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What musical instrument to learn?

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What musical instrument to learn?

Postby Alchemy » Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:54 pm

My boys really want to play an instrument, but I'm struggling to decide which ones would be an ideal one to start with.

Does anybody have any suggestions how to go about this? Is there a place where they can go and try lots of them, and see which ones they like best?

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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby tooposhtopush » Tue Feb 27, 2018 4:44 pm

I played a great deal of music in my youth and although these are stereotypes and slightly tongue-in-cheek they are surprisingly accurate:

1) for loud children who are into rough and tumble and messing around the brass section tends to be their natural home. When older it's the brass players who are always down the pub and partying! Trumpet is great for most children, trombone bigger and harder to play.

2) for children who like to please and are quite studious it's got to be the violin. Most violin players end up as prefects at school and then to tell tales on brass players.

3) for children who are too spirited to be violin players they can go for the cello. I've always found sporty girls are natural at the cello. The viola too but that's super niche.

4) for children who aren't musical at all then percussion - you just hit stuff (not joking)

5) for children who are shy the flute. It's not really there and people only know of two famous flute players (James Galway and Anchorman)

6) clarinets are light and easy to carry - good for small children. Small and shy should go for the flute.

7) Tallest girl in my year had a double bass. I'm sure that's stereotyping but it was the eighties!

Hope that helps.
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby Alchemy » Wed Feb 28, 2018 1:09 pm

Thanks, tooposhtopush, this is very helpful (and entertaining!).

If they take after me I have to excellent drummers :D

I noticed that piano doesn't feature at all in your list -- is this something you wouldn't recommend as a first instrument?
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby rooting4tooting » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:12 pm

Assuming most homes have "the box of instruments"!! (kazoos, wooden xylophones, maracas, recorders, harmonicas, awful electric organs, drums made from boxes, guitars made from elastic bands and shoe boxes.. ) what did they like?

Are they musical? If you put them in front of a piano and just get them to muck about, does it sound musical (not necessarily playing tunes)

Do they realise they will have to practise?

Are they performers or show offs?

If they want to play to get in an orchestra, then think about a slightly more unusual instrument such as cello, viola, double bass, trombone, cornet, baritone, French horn, percussion, saxophone also music scholarships at independent schools can be more valuable with more unusual instruments than the usual violin, flute, piano type instruments

If they are technical, then think about the guitar or piano.

How old are they? It is very important to start before they are 10 years old otherwise it will be more difficult as the musical brain is less malleable, but if they are willing to work, then any age is a good age to start.

They will have to learn to read music and music is very allied to language ability..

They have to enjoy it and you are paying for the lessons. Don't forget!!
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby boonkoh » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:50 pm

Only you can decide as you know best for your own children, but here are some things to think about:

Cost - some instruments cost more than others. So think about the upfront investment you have to put in

Noise - are you renting? does your lease allow you noisy instruments? Even if you're a homeowner, if you are leasehold or share of freehold there might be clauses about instruments and noise. Even if you are a freeholder, are your walls to your neighbours thin and do you care about causing noise for them? Depending on the answers, some instruments are less noisy than others. Also you can get completely silent instruments, such as an electric piano (coupled with headphones)

Ability - some instruments are harder than others. For example, I think the violin and piano are the hardest. This might sound cynical, but if your goal is just to add a tickbox to your child's "well roundedness" and get them into the school band, then a less challenging instrument might be wise.
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby Janet14 » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:24 am

Hi, I have a boy aged 6 learning the piano. My thought process is that I think the piano is a really good introduction to music and a great instrument to play as an adult - who doesn’t love a sing along at the piano?! However, it is a hard instrument to learn and I figure that if at some point my son hits a wall/isn’t progressing i’ll at that point switch to something like the drums!!!
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby LMC1 » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:26 am

How old are they? Lots of primary schools give kids a chance to learn something - our year 5 did drums in year 1, recorder in year 2, ukulele in year 3, guitar in year 4 and it now doing steel pans! Their reaction to School instruments may give you a clue. It is worth thinking about whether they want to be able to play in a group/orchestra/band. Our eldest plays the trombone which means she can play in a brass band but our younger one plays the harp - which is much more individual and suits her much better. If you live in Lambeth, try looking at what the Lambeth Music Service offers - they may well allow your kids for try a range of things. Once you start, I would recommend sticking with it - our harp player used to moan like mad about practice but now loves it!
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby MagnoliaMum » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:25 pm

As a mum who still plays the violin and viola and has two boys playing the piano, violin and drums between them, I would recommend that you start your boys on the recorder.

Why? I assume that they can't yet read music. It is not difficult to learn but if they are having to learn that at the same time as master a complicated instrument, it can be overwhelming and they give up. So start them on something simple to play - the recorder is ideal.

It is also cheap. If they find they don't like it or won't practise, then it's not a big deal to give up. If you've invested in a piano or violin, you will be really upset and more likely to have arguments about it.

They will progress really quickly and may be able to join a recorder group within a term or so. Playing with other people adds to the fun and sense of purpose.

If they've proved their commitment, you can switch them to a different instrument after a year or so and they will come to it much better equipped. It is often difficult and frustrating to master new techniques, so if they have been confident about the recorder, it sets them up well. And they will have more experience of whether they like blowing an instrument (woodwind and brass) or would rather try a different type (strings or percussion).

So that's my advice. But to comment on the different instruments mentioned by others -
Piano is often used as a first instrument, as the notes are made for you. It works but be prepared for a very slow process - we did that with my younger son and it took him three years from beginning to achieve grade 1. It is actually a very difficult instrument, with different clefs to read for each hand and a lot of coordination. My older boy started on recorder (we didn't have a piano then) and got his grade 1 in a year, then switched to violin (for comparison he got to grade 1 within 2 years on violin).

Ukelele is a good easy instrument to start too and can be lots of fun. Especially if your boys like the idea of strumming and singing along. But you learn chords, rather than to read music properly.

Drums are great for rhythm and coordination. But you learn note lengths and rhythms, not to read the pitch and clefs of music, so maybe one to go on to after the recorder.

I echo the advice that you should ask around at school first. And Northcote Music Shop is really helpful about recommending a local teacher and supplying music. They sell recorders and other instruments and rent them too. All the best - it is a brilliant thing for your kids! I have had enormous enjoyment of this hobby for my whole life so far.
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby Alchemy » Mon Mar 26, 2018 9:38 pm

Thank you everybody for your input, a lot of good advice and food for thought.

We went to the Yamaha Music Store on Wardour St one Sunday, and I would highly recommend this to anybody who is trying to decide what their kids might like. There is a wide range of instruments, from pianos to drums and guitars and everything inbetween, and the staff are super-helpful and patient.
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby georgiepatterson80 » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:32 am

Mine both play the piano, which I think is lovely to start off with. It is also not that "hard" to listen to if they have not mastered it yet - violin on the other hand....
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Re: What musical instrument to learn?

Postby BrianP » Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:26 pm

Starting with the piano or electronic keyboard is a serious step but - as others have said - will be a great introduction to other instruments, particularly if they are keen to read music as well. Some stringed instruments (eg violin and steel-stringed guitar) can be physically difficult to play, so it will be important to choose an instrument that the student can physically handle without too much trouble in order to keep them motivated to make progress. Wind and percussion instruments in the hands of beginners can be quite alarming and you may need understanding neighbours. Best of luck.