One of the most common questions I run into as a
public school music teacher/store owner is "what is a
good age for my child to begin learning instrumental music"?
There is more to this than you may think.
Our philosophy is to never deny a child access to
musical enjoyment, but at the same time not allow them
to experience such a degree frustration trying to
learn an instrument they are not ready for, that they
are turned off to music instruction forever.
For children under 3, we suggest child safe bells,
shakers, anything where the child can produce a sound
using their large muscle groups.
Obviously, a two year old is not usually ready for
piano lessons. That is not to say banging on a toy
piano is not a good thing, just that formal lessons
would not be.
There are some good pointers to remember
in order to get the most out of your child's musical
Some things to keep in mind
Violin..can start as young as three in a Suzuki class,
since violins come in smaller sizes this makes it
possible for children under five to begin their study.
Viola...usually suggest a year of violin first.
Cello...ages 10 and up...one year of violin first.
Guitar..We rec. age 8 and up.
While smaller guitars do exist, many children younger
than this lack the hand coordination to be sucessful.
We also suggest using nylon strings, rather than steel
ones for delicate young fingers.
Another big debate is whether to start on a acoustic
or an electric guitar.
To dispel the widely held belief, there is no
educational reason not to let a
child begin on electric guitar.
It is no more difficult to learn to play than
You may, for budget purposes, start with an acoustic,
which is usually much less money.
Flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone
Ages nine and up, or fourth grade and up.
The reason for this is that fingers may not be large
enough to cover sound holes on these instruments.
Also, the breath supply may not be strong enough to
produce a good sound.
Saxophone...ages 10 and up with a year of clarinet
Another note, many children want to be the next Kenny
He plays the soprano sax, it is one of the most
difficult to learn.
We suggest starting on the alto sax.
Drums..aah..everybody wants the drums.
We suggest starting on a snare kit, which includes a
snare drum, stand and sticks,as a good way to start.
This should be fine for a year before moving to a drum
Ages 5 and up can have varying degrees of achievement.
Many methods exist which use finger numbers and
colored symbols rather than traditional music
Remember, music reading ability occurs around the same
age as reading in general does.
I am happy to answer any of your specific questions
regarding music and your child.
More info on music for teens available:
and Our kid's music page
By Christopher Brelsford
M.M. University of Rhode Island
Cranston, RI Public Schools