How to Choose an Instrument?

The first challenge in starting in band or orchestra is deciding what instrument to play!

Unfortunately, unlike test-driving a car it’s not so easy to test-drive all the instruments, as each has their own challenges and logistics to tackle before being able to produce a sound.

Take a moment with your children to listen to sound samples of each of the instruments on this page.

There is no right or wrong instrument, but there are a few limitations due to physical size. Here is a list of things to consider when choosing an instrument with your child:

  • Due to the size of a trombone, students are unable to play trombone until the 4th If trombone is your child’s passion, they should start on the trumpet, a very similar instrument in terms of sound production, then switch to trombone when they are big enough to handle it.
  • Saxophones require larger hands to play. If your child’s hands are too small, they won’t be able to reach the keys properly. If your child’s goal is to play saxophone, they can start on the clarinet, which is a very similar instrument.
  • Students playing wind instruments such as flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone and the like typically can’t start prior to the 3rd Due to the physics of sound, these instruments can’t be made smaller and lighter for younger children. There are a few exceptions – stringed instruments like the violin and viola can be made in smaller sizes and children can start much younger.
  • The smaller the instrument, the higher the sound that comes out of it. A flute is a small instrument and plays all the high-notes in a band. A trombone is large and plays low notes in the band. Instruments like clarinet and saxophone are in-between and can play both low and high parts.
  • There is no such thing as a boy or girl instrument.
  • There is no such thing as an easy or hard instrument – each instrument requires a special set of skills, and each presents their own unique challenges.

Can my Child Switch Instruments?

In short, yes, your child is welcome to switch instruments if they prefer something else.  There are some things to consider though, learning an instrument is a long process that takes consistent effort. Each time a child switches instruments they will fall behind and need to work hard to catch up. This makes it nearly impossible for a child to succeed if they switch instruments every three months.

Sometimes the aforementioned physical limitations can still creep up regardless of grade, in these instances we encourage students to switch to instruments that their physical size will better accommodate – then switch to their desired instrument when it’s a good fit. Segueing from a clarinet to alto saxophone is a very natural progression, and students will find it relatively effortless to switch when the time is right. In fact, many professional players double on both clarinet and saxophone due to their similarities .

What if my child can’t decide?

If your child is really struggling deciding on an instrument we recommend starting on clarinet. There are aspects of a clarinet that are similar to all the other instruments. If your child decides to switch instruments later on, the skills learned on the clarinet will likely carry-over to the new instrument choice.

Can my child start on violin in the 1st grade, then switch to band in 3rd grade?

Yes, at their young age, children learning the violin in 1st and 2nd grade will be focused heavily on rhythm and music reading. Learning these basic skills, which apply to any musical instrument, at such a young age will gives incoming 3rd or 4th grade aspiring band students a big head start!

What about piano or recorder?

Many children begin learning piano at an early age. Due to the physical size of digital keyboards, piano is typically not an option in school. However, if your child takes private piano lessons, they will also experience a head-start when learning a band or string instrument. Piano provides an amazing musical foundation on which to expound upon. Paul Effman Music offers private piano instruction [link to private lessons] at our retail stores in Plainview and Lagrangeville, NY.

Recorder is also a great tool for young children to begin to learn the basics of music. Paul Effman Music Service does offer recorder programs in select schools.

What about guitar or ukulele?

Guitar, while very popular, is not a traditional school band or orchestral instrument. It’s generally not offered as an option. However, we do offer ukulele programs for young students at many schools. Our unique ukulele curriculum is incredibly fun and sets a strong foundation for children that would like to play the guitar. The ukulele is essentially a tiny guitar – but is also a very popular instrument today in mainstream rock and pop music.

Learn more about our incredible ukulele program: [insert ukulele video from korg to learn more]