able to attend lessons regularly and assist your child with daily practice, it is best to wait until your child is older and more mature to begin formal lessons.

In my experience, most children are able to learn and practice independently by the time they are about 8. If you’re looking to start before this, you need to be 100% involved until a secure foundation is achieved.

Is Your Child Mentally Ready?

It doesn’t matter if they’re 3 or 5 or 10, if your child is not mentally ready to begin formal lessons, you’re best to wait. My beginner lessons usually go for 20 – 30 minutes and consist of three main areas of study:

  • A pattern of the week – usually one of the Suzuki bowing patterns that we use for scales, Twinkles and open string work
  • Exercises – Two to three little exercises for either the bow or left hand
  • A fun piece – usually one of the Suzuki pieces until the student’s technique has developed sufficiently to start reading

I am not a Suzuki teacher per se but I do use and recommend elements of the method, especially for my beginners. If your child finds it hard to concentrate or keep to a task for more than a few minutes, sticking them in a structured violin lesson will probably go further to ruin their love of music than it will to encourage and motivate them to want to become great.

Becoming a wonderful violinist requires passion and LOVE for your instrument. I’ve seen many children grow to hate the violin because their parents push them too hard or expect too much of them too soon.

Before you commence structured and ongoing lessons, make a judgment whether your child is likely to cope with daily practice and weekly lessons. If you think they’ll struggle, I’d advise you to wait.

Have I Found The Right Teacher?

A great violinist is not necessarily a great teacher and a great teacher may not have the patience or understanding to work with very little children.

My first three year old student was my own daughter, Olivia. In hindsight, I can see that I expected far too much of her and did not take into account her decreased ability to concentrate and retain information. Although Olivia is now a wonderful musician, she did not benefit greatly through her early start.

There are many wonderful teachers who don’t take students below the age of 6 or 7; it’s important to ensure that a potential teacher has experience working with very young students.

Upon meeting, ensure that the teacher engages with your child and makes them feel comfortable; will your child want to come and visit this person each week? Will they want to impress them with their progression and improvement?

Do I Have The Patience?

Learning any instrument is rarely a complete walk in the park; everyone has lazy days and times when they want to give up. As adults, we can see the benefits of sticking with a task and working through obstacles; children often cannot.

During the beginner stages, there are so many ruts to get stuck in and hills to climb. If your child is very young, you’re going to need to climb those hills and navigate those ruts also.

When they to bend their bowing thumb for the millionth time, you’ll patiently help them remember. When practice seems like the worst thing in the world, you’ll encourage and motivate.

Young children often take longer to learn the basics but to ensure strong technique, you’re going to need to be committed and motivated with and for your child.

Do you have the patience to work through these difficult and boring stages?

 

Is My Child Too Young To Start?

An early start can mean earlier progression but this isn’t always the case. Jessica is now working on her grade seven exam program and will present as a very competent student. Would she have been at the same standard had she started as a 5 or 6-year-old? We’ll never know.

Jessica MAY have benefited through her lengthened exposure to the violin but again, we will never know.

As parents, you will have a good idea of whether your child is mentally ready to begin. Guidance from an experienced teacher will also assist with your decision.

Although I do take on a number of 3 and 4-year-old students, I often find that a later start will be more suitable for the child and their family.

Done properly, an early start can have many benefits, so if you have thought carefully about, and can answer yes to each of the six questions I’ve asked above, Go for it!

If, however you still need some thinking time or if I’ve posed any problems here, you may want to wait until your child is ready to take on more of the responsibility themselves.

Whatever you choose, best of luck and remember that if you ever have any questions or need a hand with anything, leave a question in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you

Marketa 🙂

Founder of myviolinbff.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Post Has 56 Comments

  1. It was really helpful when you said that the teacher needs to make your child feel comfortable. My 7-year-old daughter has been asking me for a couple of months now to find her a teacher that can teach her how to play the violin. I’ll make sure to keep these tips in mind as I search for a good place for her to take violin lessons.

    1. Hi Kate and thanks for your comment,
      Parents often think that if they pay more and find a teacher who is an amazing violinist in their own right that it will be the magic wand for their child to succeed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, two of my children learned piano from a lady who was an international concert pianist for a number of years. Due to timetabling difficulties, we changed teachers to someone who is certainly not at that high level but my children have never done so well! It just goes to show that the student teacher match is so important!
      Best of luck with finding a teacher for your daughter 🙂

  2. Hi Marketa – I enjoyed reading your post, I found it interesting and informative. I really liked the points you made on the Essential Checklist. I think as parents we have to think about the commitment it requires not only from the child but also the parent. What are we saying “yes” to? I believe it’s a partnership between the teacher and the parent to help the child succeed and it will require a lot time and energy. Interesting point that you made about the dynamics of the family, we have to take a step back and ask ourselves as parents if we are able to support the child taking lessons given other life commitments. Thanks for the post. Best wishes!

    1. Hi Jeff and thanks so much for your interest.

      You are so right that the commitment to learning an instrument is something that the parent must also take on. In the case of very young children, it is more a commitment from the parents that is required. 

  3. Hi Marketa, I really enjoyed reading about children learning violin. I hadn’t considered a child of 3 learning an instrument but you have great insight of the necessary steps and commitment from the parents.

    Do you get a lot of children quitting soon after starting? My niece seemed to try a lot of instruments and not stay at any of them, which cost her parents a lot.

    It’s a wonderful talent for any child to develop in their lives.

    Lily 😊

    1. Hi Lily and thanks for reaching out,

      When I meet with children and their parents for the first time, I always seek to ensure that we are a good student, teacher and parent match. It’s so important to me that students retain interest and that I am able to offer my skills to those who will be there for the long haul. So generally, my students stay for many years.

      Thanks for your interest Lily 🙂

  4. Very interesting post. I am glad I have found it. This is great information. I was just discussing with my sister whether her daughter is ready for a violin lesson or is it too early. She is 4 years old. 

    Let me forward this article to my sis, I am sure she has not considered all the aspects you just covered. 

    In my opinion, she has the patience and time  -the only issue might be the right teacher.

    Is there any general rule on how to recognize a good teacher? 
    I guess it depends on the personality and mutual relationship right?

    Anyways, thanks again for a great post.

    1. Hi Michael and thanks for reaching out,

      When choosing the ‘right’ teacher, it’s really important to know that not every teacher will suit every student. I’ve had students come to me from highly regarded teachers who they just didn’t click with. 

      At four years old, you want your niece to feel excited about attending her violin lessons. You want her to love her teacher and be proud to show off her improvement in each lesson. Look for someone who connects well and seems excited to be teaching. 

      There’s no guarantee that you’ll get it right first time round, but this is a good way to start

      Best of luck 🙂

  5. There’s this saying that goes thus, Catch them young. Scientifically, it has been confirmed that a child learns more at his or her young age, be it in sport, music and lots more. I so much love the conditions you’ve stated, most especially that these kids needs assistance to see them excel in their learning. Thanks for sharing the story of Jessica and Taylan. If parents can we this, they’ll be able to make their kids a good violist. 

    1. Hi Andrea and thanks for your interest,

      It’s absolutely imperative that parents assist and guide their children no matter what the endeavour 

  6. Wow, I don’t even have young children but the knowledge presented in this post can be applied to other areas of life as well. Like potty training, for example, most parents think that since their child has high intelligence that makes him/her potty trainable. I’ve seen it time and time again where a parent gets down-right angry with the child for soiling his underwear.

    Your post encourages us to always consider not only the age of the child but the maturity and ability of the child to focus and remember what he or she did a few minutes ago.

    I love how you not only gave insight you also included examples and things to look for in order to judge readiness. Just because a kid can have an adult conversation, doesn’t mean that he or she can learn an instrument or go potty.

    Overall, the post was well-written and to the point. The layout is crisp and clear. I believe if we keep the points shared within this email, our next generation might be better prepared.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Anita and thanks for your insights,
      Definitely these principals can be applied to other areas of life; just because a child is considered ‘intelligent’ doesn’t mean that they will be ready to learn every skill.
      I see so many parents keen to get their child started on learning the violin but then it all falls apart because either the child or the parents were just not ready to commit and make it work
      Thanks again for reaching out and have a great day 🙂

  7. Hi Marketa,

    I’m part of a large family and my wife works in daycare. I can totally relate to ensuring quality time and appropriate age for starting music tuition. Having been born in NZ, there were more opportunities for young children to get involved with and be exposed to music than there are here in the US so formal lessons seem to be the way to go. 

    My daughter is only 5 but she’s showing a lot of interest in learning the violin. My older daughter started when she was 8, so I feel that it would be unfair to start the younger one sooner. What do you think?

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for sharing and it’s so nice to hear about your two daughters learning the violin. I’d say that if the younger one is showing interest, don’t just wait around for the sake of having the two start at the same age. Your older daughter will also love getting involved with her sister’s learning and having them at a closer level will mean that they will more likely be able to play duets and enjoy their music together.

      Best of luck with it and if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out 🙂

  8. Hi Marketa

    As our family is larges and my wife does day care i can completely relate to the finding the appropriate age and time to allow your child to grow with Music. My youngest started on Guitar with her older brother @6 yr , Now writes and plays guitars, mandolin , bass, piano , and now drums…( thank goodness for electronic drums lol)

    Allows her the ability to express her self in our large family .

    1. Hi Michael,
      That’s really great that your kids are into their music and trust me, they will all thank you for it when they are older.
      Best of luck and thanks for reaching out 🙂

  9. Hi Marketa,
    My daughter, who’s now an adult started learning the violin when she was 3. She’s now a professional musician and I truly think that the early start had a very positive impact on her musical development.

    1. Hi Terry,
      You may well be right but nobody will ever know! I think that when done correctly, an early start is a brilliant way to ingrain correct technique and fluent playing. Like learning a language, those who are immersed in the language at a young age will become’native’ speakers. Children who are immersed in music from a very young age can become ‘native’ musicians.
      Thanks for your input and have a lovely week 🙂

  10. Hi Marketa,
    My daughter in law has enrolled my 4 year old grandson in violin lessons and he’s just not enjoying it. He is unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes and really wants to just spend time playing and being a kid. I think it’s going to ruin a potential interest in music. What do you think?

    1. Hi Leahrae,
      If practice is made fun and done regularly at home, most kids start to enjoy their violin time. Perhaps some sticker rewards or shorter practices would be a good way to go. Try doing 2 three to five minute sessions each day instead of one longer session. If your grandson is still not happy, it may be an idea to wait a couple of years.
      Best of luck and thanks for reaching out 🙂

  11. Hello Marketa,

    your website is a fresh breeze of air in otherwise uninspiring world of stereotype.

    Learning music , playing violin, is very beneficial to a child’s mental development. It strengthens linkages in the child’s brain which are aiding in comprehension and understanding of complicated abstract concepts so important for the future life in the increasingly hi-tech World.

    1. Thanks so much Thomas!
      I’m so glad you like the website and I certainly agree with what you say.
      Have a great day and thanks for your feedback 🙂

  12. This is so informative. I have never thought of the importance of parents support, I’m just thinking of sending my 2 kids to after school music school, your post is timely. Thanks

    1. Hi Charles and thank you for your comment. Best of luck with the after school music program and if you need some advice or help with anything particular, please don’t hesitate to ask
      Have a great day 🙂

  13. Great article Marketa, I really like the emphasis you have put on the parents being committed with their time, money and support as they are essential for children to thrive in anything including music. The other point I especially like is the one you make about is the child ready, and willing. To many parents, unfortunately, push their kids into learning an instrument which can turn the child off music forever.
    Keep up the good work

    1. Hi Cambell and thanks for reaching out.
      It’s a sad but true fact that even very talented children will find it difficult to succeed in anything if their parents aren’t supportive of their endeavors.
      Have a great weekend 🙂

  14. Hi Marketa,
    My daughter started learning about a month ago but we’re feeling that she’s not quite ready. Do you think we should push through or stop and try again in a year or two. She’s 5 at the moment

    1. Hi Katy,
      GREAT question but something that’s really difficult to answer without knowing your daughter or your family. If you think she’s not coping maturity wise, then stop and try again later. If you think it’s just slow process, then push through. My youngest son started when he was three but was just not mature enough to cope with learning an instrument. We’ve only recently re-started now that he’s almost six and the difference is huge. Best of luck and if there’s anything else I can help with, don’t hesitate to let me know.
      Have a great day and thanks for reaching out
      marketa 🙂

  15. Hi Marketa,
    I’ve found a teacher for my daughter and she seems brilliant but she’s so young. I worry that she won’t have the experience you speak of that is necessary for very young students. What do you think?

    1. Hi Marian,
      Young teachers are sometimes the best. I started teaching when I was very young and I was so motivated and excited to see my students each week. If the teacher clicks with your child and you feel that your child will respect and want to please her, then go for it. Do make sure there’s an emphasis on technical development though. Perhaps ask if you can watch someone else’s lesson or attend a recital so you can see how the students play and how they engage with the teacher.
      I hope this is helpful. Thanks for your comment and have a lovely weekend 🙂

  16. Great information. I too believe you can’t start too soon. That early exposure may make all the difference down the line. Thanks for the great insights.

    1. Hi Brandon,
      if everything aligns, it’s great to start young but please do remember that if your child is left to practice alone, they’ll likely develop poor technique
      Have a great weekend and thanks for reaching out 🙂

  17. So wish I could have picked up the violin at that age. I am starting the guitar now we’ll see what happens!

    1. Hi there,
      So often I hear adults who don’t play and instrument say exactly that. I’ve never heard an adult musician say that they wish they HADN’T learned when they were younger. If only kids had the insight we do!

      Have a great day and thanks for your comment 🙂

  18. Hey an amazing post .I can relate to what you are saying here about the parent having time and patience to attend practices .As a parent you will have to motivate and encourage the children to stay on point and help them go over with what they learned from the teacher.Also for children at a young age it is important we do not try to force or push too hard so there is no resentment later in life

    1. Hi Erick,
      This is so true and so many students do quit because their parents are too pushy. I was too pushy with my eldest daughter and although she achieved great things and still plays, I wonder if she’d love violin more if I’d have let her enjoy it more rather than work hard towards exams and competitions.
      Thanks for your comment and have a great day 🙂

  19. Oh my gosh! I work at a music school. This is amazing. I totally agree with the post. You have to be a ready parent. While my children started later, I STILL have to help them take responsibility for for their lessons.

    I showed my boss this article and we’re posting it on our FB page.

    Thank you for this.

    1. Hi Lane and thank you so much for your insightful comment. I’m so happy to hear that this article helped you and will potentially be helpful to the children and parents at your music school. Although I’m a violin teacher, I’m sure that these points will be relevant to students and parents of other instruments also. Have a great day and thanks for reaching out 🙂

  20. Wow, great in depth article! Love that your passion is for the kids and the families. Not just taking all kids for the money. I played travel softball and was a pitcher. Talk about practice and dedication. Not only by me but my parents as well. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Sabrina,
      Wow! I was never very good at softball but can see how you’d need to demonstrate the same qualities as those who learn an instrument.
      Thanks so much for your encouragement and have a great day 🙂

  21. Thanks for this.

    I imagine that the hidden costs and just how much time is required is a major inhibitor for a lot of people an something that a lot of tutors may not necessarily reveal right at the start.

    It might sound like fun in the beginning but I think children should be told straight away that learning an instrument (especially the violin) takes a lot of time, patience and practice.

    Thanks for this really useful information.

    1. Hi Michael and thanks for your input,
      It’s really important to find a teacher who is passionate about not only violin but also about teaching. Good teachers will not simply take on or maintain a student for their personal financial gain. Like anything, violin is a novelty when students first start. The novelty quickly wares off and then you definitely need time, patience and practice
      Have a great day and thanks again for reaching out
      🙂

  22. Hi Marketa,
    Is the Suzuki method the only way to teach three and four-year-olds? I’ve heard that most very young beginners learn this way but I’m more a fan of the traditional teaching style.

    best of luck with your website 🙂

    1. Hi Francois,
      The Suzuki method is certainly a popular choice for the young beginner but not the only choice. I’ve developed my own method for teaching students up to and including around grade 3 to 4 standard; it combines a mixture of examination material, fun/exciting tunes and many, many technical exercises. I do use elements of the Suzuki method, particularly for younger beginners as it enables us to learn by ear rather than through reading notes.
      Thanks for your input and if there’s anything else you’d like to know, please don’t hesitate to ask 🙂

  23. Hi Marketa,
    Fantastic read on the ins and outs of having the young ones take violin. I had hoped that my son or daughter would be musically inclined but they both prefer to sing. And so I moved my dream back a few years to my granddaughter. She is almost 8 now and much more interested in rocks and fossils so music does not seem to be an option for her. And after reading your advice, I can see that it is not just violin lessons for the child but for the parents as well. This is one article I will be sharing with others, you provide some sound advice and guidelines parents should be aware of.

    1. Hi there Sanders and thanks so much for reaching out
      Your granddaughter sounds really cute! Rocks and fossils aren’t my cup of tea but no doubt she’s found her niche right there 🙂
      There are so many parents who wish that they’d learned the violin themselves so then pretty much force their children to do so. It’s difficult for a young child to choose an instrument or hobby which is another reason why it is often best to wait a few years until the child is ready to provide their own opinion and thoughts about learning the instrument.
      have a great day 🙂

  24. Hi Marketa, And thank you for reminding some of us that as parents we will have a part in this also. Even though as much as some of us want our children to be able to play musical instruments and try to live a little life through there eyes and experience, we have a responsibility to add the stability of patience and commitment to help them thrive through it. Thank you for you helpful and professional advice.

    1. Hi Donald,
      I’ve all too often seen well-meaning parents enroll their child in lessons only to practically ‘give up’ themselves within a couple of months. Being a parent to five children myself, I’ve very well aware of the stresses and challenges of raising a family and running a home. Although my eldest daughter began lessons at age 3, none of my other children have followed suit; I am well aware that I simply cannot offer them the same level of attention and help that I did for my eldest. It’s therefore best to wait until they are at an age where I am not as integral in every day practice.
      Have a great day and thanks for reaching out 🙂

  25. I believe you summed it up in your first sentence. Every child has to be judged by their individual capabilities to comprehend the requirements expected from their teacher. Teachers are individuals too. Some can deal with students who are at lower or different levels at the start

    1. Hi Maurice and thanks for your comment. You are so right! Although I’ve had many successful students over the years, I am not the right teacher for everyone and not everyone is the right student for me. No matter your age or level, you need to find a teacher who will fit your individual learning style.
      Have a great day 🙂

  26. Hello,
    I found the content provided to be very informative. As a father of two, i think i would let my kids learn how to play the violin. I think its a classy instrument. i will definitely take the pointers given into consideration when i am ready.

    1. Hi Derval,
      I’m so glad that you’ve found the information here useful. Please do revisit when your kids are ready to start and if you have any questions, give me a yell
      Have a great week and thanks for reaching out 🙂

  27. Hi Marketa, thanks for the interesting post! I’ve never considered what needs to be taken into account when deciding on the appropriate age to start playing an instrument. I started playing piano at the age of 7 and I think it was a pretty good age as I could take responsibility of the learning myself and I understood i needed to practice (with some reminders from my parents of course). So with regards to playing piano, do you think it’s easier to start at an earlier age than violin?

    1. Hi Lotta,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I think that every instrument has it’s difficulties and whether you start with violin or piano, you’re going to find that younger students generally take longer and require more assistance to progress.
      Have a great weekend 🙂

  28. Loved your post! And what I admired most is the responsibility you show as a teacher. You have very good knowledge of children and the way they see the world and learn.

    I for one as a parent, did not find the patience to place my daughter in classes, not necessarily of violin but something that might have served her as an extracurricular undertaking. Thinking about it, my first feelings are of regret but when I give it a second thought, I come to what you state: it may be better to start a little later, especially if you can’t really cope with the time you would have to dedicate to a very young student.

    I don’t really know what would have happened had she started an activity earlier. I believe that the vast majority of us grow up in families with a range of limitations. We all make the best of things as we advance towards adulthood. However, if my daughter was to start violin lessons at whatever age, I would definitely ask you to teach her! Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks so much for reaching out and providing insight into your own experiences as a father. There’s a saying we have in Australia that goes something like ‘it all irons out in the end’ (or something of the sort). I do find that many students who started at a later age end up being just as competent, and in some cases even more so than those who began when they were 3 or 4. It’s really a personal choice and while I certainly do teach and support young beginners, I rarely promote an incredibly early start.
      Thanks for your encouragement and you never know, I may one day teach your daughter 🙂

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