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Should my Child Learn to Play a Musical Instrument?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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The standard answer to this question is an unqualified yes, most children should learn to play a musical instrument. Children learn discipline from the rehearsal process, self-expression from performance, and social interaction from group studies. A child can definitely benefit from learning to play music at an early age, since many professional musicians credit their early experiences with developing a life-long passion for music. Even if a child discovers other interests later in life, the discipline required could prove useful in other situations.

That's the good news. There is another side to the musical instrument question that many parents don't discover until it's too late. Allowing a child to learn to play an instrument also means a parent needs to prepare for repetitive scales, loud noises, and frequently missed notes. A child's interest in an instrument, especially a loud or amplified one, is destined to involve the entire family, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. The rehearsal process is a vital part of learning to play, but one child's rehearsal room may often be another man's den or basement.

Parents should also understand that a quality instrument can be a expensive investment, and a child's interest in any project can be notoriously variable. Before allowing a child to learn a musical instrument, consider whether the child seems enthusiastic enough to stick with it for several years. Families on a budget may want to consider using the family piano for music lessons or investing in a used instrument until the child's interest can be gauged. Investing in a musical instrument used for band performances, such as a trumpet or clarinet, may also mean investing in band uniforms, travel expenses, and accessories.

Another consideration is the cost and availability of professional instruction. Finding an affordable piano or guitar teacher may be a matter of contacting a local music store, but a child may have an interest in an instrument for which local instruction may be scarce. There are now a number of self-help instructional materials available online or through larger music stores, however, so a child may be able to teach himself the basics of playing without the need for formal lessons. Many schools also provide extracurricular music programs and instruction, but parents should understand this may involve picking up a child after practice and transporting him or her to out-of-town performances.

Children should definitely be encouraged to try out different artistic outlets, including music, theater, creative writing, and dance. If a young child shows a clear interest in a toy musical instrument, then parents may want to consider taking that interest to the next level. Pressuring a child to take up music for other perceived benefits, however, is rarely a good idea. Every child should have the right to pursue a creative outlet based on his or her personal interests and skills, and if it happens to be learning an instrument, then parents should understand it takes time and practice to develop solid performance skills. A parent's role in a young musician's life may be to push him or her to a higher level of performance.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Musical Expert, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon986862 — On Jan 28, 2015

I am a father of two children and I have both in music lessons. We put my son on drums when he was four years old and my daughter on a ukulele (she has since moved to guitar) when she was a little older than six. My wife and I decided that we wanted both kids to learn an instrument and gave them some time to show us what instrument they gravitated towards.

My son started playing on drums about the time he could walk, and we bought him a tiny play set of drums from a toy store and he played them until they were almost destroyed. Once we felt he was old enough to follow some instruction, we found a teacher. My wife and I had a discussion that we were willing to pay for lessons even though we knew that he might only focus for five minutes of a 30 minute lesson, and as long as his teacher was O.K. with that, so were we. He has been playing for five years now and is in a little rock band with other kids his age. He loves it and we can see the things it does for his confidence.

My daughter took longer to show interest in an instrument. That is why she was two years older than her brother when we started her into lessons. She has only been playing ukulele/guitar for about a year but she is making good progress. She wasn't as into it as her brother, but just last weekend she announced that she wants to join a band as a guitarist, but she will not sing.

As parents, we wanted our kids to learn instruments, specifically instruments they can play and have access to more easily than some others. For example we ruled out the flute, french horn, and other instruments as we knew they would find it difficult to play/practice if they didn't have their personal instrument with them. How often can you find a guitar when you are at a friend's house or in a store or shop? I keep a guitar in my office at work and I am not even very good at playing, and you can drum on anything.

My kids might not grow up to be famous musicians but I am confident that no matter what, they will grow up to appreciate their skill and they can choose to use/ignore this talent however they see fit.

Also, two or three hours of practice per day is amazing. That is really make it or break it. Your kid will either resent you and the amount of time they poured into it, or they will become an expert and go on to big things. A lot of really famous musicians practiced that much or more because their parents forced them to. I am sure there are just as many that refuse to ever pick up the instrument again as an adult. Just to make sure you understand, we don't do that with our kids. The nine year old practices 30-45 minutes per day, depending on his focus and the six year old practices 15-30 minutes per day.

By anon329072 — On Apr 07, 2013

I do not think it should be compulsory for children to play an instrument. Could I please have your thoughts on the topic?

By anon250948 — On Feb 27, 2012

@Mitzy: What anon20293 said about two to three hours a day is very unreasonable. I play violin and only practice a hour a day and I have been playing for eight years! Two to three hours is just unreasonable, and it will make her burn out very quickly. If you want to keep her interested, maybe let her choose the instrument because you are not going to want to be the one driving this forward forever

By anon131903 — On Dec 04, 2010

30 years ago, my father refused to allow me to play a musical instrument because he was more concerned with having quiet in the house.

As a result, I got to sit with three other losers in an empty class and stare at a wall as all the other children got to bond and play their music. All the friends I had at the time faded away because they bonded instead with other children who played music. I became an outcast.

When you're a child, you do not want to be isolated like that. Typically, you just want to blend in. It affected my life negatively in many more ways as I grew older. So don't be a selfish jerk like my father was and let your kid play an instrument. And if noise is an issue, then how about a keyboard with a pair of headphones. Even electronic drums with a headphones makes little noise. I guess my father didn't think about that. He was just thinking about himself. Thanks for nothing, Dad.

By anon131246 — On Dec 01, 2010

Love it! To the point, articulate and interesting. Thanks.

Children and Music

By anon82612 — On May 06, 2010

who wrote this?

By anon81658 — On May 02, 2010

hi mitzy. where can i go about finding if my child is gifted for music? - rs

By anon72447 — On Mar 23, 2010

I believe that you are right. I am a nine year old who plays viola. I need this information to help me present in front of our Board of Education on why instrumental music is important and shouldn't be cut. Thanks!

By anon67363 — On Feb 24, 2010

-mitzy: I would recommend your 8 year old to learn to play the flute. I say this out of my own experience because my family also has no musical background that I know of, and I have taught myself to play from a beginner to an intermediate.

I would recommend the book "How to Play the Flute: Everything You Need To Know to Play The Flute" by Howard Harrison. This book has worked for me. Hope this helped.

By anon20293 — On Oct 28, 2008

Well, it really depends mitzy, if you feel that a musical instrument for your child should remain as a project to increase key skills, or whether she would benefit from a life-time of musical ability.

If it is a simple fictation, then I suggest a brass or woodwind instrument, the flute, clarinet or oboe perhaps. If you feel your child would like to continue in-depth with this particular instrument, them may i suggest a more modern approach, the Guitar (both classical or electrical training are useful) the piano, saxophone or, if you're really tolerant, percussive elements such as drums. However, i should give fair warning, if you approach this in the right way, then there will a time when your daughter will feel it is being forced upon her, i only say this because to give you child FULL benefits of a musical instrument, they should adhere to a STRICT 2-3 hour routine everyday in which to practice, learn and develop skills. It can also be pricy, for correct techniques in many instruments, the only way to fully develop is to pay for professional lessons.

Whatever your choice, i'm sure your daughter will only benefit.

By mitzy — On Jun 27, 2008

My 8 year old daughter has just been placed on her school's Gifted and Talented Register for music and given the Year 3 prize for music even though she has never played a note. She has been asking to learn an instrument for some time now and we have decided that under the circumstances we should allow her to do so. The question is - which instrument? Neither her father nor I have any musical ability/background so we really don't know where to start. Any advice would be gratefully received.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Musical Expert, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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