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Music Lessons: What Instrument is Best for Your Little Treble Maker?

Many parents want their child to play a musical instrument proficiently. But at what age and what instruments should they start with?

Let's take a look at the most popular instruments and the (approximate) starting age for each.

1. Piano (ages three to eight). Three? Yes, three is fine for some kids. There are even specialized programs where you can learn the instrument alongside your young child to encourage them (similar to language acquisition). Other teachers may insist that students be able to read before starting lessons. Depending on the maturity and motivation of your child, many children can successfully pursue the piano anywhere between the ages of three and eight. The best part about learning the piano is that children quickly learn familiar songs.

2. Guitar (ages seven and up). Every child will say they want to play the guitar. Because guitars come in smaller sizes to accommodate little hands, this is possible. Students must have some fine motor coordination to be able to play the guitar. Interested kids should hold an appropriate-sized guitar a few times to gauge their comfort level. Guitar is one of those instruments that is trickier than it looks and can be surprisingly uncomfortable to play until the fingers get used to it.

3. Voice/singing (all ages, formal lessons around age eight). Children at all ages naturally want to sing. If your child is showing an aptitude for singing, put them in a community choir to start. Encourage impromptu performances at home, having them sing their favorite songs. Allow your child to sing and develop their voice from school music and playtime singing. Formal private lessons in voice usually start around eight years of age.

4. Violin/strings (ages three and up).
Similar to piano, there are string programs that teach very young children in a style that is similar to learning a language (really, music immersion is similar to language immersion). Smaller children learn on mini instruments designed and scaled exactly as their bigger versions. String instruments require a student to be able to tune and respond to pitch quickly in order to make beautiful music. Any parent of a beginner string player will tell you how trying the ‘sound’ can be in the beginning. Stick with it and the sound gets more tolerable as students become better at playing in tune.

5. Drums (ages eight and up). Pots and pans are a great place to start, and it may be advisable to hold off on purchasing an entire drum kit for your toddler. Percussion instruments are fantastic for any child as it ‘taps’ into a very natural need for creating rhythms; however, your neighbors may not agree with this decision. It is a loud instrument choice and should be carefully considered if your child has demonstrated a sustained interest.

Every child has a different aptitude and learning style; I hope the information presented will help you choose the best musical instrument for your child.


Shelley is a highly respected school and private music teacher. Along with teacher and web-entrepreneur Laurie Campbell, she directs www.musiclessonmatch.com, an online resource to find a local music teacher anywhere in Canada.

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