The First Three Considerations
BY MEGHAN VANCE • JULY 3, 2023
Maybe you are a parent who’s heard that music makes kids smarter, or whose kid has suddenly come home from school and announced they want to join the band. Maybe you are an adult who’s always wanted to play an instrument. Maybe you are a retiree who had a few music lessons as a kid but was allowed to quit, and now regrets the lack of music in your life.
Now that you’re ready to start music, how do you know what instrument to choose? While the local grocery store may be displaying a child-sized guitar, or the school band teacher may need more trombone players, or you’ve inherited your great-aunt’s hammer dulcimer, none of these are the best of reasons on which to base your decision. But there are seven important things you should consider.
NUMBER 1: PERSONALITY
Perhaps the first and most obvious question is “What instrument is the student naturally drawn toward?” Students are more likely to be willing to practice an instrument they like. United Sound recommends you listen to the sounds of different instruments to help you decide what instrument you like best. Some students may be drawn to a particular type of performing, such as marching band, orchestra, choir, folk ensemble, or rock band. Harlem World Magazine states that “It might be helpful to consider instruments from each of the 4 main families – woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion – so that you can decide which category appeals to you most.”
A second question is “How much of a challenge does the student want?” The Online Metronome says, “The more you need to know to produce a sound on an instrument, the more frustrating it will be to learn as a beginner.” While all instruments require a great deal of work to master, on some instruments you can learn to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in an hour, and on other instruments it may take weeks. In general, piano, ukulele, guitar, and drums are considered the easiest instruments for beginners; oboe, bassoon, French horn, and violin are considered the hardest.
NUMBER 2: SPACE
As Harlem World Magazine points out, “…if there is not enough space in your home…then it won’t matter which one [instrument] you choose.” It’s important to consider both storage space and practice space for your instrument. Most instruments should be stored away from heat, cold, and damp, which means away from heating/air-conditioning sources and away from external walls. When you are practicing, will you have enough space to bow your violin, use your trombone slide, or set up your entire drum kit? If you need to sound-proof an apartment or room so that you don’t drive your parents or neighbors crazy, keep in mind that sound-proofing materials will take some of your space.
NUMBER 3: TRANSPORTATION
Most students need to regularly transport their instrument to lessons, rehearsals, and performances, so transportation quickly becomes a big issue. A young student who lacks spatial awareness may need a hardier instrument case, or may need to choose a hardier instrument. A teenager who has to walk two miles to school while carrying a heavy saxophone will probably tire of their instrument quickly. Purchasing an upright bass can mean that you’ll also need to purchase a larger vehicle to haul it in. Consider how often the instrument will need to be transported, how it will be transported, and who will be transporting it.
Stay tuned for part two next week. We’ll discuss the fourth and fifth considerations needed when choosing your first musical instrument.