Choosing a musical instrument for children based on personality and body type

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Highlights of history

Music teachers use body type and personality to determine the best instrument for a child

Experts examine how outgoing a child is, lip size, height to make the best match

The best advice for parents is to let the child decide what to play first.

Researchers say music training turns kids into more effective learners

Editor’s Note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor covering family, career and life. She is a mother of two daughters and lives in Manhattan. Read his other columns and follow his reports on CNN Parents and on Twitter.



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Most parents are probably so focused on getting their kids to play an instrument that we don’t give much thought to the question, “What is the right instrument for my child?” ”

Quite honestly, on the list of things I’m supposed to keep in mind as a parent, I didn’t know such a question existed. Until now.

Ron Chenoweth is the Band and Orchestra Division Director of Ken Stanton Music, a Georgia-based music education company with nearly 100 teachers delivering over 1,000 lessons each week.

Part of Chenoweth’s job includes managing a team that regularly visits schools to help conductors determine which instrument each student should play. Two things he and his colleagues always look at are body type and personality.

All I need to know I learned in music class

The best instruments for children who like the center of the stage

If a child likes to be the star of the show, Chenoweth might point them towards the flute, as flautists tend to stand in front of the group.

“I’m looking for the smiling, happy, sometimes chatty kid, rather than just very, very calm,” said Chenoweth, who has worked with Ken Stanton Music for 16 years. “Usually they ask questions and say, ‘Well, I want to do this because…’ and so they tell you their story. ”

Other instruments for extroverts, says Chenoweth, are the saxophone and the trumpet.

“They tend to be lead instruments, whether it’s a jazz band or a performing band. They play that higher melodic role, and these kids tend to be almost out of control at one point, ”he said with a laugh. “But they’re just very outgoing. You don’t really see the quieter ones going that way.

Music: it’s in your head, it changes your brain

How does the body type factors in

Physical characteristics can also determine the best instrument for a child. Take the bassoon, for example, which is not ideal for small children.

“The bassoon, when assembled, is almost 6 feet tall, and the spread of the finger holes is ridiculous,” he said.

Someone with very small lips might be better suited for the trumpet or French horn, while someone with larger lips might find it difficult to play these instruments, according to Chenoweth.

“The cap size of a trumpet or French horn would be too small, and they wouldn’t be able to produce a good sound,” said Chenoweth, who played the French horn in his high school and middle school bands. and has since been involved in music education.

“And then sometimes you’re surprised. … Someone told you, ‘Oh, they’ll never get the sound of that trumpet,’ and they’re leaving.

I asked Chenoweth what personalities and physical attributes could lead to success with other instruments:

Oboe: An important trait for mastering this “very complex” instrument is “above average intelligence”, according to Chenoweth.

Tuba: A great choice for students with wider lips, he says.

Trombone: The front teeth of the player must be even. “You want a good bite that shouldn’t require orthodontics,” he said.

Violin: Children can start playing as early as 2 to 3 years old. “I think because they have different sizes it makes them pretty universal,” said Chenoweth, who started playing the clarinet in fourth grade.

Piano: Long fingers or large hands are desirable, as is being a good thinker. “Physically, they’re going to need good dexterity with their hands,” Chenoweth said. “You would probably be looking for a propensity for something analytical, someone who could show a little curiosity.”

Can Music Improve Behavior?

Let them play what they want to play

Before you even begin to assess whether an instrument matches your child’s personality or has the right body type to be successful, you should let your child guide you, says Chenoweth.

“My first thing is that you have to get them on an instrument that interests them first because if there is little interest in playing it, there will be the same success – very little,” he said. added.

Try not to push them into playing what you’ve played, Chenoweth said. “Private lessons at home with the parent won’t necessarily be successful,” he laughed.

And always try to support yourself, even if it might not be music to your ears.

“We all know the sounds won’t be great,” Chenoweth said, but parents should try to stay positive. This means avoiding comments like, “‘Oh, we’re going. Here is something new to try for three months and then you will give up. Are you ever going to pick something to stick with? ‘ ”

The importance of music education at school

Why music matters

Dr. Nina Kraus, professor of communication sciences, neurobiology, and physiology and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University, has been studying the impact of music training on a child’s cognitive development for almost 20 years. a decade. His in-depth research has been published in over 200 journals and media publications.

Defining a musician as someone who plays music twice a week for 20 minutes, she and her team compare how the brains of musicians and non-musicians respond to sound and the impact of music on it. attention, language, memory and reading skills of the musician.

“The same organic ingredients that are important for reading are those that are strengthened by playing a musical instrument,” Kraus said. “The ability to categorize sounds, to extract important sounds from background noise, to respond coherently to sounds in one’s environment… these are all ingredients that are important for learning, for auditory learning, for reading (and) for listening in class. ”

Her findings, she said, have a clear message for policymakers and parents.

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  • “It’s not just about your child becoming a violinist,” said Kraus, a mother of three whose children all played an instrument growing up. “It’s about preparing your child to be a more effective learner for all kinds of things. ”

    And the benefits continue even after a child stops playing, Kraus says.

    “The brain continues to benefit long after music lessons are over,” she said. (To view Kraus’ extensive research and full conclusions, check out his slideshow.)

    If my daughters weren’t already enrolled in music lessons this fall (we start with the piano!), I would enroll them today.

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