How to choose a suitable instrument for your child

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Recently, I’ve been having conversations with parents about choosing their child’s first or second instrument. Choosing a first instrument is a difficult task, and big responsibility. Some instruments are unsuitable for children due to the fact that the child is not physically developed enough to play it. Other instruments are unsuitable because of the space that you live in. There is also the interests of the child to take into account as well. As they are the ones actually doing the lessons and practicing, it’s only fair to see what their desires are.


A few steps before the instrument is chosen:

  1. Take your child to see 2-3 different live concerts, where they can see and hear the instruments being played.

  2. Have a few different discussions with your child on different days / weeks… What instruments are they interested in? Why do they like / not like the instrument? Is it the sound? Do they like the high pitch or low pitch instruments?

  3. Visit the store and take a look at the instruments. Some stores will let you try an instrument.

  4. If your child is interested in a woodwind or brass instrument, get a teacher who specialises in beginners to look at your child and see what instruments would physically suit them. For example, a child with severely crooked teeth will have more difficulty playing a brass instrument. A child with hyper extended fingers will have more difficulty playing a woodwind instrument. Please note that I’ve said “more difficulty” not “impossible” or “should not play”. If a child has a passion for that instrument, they can work hard and overcome the difficulties. I know of a boy who loved trombone and really wanted to play it. He had only 1 arm though, so that made it more difficult. He still pursued it and was a great high school player.

  5. If your child needs braces, have them put on a few weeks BEFORE they start learning to play their instrument. Once the braces are put on the child needs to “re-learn” how to play the instrument, as the muscles and teeth are in different spots. It is a very frustrating experience for a child who has already been playing for several months or years to have to go back to the beginning and start over.

  6. Choose an instrument that is the correct size for your child. For example, the average age for a child to start piano is 7 years old. This is because the hand is just large enough to begin training at that age. A child starting a woodwind or brass instrument is often 11 or 12 years old. Again, this has to do with the physical size of the instrument. Most of these instruments do not come in smaller sizes. A young child (less than 7 years old) could start off on a string instrument, as they make them in smaller sizes, suited to a young child’s stature.  Choosing the correct size of instrument to begin with will prevent painful injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome from developing later on.

  7. Finally, always make sure that your child is taught by a teacher who is well educated in the instrument they have chosen and the latest child friendly teaching methods for that instrument.

 

Ultimately, this needs to be your child’s decision, as they are the ones who have to put in the practice time. Beginning an instrument at age 6 or 7 years old is a great time to start that responsibility. This way, by the time they are approaching age 11 or 12 and might want to join the school beginning concert band, they are far enough along in their primary instrument, that adding an additional instrument could be considered.

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