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Which musical instrument to choose for a 7/8 year old as a first instrument?

43 replies

Issy · 04/06/2008 12:46

I know this has been done to death before, but I'm still bewidlered. DD will be going into Y3 next year and this seems like a good time to start to learn a musical instrument. We'd probably organise one-on-one lessons for her at home. As far as I can see the choices are:

Piano: Advantages: We happen to have a piano (we're providing very long term storage for a friend). I can play the piano to Grade 4/5 level - not that I'd teach her but at least I'd understand the practice requirements. It's easy only in so far as you hit a note and that's the note you get.
Disadvantages: I have a vague recall that the piano is not the best place to start but can't recall why. Long term it's great for playing domestically, but generally fairly useless for playing in groups which has to be the great joy of learning an instrument.

Wind instrument: Advantages: I've played a wind instrument again to Grade 4/5 level so I "understand" it. Fantastic chamber music. You can start with the recorder, which seems like a very sensible first instrument Disadvantages: DD1 is absolutely tiny and always will be and her front top teeth haven't come through yet. Competition for orchestral places is very tough, particularly if you play the clarinet or flute. Also, orchestrally, DD1 would probably prefer to be one of the crowd rather than exposed in the woodwind section.

Stringed instrument: Advantages: DD1 has had full class violin lessons for a year at school and enjoyed them, although I'm not sure how much she's learnt! Not so difficult to find a place in a school orchestra, even if it's at the back of the second violins. Disadvantages: I'm not sure how tough it is as a first instrument. I don't feel qualified to help.

DD1 did mention that she'd like to play the harp! Hmmmm!

Any thoughts anybody?

OP posts:
Enid · 04/06/2008 12:47

I have a brilliant book called Which instrument for your child (which actually made me decide to not let dd2 learn ANYTHING quite yet)

highly recommend it

Enid · 04/06/2008 12:48

the guitar? very socialbe

bubblerock · 04/06/2008 12:49

DS1 (9) has started learning the guitar this term and loves it!

Ecmo · 04/06/2008 12:51

air guitar

sociable, cheap, portable and very quiet

Issy · 04/06/2008 12:57
OP posts:
Enid · 04/06/2008 13:00

[goes to check]

Anna8888 · 04/06/2008 13:01

My elder stepson started with the violin at age 7. He lasted for three years - his initial enthusiasm waned after about 18 months, but it took a further 18 months for him to convince his parents to let him give up.

My younger stepson started with the guitar at age 7; at nearly 11 he is still going strong and loves it. There are two children to one teacher (the other child comes to the house) which is much more fun for them.

Enid · 04/06/2008 13:01


I found it really useful although I wouldnt rely on it 100%

tortoiseSHELL · 04/06/2008 13:02

Ds1 started violin at beginning of Y1, and piano at the end of Y1. He is doing really well on both - I think he probably enjoys playing the piano more, but really enjoys all the orchestra stuff he does, and the sociable side. He's Y2 now, nearly 7, and has played in a few concerts, so maybe try an orchestral instrument?

Issy · 04/06/2008 13:09

Anna: There are two children to one teacher (the other child comes to the house) which is much more fun for them.

Excellent idea Anna. I wonder if the violin to the guitar would be easily transferable? Also music-making as a group could be any group - chamber group, orchestra or punk rock band!

OP posts:
flowerybeanbag · 04/06/2008 13:10

I would definitely advise an instrument he can play in groups. I play the violin and the viola, but had lessons on the viola, guided by my mum who had got so much out of orchestras she wanted to make double-sure I'd get into any orchestra I wanted.

Which I did! Probably earlier than I might have done on the violin, and was section leader of all of them which I wouldn't have been on the violin either, as there were some stunningly good violin players around where I was at the time.

Having said that, violin parts tend to be much more interesting than viola parts. Violas have a lot of the accompanying 'oom cha cha' stuff ime! Violin I play (or played when I could be bothered ) for my own benefit, to give me a wider repertoire to have a go at at home. And violas are big and heavy, so at this age violin definitely best. I didn't start until late, having had a 'false start' on the oboe first. I learned piano at an early age though.

frogs · 04/06/2008 13:12

Cello is a good first instrument, less screechy than the violin. Comes off well in that What instrument for your child book iirc, though obviously there is a portability factor.

We also happen to have a 1/4 size cello which ds has grown out of which I haven't got round to selling yet...

Plus some old cello books that JanH sent me years ago for ds.

Issy · 04/06/2008 13:12

flowery: I played the bassoon which was an excellent instrument for orchestral participation. Basically most people in my County Schools Orchestra were Grade 8 or above whilst I was pootling around on Grade 4 or 5.

OP posts:
Enid · 04/06/2008 13:13


Issy · 04/06/2008 13:15

Interesting frogs...

Cello: beautiful sound, great for orchestras and smaller groups, somehow "sexier" than the violin - hmmm! Also DD1's god-mother is a very good cellist.

OP posts:
Issy · 04/06/2008 13:15

I'm tempted too!

OP posts:
flowerybeanbag · 04/06/2008 13:15

Exactly issy! One of my mates chose the bassoon and oboe for the same reason, and she breezed into any orchestra she fancied - all the clarinettists and flautists had to be Grade 8 distinction to get a look-in, and even then they had to take turns actually playing when they were in.

frogs · 04/06/2008 13:18

Sexier than the violin, and there aren't so many of them. Much nicer sound. Even duff notes are less physically painful than bad violin playing. But (as I discovered when ds took it up) you can get a reasonable entry-level violin for £30, whereas a comparable cello will be 10x that. But ds's old one is immaculate, and I'm keen to free up the space...

[ingratiating smile]

tortoiseSHELL · 04/06/2008 13:20

Dd is starting cello in September, she is going to borrow a cello from school and I am really looking forward to it!

MrsWobble · 04/06/2008 13:25

dd3 started the violin last year at age 7. she did a "music roundabout" course the year before where they did 1/2 a term of small (3/4) group lessons and then chose the one she wanted to do.

She picked violin because she liked the teacher best - which might be a consideration not yet mentioned on the thread. In my experience of 3 children with assorted music lessons their relationship with the teacher has been easily the most important factor to their progress and enjoyment (or lack of it).

MrsWobble · 04/06/2008 13:27

in case it wasn't clear - music roundabout was 1/2 a term of each of 6 instruments - violin, cello, piano, drums, flute and somehting else i can't remember

Beetroot · 04/06/2008 13:28

all mine started with piano

not sure why

but it the instruement they dislike the most now!!!

Aniyan · 04/06/2008 13:42

I started on piano at 4 and then chose the cello when I was 8. Piano was great for learning the mechanics of music & you learn both treble and bass clefs which is v. useful, but it was a bit lonely.

I LOVED my cello - played in (probably awful-sounding!) school orchestras from the start, and really enjoyed it. Also, though cellos are a bit unwieldy, you can get a decent sound from them pretty quickly which is a great incentive to carry on!

I've heard that stringed instruments are easier to start with than woodwind/brass, though have no direct experience of these.

Whatever you choose, I would really recommend getting them into a group as soon as you can - makes a massive difference. And buy yourself some earplugs to cope with the first few months of practice

3monkeys · 04/06/2008 13:52

We went to a music school last night to discuss instruments for DS1 aged 8 and dd aged 6. DD tried the violin and loved it so is starting that. DS1 tried the trumpet and liked it, was awful on violin and then tried piano which was great. The man there suggested DS started piano, although I'd wanted them to start something orchestral. Ds is happy to start piano and then maybe start trumpet in the future - does that sound sensible? It helps that we have a piano at home - is very old and rickety though!

bundle · 04/06/2008 13:57

dd1 started piano last sept (she'll be 8 this month) - and has recently gone off it a bit. her teacher says she's v good though so I'm trying to get her to persist through eg changing pace, getting her to compose her own pieces etc..

she also does recorder (at school thankfully)

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