Help your child choose the right musical instrument



Children seem to have an instinctive attraction to music. I’m sure many of us remember our kid’s first adorable attempt to switch to their favorite song. Getting excited and dancing to the beat comes naturally, and it’s good to nurture that curiosity and appreciation for music if your child shows an interest.

Exposure to music is wonderful for your child’s development and can have many positive results. If you and your child have decided that playing a musical instrument is something they would like to pursue, the next step is to determine which instrument will suit them best. There are so many instruments to choose from, all with their own long list of pros and cons, that picking the right one can seem quite daunting. Read on to find out what to consider to help your child choose the right instrument.

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Age is a factor in choosing an instrument

Age is an important factor when choosing an instrument, especially if your child is younger, as there are physical and developmental limitations to keep in mind. No matter how much your child begs to be a tuba player, it just won’t happen for a 6 year old who weighs less than the tuba itself. As they age, this becomes less of a deciding factor and preferences may play a more important role in instrument selection.


Credit: iStock / ена Новикова

The consensus among the sources seems to be that children 6 and under are quite limited in instrument options, and the recommendation is to consider piano or violin. The piano does not require any physical strength to play, and violins come in many sizes, so you can find one that your young child can hold comfortably.

You may be wondering about other instruments that do not seem too physically demanding for your child; the recorder is a light instrument and guitars are also made in smaller sizes. Merriam Music cautions you to remember that while these instruments are certainly small and easy to handle, they are developmentally more difficult for a child to play.

Keep in mind that the instrument does not need to be set in stone. If your child starts learning an instrument at a young age, they can always start with the piano or violin and then move on to new or additional instruments as they grow older. Personal preferences play a much bigger role in choosing instruments once your child has passed physical and developmental limits.

Physical capacity – Strength and size

As your child grows and is able to handle larger instruments, there are more options to consider. Of course, just because your child is growing in strength and stature doesn’t mean he needs to play a beefier instrument. If they started playing the piano at age five and enjoy doing it, there’s no need to move on. But, the option is there if they are interested in pursuing something new.

This category of considerations is less about restricting for developmental reasons and more about making sure your child does not choose an instrument that might overextend their physical capabilities. Your child will benefit more from an instrument that they can play comfortably.

If your child is short, heavier instruments can be tiring and uncomfortable. Small size can also make some instruments, like the trombone, a challenge as it requires a long arm span to reach all the notes, so you may suggest that your child consider a trumpet instead. If the tuba is too heavy, a French horn may be an acceptable alternative. You don’t have to completely discourage the heavier brass section, just try to find a suitable exchange that you and your child are comfortable with.

Whether your child is interested in the woodwind, brass or percussion section, it is quite possible to find something that suits their physical abilities. Instruments are available in many sizes in each category, and instruments for even the smallest musician can be found. For example, look at the size ranges for different types of saxophones. You can search online or talk to their music teacher to learn more about the different options.

Personality and place of performance

Boy with Down Syndrome with schoolchildren and teacher sitting on the floor in class, playing guitar.

Credit: iStock

Some instruments are highlighted and as a result your child may spend more or less time in the spotlight. According to Music from liberty park, flutes, trumpets, violins and electric guitars are frequently presented. If your child is very reserved and wouldn’t appreciate the prospect of a solo or small group performance, you might encourage them to consider other instruments.

Of course, it also depends on what purpose you and your child have for their music experience. Whether they are learning at home or one-on-one with an instructor, that won’t be a factor. It is more of a consideration for those who will be playing a piece of music as part of an ensemble, such as in the school marching band or in the harmony orchestra.

If your child is choosing an instrument for school, whether for a music lesson or to join a band, it is a good idea to discuss your plans with the instructor before purchasing. While all instruments have their merits and have a positive impact on your child’s development, not all are used in the same contexts. A piccolo is unlikely to be needed in the school jazz orchestra, and the harp would be difficult to maneuver on the marching band’s grounds. Make sure the instrument matches the setting your child will be playing in.


Ultimately, your child will decide, within reason, what instrument they want to play. Of course, your budget and space limitations should be taken into consideration, but don’t worry if you’ve gone through all of the above checklists and your child has decided to go rogue. If you think they can change their mind, you can always rent the instrument for the first year and then give them the opportunity to reconsider their decision before purchasing them themselves.

READ NEXT: 10 of the Best Songs to Listen to as a Family


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