What orchestral instrument to learn?

(80 Posts)
tricot39 Wed 09-Jan-13 22:29:04

Any suggestions for a primary school DS?

No idea if he is musical, but if he liked it it would be nice to have started on an orchestral instrument.

Are any better than others to learn? ie are there rarer ones that make it more likely that you get a place? Or do they tend to be more difficult to learn?

I am clueless as I was drilled for piano grades and got fed up after a few years, but learning to read music has been handy at times.

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 09-Jan-13 22:47:42

A causal observation of junior termly concert at DD's school children in general make a pretty sound quicker with a wind instrument than a stringed one. Caveat to that there are a very few children who practice like demons and do make lovely sounds with their stringed instrument.

duchesse Wed 09-Jan-13 22:55:25

Many adult orchestras offer "taster sessions" for children where they can go along and listen to the individual instruments being played, and sometimes even play them themselves. County music services also sometimes offer this where they still exist. Can you get him along to one of these sessions and let him find out whether he loves a particular instrument.

Unless he is unusually biddable I would strongly caution against choosing an instrument for him. He's going to have to spend a lot of time practising and playing and it had better be something he really likes. So my advice would be to let him choose something he really loves. And respect his decision if none of them appeals- not everyone likes music.

Theas18 Wed 09-Jan-13 23:20:47

Tricky. What does he like?

Agree wind/brass over strings for early progress that is obvious.

If you are looking at long term participation at a high standard I'd suggest a rarer instrument, my Dds both play clarinet as it was an easy transfer as they are recorder players at heart. However there are millions of clarinettists in the school ( ditto flutes) so lots if "snot fayer" toddler type foot stamping because the prized orchestral places ( one to a part, which they love), go to the upper 6th formers fir their last year, even though the girls think they are better ( and have high grades). If you like a wind or concert band though it ok.

Ds- probably because he was a strapping lad at primary and could carry a big instrument got a French horn and has never looked back.

Start something and see if he likes it!

hardboiled Wed 09-Jan-13 23:24:58

Yes, he def has to take part in the decision. What is he atracted to? Have you taken him to concerts? A friend's DS came back from a concert and told his mum: "I liked the flute so much." And that was that.

The family concerts at the Southbank center have "trying" sessions before/after the concerts.

Also be aware that some wind instruments are difficult to blow till the child reaches a certain age as they require powerful enough lungs. DH took a wind instrument for a while till he had to switch to strings. He just couldn't blow it!

If you're ambitious for him and are thinking music scholarship...choose a rare one every school needs!

FigaroHere Thu 10-Jan-13 07:40:34

How about a "conventional" violin or cello? Seems like a lot of people go for "rare" instruments for the reasons already mentioned and many orchestras are suffering now with the luck of string players. In DD's school orchestra there are 6 wind players and 2 violins .And a teacher has to play cello as there are no cellists.

tricot39 Thu 10-Jan-13 14:43:35

Fab ideas - thanks!

I have just booked up a Funharmonics concert at the RFH so we will see what DS has to say about it all after that.

tricot39 Thu 10-Jan-13 14:45:13

hardboiled - I am intrigued!
What rare instrument can no orchestra be without?!

flowery Thu 10-Jan-13 14:48:34

My mum advised me to go for viola rather than violin to make sure I got into all the good youth orchestras.

It worked, I got I sooner than I otherwise would, and go front desk/lead which with the standard locally there's no way I would have playing violin.

Having said that you don't get much in the way of decent tunes playing the viola.


I agree with him deciding though. I tried the oboe first and it wasn't for me at all.

Seeline Thu 10-Jan-13 14:48:57

Rarer ones tend to be the bigger ones so think cello/doube bass, bassoon, trombone, tuba etc but probably not ideal for primary school children grin
Woodwind instruments definitely give a more instant result (and are less painful to the ear!)

mistlethrush Thu 10-Jan-13 14:53:45

Violins are pretty essential in an orchestra - and cellos come a close second. If you learn the violin you can transfer to viola at a later stage (and tbh, small violins are bad enough but small violas are even worse to try to get a decent sound out of). Wind instruments - well you only need 2 whilst you can have 20 violins or so and 10 or more violas if you can get hold of them....

merryng Thu 10-Jan-13 14:55:08

I second flowery with the viola recommendation, (if he can get his head around the alto clef) and definitely a string instrument. Orchestras need lots of string players and only ever need two of each wind instrument and two to three brass, so despite the initial difficulty there is much more chance of getting into things as string player.

VenusRising Thu 10-Jan-13 14:55:09

How does he sing?
Has he a higher pitch voice, or a lower one.
Also can he hold a tune, Or is he more rhythmic?

If he has a low voice, then a larger nostrum end will be better for him, if he has more of a soprano / tenor voice hell enjoy the lighter instruments - flute violin etc.
If he's not melodic at all, but has good rhythm, he may do well in percussion.

Good luck!

VenusRising Thu 10-Jan-13 14:58:25

larger nostrum end?
Spell check gorn mad!

tricot39 Thu 10-Jan-13 15:01:32

and I thought "larger nostrum end" was a technical term I would half to google!
Told you I was clueless!

tricot39 Thu 10-Jan-13 15:01:56


nickelbabe Thu 10-Jan-13 15:03:32
mistlethrush Thu 10-Jan-13 15:03:34

Voice and instrument connection - rather a red herring in my opinion. I played the violin - I am now a viola player, but I am a high soprano, so my instrument plays a lot lower than I can sing. My husband is a high tenor and he's mainly moved from cello to Double Bass (I don't recommend a bass as you will have to chose your cars around it for the rest of your life).

BandersnatchCummerbund Thu 10-Jan-13 15:03:57

I can sum up orchestral attitudes to viola-players in one simple, well-worn joke. grin

Q. You a driving a bus along the road and see an orchestral conductor and a viola-player in the road. Which do you run over first?

A. The conductor. Business before pleasure.

I am, of course, joking - and agree with those saying let him have a big part in choosing which instrument to play. It's very important.

nickelbabe Thu 10-Jan-13 15:06:06

it's harder to find people who play the big instruments - like the bassoons and the double bass, and the french horn etc.

nickelbabe Thu 10-Jan-13 15:08:40

but whatever he learns, make sure you put piano in there - it's a lot easier to go from a treble clef instrument to a large, bass clef instrument in the same family if you can read both clefs equally well.

Bramshott Thu 10-Jan-13 15:16:26

There is a book called "The right instrument for your child" if you want to obsess read up about it like I did.

In the end we went with clarinet because DD was keen and that counts for a lot. My subtle brainwashing is obviously working though because she's started saying "when I get to secondary I'm going to swap to bassoon"!

FruitOwl Thu 10-Jan-13 15:19:24

Oboe? It's like trying to blow into a weasel, apparently grin
I used to play timpani in a youth orchestra and that was great fun. The music is easy to read too.

mistlethrush Thu 10-Jan-13 18:35:36

FruitOwl - certainly sounds like that ! grin

hardboiled Thu 10-Jan-13 22:10:30

Hi tricot...
I meant things like...
cor anglais
harp - a good one to fit in the car
alto flute

but of course they do need strings, LOTS.

flowery Fri 11-Jan-13 10:40:42

The trouble with hardboiled's list is they are not needed orchestrally very often, so most schools/youth orchestras don't need them for their repertoire, or rarely, so can do without very well.

When I was in orchestras on the occasions we needed a harp or celeste or whatever, we'd get a local freelancer in if there was no one in the orchestra who could do it.

mistlethrush Fri 11-Jan-13 11:02:44

cor anglais - you're actually an oboe player who has managed to scrape enough money together to get another instrument that you'll play rarely.
alto flute - see above
contrabassoon - see above, with knobs on, and need a forklift (not really, but still....)
harp - a good one to fit in the car - no, you need to fit the car to the harp actually, or buy a van. And then you normally need help from someone else to get it in. Then you spend 30 mins before the concert tuning up. Then you spend most of the interval (when the rest of the orchestra's having a drink and a wee) tuning up again. And you're only needed for one concert in every 20.
organ - great if you want to play in church, but you need to get very good at that before you'll be asked to play with an orchestra as organ and orchestra is used even less than harp and orchestra.
euphonium - good for a brass band, certainly.

celeste - percussionist - or someone else that plays the piano well and is already playing a different instrument in the orchestra. Very limited repertoire, even if it is very obvious when its playing

flowery Fri 11-Jan-13 11:07:40

If you play the celeste you'll spend most of your time being a Sugar Plum Fairy at Christmas time... grin

Sympathique Fri 11-Jan-13 14:22:04

Agree with Mistlethrush's wise words - v sound. Another thing you might want to factor in is cost. Something like a bassoon or a double bass will set you back ££££££££££££s, oboes don't come cheap, but flutes/clarinets are more affordable and so are starter viledins etc. [Is it a coincidence that rare instruments are also expensive?] You can hire to start with in case he gives up. but eventually he will need his own instrument. I hope that woudln't stop him fulfilling his dream, but you can at least be prepared. (New car, new bassoon? Guess which won?)

Also I would second all above who've said that orchestras always need violins and cellos (and violas of course - yay). In general choosing something just because it's 'rare' is not in my opinion a good thing but I've said that before and in the end folks make their own choice. (Is euphonium rare? Kids at DC's school tended to start on that and switch to horn, trombone etc. as they grew, but maybe that's a local phenomenon. A bit like the glut of bassoonists round here, but I digress...)

FigaroHere Fri 11-Jan-13 15:50:05

No idea if he is musical, but if he liked it it would be nice to have started on an orchestral instrument. - re-reading the OP again. I wonder if the best start is to find out if he IS musical before deciding on an exotic instrument smile.
Personally I think piano is the best one to start with.

Sympathique Fri 11-Jan-13 16:00:41

FigaroHere I get what you are saying but piano is also very difficult to start with - with the caveat that some kids have natural aptitude. If they don't it can be a long hard haul and they may get put off music.

Agree, find out if he is interested in music first (!) but then start him on something he has affinity with unless there's an overriding reason for it to be piano. It's possible to over-think, and doing piano so he'll find it easier to add (say) violin in treble clef, bassoon in alto, and so on, is crossing bridges that aren't yet under construction and may be on a road he doesn't take.

FionaJT Fri 11-Jan-13 17:01:38

I advised my dd against the flute for the same reasons expressed earlier in the thread. I played to Grade 8, and really wasn't bad, but could never get into the higher level youth orchestras as there were so many flautists and only 2 needed per orchestra. Whereas all my string playing friends never had any trouble. DD had a choice of violin, flute or guitar at school this year (Yr 3) and went for violin.

flowery Fri 11-Jan-13 17:23:30

"I advised my dd against the flute for the same reasons expressed earlier in the thread. I played to Grade 8, and really wasn't bad, but could never get into the higher level youth orchestras as there were so many flautists and only 2 needed per orchestra. Whereas all my string playing friends never had any trouble"

Absolutely. The flautists in the couple of orchestras I was in, especially in the one that was a partially high standard, had to be absolutely outstanding to get in. Way above my league as a bog standard Grade 8 viola player.

I got so much out of my youth orchestra experience that I would guide my two away from flute/clarinet unless they had an real passion for one of them. Same as my clarinet playing mum did for me.

tricot39 Fri 11-Jan-13 20:21:47

Gosh this is all very interesting!
I had picked up the rare idea from a post on an old thread - which seems entirely daft after the good advice here.

We will just see how things go with some concerts and have a go sessions. Then see what he fancies.

A friend suggested mucianship classes before taking the plunge too which seems terribly sensible.

I was grilled for grades on piano and just got bored. So i am wary of the piano unless he is particularly keen. I was biased against violin as i may struggle to listen through the learning curve! But if he fancies that then i shall just have to get over it and buy some ear defenders!

FigaroHere Fri 11-Jan-13 21:16:28

Good luck with violin smile. It does take a year or two before you can just about tolerate it smile. That's why piano is my first choice - at least you can't get it out of tune easily. Somehow I think parents can tolerate any kind of music if it is produced by their DC - a natural instinct. Call it music "only a mother can love" - just think of these music concerts in primary school - they always sound so much better if your own darling is in it grin.

Happypiglet Fri 11-Jan-13 21:20:26

Just to add that I played double bass as a kid and was always in high demand! And they are not actually that expensive if you compare to wind instruments. My DB (I had to learn from 13 on a full size as mini basses were not then around) always sat on the passenger seat of my mums standard saloon car strapped in with a seat belt! Mini basses are easier still to transport. DB was and still is I think a bit cool... But then I am biased! We used to play jazz etc in our section tutorials at Youth Orchestra!!
My DSs play piano and a string instrument each. Piano is certainly harder to move quickly in and they have both got on quicker in the string instrument, altho how much of that is because they could already read music from piano I have no idea!
Another thing to consider is that at the earlier stages (and certainly at DSs lower school) there are mainly string players in the school. This means that get to play in ensembles earlier. Both my boys love group playing and it has certainly spurred them on.

mistlethrush Fri 11-Jan-13 21:43:49

Yes, my son has just started violin lessons (formally at least) and he's in a string group at school.

I started on piano at 6, then violin at 10. I took Grade 4 violin after a year and a half. Violin has always felt 'friendly', piano has always felt like something that I poke and it produces a note....

Happypiglet Fri 11-Jan-13 21:56:56

I agree mistle I love playing piano but it took me 7 years of slog to achieve grade six whereas I mastered grade six bass in less than three! I also think because ensemble playing in school orchestras etc means you play more it's easier to progress. Piano is such a solitary instrument....that being said I still play piano for fun(spent an hour today massacring Beethoven!) but do not currently play bass as I can't get childcare to attend evening orchestras....

mistlethrush Fri 11-Jan-13 22:35:26

I play the piano a bit - but viola (and occasionally violin) much more - I regularly play quartets, I play regularly in an orchestra doing concerts in London and other locations (just the weekend before for rehearsals) and I also sometimes play in local orchestras at short notice - but I actually sing much more than either, despite not studying it at all!

weblette Fri 11-Jan-13 22:43:55

Three of my four took up new wind instruments last year, I now have two bassoonists and an oboeist. Bassoons are hired from the county music service at £25 a term, dd (12) plays a short-reach bassoon, ds2 (8) a mini bassoon.

Dd started in June and will take Grade 1 in March, ds1 started oboe in October and will do his Grade 1 then as well.

Dd is the only child in her school of 1500 who plays it so everything said about rarity value is completely true, ds2 is one of two in his 450-strong prep. Both have already been asked to join orchestra.

You get used to the noise v quickly, it's a hell of a lot better than when she screeched her violin...

nickelbabe Fri 11-Jan-13 22:46:18

I love the violin
I spent abut 10 years wishing to be allowed to learn it.
I took it up at 6th form and loved it.

I had very supportive parents whin went to great lengths to naked sure i wouldn't practise regularly (constant piss-taking and then complained that they wanted all that money on an instrument i gave up playing!)
My point is that any instrument is with learning but you must never ever complain about the noise when they're just learning.
It's taken me years to get over that and get the courage to practise music again

nickelbabe Fri 11-Jan-13 22:48:26

Bloody autocorrect.

make sure
basically my parents were gits

nickelbabe Fri 11-Jan-13 22:49:04


nickelbabe Fri 11-Jan-13 22:49:53

Worth learning

TotallyBS Fri 11-Jan-13 22:50:32

Ditto the viola comments. However the viola player is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Because of this, it is not a popular instrument with students which in turn makes a good viola player very sought after.

However, it is a big instrument relatively speaking. A young child isn't going to be able to play it for long. My DD started off as a violinist and at the age of 10, when she was big enough, she took on the viola as a secondary instrument (the cross over isn't that difficult - it only took her 2 years to go from newbie to Grade 5)

My advice is to follow the same path ie start DC off as a violinist (always room for another one in any orchestra) and later on take on the viola as a second instrument.

weblette Fri 11-Jan-13 22:54:09

I played viola at school, my granny's old fiddle was re-strung for me until I was tall enough to manage a proper viola. The tone is so beautiful.

That autocorrect could get you into trouble nickelbabe grin

OliviaPeacein2013Mumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 11-Jan-13 22:55:04

I have no orchestral experience, whatsoever, as was one of those who could not make a lovely sound with my violin and have posted this before but it still makes me laugh:
Beware the cello grin
Usual HQ disclaimers apply.

Happypiglet Sat 12-Jan-13 07:27:09


tricot39 Sat 12-Jan-13 07:47:40


Lonecatwithkitten Sat 12-Jan-13 08:41:42

My DD had a long chat with her grandpa who is a professional musician (accordian - really rare), piano and organ. In the end they choose they clarinet as she already played the recorder and it lead to so many other instruments. Interestingly at her school there is only one other clarinet player, but her teacher is busy for two full days teaching sax. She was invited to join orchestra after 4 lesson due to the lack of any wind instruments apart from flute.

duchesse Sat 12-Jan-13 10:57:01

If you do opt for the violin, you could always buy an instrument here. That listing is well worth a read grin

nickelbabe Sat 12-Jan-13 11:37:54

I once played my violin in the "orchestra" at a 6th form concert.

I was down as 2nd violin, but really, the 2nd violin part was way too hard (vis a vis, never being allowed to practise), so the Music Teacher allowed me to transpose the Viola part into the treble clef (get me, musical genius - didn't have any music theory at that time, but he did check it for me and it was all correct), and I played that in the concert.
except the programme said i was 2nd Violin, and here was I playing something completely different.
I don't know if anyone noticed, though, so that's good grin

hardboiled Sat 12-Jan-13 15:11:29

OK, agree with the above...I wasn't proposing a rare instrument...I just mentioned the music sholarship part because I am living it at the moment and when everyone asks "what does he play...? and I mention DS common instruments...I see their faces drop...I can read in their expressions..."we don't really need that"...That's the only reason I mentioned it. I would never have him play an instrument he didn't like for a scholarship, though! Never.

Good luck OP. Whatever he chooses, the piano is great as a second instrument and always so ready at home, no need to take it out of a case, no tuning everytime prior to playing, just spontaneous, always sounds ok even if a toddler sits at it...I just love it.

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 12-Jan-13 15:34:16

On top of what everone else has said, I'd think about what sort of child they are (shy, outgoing etc) and think about instruments from there. No point suggesting the piccolo to a chronically shy child, whereas middle of the 2nd violins might well be their favourite place to sit, for example.

If it's not too much time and money, I'd recommend learning the piano alongside an orchestral instrument: you get to learn more than one clef, and good keyboard skills are invaluable if you want to do anything serious with music in the future.

tricot39 Sat 12-Jan-13 19:14:27

Having looked at it a bit more, i think we will do the family concerts and probably musicianship classes where he can learn to read music through playing games. Presumably both clefs. They will get to try different instruments through that and the teacher can help to see if there is one that suits him to compare with how he feels about it all.

I suspect thay virtuoso solos are not going to be his cup of tea, so strings might be the way to go.....

Thanks for all the thoughts!

Ps i remember your epic birth thread nickel. How is your little one?

tricot39 Sat 12-Jan-13 19:19:46

Just read that link duchesse ROTFL!!!

Happypiglet Sat 12-Jan-13 22:58:43

That e bay listing is brilliant!

I was just about to suggest the cello til I saw that link.

Seems to be a shortage of cellists round our way.

Happypiglet Sun 13-Jan-13 08:28:22

dS does cello. He is one of three in the school. It's a lovely instrument. I am learning it with him!

OddBoots Sun 13-Jan-13 08:42:05

DD wanted to play the flute but her need for orthodontic treatment ruled that one out, I'm not sure if the same applies to any other instrument you use your mouth for. She went for the viola and seems surprisingly good given what people here are saying about it.

She mucks about on a weighted keyboard and a ukulele for fun a lot of the time so I think she is musical generally (gets that from her dad not me!).

FreelanceMama Sun 13-Jan-13 08:54:03

I'd recommend piano now so he can learn to read both clefs, and then at secondary school bassoon or french horn. I played bassoon badly and practised rarely but had no difficulty getting into county orchestras and it also helped with my asthma (lung capacity!).

SanityClause Sun 13-Jan-13 09:16:49

Okay, I'm coming late to this thread, but I have two DC play the violin. I would say that the teaching is very important. If the teacher insists on playing in tune, they will make a far more lovely sound. They need to listen to their playing, and adjust accordingly.

I have heard far more "advanced" players at their schools make horrible sounds, because they are not playing in tune.

Also, remember that strings players play in all sorts of ensembles, not just orchestras. So, your DC may not play in a youth orchestra, but may be able to play with a strings ensemble.

At primary school I learnt the tenor horn.. You get some of the tunes, the 'pah' bit of oompah and generally have a lot of fun. At secondary I changed to French horn but kept up the tenor horn as well in a brass band.

This enabled me to play in symphony orchestras, wind bands, brass bands, the territorial army marching band, jazz band and some fairly fancy chamber orchestras. By 18 is settled on the French horn and went off to music college.

Taking this route the transition to the French horn wasn't that hard, I already had good wind/lip control so didn't find the French horn too hard and while a full symphony orchestra only needs 8 horns there were far far less of us that the strings players.

Wind and brass are easier in terms of brain confusion as you can only play one note at a time, my brain is definitely 'brass' as strings and piano etc with more than one note at a time are totally beyond me lol smile

Sympathique Sun 13-Jan-13 10:42:22

Well done tricot for sifting the advice and coming to a good decision. I'm amazed by some of the replies on here that would have you devise a programme that anticipates him as the next Benjamin Grosvenor (would be nice though - lovely chap! Can I have an invite to tricot junior's first concert please if he emulates him?!).

Two little points I'd make: this isn't for you specifically but for anyone wondering what to do. Everyone is talking about instruments, but I don't think anyone has mentioned voice/singing - it's another instrument and choirs are fun. Musicianship classes will take care of singing at the start and they'd be able to advise you where to go for a choir, singing teaching, etc., later on if a DC turns out to love singing. And in the event a DC goes on with music, voice training is so useful (singers generally cope with the dreaded aural in exams...) Tricot, this is years ahead for you, if ever.

Second, again generally, it's OK a DC taking up a rare instrument so they can get into an orchestra - school, county or whatever - more easily but bear in mind the experience of at least one poster above who say that they then struggled to play the parts. Getting in is only a step - it's what happens when the DC is there that matters, and do you really want a DC to be struggling in every rehearsal and concert? (Oh, as to the advice about sitting in second violins: second violins get picked on by conductors!!!! OK not always. What I mean is, there's no easy section in any orchestra.)

Sympathique Sun 13-Jan-13 10:46:30

PS Learning to read lots of clefs really doesn't seem to be an issue to worry about at this stage. You'll probably only be adding a second, third, fourth(!!!) instrument if DC has aptitude and more important overwhelming desire to do so and has the time and determination to practise, but in that case new clefs don't seem to present a problem. DD looked puzzled when I asked her: "why should it?" Clearly it's not the same as learning a new language, though it's all Greek to me.

MousyMouse Sun 13-Jan-13 10:57:08

bras instruments:
very versatile
can double up for woodwind if neccessary
are relatively cheap and sturdy

but agree with others, any 'normal' instrument your dc likes would be good. it challenges dc on so many levels - fine motor skills, discipline, hearing, social interaction...

tricot39 Sun 13-Jan-13 21:06:48

oh yes sympathique - singing is very much in my mind as that is my interest!

We watched Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra on Youtube the other day. DS seems keen on the percussion - lots of crashing! Please no, not a drum kit! Forget my fears about violin - come back all is forgiven when I am faced with drums!!

ZZZenAgain Sun 13-Jan-13 22:26:41

my dd was keen on percussion but I turned a persistently deaf ear to that one

hardboiled Sun 13-Jan-13 22:53:40

Yep, DS does percussion. Difficult to avoid when it's really their passion. Cause they will bang anything instead...so won't make much of a difference whether you bought the drum kit or not.

Nothingtosay Mon 14-Jan-13 09:47:27

Two things to add.

Someone alluded to it earlier, I think it may of been Sympathique, that there are areas of the country where a certain instrument is particularly prevalent. To me this would indicate that there is a very good teacher in the neighbourhood. Our state primary school has exceptional visiting woodwind teachers and acceptable string teachers. Off the top of my head I can think of at least a dozen kids playing flutes, oboes, clarinets etc who are Grade 5 and above by Year 8 on 25 minute shared lessons while there are very few strings to that standard in the local school system. It would be good to find out early on if your school has an instrument 'bias' for want of a better word.

For a parent who has no instrumental experience it is also very useful to find a another parent of someone who is a few years ahead of your off spring on the same instrument. They will keep you right about 'loaning' of of instruments, when you need to buy your own, when the music service has second hand sales, not to mention give invaluable knowlege about local ensembles etc. if at a future date your DC sits exams or goes to a music festival there is always generally someone who has done it before and happy to share.

nickelbabe Mon 14-Jan-13 14:09:37

I have to say, as an adult learning the piano (after a lack of opportunity in my youth), I found it really hard getting used to the bass clef.

even if it weren't a problem (which it probably isn't to most people), I still think piano is a most useful instrument to have. smile

tricot39 Mon 14-Jan-13 18:22:57

Grade 5 by year 8!
Blimey. I had assumed that sort of level was exceptional and likely to be beyond us. What sort of proportion of learners get to that stage?

TotallyBS Mon 14-Jan-13 18:31:19

I've no idea about numbers but IME a significant number of kids drop out by about grade 3 (it gets much harder thereafter).

duchesse Mon 14-Jan-13 21:07:51

Depends on the instrument how far you can get by age 13. If you start on the violin at 2/3 as some do, you could easily be grade 5 by 10. If you play the French horn (a much bigger instrument requiring adult dentition at the front), you're unlikely to start any earlier than 8 so would be more of an ask.

LurcioLovesFrankie Mon 14-Jan-13 21:45:45

It also depends on how you get on with individual instruments. I started the violin at the age of 9 and notched up roughly a grade a year. I started the horn at about 15, and got to grade 7 within 2 years of starting! (Technically, brass and wind instruments, even the horn which is supposedly incredibly difficult, are just a hell of a lot easier than the violin). Like many others on the thread, I'd really try to disuade my DS from the flute - youth orchestras around the country are awash with grade 8 distinction flautists. (Natural talent also comes into play - I knew someone who started the viola at age 11 when she started secondary. By the age of 16 she was principal viola with the National Youth Orchestra). But I think it's really great to get your child playing an orchestral instrument. Both my parents were like you - they'd been sent for piano lessons, then stopped (my dad was actually quite good at one stage, I think); they deliberately sent me off for violin lessons because they thought that playing in an orchestra would keep me interested, and they were absolutely right (they may have wondered about the wisdom of this when I got to 6th form and was playing in 3 orchestras and a string quartet every weekend).

Nothingtosay Tue 15-Jan-13 10:17:34

Tricot 39
I think it is all traced back to great, exceptional teachers who make it cool to practise for ten minutes a day and fun to attend their ensemble groups. The drop out rate in these specific instances is really low compared to other teachers but I am no expert. My point is really can you find out if you have a any of these super encouraging teachers in your area and find out what instruments they offer? Personally the quality and the positivity of the teacher I think is a huge part of the instrument choice process and the actual instrument itself is only 50% of the decision.

tricot39 Tue 15-Jan-13 16:02:25

Thank you - whatever the percentage split, I am sure that all of us have benefitted at some time, in some subject, from a wonderful teacher - and similarly experienced the effects of bad ones! How on earth do I go about finding an inspiring teacher?? Not being linked into a musical "network" I don't have access to sources of gossip. (We are in London.)

Nothingtosay Tue 15-Jan-13 17:13:36

There's bound to have been a previous thread on mumsnet on location inspirational teachers I would imagine. grin

I suppose it depends firstly whether your child's instrument learning is during school hours or if it is a private lesson. The school route is obviously the easier one because you ask other parents. If not then half an hour of google will net you a fair bit of info. Just googling a likely instrument and the area you live might be fruitful. You could check out local music festivals, saturday music centres etc near where you are or see if any music teachers in your area have received commendations, awards etc

ZZZenAgain Tue 15-Jan-13 17:26:54

have you decided on an instrument tricot?

tricot39 Tue 15-Jan-13 19:19:25

No decisions yet - probably will not decide until the end of the year after the musicianship classes and family concerts. I will pop back for an update then tho!

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