Getting Kids Started in Music

Discussion in 'V.C.'s Parlor' started by duceditor, Aug 15, 2019 at 7:24 AM.

  1. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    72
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    This is a subject that comes up from time to time, and one that is likely thought about by many of us far more often. When is the best time to get one's kid going with music? What is the best way to do it?

    I've contributed to these discussions, sharing my own experience from when my son Aaron, now in his late forties, was little.

    Since Jan and I were both musicians -- indeed, having met via collaboration in a band (Jan had earlier been in the fairly successful Boston group IV Kings and a Queen) -- music was part of our lives. And although Jan was best known as a keyboardist and a singer, she also owned and played a guitar -- a Fender 12 string.

    Jan with Guitar circa 1969.jpg

    We were unusual in that we left rock and roll when our son was born. The scene had to our eyes changed (this was in the late `60s, early `70s) from one that was filled with youthful excitement and fun to one that was increasingly dark. -Not in our eyes a good environment for the development of a child. But in any case music remained a big part of our lives and very early on we got our son involved.

    First with an autoharp. That was when he was, I think, four.


    Autoharp.jpg

    The instrument was technically physically big for him, but he learned to play it with it lying flat on a low table.

    At age five he got his first guitar -- a 3/4 sized Yamaha with nylon strings -- and I started then giving him formal lessons using the age-old Mel Bay method.

    By age six or seven he was playing duets and trios, not just with Jan and I, but also with his grand dad who played upright bass. Why he even did a solo gig by request at some friend of our's wedding!

    Aaron with Guitar.jpg

    In the end the guitar didn't stick. He played in some into college -- probably as much for its chick magnet quality as anything -- but then left it behind. (Well, formally at least. My daughter in law says he is a master of one of those video guitar things but he is shy about it so I have yet to hear him.)

    Still, even if he didn't stick to it I do not see that as time wasted. We had fun together when he was a child, and music is still a big part of his life. (Not rarely one or two concerts a week.) Plus I truly believe the research that says that music making helps develop the mind.

    All this has come to my mind because of my reviewing work for Donner musical instruments and several of the sister companies. Last week I was introduced to a new company called Kiddre. They are apparently releasing an entire line of musical instruments for children and asked me to share my thoughts on the first, a ten button accordion.

    Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 6.58.37 AM.png

    As I have found with their, meaning Donner's and MouKey's, adult focused musical gear I was quite impressed with the Kiddre accordion. My review for Amazon tells why. If I were a parent today this instrument would have taken the place of the autoharp. It's even more capable, easier to play, and a lot more fun.

    Cheaper, too! (Only about $20.)

    Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 6.57.56 AM.png


    -don
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019 at 8:06 AM
  2. radiotech

    radiotech Dr. Squier

    Apr 23, 2014
    Chicago
    I’ve seen a version of that accordion in the gift shop of every Cracker Barrel I’ve ever been to (though it’s not on their website), and it’s amazing what a kid magnet it is! Both my (now adult) girls still pick it up and play a couple songs if we find a CB in our travels.
    $20 is a great price, I think it’s like 45 there.

    My youngest dropped her music minor to focus on her major (speech pathology), but still plays regularly, and the last few years we started playing songs together at Christmas, and picnics/BBQ’s, it’s a hoot. It’s funny, she won’t learn a pop song on her own (prefers classical, and show tunes), but when we agree to play for something, she knocks it out of the park.
    Last summer we played a HS friend of mine, birthday party for her Mom (early-70’s), she wanted Beatles tunes, so we put together a 45 minute set, my kid was amazing... but hasn’t played any of those songs on her own since (we’ve played them together a couple times since).

    Nice share Don, I’m going to grab one of these for the boys for Xmas now.
     
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  3. Bob the builder

    Bob the builder Squier-Meister

    Age:
    58
    238
    Feb 25, 2017
    Rhode Island USA
    I dropped the ball with my kids but my grandkids have had access to guitars since they were big enough to balance one across their lap.
     
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  4. eaglesgift

    eaglesgift Squier-Nut

    Age:
    51
    944
    Apr 18, 2014
    Chiang Mai, Thailand
    My daughter’s had violin lessons for a year or so (wife’s idea, not mine) but she enjoys the company of the girl who teaaches more than she does playing I think. I feel bad sometimes that I don’t push her a little bit harder to practise but I’m really not keen on the whole, “My son could speak Chinese when he was 2, my daughter could play piano concertos when she was 3” culture that seems quite prevalent these days. I want her to enjoy her childhood and I don’t see the desperate need to rush. I’ll keep trying to get her interested and ignite a flame but I won’t force it; I’ll just disown her if she turns out to be unmusical.
     
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  5. Wizzer

    Wizzer Squier-holic

    Jul 12, 2010
    Scottsdale, AZ
    I just played music I loved for my son from day one(earlier, technically, because I used to put headphones around my wife's belly while he was in there). At six, he asked for a guitar when we were in a guitar store. (The left side picture in my avatar.) I let him come to it on his own and didn't push. I didn't want to make it like another chore for him, i.e. taking out the garbage, cleaning his room, etc.

    It worked out; he has a love for it that I think mainly comes from him "owning" it from the very beginning. He really found it himself, or it found him.
     
  6. mofojar

    mofojar Squier-Meister

    Age:
    36
    490
    May 9, 2019
    Calgary, Alberta
    My dad bought a Epiphone Les Paul Junior for my 5 year old nephew, and I had the honor of doing a setup on it. The frets were a little sharp but I made them very smooth and then did a full setup with Ernie Ball 9's that I had lying around. I thought going with 9's on a 24.75" guitar would make it exceptionally easy to play for a little guy like my nephew.
     
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  7. jamndad

    jamndad Squier-holic

    Age:
    54
    Nov 23, 2013
    Bakersfield, Ca.
    My wife and I always played our favorite music, fairly loud, when our boys were young. They loved it. They love music. When I finally started to dabble with a guitar that was given to me, my twin boys became more interested. One day my wife texted me images. She had just returned home from Guitar Center with the boys first purchase, a 6 string and a bass.

    I was ecstatic. They dove right in, got pretty good, stumbled upon a kid at GC that could play drums and did some garage jams. It was a blast watching this. It's tapered off, unfortunately. I still try to prod them into staying with it.
     
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  8. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    72
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    We must live on different ends of the planet. I read about that from time to time, but see mostly (by far) the opposite. People who do not see the connect between accomplishment and joy. Or do come to see it but rather late.

    Not that the "balance" (if there is such a thing) sits in a single place. But blindness of parents on either side of the divide in my eyes limits a child's long term options. As indeed we tend equally to limit our own.

    To "force" something on a child (or adult IMO) doesn't usually work out as expected and hoped. But at least as bad, again in my own judgment, is denying that early on adults often must provide the self control and focus that self discipline will, once learned, later provide.

    That said I have only raised one child. And he was "bright" from day one. But the thing is we took notice of that and fed all his capabilities -- this often bringing complaint from others.

    Jan fed his hungry mind and developed a teaching method (this was way before "Hooked on Phonics" and the like were available) so that reading was well mastered (tested college level in fact) before he started formal schooling. We included all the arts (music, theater, visual), biblical/ethical instruction, history, culture and lots of everyday practical teachings (even little things like how to fold a shirt, how to cook, how to clean, how to deal with money, etc.)

    Our thinking, which Jan clearly articulated, was that if anything happened to us at any given time in his life he'd be prepared for "life" as it actually is.

    And the later did not just mean, or even for the most part mean, "chores." No, those were done to facilitate what makes one's life really worthwhile: Pursuing interests, reaching personal goals, mastering all that modern living generally includes. And in the end that has meant having an enjoyable life, not a tedious or unsatisfying one.

    Our son set his own goals early (His, note, not ours) and ran with them fast, strong and true.

    Is that what you describe? I don't know. But I am sure pleased we took that course. To see his "success" -- not in the world's terms alone, but in his own. His joy in mastery. How he is loved, cherished, respected and (yes) generously "paid" for being what he is. :D

    Learning music was a part of that, but only a part. A piece of the great puzzle called "life."

    Oh, and that wasn't just for him. It is how we as best we can live ourselves.

    -don
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019 at 4:30 PM
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  9. oneLOCOman

    oneLOCOman Squier-Nut

    Age:
    64
    976
    Oct 2, 2018
    Missouri
    I tried to get all 4 of my kids into music, one really had the gift and played in the school band but quit in HS. However I coached all 4 in soccer a total of 14 yrs straight. I just tried to make sure they had good hearts and accepted people no matter there background. In that I succeeded they are the kindest people you will ever meet. My youngest is getting into guitar so I am happy for him. My grandson loves the guitar but I am so far away. Times are so different now than when I grew up in the 60's every kid wanted to play guitar or drums an occasional weirdo even wanted to play bass or organ ;). I drove my parents nuts for a guitar. Got my first one in 1959 in Mexico for $2 about all my parents could afford back then.
     
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  10. Gave my grandson a Strat Affiinity and a Fender amp. He's having a difficult time playing with that damned smart phone glued to his hand. :rolleyes:
    Cheers, Barrie.
     
  11. mofojar

    mofojar Squier-Meister

    Age:
    36
    490
    May 9, 2019
    Calgary, Alberta
    Yeah my nephew is still addicted to video games and hasn't really sat down with an instrument yet.

    But I figure having it in the house and accessible is better than not having it at all. One day he's going to try it and he may love it. Or maybe he'll be one of those eSports guys, making millions from playing video games. Life is funny that way.

    I will say growing up in a house where my dad played in bands definitely inspired both myself and my brother to also play in bands. It wasn't until much later in my life where I started to spend a lot of time with non-musicians (mostly at work, to be honest). My dad and all his friends played in bands. We'd go to a campfire and have a circle of guitars. We had a yearly unofficial music festival we called Webejammin' that would be at a friend's farm. Music was part of the fabric of our lives.
     
  12. Bassman96

    Bassman96 Squier-holic

    Age:
    41
    Nov 13, 2010
    Oak Harbor, WA
    My boy really wants to play guitar
    .. specifically a red strat with a white pick guard (he has told me several times over). Did a little test today and his arms and hands are still a bit small for a full sized guitar but pretty sure a mini will work out well for him. It's funny seeing a 6yr old GAS lol. Gotta start saving up for one of the Squier mini paks for Christmas. Hopefully his interest waits that long!

    20190815_154638.jpg
     
  13. Bassman96

    Bassman96 Squier-holic

    Age:
    41
    Nov 13, 2010
    Oak Harbor, WA
    I am still trying to convince him that the bass is much cooler though lol. I might be getting closer to winning him over ;):)

    Let him plug into my Bassman 100!

    20190815_201750.jpg

    Take that neighbors!
     
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  14. eaglesgift

    eaglesgift Squier-Nut

    Age:
    51
    944
    Apr 18, 2014
    Chiang Mai, Thailand
    We do live on different ends of the planet, quite literally.

    Here, boasting about your children’s scholastic achievements is a national pastime and parents seem desperate to outdo each other. I find it very sad because I think they have lost sight of what they’re actually trying to achieve. Not everyone is like that of course, but many are. As I already said, I do my best to encourage my daughter, but her wellbeing is my primary concern, not whether she can learn to do something 6 months before her peers so I can tell everyone about it.
     
  15. How many Asian kids are on the YouTube playing instruments like emotionless robots. It may not be scholastic, but it may be part of what has happened there.
    Cheers, Barrie.
     
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  16. tortuga

    tortuga Squier-Meister

    110
    Apr 28, 2018
    Here
    That is the case around here as well. People using their kid’s accomplishment as a proxy for their own, as if they can take credit because of the great job they did parenting.

    I have two and we have done our best to give both of them every advantage and opportunity we can. One of them excels easily and the other struggles. The one thing I know is I have as little to do with one’s successes as I do the other’s failures. The irony is I think the one that excels struggles more to be happy than the one that struggles with the material challenges.

    In the end we are each who we are. The degree to which we are successful has more to do with luck in the womb than it does the effectiveness of our parents or how hard we try. Even our ability to be focused and disciplined is largely a function of our brain physiology, not our character. I am not saying upbringing and character are non-factors. I’m only saying they are a much smaller part of the equation than many people (and parents) like to think. That is why grace and humility are such important concepts to grasp!

    It is simple love and happiness that really matter, not worldly accomplishment.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019 at 3:19 AM
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  17. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    72
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    There are many interesting and valid POVs being expressed here. That there is no 'one right way' is an almost universal truth, just as is the statement that every law has an exception.

    I do not know if it was the original source, but I first heard it in the film Chariots of Fire -- that "man can't put in what God left out." And I myself have more than once raised eyebrows by saying "the most a college education can do is raise the level of mediocrity." I.e., it'll never in and of itself create a Rubens or a Michelangelo, or for that matter a Steve Jobs or a Elon Musk. But the other side of this is also true: That far too often a person with enormous gifts and understanding -- often innate -- spends his days doing repetitive and boring labor with little financial reward under the 'guidance' of someone with far less understanding, ability or anything to show apart from credentials or having an earlier opportunity to get on the proverbial ladder and/or show his or her stuff.

    In personal lives that leads to unhappiness and frustration.

    In society it leads to anger and endless placing of blame.

    I do not have the answer for that on a universal level, but from what I have seen much of that can be avoided, or at least the worst of it skirted, by qualities, skills and opportunities provided by parents through early exposure and, yes, training and discipline.

    That last word -- discipline -- is often taken as harshness and the exercise of power. I mean it as guidance -- sometimes firm, but always motivated by unselfishness, understanding and love.

    Much, too, has to do with community expectations. That may be sad, but it is so. You can't 'reach for the stars' if you've never seen them. Some communities (and families) have them almost innately, others seem to far less often.

    Going back to the theme, how can we help our children see the 'stars' that are the joys of music making?

    Tools.
    Opportunities.
    Encouragement.

    -don
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019 at 6:12 AM
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  18. eaglesgift

    eaglesgift Squier-Nut

    Age:
    51
    944
    Apr 18, 2014
    Chiang Mai, Thailand
    I’m not sure what the best approach is because I think it’s quite a balancing act to teach a child the discipline needed to learn an instrument well, without making them feel like you’re forcing it on them. Most of us only have one go at parenting and one experience of being parented, so we have a limited amount of material on which to draw and just one chance to get it right. I guess all we can do is what we feel is best, taking our children’s characters into account of course.

    On reflection, that sounds a little gloomy and it’s not completely true....we do have time to adjust our approaches if they don’t seem to be working. I’m taking a long-term approach as far as music is concerned: I wish my daughter had made more progress than she has so far but there’s time. Even if she takes another 2 years to become competent on an instrument, she’ll be in a great position at just ten years of age. And if it takes longer, it’s no biggie. At least, I don’t think it is but I’m no expert! :eek:
     
  19. Bluzy

    Bluzy Squier-Nut

    Age:
    53
    950
    Nov 20, 2017
    Hudson Valley, NY
    An interesting post that I am not sure went where it was intended. I actually agree with both sides here as one looking back a bit on my children who are now college students or getting close. I did not force music lessons and teaching on my children and looking back, wish I made them learn piano or some such thing. 2 of them did a year in elementary school with a flute and clarinet. It didn’t stick and we didn’t force it but I do regret perhaps pushing a bit more. My oldest son took guitar lessons with me at the age of 13 for about 6 months but he wasn’t practicing so that part for him ended. He does like music and goes to concerts and even listens to my “Dad” music occasionally. In the end, they all seem to be well adjusted, bright, kind and mostly motivated. I am ever hopeful they decide to pursue an instrument on their own and find the joy in it for themselves. I do think for most kids though, they find things on their own despite what we parents do. We raise them pretty much the same yet each of my children is very different. Just as it was in my house growing up. Good post Don!
     
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  20. eaglesgift

    eaglesgift Squier-Nut

    Age:
    51
    944
    Apr 18, 2014
    Chiang Mai, Thailand
    Ironically, considering my position in this debate, I wanted to play the drums when I started high school and my parents basically made me learn the guitar instead. You could say they forced it on me!
     
    duceditor likes this.
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