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My son is 4 years old. Since he was small, he could hum tones and pieces of music. When we got a piano he was very small, not even 2, and would hum the tone as the tuner worked. I know my tuner and he said, "that's not normal you know, right?" This continued and we bought him an ipod which we locked except for music. He sings and hums to no end. Loves video game music but also classical, rock and dance.

He reads on a first grade level and is about kinder to first in math. Since we live in NJ the district is being stubborn and will not allow him into kindergarten next year. So, this was his first year at a local Montessori school. He taught himself the alphabet at 20 months and while I let him have a lot of opportunities to learn, I don't push him especially right now.

My husband and his teacher are both certified music instructions. Apparently he picked up Sol feggio quickly and the bells at school. He knew what quarter notes, eighth notes and quarter rests were so his teacher suggested working on rhythms. I printed and laminated the first set from laytonmusic.com. He did them for his teacher in 10 minutes or less....a large stack of combinations...

So I gave him cards with a key highlighted on the piano and he had to choose the correct note. He did that and then put them in order as he went apparently...

Question: Should we have him start an instrument? I'm at a loss as what to do with him. If things are easy he gets silly or starts yawning. We've found out the hard way that he blows by tasks and hasn't needed practice to grasp many things....he can hide in school but he's not fooling me at home....

Suzuki is for kids that normally cannot read yet...He can read, and I'm even surprised he isn't just reading music yet.... Would you choose violin or piano? Would you go Suzuki, conservative or a mixed approach? We live in NJ near Philadelphia. Is there someone who specializes in kids like this?

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    Why not let him choose. I begged for the violin at 4 or 5. Eventually put aside for the guitar, then classical bass, etc. – ggcg Apr 30 at 23:31
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    I definitely would like his input. He seems very into rhythm right now and has a drum with assorted instruments. I'll be doing montessori 3 part cards on instruments to see his interest level. He liked our trumpets and our trombone....I mean what kid doesn't get a kick out of a trombone....but I can't even reach 7th position. >< (T-rex arms) We have access to a piano now...and I'll see what I can do but I'm no piano player with tiny hands....seriously can wear boys' shoes and gloves....I would love for a music teacher to work with him and see what he wants ideally..NJ mostly closed. – Tre May 1 at 1:33
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    Coincidentally I am in new Jersey, but up north. I could ask around and see if I know someone who works with kids. – ggcg May 1 at 2:37
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    My son has 3 children, all sing and play the drum-set at the age of 3-4 years), one plays Cello, one Violine, one the Double Bass, all play piano, (on a high level) all are singers and dancers, the girl with the violin was practicing her instrument and dancing hula hoop .... where's the problem? Let him play both! – Albrecht Hügli May 1 at 9:59
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    I agree - let him try out piano, violin, recorder, pretty much any instrument he's big enough to handle. (there are tiny violins available for kids) In a couple more years if he wants to try trumpet or clarinet or whatever, just go for it. – Carl Witthoft May 1 at 12:24
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Is your husband's name Leopold by any chance? Joking aside, I would have a look at Alma Deutscher and the approach her parents took regarding her musical education. The girl followed an interesting path, with excellent teachers to guide her, and is now (at 15) a world-class composer and (not unimportantly) a stellar improviser.

In my personal opinion, choosing the piano as your child's first instrument would make more sense with respect to general musicianship. (Please don't shoot me, violinists of Stack Exchange!) It's easier to play with and analyze chordal and later polyphonic music on a keyboard instrument, and is, to my mind, more immediately enticing as regards improvisation. This doesn't at all preclude learning the violin as a second instrument at some later stage.

If you're particularly interested in historical music (say up to about Mozart or early Beethoven), you could consider getting a clavichord. These usually have smaller keys, and their action requires less force from the fingers than a piano's. The sound is quieter too. I think clavichords make lovely children's instruments, if one is prepared to tune them regularly.

These are just my 2 cents of course. Get as many different opinions as you think necessary and then make an informed choice. The best of luck to you and your talented child!

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    My sister plays violin and my nephew Cello. We have a few guitarist....My husband and I met while we were in marching band. We were trumpet players though I moved to Baritone Horn. Thank you for this advice. I'll have to look into that. He still has a 4 year old attention span unless he is very interested in something. He won't even hear us for up to 2 hours.....Usually reading about chess, molecules or some science topic. – Tre Apr 30 at 22:57
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If a child is born to parents, one speaking French, the other English, hopefully there is the opportunity for that child to use both from the start. Shouldn't be that one is neglected in favour of the other. Those that I know don't have problems. So why not get a small violin, and use that piano. Sounds like a lot of things come easy, and boredom is never far round the corner. having two instruments might just stave off the onset of that boredom.

Even if neither of you are very good on either instrument, so what? You both have far more experience musically than your son, and surely could keep at least just ahead! Reading is good, but don't neglect the 'free' side of music. Just playing, making up stuff, trying to play known tunes in different keys, the list is endless without the restrictions of relying on the dots.

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    Why limit it to just two? I'd surround that kid with as many different types of instruments as I could reasonably get a hold of. Some of them might be difficult for small hands, but there's plenty that can be played at a young age. Get a small guitar or ukulele, a recorder (larger wind instruments might be tricky for fingering), a harmonica, etc. (These can all be found relatively cheaply - you don't want to spend too much on an instrument he ends up rarely using.) Then you can let him decide which he likes as he tries them all out, and that'll tell you which to invest real money in later. – Darrel Hoffman May 1 at 13:27
  • Thank you! I guess I'm not very confident....or maybe not engaging him well enough. He wants to play Zelda music from daddy's book....Maybe I'll just start playing a little each day for me and see how that goes....he has some rhythm instruments, (drum, tambourine etc), kiddy xylophone, lap harp and piano. I think the violin we have is not full size but not small enough for him.... – Tre May 1 at 13:31
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    My parents primarily use different dialects of Chinese, so my siblings and I basically had to learn Chinese from Chinese school and whatever scraps Mom taught us. If the two parents speak different languages or play different instruments, it's quite possible the kids get to learn neither of them. – Dekkadeci May 1 at 13:48
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Would you choose violin or piano?

At 4 years old violin makes a lot more sense just because of the size. Kids that young have been learning violin for centuries with the result that violins are made in a number of smaller sizes to suit smaller people. Consequently it is much easier to learn good technique on the violin than the piano when you are that young/small.

Would you go Suzuki, conservative or a mixed approach?

I would probably go with the teachers that I hear good things about as a first priority and the method second. A really good teacher with young but intelligent kids is the more important factor.

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    Thank you! I'm hoping to find someone who can deal with his energy and over enthusiasm.....He was quizzing his teacher and writing rhythms....Everyone say, "He'll be fine. Don't worry. I would have loved if my parents gave me opportunities to outlet my brain....wasn't allowed an instrument until I was in 8th grade. – Tre Apr 30 at 23:00
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My child already recognizes what triggers his interest. I can watch him and see it almost immediately. That information allows me to decide the best way I can be supportive of his development in those interests. It is my opinion that children learn about as much from playing with their instrument as toys as they do from formal instruction, and the combination of both areas of learning yield the best understanding of the identified interest. I think of the way they learn to communicate by first learning how to mouth words. Formal instruction is usually not required at first. When they start school, they then begin to learn the rules of proper grammar and their understanding of how to communicate is enhanced. They become educated in what works and what doesn't work so well. I see a strong similarity in the process of learning about and developing musically. I try to follow my child's interest where it may lead, while being supportive and keeping them safe at the same time. I do not support the parental idea that I instinctively and absolutely know what is the best way for my child to grow and develop, and I dare say that nobody on this site knows this either, but that's just my opinion.

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I worked in a band instrument sales, rental, and repair shop for ten years, and the advice that we gave folks is: unless you think your kid is truly a savant, start piano at 8 at the earliest and second instrument (wind, strings, etc.) at 10. It's not just aptitude that you have to think about: they should be taking lessons, and lessons are usually, at a minimum, 30 minutes. Can your child sit, pay attention, and respond for 30 minutes. Also, how motivated are they to practice. At a minimum, they should be practicing 15 minutes a day, every day, and that should be mostly self-motivated.

The biggest impediment to musical progress is frustration, not lack of ability. You want to make sure that you're setting your child up for success.

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  • Yes. Frustration and concentration were a concern. He can go a half hour on music or more at his school. Since it is Montessori, they always have access to bells for pitch matching and music playing plus a variety of other sound objects, They are encouraged to work as long as they would like and discover for themselves. – Tre May 2 at 21:20
  • But can he go for at least half an our doing something he may not want to do? Because that's how you practice music. Nobody likes scales. But they're essential. – John Doe May 4 at 16:33
  • Yes. He has a 30-40 minute span with his school teacher right now. It’s 60 minutes total but I know that is his current limit so he does music and high interest after. So the last 20 minutes were rhythms and solfege. – Tre May 5 at 17:41
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I think the most useful musical skill you could cultivate in a 4-year old would be perfect pitch.

Google "Dylan Beato" for some jaw-dropping videos. I'd suggest trying to contact Rick Beato or Suzie Collier (Jacob's mum) or Aimee Nolte and asking them how they approached musical exposure for their youngsters.

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