You may be surprised by my answer, and not long ago, I would have been too.
I would have said, “Absolutely not. I will not let my children switch instruments.”
My reasons for this stance were good. And to some extent, I stand behind them still.
I didn’t (and still don’t) want my children to jump from instrument to instrument hoping for the “perfect fit.”
While some people may be more suited for one instrument than another, all instruments are difficult, and switching will not spare you or your child from the effort required to master a musical instrument.
Some stages in instrumental learning are more difficult and less rewarding than others, if you quit or switch during one of these, you do all the work but miss the payoff!
One of these stages comes right at the start. Being a beginner is tough. There is so much to learn, so much to remember. You can’t play anything cool, and generally, you sound pretty bad.
Once your technique improves and your repertoire expands, things get a lot more interesting and more rewarding.
So, don’t quit in Suzuki book one! (Or when you first start vibrato, or shifting, etc.)
I still feel strongly about these reasons not to let my children switch instruments. However, I don’t think I will make them stick with violin (or cello) from age four to eighteen whether they like it or not.
So why have I changed my tune? Why I am I considering letting them switch to another instrument at some point?
I care more about my relationship with my child than the length of time they take violin lessons and practice the violin.
If forcing my child to practice and attend lessons that they hate is truly damaging our relationship, I’m not going to continue. You’d better believe I’m going to troubleshoot, get support and help, and do everything I can to strengthen our relationship through music before I let that happen though.
Specialization on one instrument is most valuable if you go on to study and support yourself with that instrument.
Since I am not angling for my children to follow in my students and become professional violinists or cellists, what’s the harm in letting them follow their passions? Maybe they will be happier and more creative adults because they play the violin, the piano, and the drums? Who knows? This podcast episode had a significant effect on my thought process about this…
My biggest reasons for making music study an important of our family culture are not dependent on them playing a specific instrument.
I want my children to learn the value of hard work, to experience the joy of making music with other people, to build relationships with teachers and other students, to learn how to practice, to use mindfulness to improve and progress. These are all things that can be learned at the violin, or the piano, or the guitar, or the bagpipes.
Here’s my caveat:
The reasons for not switching or quitting are still strong for me, so here’s the deal.
There will be no switching or quitting instruments of any kind if certain conditions are not met.
Here are the conditions my children must meet in order to switch instruments.
- You cannot quit your primary instrument until you have played a graduated from Book 4 and are older than age ten.
- You cannot quit your primary instrument until you have started and played a secondary instrument for one year.
- You cannot begin a secondary instrument until after age ten or Suzuki Book 4 graduation.
- If you choose to quit your primary instrument, you have to tell your teacher in person.
There will be no willy-nilly switching of instruments here, no sir.
What about you? What do you think about letting children switch instruments? Please share in the comments.
If you have conditions, please share those too! I’d love to read them!