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You think you'd like to learn a musical instrument but don't know which one to try? You want to know how much they cost?

Things to ask yourself .....

  • What instrument do I really fancy?

  • What instrument do my friends play? - playing with others is more fun, and if you have your lesson in a group you can often learn faster than if you were on your own

  • What instruments can I afford to buy, or rent? Some instruments are really expensive, but if you can afford it there's an advantage to playing something no one else does!

    Instruments are divided into "families" - string, woodwind, brass and percussion. Each family offers certain drawbacks and advantages....

    Strings
    Orchestral string instruments are good if you want to play in an orchestra (well, obviously!). Few orchestras can get enough of them, which is to your advantage. The main orchestral instruments in the string family are the Violin, the Viola, the Cello and the Double Bass. On the non-orchestral side the most popular string instrument is the guitar in all its forms - classical guitar, folk guitar, Spanish guitar, electric guitar and electric bass guitar.

    * The Violin can be started at a very early age and it doesn't cost as much as most other instruments. Later on it offers excellent opportunities to play with other people as orchestras need an awful lot of violinists. It's of little use in wind bands, brass bands, jazz bands or rock groups (although on the commercial music scene there has been an upsurge of interest in the Violin lately, often using Electric Violins. These aren't any easier to play and are not suitable instruments for beginners, though)

    * the Viola can be started at a very early age and it doesn't cost as much as most other instruments. Later on it offers really excellent opportunities to play with other people as orchestras are always short of violists. It's of little use in wind bands, brass bands, jazz bands or rock groups

    * the Cello can be started at a very early age and, while expensive compared to the Violin or Viola, it costs no more than many woodwind or brass instruments. Later on it offers excellent opportunities to play with other people as orchestras need an awful lot of cellists. It's of little use in wind bands, brass bands, jazz bands or rock groups

    * the Double Bass can be started at an early age if you can get a small enough instrument, but is usually started at age 12-or-so or even later. It's a very suitable instrument for those who play a non-orchestral instrument (say, the piano) and want to adopt a "second instrument". It is fairly expensive. Later on it offers excellent opportunities to play with other people as orchestras are always short of bassists. It can be used in wind bands, jazz bands and sometimes in rock groups. It is exceptionally difficult to transport and will make heavy demands on the "parental taxi service"

    * Guitars can be cheap to buy. Classical guitar is difficult, Folk Guitar is not so hard. The Electric Guitar can be used in jazz or rock groups and sometimes in wind bands. The Classical Guitar does not offer good opportunities to play in groups - it's too quiet.

    Woodwind
    Among all instruments the Flute and Clarinet are the most popular with young people, which is a good reason to steer clear of them, lovely instruments though they are. The Oboe and Bassoon (and Saxophone to a lesser extent) are a better bet because fewer people play them.

    * the Flute is reasonably inexpensive, can be started at age 10 or so, but is incredibly popular which is a drawback when it comes to finding a place in an orchestra or band. It can be used for orchestras, wind bands and some jazz bands but not brass bands or (usually) rock groups

    * the Oboe is quite expensive. It can be started at age 11 or so, and is not particularly popular which is an advantage when it comes to finding a place in an orchestra or band. It can be used for orchestras or wind bands but not jazz bands, brass bands or rock groups

    * the Clarinet is reasonably inexpensive, can be started at age 10 or so, but is very popular which is a drawback when it comes to finding a place in an orchestra or band. It can be used for orchestras, wind bands and some jazz bands but not brass bands or (usually) rock groups

    * the Bassoon is very expensive, can be started at age 12 or so, and is quite rare which is a big advantage when it comes to finding a place in an orchestra or band. It can be used for orchestras or wind bands but not jazz bands, brass bands or rock groups. It is fairly large and heavy

    * the Saxophone is quite expensive, but in its smaller sizes can be started at age 10 or so. It is popular but not so much that you will have difficulty finding a place in a band. It can be used for orchestras only rarely, and is most useful in wind bands and jazz bands and some rock groups, but not brass bands

    Brass
    With the exception of the Trumpet, brass instruments are in a bit of a "trough" at the moment - more young people are choosing the Flute or the Clarinet. This is a shame, as brass instruments are versatile, need not be ridiculously expensive, and are not particularly difficult to start. We particularly recommend the Trombone which is becoming a bit of a rarity in some areas - we don't know why.

    * the Trumpet or Cornet is reasonably inexpensive, can be started at age 10 or so, but is quite popular which is a drawback when it comes to finding a place in an orchestra or band. The Trumpet can be used for orchestras, wind bands, jazz bands, brass bands and some rock groups. The Cornet can do the same things and play the same music, but is really at home in the brass band

    * the French Horn is quite expensive and difficult to play. It can be started at age 11 or so, but it is not uncommon to transfer to the Horn from other brass instruments at a later age. There are never enough Horn players around which is an advantage when it comes to finding a place in an orchestra or band. It can be used for orchestras, wind bands, some brass bands but not jazz bands or rock groups

    * the Trombone is reasonably priced, can be started at age 10 or so, and is not at the moment very popular which is an advantage when it comes to finding a place in an orchestra or band. It is very versatile and can be used in orchestras, wind bands, jazz bands, brass bands and some rock groups. It is bulky to carry

    * the Tuba is very expensive, and can be started at age 11 or so although many players start on another brass instrument like the Tenor Horn or Euphonium and transfer later on. There are rarely enough Tuba players which is an advantage when it comes to finding a place in an orchestra or band. It can be used for orchestras, wind bands, brass bands and some jazz bands, but not rock groups. It is bulky and heavy

    * there are other types of brass instrument such as the Euphonium or the Flugel Horn, mainly of interest if you live in an area where brass bands are popular.


Percussion

* strangely, the Piano is a percussion instrument. It is the most versatile instrument of all, finding a place in almost every type of music at some time or other. It is expensive to buy and cannot be transported. Playing it can be a solitary pursuit until you are a pretty advanced player.

Physical Things to Check for

Instrument Selection

FLUTE

1. Arms are long enough to hold the flute to the mouth and still cover keys properly

2. Upper lip characteristics are conductive to proper embouchure. (A short upper lip or a bead of skin in the centre of the upper lip tends to make it difficult to form a good embouchure)

3. Closed teeth meet evenly.

4. A clear tone is easily produced on the head joint.

5. Eye-hand co-ordination is good.

CLARINET AND SAXOPHONE

1. Hands are large enough to reach all keys ( and fingertips are large enough to cover the tone holes on clarinet.)

2. Thumbs are not double-jointed.

3. Student's orthodontist approves of him/he playing clarinet or saxaphone.

4. Eye-hand co-ordination is good.

TRUMPET

1. Lips are thin to medium (Thick lips tend to be suited for trombone and baritone)

2. Front teeth are straight and even. Closed teeth meet Evenly.

3.Student is able to sing a common folk song.

4. Level of confidence is high.

5. Work habits are strong and achievement is high.

6. Parental suport is strong.

TROMBONE AND BARITONE

1. Stature is adequate to handle the size of the instrument.

2. Arms are long enough to reach lower positions on trombone.

3.Lips are medium to thick. (Thin lips tend to be better suited for trumpet)

4. Student is able to sing a common folk song.

5. Sense of pitch is exceptional.

PERCUSSION OR DRUMS

1. Physical co-ordination is exceptional. Student is able to "march' qarter notes while clapping eighth notes.

2. Student maintains a steady tempo while echo clapping four measure phrases.

3. Student has previous keyboard experience (desirable, but not necessary)

4. Commitment to becoming a complete percussionist is unwavering.

5. Student is self-controlled.

6. Dependability and sense of responsibility are strong.

7. Parental support is strong.

Guitar

The first thing you have to consider is what style of music you want to play on the guitar, because this makes all the difference to the cost and the ease of learning. Broadly speaking your choice is between classical guitar, Spanish guitar, folk guitar and rock or pop style played on an electric guitar.

  1. Your right arm can reach across the guitar comfortably.

  2. Your left hand can hold the neck with thumb and middle finger touching.

Piano

  1. You know your alphabet and can count.

  2. You can follow from left to right with your eye.

 


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