Adding Music?

Thinking with my fingertips again.
Attempting to ignore the sniffles, heartbroken, for my benefit, across the hall.

It’s nap-time.


Always in this state of constant reevaluation I’ve been looking again at music lessons/time for the girls. (My own regular time in practice has petered out and I am seeking for a way to reintegrate it.)

The poking around I call research has led me to some interesting new thoughts about children and instruments. I agree with the conclusion (per Suzuki) that parents can introduce anything that is important to them (I’m naturally thinking of Faith at this moment), but also agree with the author I link to above that the biggest problem in learning an instrument can be starting too early.

These ideas do mesh well enough. Cutietta attributes the problem to something calls learned helplessness: A child is “started” on an instrument (by his own or his parents’ choice) that she is not physically able to manipulate properly, and learns she can’t do it, no matter how had she tries.

Especially if the child is sensitive, this repeated failure despite effort saps his heart’s willingness to continue, so much that by the time he’s actually big enough, this child already “knows” he can’t do it, no matter how hard he tries.

This is a very similar phenomenon to the one I’ve heard where the baby elephant is trained that the ankle chain is too strong for him to break free of, and he continues to believe it is true even as an adult, when it no longer is.

Suzuki gets around this by training young children on instruments that have been sized especially for them.


With this in mind, I’ve avoided putting too much emphasis on “real” guitar playing, as even my Baby Taylor is too large for my girls.

At my husband’s suggestion (he was getting some sound-equipment for the church at the music store) I went and bought the girls a ukulele. It is a lovely size for them, and they enjoy playing it while I practice guitar.

Now I am poking around again, and trying to find if I can do something Suzuki-ish with ukulele.

My (currently) biggest difficulty is that the most-available resources (what I’ve found so far) all emphasize the Hawaiian roots (it was originally from Portugal, I understand) and, naturally, their music.

This is not at all interesting or motivating to my girls, because they have no familiarity with that type of music. (Smack me if you must, but I am not drawn to it either, which would be why they haven’t heard it.)

So… if any of my vast readership have any resources or ideas (my dad is on a cross-country trip or I would have started there) of how to adapt the ukulele to ear-training-based, classical (-ish) music, I’d be interested to hear it.

Next question (naturally) is proving it is important enough to move from desirable in the hierarchy to actively doing.

That remains to be seen.

This entry was posted in Music.

2 thoughts on “Adding Music?

  1. There should also be jazzy 20’s type music for the ukelele.

    We started our oldest on piano when he was 6 1/2. We’re starting the middle child on piano on Wednesday (she’s 8).

    For our middle kid, we’ll keep her in for a couple of years and see what happens.

    My oldest is gifted musically but practicing is a major chore. We’re both hoping that he will find a wind instrument that he will like.

    Have a wonderful weekend-

  2. I used to teach classical saxophone… (is there such a thing??? I now wonder…) Anyhow, something that might keep them interested and give them the ear training you’re looking for is just letting them play along to other music they like. In other words, figure out the primary chords in one of their favorite songs, or in a classic composition you think they’ll like – or even a worship song, and teach them the chords while letting them strum along to that. The goal is to gradually improve technique while building their interest level. Make it fun for them and they’ll want to practice (or “jam”). You can play along with them and help them figure out where the chord changes from G to D, etc.

    Good luck! I can’t wait till my kids are old enough to start to jam with me! What fun you’ll have with this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *