Robert Estrin - piano expert

Can You Teach Your Own Children How to Play Music?

An interesting topic for all music teachers

In this video, Robert offers you a path to teach music to your own children. If you're a music teacher and also a parent, you may want to explore this subject in this interesting video.

Released on September 10, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with a really important subject today, which is, "Can you teach your own children music?" Now, that is a really loaded question. Because I studied with my father, Morton Estrin and so did my sister, and we are both pianists and enjoy music today. So you think my quick answer would be, "Of course! Yes, I did it, so can you." The answer isn't quite so simple. Let's explore this topic a little bit.

Now, why did it work in my family, and why in so many families has it not worked to teach your own kids piano or other instruments? Well, in our household, here is the way it worked. My father had a very busy career performing, recording, and teaching, and he had a very, very big teaching schedule. So Sundays, which was his kind of his day off, after we'd have a brunch, we'd go downstairs and my sister and I would fight as to who could have the lesson first. And we would have our lessons on Sunday for an hour each just like all these other students.

Now, I remember growing up, there were times when I thought, "Well, you know, too bad my dad doesn't treat me special or anything. After all, I'm his child and all that, and I have my lesson, which is like everybody else." But in hind sight, that's the secret. The secret is to treat your children like every other student. Because if you try to give them preferential treatment in any way, then it becomes very difficult to maintain a unique situation.

Now, there could be exceptions to this. For example, if you have taken the bull by the horns with your children and you do home schooling with them and their entire life is structured under your control, maybe indeed you can teach them music if it's in your realm of expertise. But for most parents with busy schedules and jobs and all of that, being able to fit in those lessons, it's so easy as it happened, I'm ashamed to say with my own two children, who I taught piano a little bit, but really not as much as I really wanted to because it was always kind of like, "Oh, let's see. Let's... Oh well, this is fun thing to do today. Maybe we'll do the lesson tomorrow." It wasn't like a scheduled thing that we did religiously. As a result, you know, my kids ended up really, you know, specializing in other instruments although they are both somewhat accomplished on piano, but it's not their primary instrument. And I realized the reason was I didn't just structure it. Why didn't I learn from my father? I just... I didn't understand how the dynamic of how the lessons we had regularly scheduled like everyone else can work. So that's the secret.

Now, in our household also, another thing was, my father gave me the lessons, but my mother was the one who, you know, kind of watched over us and made sure we practiced and all of that. So my father was completely uninvolved in our practicing, which is smart. Because if he was right there listening all of the time and giving us the lessons, it could be a little bit intimidating and difficult, and where do you draw that line, and when does he ever get free from us? Because we live in the house, we are practicing all the time between the two of us. So that's another thing to keep in mind. If you're teaching your kids, make it that one lesson time and then out of it. Not that you can't listen to them on special occasions and when company comes over and all of that, but not to be practicing with you and all of that. Give yourself some limits. Make it a workable situation in your family, and you too can have success in teaching your children music.

I'd love to hear from you. Any of you who have success stories or problems in this area, feel free to contact me and, you know, I will post some of the relevant answers and comments, so others can learn from it. Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here in and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Andrea Studzinski on September 13, 2017 @5:33 am PST
In a similar vein, I've taught hundreds of children how to ice skate, but I had to send my own children to another teacher.
Nicholas Brown on October 29, 2014 @6:02 am PST
A very interesting topic, Robert. I taught both of my kids at different times in a group class and individually; one on viola and the other on violin. I found that teaching them was a way I could spend time with them as well. However, when it came to them practicing, I would leave the house and go exercise during that time. That way they were free to make the mistakes one normally makes during practice. Now that they are older, I have stayed at home and just enjoyed listening to them practice without needing to interfere.

I ended up teaching my daughter till 7th grade and then sending her on to friends that could guide her musical development in areas that I lacked.

My son and I have been a part of a small chamber ensemble for the last two years and have developed a lot of respect for each other. I'll miss that when he heads off to college.
Robert - host, on October 29, 2014 @10:17 am PST
It looks like you found a balance that worked teaching your children. The key is having a structure that enriches without smothering - you created that balance!
Kim on September 12, 2014 @11:42 am PST
Thank you so much for this video! I am a violinist and have struggled with teaching my children and this has opened my eyes to improvements I should make. I love your videos!
Kendah on September 11, 2014 @3:49 am PST
Thanks a lot mr.robert I feel the teaching is a hard work especially with children.
Fulvia Bowerman * VSM MEMBER * on September 10, 2014 @7:36 pm PST
This was a very interesting subject for me, because my mother was my teacher and she had plenty of time to give me a daily lesson. It was fine for the first few years, when I was very little, I started at 2 year of age, of my own will. However, as I grew into a teenager, I almost went into a rebellious state, having mother all the time over my shoulder all the time I sat at the piano became annoying and I broke away from classical music (something that half century later I started to regret !). To her horror, I went into rock 'n roll, playing on the piano at the same time I was playing an LP of Elvis or, much worse, Little Richard. Eventually I came back to my senses, but by then mother had lost interest in teaching me, and high schools in Italy were extremely demanding, it was impossible to find time to practice an instrument even one hour a day. I went on a little on my own, on weekends and summer breaks.
Some of mother's friends, who were professional musicians, chose to send their own children to another teacher, and I think that may be also a good idea. It gives the child a sense of responsibility to practice and be ready for the next lesson, once a week.
Robert - host, on September 11, 2014 @10:54 am PST
This is a great example of what typically happens sooner or later when kids take instrument lessons with their parents. It sounds like you got quite a bit from your mother including a lifetime appreciation of music!
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