For the Love of Music: Finding Your Child’s Instrument

Music is our birthright. All of us have a tune inside us waiting to come out. Some of us become great at it, others accompany, some of us become engineers but everyone has a relationship to music.

When kids are young, uninhibited, and ready to learn, that’s the time to start the search for that special sound. But where do you start? Most parents are reluctant to make the investment in an instrument before they know their child is going to love it, and more importantly, play it. There are some tested methods for getting kids jazzed about music and it starts with matching that personality to the right instrument.

It must be love! Without pressuring your little musician to choose the instrument that will garner the best chance of a college scholarship, or because you played it yourself, allow your child to do some exploring. What does she listen to? What style motivates him to jump up and dance? If it’s a “love match,” the kid is more likely to practice and progress.

Sometimes, simple logistics can be an obstacle: is your child tall enough to reach the piano’s pedals, or carry the upright bass? For some kids, it’s simply about what is available – they might become a professional trumpet player simply because that was the last unassigned instrument. Others seem to pick their axe out of the clear blue sky.

Extroverted kids who like to be up in front of the band and who have a lot of energy tend to make great horn players. Intricate instruments like the drums, the flute or the oboe are great for kids who have lots of mental activity going on and need plenty of challenging maneuvers to perform.

One interest killer when it comes to choosing an instrument is its social cache. Kids will pick the instrument they think will get them the right kind of attention, and avoid the instrument that actually suits them. You can’t ignore your child’s preconceived notions of an instrument, but that can’t be the only determiner when it comes to actually practicing and playing, because when it doesn’t meet that expectation, the student will lose interest.

Sometimes, the sheer strangeness of an instrument – its appearance or its unusual sound – is the attractor. A bassoon or an accordion are somehow just novel enough to keep a kid’s attention.

Practice is tough at first, no matter which instrument the child chooses. For stringed instruments, breaking in callouses is an uncomfortable process. With woodwinds, all the care that goes into assembly is a bit of a pain. But if the match is successful, these obstacles are quickly surmounted and practice becomes a potent tool of disciple and discovery.

As your child grows, he or she may move from one instrument to another, and that’s how you know that you may have a musician on your hands. Support the choice to experiment; they can always go back.

The important piece is that they are developing a way of listening and thinking about sound that will inform them lifelong whether they pursue music professionally or not.

“It’s not just about your child becoming a violinist,” Dr. Nina Kraus, professor of communication sciences, neurobiology, and physiology, and the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, who studies music’s effect on cognitive development. “It’s about setting up your child to be a more effective learner for all kinds of things.”1





About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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