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A Guide To … figuring out which instrument is best for your child (and it’s not too late to enroll!)

A Guide To … figuring out which instrument is best for your child (and it’s not too late to enroll!) featured image

In the early summer months, I posted this web feature for parents seeking a piano teacher (or a music teacher in general). From my experience as a private piano teacher, many parents want this wrapped up for September before summer is under way. I’ve received emails as early as June asking about my availability for the fall. However, if you’re still looking for a piano teacher for the current school year, it’s not too late. Many private teachers are used to getting calls well into September, as they know parents want to secure any group classes for their kids, and then seek out one-on-one instruction that can be scheduled around them.

Many parents know they want to enroll their kids in music, but aren’t sure which instrument to start with, here are three great choices to start:

1) The piano. I’m totally biased, but the advantage of the piano is that everything is laid out in front of the child, and young kids can clearly see the relationships between the notes. Also, kids learn to play two voices together at an early age. Learning to play up to ten notes at a time, with both right and left brain engaged as both hands play is an awesome introduction to coordinating the hands and the mind, leading to skilled critical thinking. It’s a good introduction to music, and many folks who start out on the piano move on to other instruments. When they do, a solid foundation is already established. For qualified piano (or any music) teacher, click here.

2) Violin is a very popular choice for young kids, especially the Suzuki method. This entails learning how to play instinctively, like how kids learn to speak, and without reading music in the early stages. Violins are scaled down for children, and there are various sizes, depending on the size of the child. It didn’t even occur to me, growing up in piano land, that wee kids would need a scaled-down instrument. This picture gives you an idea of how small a beginner’s violin can go (the far right is full size). It makes me wish for scaled-down pianos, as I could never reach a 10th with my small hands. The text is small, so from left to right:
4-5 years, 1/10 size
5-6 years, 1/18 size
6-7 years, 1/4 size
8-9 years, 1/2 size
10-11 years, 3/4 size
12+ years 4/4

When transporting a full-size violin, they’re also portable, often worn like a knapsack. Choosing a violin isn’t a commitment to only that instrument; many string players start out on the violin, and transition to viola or cello. You can find Suzuki instruction in Ontario here.

3) An often overlooked instrument for beginners is the flute. Learning breath control at an early age is a good skill for kids to learn early on – how many of us are learning how to breathe properly in yoga as adults? – and it’s one of the more affordable instruments and so portable it fits in a small totebag. A popular method is Kinderflute, which incorporates breathing exercises, games, and other music activities. For Toronto instruction, click here.

One last thing – because individual lessons can be scheduled around a child’s group lessons, it doesn’t mean lesson times can be routinely re-scheduled. The teacher has a schedule too, and just as you wouldn’t ask a dance teacher or sports coach to move a whole class to suit you, it’s not always feasible for your music teacher to swap your regular lesson time. You’re paying for the reserved spot, not the lesson given. Check with the teacher about cancellation policies – like the doctor, dentist, or gym membership, money isn’t refunded for short-notice cancellations or no- shows. Teachers: if you don’t have clear cancellation policies, make them and implement them as soon as possible.

Questions? Please ask in the comment section. Good luck!

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