Guest Post: What Instrument Should My Child Play?
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In my administrative role at the Center for Young Musicians, I often speak with parents interested in signing their children up for music lessons. In these conversations, one of the most common questions I get is “What instrument should my child play?” This is not always a question with an easy answer! Some children are drawn to a particular instrument; for those families the choice is easy. But what should you do if your child is interested in music but doesn’t have any particular interest in any instrument, or wants to play them all?
To winnow down the choices the first thing to do is to listen to many instruments and compare and contrast with your child. You can listen, and see, many different performances on sites like YouTube, or streaming services like Spotify. After listening, ask your child and yourself: “How did the violin sound different than the cello? How did the piano make you feel? Which instrument’s sound was the most beautiful to you?” Attend as many concerts as you can, at school, at local children’s concerts, as nothing compares to hearing and seeing music performed live. There is also nothing wrong with a child wanting to play the viola because her friend does. Other aspects to consider are access to an instrument through rental or purchase, and what instruments you would like to hear in your house. Or, if all else fails, choose an instrument for your child! Choosing an instrument is important, but it does not need to be a lifelong commitment.
I started the violin when I was four years old. I have no memory of being particularly drawn to the instrument or asking to play it. My mother saw Itzhak Perlman perform on Sesame Street at around the same time a Suzuki violin program started in our area, and the choice of what instrument to study was made for me. The violin and I ended up being a perfect fit, and by the time I was old enough to question why I did the activities I did I was far enough along in violin and it was entrenched in my life to the extent that I couldn’t ever imagine not playing it. And here I am, many years later, a professional violinist and violin teacher!
Everyone discovers their musical voice in different ways. Choosing an instrument is just one of the first stages in the process of musical education. Don’t worry about making a bad decision as choosing to study music through any instrument is a positive step in a life-long journey of musical discovery.
Leah Givelber is a violin teacher and the Vice-President of Academic Affairs at the Center for Young Musicians. She is also an active freelancer around town, and you can catch her performing all around the area, from Tarentum to Upper St. Clair, this December.