Which instrument should my child learn to play?

credit: TheeErin on Flickr

credit: TheeErin on Flickr

“The fact that children can make beautiful music is less significant than the fact that music can make beautiful children.” - Cherly Lavender

Don’t Sweat It

Deciding which musical instrument your child should play can be a daunting task, and the good news is that there is no one right answer. Any musical study is a great start for your child, and helps support critical thinking and appreciation of music throughout their lives.

Here are some things to consider when helping your child pick an instrument:

What does your kid love?

Consider the types of music and instruments your child has enjoyed and expressed an interest in. Have they seen a musician playing a certain instrument that really got them excited? What do they want to learn?

How old is your child?

Different instruments are more manageable at different stages of their growth, so your child’s age can help you determine which instruments to choose from.

If you would like to start your kid’s music study early, the best instruments for little hands are the piano or stringed instruments that come in small sizes including violin, viola, cello, or guitar.

By age 9 to 10, children have the strength necessary to play almost any instrument--including woodwinds and brass.

credit: woodleywonderworks on Flickr

credit: woodleywonderworks on Flickr

What types of opportunities and ensembles are available in your community?

Different instruments present different opportunities for your child to play and learn with other musicians.

If you would like your child to experience playing music in a group to build collaboration and teamwork skills, find out if there are orchestras and bands in your school or community that your child can play with. Stringed instruments, woodwinds, brass, and percussion usually mean more opportunities for built-in ensemble rehearsals and playing at school.

Piano and guitar offer more solitary study initially and more independence in your child’s music making, since they can be played more easily without any accompaniment.

credit: Ale Marquez on Flickr

credit: Ale Marquez on Flickr

Consider un-cool

Some instruments are chosen more often than others (think violin, trumpet, flute, clarinet, saxophone, and percussion), which means that your child may have actually an advantage if they go with one of the lesser-chosen instruments like viola, oboe, bassoon, or french horn. Less competition and more need for these instruments in the band gives your child a great way to contribute to the ensemble in a big way.

Getting an Instrument

Another factor to consider is how you plan to get an instrument for your child. Different instruments have different costs involved, so if you already have a piano at home, or your old trumpet in a closet, and your kid is into it, go with that!


If you don’t already have an instrument, most any instrument can be rented for as little as 3 months, so that is a relatively pain-free option. Look at the different rental prices involved, and all of the additional accessories that are recommended for each instrument. Pianos need to be tuned, violins need new strings and shoulder rests, oboes need reeds, etc.

Bottom Line

If all of the choices feel overwhelming, piano is always a fantastic place to start. It’s easy on the ears, and unlike other instruments that can only play one note at a time, it teaches two different clefs, melody, and harmony, all in one. Keyboards are also a great way to play electronic music, so piano study is a potential way to open your child up to that entire musical world. It offers a solid foundation to any instrument that your child may want to study down the road.

credit: Sean Yu on Flickr

credit: Sean Yu on Flickr

Our educational iPad app MusiQuest is also a great compliment to music lessons, or a way for kids to get started learning music before they even choose an instrument.