What’s the right instrument for your child?

Or ‘Can boys play flutes?’

It’s great when children become interested in playing music. They may have seen something on TV that captured their imagination or a friend at school might be learning. For parents, it can raise a few things to think about, especially as instruments and lessons can work out expensive.

How are they going to learn? If you play an instrument yourself, you might teach them at home, you could send them to a tutor for lessons or there may be lessons available through school. Often, schools operate an instrument rental scheme so that you can be sure they will enjoy it before making that initial outlay for the instrument, so what’s offered will influence the choice you make.

Obviously, the size of the instrument compared to the child is an important factor. Many instruments come in several sizes, including violins, guitars and drumkits, but for things like clarinets and flutes, the hands need to have reached a certain span to cope competently.

If you have a young child who has expressed an interest in music, the recorder is a great place to start. It’s cheap and relatively easy to learn and should give you a good idea as to whether your child has more than a passing interest in learning a more complex instrument. For older children, many tutors offer taster lessons which are a very ‘hands on’ way for them to see if they’ve made the right choice. Ask your local music shop to put you in touch with a good teacher.

Some subconscious influences strongly affect your child’s preference. There’s more info in this great article ‘Why don’t girls play guitar?’ where Prof. Sue Hallam explains that the physical aspects of the instrument can play a big part in the choice. Flutes, being lighter weight and higher pitched attract girls, whereas tubas being low and heavy are played overwhelmingly by boys. Is she right, or are we much more affected by gender stereotyping than we think? Clearly, it makes sense for girls not to lug around a big heavy instrument. But then, why are 90% of harpists female? What really affects the instrument we choose? Peer pressure and the lean towards pop music and ‘cool’ instruments means a bigger number of boys play guitar while the choices of girls seem much more complicated. What really matters is that the instrument you choose speaks to you and, most importantly, is suitable for the type of music you want to play.

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