A Parent Explains Why “Violin Lessons Are Pointless”


Mark Oppenheimer’s 2013 article proposes an informal test:

 Go on Facebook and ask your friends to chime in if, when they were children, they took five years or more of a classical instrument. Then ask all the respondents when they last played their instrument. I tried a version of this at a dinner party recently. There were about ten adults present; I was the only one who had not played an instrument for many years as a child. All of them confessed that they never played their instrument. Whatever it was—violin, piano, saxophone—they had abandoned it … years ago.

He goes on to say,

But Americans’ emphasis on certain kinds of lessons—like ballet and classical instruments—are just accidents of history, entirely contingent. And if we look closely at why we encourage our children to study music and dance, and what the real benefits are, we will see that our children are taking the wrong lessons, and for the wrong reasons.

Many people quit music lessons because they’re frustrated
with boring, reading-based methods. They’re searching for a
way to relate to music intuitively. I hope to help students of
modern music to avoid getting mired in traditional,
classically-based methods which seem to never lead where
they want to go. Where it comes to music education, you
can’t pull a modern rabbit out of a classical hat. If you have
tried and failed at music, then you should take another look,
this time from a modern perspective.

The most basic choice you have when you’re starting lessons
is whether you want classical training, or training oriented to
modern music. If you don’t have a specific interest in classical
music, then you are better off learning with a modern
approach that emphasizes ear-training, musical concepts,
and developing strong technique on your instrument.

Updating music education means that we have to view it
from the standpoint of the student, and address the inner
experiences of learning music. That means the inner
experience of physically playing an instrument, of listening to
music and deciphering the information contained within it, of
interacting with music in real time, and of reading and
memorizing music.