Learning an instrument is an exciting journey, one that could potentially have huge positive impacts on the rest of your child’s life. But choosing an instrument that is a good match for your child at his or her current age and stage in life is critical to his or her musical success.

Here are some tips:

Does your child want to learn the instrument? Does he or she love how it sounds?

If your child has already expressed a desire to play the instrument and loves how it sounds, there is a much higher chance that he or she will stick with it. Even though learning any instrument is tough at first, the motivation of being able to play his or her favorite instrument is huge!

Is the instrument something your child can physically play?

This is a big factor when choosing an instrument. Depending on the instrument, your child might need to wait until he or she has grown a bit or has sufficient strength before physically being able to play it. Some instruments, such as the guitar and violin family, are made in fractional sizes so that children of almost any age can begin to learn them.  Wind and brass instruments, on the other hand, are made only one size and may be difficult for children younger than 8-10 years of age to physically manage. The piano is often chosen as a first instrument because it is physically accessible to children as young as five.

Often, eager students who are simply too petite or not yet mature enough to play a certain instrument can begin on a simpler alternative.  For example, a 5 or 6 year old who just doesn’t have the strength to wrap his fingers around a guitar or violin could have a great time getting his start on a much easier-to-play ukulele.  Or, a child who does not yet have the breath control for a flute can get her start with a recorder.

If you are uncertain if an instrument is physically appropriate for your child’s size, or if your child has any physical handicaps or disabilities which may need to be accommodated, contact a local teacher or music store to arrange a “meeting” between your child and the instrument. This will enable you and your child to decide if it is a comfortable fit, and seek out the advice of a expert if necessary.  At The Harmony Garden, we always provide a complimentary “meet & greet” to ensure that an instrument is the best fit for the student.

Does the instrument provide an appropriate challenge for your child?

Trying to learn an instrument that is too hard – or too easy! – is simply not rewarding at all. If your child already has some musical experience under his or her belt and is ready to try something new, an instrument that is similar but a tad more challenging might be the best thing to level up his or her musical prowess (for example, if your child already is learning clarinet, he or she may want to try the oboe or saxophone). If your child has never played an instrument before, it is best to start with something relatively simple, such as the piano or guitar. Again, take into consideration your child’s age, stature, preferences, and any limitations he or she may have.

Are you willing/able to invest in renting or purchasing and maintaining the instrument?

No matter what instrument your child chooses to play, acquiring the instrument will involve a financial investment. Some parents choose the economical option of renting their child’s instrument for a few years before making a purchase. Always ask the teacher for his or her recommendation, and research the prices and quality of instruments provided by local music stores. Additionally, all acoustic (non-electric) instruments require proper maintenance, care, and occasional repairs to remain in playing condition.