If you are new to music lessons and wondering which instrument might be best for your child, loved one, or yourself, please read on for some helpful general guidelines on choosing an instrument, or seeing whether or not the instrument that you are considering is age-appropriate.
Under 4 years old: For infants, toddlers & preschoolers, we highly recommend a group class over private lessons. In our decades of experience with thousands of students, we have found it to be ineffective & inefficient to force young children into the private lesson setting. As you already know, children connect with and learn best from a non-academic, play-based approach – and music is no exception. We suggest that children are lovingly invited to explore the wonders and diversity of sound and motion (before being instructed on musical rules, theories, and techniques). Parents can do this at home, or try group music classes.
4 to 6 years old: As children’s coordination and communication skills develop, parents may be tempted (or even convinced) to try private lessons at age 4 or 5. We do not recommend approaching music in an analytical, theoretical, or technical manner yet. Rather, we embrace the natural, unbiased curiosity and creativity of this special age through the sort of group play experienced in our “Meet Music” program, or through lighthearted musical play at home, with the family.
6 to 7 years old: Many parents feel the pull to get their children started in music lessons around kindergarten and first grade. Children can vary so much in development at this age as far as motor skills, attention span, and general concentration/interest level in music. We do not set strict age limitations on specific instruments, although we very much recommend enrolling your 6 or 7-year-old in lessons only if your child (not just you) has a strong desire and interest in a specific instrument. We have noticed a pattern that the 6 and 7 year-olds that are most likely to “succeed” (that is, most likely to continue playing music for years to come) tend to be the ones who have parents that are involved in their child’s practice, and that have raised their children in “musical” homes. Often this means that the parents (or siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.), play an instrument, or that the child has been in group classes already, or that music has somehow already played a significant role in the child’s life (to the point that the child himself or herself truly already has a strong drive to learn music. Please do not sign up an uninterested 6 or 7 year old for lessons and expect that he will magically turn that child into a prodigy as you saw online.
Recommended Instruments: Piano and Drums are the most common choices for this age range, as children tend to flourish best when they do not have to lift or hold an instrument at first. We do not recommend ukulele*, guitar or brass/woodwind (school band), or larger string instruments yet for this reason. Although violins do come in small sizes to fit children, it is important to realize that choosing this instrument does create many more simultaneous challenges than learning music first on piano or drums (which are still very challenging). The piano is a great instrument to start with because it is easy to make a pleasant sound and you do not have to lift it. Since children can learn simple melodies on piano quickly, they will be rewarded for their accomplishments earlier, encouraging them to come back for more – essentially fostering a strong connection with music. Likewise, drums/percussion offers a similar cycle of encouragement, but even more simple than piano because it focuses first and foremost on cycles of rhythm, which are natural to all humans (and the starting point of all music). Both piano and drums will provide students with a great foundation of music that they can apply to other instruments in the future, should they decide to try something new as they get older and their bodies become strong enough to power other instruments.