Why Piano?

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I have an eight year old daughter. Our public school doesn't provide any meaningful music instruction, so I'd like to sign her up for one of the instruments. She doesn't have any particular preference and I'm not sure which one to choose. I'm thinking about piano or violin. I know most of you here are pianists, so the bias must be that of piano. But why? Is piano harder to learn than violin? What is the logical way to decide which instrument is best fit for a young child? Any argument can help me to form my opinion is appreciated.


-- Undecided Parent (noname_poster@yahoo.com), September 04, 2001


Ask three teachers and you'll get three answers regarding where music education should start.

Some educators believe that voice is the best first "instrument" learned. It's certainly the cheapest because you don't have to buy or rent an instrument.

Some would say that the violin is best because the instrument is progressively sized for young children, unlike the piano, which is one size fits most.

Another advantage of voice and violin lessons is that your child will be involved sooner with large ensembles, and will get valuable musical experience from those ensembles.

Here are the reasons I feel piano is best, though (not necessarily in order of importance):

1) Voice and violin lessons do not teach anything about harmony, which is an essential part of music. Piano students frequently test out of the first semester of college theory, because they know the elementary basics.

2) Intonation is not a problem with the piano, unlike voice or violin.

3) Piano develops the hand and finger muscles better than voice or violin.

4) There are more job opportunities for pianists than violinists.

5) Piano teaches both G and F clefs, whereas violin or voice would expose your daughter only to the G clef.

All musical instruments (including voice) have a learning curve, so I wouldn't be concerned with which instrument is "easiest" to learn. Each has its easy and difficult points.

James King

-- James King (jlking3@ix.netcom.com), September 04, 2001.

I am a mother of 2 young boys as well as a piano and choral teacher. I always recommend that young children (3-6) get lots of experience singing and moving to music. If the child has had good exposure to music listening and rhythm through these activities, studying an instrument in going to be infinitely easier.

It should not preclude instrumental music study, however.

There are many advantages to piano study. Your child will be exposed to a wide variety of musical styles, learn to read music more fully and capably (if the teacher is competent, that is), will have an easier time grasping theory (much easier to visualize from the keyboard) and be able to participate in music as a soloist, ensemble player, accompanist or simply for her own enjoyment. She will be able to enjoy making music sooner because she can immediately produce a pleasant sound, too!

A violinist will really only be able to play melodies and will not have the immediate gratification of playing something she enjoys that will sound relatively good. While the instrument is portable, you will find that you have to change instruments as she grows to accommodate her physical size. She will, however, have more opportunities to make music with a group of people if she sticks with it long enough to play in an orchestra.

The piano can really serve as a basic instrument for study on any other instrument and there is much more literature available. Good luck making your decision!

-- Arlene Steffen (asteffen@fresno.edu), September 05, 2001.

I definitely agree with Arlene. When I was in 6th grade, we all took a test in order to give the band director an idea of how much musical knowledge we all had. I made a perfect score on the test, which pursuaded me to join the band. I then played the trumpet very successfully through high school. I'm convinced the experience wouldn't have been near as easy for me had I not taken piano lessons since I was 8. Just knowing the basics about music (note names, note durations, rhythm, etc.) gave me and other students with piano experience a HUGE advantage. That is why I am biased toward the piano. The only thing I stress is this: always be prepared to LET HER QUIT if she doesn't like it. Hope this helps!

-- Andrew (superfriend2k@yahoo.com), September 05, 2001.

I played oboe in high school and was All-City-Band soloist my senior year. No one ever said, "Flo, get your oboe and let's gather 'round in the family room and we'll sing Christmas carols.

Piano is the most versitile instrument, in my opinion--the one everyone wishes he could play. But it is harder because it's more difficult to play many notes at the same time. I guess it's fortunate that everyone doesn't agree with me or there wouldn't be so many wonderful orchestra instruments. On that note, however, 20 years ago our church used to hire a lot of violinists from the local union for our big concerts to supplement the church volunteers. Now one keyboardist on "violin" sound can play quite a few of those sounds. They may not give quite the atmosphere, but much less expensive. Good luck with the decision--in the end it is hers, of course.

Flo Arnold

-- Flo Arnold (flo@pianimals.com), September 05, 2001.

Why limit your child to only one instrument? I have six children, the oldest 15, the youngest 2. The oldest has been studying piano since age 7, but lately has been concentrating more on cello. My 10- yr-old daughter started formal piano lessons at 7, and she has been studying violin for about 2 years now. Studying the piano certainly gives a solid background (it is actually easier than violin in many respects) and I would recommend starting with it; but playing an orchestral or band instrument is also valuable. Ideally, any musician should have a piano background (most college and university music programs require a piano proficiency for students in most programs).

-- Jon Ensminger (jlens@cybrzn.com), September 07, 2001.

My daughter started piano at age 8years and loves it. She is now 10 years old and has started clarinet lessons at school. She has caugh on so quickly due to the piano lessons. Piano is a wonderful way to introduce them to a instrument, and most people love to hear my daughter play everytime they come over our house. I don't think you can go wrong with the piano, the voilin can sound really awful in the beginning and you might wish you started piano lessons!

-- Susan Murphy (suebee149@aol.com), January 09, 2005.

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