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Thread: Question for the musicians

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas

    Question for the musicians

    I know there are a fair number of musicians here. What are your suggestions for a first musical instrument for a child, something to spark their interest?

    I have a daughter about to turn 5 years old in a couple months. I'm trying to cultivate an interest in music in her and my younger son. She likes listening to my stereo, and puts up with a wide variety of music, although she naturally prefers stuff she can dance or sing along to. She will also watch some performances on YouTube. We've had a few toy instruments kicking around since she was a toddler: drum, tambourine, maracas, harmonica, toy keyboard. The kids occasionally noodle with them, but haven't shown much interest in trying to make anything musical come out of them. Lately, she's been asking when we're going to get a new instrument, so I'd like to get something for a family Christmas present.

    We have relatives with pianos, and she seems to like playing with them a little bit when she visits. So I'm thinking maybe an entry level arranger keyboard? I don't want to spend a lot of money just yet until she or her brother shows more interest. Musical ability runs in the family, but I'm not trying to create a prodigy.

    Any better ideas?

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Keyboards are indeed good for kids. Xylophones are kind of traditional, too. Pennywhistles are nice because they're pretty easy to use and teach without being, well, pianos; some people just prefer wind instruments, y'know? So that's an option you might try putting in front of them.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Some like flutes.

    I had one of those accordion's back in primary school.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    I love the accordion, but never tried playing one. They look complicated, but fun.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Location: Canuckistan GWN
    See if there is a child music education resource available nearby. Maybe, rather than investing in an instrument, invest in some interactive time with teachers and other students with a variety of available instruments. See what evolves from that. Music is going to be a social interaction (one hopes) and considering choices in that context might help.

    In the mean time, continue to encourage the singing and dancing. The voice and the body are great instruments which are always available.

  6. #6
    If I may suggest something, stay away from guitars. I loved playing it, but since you can play the same notes on several different strings, it makes things quite complicated and harder to grasp than e.g. piano, where one key is one exact note, period. I second Nicker's suggestion on developing confidence in singing. I wish I worked on that much much earlier, it's such a pleasure to do, even if you don't have great scale. Getting to like your singing voice and singing in key is enough to make it very satisfying activity.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    Yeah, a guitar is a bit too big for her anyway. I thought about a ukulele though.

    I've found it surprisingly hard to find a kids music education program nearby that is appropriate for her age. It's either toddler oriented stuff like singing along to nursery rhymes and dancing, which she has already been through and seems past now, or SERIOUS LESSONS.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: the Sheeple Pen
    I was going to recommend ukulele actually. I haven't got any first-hand experience on the ukulele+kid combo (ask me again in a couple of years), but ukulele is such a simple instrument to start with that I could see it working. That's just the basics though - strumming the easy chords and singing along - but it's a good start. The smaller ukuleles are just the right size for kids too, and I think it's a fairly neighbour/parent-friendly instrument too. You can get a decent ukulele for less than 50 bucks, so it's not a huge investment, and there are plenty of good tutorials available online these days. Also, if she likes to play the ukulele, it'll be easier to pick up an acoustic guitar or something a bit later on.

    Do you play any instrument(s)?

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    I don't play anything with any degree of competence
    I took piano lessons as a kid, and I like the piano, but I never could get my two hands to play two voices independently, so I didn't stick with it and don't own one
    I also had a ukulele when I was a kid, and I think it's a good suggestion because it's small and inexpensive
    I wanted to be a drummer, but struggled even more for the same reason as the piano. So I don't have a drum kit, but do have a few percussion instruments and still like to bang around with drum sticks and improvise
    I tried learning guitar when I was around 18-20, but didn't see progress and gave up on it pretty quickly

    But my mother was a good home pianist, and my grandmother an excellent one. My father played a horn in marching band. My older brother plays guitar. My younger brother plays bass. My cousin plays guitar and bass and keys and has been playing in local bands since forever. So I think there is musical aptitude in our family, but I just didn't seem to inherit it. What I did get is an ear for music appreciation. I enjoy a lot of different kinds of music and I'm a bit of an audiophile.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2016
    Location: The Warp
    I think that on the whole, keyboard instruments (especially the piano) provide the most solid foundation for music education: you learn both physical coordination with your hands (and sometimes feet), ear training, and how to read sheet music. Theory is also incredibly important, but isn't the most popular part with kids. I know I hated it when I started learning, but I'm so happy that I did because my education means that I can pretty much play whatever I want. Pianos are also good in terms of beginning because they're tuned in the key of C, which doesn't naturally have any sharps or flats, therefore no mental transposition is required when switching keys in pieces; it just is what it says it is on the page. I've been playing the piano (and other keyboards at times) for the past 15 years and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a process best done in lessons, though. A good piano teacher will give you proper technique and stomp out bad habits early on. Here in Canada, we have Music for Young Children, which I did as a kid. I don't know if there are any equivalents to it in other countries, but it was a good starting point. Otherwise, jumping straight to private lessons isn't a bad move either. In terms of purchasing, you shouldn't start with too small a keyboard, since that can severely limit your kid's options if she takes a real interest. A small keyboard isn't bad for absolute beginner pieces that only revolve around 3 octaves, but intermediate songs often start using more keys and you don't want to put yourself in a position of having to buy another instrument right away if she ever gets to a higher level. Other than the real piano my family has, my personal keyboard is a Casio WK-240, which has served me well, my only complaint being the lack of keys when I want to play something complicated and the fact that the keys are unweighted, which makes going back and forth between it and a real piano alienating.

    The only other instrument family I can speak to is percussion, which I've done in various capacities for around 10 years. I'd definitely advocate for a broad percussion education rather than a specific focus if possible. Learning more and different percussion instruments improved me across the board in terms of technique and pulse. Most people jump directly to kit drumming, which isn't the greatest thing to do- it can be overwhelming to begin with. It's better to build up coordination by starting small. Kits are popular with beginners because they're exciting, and fit the traditional "drummer" image. The reason so many end up ultimately abandoned, though, is that people seem to have the misconception that drumming is super easy and that anyone should be able to pick it up right away. It's a lot of real work to become any good at drums or percussion, as much or more as any other instrument. Probably the easiest way to see if your daughter is seriously interested is to get a real pair of drumsticks and a practice pad. Practice pads may not be the most exciting thing, but any dedicated percussionist/drummer spends a lot of time with one. They're also quiet, which is good too.

    Anyway, that's my $0.02.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    As a music teacher myself, piano, as others have also said, is the easiest instrument for someone of that age. That doesnt mean its the best one though, anything that is enjoyed will be played. A tip though, if you do start any lessons or such, really be firm on practice routine. I see so many young students who are just mediocre because of lack of practice, and most kids that age dont have the motivational skills to do it on their own.

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    Two things I appreciate about the keyboard: 1) If you get an electronic keyboard rather than an actual piano, you can use headphones. That's good for family and neighbours, but it's also good for shy kids who feel embarrassed about making mistakes or generally sounding bad when they play. 2) Even if you're really bad at playing a keyboard instrument, and you will be at the beginning, you don't first have to learn to make the individual notes you play sound good. Take string, brass or wind instruments: it's not at all easy just to play a note that sounds okay. (It's one of the reasons why it's so painful to listen to a beginner on the violin.) Press a key, though, and the note sounds okay. It's a frustrating step in the process of learning to play an instrument that you can skip when you play the keys. Don't worry, there are still plenty of other potentially frustrating steps...

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm going out now to check this out:

    https://usa.yamaha.com/products/musi..._12/index.html

    I'll also check out some of the beginner arranger keyboards as an alternative.

    I think she is too young and small to start piano lessons, but they can follow if she takes a real interest. I did talk to a couple of piano instructors and frankly, they seem overly serious. Basically, the impression I got was that I would be wasting their time unless my daughter and I were ready to make a firm commitment to the instrument and years of education. Both told me that I should have already bought an acoustic piano long ago, and placed it prominently within the house, so she would be accustomed to having it be part of family life well before starting to play. Also, that once she starts to play, make sure we can stick to a schedule that includes dedicated practice time every day. They talked me through more dos and don'ts, the grades and exams. One talked about the expected rate of progress if she shows aptitude, and the dedication necessary to become a professional pianist. Very heavy stuff for a 5 year old, I thought.

  14. #14
    Yeah, definitely. At this point it's supposed to be fun, not a declaration of future career.

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    I’m going to disagree a bit and say that I think it’s important that there be a level of seriousness if you decide to put her in lessons. Unless she’s one of those kids who immediately takes to it, she’ll probably need you, like Piglick said, to be firm with the practice routine. I never loved taking piano lessons, but my parents made me practice and I’m really thankful for it now. It’s not about declaring a career in music but laying the foundation for her to be musical throughout her life. Not that she can’t do that without early piano lessons, but they certainly help if she’s willing to go through with it. In my case the lessons involved a lot of singing, which helped me develop a good sense of pitch and melody at an early age.

  16. #16
    I meant, she's 5. She can easily start taking piano lessons when she's 7 or 10.

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2001
    Location: 0x0x0
    At a young age guitars are still too big. Keys and encouraging to sing would be the way to go. Keys demand the whole package but it's the easiest instrument to start on. Pick any wind or stringed instrument and it takes much effort to even make one decent note. Push down a note on a "piano" and you get instant.."hey that sounds good". (bonus points go to electronic pianos as they don't require maintenance/new reeds, strings etc. and never go out of tune.)

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Location: Canuckistan GWN
    And scales on a keyboard are linear whereas on wind, brass and strings they are achieved by what appears to be arbitrary finger positions.

    I haven't used this one but it has some cool educational and feedback features.

    https://www.amazon.com/ONE-Keyboard-.../dp/B016DOY9UI

  19. #19
    New Member
    Registered: Dec 2018
    Quote Originally Posted by McTaffer View Post
    I think that on the whole, keyboard instruments (especially the piano) provide the most solid foundation for music education: you learn both physical coordination with your hands (and sometimes feet), ear training, and how to read sheet music. Theory is also incredibly important, but isn't the most popular part with kids. I know I hated it when I started learning, but I'm so happy that I did because my education means that I can pretty much play whatever I want. Pianos are also good in terms of beginning because they're tuned in the key of C, which doesn't naturally have any sharps or flats, therefore no mental transposition is required when switching keys in pieces; it just is what it says it is on the page. I've been playing the piano (and other keyboards at times) for the past 15 years and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a process best done in lessons, though. A good piano teacher will give you proper technique and stomp out bad habits early on. Here in Canada, we have Music for Young Children, which I did as a kid. I don't know if there are any equivalents to it in other countries, but it was a good starting point. Otherwise, jumping straight to private lessons isn't a bad move either. In terms of purchasing, you shouldn't start with too small a keyboard, since that can severely limit your kid's options if she takes a real interest. A small keyboard isn't bad for absolute beginner pieces that only revolve around 3 octaves, but intermediate songs often start using more keys and you don't want to put yourself in a position of having to buy another instrument right away if she ever gets to a higher level. Other than the real piano my family has, my personal keyboard is a Casio WK-240, which has served me well, my only complaint being the lack of keys when I want to play something complicated and the fact that the keys are unweighted, which makes going back and forth between it and a real piano alienating.

    The only other instrument family I can speak to is percussion, which I've done in various capacities for around 10 years. I'd definitely advocate for a broad percussion education homework help rather than a specific focus if possible. Learning more and different percussion instruments improved me across the board in terms of technique and pulse. Most people jump directly to kit drumming, which isn't the greatest thing to do- it can be overwhelming to begin with. It's better to build up coordination by starting small. Kits are popular with beginners because they're exciting, and fit the traditional "drummer" image. The reason so many end up ultimately abandoned, though, is that people seem to have the misconception that drumming is super easy and that anyone should be able to pick it up right away. It's a lot of real work to become any good at drums or percussion, as much or more as any other instrument. Probably the easiest way to see if your daughter is seriously interested is to get a real pair of drumsticks and a practice pad. Practice pads may not be the most exciting thing, but any dedicated percussionist/drummer spends a lot of time with one. They're also quiet, which is good too.

    Anyway, that's my $0.02.
    My musical education started with the piano lessons. And I never regretted the time spent on that. Though I did quit because had different priorities at that time. Now planning to buy a keyboard just to practice for pleasure (as I do have an eternity of time ahead (retired not so long ago)).

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