View Full Version : Musical Instrument Choice - why?

06-16-2013, 06:18 AM
If your child takes music lessons, how did the choice of instrument come about? Did you select it based on anything other than the personal preference of your child? Is it a for fun thing or do you hope your child gets something beyond amusement from the lessons?

The last term of this year's music lessons are over and payment is due for next year's first term. My youngest is taking cello and the oldest vocal. She likes vocal lessons but from my perspective its hard for me to be satisfied dishing out cash without seeing and understanding the progress that is being made. I'm not even sure what the end goal of vocal lessons would be, and I'm not sure what I should be doing to make sure she is practicing correctly. With cello its easy to see her getting better and practice is clear cut. With vocal... I don't know and with the money we pay for these lessons, I'm feeling a like I want to see progress of some sort. I'm going to her music lesson tuesday (2nd last of the year) and she will be putting on a performance for me so maybe that will make me happier.

Anyway, her vocal teacher is leaving the music school next year so I could use that as an excuse to get her to switch 'instruments' to piano or something else... but then again piano teachers are much more plentiful than either vocal or cello so I could probably have someone come over to my house and teach piano for a fraction of the price the school charges. Bah. I have no idea what to do.

Thoughts? Anyone else's kid ever take vocal?

06-16-2013, 07:09 AM
My mom did this with me and my siblings, and I did the same with my two kids. We started with piano, for one main reason. To learn piano, the student needs to learn how to read both bass and treble clef. Once a person can read music, typically picking up other instruments is quite easy. All one needs to do is master the instrument, not reading sheet music. For example, clarinet and trumpet music is in treble clef, whereas trombone musics is written in bass clef.

I started piano myself not long after I learned how to read. I only took about 4 or 5 years of lesson or so, but later on also learned how to play trumpet, saxophone, flute, and clarinet. I am no musical prodigy; I am merely passable at all of these. But I still like to sit down at the piano once in a while, sometimes as just a stress reliever.

06-16-2013, 07:34 AM
I took vocal lessons as a kid.
they teach proper breathing techniques, which are helpful for more than just singing, but even for breathing more efficiently while exercising.
they teach how to properly project the voice to reduce strain on the vocal cords, this can be especially helpful if she gets sick and 'looses' her voice, she'll be less likely to actually loose it entirely, and be able to speak without aggravating her throat. (and using 'head voice' can help loosen up any congestion) it can also help if she gets interested in acting or reciting speeches, she'll be able to project her voice better and have less need for microphones.

I also learned about reading music, sight reading and later how to harmonize without sheet music.

06-16-2013, 09:34 AM
My ds begged to take violin for about a year and a half and we started lessons about 6 months ag0 (at age 7.5). He loves classical music and has a goal of being able to play Beethoven's Fifth!
My dd started piano right before she turned 7 and lasted about 9 months. We did not have a "real" piano, just an electronic keyboard. We have since moved and now have a beautiful Steinway (it was my MILs) and dd started taking lessons again at age 9. She loves it now. I think a lot of it is her maturity, having a nice instrument on which to play, and she has a GREAT teacher.

I will admit, listening to a child learn to play piano is much less painful than listening to a child learn to play violin...yikes!

06-16-2013, 10:55 AM
My son takes guitar lessons. I like the guitar because it is portable and not very painful to listen to when played incorrectly.

06-16-2013, 11:54 AM
If you are choosing for her pick piano. If she still wants to study voice then alternate between voice and piano. Every vocalist should know how to play piano. It is a requirement for vocal majors in college.

I have a bachelors in music performance and can attest that everyone, no matter their chosen instrument, had to learn to play piano at a basic level.

Don't stress about the vocal lessons too much. There is more to be learned than just how to sing with correct pitch. Every vocal major I knew in college was confident, extroverted, and had no problem with public speaking. In some ways vocal lessons are more in line with drama lessons.

As far as getting the bang for your buck in music lessons what are you doing to support that at home? Do you listen to CDs that highlight the instrument your child is studying? Do you watch youtube videos of the masters? Practice makes perfect and no one enjoys practicing when they are forced to. Trust me, it can be a struggle. It's all about finding inspiration!

06-16-2013, 12:13 PM
Some of our choice was based on age. Younger kids are more limited (hands have to be a certain size for a band instrument, whereas violins come in sizes so a younger child can play).
We did a very short (semester) long violin course through our parks and rec when they were young. It was enough for them to know that they did NOT like violin (hurt their fingers and they were not willing to work through that). Joseph played piano when he was 7-8. He switched to percussion when he was 9ish. He played that for several years, but he was not passionate about it. We dropped it this past year.
Libby tried violin and piano, but her dyslexia is problematic for her when learning an instrument (or it has been in the past). She will need a very patient teacher and she is not interested enough to pursue it again.
Caroline has played piano for several years. She loves it. She sits down and plays every time she walks by a piano. She has not really expressed an interest in branching out to other instruments yet.

06-16-2013, 01:33 PM
Piano. For the reasons everyone is saying. In a couple of years, if they want to drop it or switch, then we can. Both my kids are somewhat musical - more so than I ever was. But I don't think playing an instrument will ever be their passion. If they want to switch, I might encourage guitar now that they'd be old enough.

06-16-2013, 03:24 PM
DS takes guitar because he wanted to. I have no idea why as he has never really enjoyed listening to music, although that is starting to change a little.. He does like Jack Johnson, and he's playing some Jason Mraz now so practicing is getting more fun, now that it's real music, not out of the book.

I would never choose which instrument my child should learn; that would have made me resent it, and it seems like it would cause all sorts of stress. I don't expect DS to ever really take to the guitar in the way some boys do, although I'm constantly surprised that he practices fairly regularly and seems to enjoy it well enough. If nothing else, it gets him to use his hands, which he usually avoids. :)

06-16-2013, 03:27 PM
We did an early music program for the boys (ages birth-7) so to continue what they learned we chose piano. Luckily we have a lady down the street who teaches for half of what we'd pay elsewhere, and we found a free piano. DS13 started percussion while he was still in school, and now plays in the area home school band. DS10 wanted to play double bass since he was 6-7 years old so when we found out about a National String Project program near us we were able to give him a chance to do so. The program is low cost, they have a double bass we can rent at a low cost from them as well. We also found a college student willing to teach him the basics at no cost.
I'll be honest, if we hadn't found so many low cost/free options we wouldn't be doing nearly as much music as we do. It is fairly easy in our area to find a decent free piano. We just had to move it and pay to have it tuned.

Jen Law
06-16-2013, 04:17 PM
Hipster learns clarinet for the pure and simple reason that we can't afford to pay for music lesson, I play clarinet so I can at least give her some guidance. She wants to play cello; ever since she say the cello guys playing Smooth Criminal she has been obsesed with cello ans Michael Jackson. Hopefully one day we will be able to pay for lessons for her.

I have been teaching myself to play the ukulele and Hipster has been joining in, Little Bear whats in on the action too so will probably get him a uke for his birthday. I love the uke (primarily because you cant help but smile when you have a uke in your hands) but it is also simple, it introduces chords, you can sing along and it is very social.

I do agree with others about the piano, I played violin as a child and still play clarinet but when I had piano lessons as part of my teaching degree I learned so much about music that I didn't know before.

06-16-2013, 05:00 PM
My son took piano for about 4 years. He took this past year off, and I haven't even thought about what he'll do next. We chose it because a) my husband plays and could help him, and b) we own a piano.

My daughter took one year of piano and HATED IT passionately. She doesn't even like listening to piano music AT ALL. She's been taking voice lessons for 4 years now, and I have been extremely pleased with the results. She loves to sing and has a very nice voice, but around age 7 or 8, she was starting to mimic what she heard on the radio, and it was frequently AWFUL. I found a fabulous private singing instructor, and my goal was to help her to find and develop her own voice. She has done that and so much more. She's performed in annual recitals on a real stage with a real audience, sound equipment, microphones, etc... The experience of working on a song until it was performance-ready, and preparing to perform has been fantastic for her. She really "gets" everything that's involved in making a great song and a great performance, and she's much better now at really listening to what she hears on the radio (or YouTube), and evaluating who has good technique, and what she likes and doesn't like.

I would like for her to learn more about reading music, but I'm not exactly sure how to approach it. She's rather resistant at this point.

06-16-2013, 06:29 PM
My kids have picked. DD picked violin when she was 3.5 - I made her wait six months before starting lessons because I didn't believe she was really serious. That was four years ago, and she's never looked back. Now, of course, she wants to know when she can start viola and is also starting to pick out songs on the piano. I need to work with her on that. DS picked banjo because... he's DS and he can. But not just any banjo. Oh, no. That would be too easy. TENOR banjo. I really need to find a teacher for him. Le sigh...

Stella M
06-16-2013, 06:52 PM
Um. Recorder. Because it was cheap and I could teach it myself and that saved a heck load of cash.

What I would have liked was a piano and lessons for my girl.

06-17-2013, 09:40 PM
My oldest plays the French horn. She chose it for several reasons, but mostly because it was different. She wanted to play something others weren't. She enjoys playing it, but I think she has stuck with it because she's hoping to get college scholarships for playing it. The next daughter plays cello because she loves the way it sounds. The third daughter took piano for awhile. I will let her start another instrument this fall and she is looking to play something unusual such as the oboe or bassoon. My kids try to do something that makes them different.

06-17-2013, 10:56 PM
My son has been asking to learn guitar for a few months now. The local teacher said she doesn't start kids before age 10 because it usually hurts their fingers too much. DS is 6 1/2. Has anyone with guitar kiddos heard this before? I started violin at age 4 and don't remember having issues with the metal strings, granted they are thinner than guitar strings.
thanks, sorry to hijack a bit.
I started violin early and later took piano for a few years but didn't like it. I stuck with the violin until the end of high school. I would like to let the kids choose an instrument if they would like to. My brother also started piano at the same time as I did and he also hated it. Not sure why we both found it so bad as we had a good teacher.

06-18-2013, 01:36 AM
I picked piano because it seems like a very basic instrument for a child AND because I like it. Mermaid has been taking classes/lessons since she was 4. Last year she took a semester off to try a vocal class. I wasn’t crazy about it for the same reasons you pointed out. Plus, the teacher seemed a bit flighty and the end-of-semester show did not turn out that great. If my daughter had begged to return to the class the following year, I would’ve probably forked out the cash. Thankfully, she just shrugged. And, in the interest of saving even more money this year, I am teaching her the piano myself. Kind of. We are using Pianamals (http://www.pianimals.com/index.htm) It's cute and, more importantly, my daughter doesn’t mind practicing with it.

I would love it if she stuck with music for the rest of her life. Doesn’t have to be piano. But she wants to be a doctor (been this way since she was 3) so who knows.

06-18-2013, 05:29 PM
My son has been asking to learn guitar for a few months now. The local teacher said she doesn't start kids before age 10 because it usually hurts their fingers too much. DS is 6 1/2. Has anyone with guitar kiddos heard this before? I started violin at age 4 and don't remember having issues with the metal strings, granted they are thinner than guitar strings.
thanks, sorry to hijack a bit.

That's weird, maybe she just doesn't like to teach little kids? DS started guitar at 6 or 7, but because of an awful and uninspired teacher (and no other options at the time), he decided to quit until we moved here. So he started back up at 8 or 9. There were no issues with the strings when he was younger; that just sounds like a strange excuse from the "teacher"! :(

Also, I think he uses nylon strings. HTH

06-19-2013, 12:49 PM
Suzuki instructors will start guitar at 4.

06-19-2013, 01:15 PM
When our boys want a piano lesson I give them one. We are not formal or strict with it as I want it to be a fun side hobby. They will learn to read music. And our oldest wants to learn drums/percussion but I haven't been able to find anyone who takes his age. I would love for them to take vocal for all the reasons already stated, but like me they are all tone deaf :(

06-19-2013, 01:20 PM
Thanks all! I decided to do vocal for at least another term and also add in piano lessons as I found someone willing to come to the house for a decent rate. I might drop vocal lessons next year if I don't see any improvement. :)

07-02-2013, 07:48 PM
We're doing guitar, but I'd love for my son to learn piano in addition.. it breaks down Music Theory and the entire music concept as you learn :)

07-02-2013, 11:34 PM
We do a bit of piano.

My daughter just told me yesterday that wants to learn harmonica. When i asked her why she said because it's small enough to fit in her bag and then she can bring it around and play it anywhere she wants.

07-03-2013, 01:48 AM
I started taking piano when I was 5y because I was plinking out the tunes I heard my sister play or stuff from the radio. They had high hopes that I was a prodigy. Um, not. I loved playing though and took lessons for 9 years. Ironically, I can't sing to save my life. When I got into jr. high and signed up for band, I opted to do percussion. LOVED IT way more than piano.

DD has shown zero interest in learning an instrument and she's as vocally challenged as her dad and I are. I know that there's a push to get kids into music at a really early age, but I've opted to hold off. We picked up a used digital keyboard (a full-sized beast of a piano) for free off of craigslist a few years ago. Every once in a while, I'll sit w/girl to see if she's found her musical interest. Nope. Still hasn't happened. My mom recently dug out my old percussion set from high school and sent it to me...I'm probably going to see if that does anything for DD. Not holding my breath. Her sense of rhythm seems to be as good as her vocal skills. :_no:

We talk about musical instruments and she can identify all the major ones visually and by sound, we listen to different styles of music, and we talk about composers/musicians. She seems to be happy with that for now. Perhaps she'll reach a point where she wants to learn an instrument later on. Maybe she won't. I don't see her heading toward American Idol anytime in the near future. :p

07-12-2013, 11:48 AM
I agree with starting on piano because it's a great springboard to reading all forms of music. We started with piano and now we're starting cello because our son has been begging to try it for a while now.

Another idea is to expose your kids to a variety of different musical instruments and let them choose that way. You could check out your local symphony. They often have kid-friendly programs where they introduce different instruments.

07-12-2013, 06:00 PM
Harp. 2 reasons: 1. like on piano, you need to learn to deal with 2 hands doing different things and reading different clefs. 2. it's really really hard to make a harp sound bad. :)