Good Ages to Start Instruments

One of the most common questions I run into as a public school music teacher/store owner is "what is a good age for my child to begin learning instrumental music"? There is more to this than you may think.

Our philosophy is to never deny a child access to musical enjoyment, but at the same time not allow them to experience such a degree frustration trying to learn an instrument they are not ready for, that they are turned off to music instruction forever.

For children under 3, we suggest child safe bells, shakers, anything where the child can produce a sound using their large muscle groups. Obviously, a two year old is not usually ready for piano lessons. That is not to say banging on a toy piano is not a good thing, just that formal lessons would not be. There are some good pointers to remember in order to get the most out of your child's musical experiences.

Some things to keep in mind

Violin..can start as young as three in a Suzuki class, since violins come in smaller sizes this makes it possible for children under five to begin their study.

Viola...usually suggest a year of violin first.

Cello...ages 10 and year of violin first.

Guitar..We rec. age 8 and up. While smaller guitars do exist, many children younger than this lack the hand coordination to be sucessful. We also suggest using nylon strings, rather than steel ones for delicate young fingers. Another big debate is whether to start on a acoustic or an electric guitar. To dispel the widely held belief, there is no educational reason not to let a child begin on electric guitar. It is no more difficult to learn to play than acoustic.

You may, for budget purposes, start with an acoustic, which is usually much less money.

Flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone

Ages nine and up, or fourth grade and up. The reason for this is that fingers may not be large enough to cover sound holes on these instruments. Also, the breath supply may not be strong enough to produce a good sound.

Saxophone...ages 10 and up with a year of clarinet study first. Another note, many children want to be the next Kenny G. He plays the soprano sax, it is one of the most difficult to learn. We suggest starting on the alto sax.

Drums..aah..everybody wants the drums. We suggest starting on a snare kit, which includes a snare drum, stand and sticks,as a good way to start. This should be fine for a year before moving to a drum set.

Piano Ages 5 and up can have varying degrees of achievement. Many methods exist which use finger numbers and colored symbols rather than traditional music notation. Remember, music reading ability occurs around the same age as reading in general does.

I am happy to answer any of your specific questions regarding music and your child. E

More info on music for teens available: Teens Page

and Our kid's music page

By Christopher Brelsford
M.M. University of Rhode Island
Music Teacher
Cranston, RI Public Schools

How to Buy a Trumpet

How to Buy a Flute

How to Buy a Trombone

How to Buy a Saxophone

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