If you are new to music lessons and wondering which instrument might be best for your child age 6+, please read on for some helpful general guidelines on choosing an instrument (or seeing whether or not the instrument that you are considering is age-appropriate). If your child is under age 6, please see: for early childhood.
The fact that children can make beautiful music is less significant than the fact that music can make beautiful children.Cheryl Lavender
6 to 7 years old: Many parents feel the pull to get their children started in music lessons around kindergarten and first grade. Children can vary so much in development at this age as far as motor skills, attention span and general concentration/interest level in music. We do not set strict age limitations on specific instruments, although we very much recommend enrolling your 6 or 7 year old in lessons only if your child (not just you) has a strong desire and interest in a specific instrument.
We have noticed a pattern that the 6 and 7 year-olds that are most likely to “succeed” (that is, most likely to continue playing music for years to come) tend to be the ones who have parents that are involved in their practice, and that have been raised in “musical” homes. Often this means that the parents (or siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.) play an instrument, that the child has been in group classes already, or that music has somehow already played a significant role in the child’s life (to the point that the child truly already has a strong drive to learn music). Please do not sign up an uninterested 6 or 7 year old for lessons and expect that we will magically turn that child into a prodigy like you saw on YouTube. Thanks. 🙏 We recommend scheduling an introductory private lesson (ages 6 and above only) for your child, or attending Rhythm Kids.
Recommended Instrument for Ages 6 & 7:
Piano 🎹 is the most common choice & BY FAR our top recommendation for this age range. Piano is a fantastic instrument to start with because it is easy to make a pleasant sound (just strike a key…) and you do not have to lift it (hopefully 🙃).
Since children can learn simple melodies (like “Jingle Bells”) on piano relatively quickly, they will be rewarded for their accomplishments earlier, encouraging them to come back for more – essentially fostering a strong connection with music. Piano lessons will provide students with a great foundation of music that they can apply to other instruments in the future, should they decide to try something new as they get older & once their bodies become strong enough to power other instruments. Our piano instructors are experienced with young beginners and look forward to helping your child harness their curiosity of sound into a meaningful relationship with music.
Children tend to flourish best when they do not have to lift/hold an instrument at first. We do not recommend ukulele*, guitar or brass/woodwind (school band) or larger string instruments yet for this reason. Although violins 🎻 & guitars 🎸 do come in small sizes to fit children, it is important to realize that choosing these instruments creates many more simultaneous challenges versus learning music first on piano (which is still quite challenging). Drums 🥁 are another instrument you do not have to lift to play, however many 6 & 7 year-olds cannot yet reach the pedals of a drum set.
*Why not ukulele? It’s so small & light…
Despite it’s small size, ukulele is NOT always a great instrument to begin with, although it can work for some children. In order to gain a solid musical foundation that is transferable to other instruments in the future, we highly recommend piano. Ukulele is not necessarily the best tool because the string tuning is not linear (that is, low to high sounds). This can be confusing when switching to guitar, violin or other “linear” instruments. Ukulele students can learn simple melodies, chord shapes and strumming patterns, which help coordination and listening development. However, uke does not reinforce general music theory as well as piano. With that said, the small size and “fun factor” do make ukulele a good choice in some cases, especially for kids who like to sing along as the play. Please be careful when considering ukulele as a first instrument, especially for kids under 8. Perhaps consider piano for the first year?
8 to 11 years old: Through our decades of experience working with thousands of students over, we have found that 8 is generally the “safest” age for most students to truly benefit from working with an instructor in a one-on-one setting. By age 8-11, many students are physically able to hold instruments, have more dexterity in their hands and fingers, and are capable of greater lung capacity and better focus than when they were at younger. For these reasons, there are more instrument choices available to this age range.
Recommended Instruments for Ages 8, 9, 10 & 11:
Piano 🎹, Drums🥁, Voice 🎤, Guitar or Bass 🎸 (fractional size), Ukulele, Violin/Viola/Cello 🎻 (fractional size), Clarinet, Flute
Piano 🎹 and drums 🥁 are both fantastic choices to begin lessons on at this age, since the experience is so easily transferable to other instruments, and since it still helps to eliminate the factor of having to hold up an instrument (while also learning the skills involved with music-making).
Stringed instruments (Guitar 🎸, Violin 🎻) will take more time to learn the basics on (due to their more delicate nature and the fine motor skills necessary to manipulate them), but because smaller (fractional) sized instruments are available to fit children, we see many young beginners that appreciate a challenge & have exceptional patience choose to give them a try. The smaller woodwind instruments (Clarinet, Flute) are recommended over larger, heavier instruments like Sax 🎷, Trumpet 🎺 and Trombone (although some 8 and 9 year olds may certainly be strong enough to try those). For those kids who can’t stop singing, voice 🎤 lessons are another great option.
If you’re unsure of the right instrument for your child, we recommend starting with piano as that is the best tool for general music-learning. Please scroll down to the next section for some general factors to consider when choosing an instrument, or please give us a call/text or email to chat about your specific concerns.
12 years old and up: Once children reach age 12, it is generally a great time to begin on any instrument that they are excited about. We always suggest starting on an instrument that interests the student. Maybe a friend or family member plays it? Maybe it’s one they hear in their favorite songs? Maybe they want to play in school band or orchestra or in a rock band with their friends? If your child is unsure, or if you just want to have a general music-learning experience, we recommend starting with piano.
Recommended Instruments for Ages 12+:
Piano 🎹, Drums 🥁, Voice 🎤, Guitar or Bass 🎸, Ukulele, Violin/Viola/Cello 🎻, Clarinet, Flute, Sax 🎷, Trumpet 🎺, Trombone, Tuba/Euphonium, Banjo 🪕, Mandolin, etc.
When choosing an instrument, you may wish to consider factors such as:
– Cost. Can you rent the instrument, or do you need to buy up front? Please note our affordable rental rates for band and orchestra instruments. Also, many drum students begin with only a practice pad and drumsticks. For piano students, a keyboard is a perfectly acceptable instrument to learn on.
– Musical Genre. What style of music do you most enjoy? Think about what resonates best with you, even if you don’t really know why. If you’re a rocker at heart, you may want to consider guitar, bass or drums. If you prefer pop or folk music, perhaps voice, piano or acoustic guitar lessons are the route to go. If jazz is your cuppa tea, you might be best suited for trumpet, saxophone, trombone or a “Rhythm Section” instrument like piano, bass, or drums. If you prefer a more formal, classical music education, piano, strings (violin, viola, cello) woodwinds (flute, clarinet, sax) or brass (trumpet, trombone, tuba) could fit you. Although most instruments are found in a variety of musical genres, if you are undecided as to which one to try first, it may help to consider the genres, artists, or songs you like best and think about which instruments shine through to you as you listen to your favorite songs. And if you can’t decide, just go with piano.
If Music is a Place — then Jazz is the City, Folk is the Wilderness, Rock is the Road, Classical is a Temple.Vera Nazarian
– Learning Curve. Although it takes a substantial commitment to become a professional on any musical instrument, some are simply easier to learn the basics on than others. If you know that your child does not have much patience, you may not want to begin with “harder” instruments (guitar, violin, trumpet), unless the child is ready to make a commitment, and understands that progress is slow and steady. The instruments that we typically notice the quickest progress on are drums and piano (since you eliminate the factor of having to support/hold them) followed by guitar, bass and ukulele. For band and orchestra instruments, it can take significant time to learn basics. With that said though, DAILY PRACTICE (even in doses as small as 5 minutes) is the key to making progress on any instrument. Although some instruments often take longer to get started on, any student who is willing to put in (even minimal) daily practice will “succeed” (that is, continue to play & improve at their own pace), no matter what instrument they choose.