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Is There an Optimum Age to Start?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (3 votes) 
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Irv
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December 4, 2018 - 1:02 pm
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I attempted a search of prior posts, but could not find anything.  I wonder if there is an optimum age for a bright child with good finger strength to begin violin training.  I assume that it would be at least 4 years of age.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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damfino
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December 4, 2018 - 1:52 pm
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I think it depends on each child, how much they are interested in playing + the actual ability they have to learn. I've seen videos on youtube of little kids around 2 1/2 playing the violin, clearly loving it. 

I found an article on PBS website that seems to make sense of it, and I like the summary at the end:

"In summary, there are three answers to the question, “What age should children begin music lessons?” Informal activities with music should start soon after birth, followed by more systematic classes around age three, and lessons with the goal of learning the instrument should start between six and nine. Keep in mind that these are only guidelines; exceptions will undoubtedly occur based on the child and/or teacher. Musical experience at an early age is extremely important in a child’s developmental process. Like riding a bike or learning a language, these skills can be learned later in life, but they will never be “natural” in the way that is so important for fluid musical performance."

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AndrewH
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December 4, 2018 - 7:46 pm
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damfino said
I think it depends on each child, how much they are interested in playing + the actual ability they have to learn. I've seen videos on youtube of little kids around 2 1/2 playing the violin, clearly loving it. 

I found an article on PBS website that seems to make sense of it, and I like the summary at the end:

"In summary, there are three answers to the question, “What age should children begin music lessons?” Informal activities with music should start soon after birth, followed by more systematic classes around age three, and lessons with the goal of learning the instrument should start between six and nine. Keep in mind that these are only guidelines; exceptions will undoubtedly occur based on the child and/or teacher. Musical experience at an early age is extremely important in a child’s developmental process. Like riding a bike or learning a language, these skills can be learned later in life, but they will never be “natural” in the way that is so important for fluid musical performance."  

I think that article is probably the closest to correct. I can't think of any way to conduct a study to find an optimal age because musical ability is hard to quantify and there are too many confounding factors that affect long-term achievement.

Certainly opinions vary greatly. I've heard one teacher claim that age 8 is the maximum age to start playing a string instrument (clearly not true), and also heard a professional violinist call herself a late starter who beat the odds because she started at 8. On the other hand, I've also heard one teacher express the opinion that starting lessons on any particular instrument before age 8 is not very productive because an 8-year-old will likely need only a year or two to catch up to all but a handful of child prodigies.

Optimum age to start playing an instrument probably also varies with level of exposure to music at very early ages. I think the children who grow up surrounded by music can start later than those in non-musical families who might need to develop those basic musical instincts through lessons at an early age. Note that the Suzuki method, which tries to start children playing music very early (Suzuki expressly compares learning music to learning a language), seems to be designed for the latter group.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
December 7, 2018 - 11:07 am
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That is a tough question to answer. I agree with Mandy about it depending on the child. I think I would have lost interest if I had begun playing too early. I know that our kids, Michael and Emilie, didn't stick to it and possibly because he was not mature enough and expected too much too quickly.
I began playing at 12 but most of my colleagues started playing much earlier.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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mookje
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December 9, 2018 - 9:19 am
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I also agree with Mandy about depending on the child and i think it’s very important that there is not to much pressure. Encouraging without pressure, enjoy the music!

 Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain!!

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Pete_Violin
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December 17, 2018 - 8:32 am
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@Irv 

Music is good for any age... Also, it is best to lead by example.  Here is what I mean...

Bring music into the life of a child as early as you can.  Play classical pieces for them to hear.  Also, as they get older, play violin for them. Show them the love you have for your instrument and the music you play.  Practice when they are with you and show them your dedication to the instrument.

It is common that musical talent is hereditary.  And there is some truth to the theory that talent and musical aptitude runs in families.  But along with that is the environment a child is exposed to.  This is true in my own family.  Most of my siblings and my own children seem to have an aptitude for music.  This is not by mistake. Music has always been played, involved, participated in and a part of my family ever since I can remember.  The influence of having music all around me certainly played a big part in how interested in music I was at a very early age.

A child will naturally take an interest in what their parents' interests are and this is especially true with music.

So my advise is if there is music around and instruments are played, heard, and seen by a child, they will develop a natural interest very early.  It will then be easy to put an instrument in the hands of a child as soon as they are able to hold it.  Get them involved in music as early as you can!  It will help them throughout their entire lives emotionally, with learning, in being involved in something productive and constructive (other than video games, etc.), helping them socially and intellectually, developing their personalities and characteristics... It is an enormous positive influence on any child.

- Pete -

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Irv
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December 17, 2018 - 9:09 am
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An excellent post, pchoppin.  A minor issue regarding the adoption of the parent’s interests to the child.  My wife and I operated an analytical laboratory on our residential property.  I would have killed for such a thing as a child.  My children liked to pick up samples (for money) but had no interest in science.  Fiddlerman’s children do not play the violin.  Kind of like leading horses to water.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

Experience is a difficult teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson after.

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Pete_Violin
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December 17, 2018 - 9:15 am
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Irv said
An excellent post, pchoppin.  A minor issue regarding the adoption of the parent’s interests to the child.  My wife and I operated an analytical laboratory on our residential property.  I would have killed for such a thing as a child.  My children liked to pick up samples (for money) but had no interest in science.  Fiddlerman’s children do not play the violin.  Kind of like leading horses to water.  

Yeah, it is not a guarantee that showing a child your love for music will automatically produce a musical child.  That was not my point.  Rather, the influence of music around children at an early age will have a profound affect on their lives, even if it is only to hear great music.  But the chances they will become interested in music greatly increases if they are exposed to it and are used to it being around them.

- Pete -

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bocaholly
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December 17, 2018 - 10:12 am
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A few random thoughts:

Being around music and instruments doesn't have to lead to kids playing the same instrument as their parents. "Fiddlerdaughter", as we saw in a video Pierre proudly posted a while back, plays a mean keyboard and sings like a lark. "Fiddlerson-Michael" seems to have taken to the nuts and bolts of string instruments like it were his own business... oh wait, it is his own business 🙂

Back on topic:

Having spent a few decades in Germany, this is how it goes (or at least, went) there: Most cities, large and small have huge, subsidized public music schools. Kids can start in groups of 10-12 when they're 3 years old for an hour/week. Fun stuff and games and they're all proud as hell of their little red vinyl carrying cases with little red xylophones inside. By the time they're 5, they can actually play together and read 12 notes on the treble staff. Kudos to the specially trained teachers who manage to turn a motley mix of kids, from hyperactive to excessively shy, into a functioning group over three years time. 

When they're 6, there's a five week rotation where the kids get to try 8-12 really different instruments alone with a coach. Most choose one and continue with individual lessons AND in a music school elementary school ensemble. Obviously, most of them are not going to become virtuoso and many won't continue through high school. But there are some enormous benefits I can think of off the bat to the ground work laid when they were really little:

1) The feeling of being part of a group producing sound together is enormous. I experienced that for the first time at the age of 64 and it's amazing.

2)The kids' orchestra peers are likely to be a different group than the popular kids who get invited to all the parties or the kids who get picked for all the inter-school sports teams. And thanks to public subsidies, it's not just the well-to-do kids who get in on the action... although that was 20 years ago. Who knows what's happened to that public financing since.

3) The process of getting from "I can't play this yet" via focus and time put in to "I can" empowers kids to learn how they learn. 

4) With an instrument in their hands, shy kids can blossom and rambunctious kids start to experience that cool noise is even cooler when there are moments of silence and pianissimo in-between.

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AndrewH
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December 17, 2018 - 9:10 pm
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It's certainly true that early exposure to music is a huge boost. My upbringing was the opposite of pchoppin's -- I'm pretty sure both of my parents have musical anhedonia, so my family was at the far extreme of non-musical. To this day, I can't think of a single time either of my parents have ever listened to music. Although they were willing to pay for piano lessons, they asked me to practice only when they weren't home. They didn't even want me or my sister listening to music without headphones... whether it was Mozart or Metallica, it was all equally irritating to them.

So I didn't start listening to any kind of music regularly until I was in my teens, and it shows to some extent. No matter how much I love it or how fluent I get at playing musical instruments, music always feels a bit like a foreign language that I have to think about.

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Mariana
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December 17, 2018 - 9:35 pm
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Yo tuve alumnos que comenzaron a los 4 años pero no todos se mantienen en el tiempo . Me parece que depende de cada uno. Yo tocó me encanta y lo disfruto mucho  pero mis hijas si bien tienen muchas aptitudes han tocado muchos instrumentos pero no para ser profesional no tienen constancia, no quieren tocar todo el tiempo. Decidi dejarlas y que toquen cuando quieran.

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Mark
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What she said per Google translate

I had students who started at age 4 but not all of them remain in time. I think it depends on each one. I played, I love it and I enjoy it a lot, but my daughters, although they have many skills, have played many instruments but not to be professional. They do not have constancy, they do not want to play all the time. I decided to leave them and play when they want.

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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Mariana
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December 18, 2018 - 8:41 pm
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Gracias marca!!?

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