Choosing the "Right" Instrument for Your Child's First Lessons

Parents often feel at a loss when it comes to choosing the "right" instrument for their child. The good news is that there often isn't a right instrument - especially if musical concepts (not repertoire) are the emphasis in early lessons. Once students start on something, they usually will start to gravitate towards a specific instrument or style over time. They can easily transfer the understanding of concepts gained from their first instrument to other instruments.

Over the years, some of our students at CMA have ended up taking two or three lessons a week - each on a different instrument. It's really impressive when they get to the point where they can sit at several instruments and be functional in multiple musical situations. To get to this point, we usually see a progression like this: They start when they are young (4-6 years old) on one instrument, they get interested in another instrument when they are 8-10 years old. They add that one and use all the knowledge they gained from the first instrument to accelerate through the learning curve of the second instrument. Some have even added a third of fourth instrument in the same manner.

But what about deciding on the first instrument?

First, realize that everything is flexible and it isn't possible to make a "mistake". Once they get started, our teachers are trained to recognize, understand and suggest when changing to a different instrument is a good idea. If your child begins asking you to switch instruments after they start lessons, mention it to your teacher and that dialogue will be important in determining the best course of action.

The first decision really shouldn't be very overwhelming at all. The main thing is to consider your child's affinity towards a particular instrument along with their age. Once you do this, the choices start to reveal themselves.

For children between the ages of 4 and 7 years old:

Since younger children may not enjoy or excel at learning a large or physically demanding instrument, it's recommended that they get their introduction to music lessons on something they can handle.

Piano is very easy to play physically and it gives a nice visual aide due to the layout of the keyboard. Since you can play more than one note at a time on the piano, students get exposed to theory and harmony concepts fairly early on in the lessons. If your child doesn't have a strong affinity towards any particular instrument but loves music, piano is a great place to start.

Violin is popular for young students as well. If your child loves music and wants to play violin, they should go for it. Our teacher will help you determine the correct-sized instrument for your child. They make smaller sizes for the little ones. The younger they start, the more experience they can accumulate… This will serve them very well down the road.

Drums are also great for really young kids. They can be particularly helpful for kids who struggle with fine motor skills necessary to play piano or violin. We've had students who struggle with the fingers on violin or piano then move over to drums for a bit and take off with their lessons. Once again, if you have a little one who has an affinity for the drums they should go for it. Our drum lessons will help them build on that enthusiasm.

Guitar can also be a possibility for 6 or 7 year-old kids. We recommend this only if your child is really fired up about playing guitar. Our teacher at CMA is great with younger guitar students. The pace of the lessons will pick up once they are 8 and older. But the experience they gain at 6 and 7 will put them on the fast track to play in bands and feel more comfortable in many different situations.

Let us know what criteria you used when choosing an instrument or anything you would like to add for folks deciding.

To be continued for ages 8 and up...

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