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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

a diagram of an orchestra

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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