Instrumental Choices

Tips for helping your child navigate the decision to jump on the bandwagon (literally).

As school gets under way, there are so many things to be thinking about – the loads of paperwork that come home, getting into the homework routine, packing lunches, managing fall sports schedules...  Should you have a child who is at the point where he or she can begin to play an instrument in school, go ahead and add that to the ever-growing list.

Research has shown that music helps many facets of a child’s brain development.  We are fortunate to have such great music programs in our area districts with incredible teachers.  The programs into which our children have the chance to immerse themselves can provide later opportunities to be involved in things like pit orchestras, jazz band, marching knights, and beyond.

Choosing the right instrument may be easy for some kids, but a grueling decision for others. Many factors will impact their ultimate decisions about whether or not to play as well as what instrument they would like to take on. Things for them to consider are: What do they like about the sound? Where they see themselves going with it over the long term? Is the instrument typically one played predominately by girls or boys?  Things for you as the parent to consider are the instrument's affordability and how you can help with practice and encouragement.

Make sure to research local music companies and their rental policies as well as purchase options.  There are a wide range in prices for a wide range of instruments so make sure that what your child chooses is something you can comfortably afford.

Have your child show you up front how committed they are to practicing by writing out and posting a schedule they are willing and able to stick to. Make sure they understand that during some school days they are expected to leave class for lessons and will have to pick up where they left off make up what was missed. 

Expect occasional resistance to practice when they feel like they’re missing out on something else.  Remind them to stay on schedule and that practice is an extremely important element in becoming musically skilled.  Never treat practice like a chore or punishment.  Music is and should be fun!

The summer months can pose a challenge since kids are on less rigid schedules. Kids will need to find the motivation to keep up with practice during the breaks from school. Signing up for summer band is a perfect way to keep them involved on an almost daily basis for several weeks. You may also want to buy or borrow new music to keep things interesting, fun and fresh.

A child who chooses to play a string instrument and picks up a band instrument as well or who switches to a band instrument should have a relatively easy time at it.  Letting your child switch instruments midstream, however, may not be such a good idea. Depending on the policies, an elementary student choosing to switch mid-year or in between years may not be able to.  Even if they could, they’d face the challenges and frustrations of starting all over.

It is important to allow your child to play an instrument he or she wants to play, not one that you tell them to play.  Be there to guide them, but have them to make the ultimate choice. They will be so much more likely to enjoy it and stick with it when it was their own decision. 

Encourage your kids and foster the love of music. Spend time listening to music with them. Share music experiences with them – go to music shows, football games where the band plays during breaks, music competitions, marching band practices and parades.  Help your child see the joy of music.  Support music becoming a part of their lives.

The bottom line is: if your child wants to play an instrument and they are ready for that commitment to something so great, let the music begin!

Kristen Carey September 03, 2011 at 12:08 PM
I was very musical as a child and studied piano for many years. I also played multiple band instruments as a child because my parents allowed me the creative freedom to try different ones. I loved being proficient in multiple instruments and to this day think that having to start over with an unfamiliar instrument and technique several times expanded my musical horizons. I never really quit any instrument per se, and I was achieved first chair for each before moving on to a new one so I truly feel I benefitted from the experiences. Needless to say, I am a huge proponet of the benefits of learning a musical instrument and will gladly allow my children to switch until they find one that works for them, so long as they are not simply abusing the process in order to give up on their choice.


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