Guest post by Shelley Steele-Gittel.
Every parent wants their child to play an instrument proficiently. But at what age and what instruments should they start with? Here’s a look at the most popular instruments and an approximate starting age for each.
Piano (ages 3-8)
Three? Yes three is fine for some kids. There are even specialized programs where you can learn the instrument alongside your child to encourage them. Other teachers may insist that students be able to read before starting lessons. Depending on maturity and motivation, many children can successfully pursue the piano anywhere between 3 and 8 years of age. The best part about learning the piano is the ability to quickly learn familiar songs.
Guitar (ages 7 and up)
Many children today will say they want to play the guitar. Because guitars come in smaller sizes to accommodate little hands, this is possible, but students must have some fine motor coordination. Interested kids should hold an appropriate-sized guitar a few times to gauge their comfort level. Guitar is one of those instruments that is trickier than it looks and can be surprisingly uncomfortable on the fingers until you get used to it.
Voice/Singing/Vocal (all ages, formal lessons around 8 )
Children at all ages naturally want to sing. If your child is showing an aptitude, put them in a community choir to start. Encourage impromptu performances at home, having them sing their favourite songs. Allow your child to sing and develop their voice from school music and playtime singing. Formal private lessons in voice usually start around 8 years of age.
Violin/Strings (ages 3 and up)
Similar to piano, there are string programs that teach very young children in a style that is similar to learning a language. Smaller children learn on mini instruments designed and scaled exactly like their bigger versions. String instruments require a student to be able to tune and respond to pitch quickly in order to make beautiful music. Any parent of a beginner string player will tell you how trying the sound can be in the beginning. It gets more tolerable as students become better at playing in tune.
Drums (ages 8 and up)
Pots and pans are a great place to start, but it may be advisable to hold off on purchasing an entire drum kit for your toddler. Percussion instruments are fantastic for any child as it “taps” into a very natural need for creating rhythms. However, your neighbours may not agree. It is a loud instrument choice and should be carefully considered if your child has demonstrated a sustained interest.
Woodwind/Brass (8 and up)
Many school programs offer recorder, which is a great introduction to the flute or other wind instruments. Recorder teaches breath control and reading music. The flute can leave people light headed and needing to curl into recovery position because of the breath control and lung capacity needed to produce sounds. The fingerings on wind and brass instruments (which require both strength and fine motor coordination) and breath control (buzzing sound on brass) are the toughest aspects of playing these instruments. Brass instruments may be good secondary instruments, meaning start with piano or singing first before graduating to this instrument family.
Shelley Steele-Gittel M.A., B. Music, ARCT(Piano Teacher), ARCT (Piano Performer) is the co-founder of MusicLessonMatch.com Inc. along with Laurie Campbell B. Ed., B. Sc.. She has been a school and private music teacher for 10 years. She co-created MusicLessonMatch.com to help parents find a local private music teacher anywhere in Canada.