What is the best starter musical instrument for a child?

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There are pros and cons to whatever is chosen, but the experience is unlikely to be wasted. A lot of people start with one instrument and then move on to another, says Aura Stone, who believes that “when you get exposed to the instrument that’s right for you, you’ll know it.”

Growing up in the UK decades ago, it was by chance a double bass teacher who had a place for her in a free music lessons program when she was nine and it is an instrument that she continues. to play professionally to this day.

“My parents are not musicians. If I hadn’t had this opportunity, I don’t know when, or if, it would have come up again, ”she says. His own children, Jake (10) and Maya, seven, were raised in music and play the piano and violin respectively at their home in Blackrock, County Dublin.

The most common starting instruments

Piano / keyboard
Advantages:
You can see and touch the notes. There is also an element of instant gratification because when you play a note it will be right – unlike, say, a violin – so that a child can very quickly reproduce a recognizable tune.

The inconvenients: It is less “social” than others; it’s less likely to be included in ensembles and, if it is, there will usually only be one, says Andrew Jordan, director of the Newpark Music Center, which encourages young musicians to join backing vocals, to counter the traditional and lonely nature of classical piano lessons and practice. . A half-decent piano for practicing at home is a significant financial investment. However, a cheaper keyboard, with weighted notes, would be fine to continue.

Violin
Advantages:
A range of children’s instruments is widely available for small hands, up to 1/16 for children three to five years old. As an introductory string instrument, it lends itself easily to group lessons and may soon become a passport to ensemble playing and orchestral groups.

The inconvenients: It will take longer to develop a sound that the child will enjoy – no matter which parents are within earshot. It is also more physically demanding, involving standing and requiring dexterity between holding the violin and using the bow, which will take longer to master.

Recorder
Advantages:
Inexpensive and durable as a starting wind instrument. The pattern of the fingers is similar to that of other wind instruments, making it easy to switch to a clarinet or saxophone later. The progression to playing simple melodies will come quite early, and it is usually taught in groups, which is popular with children.

The Recorder: Inexpensive and durable as a starter wind instrument, but struggles to overcome its association with less than melodious recitals.  Photograph: Getty

The Recorder: Inexpensive and durable as a starter wind instrument, but struggles to overcome its association with less than melodious recitals. Photograph: Getty

The inconvenients: Although it has a rich heritage and there are professional recorders out there, it is unlikely to be anything other than a starter instrument. He struggles to rise above his association with less than melodic recitals performed en masse by children with varying degrees of skill.

Ukulele
Advantages:
Small, easy to handle and relatively inexpensive. It’s easier to play than a guitar, so a child can play tunes fairly quickly.

The inconvenients: There has been more than a whiff of “hipster” to this instrument’s surge in popularity over the past few years, however, that just might make it all the more appealing.

The voice
Advantages:
It’s free, and it’s the only musical instrument parents should encourage children to use from a young age, whenever they have the chance. Following this basic work, participation in a choir – under the guidance of a qualified vocal teacher – is an excellent basis for musical education.

“It awakens the musical muse in them,” says Dr Ite O’Donovan, whose Dublin Choral Foundation is modeled on the tradition of cathedral choristers but adapted to the secular world. “They are suddenly captured by the whole experience and no matter what they do vocally, it will take them into the instrumental music.”

The inconvenients: Formal, one-on-one singing lessons aren’t recommended until much older – some say 12 through mid-teens. Solo singing lessons can be very off-putting for shy kids, or when they get embarrassed as a teenager – but there will always be a choir they can blend into.

What instruments are better to leave until a child is older?
From the age of nine, almost all instruments are accessible, as long as the child is physically able. For example, the saxophone may still be a bit too heavy.

Jordan doesn’t think that whether or not children have most of their permanent teeth is a problem before they start playing wind instruments. Braces can be a bump in the road, he admits, but the child will adjust and adjust.

Wait a while on a guitar, he suggests, and maybe try that maligned ukulele instead.


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