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What sounds does your child like? High sounds or low sounds? Metallic or wooden? Brilliant or maybe mellow? The sounds a child likes to hear are an important factor in choosing an instrument.
Tip #1: Listen to recordings of musicians playing various instruments.
We've included a few of our favorite samples below.
Eb Alto Saxophone Examples:
Tip # 2: Consider your child’s physical attributes.
Generally speaking, any child could play any instrument. However, some physical attributes can make certain instruments more difficult.
- Flute can be difficult if a student has what is called a widows peak (the top lip has a bow or U shape that protrudes downward). The difficulty lies in forming the lips correctly. Students with braces also find it difficult to play the flute.
- Clarinet is generally playable by anyone with little difficulty. However, if a student has very narrow fingers, it may be difficult to cover the biggest holes of the clarinet.
- While the saxophone is similar to the clarinet, the size of the fingers is not a factor as much as the size of the hand. The left hand must be able to activate keys with the palm of the hand. The problem for students with very small hands is that they will sometimes inadvertently engage palm keys when reaching for others.
- Trumpet and trombone are manageable by most students. Generally, teachers recommend the bigger brass instruments for students with more full lips, but this is not necessary. If a student has short arms, an extension will be required to play on the trombone. The trumpet and trombone are both more challenging for students with braces, more so for trumpet than trombone.
Tip #3: The look of an instrument may matter. Students may be drawn to a certain instrument due to its look or shape. On the following page, we have included pictures of each of the instruments currently open to enrollments.
Tip #4: Past exposure must be considered. Family members who played an instrument can have a huge influence on students when they are making an instrument choice. This influence can be incredibly positive.
Also be aware that students may choose instruments other than those played by family members. Forcing a child to choose an instrument because a brother or sister, or you as a parent played the instrument may not create a positive experience for the student.
Tip #5: Avoid gender-based decisions.
All instruments can be played by both boys and girls. Avoid the temptation to think that flutes and clarinets are for girls and trumpets and trombones are for boys.
Tip #6: Choosing the right instrument brand and model influences student retention
- There is one simple rule to follow when it comes to purchasing an instrument: You get what you pay for.
- A safe bet would be to get a good student model instrument for the first year or two of study. They are less expensive yet proven to get kids off on the right foot. If they are from a major manufacturer, they will retain some resale value if you decide to upgrade or discontinue playing.
- Reputable brands – The following manufacturers have been making quality student instruments for a long time. Conn, King, Yamaha, Bach, Bundy, Gemeinhardt, Selmer, Jupiter
- Why you should not get off brands on eBay or from discount sellers. Poor materials – to cut costs, manufacturers use the most inexpensive materials. Poor construction – many of these instruments will break within weeks of purchase. Local music stores will not always have authentic replacement parts. Repairing these instruments may weaken other parts of the instrument. No warranty or inconvenience to use it
- Statistic: 70% of the students who drop out were playing on instruments that were not in playing condition.
Baritone (Euphonium) Examples:
Christian Lindberg with
Hakan Hardenberger on Trumpet
Mallet Percussion Examples: