Choosing Which Instrument to Play (Ages 8 and up)

Last week I covered the basics on what instrument to choose for beginning students between the ages of 4 and 7 years old. This week I'll introduce some things to think about before starting a child on music lessons who is 8 years of age or older.

By the time a child reaches 8 years old, typically they have matured physically to the point where most instruments are viable options. The reason why 4th grade (or sometimes even 3rd grade) is the time when kids start band or orchestra in school is because they are able to physically handle most instruments by then.

Choosing an Instrument for Lessons

Over the years I've noticed three main motivators in starting an instrument for kids who are 8 years old and older.

  1. The student really is pulled towards a certain instrument. This can often be because they listen to a genre of music that features an instrument. Maybe they heard a song or artist and want to emulate them. Or maybe they are inspired by a friend or family member. They are inspired to do something they've heard or seen.
  2. They join a school band program and the program/director has specific needs that need to be filled. If the student doesn't have a strong preference and is a team player, they'll often pick up an instrument suggested by the band teacher.
  3. They are intrigued by or really love music. They want to start lessons but aren't necessarily pulled towards a specific instrument.

All of these motivating factors are great reasons to begin learning an instrument. We've had kids become very accomplished music makers who fall into each of these three categories. My only suggestion would be that if they aren't sure, take a little time to look and listen to the instrumentation in the music they love. If they choose saxophone but don't like jazz and listen to metal all the time - it may be a good idea to question the motivation behind starting on the sax.

We are also living in a time where we don't have to appease the inner-snob and choose something "legit". If your child goes on to become a great metal guitar player, we are happy to support them through the process. If that's what they love there is no reason to have them sit through years of traditional piano or violin lessons because they are more "respectable".

If you fall into the final category… Your child loves music and you want it to be a part of their life for a long time but there is no strong pull towards a specific instrument, then you can use the same guidelines written about in the article about choosing an instrument for 4-7 year olds. With this one variation…

The piano will still be the easiest physically to play for a while. It will also allow them to learn harmony since you can play multiple notes at once. And finally, it's such a visual instrument it helps some kids understand the shapes, patterns and intervals that make up music. However, the ability to do these things doesn't make the piano any more viable at this point. You could have them start piano until they have a strong pull towards another instrument (or maybe they stay on piano forever and love it). This could give them a foundation that will help them over the years.

If they truly aren't sure, I would take them to some concerts, play a lot of music around the house and maybe take a few piano lessons. Once something start to pull at them, then any of the instruments we offer lessons on at CMA in Wallingford would be great for them to start with…


  • Piano Lessons
  • Violin Lessons
  • Saxophone Lessons
  • Bass Lessons
  • Clarinet Lessons
  • Drum Lessons
  • Guitar Lessons
  • Viola Lessons
  • Cello Lessons
  • Trumpet Lessons
  • Voice Lessons

If you would like to give one of these instruments a try at CMA, click here to submit our inquiry form and we'll contact you about the next steps.