By: Donna Maurer
How To Help Your Child Select Which Musical Instrument They’ll Learn
It is a joy to any parent when a child wants to learn a musical instrument. This is truly fantastic, because music education, learning, and studying instruments have so many benefits that will help your child throughout their life, not just with learning the instrument itself.
Studying and practicing music has amazing advantages, including boosting brain power, building self-esteem, attributing to stronger academic skills, and even providing stress relief.
But now, the big question is: HOW do you know which instrument your child should learn? There are many approaches and factors that can help you to determine this.
Certain instruments work well for children who have certain physical “enhancements” or abilities. If your child has long or thin fingers, the piano or the guitar might be a good choice for those nimble, capable hands. If your child has smaller, fuller lips, maybe consider the trumpet or the trombone as an instrument, since they both require that specific type of mouth.
Think about the physical qualities that your child possesses. Coordination is essential for certain instruments like the drums, where your child will have multiple parts and pieces to handle and keep track of. Height can even be a determining factor as well because a short child won’t want to study a long instrument like the bassoon, it would prove too difficult given that s/he doesn’t have the height to handle it.
The Age Factor
Children who are younger than six years of age will usually have a tough time playing certain instruments. You wouldn’t want your five-year-old lugging around a large instrument like the saxophone or the euphonium, or the tuba. Younger children are more inclined to smaller, easier instruments like the violin, flute, or even the piano (since a small keyboard can be used for practice). The piano can also have the added benefit of being a bit easier to start with since it is a foundational instrument to help learn all others. According to Vincent Reina, longtime music teacher and founder of the music school Music to your Home, “even singing lessons can be utilized, as the voice is a great instrument that can be studied and worked with. If money is a concern, this could be a great, economical option for your child that doesn’t require you to purchase an instrument.”
What sort of music does your child tend to like? Does your child stick to the melody of a song, or enjoy the harmonies, or even the bass lines of music? The music that your child relates to can correlate to the type of instrument that s/he should play. For instance, if your child tends to enjoy the higher melodies of a song, an instrument like the flute may be a great choice, but if they feel more of the bass or the rhythm of a song, maybe consider a cello or the drums. Do a little bit of evaluation on what aspects of music resonate with your child, so you can find an instrument that is suitable.
You can also introduce new styles and types of music to your child that may be of interest, to get a better idea of what sort of music or style s/he is into. Take your child to a concert, a show, or any place where music might be playing.
Personality and Learning Ability
The way your child interacts with others, whether s/he is introverted or extroverted, intelligence level, even restlessness can demonstrate which instrument is best suited for your child. Here is a breakdown of some instruments by personality types:
Trombone – quiet, sensitive, jazzy types.
Percussion – restless, anxious, can’t-sit-still types.
Trumpet – bold, outgoing, dominant types.
Flute – center-of-attention seekers, ones who can hold a lot of air.
Clarinet – bright, alert, social types.
Saxophone – great for kids who develop their own personal style.
Violin – great for beginners, children who like to blend and be part of a whole.
These are just some of the characteristics attributed to instruments, and it does not mean that if your child isn’t outgoing that s/he can’t learn how to play the trumpet necessarily, especially if that is the instrument they gravitate to. These are just some guidelines for the personality types that are usually associated with each instrument, to give you an idea of where to look.
Learning ability is another determining asset, which goes along with personality – how does your child learn best? Are they more analytical, logical, or more social? Certain instrument types are associated with each of these ways of thinking and learning. The piano is great for children who analyze well, whereas the trombone or flute is great for children who tend to be more socially apt.
Other Factors and Guidelines
It is a good idea to have a chat with your child’s music teacher in school (if they have one). The teacher will probably be able to give you some good suggestions to guide you in which instrument would be best for your child based on their music education.
Don’t forget that your child should also have a say in the type of instrument that s/he is interested in learning. You can test out instruments if you’d like as well, giving your child the opportunity to try out a few before making the final decision on what to study, which can help them determine the one that they will stick to better.
Things to Keep in Mind
Remember that when a child studies a new instrument, practice is essential and there is no way around it. You need to make sure your child is willing and able to set aside at LEAST 20 minutes of practice time every day (or most days) outside of regular lessons to keep up with their learning. It is easy for a child to not want to practice, or to find distractions in other things. As a parent, it is a good idea to encourage and help your children schedule their time efficiently. It is the only way that your child will learn to master their instrument.
Overall, your child will have great advantages in learning an instrument. Music encourages creativity and expression, which will help your child in learning more about his/herself, as well as the added ability to practice responsibility, self-discipline, and commitment. All of these skills are great not just for learning the instrument, but in many areas as they grow.