Studies have shown that children who pursue music education gain a multitude of benefits, including larger vocabularies, better study skills, and even a lower risk of substance abuse. Additionally, studying music early in life can influence brain development and improve a child’s capacity for memory. In order to help a young student take advantage of these and other benefits, parents should keep the following tips in mind when helping their child decide which instrument they should play.
1. Consider the child’s age.
There is a debate over when children should begin attending music lessons for the first time. While some experts suggest that children can begin music instruction at an age as young as three, others suggest waiting until the child is at least four or five years old to start. Signing a young child up for music lessons too early can result in frustration and boredom that prevents them from enjoying the process of developing their talent, leading them to ultimately reject music lessons throughout childhood. With that established, there are certain musical instruments that younger children will find easier to learn to play.
Piano is an excellent instrument for early learners, as young children can begin to practice as soon as they are physically capable of reaching the keys and have the hand strength required to push them down. Simpler instruments like the recorder are also a good option in the early years. A child can begin to practice the recorder as soon as their fingers can cover the instrument’s holes, and this can establish a path to playing other wind instruments like the clarinet, flute, or bassoon at an older age. Violin may also be an acceptable option for children around the age of five, as the instrument can be purchased in small sizes designed to fit small hands. Larger stringed instruments such as the cello or bass are better left to older children who are physically better equipped to play them.
As a child reaches the age of eight, more options become possible. At this age, fractional size guitars become easier for a child to learn, as well as small woodwind instruments like the flute and clarinet. These instruments are easier for a child to play when he or she has the physical ability to support them and play at the same time. By the age of 10, it is generally fine for a child to start lessons on any instrument, including larger, more difficult choices like the saxophone, trombone, or cello. Some woodwind instruments are better left to children whose front adult teeth have stabilized, as playing with gaps where teeth have yet to grow can cause difficulty.
2. Consider the child’s personality.
The child’s personality should play a significant role in the instrument that he or she chooses to play. Certain instruments lend themselves more toward energetic, extroverted children, while others are better suited for those who are quiet and introverted. For example, the flute may be a more fitting instrument for children who have no qualms about being center stage. Flutists are generally positioned toward the front of a band, and a child who plays the flute must be comfortable with being stationed in front of others during performances. Other instruments like saxophone and trumpet are lead instruments frequently featured in solos and melody lines, which may be a better fit for outgoing children who are comfortable in the spotlight.
Children who exhibit introverted, quieter personalities may enjoy learning to play the piano, an instrument they can practice independently and use to provide melodic background support to others or continue to perform solo. Children who are on the shy or quiet side may also enjoy stringed instruments like the violin, viola, and cello, which give them the opportunity to contribute to a musical number as a part of a group, rather than bringing singular attention to themselves during a performance. Children who are extremely independent and technical may enjoy an instrument like guitar, while children with hyperactive or restless qualities may find an outlet in drums and percussion instruments.
3. Consider the child’s personal preference.
Ultimately, if a child shows a passion for or an interest in a specific instrument, that should be the instrument that he or she pursues. Children who are allowed to practice an instrument that they have chosen for themselves will be more likely to commit to the practice it takes to become proficient. In addition, they will be less likely to quit when practicing music becomes complicated or frustrating. Parents who choose instruments for their children to play without the child’s input may be disappointed when their child becomes frustrated and gives up the instrument entirely later on.
If a child does not show interest in any particular instrument, parents should consider letting him or her try out a variety of instruments before settling on one. After all, children will benefit from the pursuit of music no matter which instrument they decide to practice. In addition, parents must be prepared to actively support their children’s musical endeavors, attend concerts, and provide them with the tools they need to foster a positive relationship with music that carries over into their adult lives.