Picking the Right Instrument for a Young Student
Music education and learning an instrument has some incredible benefits to it, and there’s science to back that up. But it’s no easy task, is it? If you’ve ever worked with children or young students, you might know that it’s a task to get them to continue to work on their craft after the initial excitement of having a new instrument wears off. Part of the task of creating a good, lasting relationship is making sure you select the right instrument for your young student.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when picking an instrument out and introducing a child or young student to a new musical endeavor:
What age is your child?
This may thing like a very arbitrary thing to think about, but it’s crucial. If a child is around 6 years old, you need to consider their physical limitations and mental development. They don’t have the musical foundation or physical dexterity for something more complex like a woodwind instrument, so a good instrument to start with might be the piano or violin.
Violins are great because they can be made in smaller sizes for smaller players. It also introduces ideas around tone and pitch center, and bowing helps introduce ideas around musical phrasing. Piano, while a student doesn’t tune keys or have to worry about pitch, does introduce concepts around melody and harmony simultaneously. It also can be used as a tool to teach broader music theory, which is essential in playing any nstruments later in life. However, you may need to pay attention to the hand size of your student, because sometimes fingers can be a little tricky, depending on how their hands are shaped.
However, you may need to pay attention to the hand size of your student, because sometimes fingers can be a little tricky, depending on how their hands are shaped.
As your child gets older…
A general rule of thumb: make sure that your child and their instrument are roughly the same size. You don’t want your little one attempting to play an instrument they cannot physically carry, hold, manipulate, etc. A good test is whether or not your student actually likes to hold the instrument. And when producing sound, is there any sort of physical awkwardness they encounter that they dislike, especially on instruments that require a lot of fine motor skills like brass and woodwinds.
On top of that, do they like the sound the instrument produces? Do they enjoy the way the sound is produced? Because if they don’t like the tone of an oboe, or they dislike the way one has to buzz their lips to produce sound in a trumpet, the child may not take to the instrument.
It may take some experimentation, but that’s a good way to sort out what your child needs.
But what if it’s not cool enough?
This is a bigger deal than it might sound, especially for students in their teens. Social image plays a huge role in what someone picks out. In middle school band, all the boys wanted to be on percussion of some sort starting out, and less than a quarter of That might seem like common sense, but it’s often overlooked either because a parent or teacher really wants a child to start with a particular instrument or the student wants to grab the “cool” instrument. But one must be careful not to over look these crucial elements. It is better for a child to start with an instrument that is compatible with their body than one that may lead to
In middle school band, all the boys wanted to be on percussion of some sort starting out, and less than a quarter of them had solid rhythm. And, of course, no one wanted to play the tuba. (And not many scrawny middle school bodies could handle the tuba, for that matter.) That might seem like common sense, but it’s often overlooked either because a parent or teacher really wants a child to start with a particular instrument or the student wants to grab the “cool” instrument. But one must be careful not to over look these crucial elements. It is better for a child to start with an instrument that is compatible with their body than one that may lead to
Many times students will want to pick an instrument that they think is cooler or more socially acceptable than others because of whatever reasons they’ve told themselves. And this can either lead to a student finding an instrument that they have a lifetime love for or it could lead to them selecting an instrument that might be cooler, but is totally incompatible with their body type, dexterity, ability, and so on.
Granted, you can’t ignore a child’s perception of an instrument or their perceptions of them playing the instrument, but one should try to think about tempering those ideas of what the instrument is, and their expectations of what playing that instrument could be like.
Overall, it’s a balancing act between selecting an instrument that is going to fit your student, tempering their expectations, and allowing the student to choose for themselves. But more than anything, encouraging a student to play is the most important thing any of us can do.
At B Sharp School of Music, we want to help you figure out what you or your young student needs to further their education. Learn more about who we are and schedule your first lesson today!