If you’re reading this, you’re likely a parent who’s concerned (and rightly so) about choosing the best instrument for your child. Over the many years of teaching music, I have educated lots of parents on how to choose the proper instrument for their child. I will share some of my tips to choose the best instrument for your child by considering age, physical traits, personality, instrument popularity, interest, and your financial situation.
Let’s start with the question I get asked a lot: What age should we begin lessons? With age comes increased physical strength and height. Both of these should be considered when selecting an instrument with your child. Instruments like the banjo and upright bass are bulky and heavy to hold, requiring strength to hold up and carry. Likewise, the acoustic dreadnought guitar (full size) even though it’s not all that heavy it may be too thick to hold for a small six-year-old. However, some larger framed children of the same age may have no problems. At this point, I would recommend a ¾ size guitar to start with. Your child needs to be able to engage a full range of motion no matter what instrument they choose. Thankfully, almost all instruments come in various sizes, such that your child can start learning early. However, this means that you’ll have to invest in properly fitted instruments as your child grows as one instrument simply won’t be adequate for the entire music education.
While some children around four to six years of age have a good attention span others may not acquire this desired attention span to learn an instrument until around the age of ten or so. I personally take students around the age of five and have little trouble teaching them with a properly fitted instrument and patience.
This may be less apparent, but it’s also important to consider your child’s personality when choosing an instrument. Each child will have different experiences learning and performing different instruments due to temperament. Extroverted children who love to be the center of attention may be more suited to start on a popular instrument like the electric guitar or banjo. Players of these instruments not only are commonly part of musical groups but also get featured or soloed very prominently in most music. On the other hand, an introverted child that is reserved and thoughtful may be more comfortable with an instrument like the electric bass, which is more commonly performed without drawing much attention to the individual performance.
Perhaps most importantly, your child must at least be remotely interested in the instrument. While it’s normal for young children to gain and lose interest in things quickly, it’s essential that your child is enthusiastic about learning the instrument at the beginning. I recommend letting the child have some hands-on sessions at your local music store or with a music teacher. If your child can appreciate the sounds of the instrument, he or she will be more likely to enjoy learning the instrument. While your child may be indifferent to several instruments, it’s quite likely that you can be certain if your child prefers a rhythm or lead instrument when making your choice.
Once you and your child have a pretty good idea of what instrument he or she wants to learn, it would be smart to plan for the costs of your child’s music education. As it takes years to develop good skills on an instrument, you must be prepared to make a long-term investment for your child. Instruments often need maintenance and repairs and this is a huge problem with music teachers. We often see a child suffer due to the parents failing to keep an instrument in good playing condition. Strings will have to be replaced and newer equipment will have to be purchased in time. The better the instrument is maintained the easier it is for the child to learn and play.
Finding the right instrument for your child is essential. Remember to ensure that your child’s instrument is of a suitable size, decent quality, and very playable! This will go a long way toward boosting your child’s effective learning and enjoyment in his or her music education. Also, one last thought--commitment to daily practice is just as important if not more than everything else I have recommended.
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