Failing to recognize when your child is ready for a new violin can hinder their progress in learning a string instrument. Many factors can contribute to the need for a new instrument. Here are some signs that will let you know when your child is ready:
1. Improperly-sized instrument – the “Goldilocks factor.” The most common reason for a younger player to require a new instrument is size. A violin that fits a student perfectly will quickly become too small when their growth spurts hit.
Want to check? Have your child extend their left arm out to the scroll of the instrument and wrap their fingers over the scroll. If the fingertips reach into the peg box (the component that houses the tuning pegs) and there is just a slight bend in the elbow, the instrument sizing is correct. If the elbow bends into a sharper angle, it’s time for a larger instrument. A trip to a local dealer will help you find an instrument that fits just right.
2. Poor instrument condition – Grampa’s fiddle from the attic. It’s not uncommon for a family to have an heirloom instrument that’s been passed down through generations. However, most are not kept in good playing condition. An instrument that is in poor playing condition can affect a student’s playing skills. Open seams and cracks cause loss of tone and buzzing. Bumps in fingerboards and pegs that slip or stick can cause intonation problems.
Before putting any antique instrument in your child’s hands, have a knowledgeable luthier evaluate its condition and assess what repair work may be needed. Many times the cost of putting an instrument back into playing condition exceeds its value – or even the cost of a new one. If a student struggles with playing problems but still shows interest and initiative to learn, investing in a new instrument that has been properly constructed and shop-adjusted by a luthier will help them take a big step forward. It’s often better to appreciate the heirloom on a bookshelf or mantle.
3. Your child is growing more enthusiastic – practicing to perfection. When your child is making an effort to increase their playing skills, take notice. Is this something that they might want to keep doing for the rest of their school years – or perhaps even the rest of their life? Are they starting to compete in solo festivals? If so, then start thinking about a good intermediate or advanced instrument that can last through their high school years and beyond.
4. Your child is in a strong music program – not all are created equal. The strength of a music program may create the need for a better instrument for your child. An enthusiastic and capable mix of educators, administrators and community support is what builds high-functioning performing groups. These groups often travel to festivals and competitions where they are rated against other strong programs. If this is the case, a better instrument not only helps the overall sound of the performing group, but makes it easier for your child to keep up with the demanding challenges of increasingly advanced musical works.
5. Your child is graduating to a new school level – Pomp and Circumstance. Advancing through grades brings increased challenges in a student’s curriculum. Moving from elementary school to middle school – and from middle school to high school – are also big steps in your child’s musical life. It’s important that students have a well-made and good-sounding instrument that will be up to the job as they advance through grade levels. A new step-up instrument serves as a reward for their efforts and will provide them with enjoyable experiences through their high school career and beyond.
So if you’ve questioned whether or not your child is ready for a new instrument, these are some scenarios that may provide you with an answer. Any of these is a very valid reason to talk to your child’s teachers or local music retailer to see what steps you should take next to support their development. It’s the best thing that a parent can do to assure that they helping to provide their child with a well-rounded musical life.
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