One question that comes up often for parents looking to start their child with music lessons for the very first time is a big one: which instrument is the right one to choose? Interests and hobbies seem to come and go constantly throughout a child’s development as they explore all that the world has to offer them, so how do you know which instrument is going to be the right fit to both give your child a good foundation in music, but also peak their long-term interest? While it may not always be possible to pick the perfect instrument that your child is going to love for the rest of their lives on the first attempt, trying to help make sure their first instrument is a good experience is a great way to set them up with a love of music for hopefully the rest of their lives!
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most helpful tips that we have found in our experience for choosing an instrument, and we’re excited to share them with you! So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Tip #1 - Start by asking the right question
The first challenge we see with choosing the right instrument is actually in the question itself: “what is the right instrument?”
There isn’t really a “right” first instrument to choose; music is a journey, and things aren’t always so black and white (though it sure would be a lot easier sometimes if they were!), especially when making a decision that requires looking at individual goals and preferences which can be totally different for each person. For example, it’s a common misconception that piano is the best instrument to start with. While there are a lot of benefits to starting with piano, especially if the student is interested in it, that doesn’t mean it’s always the best choice for everyone, every time. Instead of putting a ton of pressure on yourself to pick the “right” or perfect instrument, ask what might just be the best or most interesting option right now for your child as an individual, and know that you can always adjust in the future!
Tip #2 - Listen to your child’s preference
Especially for a child’s first instrument, considering their preference and potential enjoyment is one of the most important parts of helping their first experience be a positive and inspiring one.
Is this a fail proof way to ensure their first instrument choice is the best one? Not necessarily. It can, however, give them a great starting chance to explore their passions and help them feel like they are learning an instrument because they truly want to, not because they are being pushed to. If this is your child’s first impression of music lessons, starting with something they truly enjoy can make things a lot easier!
Tip #3 - Ask what your child’s future goals are with music
Does your child dream of being on stage in a rock band one day, or would they rather join their school’s orchestra? Maybe they want to become an amazing soloist!
Certain instruments can help achieve some goals better than others. For example, if you want to be in a rock band, it might be a good idea to learn guitar, drums, or voice! To join an orchestra though, it would be better to take up a woodwind like clarinet or the flute, or start learning the violin. If your child doesn’t know what’s possible yet to do with music or an instrument in the future to be able to have a dream in mind, it might be a good idea to spend some time exploring that with them, listening to recordings of different genres and instruments, and seeing what they like the most!
Tip #4 - Consider your child’s personality
Sometimes personalities can play a role in which instrument might be a good fit to start with. While this isn’t the most important factor as it’s an area that’s heavily reliant on individual interpretation, there are certain things that can be a sign that an instrument may not work out the best as a child’s first experience.
If your child has a big, loud personality, maybe drums would be exciting, but flute would be a challenge. On the other end of the spectrum however, if your child is very shy, they might actually find that a “loud” instrument can be a helpful form of self-expression for them! If you find that your child gets very easily discouraged when faced with a task that takes more time than normal to see results with, they might find starting with piano more beneficial than starting with something like violin, as with piano you will be able to play in tune with a simple few note melody very quickly with some help, but violin may not sound very appealing for a while as you learn the basics and start fine tuning the control. While every instrument will have its own difficult patches to push through, some can be more challenging than others at the very beginning, which is something to take into consideration if you think it may make a world of difference for your individual child.
Tip #5 - If you’re still not sure what instrument to choose, don’t forget to look at other factors
There are actually quite a few other factors that can help you decide on the best starting instrument for your child other than just interest. For instance, your child’s age/size, and the cost.
We offer many instruments that can be started at about age 5, such as piano, violin, ukulele, voice, and drums! There are some instruments, however, that we recommend waiting to start until your child is at least 7-8 years old simply due to physical limitations, such as flute, clarinet, saxophone, viola, and sometimes guitar. If your child wants to start one of those instruments but they are currently too young, try to pick something that will build transferable skills in the meantime like ukulele for guitar, and piano for most else!
As far as cost goes, some instruments can be more expensive starting out, while others build up expense over time. For example, purchasing a mid-range digital piano to practice on at home will be around $500, but there won’t be much upkeep cost. Renting a violin (which is usually advisable over purchasing for children as they will need to change sizes as they grow) typically costs around $25 per month, which is cheaper to start with, but can be more expensive over time. On the other hand, purchasing a decent ukulele will only be around $50-$75, or you can get a pretty nice guitar for under $200, with just small additional expenses now and then for new strings and other various things like tuners, picks, etc., until you might want to consider an upgrade years down the line. If you’re looking to just start any instrument and there is no preference whatsoever, this might be a helpful consideration to make!
In the end, no matter what instrument you choose, the study of music will always be worthwhile!
Choosing your child's first instrument can often seem overwhelming, but don't worry! Just take your time considering the best fit with all of these tips in mind, and if it doesn’t work out on the first try, don’t feel bad. It’s very normal for students to switch instruments, or even to take a break from one and then end up coming back to it later on. Learning music is a journey, and it’s not always a straight path. Do the best you can to support your child in the process, and be flexible! Whatever instrument your child starts or ends with, it will always be worth the experience.
"One of the most beautiful things we can give our child is music education." – Gloria Estefan
Do you have any questions about this that we didn’t get to answer? Drop them in the comments below!