Knowing the difference and understanding which instrument would fit the needs of your child and the family best is a crucial first step in your child’s first musical experience. Being sent to lessons without a tangible goal, dream or ambition might lead to losing interest in music sooner rather than later.
Factors to consider are the personality type of your child, the practicality of the family environment, your child’s energy levels after an average day, the inspiration and role models representing the instrument, and the holistic development of your child.
To find the right instrument, we need to look at what your child might need at that stage. It is important to mention that we would like to offer our kids the chance to grow and develop at their pace and terms. Decisions should be made together with understanding and valid reasons.
Personality Type of the Child
When your child is an extrovert and has a greater need for social connections, then the option of an instrument that needs plenty of solo-type practices wouldn’t make sense. It would rather frustrate them with being alone and have a more negative impact on their first musical experience.
Most extroverts start with instruments where they can (almost) immediately connect and play with others. The best music teachers can make this happen with most types of instruments, so make sure that you enquire before you make a decision.
Introvert kids don’t mind the alone time and can spend hours practising by themselves. Instruments like piano or violin are also great options for these individuals.
I wrote an article with examples of different kids who had challenges where playing music helped them to perform better in school. If you are interested in these success stories, don’t miss the article I wrote about “Do students who play music do better in school?”
The Practicality of the Family Environment
Which type of instrument would suit your home and living circumstances the best? Let’s look at some of the elements to consider:
Sensitivity to noise in your house
If you are living in a noise-sensitive area, then vocal training would be a tough task to manage. Except if you are able to provide a soundproof room.
Acoustic guitar noise levels could also become a possibility, but only as the playing experience increases.
Recommended instruments for houses that are sound-sensitive are a keyboard, electric- guitar (or bass) and drums all with the use of headphones.
The space available in your house
If you have little space available, a drumset might be challenging to bring in. Perhaps a jembly after a few years, or a Cajon (see below) are space savers, but not always recommended for beginners. Speak to your drum teacher about the possibilities here if you end up taking this route.
The general rule for a guitar is that a stand could be mounted to the wall for easy pick up and play. And then easily placed back after use. This saves not only space but also time. We don’t want our guitar students to have to open up the box they would like to practice their instruments.
A keyboard could also replace a piano and then be placed on an open surface for practice.
Financial implications for the parents
We all have different budgets. Lessons are expensive, instruments and gear are pricey, plus it needs to be taken care of. Not even mentioning the travel costs to lessons or performances.
Kids are usually flexible with their own family circumstances and understand when there is not a lot of money available. Just explain the situation carefully and give them the few available options.
Budget instruments to learn are mainly vocal training, acoustic guitar or a recorder.
Their Energy Levels After an Average Day
Kids that attend an all-day school plus extra murals could end up with a limited attention span and reduced energy levels when they need to practice their instruments regularly.
In this case, an instrument like the drums might be challenging if they are low on energy and concentration levels.
If your child has plenty of access energy after a normal day, then a good drumming session might exactly be what they need.
Inspiration or Role Models in that Instrument
A few questions to ask yourself in this aspect:
- Does a member of the family play the same instrument to inspire when the need comes?
- Does a member of the family play an instrument that they can relate to and play well together?
- Has your child already decided on their own instrument because of a particular musician?
- Would it be possible during the “dip-phases” (see video below) to motivate them with other musicians that went through the same struggles?
When you feel like all these questions have relevant and applicable answers, then you probably found the instrument you were looking for. It is important to think ahead when it comes to motivating kids. Try to have a motivation intervention in your back pocket for when the day comes when they need it most.
If you would be interested in music-related methods to keep your child motivated and what we as adults and parents can do to support them in their quest to becoming a rock star, don’t miss the post I wrote about “Ways to keep kids motivated to keep playing their instrument”.
The Holistic Development of Your Child
It is important not to overload your child’s program with too many activities. They MUST have enough downtime.
In my experience, kids whose programs are too packed are likely to slack in one of their performance areas. The one area that suffers the most is the academy and school work. There they will drift through and underperform just because they know that after school they will be drilled to perform to their best again.
Allow your child to have a balanced lifestyle.
A suggested quantity of outside school participation is to have one physical extramural and one cultural activity to really be able to perform at their best. This is the perfect recipe to develop their brains holistically.
If your child is more into cultural activities, then of course participating in choir, drama or debate is also an excellent extramural to follow besides their instrument.
You would be interested in the post I published about “The Reasons that Kids end up Quitting their Instruments. Knowing what to look out for is already like paving the road for a solid start to their musical careers.
Good luck with the choices!