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#49 FIVE reasons for siblings to play the same instrument or program

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

By Christy | The Practicing Pro

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Starting a second child in music lessons in the same instrument with the same teacher?

When you have a second child:

Remember your first baby - recording by photo and video every cough, every step and cheering on every “first time” doing anything.

Second child? It’s so easy for them to learn from the first sibling. And let’s face it, with two kids now in the mix of your already busy lives, the days and weeks blend together and sometimes those second rounds of “firsts” are missed in the whirlwind.

Younger siblings are always wanting to “catch up” with their older sibling. You used to be the primary teacher, but the torch is shared with your older child. And it’s clear to see, as I’m sure you’ve noticed your younger child is constantly watching and copying everything the older one does, wanting to be exactly the same.

I have three children and I remember having to look for my third child when I knew I needed to nurse. I almost always found her in the middle of “make belief” play with her siblings. My two older children thought of her as a human doll and they spent countless hours playing with her. When they were not directly playing with her, then she was sitting and watching their every move.

Watching and learning.

I know what you’re thinking - my first child was always learning from and playing with me, my second should be too! Yes, but the first child has only their parents to watch and entertain them. Try as we might with the second, we are just not as interesting as another little person. Our adult lives happen at a much higher level too - literally! Our conversations and what we see are several feet above what a tiny person can see. Have you ever seen a cartoon or show where it’s filmed from the perspective of a dog? Being on the ground and looking up at everything makes it easy to lose interest in the world around you. The underside of a table is pretty boring - the top of the table is where all the action happens! I remember with my first I would spend hours with him in a snuggly to keep him involved and stimulated. The second one, on the other hand, wanted to be down most of the time at a level with her older brother, constantly watching what HE was doing. Two teachers now!

As new parents, we also have more time to teach the first one and to be more focused and involved with them. Once the second one arrives, we now have two children to juggle in the same amount of time

What about music lessons?

Many families put their children in the same music lessons for the same instrument. This usually works out as often times the second child asks to do what their older brother or sister is doing. They want to be just like them after all.

Advantages of siblings playing the same instrument / being in the same program or school

1. More time - You are already at one music lesson so adding a second lesson that is at the same time frees up more of your time for what is most important to you - spending time with the family, cooking dinner together, etc. Not to mention, it means less time driving in rush hour traffic which is always a win in my books. just makes sense for scheduling purposes to have siblings play the same instrument or to be in the same program. Less traveling, less stress and more time for family and practice.

2. Sharing instruments - You can purchase one piano or pass down each violin size to the next child.

3. More involvement as a family - You can be more committed and involved in a program, like a Suzuki program where children play together, or a school where extra activities/concerts can include all siblings at the same time.

4. Some practice can be done together - Practice time can really add up when you have multiple children playing an instrument. Not only do you now need to keep on top of your second child’s practicing schedule, but as the first one is advancing in their studies their practicing requirements get longer as well. BUT you have in fact less time now that you have two children. So how do you keep up? I have a blog post with ideas for practicing together to save time. You can read more about that HERE. (#38 Strengths and Strategies for Practicing with Multiple Children)

5. Playing together later - There are fewer joys greater for a parent than seeing their children work together. Imagine your children playing a duet for your Mom’s 60th birthday celebration, or your older son playing the Bach Double violin concerto as a duet to end their younger sister’s Suzuki Book 4 graduation concert. These are the moments that leave you speechless. Playing together with different instruments in the same school, or playing the same instrument with a teacher does simplify your life and allows for these magical moments to happen more frequently.

At my school, I spend countless hours during registration season prioritizing the placement of siblings together in the teaching schedule so that families only need to make one trip. Siblings and parents attend both lessons, with each child taking turns playing their instrument as the other watches. It is heartwarming to watch younger siblings attend their brother or sister’s lesson. This is such a great opportunity for them to learn to sit quietly and entertain themselves for an extended period of time that gradually increases. Lessons at our school start out at 20 minutes. That’s not too long to wait! They then go up to 30 minutes, then 45, and even 60 minutes. As the lessons get longer, the siblings get older and more skilled at waiting quietly. It’s a gradual learning curve though, and not all days work well, but it’s worth it. And as an added bonus, they absorb so much of their sibling’s lessons while they even indirectly watch and listen! For parents, it’s certainly a two-for-one deal.

It’s a huge milestone to have siblings do their book 4 graduations (as mentioned earlier) together. The first sibling will play their graduation with their teacher or a guest and then the second sibling will have their older brother/sister play with them. Last year we had a TRIO where the third sibling’s two older brothers played it on violin and cello. That was so amazing!

Children playing music together is magical, but it is even more amazing when they are siblings. It is a dream for many parents to watch their children play music together, and at my school (Scotia Suzuki School) this is a dream that I regularly see come true.

(Watch for a future Blog on Sibling Rivalry)

Check out my Free PDF download Checklist for a Successful Music Practice for teachers and practicing parents.

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