At West Minister Arts Academy, we have more than 12 instruments that children can get lessons on playing. With such a wide range of instruments to choose from, it’s good for parents to know that the final decision isn’t based on the sound of the instrument. Here are four factors to consider when choosing an instrument for your child to play.
Age and Physical Strength
For children, their bodies are developing at a lightning-fast pace. The younger a child is, their body’s physical characteristics play a significant role in determining the kinds of instruments they should start with playing. With age comes increased physical strength and height, which creates new opportunities for trying new instruments. Both of these should be considered when selecting an instrument with your child. While it is easier to learn music at a young age, some musical instruments are more suitable for your child when they are developing the physical strength to play the instrument properly. For example, the cello or bass are examples of instruments that require greater physical control than the player has at an early age. Similarly,
instruments such as the tuba and the cello are bulky and heavy. Your child will need some strength to hold the instruments to play as well as to transport these instruments. For this reason, core and back strength are essential for learners to maintain their proper posture. For example, if drummers play with bad posture, they may sustain neck, shoulder, and back injuries.
Some instruments require your child to be of a specific size to be played. An example of this can be seen with popular instruments like the trombone. To play the trombone well and effectively, the students need to be tall enough to be able to engage the full range of motion of the trombone’s slide mechanism to hit all its notes. It’s important to note that many instruments have various sizes available, so it’s possible to have your child learn the basics while waiting for the height to reach an appropriate level. Unfortunately, this tactic can add extra money to teaching a child an instrument, since parents will have to pay for a properly-fitted instrument for their child as they grow older. Once the child has grown tall enough to play a standard-size version of the instrument, these extra expenses will decline.
When students start to learn how to play brass and woodwind instruments, they will need to show advancement in the necessary embouchure (mouth placement) for particular instruments. For smaller instruments in that family, it won’t be a problem for smaller kids to demonstrate the proper mouth placement. However, if a child wants to play something like the French horn or oboe, they might need slightly more time to master the embouchure. These instruments have features like a narrow mouthpiece and, at times, a double reed. Children with thin lips and even teeth will usually have an easier time contorting their mouths to fit these instruments. Similarly, if your child needs to undergo orthodontic treatment (e.g., braces), it may be better to avoid instruments that involve blowing because practicing could inflict unnecessary pain.
Size of hands
Another thing to keep in mind is the size of your child’s hands. If your child has larger-than-average hands with long fingers, they may find it easier to learn how to play the piano, even at more advanced levels, where playing chords spanning more than one octave is common. Nonetheless, if your child’s hands aren’t particularly big, there are ways to get around that. Besides, learning the piano as a first instrument can help children understand the hang of reading sheet music faster because the layout of the keyboard makes it easier to see the relations between melody lines and how they appear of staves.
If, after all of this you’re still having trouble picking an instrument, it’s a good idea to speak to your child’s instructor. At West Minister Arts Academy, our team members can work with parents to help them choose the most appropriate instrument for a child, after considering all of the physical needs from the child to play a particular instrument.