This is a common question we answer throughout the school year, but one which is not very easy to answer. There are many considerations when selecting an instrument. The student’s age, interest, prior experience, physical size, mouth, orthodontics, overall suitability, and the needs of the program must all be considered.
Let’s start with interest and appeal. Check out the following website. http://artsalive.ca/en/mus/index.asp Here you can explore each of the instruments more in depth. Because EVERY child is unique (barring peer influence), they often gravitate towards unique choices. Most often it's something they enjoy hearing and sometimes its a physical attribute. Past experiences play a role as well. Compile a list of your favorite 3 and then begin to narrow it down.
Suitability is a big factor. Each student must manage the size and the technical requirements, like the size of the keys, reach, weight etc. Some instruments are simply too popular so it limits opportunity WIth some discussion and trial, another choice can be discovered that yields a lot of enjoyment and success. Some students are very open minded and in most cases barring physical limitations, with good instruction they can learn almost instrument. But appeal or interest does play a role in the long term success. Students who enjoy their instrument are more likely to continue into high school and beyond. As they progress, their appreciation and interest will also grow alongside their confidence and experience.
Just like learning a language, beginning music instruction at an early age is the most beneficial. A majority of the Cabin John students have benefited tremendously from receiving some sort of musical instruction at the elementary age. Our elementary programs offer free instruction beginning in 4th grade and the instructor will help guide each student on suitable starting instrument. Although the instruction is limited and only offered once per week, it is a great way to be exposed to music reading, group discipline, and the general physical skills necessary for playing in a band or orchestra. Students who develop a greater interest will often take individual private lessons.
However, the students in elementary school are also limited in size, so they are often exposed to only the smaller instruments more suited to younger musicians. As a result, our middle school program greatly relies on the student’s willingness and interest to learn an additional instrument, or simply switching to a larger instrument. Without this, the middle school groups would simply resemble extra-large elementary ensembles.
Our advanced ensembles are widely recognized for their mature and often “high school” sound. There is no real secret in attaining this, but it really stems from having a good balance of all the instruments. It can be described as a recipe which has the correct balance of ingredients, resulting in a great taste. Conversely, a recipe with the wrong ingredients is spoiled. Therefore, careful instrument selection can open numerous opportunities for your child, and really make a difference for the middle and later the high school music programs.
Statistics from the regional youth orchestra and honors groups auditions reveal that of the students who auditioned, those that played the flute and alto saxophone had less than a 10% chance of making one of the honors groups, where as a student playing trumpet, clarinet, violin had a 30% chance. The larger instruments like viola, cello, baritone, and tuba had at least a 50 % chance of qualifying. Bassoon had an 80% chance and string bass was over 90% Choosing one of the instruments in greater demands will also yield more opportunity in the school groups, middle school and beyond. Same is true for scholarship opportunities College scholarships are certainly available for any instrument for those highly qualified, but more students have been awarded a scholarship to play play french horn, trombone, bassoon, baritone, tuba, and string bass then any other.