Friday, November 11, 2011

6 Simple Tips for Helping Your Child Choose a Musical Instrument

Photo by Jorge Girarte

The following is a guest post by my friend, Angelica Perez, the publisher of New Latina, as part of a series on Music in Education.


At the age of 8, I distinctly remember being completely drawn to the sounds and look of the guitar. While my young friends were asking for the latest toys for the holidays, I insisted on getting a "real" guitar. I recall the day my guitar arrived by mail, in a long, triangular carton box. It was the happiest day of my childhood.

Raising my children with a deep love for music is something I've always wanted for them. The benefits of playing an instrument are numerous, ranging from enhancing cognitive skills to boosting self-esteem. What I personally enjoy the most is having our children play their instrument during a family get-together over the holidays or at a birthday celebration.

If you're considering introducing your child to an instrument. Here are some simple ways to help you help your child choose the right musical instrument.

1. Simply observe.

Some children are naturally musically inclined. Their little bodies move easily to the beat of a song, they can't help it. I remember once when my 3 year old was crying, frustrated at something she couldn't have, but moving to the beat of a song on the radio -- awesome!

Observing your child's reaction to music and musical sounds can give you great hints as to which instruments they naturally respond to and enjoy. Is he drawn to the soft musical sounds of the flute? Does she like the beat of drums? Or the crisp sounds of the guitar? When dancing, to which musical instrument are they mostly dancing to? Does she like loud sounds or quieter ones? Is their an inclination for a particular tempo?

2. Visit a music store.

Taking your kids to a music store can feel like going to a toy store. Let your children browse through the various instruments. Encourage them to touch and hold them. Let them try them out. Notice where they go and with which instrument they spend most of their time.

3. Consider your child's characteristics.

Consider your child's age, size, personality, temperament, and readiness. Some instruments may be difficult to play for a beginner musician, while other instruments may simply be too big in size. Consider also any health or physical conditions your child may have. The horn, for instance, may not be the best choice for a child with asthma.

4. Take your children to live music events.

There is nothing better than live music -- the pounding of live drums resonating all over your body, or the peaceful sounds of chamber music relaxing your inner soul. Live musical events allow children to see and appreciate how instruments come together, and the end result of practice, practice, practice.

5. Don't push a particular instrument just because you like it.

Allow your child to figure it out by himself. We may have in mind a particular instrument for our child because we believe we know them well. Or, we may favor (or not) an instrument because we have certain judgments about it. Stepping back and letting your child naturally gravitate towards an instrument of choice is best.

6. Rent before you buy.

Choosing an instrument does not have to be a final decision. The first few months should be considered an exploratory phase, a time for your child to get to know the instrument and see if it's a good fit. For that reason, renting and instrument in the beginning may be best, especially if a new instrument could be costly (e.g., a viola or piano). In fact, the promise of purchasing a new instrument can serve as the perfect prize for the child who has shown enthusiasm, enjoyment, and commitment to a chosen musical instrument!

What musical instrument(s) do your children play? How did you help them choose?

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Angelica Perez, PHD, is the creative force behind New Latina, an empowering lifestyle online destination.

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