Selecting a Musical Instrument

There are many reasons that a child may select a particular instrument, not all of them equally as valid. He may be attracted to the flute, for example because someone he knows plays it; there may be a piano in There are many reasons why a child may have a preference for a particular instrument simply from knowing someone who plays it and being familiar with it from. Spending time with your child and consulting music educators can help determine whether it is the best choice developmentally or otherwise.

Here are some suggestions that will help your child make an informed choice:

  • Take your child to concerts to hear and see a variety of instruments and to hear a variety of musical styles.
  • Discover what sort of music your youngster wants to play. Is it classical? Jazz? Rock? Some instruments are better suited to a particular genre than others. The saxophone, for example, is usually in a band or a jazz group, but not often used in an orchestra. Playing piano or singing in a choral ensemble are equally valid experiences with different opportunities. Many school music programs include ukulele, Orff ensembles, and world music drumming.
  • Talk to your child about how the sound of a particular instrument makes them feel.
  • Find recordings of soloists playing the instrument of interest in a variety of music genres and listen to them together.
  • If your child is considering a specific instrument—the trumpet, for example—talk to someone experienced who plays it (at the local high school, perhaps) and the child’s school music teacher to get an idea what the specific opportunities and challenges are associated with a particular instrument. Piano has always been considered a good foundational instrument to study with many solo opportunities, although it is not commonly a regular part of a school band or orchestra.
  • Visit a music store so the child can actually see and try out instruments. You may even want to invest in a few trial lessons before making your final decision.
  • Some instruments are more in demand than others. School orchestras are always looking for students who play oboe, bassoon, viola and French horn, for example. Conversely, there are always plenty of violin, flute, and trumpet players, so competition may be greater.

Other Factors to Consider:

It is important that your child be physically ready to play the instrument he chooses. One can start the violin at a very early age, but study of other instruments may need to be correlated to such factors as the size of the body or hands.

Do some research on the cost of the instrument your child is considering. While some can be rented or borrowed from school, the quality may not be as good as a new or used instrument. This may become an important factor as your young musician becomes a more proficient player. String players should also consider the cost of a bow. Those who choose the clarinet and trumpet should be aware of the fact that most advanced players should own more than one of these instruments in various keys. Clarinets and trumpets in particular fall into this category, and flute players often own a piccolo as well.

Some instruments can require higher maintenance than others. A piano needs less upkeep than a bassoon, for example. Woodwind instruments require reeds.

Consider transportation. Don’t choose the double-bass or the harp, for instance, unless you have a large carConsider transportation. The double-bass or the harp, for instance, may require a larger car.

Once your child has chosen an instrument, give it a chance before you switch to another. This period should be at least a year.