Musical instruction can help your child master more than just how to play an instrument over the course of their education, which is why so many parents jump at the opportunity to encourage and foster an interest in music from an early age. According to the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, kids that study music boast more advanced language development than their non-musical peers, while a 2004 study by the University of Toronto at Mississauga showed that six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons had a higher IQ than those participating in the study without music lessons. Kids that participate in school band and music programs are also more likely to finish high school, and tend to score more highly on the SATs. With the benefits of instruction in the musical arts so apparent, the only question left to many parents is how to choose the right instrument for their child.
- Consider Size and Age – The size of an instrument, ease of portability and your child’s age are all factors that should be taken into consideration before settling upon a particular instrument. For instance, children whose permanent front teeth have not erupted aren’t typically considered good candidates for instruction in brass instruments like the trumpet, trombone or tuba and an ungainly and heavy cello may not be ideal for a small child to transport or support during lessons. Piano and violin are popular choices for younger children because they can build a foundation from which kids can gain proficiency in other instruments as they get older. While pianos aren’t known for their portability, most teachers will come to your house for instruction.
- Look for Specific Inclinations – A child that displays an affinity for rhythmic movement or sound may be more suited to percussion instruments, just as a child who plucks out a recognizable tune on a toy piano may have inclinations that run in just such a direction. Any signs of an inclination towards a particular instrument should definitely be considered during the decision-making process, although these inclinations may not be overly apparent in very young children.
- Pricing and Feasibility – Some instruments can be significantly more expensive than others, which is an investment that cash-strapped parents may not want to make when they’re not sure that a child’s interest in it will last. Before discussing possible instrument choices with your child, it’s wise to research general, ball-park pricing on student-models in a variety of families to help you determine what will be financially feasible before the search begins. By narrowing the field to instruments that you can reasonably afford before discussing the matter with your child, you can avoid the difficulty of explaining to a heart-broken child that he cannot have the instrument he’s chosen after a glimpse at the price tag.
- Health Concerns or Physical Limitations – While no parent wants to think of their child as being limited in any way, the truth is that some children have health problems or physical disabilities that make them less suited for certain instruments. Kids with asthma or other respiratory problems, for instance, are likely to struggle with a brass or woodwind instrument. Children that are particularly diminutive may become discouraged when managing a bulky double bass proves difficult. Taking any health concerns into consideration can help you prevent your child from settling on an instrument that he’s not suited to play, and consequently giving up on musical instruction altogether when it doesn’t work out as he expects.
- Guide Your Child, But Let Him Make the Final Choice – You absolutely should guide your child away from instruments that you know aren’t suited to him, but it’s also important that you offer that guidance in such a way that allows your child to ultimately make the choice himself. Feeling as if he’s been forced into a particular instrument, especially if it’s one he doesn’t want to play, is likely to only leave him disillusioned with musical instruction altogether, making him less receptive during his lessons.
- Lesson Availability in Your Area – Though it can be tempting to both you and your child to choose an exotic, unique instrument that none of your child’s classmates will play, it’s important to ensure that lessons for that instrument are available in your area before making a final purchase. A didgeridoo might be exciting, but it’s essentially useless if there’s no one around to teach your child how to play it.
Choosing the right instrument is an absolutely essential part of ensuring that your child will practice willingly, approach his lessons eagerly and take his instruction seriously. Forcing your child to play an instrument that he does not like will only make him reluctant to practice and cause him to view lessons as a chore, rather than a fun and desirable hobby. Though as a parent you certainly know what’s best for your child, this is one area where he should be encouraged to play a very active role in the decision-making process.
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