The Best First Instruments for Kids

Red Cat Reading Team Blog, fun activities

Parents may want their children to learn how to play an instrument for a number of reasons! In fact, there are numerous benefits to be had from learning an instrument, especially early on as a child. There’s just one problem, how do you know which instrument is right for your child? There are a few different factors involved that can help you make this decision, so we’ve gone through some of the best beginner instruments for kids FOR you!

1. Recorder

One of the easiest woodwinds to pick up is definitely the recorder. Many schools will have group recorder classes and most teachers use the recorder as an introductory instrument. Some parents might have even had this experience growing up as well!

The reason why the recorder is such a popular first instrument in schools is because they’re relatively inexpensive, easy for kids to hold, and can be well sanitized. Kids don’t have to have a great mastery of breathing control to get the hang of the recorder, which removes one of the big hurdles most woodwinds present.

The most important thing for kids to learn with the recorder is finger positioning. Depending on where a child places their fingers over the holes carved into the recorder, the notes will change. Remember which note is which will take some time, but a simple fingering chart may be enough for a parent to teach a child. In some cases, using colored pieces of tape or stickers next to the holes can help children remember which note is which.

Another great thing about the recorder is that it helps prepare children to play other woodwinds, like the flute or clarinet, both of which use a similar fingering system. The recorder is very portable and it teaches the important beginning techniques of woodwinds, which are the breathing and finger positioning. Once a child spends some time with the recorder they will be ready to tackle the more difficult mouthpieces of the flute or clarinet, or other woodwind instruments.

2. Drums

Parents often want their kids to be quieter, not louder. But drum studies teach kids rhythm which is an essential element in all music. The drums are so much fun and can even be a great outlet for kids dealing with aggression and teenage angst! With the drums, everything is built around rhythm and control. Drum students can start off learning very basic concepts, like tempo and rhythm. 

If you’re concerned about the noise and size factor of drum sets, there’s really good news for parents. There are now a number of electronic drum kits on the market which result in much quieter spaces while your child plays and listens on headphones. The most you’ll hear while your child is practicing might be some tap-tap-taps from the sticks, but that should be about it! This gives them all the benefits of the drums, and they can just practice with headphones on turning one of the loudest instruments into one of the quietest!

3. Piano

Many of us adults remember our parents forcing us to take piano lessons and perform recitals, which more than likely led us to take our interests elsewhere. In reality, it’s all about the right attitude and encouragement. 

What’s hard for children to see is that learning the piano or keyboard is so special because it forms the basis of so much music. It is one of the few instruments in which all elements of music (melody, harmony, rhythm and dynamics) can be expressed at all levels of complexity. Not only that, it is a very clear instrument to learn. You can start by just pressing one key and it’s a great stepping stone for kids to then move over to other instruments.

It’s important to make sure your child knows that they aren’t expected to be a piano prodigy and that piano is just for fun. You can start by encouraging your child to play melodies they enjoy and keep the experience lighthearted. You can even try to learn with them or participate in simple duets together. Feeling supported can make all the difference with a child who is learning piano for the first time!

4. Singing

While not everyone is blessed with the “perfect” singing voice, everyone is born with their own unique musical instrument, our voice. It’s arguably the least expensive instrument around! 

Many adults and children alike enjoy singing along to their favorite songs on the radio or around the house just for the fun of it. However, most of us don’t pull out sheet music with the exact notes of the song on it for reference. Recognizing and practicing the notes and techniques used while singing is what separates singing for fun, to learning how to sing technically.

This may sound a bit too serious and tricky for young children, however, many children can learn concepts like pitch early on with some practice. Learning to read sheet music may seem like a difficult task for kids, but it is certainly not impossible as long as you start slowly and learn little by little. 

Perhaps the best part of practicing singing is that it is expressive and joyful! Even if your child doesn’t quite get the hang of it at first, they’re sure to have a lot of fun along the way.

5. Xylophone

The best way to introduce younger children to musical instruments is to make it fun and there aren’t many instruments that are more fun to play than a xylophone! Kids can develop their fine and gross motor skills by holding the mallets and learning how to control the strength of the sound by how hard they hit the keys. This will help them down the line if they decide to try a different instrument with more complicated valves and keys.

A xylophone is also a great way to learn about basic melodies and rhythms. Because it’s a percussion instrument, it relies very heavily on these things to drive the music forward.

It will teach your child how to count and follow a beat. Also, because a xylophone only has a limited number of notes, it’s not overwhelming. You can also find color coded xylophones or ones that have numbers or letters on the keys that can help guide your child and make them feel more comfortable. 

Xylophones also have a very charming look and sound, so they won’t be a bother to have around the house. You can find some very small and inexpensive varieties out there, so you won’t have to commit a lot of space or money to it.


Tips for Making Your Decision


Let Your Child Choose

Make a trip to the music store with your child and let them try out different instruments for sale. While you may already have a particular instrument in mind for them you’d like them to try, they may have different ideas.

If you were to choose the instrument for them, you run the risk of your child getting bored and losing motivation to practice the instrument pretty quickly. By letting them choose the instrument themselves, even if it’s from a group that you pre-select for them, you give them the opportunity to feel independent and responsible for their own selection. They might be more motivated to practice and use their instrument if they got to pick it out all by themselves.

Choose the Right Size

Another thing to be careful of is choosing the right sized instrument for your child. Even though kids grow quickly and you may have to upgrade eventually, if an instrument is too big, they won’t be able to play it properly and may feel frustrated. The best way to set your child up for success is to find an appropriately sized instrument that is easy for them to hold and play.

Level of Difficulty

While it may be tempting to have your child start playing a very high-level instrument at a young age, this could be a mistake. Many instruments require a lot of study of music theory and lots of memorization and technique. Some kids may be well suited for this type of instrument, however, it’s probably best to build up to this kind of instrument after learning some basic techniques through other easier instruments. 


If your child is very motivated to learn one of the pricier instruments out there and you have the funds, then by all means, go for it! However, if you’re on a budget and just want to get your child interested in music in general, you might want to consider how much you’d like to invest in your child’s new instrument. 

Since there’s always a chance that kids might lose interest in new things quickly, parents might hesitate to spend a lot of money on something that might only be picked up a few times. With the right level of support and encouragement, your child will likely be able to continue to practice and enjoy their instrument, but if this isn’t the case, you might want to keep in mind the cost of the instrument.

Start off with a less costly instrument and gauge your child’s dedication and interest, then perhaps you can upgrade down the line.  

We hope you have a better idea of what instrument might best suit your child and how to make the final decision! Just be sure to remember that music is all about expression and enjoyment, so have fun sharing this opportunity with your children!