Music Lessons 101

Our household is a reasonably musical household, by that I mean, we listen to music, experiment with music and have the a house full of instruments (drums, guitars, a piano, assorted wind instruments and percussion) courtesy of my husband’s musical hobbies. So why are we having the children tutored in music?

Music is one of the main ways that Wren, and even Robin, learns and communicates and I have no expertise in this area. As an example: Wren will dance or sing answers to direct questions in preference to just answering in words.  It can be impossible to determine, from her frolics and twirls, what she means when I’ve asked “would you like a drink of milk?”.

Wren has a tune for everything. When she takes in new information, if it has a tune it sticks instantly and she perceives herself an expert in whatever the tune was about. Things she hears in conversation are wedged verbatim into tunes she already knew, or some number she’s just whipped up. She has described people through dance: “his sneakers were like <insert Anna Pavlova here>”.

This led to the decision to explore formal lessons rather than just letting the children experiment on the instruments in our house. We want them to develop skills in making music, a trained ear and a solid theoretical and technical foundation. For that you need lessons.

A few weeks ago Wren listened to a couple of her 6 year old friends playing violin and this sparked a wider interest from both her and us. Her friends had both been learning the violin for about 12 months, one in the Suzuki method and one in a traditional method, who was just switching over to Suzuki.

We decided that  Wren should have lessons from an expert and it should be in something that she won’t be a able to learn by ear from the normal run of our household. We chose the violin because her friends were learning it, it is considered a difficult instrument to learn and will hopefully give her an area of expertise in our household. Wren is getting old enough that we need to start thinking about her formal schooling routine, so we brought forward the plan to get her lessons. We want her to learn to work hard at reproducing the information that she takes in; learning mastery of a skill not just familiarity with the tune.

Robin will also take lessons. He enjoys textures, sensations and mastering the things he is interested in, so having a stringed/bowed instrument and one that is close to his face, we think he will get a lot out of learning the violin.

Choosing a method and a teacher

Because Husband-of-Awesome plays by ear and I suspect Wren could too, I want her playing skills and musical knowledge developed at the same rate, so she will develop a trained ear and have a solid technical and theoretical foundation. On the other hand, Robin has a little of my musicality, so we want for him to get some skills and enjoy conquering a difficult task so that he has the opportunity to find an instrument he truly loves.

The decision to go Suzuki came from my own experience as a child learning the guitar, flute and piano. Because I have no natural ability I play instruments like some people two-finger type; I can get to the end, but there’s no grace, no love. Learning in the traditional method, I didn’t have any of those confidence-building-successes early, so never developed a love of any instrument I tried and desperately hated practicing. For Wren and Robin I want to try something specifically designed for children so that they can have those small successes to spur them on to want to work towards mastery. Suzuki is child-centred and supportive of the parents’ role in their child’s development. It models music learning after the way that first languages are learnt and intends incremental mastery of listening and “speaking” before reading is formally taught.

To begin, I Googled “suzuki music australia” and  found, to my delight, Suzuki Music Australia and followed the link to “find a teacher“. Through this I found a teacher and I asked her “how do we get started when we don’t own a violin and I don’t know anything about obtaining a decent one?”. Her advice was to contact the Sydney String Centre; which incidentally was the same advice my cello-playing brother-in-law gave me when I asked his advice on how to get started.

I’m really hoping that both children will develop a deep and abiding love of the violin, or at least find satisfaction in the learning process. We’ll review at the end of the year and see where their passions lie.

This week is the first week of lessons… stay tuned 😛


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