I had an interesting chat with a friend about her talented 9 year old.
Johnny (not his real name) is about to do his ABRSM grade 5 on the trumpet, which is pretty good going for his age.
Like many people who want to give their child a really comprehensive music education my friend and her son are considering starting a second instrument.
My friend thought he might start on the piano.
Now, as someone who loves playing piano and who tried to become a concert pianist I am the first to extol the many virtues of the piano.
But, and there is always a But – the piano is not for everybody. There will be limited time to practise a second study instrument – and I would say that piano needs regular practise of around 30 minutes most days to get to a level of proficiency where things are starting to become fun. I would say that other instruments can be more forgiving.
Piano music is also slightly more difficult to read, as there are two staves and multiple notes and chords to be deciphered at the same time – rather different to reading music for a single line melodic instrument. This is something which some children take to better than others and it is of course much dependent on practise.
The conversation started to take a more interesting turn though, when I asked:
“What does Johnny want to play?”
The answer was :
I thought that was pretty clear then. Because:
I would always try to accommodate the child’s wish of instrument. It can save a lot of arguing and when gently prodding to practise – which invariably you will have to with a young child. You can be comfortable in the knowledge that you have the moral high ground. After all, your child chose to play this instrument – you did not make them, and they should be aware that the expense of lessons brings with it some responsiblilty on the child’s part to actually do some work!
Now I can totally understand why many a parent’s heart would start to sink at that point. If you live in a flat or don’t have the luxury of a studio or a garage where you can send you budding drummer to practise! A drum Kit can be VERY LOUD.
Luckily there now electronic starter drum kits for around £200 – they are much smaller than traditional drumkits and you play them through head phones – so really no noise at all! Do be careful about volume levels when your child is practising though – as you don’t want to expose their ears to very high decibels – something which can precipitate hearing loss in later life. Something which also goes for listening to music on head phones. Of course you can normally also plug the kit into a pa and use it normally – who knows you kid might start up a band in due course.
By which time you probably really want to have that garage or shed.