If you are new to music lessons and wondering which instrument might be best for your child, loved one, or yourself, please read on for some helpful general guidelines on choosing an instrument, or seeing whether or not the instrument that you are considering is age-appropriate.
Under 4 years old: For infants, toddlers & preschoolers, we highly recommend a group class over private lessons. In our decades of experience with thousands of students, we have found it to be ineffective & inefficient to force young children into the private lesson setting. As you already know, children connect with and learn best from a non-academic, play-based approach – and music is no exception. We suggest that children are lovingly invited to explore the wonders and diversity of sound and motion (before being instructed on musical rules, theories, and techniques). Parents can do this at home, or you can try one of our group music classes like Family Music Time. Weekly, 45 minute classes are affordable and ongoing throughout the year. Please click here for more information about Family Music Time or Click here to fill out our FREE TRIAL REQUEST FORM!
4 to 6 years old: As children’s coordination and communication skills develop (and as we witness another viral YouTube video of a child prodigy in this age range), parents may be tempted (or even convinced) to try private lessons at age 4 or 5. We do not recommend approaching music in an analytical, theoretical, or technical manner yet. Rather, we embrace the natural, unbiased curiosity and creativity of this special age through the sort of group play experienced in our “Meet Music” program, or through lighthearted musical play at home, with the family. You might also like our unique group class for Preschoolers & Kindergartners, called “A Sound Experience”. We promise, from the bottom of our hearts, that another 6 months or year of “play” before formal education will not leave your child behind. In fact, we have witnessed just the opposite! Please click here for more information or (better yet) Click here to fill out our FREE TRIAL REQUEST FORM & see for yourself.
6 to 7 years old: Many parents feel the pull to get their children started in music lessons around kindergarten and first grade. Children can vary so much in development at this age as far as motor skills, attention span and general concentration/interest level in music. We do not set strict age limitations on specific instruments, although we very much recommend enrolling your 6 or 7 year old in lessons only if your child (not just you) has a strong desire and interest in a specific instrument. We have noticed a pattern that the 6 and 7 year-olds that are most likely to “succeed” (that is, most likely to continue playing music for years to come) tend to be the ones who have parents that are involved in their child’s practice, and that have raised their children in “musical” homes. Often this means that the parents (or siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.), play an instrument, or that the child has been in group classes already, or that music has somehow already played a significant role in the child’s life (to the point that the child himself or herself truly already has a strong drive to learn music. Please do not sign up an uninterested 6 or 7 year old for lessons and expect that we will magically turn that child into a prodigy like you saw on YouTube. Thanks. We recommend scheduling a free trial private lesson (ages 6 and above only) for your child, or attending a Meet Music class (ages 3.5-6) in order to determine which route is the best fit.
Recommended Instruments: Piano and Drums are the most common choices for this age range, as children tend to flourish best when they do not have to lift or hold an instrument at first. We do not recommend ukulele*, guitar or brass/woodwind (school band) or larger string instruments yet for this reason. Although violins do come in small sizes to fit children, it is important to realize that choosing this instrument does create many more simultaneous challenges than learning music first on piano or drums (which are still very challenging). Piano is a great instrument to start with because it is easy to make a pleasant sound (just strike a key!) and you do not have to lift it (hopefully!). Since children can learn simple melodies on piano quickly, they will be rewarded for their accomplishments earlier, encouraging them to come back for more – essentially fostering a strong connection with music. Likewise, Drums/percussion offers a similar cycle of encouragement, but even more simple than piano because it focuses first and foremost on cycles of rhythm, which are natural to all humans (and the starting point of all music). Both piano and drums will provide students with a great foundation of music that they can apply to other instruments in the future, should they decide to try something new as they get older and their bodies become strong enough to power other instruments. Our piano and drum instructors are experienced with young beginners, and look forward to helping children harness their curiosity of sound into a meaningful relationship with music.
*Why not ukulele? It’s so small & light! Despite it’s small size, ukulele is NOT always a great instrument to begin with, although it can work (for the right child). In order to gain a solid musical foundation that is transferable to other instruments in the future, we do still recommend piano or drums. Ukulele is not necessarily the best tool because the string tuning is not linear (that is, low to high sounds), which can be confusing when switching to guitar, violin or other “linear” instruments. However, ukulele students can quickly learn melodies, chord shapes and strumming patterns, which help coordination and listening development, but do not reinforce general music theory as well as piano or drums. With that said, the small size and “fun factor” do make ukulele a good choice in some cases, especially for kids who like to sing along as the play. Please be careful when considering ukulele as a first instrument, especially for kids under 8.
8 to 10 years old: Through our years of experience working with thousands of students, we have found that 8 is generally the “safest” age for students to truly benefit from working with an instructor in a one-on-one setting. By age 8, many students are physically able to hold heavier instruments, have more dexterity in their hands and fingers, and are capable of greater lung capacity and better focus than they were at a younger age. For these reasons, there are more instrument choices available to this age range.
Recommended Instruments: Piano, Guitar (fractional size), Drums, Voice, Violin (fractional size), Clarinet, Flute. Piano and Drums are still fantastic choices to begin lessons on at this age, since the experience is so easily transferable to other instruments, and since it still helps to eliminate the factor of having to hold up an instrument, while also learning the skills involved with music-making. Stringed instruments (Guitar, Violin) will take more time to learn the basics on (due to their more delicate nature and the fine motor skills necessary to manipulate them), but because smaller (fractional) sized instruments are available to fit children, we see many young beginners that appreciate a challenge choose to give them a try. The smaller woodwind instruments (Clarinet, Flute) are recommended over larger, heavier instruments like Trumpet and Trombone (although some 8 and 9 year olds may certainly be strong enough to try). For those kids who can’t stop singing, voice lessons are another great option!
10 years old and up:: Once children reach age 10, it is generally a great time to begin on any instrument that they are excited about learning. We always suggest starting on an instrument that excites the student. If your child is trying to decide between a few instruments, just let us know and we’ll give you the chance to try them all before committing to one.
When choosing an instrument, you may wish to consider factors such as:
– Cost. Can you rent the instrument, or do you need to buy up front? Please note our affordable rental rates for band and orchestra instruments. Also, many drum students begin with only a practice pad and drumsticks. For piano students, a keyboard is a perfectly acceptable instrument to learn on.
– Musical Genre. What style of music do you most enjoy? Think about what resonates best with you, even if you don’t really know why. If you’re a rocker at heart, you may want to consider guitar, bass or drums. If jazz is your cuppa tea, you might be best suited for trumpet, saxophone, or trombone. If you prefer a more formal, classical music education, piano or violin could fit you. Although most instruments are found in a variety of musical genres, if you are undecided as to which one to try first, it may help to consider the genres, artists, or songs you like best and think about which instruments shine through to you as you listen to your favorite songs.
– Learning Curve. Although it takes a substantial commitment to become a professional on any musical instrument, some are simply easier to learn the basics on than others. If you know that your child does not have much patience, you may not want to begin with “harder” instruments like violin or trumpet, unless the child is ready to make a commitment, and understands that progress is slow and steady. The instruments that we typically notice the quickest progress on are drums and piano (since you eliminate the factor of having to support/hold them) followed by guitar, bass and ukulele. For band and orchestra instruments, it can take significant time to learn basics. With that said though, DAILY PRACTICE (even in doses as small as 5 minutes) is the key to making progress on any instrument. Although some instruments often take longer to get started on, any student who is willing to put in (even minimal) daily practice will succeed, no matter what instrument they choose.
Still unsure? Why not try a fun “infographic”….
Adult beginners: What do most adult students have in common? They all come to us as if they are the only person over age 12 to ever start on a new instrument. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We have had dozens (if not hundreds) of adults come to us as square one beginners over the years – and almost 100% of them thought they must be the only adults at the studio, which is simply not true. It is never too late to learn a musical instrument, or to revisit one that you may have put away decades ago. Our instructors enjoy working with adults, as long as they realize that learning a musical instrument is a time commitment that requires some daily attention. Just like children, adult students must be willing to commit to regular practice in order to make progress. Since you don’t have parents to force you to practice (or else no dessert!), it is extremely important to be self motivated. We consistently see amazing progress from our adult students, and encourage anyone to try an instrument, no matter how much they might think “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Think of it more like, “We do not quit playing because we grow old, we grow old because we quit playing.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
Are you ready to give lessons a try?