“I love the violin but I didn’t know it was going to be HARD!…”
I had started to notice something off with my adorable little violin student. There were times he did not show up for lessons, times he had been acting up before lessons, and he had stopped practicing.
His tearful mother stood before me telling me that she did not want to give up on the violin but that this was no longer enjoyable for either of them. Was there anything I could do to rekindle the interest in her son that now appeared to be lost?
When a student who starts out interested in a certain subject loses interest, the first thing I check for is understanding of the words and concepts. Exciting new technology in the subject of study reveals that students give up a course of study when they don’t understand the words. It makes sense. How can you understand the subject if you don’t have an full grasp of the words and symbols?
Music is a subject fraught with pitfalls for that reason. Musical notation (written music) is a system of symbols for sounds, just like the alphabet. The letters of the alphabet tell us what sounds to make with our mouths and the combination of sounds create words. We have all spent many years, several hours a day learning our alphabet and how to put the letters together to form words and the words together to form sentences.
Learning to write was a long and involved endeavor. But we did it and today we can communicate via written words.
Music is the same type of thing. If you don’t understand the symbols, it is like not knowing what the letters of the alphabet stand for, and you cannot use or understand them.
So, my first attack on this thorny problem was to go in and backtrack in my young student’s book. I am normally very thorough but you would be amazed at how easy it is to miss something and you don’t find out about it until you ask.
After doing this, I found that he had a few questions which I then answered until I could tell that he was satisfied. I also found that I was pushing him a bit too fast and we agreed to slow down.
He is a very bright kid but he is only five years old. He is now progressing well and he and mom are happy.
There are several things to look for when a student goes off the rails in any subject, and please apply this to your child’s education as well.
In addition to clearing up misunderstood words and symbols, you should find out what your child’s goal was when he decided to take up the instrument. Perhaps his friend was learning violin and he wanted to for that reason. Or perhaps he just wanted to play fun kid’s song and we are making him play classics. Perhaps he didn’t realize that he would have to practice regularly. Kids are little and lack life experience. Things that may be obvious to us may not be to a child.
The only way to really find out what is going on is to ask your child. You may be surprised by the answers you get.
Another thing to check for is whether or not you are running at a comfortable speed for your child. Some kids go fast and love it and some like a slower pace. There is nothing wrong with that and don’t be surprised if your intelligent child wants to slow down. I fell into that trap with my brilliant five year old student. He was so smart that I pushed him a bit too fast. Again you won’t know until you ask.
One should realize too, that some kids start out on fire to learn an instrument and then find that it does not suit them for whatever reason. Some decide that they don’t want to study music at all and are happy just listening.
Nothing in life has to be forever.
The most important part of teaching a child to play an instrument is to foster his love for music. If after you have ironed out any study bugs, the child isn’t feeling it, let it go. Take him to see concerts and spend time together enjoying music of all kinds.
As he grows up, he may have a desire to try it again or to try another instrument. It doesn’t make sense to rule out any musical training when a child is too young to fully understand why it is important or has not grown to love music yet. And it hurts everyone involved if you force a child too hard and he ends up hating it.