How to choose the right music instrument for your child
From 1991 to 2011, in my capacity as the administrator of a music school, I have experienced the successful implementation of practical guidelines provided by Atarah Ben-Tovim and Douglas Boyd in their book The Right Instrument For Your Child.
Atarah Ben-Tovim and Douglas Boyd captivate the attention of parents and music teachers with a couple of statements -
- Nine children out of ten could succeed in learning a music instrument;
- Most of the children who give up learning instruments are just as musical as those who carry on; they fail because their instruments were wrongly selected;
- Most children who start with piano before the age of eight will fail, and believe that they are ‘no good at music’;
- Children who succeed on an instrument also do better in school.
Most matters regarding music tuition and the selection of the right instrument are being covered in The Right Music Instrument, among others the physical, mental and personality qualities required by specific instruments.
In this article I stress the personality requirements, but emphasizing at the same time that talented children are able to master any instrument of their choice. ‘Where there is a will there is a way’. Most children, however, want to play a music instrument before they even know the various instruments orchestras/bands are being composed of. This is where the teacher and parent need the guidelines provided in The Right Music Instrument.
According to the research done by Atarah Ben-Tovim and Douglas Boyd the following instruments suit specific personalities -
Appeals to shy or lonely children who enjoy their own privacy. They may seem dreamy and forgetful, but could be quietly sociable and will enjoy making music with other children in orchestras and bands of all kinds. The aggressive and dominant child may not find satisfaction on the flute.
Appeals to bright, alert and sociable children with several different hobbies or interests. They look forward to play with others in orchestras of all sorts.
Very suitable for children who are labeled as ‘casual’ or ‘absent-minded’. Happy, well-balanced gregarious children, not in need of a close relationship with a teacher, find the saxophone an ideal way of getting into the world of making music with friends. The saxophone is designed for the delicious freedom of improvisation.
Ideal for determined, tight-lipped, stubborn introverts who prefer only one to two close friends. Oboe-players in an orchestra tend to make a little clan and keep to themselves.
For responsive and pleasantly-gregarious children, with a quiet sense of humor. They tend to be the practical jokers in the woodwind section of the orchestra.
Trumpet & Cornet
Appeal to sociable children with lots of ‘nervous energy’ and can accommodate the aggressive, dominant and ambitious child, as well as the easygoing. An excellent instrument for the individualistic child who wants to feel independent of the family.
Tenor horn and Baritone
Very satisfying for gentle, peaceful children who do not want to dominate others. They are easygoing, responsible children who like being ‘in the middle of things’. They are often asked to be organizers of rehearsals, or the secretary of the orchestra, or the librarian of the orchestra’s music.
For children who prefer to relate to small groups. They do not easily mix with others. This instrument appeals to conscientious, intense, hardworking and persistent children. It is a very difficult instrument to master, but a challenge to the child who need to prove her/himself as unique and special.
Most fulfilling for artistic, quietly sociable and sensitive children who need to feel that they are making the sound. Particularly satisfying for children who wants to express their personalities playing in jazz bands.
Kim added the following description: "Trombone players tend to be a lot like Saxophone players at times. But with a different element."
For responsive children who are readily reacting or replying to people or events or stimuli.
(Euphonium means 'beautiful sound', and this instrument has indeed the most beautiful and soul-soothing sound.)
Ideal for the responsive, good-natured boy who are happy belonging to a group and who tend to ‘lead behind the curtains’.
Violin - For the quietly behaved children, neither solitary nor gregarious. They must be able to accept that their principle function as players is to contribute to a corporate sound – the individual string-player is rarely heard alone.
Viola - Appeals to responsive, kindly children who want to contribute to a group endeavour.
Cello - This instrument asks for big hands and long arms and often attracts shy children who need the respect of others but don’t like the limelight.
Double Bass - Offers no outlet for the child who wants to dominate, but highly suitable for one with an interest in jazz music. Playing the double bass in jazz combo is fulfilling and creatively satisfying.
Percussion: Drums, cymbals, maracas, wood-block, drumkit, xylophone, timpani...
For the tense, nervous, often irritable, hyperactive, restless child the percussion section of an orchestra offers satisfaction and fulfillment.
A drumkit player's dream is to play in a rock band.
Most suitable for the quietly, intelligent and conscientious child (from the age of eight). Gregarious children are miserable on this instrument, for it takes many years of study before it can be played with others. It is though an ideal instrument to begin with, as it provides basic theoretical background for all other music instruments.
Deeply comforting and pleasurable to the acquisitive or possessive child – perhaps a collector or a hoarder of pocket money. Chess-players feel good reading and playing guitar music. Also suitable for the self-contained and independent child who does not want open or equal-sided relationships. The child who succeeded in the guitar enjoys being alone. The classical guitar player will easily master the electrical-, bass-, and folk guitar.
This is a unique book - now in it's 4th, updated edition - which offers a simple and practical method of selecting the right instrument for the individual child. Starting with the physical and emotional make-up of the child and using questionnaires and charts, the authors systematically explain the pros and cons of various instruments. For instance, a child who loves company might not enjoy playing the piano as it is predominantly a solo instrument. It appeals more to quiet introverts and yet many a child has been forced to learn only to give up as soon as they are allowed. As well as examining each individual instrument, the authors give advice on how some of the pitfalls can be avoided and provide information on buying and practising. Based on years of research by the authors, whose experience is unsurpassed, this is a comprehensive and inspirational book that will help unlock every child's potential.
"The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treason, stratagems, and spoils." ~ William Shakespeare via his character Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice.
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© Martie Coetser
Revised: September 2015
© 2010 Martie Coetser
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