Choose the Perfect Instrument for Your Child by analysing Temperament, Physique, Intelligence, Initial Expense and Transport, by Sue Hunt, Music in Practice
The Perfect Instrument for Your Child?

There are several instruments available for very young children.  Most little ones start on piano or violin or recorder.  However, as all children are different, it might be worth considering a few things before coming to a decision.

If you assess your child’s temperament, physique and intelligence, it will be easier to choose the right instrument.  You might want to consider ease of transport and the initial expense of the instrument before committing.

The following instruments are all taught in Suzuki studios.


Temperament: A well behaved child will get on well.  This is not the instrument for a hyperactive child.  The violin is a  complicated and challenging instrument to learn. A young violinist needs to be able to relate well to adults, and to learn to accept help from teachers and parents.  It’s worth noting that there can be some cut throat competition about who gets to play the top part in a group.

Physique: A child who likes dancing will probably enjoy playing the violin.  The instrument transmits a lot of vibration to the chin and shoulder.  Some children like this, but some hate it.  A good sense of balance as the playing position is a challenge for young children, because the violin is played to the left of the mid line.

Mind Power: Playing the violin is complicated needs a lot of perseverance. Very bright children, who learn easily, are likely to become frustrated by the amount of repetitive practice needed.   Some intelligence and responsiveness is useful.

Initial Expense: There are lots of cheap small instruments on the market.

Transport: Small and light.


Temperament: The same as the violin.  However, a violist likes to be in the middle of the group and generally enjoys a more holistic feel for music.

Physique: The same as the violin.  Small violas are no bigger than violins.  Older violists need more physical strength, long fingers and flexible hands, to cope with larger instruments.  Children with a lower voice are often drawn to the viola.

Mind Power: The same as the violin.

Initial Expense: There are lots of cheap small violins on the market which can be converted into tiny violas.

Transport: Small and light.


Temperament: The cello is the opera star of the string world.  Some children just fall in love with the cello’s beautiful singing voice.  Like other string players, cellists need to be able to relate well to adults.

Physique: An adequate sense of pitch is useful.  Cellists often come with big hands, long arms and lower voices.  A child with a big chest cavity will enjoy the resonance of the cello.  This instrument requires a certain amount of strength, not only to play but also to carry.

Mind Power: The cello suits a quiet, shy, deeply thinking child.

Initial Expense: A bit more expensive than a beginners violin.

Transport: You will have to be the cello slave till your child gets strong enough to do the carrying.

Double Bass:

Temperament: A supportive child who likes rhythm will enjoy the double bass.  Not many small children are drawn to its low gentle sound, but the more kinaesthetic child will love feeling the music.

Physique: It is really helpful for a young bassist to be physically big and strong.

Mind Power: The double bass does not need huge intelligence.  There is a challenging repertoire of virtuoso music but beginner bass is simpler to play than the cello.

Initial Expense: Somewhat more expensive than a beginners violin.

Transport: Big and heavy.  A child will need a double bass slave for years to come.


Temperament: Children who like gathering and cuddling things close to themselves will enjoy the guitar.

Physique: A child who is well coordinated, with nimble fingers and enjoys arts and crafts should do well.  Playing the guitar will develop a strong and flexible left hand.

Mind Power: Having a good head for numbers helps, as does being naturally conscientious and methodical.

Initial Expense: Inexpensive pint size guitars are readily available.

Transport: Children think it is cool to carry their own guitar case.


Temperament: Your child will just know that this has got to be his or her instrument.

Physique: A parent will need the strong physique and a big car in order to transport a harp.  Living in Salt Lake City is an advantage as there are more harp students and teachers in this city than in the entire United States.

Mind Power: Coping 46 strings and 8 pedals needs intelligence, focus and dedication.  Tuning can be an issue.

Initial Expense: Even a small Celtic harp is expensive.

Transport: Big and heavy and awkward.  A child will need strong and dedicated harp slave for years to come.


Temperament: This is not an instrument for social children as playing the piano is quite a solitary activity.  A loner who relates well to adults will do well.

Physique: The piano doesn’t require lots of energy and would suit a quite delicate child.  Anyone who can sit still and who is reasonably good with their hands can learn to play it.  Good eyesight is useful for reading complicated piano music.

Mind Power: A child who does well at school, is good at figuring things out, and has plenty of mental energy, will find it easier to learn.

Initial Expense: Expensive, unless obtained second hand.  Some families make do with an keyboard with weighted keys.

Transport: Don’t.


Temperament: Like the piano and harp, this is an instrument for a child who is a bit of a loner.  It would suit a child who needs to feel more powerful but who hasn’t found a way.

Physique: With the pedal extensions used by Suzuki organ teachers, children don’t have to be large, but as they grow it helps to be able to reach several keyboards, stops and a pedalboard.  Good eyesight helps.  The music is complicated to read and has to sit at a distance from the player.  The player will develop excellent coordination and powerful core muscles, from balancing on the bench and using all 4 limbs at once.

Mind Power: The same as the piano.

Initial Expense: Some churches will let you practice free.  An electric organ for home practice can be pricy.

Transport: Not unless you are moving a small keyboard.


Temperament: Shy, quiet and sociable, not dominant or aggressive.

Physique: The flute needs a lot of air and can make you dizzy after a few minutes of blowing, so it is not an instrument for a delicate child.  Average size lips and teeth are an advantage.  Children who like dancing will enjoy this instrument.

Flutes can be played with a U shaped head joint.  This makes it possible to play with the hands in front of the body instead of stretched out to the right side, ideal for a young child.

Mind Power: The flute suits a wide range of intelligences.

Initial Expense: A bit more expensive than a beginners violin.

Transport: Easy to carry.


Temperament: Quiet children will enjoy the gentle recorder.  For the more cooperative child, there’s plenty of opportunity to learn to play chamber music at an early stage.  Bouncy, spirited individuals will probably be put off and put you off too, with noisy imitations of train whistles and sirens.

Physique: A very good instrument for frail children, including those with breathing difficulties.  There are few technical challenges to playing simple tunes.  The descant recorder is suitable for very small children.  As they grow they can move on to the larger sizes and more virtuoso repertoire which requires and develops very nimble fingers and tongue.

Mind Power: The recorder suits a wide range of intelligences but some children can find that they need more challenges than the recorder can provide.

Initial Expense: The cheapest of the lot.

Transport: A descant recorder can be stuffed into a pocket.

If you want to find out more, read “The Right Instrument For Your Child” by Atarah Ben-Tovim. and Douglas Boyd.


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