My almost four-year old son has shown a big interest in music, specifically the violin. When he was two, we went to see The Concert Truck, and he absolutely loved it. After we got home, he kept talking about it - we showed him some YouTube videos of violinists, and he immediately picked up his toy ukulele, stuck it under his chin, and pretended to play violin with a plastic straw for a bow, haha. So now that he's almost four, should I start looking for a Suzuki teacher? Or should I wait another year or two?
No, four years old is not too young to start violin. A few things to keep in mind:
- Finding the right teacher, one with experience teaching young kids and making music fun, is critical. The right teacher can set your child up for a lifetime of making--and loving--music. The wrong teacher can extinguish the joy of music in a child, and it may never be recovered. Read reviews, talk to other people, ask for recommendations at music stores, attend recitals.
- Young children can be fickle, so don't be distraught if a passion for playing violin turns into a passion for playing something else. The point is he's interested in music, which is a real blessing. Don't let him change instruments on a whim, nor should you lock him into an instrument that he truly doesn't want to play anymore.
- One of the best instruments for unlocking an understanding all music (not just playing an instrument) is the piano. Our kids picked one instrument that they wanted to play (we had seven kids playing fiddle/violin, cello, viola, mandolin, guitar), and we put them in piano lessons as well. The latter really helped them with their grasp of music theory. You may want to consider adding piano lessons after he's proven that his passion for music isn't a short-term infatuation.
- Fractional size children's violins (1/16th, 1/8th, etc.) from a typical rental pool are notoriously bad in quality. Make sure to have your son's teacher check the instrument out to make sure it plays easily and stays in tune. Learning to play any violin is tricky; learning on a junky VSO (violin-shaped object) is a real chore. A bad instrument will also assault your ears with a thin, pinched tone. Those smaller instruments never sound full and rich, but nor should they sound like a hornet in a garden hose.
Suzuki is very much appropriate for four years old - in fact that’s later than many start (3).
The main thing is to decide ahead of time what your goals are here. Is it to enable him? Or to teach him skills? The approach to how to encourage practice and how to handle down times when he’s not as interested will matter here.
Ideally, this would be driven by his own interest, and practice would happen organically. But in the real world, that’s not always going to happen - practice is something you’ll have to teach. Decide how you’re going to approach that as early as possible, so you don’t end up in a situation where he dislikes violin because you’re making him practice against his will.
Depends on your individual child. Typically the answer by Kurt above is accurate. Absolutely find a teacher that specializes in working with young children. Get references & visit one of the teachers sessions at least. If you can drop in unannounced at a group instruction or getting ready for a recital etc. this will give you a better idea if that instructor is right for your child. If your kiddo is beyond their years you may want to choose a more serious instructor. But if your child is interested in music and indicates they want to try something new (say violin in above case), then fun is the way to go. Rent a mini violin fit for your child first. Do not purchase every instrument your child shows interest in (unless you have money to do so). Most music stores have rental programs. The teacher should teach to make learning the instrument fun, interesting and begin with the basics. It’s so much harder to unlearn bad habits. Make sure the teacher is certified and knows the instrument and teaching young children really well. Sounds like in your case your kid wants to learn violin. Learning an instrument takes discipline, time, practice (a lot). All this can be taught in a way that isn’t droll. You don’t want your child stressed out when only 4-6 years old (or later really). Trying new things should be fun and rewarding. I’m a certified parenting educator and a musician. I’ve had terrible piano teachers and wonderful ones. Same goes for choir, voice lessons etc. The teachers I remember and learned from the most were the kindest, rewarding and calming way about them. Conversely, I also remember the terrible piano and voice teachers. They acted as if I was going to conduct a major orchestra in a months time. You know your child best. You’ll find the right fit and style of teaching that works best for your child. Ask friends, neighbors or daycare parents if they have recommendations. Word of mouth really helps and is usually right. Good luck and make sure your kid has fun!