Children can start learning the basics of music as young as 3 and a half years old. Starting at four years old, some children will be ready to learn how to play certain instruments.
For example, piano and violin are both possible instrument choices for ages four and up, whereas many teachers recommend beginning guitar classes starting at six years old when children can handle the proportions of a half-size guitar. Some music academies will start students on drums as early as five years old. For children excited about singing, voice classes are also available at many music academies starting at five years old as well, but this may vary from school to school.
Read the guide below to get more ideas on possible instruments to start your child on.
Option 1: Rhythm Sticks and Simple Percussion Instruments
For young children around three to five years old, the best way to start learning about music is often through simple percussion instruments. Rhythm sticks, small xylophones, finger cymbals, mini-tambourines, mini-pianos, shakers, and clapping are all great options to help children as young as three and a half start to explore music. This is commonly offered in Pre-K music classes at many local music academies.
Option 2: Piano or Child-Sized Violins
At age four and up, children can typically begin learning either the piano or violin. While these instruments have very different mechanics, both can be equally good options for young children depending on their particular skills and interests.
The piano is a particularly great choice for young children, as they can begin playing simple tunes right away. It’s also a great way for them to learn about music theory at an early age as well as practice hand-eye coordination.
Note that for violin, 1/4 and 1/8-sized instruments are available to accommodate their small size.
Starting to learn instruments like piano and violin early on (starting at age four) can nurture the development of physical coordination and critical thinking in young children. It can also help build their confidence through regular practice and performance opportunities.
Option 3: Voice
Voice lessons can be a great option for children as young as five years old who already demonstrate an aptitude for and enjoyment of singing. As with all instruments, it is important to ensure that the instructor has experience teaching young students.
Option 4: Drums
At around age five and up, drums can be an excellent way to introduce children to the fundamentals of rhythm. While a full drum set can take up space, smaller options exist such as bongos and hand drums will fit in most spaces. At Joe Ferrante Music Academy in Monrovia, CA, they share that they “have full drum sets for our students to learn on and will often recommend electronic drum sets with headphones too to keep a household quiet while enabling students to practice.”
Option 5: Guitar (Starting Around Six Years Old)
The Joe Ferrante Music Academy also suggests starting guitar lessons at age six and up for children who are interested in this instrument. Guitars also come in smaller, half-sizes to make them more approachable and achievable instruments for children.
Some students may also want to learn other instruments alongside the guitar, such as drums and/or voice. Oftentimes, the same teacher will teach both guitar and drum lessons which may provide an even more exciting learning experience for your child as they may be guided on collaborative goals between the multiple instruments. Learning multiple instruments or one instrument in combination with songwriting is a great idea for kids who want to play in a band with friends.
Option 6: Wind Instruments (Starting Around Nine Years Old)
Children around nine years old can begin learning to play wind instruments, such as the flute, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone. However, it’s worth noting that these instruments are typically not available in smaller sizes like they are for violin and guitar. As a result, it’s crucial to ensure that young students can handle the weight and size of their chosen instrument before moving forward. A local music store or academy that rents instruments may be able to help you determine if your child is ready to start learning a wind instrument.
How Do You Decide Which Instrument Is Best?
When it comes to deciding which instrument is best for your child, the most important factor is to find what they’re interested in or passionate about. For some children, that may be learning how to create and play their own original music on drums or guitar, while others are excited about playing in an orchestra, or even a Jazz group. Regardless of the decision you make, ensure that your child is supported and encouraged to reach their goals.
It is also important to ensure that they are getting first-rate instruction from a qualified teacher who understands their learning needs. With enough dedication and practice, young children can experience a sense of accomplishment when learning how to play an instrument.