Updated: Sep 30, 2020
I get this question a lot. "My child is 5 years old and I want her to play an instrument and learn to read music. What instrument should I get her to try?" The next sentence usually is, "If it's the piano, I don't want to waste money buying a piano only to find out she does not enjoy playing it." So what instrument should you start your child on? As parents, we always want our child to have the best "first" experiences. Let's take for example swimming. We take our children to play in the waddle pool; then maybe into a pool with water features, like one with a little spray fountain; give them some floats for their arms; blow bubbles in the water with their mouths; dip their heads in etc... you get the idea. Eventually maybe some swim lessons - they won't be crying for you during the lesson but enjoying it! Same for music. Start singing to them; put on the radio; hold them and move along to the music; get a rattle; sing them nursery rhymes; go for baby music classes; go for free concerts; watch buskers. Small steps. Show them how you or another person ENJOYS music. Then when they start on an instrument there will be a higher chance they will keep on with it. What's the answer? It's not the instrument you pick. It's how you start exposing them to music education. And pick an instrument with a sound that does not put you off! I know some parents who absolutely hate the drums, and some puts on a ear plug with the violin. Pick one which sounds lovely to you. By the way, if you don't want to invest money into buying a brand new one, or risk buying a lousy used one, why not rent? Or find ways to bring your child to a concert (check out my events page - coming soon)? Find a friend or a teacher who can let your child try some of these instruments?
If you need some tips on picking instruments, here are some instruments that I would recommend for a start.
Percussion - Whether it is a simple hand drum, a cajon, or a drum kit, percussions are great to teach beat and rhythm to a child. It isn't a centre stage instrument, but lots of children do love percussions. Easy to pick up and singing along to! Age 3+
Piano/ electric piano - A solo instrument which requires no accompanists to play a great tune. A great first instrument that gives you a good foundation in music, and a springboard to learning other instruments. I would recommend a weight electric piano or an upright piano from the start to get those little fingers used to the weight of the keys. Age 3+
Vocal - Do not miss this instrument out. It's a free instrument gifted to us all. I would recommend not overemphasising concerts after concerts for this one, because that is not the only reason why they are learning to sing - we don't want to teach our children that they are always the center of attention! Age 3+
Violin - Available in different sizes to suit different ages. Great to get children to have fantastic hearing, because the violin does not have frets (unlike the guitar) so they do have to listen out for the notes. It is a delicate instrument so it's a good training ground to get them to take care of their instruments. Age 4+
Ukulele / Guitar - Ukulele or a small guitar (yes there are small sized guitars) are great for small hands. Great instrument for children who love to sing and play. Provides a good foundation for music learning. You have to get your child ready for some pain in their fingers though - pressing the strings aren't easy. Age 5+
Wind instruments (e.g. harmonica, flute, clarinet, oboe, trombone, trumpet) - Great instrument if you are keen to get your child into the school band. There are modifications to these instruments that are made for young children (e.g. the clarineo, Pbuzz) if you want to get them started younger. Age 7+ (age 5+ recorder)