Ideal instrument for a child to learn music?
April 11, 2014 8:40 AM   Subscribe

My child (almost 5) is showing an interest in music and I would like to get him started with music lessons. Please help me pick an instrument for him.

Obviously there is no such thing as an objectively PERFECT instrument. I am looking for practical advice of a "pros & cons" nature.

For example, I went to an intensive music school as a kid. Half of every weekday, crammed with piano (my "major"), violin (a very minor "minor"), music theory, and vocals. I regret taking piano for a very mundane reason: it's a major piece of furniture so you can't keep one in your dorm room or your tiny [major city with sky-high rents] studio apartment. I ended up discarding years and years of piano training when I moved out of my parents' home and I think that's really unfortunate.

(On the opposite end of the argument, pro-piano people keep telling me that keyboards are really good these days but(!) whenever I try someone else's keyboard, it feels and sounds terrible; the owner will invariably say that it's just because their keyboard is cheap, which to me is a moot point in that if everyone's keyboards are cheap because that's what's affordable, well then, there you are).

So what would be a good instrument for a very young child to get into? Something fun but practical that they could keep for life? That can make beautiful music on its own and doesn't have to be part of a band? I've read about the Suzuki violin but I am kind of down on a violin (just a personal preference). What do you think about a guitar or a saxophone? Other ideas? I am open to dissenting opinions on the piano or the violin of course. Thank you.
posted by rada to Education (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Start with something cheap. A flutophone or a recorder. I'll warn you, you WON'T like either of them, but they are easy for a young child to learn on, and at under $10 if he hates it, what are you out?

He can switch to woodwinds or brass if he likes that sort of thing. Or even take up piano or a stringed instrument later.

The flutophone teaches music and the connection between moving the fingers and breath control.

I started real music lessons at the age of 9, and all of the singing, recorder, etc really helped me master the flute.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:47 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't be sure at almost 5 that they'll be able to manage the mouth techniques and have the necessary puff for many of the wind instruments (clarinet, oboe, saxophone, brass) though someone may correct me. I know starting the Oboe at 12, it took a lot of effort to learn the right pressure/shape to put on the reed.

At 5 at my school, most people started on the recorder which, while not the most beautiful sounding instrument, teaches how to read music and lets them play something so I would recommend something simple like a recorder or a tin whistle and then think about a perfect instrument once they are older!
posted by Wysawyg at 8:48 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

A guitar is eminently portable, easily plays with others or alone, comes in children's sizes, and can be found in a pawn shop in any city in the country, if not the majority of the world.

But honestly, why not get a few cheaper "toy" instruments like a uke, recorder, xylophone, pianica and let him try them out. Attempting something before his motor skills are there could be very frustrating for all involved.
posted by fontophilic at 8:50 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Viola. Portable, and playing it means you will always be in demand as a musician. There is, in fact, a large and varied repertoire for solo viola, but it is considered primarily an ensemble instrument.

Piano. As a data point, I've always been entirely of like mind with you when it comes to keyboards, but recently went to see the Bristol Ensemble and the pre-concert entertainment in the atrium had a keyboard that sounded gob-smackingly amazing, like Steinway good. So it is possible.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:50 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

What about a ukelele?
It's little so that kids can play it and provides a good basis for future guitar playing.
Also it's cheap, fun and portable.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:51 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think a saxophone is a great idea.

I started piano lessons when I was 4 and was forced to continue them for 7 years (my parents' arbitrary requirement) and I haaaaated it. We have a gorgeous antique piano at home, so your concern wasn't one of ours, I just really disliked it.

However, I inherited my grandma's oldschool B flat sax when I was really little, and loved toot tooting around on it. It was small and cute and perfectly sized for little kid me. When I was in fifth grade we were required to take band, and each had to choose an instrument. I wanted to play my little saxophone, but my teacher (very small school) didn't know how to teach it to me, so I got stuck with an alto, which was HUGE for me. Made it less fun having to schlep that thing around.

Turns out I didn't stick with any of them because I have about as much musical talent as a rutabaga, but where I'm going with this is: I think a saxophone would be a great choice as far as "cool, able to play music independently from a band," but more importantly for a 5 year old I'd say get something appropriately sized for him. Plus they're shiny.
posted by phunniemee at 8:51 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

What does he want to play? Picking "for" him might be fine now but as he gets older he may resist.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:54 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

The one your kid is most interested in. Seriously.
posted by Dansaman at 8:56 AM on April 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: None of the wind instruments can be easily played by a little kid of that size, unfortunately (saxophone requires big hands to reach around without pressing the palm keys, flute requires an arm span a five year old kid doesn't have, clarinet requires bigger fingers to seal the hole, brass instruments will be too heavy). String instruments are where it's at for tiny kids, because they come in tiny sizes. If you're down on violin or piano, which would likely be the best choices, maybe cello? Or uke, guitar or recorder/whistle.

I'm a music teacher and I really won't start a kid on anything besides an appropriately-sized string instrument or piano until about 4th grade.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:57 AM on April 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The obvious advantage to piano is that some piano ability is more or less requisite for anyone interested in pursuing music somewhat seriously (classical/concert music at least). Learning to play piano makes learning theory and composition much easier. It is also extremely versatile and you can go nearly any direction with it. I'm biased, but I think starting on piano is an extremely good idea. It's not hard to pick up other instruments down the line.

The reason kids usually start out on piano or violin is because 1) physically they are able to play these instruments at a young age and 2) because these instruments are very good introductory ways to learn music. You learn the fundamentals that allow you to switch or specialize a few years down the road. This is really important.

Starting out on a recorder or ukelele some such is a ridiculous idea. Start the kid on a real instrument where they learn to read music and get an idea of theory. Many kids start on violin and switch to viola or cello at 9 or 10.

Woodwinds and brass are tough at 5, physically. Again, most professional musicians I know started out on piano at 5 and switched to a woodwind or brass at about 10.

Careful with sax - I'm a sax player and I have always regretted it a bit, because your opportunities with orchestras are very limited. Obviously an okay choice if they really want to get into jazz. Solo saxophones, despite what the 80s and Miss Saigon say, are actually not all that great sounding.

As far as keyboards go, really the only keyboards that offer decent substitutes for pianos are pretty high end Rolands, Nords - you're looking at upwards of $3k or thereabouts. Of course, a really nice saxophone can cost 5-6K (though you'd want to start you kid on a student sax or a cheaper keyboard and upgrade later).
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:58 AM on April 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

People create a lot of confusion by using the same word, "keyboard", to denote both those cheap-o Casio toy instruments and modern digital pianos. They are not the same thing!
posted by thelonius at 8:59 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a child, what I didn't like about playing the piano was that a) everyone did it and b) there is only room for one pianist. On the other hand, pianos are "everywhere" and people don't mind too much if you use their piano (versus their violin or something). Pianos are also really good for learning music theory, and a good instrument to know how to play if one wants to sing/ compose later.
posted by oceano at 9:00 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yay viola! But at age 5? I don't think you have an excuse at that age to not do violin. Switch to viola later, when the kid is gangly and is tired of having their elbow in their ribs.

But I love what piano does for music theory, so my ultimate vote is for that.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:01 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't understand the "what your kid prefers" answers. He is five so what does that mean? Is there an instrument "tasting" I can organize for him somehow?
posted by rada at 9:02 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

the only keyboards that offer decent substitutes for pianos are pretty high end Rolands, Nords - you're looking at upwards of $3k or thereabouts

You can get a decent 88-key digital piano, with weighted keys, for about $500-700 new. This instrument will indeed be inferior to a high-end Roland model, or to a well-maintained acoustic piano. But you are talking about something a child is going to be learning on, not a candidate for a professional performing instrument.
posted by thelonius at 9:02 AM on April 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

A couple more notes:

-Yes, I get letting your kid pick. They do need to be into it if they are going to practice. That said, my mother basically dragged me to the piano at 5 years old and forced me to practice for a few years until I got really into myself. Honestly one of the things I am most grateful for that she ever did for me.

-Pianos are definitely everywhere, and I have gotten a lot of joy in my life being able to sit down in someone's house or at a church or mall and play a couple tunes. It's one of the only instruments that affords you that opportunity. It's kind of cool and it never gets old.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:03 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Guitar, uke or piano if you're willing to shell out for a real piano or fairly decent keyboard.

My reasoning is that these instruments produce a reasonably listenable sound/tone even if played badly. That means that the learning curve from absolute beginner to "it's recognisable and doesn't sound like strangled cats" (I'm looking at you, violin) is not too steep. This small accomplishment at the start helps keep the enthusiasm up!
posted by pianissimo at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is there an instrument "tasting" I can organize for him somehow?

Absolutely! A lot of organizations (music schools, orchestras) have "meet the instruments" events. But then there's a good chance your kiddo is going to fall in love with an instrument he's not yet able to play.

I don't know why everyone's so down on ukeleles and recorders, they're totally real instrument, they're just also small and lightweight (and a you can get a playable recorder or ukelele a lot cheaper than you can get a playable clarinet or violin). But if you want your child to have a lessons leading to a Serious Musical Education, piano or violin are probably best. He's 4! He can always switch to viola or cello or sax or percussion in a couple years.

I think the important thing now is to instill a sense of making music being an enjoyable experience, rather than having him build skills on a particular instrument.
posted by mskyle at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: To answer the "tasting" question -- yes, this exists, usually either at schools' music departments, or at music stores. Often called "Instrument petting zoos" like this one, or this one, which seems to be near you but is well in the past.
posted by jeffjon at 9:16 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

My older brother chose the trombone. After many years of enduring trombone exercises in their home, my parents assigned my sister and I the violin at the age of 5.
We both love it and continue to play today as adults.
I highly recommend the violin.

On another note - neither of us would have continued to play through junior high if our father hadn't forced us. He was told by many of his peers, "don't force them to, they'll grow to hate it, let them choose their hobbies, etc." But he didn't budge and would set a kitchen timer for us to practice by - etc. I thought it made me into a huge geek and I wanted to do anything other than go to orchestra practice.
By the time I was a Junior in High School I was incredibly happy that he didn't let me quit. The violin is a major passion of mine and I would have lost it to my undeveloped junior-high brain if my dad had been a bit less strict. So wherever you are now, thanks dad!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:24 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Orchestral wind instruments are hard to start much younger than 10, I think, just because most kids aren't big enough before then. I started flute at 9, which was earlier than almost everyone I know. There's a reason why you see kids on Suzuki violin method fresh out of toddlerhood - it's because you can size a violin that small.
posted by honeybee413 at 9:25 AM on April 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: There are some strong upsides to starting a child on piano that people seem to be overlooking.

Pianos may not be transportable, but they are extremely common. As Lutoslawski points out, you can find them at churches, malls, hospitals...even if you don't own a piano all your life, it's more than possible to keep with it.

A kid can immediately make pleasant sounds on a piano, rather than struggling to produce a note for weeks and months, as he or she might on flute or saxophone or violin.

There's a very important visual aspect to the keyboard; for many students, seeing the keys and how they're arranged is how they come to understand how chords, scales, and intervals are built.

There's an awesome power in being able to make big, loud, complex chords and clusters with the piano. A recorder or ukulele is of course going to be much more limited in what it can do.

I think many people associate piano lessons with boring oppression and rote practice, but when you think about it, the piano offers the MOST musical freedom to the student right away. Unfortunately most beginner piano lessons ignore a lot of potential for musical discovery and focus on one-finger-at-a-time type tunes. Hence suggestions to give the kid toy instruments, which might be more "fun" than the piano. But there's no reason the kid can't learn the piano and also have a recorder. Honestly, I have no idea why a kid couldn't work on two very different instruments at the same time.

As far as letting him choose, you could go to a high school band or orchestra concert, hang around after and ask students to demonstrate their instrument. That could give him some ideas.
posted by daisystomper at 9:29 AM on April 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I am a singer, but I took three years of Suzuki violin when I was very small. In my opinion, even those three years of violin lessons did a LOT to train my pitch sense. (I can't play the violin now.) So if you want to lay the foundation for future musicianship, I'd suggest a non-fretted string instrument, probably the violin. If you want to maximize early rewards, go for piano or guitar/ukulele.

But yeah, when the kid gets to be old enough to play full sized instruments? If you want them to maximize their chances of being able to play professionally, go for double-reeds (oboe or bassoon), viola, percussion, or piano and organ. Being able to play a real pipe organ is one of those skills that means you will always be able to pick up some extra scratch playing for church services, and pianists who can sight-read well enough to accompany soloists and ensembles are always in demand.
posted by KathrynT at 9:29 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, your child would find piano skills useful as any sort of classical, jazz, or pop performer; as an elementary or secondary school music teacher; as a college-level music instructor of any kind; as a church music director, choir director, youth director, community youth volunteer, nursing home volunteer, accompanist, composer, band director, arranger, musical software developer, etc....
posted by daisystomper at 9:37 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Drums. Super fun for a 5 year old and very versatile in terms of style and scope of music that one could play later in life. Maybe add piano into that so he learns to read sheet music and the notes on a keyboard (helpful for joining the percussion section of a high school band). Guitar is a good instrument to learn too, but I would maybe wait a while on that if he at all gets easily frustrated (as someone who tried to learn the guitar more than once, I had a hard time getting over the "this hurts my fingers!" phase).
posted by melissasaurus at 9:39 AM on April 11, 2014

There is an initial period of painful frustration, with a reward of sounding terrible, on guitar. That might be a bit much for a child this age. The great thing about guitar, though, is that, even if you never go farther than learning half-a dozen chords, and how to strum in time and change chords smoothly, you can play thousands of songs.
posted by thelonius at 9:43 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not saying you SHOULD choose piano, but especially if you ever get a hankering to maybe try taking that up again yourself, don't judge the quality of modern digitals based on playing around with somebody's cheap keyboard at their house. Go to a proper store and try one of the ones there that actually has proper weighting and all. Compared to however many years ago, they're lighter and cheaper; you may still not care for it, but the quality difference between the cheapest and the mid-range is huge.
posted by Sequence at 9:44 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to defend the piano, even though the things you and others have listed as downsides (a cumbersome, large, expensive piece of furniture; when you're a kid, your friends are playing it too) are certainly true and valid.

But it's a marvellously versatile instrument to learn for a bunch of other reasons, and it has served me extremely well even though I didn't become a professional musician, and even in those times when I didn't have a piano in my apartment.

I started piano at age 4-5 and it was a good learning instrument because there's an element of instant gratification. You don't have to worry about tuning it or holding the thing correctly or making subtle adjustments to try to get the pitch right (like with string instruments), you push a key and the note comes out. So you learn really fast how melody, chords, and rhythm work because you can focus on those parts instead of whether you're holding the bow right.

There's a huge variety of sheet music readily available, in tons of genres, which isn't something you can say for many other instruments. Another big plus is being able to accompany yourself as a singer, or accompany friends who sing or play other instruments. When I was a little kid and wanted to play songs from Disney musicals, there were "easy" books that suited my skills and let me play the whole song, by myself, with all the harmonies and everything, and also sing along. When I became a tween/teen and went head over heels for broadway musicals, my mom bought me a huge, fat anthology of broadway song arrangements that I own (and play from) to this day. When I got a bit older and became an opera lover and started to take voice lessons, I could accompany myself on the piano, which made practicing as a singer much easier.

There were side benefits too. Even though I was far from an outstanding pianist, I picked up pocket money as a teenager playing accompaniment to local choirs, accompanying friends who were singers or who played other instruments, and giving lessons to neighbourhood kids. It was a lot better than working in a store (which I also did, later). Even now, if I needed some side income, I know I could give piano lessons. Just a few weeks ago I was paid $100 for a page-turning gig for a classical piano friend, which I wouldn't have been able to do if I hadn't played the piano myself.

Yes, when I moved out of my parents house, there was a period of about 6 years where I didn't have a piano in my apartment and played rarely. Still, there were pianos in community centres, at friends houses, and so on, and I found that even if I hadn't played for a while the muscle memory was still there and I could usually pick it up again.

Now I have a piano in my apartment and some of the most enjoyable nights of my life have been when I've had like-minded friends over and we've gathered around the piano, singing songs from that old Broadway anthology my mom bought me when I was 11. Obviously this only works if you have music-loving friends, but playing piano certainly helps for developing those.

tl;dr even though pianos themselves are big and inflexible, a pianist who sticks with it will always have plenty to do, even if you're not the best pianist around.
posted by beatrice rex at 9:47 AM on April 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't understand the "what your kid prefers" answers. He is five so what does that mean?

Well, you could always talk to him about what he likes the sound of and go from there. I mean, if the end goal is to increase his interest in music, it makes sense to work using whatever he's interested in. As a musically inclined 5 year old who ended up growing up to be a professional musician, if my parents had chosen and instrument for me, I probably would've let it collect dust in the corner. "If you don't practice we'll stop letting you take lessons" was a threat, not a promise.

And lets say your son picks something that just isn't a good fit for a 5 year old, like upright bass or sax. You pick something that IS a good fit and related, (like recorder, or violin, or whatever) with the promise that when they're old\big enough to play what they want, they'll be able to use what they learn for that.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:59 AM on April 11, 2014

Best answer: I regret taking piano for a very mundane reason: it's a major piece of furniture so you can't keep one in your dorm room or your tiny [major city with sky-high rents] studio apartment. [...] On the opposite end of the argument, pro-piano people keep telling me that keyboards are really good these days but(!) whenever I try someone else's keyboard, it feels and sounds terrible; the owner will invariably say that it's just because their keyboard is cheap, which to me is a moot point in that if everyone's keyboards are cheap because that's what's affordable, well then, there you are

I have a pretty decent keyboard that was not cheap (Korg SP-250, about 10 years old at this point) that I'm quite happy with, and I've tried a few others that are pretty good (my girlfriend has a progressively weighted yamaha with an excellent feel, for example). It does not sound like a real piano, when played through the built-in speakers, but it sounds pretty good and in fact has a feel that is better than many uprights I've tried. I also have some more modern sampled pianos that sound better than just about any upright I've tried, at least through the right amplification (or headphones). So I agree that this isn't a good reason to decide against piano. Perhaps for your own sake you might want to go to a decent music shop and try out some of the higher end digital pianos.

(Also, IMHO it's an even worse reason to prevent a 5-year-old from taking piano. In college they would have access to practice rooms if they so choose, and after that they are free to make their own decisions; not to mention that in 15 years when this issue becomes relevant it's pretty hard to fathom how good audio synthesis technology is likely to be.)

I do regret not _also_ learning guitar when young, but piano would definitely be my first choice.
posted by advil at 10:52 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you've seen the videos of this kid? Ukelele. And there's Jake Shimabukuro. Joy, ease, portability, coolness...If you take your kid to see Jake, he might get interested.

I also played violin and piano for almost 30 years, and while I love both, I would like to have an easy instrument to carry around that sounds good, etc. I'm pretty sure I'm in the market for a cheap ukelele soon...
posted by ihavequestions at 11:13 AM on April 11, 2014

Nthing "whatever he wants to play", or a starter version of that if it's not practical.

When I was around that age, I fell hard for the violin. Well, we already had a hand-me-down piano, so guess what lessons I was signed up for?

I always hated the piano, never wanted to practice, never enjoyed it at all, and did not grow up to be "musical" in any regard. As an adult, the piano is one of my least favorite instruments, and I don't enjoy piano music much.

Meawhile, all through my childhood, teen years, and even adulthood, I've always enjoyed string instruments and had a fascination with the viola, cello, etc. I'm not willing to say I was a born violinist and got cheated out of a musical background or whatever, but, I mean, yeah, I have a feeling that if my parents had asked this question about me, the correct answer would have been "violin".
posted by Sara C. at 11:28 AM on April 11, 2014

I'd say animoog or littlebits.

I'm only somewhat serious. Really, regardless of the specific instrument, make sure the music-making is about give and take and spontaneous creation, rather than monologue and obedience. With my son, I have been troubled by teachers treating music as solitary and score-centered for a kid this age, rather than group/community centered, involving body movement, and about call and response and social interaction.

This is likely a minority view, but I believe that musical literacy should be delayed until some degree of oral/aural tradition musical fluency is reached.
posted by umbĂș at 11:49 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tin whistle. Good, easy to pickup, very affordable and some very memorable melodies are on it *cough*titanic*lordoftherings*cough*
posted by TrinsicWS at 11:50 AM on April 11, 2014

A five-year-old is old enough to have an opinion, I think. My kid already had a pretty strong opinion at age 4 that he wanted to learn to play the piano specifically. However, he'd been in Kindermusik classes for a couple of years before that, where they did indeed let children look at, listen to and touch many different kinds of instruments, so that might be why. We're not rich and we have a small house so we have an electric keyboard at home, full-sized with touch-sensitive volume, but still just a keyboard, for him to practice on here. It definitely doesn't sound like a Steinway. But he loves it anyway. He's just a kid still (he's 9 now). So he's not super discerning yet about the quality of his instrument. I'm sure he'll probably complain to us someday about wanting better sound, but for now the keyboard is fine.
posted by BlueJae at 11:51 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Starting out on a recorder or ukelele some such is a ridiculous idea. Start the kid on a real instrument where they learn to read music and get an idea of theory"

Whoever would say this cannot be a lover of European music from 1750 and earlier. The recorder is no less a "real instrument" than a Baroque lute, viola da gamba, or harpsichord, or a modern guitar, violin, or piano. It obviously takes a lot of skill to play it beautifully, but isn't the same true of a cello or trumpet? It has the significant advantages of being small and highly portable, inexpensive (for an entry-level model!) and therefore easily replaced if lost or damaged, relatively easy to learn, and the skills acquired in playing it can be easily transferred later, if desired, to other members of the woodwind family.

And there are now plenty of recordings to inspire a beginner to be found on youtube, for example:

Jakob Manz with Eagle-recorder "Spatz"

15 variations on a theme by Paganini, for alto recorder

Lucie Horsch Nationale Finale 2012

Lucie Horsch - Brahms' Hungarian Dance #5
posted by tenderly at 1:16 PM on April 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Guitar or Violin. Guitars will be cheaper over the life of your child and in various instrument rental costs until your kid is of a size to own her own at whatever age/size.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:37 PM on April 11, 2014

Best answer: I believe there is an objectively PERFECT instrument for a child, or anyone else, to learn music on, and that instrument is the piano. Its linear nature lets you "see" what your playing, the chords your forming. The notes on the guitar for example are both vertical and horizontal, not always so easy to see what's what. I know some guitar players who play pretty good, they know how to play a minor seventh, but don't always know what it is. Don't know any piano players who lack that knowledge. Transferring what you're playing to an understanding of music is easiest on the piano.

I don't see what's wrong with getting an inexpensive keyboard for a 5 year old, remember, it doesn't have to sound good to you, it has to sound good to him. Craigslist must be replete with almost new keyboards at bargain prices, and it doesn't need to be a piece of junk. The action just makes it like playing an organ as opposed to a piano, and that means easier for a 5 year old. Think how many teenagers, with much stronger hands, give up trying to play the guitar solely because of the difficulty in fretting.

You don't say if you would get him a lessons, but that's an important decision. Whatever instrument he ends up with, it needs to be fun, and the right teacher goes a long way in making it so. He has to like the things he's playing. If he doesn't, the odds are against him staying with it.
posted by PaulBGoode at 1:53 PM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you seen the Loog guitars?
posted by Gotanda at 4:22 PM on April 11, 2014

If you care about timbre, breath, or exploring the space between a prescribed grid of notes, piano is not objectively perfect. And I say that as a music professor currently loving piano lessons.
posted by umbĂș at 7:04 AM on April 12, 2014

My school used glockenspiels (picture of mine, which I used around seven-eight and again in another establishment around fifteen-sixteen), they have a lot of practical advantages: you can use them independently of body size, they sound good (and a lot more harmonious than, say, basic flutes), they are reasonably cheap. The transition to a piano will be pretty easy once your kid's hands are more developed.
posted by Tobu at 6:43 PM on April 12, 2014

5 is actually pretty young. I'd get a bunch of cheap instruments and see which he likes playing, with a view to picking one for learning in a year or so.

As to which - I've never mentioned that I play cello (started at 7) without the person I'm talking to saying how much they loved the instrument. Though carrying it round is a pain.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:44 PM on April 13, 2014

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