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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000723.txt from 2003/10

From: "Karl Krelove" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] Starting a youngster
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 18:18:12 -0500


Keep in mind that the original question was (paraphrasing - I don't have the
original post) "...What can I do to help my 7 year old daughter get a sound
out of the clarinet?..." My basic answer was that if simply producing a
sound is so difficult a problem, then the answer to the question might be
simply to wait until she is older. I then went on to say that just producing
a sound is not all there is to playing a clarinet and that the rest was
likely to be even more problematic.

I should probably say at this point that all three of our children were
playing instruments by the time they entered school - but they played on
relatively tiny violins. Our oldest daughter started when she was 4 years
old. Our boy and girl twins, who are three years younger, began violin
lessons when they were 6.

Because the instruments were a size they could handle easily, they
immediately got satisfactory sounds once they were shown how to produce
them. They could play real music from the beginning of their studies. They
were not limited to 4 or 5 notes and didn't have to play Happy Birthday with
octave-imploded notes to keep it within their range. By the time they were 7
they were playing quite technically demanding music (anyone who is familiar
with the Suzuki books knows what I mean).

Did it hurt them? Of course not. All three when they were about 10 began
playing band instruments (one clarinet, one flute and a trumpet) in addition
to violin (partly because they wanted to and partly because it was one way
after all the rote playing they'd done with their Suzuki teachers to get
them to read music). The oldest (now 24) still plays violin actively at
historical re-enactments (playing Renaissance dance music) while doing
graduate work in planetary geology, our son is a trumpet player who is now
completing (I hope soon) a music education program at Temple University, and
his twin sister still plays both her flute and her violin for her own
pleasure when she has a few free minutes between her college program and
working as a volunteer fire fighter. I think the benefits they have gotten
from music performance are incalculable, even if objectively unverifiable,
in many more ways than the just the issue of self-esteem that you raised.

So we don't disagree, I think, if the broad question is "Can a very young
child learn to play an instrument?" I didn't think anyone was "trying to
talk oneself and others out of" providing music study for very young
children. The issue was, and for me at any rate still is the very narrow one
of a child's physical ability to play the instrument that's being attempted.
And I was reacting very specifically to the description of a child who was
not able to produce even a basic tone on the instrument easily. Not having
seen your kids develop as clarinetists, I have no idea how quickly and
easily they progressed.

You're obviously pleased with the result of your decision and, obviously,
the outcome was not frustration or discouragement. My only point was that
those are real possibilities, especially if the instrument is not one the
child, because of his/her size, is naturally suited for, and their
consequences can be life-long and shouldn't be lightly dismissed.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dan Sutherland []
> Sent: Tuesday, October 28, 2003 12:28 AM
> To:
> Subject: RE: [kl] Starting a youngster
> At 02:50 PM 10/26/2003, you wrote:
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: Dan Sutherland []
> > >
> >
> >Well, *an* objective in our interactions with our own kids *can*
> at times be
> >that the child learn something - although formal learning (involving
> >deliberate teaching for the purpose of producing specific learning) isn't
> >the only worthwhile objective in our spending time with our children.
> >However, the child's ability to assimilate the learning you're teaching
> >toward has a lot to do with determining whether or not that specific
> >teaching activity is worthwhile. Whether or not you'll do a 7
> year old child
> >physical damage by trying to teach her to play the clarinet
> isn't really the
> >issue.
> Sorry, I thought maybe it was.
> > It's more an issue of whether or not the child has any realistic
> >chance of success *at that particular time* because of physical
> or cognitive
> >limitations.
> >
> >My point was that *most* 7 year old children (exceptions are always
> >possible - I haven't seen *all* the 7 year olds in the world) in my
> >experience (for what it's worth) are not physically able to *play* the
> >clarinet well enough to be worthwhile. My point continued that
> just because
> >you eventually get the 7 year old to produce some sort of sound on the
> >instrument in no way guarantees that she will be able to hold
> the instrument
> >up or cover the keys to produce more than a very few notes around the
> >clarinet's "throat" register. If that's in itself a worthwhile goal to a
> >parent, it needs to be respected.
> All the left hand holes can be used also.
> > But the level of physical and cognitive
> >development needed to actually play the instrument will come
> with time, and
> >the impediments that now are real problems will recede to a degree that
> >aren't nearly as difficult to surmount. The bottom line is that
> there is a
> >genuine risk of frustrating a 7 year old with this kind of activity to an
> >extent that she will not ever want to come back to it later when she is
> >older and more developed physically and mentally. That's the
> risk you take
> >in trying this, not the risk that you "could damage their dental
> or muscular
> >structure by having them play clarinet."
> >
> > > Or are the kids lives so rich that they can not fit ten minutes
> > > of clarinet
> > > in per day. [Every character on Spongebob will yell loudly
> whether they
> > > witness it or not.]
> > >
> >Well, these aren't the only alternatives. There are lots of
> age-appropriate,
> >worthwhile things a parent can do with his/her 7 year old child.
> But suppose you are good at teaching clarinet. Would it not be
> appropriate
> to include that in your routine?
> > >
> > > He could be supporting the instrument with his feet. Who cares?
> > > He may be the only kid in his class that can play a tune on
> an instrument.
> > > Self esteem, prestige.
> > >
> >Is 7 a little early to worry about prestige? This sounds more like a push
> >for parental prestige (if that's indeed what comes of it - I have my
> >doubts).
> Many children grow up without learning much beyond what they take in
> school. We like to feel special in some way. Learning clarinet
> is one way
> to feel special. We ought to start sometime. Early is fine. Years slip
> away. I have a lot more "wish I had dones" than "wish I had not
> dones"in
> my aspirations file.
> > >
> > >
> > > What is "readiness"? How do you know, if you have not put in a
> > > sustained effort trying?
> > >
> >Some things we just have to decide without trying them first.
> How do I know
> >I probably wouldn't survive going over Niagara Falls?
> > The possible
> >consequences of failure are greater than I'm willing to risk,
> >notwithstanding one man's recent success.
> Has this something to do with getting the reed wet? For the youngsters I
> prefer to soak the reed under the tap with running water. It prevents
> accidental breakage.
> > > > Everyone in this thread has had something valuable to say, and I've
> > > > enjoyed reading it. thanks, everyone.
> > >
> > > Well, you may change your mind about that, now.
> But I hope not.
> >Why? Your belligerence won't have changed the other responses.
> >
> > >
> > > Dan [who started his and other people's children on clarinet at
> > > age 4 and
> > > continues to teach his 9 year old and has seen no negative side to the
> > > practice]
> > >
> >Congratulations!
> Thank you.
> > Your experience obviously differs from that of many of us.
> >I am no more convinced by your son's case
> And my other son and my daughter.
> > than you have been swayed by any
> >of the experience behind anything that has been said to the contrary.
> Is the contrary speaking from experience?
> It just seems that much energy has been expended trying to talk
> oneself and
> others out of doing something that is at worst not harmful.
> Poling the victims. Eric age 9. Asperger Syndrome child.
> "Musicians are
> weird." currently studies clarinet and piano and soccer.
> Karen age 12. "It was fun. Did not like
> putting it together and taking it apart." currently studies piano, violin
> and soccer and ballet and jazz dance.
> Ron age 16. " It was good, not much
> different from anything else" currently studies piano and hockey.
> Dan
> >Karl Krelove

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