How to Choose Your Child’s First Musical Instrument

By now I’m sure you’ve heard all about the benefits of having your kids learn a musical instrument. Now that you’re convinced, what instrument should you start with?

Things to consider

Age – While kids of all ages can appreciate and enjoy music, learning a musical instrument takes a certain level of discipline. Many music teachers won’t take students younger than 7 or 8, but some start students as young as 5. Learning an instrument takes practice, so if your child isn’t old enough to regulate their own practice habits, keep in mind that the parent will need to monitor practice sessions. Some instruments are also more accessible to younger students than others. If you aren’t sure if your child is quite ready for private lessons, children’s’ choirs can be a great way to start introducing your child to music.

Physical development – Separate from age, it’s important to consider your child’s physical ability to play an instrument. Fine motor skills are important for most musical instruments, particularly strings and brass. Young kids and people with asthma or other lung issues might have a hard time with wind instruments. Kids with small hands and fingers might find piano or string instruments to be difficult. Of course, none of these things are prohibitive, and there are many great musicians who might not fit the usual physical profile for their instrument. However, it can be very frustrating to overcome physical barriers, and it’s often very discouraging for young kids.

Personality – Some instruments are primarily solo instruments, and others are mostly played in groups. As kids get older, they often gravitate towards instruments that allow them to play more with other kids, whether it be in the orchestra at school or a rock band in your basement. Social butterflies often do well with rhythm instruments and other supporting instruments. If your child tends to be more introverted, they might be happiest with an instrument they can play on their own, like piano or guitar.

Musical taste and goals – Your child is far more likely to stick with their instrument for the long haul if it’s something they enjoy, so keep your child’s desires in mind. If your child is demonstrating an early passion for rock and roll, they probably won’t be very happy playing the violin or the trombone. Kids who tend to be flip-floppers might be happiest with more versatile instruments like guitar or piano.

Piano

Age: 5 +

Genre: Classical, Jazz, Pop/Rock

Pros: Versatile, Good foundation for future instruments and music theory.

Cons: Primarily a solo instrument, so kids often drop it when they get older in exchange for a more social instrument 

Violin

Age 5+

Genre: Classical

Pros: Small size makes it easy for young kids. Has carryover into middle school and high school. Trains coordination and ear training.

Cons: Primarily classical repertoire often causes kids to lose interest. 

Guitar

Age: 8+

Genre: Rock, Jazz, Classical

Pros: Very versatile. Portable, so kids are more likely to stick with it as they get older.

Cons: Can be difficult for kids with small hands.

Drums

Age: 8+

Genre: Rock, Jazz

Pros: Trains rhythm and coordination. Great for kids with lots of energy.

Cons: Takes a lot of strength and coordination to get started, so it tends to work best with older kids.

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