If your child has expressed a desire to play an instrument, it is likely that he, and perhaps you as his parent, already have some ideas of what type of instrument to begin with. If your child has a strong idea of what he wants to play, that choice should certainly be explored. However, if it has always been your dream for your daughter to play the harp, you might want to think twice about the realism of such expectations.
First, find out why your child expressed an interest in a specific instrument. If your son wants to play the trumpet because his best friend plays it, you might want to guide him toward other options. However, if even after your best attempts to recommend other instruments have gone awry and your son still has a burning desire to play the trumpet, let him do just that. If your daughter wants to play the drums because they seem easy, think again! Percussionists (drummers) are required to read twice as much music and often play at least three different instruments per concert! Besides, who wants to listen to a band with four clarinets and twenty drummers?
Contact your child’s school music teacher for a consultation. These teachers are happy to speak with the parents of a prospective student. They also can give you information about the total musical experience your child will be able to expect if he should enroll in their program.
Allow your child to hear recordings of different instruments. It’s ideal to attend a concert and hear an instrument live. It is important that a student likes the sound his instrument makes. It has been shown that students who like the sound of their instrument will practice more often! Parents will also want to make certain they are ready to tolerate beginning sounds. Make certain your child has a quiet, isolated practice area, away from the hustle and bustle of the household (not to mention the parents’ ears).
Also, look at your child’s physical structure. Large instruments are generally unfriendly to small students. Also mouth, teeth and lip structure may come into consideration with the wind instruments. For example, as a general rule, thin lips make it difficult to play tuba, an instrument that has a large cupped mouthpiece. Some bite problems may also be a hindrance to playing certain instruments. These topics are excellent questions for your school music teacher to examine with you and your child. But remember: Your child’s preference should be considered. In other words, if your thin-lipped daughter is yearning to be the school tuba player, let her give it a go!
Now for a few words on purchasing instruments. It’s difficult to contemplate buying an expensive instrument for a child when you are not certain of his dedication or his long-term commitment. However, if you pinch pennies in the beginning and purchase a low-end student instrument, your child will very likely be discouraged—and fast. Lower-priced instruments tend to sound bad, break easily and need many repairs. On the other hand, I would not recommend rushing out and purchasing a top-of-the-line professional instrument for a beginner. We all know how rough kids can be on their belongings.
One alternative to purchasing an instrument is to rent one. Call your local music stores and ask for their instrument rental and purchase options. Some stores offer rent-to-own plans, so ask for the details. Also, ask the school music teacher about school-owned instruments. Most school music programs own larger (and expensive) instruments like French horns, baritones, tubas, bassoons, and string basses, and rent these to their students. Get specific information from your school music teacher or private teacher who specializes in the instrument your child wants to study.
All the guidelines given here are meant to help you through a confusing process. Discuss your child’s choice with him or her, ask lots of questions, try some instruments, and then come to an agreement. With a few careful considerations, playing a musical instrument can be a rewarding, life-enriching experience for your child!