MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS FOR CHILDREN
What instrument should my child play? Choosing the right instrument is a critical first step in your child’s music education. If your son chooses the wrong instrument, the experience of learning to play will be much less enjoyable—both for him and for you! How can you help him get it right?
- Be a Musical Family. Learning and practicing is hard; if your child is interested in music and wants to learn to play, it will be much easier for her to stick with it. Play music for your child as she sleeps. Sing songs with your child and dance. Codabear kits include songs and movement activities that offer a great start, but feel free to choreograph your own family dances to your child’s favorite tunes. If your child grows up in a musical world, she’ll be more likely to want to play along!
- Help Your Child Imagine Playing. There’s a world of difference between dancing in the kitchen and practicing a tricky ensemble piece. You can help your son or daughter to develop the motivation to learn and practice by introducing a world of musicians. Take your children to performances—whether to the symphony or to the local school concert. Point out the different instruments and ask your child to imagine being a part of the band or orchestra. Ask him what his favorites are.
- Learn the Sounds that Instruments Make. Listen to classical music and help your son or daughter to identify the parts that are played by each instrument. A string quartet or a jazz band includes few enough musicians to distinguish the individual parts. Peter and the Wolf is another great resource: designed specifically to introduce children to music, each character is represented by a different instrument or set of instruments.
- Consider Your Child’s Physical Abilities. Smaller instruments—such as clarinets, violins, and flutes—are easier to tote and carry. However, if your child has a large frame, it might be rewarding to explore the cello, trombone, or saxophone. Long fingers help with piano-playing, and dexterity is important for the oboe. Large lips and straight front teeth are helpful for brass instruments such as the trumpet and tuba; if your child does not yet have adult front teeth, be prepared for some challenges as she learns a wind or brass instrument.
- Consider Your Child’s Temperament. Some children may have personalities or intellectual abilities that will make it easier to learn certain instruments. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Is my child careful and responsible? Musical instruments are expensive. If your child is unlikely to take good care of his or her instrument, it might be important to start with a less expensive instrument, such as the recorder, flute, or clarinet.
- Is my child intelligent and analytical? Some instruments—such as the oboe—are very difficult and require strong intellectual abilities. Analytical inclinations may help your child succeed at the piano, which requires an ability to break down parts of the melody and harmony.
- Is my child an extrovert? If so, he or she might prefer to play an instrument that is often featured in a solo. A flute, trumpet, violin or saxophone might be a good choice. Introverted children might prefer a clarinet or cello.
- Give Small Children a Foundation in Music. Small children often start with the violin or piano. These instruments can be played by very small people, and offer an early education in musical principles that can be translated to other instruments later in life. Those who start on the violin might progress to a viola, cello, guitar, or bass. Those who start on a clarinet might move to larger woodwinds, such as the larger clarinets or saxophones or the bassoon. A small child might start on a cornet and progress to trumpet, trombone, tuba, or French horn.
- Think Outside the Box. Many children love playing in the percussion section, and vocal lessons can offer all the benefits of a musical education without the investment in the hardware. If your child is 8 or older, give him or her the opportunity to consider less common instruments that might be in high demand, such as the piccolo, viola, baritone, or bassoon.
- Give Your Child Choices. The jury is still out as to whether it is important to force a child to learn an instrument. Musical education comes with a host of benefits, but when children feel forced to learn instruments they sometimes miss out on the pleasure that is supposed to accompany musical education. Once you’ve considered the tips above, pick out a few instruments for your child to choose from, and talk about the special things that distinguish them. Then let her follow her heart.