Instrument Selection

A word about the challenges of playing the instruments I teach in my studio

Strings instruments are the heart and soul of the orchestral musical family. Though they are just a hollow box with strings, and a simple concept of pulling a bow across the strings, they are difficult to play. It takes mental energy, conscientiousness, an attraction to the sound, and a good sense of pitch. They are whole body instruments, as we feel the music throughout our bodies and use our entire bodies to make our beautiful music. There is a tremendous amount of repertoire for violin, viola has a smaller amount.

Viola can be started on as a first instrument but often is desired after learning on the violin. Violin music is often high in pitch and extremely challenging. Viola parts are lower and often are harmony parts so the player is not necessarily the star, as a violinist is, but a team player, enjoying being in the middle of the music. Many favorite composers such as Bach, Mendelssohn, and Berlioz preferred this station. Violas are bigger and not as comfortable for a small hand, though I thoroughly enjoy playing mine and my hand is smaller than most of my students!

Though it used to be the instrument most students started on, piano can be paradise or a difficulty. The child must learn to read music differently for both hands. If reading at school is a strain, I recommend waiting. However, if a child needs more challenge at school, this is a wonderful addition! Reading ease and hand size and coordination are reasons I don’t recommend starting before 6 unless that child is determined and unhappy not doing it. A hand span of at least 5 notes is important. It is not an instrument that kids can play together for quite a while so a gregarious child might enjoy one of the other string options. It is an instrument that a student can take up in Middle School and advance rapidly according to their interest and effort. It also is excellent as a second instrument at this point as the knowledge that student has from other instruments helps the piano. It is a great basic instrument . It is powerful in sound and that can be an attraction for some kids. There is a tremendous amount of repertoire for piano also.

Classical guitar is a favorite of mine besides my other instruments. I often listen to pieces for the violin on the guitar to get another feel for them. You cannot make an ugly sound on it, it has frets to guide you, and can be very social or self contained. An acoustic guitar is very relaxing and beautiful due to its quiet demeanor. I teach both reading classical pieces and chords for folk singing and rock. I insist on learning to read. Everything learned can be used on an electric guitar. An acoustic builds up strength so an electric is easy to play once lessons have been studied on the acoustic. A good sense of pitch is not essential. Instruments are reasonable in price. A large range of repertoire exists.

Recorder sounds range from Sopranino (very high), Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass (very low). They are beautiful, real instruments, not toys. I have had students study for years as they love it and become Oboists. It transfers well to other woodwinds. It is easy to play in the beginning. The music is mostly limited as they advance to “Early Music” and these are the groups they could look forward to join. Though it has taken a while, Early music groups are becoming popular and Julliard now has a department just for that!

All instruments require practice, but I hope this gives you some more insight into your choice of instruments for your student. Let the music begin!