Somewhere the rumour started, namely that a child should be taught piano first. (Of course for that you need to have a piano or at least a good keyboard.) But in all fairness, there are different pros and cons in learning to play different instruments first.

In my view, the best situation is to do two instruments of which one is piano or keyboard, and the other one is an instrument by choice, and hopefully, it isn’t something overly complicated, like the bassoon or Swiss Alpenhorn!

In the modern genres, the piano and keyboard play an amazing role, and any far-sighted parent will ensure that his or her budding child prodigy should master the classical and jazz style on the piano (or keyboard).

This article is not called upon to analyse the pros and cons of different instruments against one another, but of the piano against the others.

It has often been stated that the clear visual layout of the piano makes it an easy instrument to conquer music with, but that statement may be misleading as the rub lies in the technique required to master the piano.

Not only do you have to touch the keys in special ways, using finger technique, but both hands and feet are involved in the process. Then you must always remember that most keyboard instruments are usually large in size, and cannot just be carried around on your shoulder like a guitar, or in a holder like a flute or a saxophone.

As with most things on this level of involvement, senior players and teachers will usually advise on getting the best available and suitable instrument if you are taking your or your child’s music seriously.

There is nothing so demotivating as playing on an off-tune instrument.

A difficult one is when buying a new or old piano, and something is just not right with the instrument that is the affordable one. If one is buying an electronic or digital version, you will have to acquire the workable knowledge for the minimum technical requirements that would meet your needs.

Usually the higher the requirements the higher the price.

Some instruments may not deliver a large enough polyphonic sustaining sound to your liking, and then you have no choice but to acquire the more pricey option.

When you are looking at the acoustic piano models, age might not even be determinant as to the sound you might want, and the older piano might be the better buy. Always trust your ears. Never be rushed into acquiring a product that just doesn’t sound really outstanding. If in doubt, don’t.

A guitar might be an excellent first instrument – as you can learn to play the melody (in conjunction with a specific strumming using all or some of your fingers) or on its own – by picking the tune and other instruments doing the strumming.

You also have the possibility of adding your voice to the song. A guitar is reasonably affordable and can be easily transported with you.

Certain skills are transferable from one instrument to another.

The clarinet, recorder and flute use similar finger techniques which is also very similar to the saxophone technique. It is, however, impossible to sing whilst playing these instruments.

Depending on the age of the child, the guitar still stays one of the best options.

One must also give preference to the child’s first instrument of choice, for it is going to be he or she who will be putting all that effort into the chosen instrument.

Other sought after “first” instruments are the violin, ukulele, flute, saxophone, harmonica, and drums. The new transportable drum, the box cajon, is making headway in young people’s choice for a first instrument, especially in church bands.

The best age to start a young one with piano is commonly accepted to be between 5 and 8, although child prodigies can start at 3 years of age.

One should not be put off by video material of these super kinder playing Mozart at 3 (many of them have been unnaturally pushed by their parents to practice for hours and hours almost from birth!).

To be able to procure good music takes time and practice and patience.

Some children know exactly what they want to play; others will do whatever the mom or the teacher advises.

Just remember, the goal must be fixed on the enjoyment of making music.

The instrument’s size might have to be adapted to the size of the child, and have to grow with the child.

Where the child has to be the intonations’ originator (e.g. violin), it might be better to leave training on the piano for a little later; else it might spoil the child to just press a key to get an already intoned sound.

Of course the same holds true for all instruments where the correctly intoned sound has to be produced by the player and not just the instrument.

The guitar has room for working the strings and creating sounds, but the violin forces this skill to be developed on the instrument from the start.

One can even think of starting with all three instruments.

Why not!

The brain can adapt to playing all three instruments, but it has to be enjoyed; otherwise, your child may relegate one or two instruments to non-desirability status.

The parent has many choices here:

  1. He or she can, for instance, just acquire an extra easy instrument of another type for the child to doodle with to see how the child might progress with that instrument if formal training should be forthcoming.
  2. A parent could also choose a piano/keyboard with a guitar and at a later stage, introduce a third instrument.
  3. Some woodwind instruments are available in a hard inexpensive plastic-type version. The child will usually quickly show his or her dislikes or likes toward a specific instrument.
  4. Just remember, for a child to stay interested, it must be fun!
  5. Having a drum set available might just add to the fun, but keep the fact of noise in mind. (An electronic drum kit can save the day!)

If you are looking for fantastic music tuition for your child, and you are looking for a great music school to look after your child’s music education, look no further!

CMA (Children’s Music Academy) in London specialises in excellent music education to help your child learn music at home at your convenience.

We work with outstanding music instructors who will go that extra mile to help your child succeed when it comes to learning music!

For more details view our music courses page.

Sonja Joubert
Author Details
Pianist
Sonja Joubert is a master pianist classically trained by the late master Mr Josias Van Der Merwe and the late Adolph Hallis. She is also an excellent piano teacher with over 35 years of teaching experience specialising in both jazz and classical piano.
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Sonja Joubert
Pianist
Sonja Joubert is a master pianist classically trained by the late master Mr Josias Van Der Merwe and the late Adolph Hallis. She is also an excellent piano teacher with over 35 years of teaching experience specialising in both jazz and classical piano.
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