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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.

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!

OhYouBadBadKitten Sat 12-Jan-13 23:15:55

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.

GoingtobeRuth Sun 13-Jan-13 09:25:32

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 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).

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