Is violin too hard for kids? Will my kid be up to the task? Learning the violin seems to be such a daunting task. Are there qualities that my kid can develop from learning the violin anyway?
I think the answer is yes, there are many. I have tried to list a few. And after more than 40 years of playing, I can testify on them, their role, their importance in life.
These are the top 10 qualities that your child will develop by learning the violin:
1. Attention to detail
Violin playing is such a fine art, relying on so many parameters, that learning will develop an incredible attention to detail attitude. Feeling the weight of the box, the difference of tension in the bow hair and its correlated feel and sound. The weight of the arm as opposed to right arm pressure.
On the left hand, small differences of pressure of the fingers on the fingerboard, slight differences in position will lead to problems in intonation. Learning how to play in tune will definitely play a great part in learning finesse, importance of details, awareness of small tiny things and their importance.
2. Self-esteem: a bigger than life project
A child which is given the chance to play an instrument understands, although maybe instinctively, his or her importance. This is not only a game: the child feels that something bigger is in play. It is a bigger than life project.There is trust implied here. The child plays an important part in the transmission of an art from one generation to the following one. And is also at the center of a great heritage. Even if a young child can’t put words on it, he or her can feel it.
What better base on which to build self-esteem? I mean, good, trusty self-esteem that will last for a whole life? This transcends where you live, what you have.
3. Communication with others
It is often debated how good team sports are for children. And they certainly are. But let’s not forget that learning an instrument can provide such benefits to a child. It is not only personal training and patience which are on stake here. The main purpose of an instrument, that is to say music, is to learn to play in front of an audience with musical partners.
Learning how to interact with a friend who plays another instrument is key here. Building a project slowly, rehearsing on a weekly base, experimenting, trying out things, deciding what is best and what doesn’t work, planing a concert, preparing for it and facing it together: these are great skills that a child can learn when playing an instrument with others. How to speak out, communicate, articulate our role in a bigger game.
4. Listening to others
We say we live in a time where selfishness is every where. I don’t know, but definitely learning the violin is as much a give as a take activity. Your child will learn how to listen.
He or she will have to listen to its teacher for sure, but to listen to music in a very special and fine way.
The child will have to listen to its friends or fellow musicians in order to be able to play a tune together. Metronome is only for practicing: playing together is only based upon perfect connection by ear. The child has to know his friends part as much as his or hers, has to put himself or herself in the shoes of his musical partner, anticipate his playing. Lastly, playing an instrument teaches how to react to an audience: to be aware of details, reactions, feel of the audience towards your performance.
Playing an instrument in general and the violin in particular emplies many parameters towards a single end. This is a great way to develop dedication. This is the opposite of browsing the web, channel surfing on the satellite, zapping between channels, interruptions, notifications… You get the point.
A child who wants to learn an instrument will have to concentrate on several skills towards a goal. And it is only by practicing the same things that progress is possible. Regularity and dedication are key, here. They are the condition sine qua non learning is possible. This is a great quality to learn and develop. And music in general or violin in particular will play an important part in developing this key quality for your child. Concentrating on one subject for a long period is the secret for success.
Usually, we, adults, want results now. This is the opposite with learning the violin. Children on the contrary, don’t set goals long term. They are just happy with where they are now, and just holding the violin in their hands is just as rewarding as playing Mozart N# 5 in a couple of years.
Yet, patience is key when it comes to the violin. Nobody can leapfrog and play well in the blind of an eye. If you are happy with the present, the opposite of frustration, then you go on step after step, regularly; you trust your teacher, the days go by and then you realize your level has increased dramatically.
There is confidence in this process: repeated small steps every day equals big leap in ability. That is how a child can learn patience.
Of course a bit of predisposition doesn’t hurt. But what better in life than learn a patient, steady and consistent effort for a child? This is the best way to get anything in life.
Again, our modern age society provides too many interruptions, notifications in our life. Children and young people in general find it more and more difficult to concentrate on one task for a period of time.
Playing the violin requires just the opposite. And it is a very good exercice for children to focus their attention at a very young age. They have to focus on the sound, on the pitch of the sound, but also on their feelings, the position of their body in space, their movement. Playing the violin at a given time requires the mind to check several key factors: the quality of the sound, its pitch, and the relation between the gesture of the right arm and the sound quality.
That focus can be also called concentration and is essential to learning the violin. If you don’t develop that ability, you can’t play that instrument. Again, whether or not your children wants to become a professional violinist or not, the learned ability to focus will be of great help for his or her studies and on hard periods of exams and graduation.
Self-discipline can be thought of as focus on the long run.
There is direct causality between learning the violin and acquiring self-discipline. Getting to practice every day. Organizing that work between different matters (technic, musicality…) is also very good; and also organizing work in a year’s time frame, till the final exam or competition is key to build up discipline. Again without discipline, that exam or competition are clearly out of reach. That is why developing qualities is directly linked to violin playing.
That is why it can be hard at times.
There are less and less opportunities to use our memory, and the education system doesn’t require learning by heart as much as it used to. It might be a good exercise for the brain though, and memorizing is still used a lot in playing an instrument. The best way to learn a tune is by heart, without having to read the score throughout, in order to be able to concentrate on the music itself. For other kind of players, modern bands, learning the chord progression and the structure of the tune is key too. Good musicians have often memorized hundreds of page of great music. This is quite impressive. And that training can serve other purpose in life; memorizing anything easily when trained is a great asset. Again who thought the violin could be such a school of life?
Each and every quality will be of precious help for your child in general, in many fiels for the rest of his or her life.
If you wonder when it is best for your children to start the violin, read further this post where I detailed the pros and cons of starting at several young ages.