Parents often ask me the question – What instrument should my child learn? Sometimes it’s even related to themselves, what should I learn? and I usually respond with questions back to them
- What instruments have they shown interest in?
- What instruments have they had access to?
- What instruments can you get access to?
- How much do you want to spend in getting an instrument?
As a teacher with over 40 years experience and my own music school known as Wendy’s Music Playing an instrument is a very “physical” thing and the person involved needs to feel very “comfortable” with the instrument and the means of producing sound.
- A blowing/blown instrument – recorder, flute, clarinet, sax, trumpet, trombone –(woodwind and brass instruments.
- An instrument you hit – drums, percussion
- An instrument you bow – violin, viola, cello, double bass
- An instrument you press – keyboard, piano
- Or there is singing where the instrument is very personal, it is YOU – your vocal chords.
If you/ your child is unsure – then the best way of starting to narrow the choices is to literally “come and try” holding/ sitting at the instrument with a teacher and try to make a sound under their instruction.
Also consider these points:
Exposure – Watch videos of concerts or on YouTube to get an idea of what the sound of each instrument is and what it looks like.
Go to live performances, particularly in smaller venues where you can see the players individually.
Access – Consider the size of the instrument and whether
1) You are able to easily carry it to and from lessons/ school / friends places
2) Whether you can get it transported (think double bass, cello, larger brass, bass amps, keyboards)
3) Whether you are comfortable playing other peoples instruments – if you learn keyboard/piano you will frequently have to play a different keyboard/piano and adjust your touch and learn where the various buttons/controls are.
ALSO – Consider what instruments you may already have in your house, close family or friends to “borrow and try” – these can be useful also if a family member/friend has some reasonable level of skill to do a “come and try” type session.
You may have a guitar or violin around but if it hasn’t been used for years it will most likely need new string and tuning (+ dusting!!). Costs can be anything from $10 – $70 for basic string changes. Better quality strings = better sound.
Brass and Woodwind that haven’t been used for years will defiantly need a service by a professional repairer to ensure that they actually play! Brass instruments are prone to having stuck valves and mouthpieces etc and woodwind often have loose pads and keys that don’t seal. A general service will also ascertain any other structural issues such as bent keys etc. that may affect the ease of playing.
Remember for a beginner student it is IMPERATIVE they have an instrument that produces sound easily if not they can be easily frustrated, believe they are cut out to be a musician and give up through no fault of their own.
Most Expensive – Piano and Saxophone
Least Expensive – Violin and Keyboard
Consider the size of the child and whether the instrument is available in the correct size to make it easy to play.
Remember the very cheapest is usually not worthwhile – hard to play or tune
- Breaks easily
- Hard to get parts for
- Sound quality is poor.
However it is not necessary to buy the most expensive either – sometimes it is worth working through a reasonable beginner then moving on to a intermediate quality then to a professional quality depending on a child’s age, speed of learning and what their goals are.
Once you have worked through these issues, a clearer picture should emerge. If still in doubt then make a choice and be aware that if ultimately you find this is not what was expected or doesn’t seem to “fit” then little is lost. A large amount of Musical knowledge transfers from one instrument to another, so a second choice can be made, just remember that it CAN take a few months to really “get a feel” for an instrument, so don’t be too hasty!
Wendy Brentnall – Wood