There are many reasons why a student under age 7 is too young to begin on an instrument other than the piano and such students should strongly consider piano or recorder before beginning study of another instrument. In some cases, the KMI faculty will allow students to enroll on both piano and another instrument before age 7 if the student's insterest and the parents financial commitment merit such an approach. Normally, 1 or 2 years of piano FIRST is the easiest way to avoid many difficulties and frustrations in the long run.
Holding: Many instruments can be very difficult or impossible for very young hands to hold:
1) Wind instruments are often TOO LARGE to hold.
2) The keys on wind instruments are too far apart to reach.
3) String instruments come in many small sizes, however holding the bow and fingering a string instrument (violin, viola, cello, bass) is very difficult.
Making a Sound: Just to produce a recognizable sound on many instruments may take several weeks to months. This process is even longer for students under age 7:
1) FLUTE: Blowing across the mouthpiece of the flute correctly to produce a tone (and not the sound of blowing air) takes many weeks. The student cannot proceed to fingering or learning any music until this basic skill is mastered.
2) CLARINET/OBOE: Reed instruments produce a sound more readily, but it takes months before the lips have the strength to support the air pressure (embouchure) needed to produce a good and continuous sound.
3) BRASS: Blowing a brass instrument is similar to the flute in that the lips must be able to generate a clear vibrating sound from just the mouthpiece (for brass it is a buzz), before any music can be learned.
4) STRINGS: Keeping the bow straight and even, not hitting other strings, while drawing it across the string is a difficult skill and a beginning string player will be "scratchy" for many years.
Dexterity and Strength: Many instruments require finger dexterity and strength that young hands do not yet have.
1) Wind instruments require significant strength to hold the keys down solidly so that the sound is the correct pitch and not raspy.
2) Wind instruments require unusual finger patterns for each note, often not in a logical sequence and often in a difficult shape for young hands to match.
3) The finger motions on string instruments are very complex, involving holding and lifting in multiple combinations of finger patterns. Inability to finger the instrument correctly results in notes very out of tune and a scratchy timbre which can be completely unrecognizable and unpleasant.
Eye-Hand Coordination: Playing a musical instrument requires developing careful eye-hand coordination in that reading music means translating the musical symbols into specific actions of the finger, hand and arms. This kind of coordination develops at different rates in all children, and most children under age 7 can have great difficulty coordinating what the eye sees with actual hand motions. .
Sensativity to Sound: The ability to recognize the qualities of sound develops at different rates in all children, and a music education is required for that sensativity to include degrees of loudness (dynamic), pitch and sound qualities. For wind and string instruments the quality of sound is controlled by fine adjustments in the fingers, arm and/or mouth, which requires years to master. A beginning student will often be completely unaware that she/he is playing horribly out of tune or producing a scratchy or squeaky sound. It can often take years to develop the ear sensativity and then the motor skills necessary to produce a good and in-tune sound.
IN SUMMARY: Two years of piano gives the student a solid grounding in reading music, hearing what music should sound like, and developing important muscle skills that will make the transition to another instrument much easier in the long run. On the piano the student will gain more immediate gratification in learning and playing songs and pieces that are recognizable, meaningful and enjoyable. If the student starts on a non-piano instrument, more than a year can go by before the student produces a sound that is decent and can play a song that is recognizable and not out of tune.
ALTERNATIVE TO PIANO: Although the piano is the BEST first instrument for all students, for reasons of cost and interest it is possible that a student may begin instead with the RECORDER. This wind instrument is much easier to play than the traditional flute, saxophone, clarinet and oboe, and therefore the student can gain the basics of reading and making music without the aforementioned difficulties. KMI OFFERS PRIVATE RECORDER LESSONS FOR STUDENTS INTERESTED IN LEARNING A WIND INSTRUMENT.
Learn more about why piano is
the best first instrument.