The best instrument for kids is a subject of some debate. We run a website dedicated to learning how to play the piano, so you might think we are biased, but actually there is no elitism involved in our guide to the best instrument for kids to start playing!
Instead of sing the praises of piano for kids, we’ve given a balanced look at which instruments we think are the best for learning. Yes, piano is number one (in our opinion) but there are plenty of reasons for this. We explain more below as we delve into the argument for learning the piano first, or instead of other instruments.
The Best Instrument for Kids is The One They Love
Before we delve into the reasons we think the piano is such a great starting point, we wanted to cover one of the biggest issues children come across and why it should greatly influence your decision for kids’ instrument. That issue is motivation.
The best instrument for kids to learn how to play is the one they are going to stick with. So, if you have a child that desperately wants to learn how to play the guitar, don’t stifle this and tell them they must learn piano! It is way better to ensure that they end up with an instrument that they are passionate about.
You don’t want your youngster to get a few lessons into learning a new instrument and quit because they just aren’t that interested. Though we can tell you all of the brilliant reasons why the piano is such a wonderful choice for a beginner, if they have no motivation to be able to play songs on the piano the chances of them giving up are greatly increased.
You might have a child who is desperate to be the next Jimi Hendrix, and this should be encouraged too.
The Argument for Piano
So, why is piano the best instrument for kids to get started?
This might sound baffling to someone who tried to learn the instrument 30 years ago. Pianos were expensive and lessons were expensive. In the modern age, these two barriers have been taken away, or at least bridged by cheaper equipment to get you started.
Keyboards and digital pianos provide a viable alternative to having to learn on an acoustic piano. For this reason, more and more people are starting to learn how to play. Though some of the features won’t be exactly the same as playing an acoustic piano, this doesn’t matter too much as you can always adjust in the future if you switch to playing a grand or upright piano. A keyboard still has the same notes and note patterns, allowing you to learn the basics, or even some advanced piano techniques.
Many keyboards are 61-key designs rather than the full range of 88, but this isn’t too limiting unless you are going to play classical concertos. There are a lot of reasons why a “real” piano is preferable, but the point is that getting started on a keyboard is a perfectly good way to do things, especially for children.
Similarly, you don’t have to have lessons in person, and the option to learn using an online platform such as our academy, or the different apps that are available, means that piano can be learned in your own time, with no need to pay the large sums of money for someone to come to your house and teach you, or to go to a music academy of any kind.
Consider the saving when paying for a monthly membership on a platform like Pianu (for unlimited hours of practice) against paying $50-100 a week for a lesson. If you can afford a teacher in real life, this is great, but it is no real disadvantage teaching yourself anymore.
Okay, this is true for most things in life. There is more information available to us than ever before. This is the same case for some other instruments, and there is plenty out there for guitar and ukulele, but the piano has one of the strongest communities going.
We’re not just talking about the basics here, either. Though you can follow a course to find out the basics and get to a decent level of ability, you can also find some more obscure knowledge on the internet. You might even find tutorials on YouTube to help you to learn really obscure songs or techniques.
Check out the video below as an example. If you wanted to learn the basics of jazz piano pre-internet then it might involve finding a specific teacher, buying a load of books, not being sure if you had fully understood those books…
Now, it can all be condensed into a 20 minute video for your reference.
This is just one example. The point is that all the nuances of playing the piano, and the lessons you want to learn, are probably available somewhere. You don’t have to worry about not being able to find the information.
The flip side of this is that if you want to learn a more obscure instrument then there may not be quite as much information. Learning the French Horn and teaching yourself is possible, but there is nowhere near the same amount of information online. It is specialist to teach and hard for people to make YouTube videos.
There Are Specific Kids Lessons
One of the reasons that piano is arguably the best instrument for kids is the fact that there are many different lessons aimed at different age groups. So, if you have a very young child and they want to learn an instrument, the piano is one of the few that they might be able to understand and have learning resources for.
More and more virtual lessons such as the one linked to below are cropping up, aimed specifically for a younger audience.
Children learn at a different rate and with different interaction to adults. If you look for “piano for children” books on Amazon you will find a number of options. “Bagpipes for kids” not so much!
You Can Use Interactive Lessons
Did you know that your browser can interact with a keyboard or a digital piano? If you have a USB-MIDI connection then you can use your keyboard in your browser. If you have started Pianu lessons then you will quickly see how this works. With some instruments such as string and brass instruments, it is very hard for any app or software to understand if you are playing the right thing. Some cleverly use the microphone of your device, but this is unreliable.
Because your keyboard or digital piano can be used in your browser, you can undertake interactive lessons. Our academy lessons can tell you whether or not you are playing something correctly and walk you through exercises. This is something you would have needed another human for in the past, but now, you just need a cable to your laptop.
Why do interactive lessons make piano the best instrument for kids to get started? Well, kids get bored easily, and are likely to make a few mistakes if they are left to their own devices. The methods we use turn piano into a fun and rewarding activity with constant feedback, rather than just a chore or a boring lesson that they have to do once or twice a week.
There has been a big task to “gamify” music in recent years. There are games like Rock Band which have been really popular, and in truth, learning to press the buttons in the right timing on the computer is pretty similar to the basics of piano! This is why so many great kids’ resources exist.
Sound Good in Minutes
This is one of the top reasons for piano being a great starting point. If you are going to learn how to play violin, expect a long time of sounding like fingers on a chalkboard. That’s just the way it is. Until you get to grips with finger positions and some of the more complex aspects of using two hands, you probably aren’t going to be able to play a tune quickly. For children, this is very frustrating.
With the piano, a child can potentially be playing a song in a matter of minutes. This is no exaggeration. There are no complicated finger techniques or strength to build up, not when you just get started anyway.
In our fundamentals course, we start people with Ode to Joy. Not only is this a song that most people know, or at least a melody they have heard, it is incredibly simple. Because of the way a piano is designed and laid out, all you have to do is press keys. No blowing, no clenching of strings, just press and go! For this reason, we bet you could be playing Ode to Joy in a few minutes even if you’ve never played before.
Often, the best instruments for kids are those that can provide instant gratification. According to Summit Medical Group, “a normal attention span is 3 to 5 minutes per year of a child’s age. Therefore, a 2-year-old should be able to concentrate on a particular task for at least 6 minutes”.
If your child starts to learn how to play when they are five or six, the chances are they are only going to be able to concentrate in a short 15 or 20-minute burst. This doesn’t give much of an opportunity to learn complex tunes. Instead, starting with simple, gratifying basics can be a great method for children.
There are those who think that adult attention spans are getting worse, too, so it might not be a bad idea to take the same approach with older learners.
Piano (or Keyboard) is Easy to Maintain
This might sound like a controversial statement. A lot of people dread the time of year that they have to get their piano tuned. This can be a challenge, but it is a case of getting someone to come and do the tuning for you (unless you are particularly skilled).
If you are playing digital piano or keyboard though, the maintenance is next to nothing. You don’t have to do much at all to keep the piano working at its full potential. Compare this to playing a guitar, for instance. Guitars can get broken strings at any point, as well as having to be kept at a certain humidity, have the strings changed regularly whether they are broken or not, and of course, need to be tuned every time you play.
Compared to all this, piano is a breeze. It’s ready to play whenever you are.
Private Practice (and Peace for Parents)
Again, we are referring to the digital piano aspect rather than acoustic here. If your kid is playing a digital piano or a keyboard then they will often find that there is an option to play with headphones. This diverts the sound that would play out of the speakers and plays it privately to whoever is controlling the keyboard.
If you’ve ever seen a child play around on the keyboard then you might see why piano, or at least digital piano/keyboard is the best instrument for kids as far as their parents are concerned! You can let your children play in the morning first thing and not have to worry about the noise disturbing you.
Even lessons can be carried out using headphones, if you wish! A simple headphone splitter will allow two people to listen from one headphone output. Some digital pianos even have two headphone outputs.
A quick warning at this point: You should buy specific, volume-limited headphones for children if you can, or at least ensure they are keeping the sound down to a reasonable level. Kids’ hearing is sensitive and easy to damage by playing loud audio, so be sure to protect their tiny ears!
Play a Multitude of Sounds (and Connect to PC)
If you are using a digital piano, the sounds you can create are almost endless. Some keyboards have hundreds of sounds inbuilt, meaning that you can experiment with different tones besides piano. Some have percussion and even novelty sound effects!
If you choose to connect to a computer you then also have the benefit of being able to use virtual instruments and music software. A guitar can be connected for recording, but it doesn’t have the benefit of being able to connect to PC and control instruments within a workstation such as GarageBand or more advanced software like Logic.
Some of the virtual instruments you can buy are actually synthesizers, meaning that they can generate a truly unlimited range of sounds.
Play the Full Musical Range
A piano has 88-keys. Digital pianos normally follow this pattern, too. This means that there is a huge range, and you can play high melodies as well as lower, bass parts. With some instruments, this might not be possible. Some instruments are even “keyed” so you can only play notes within a certain key.
This may not be specific to children, but it is certainly a good argument for piano being the best instrument for kids to get started, just like any other beginner.
Play Both Melody and Accompaniment
This is another key benefit of learning how to play the piano as your first instrument. It’s one of the many ways that a piano can give you a better overview of how music works. For example, you can play bass notes with your left hand while you play a melody with your right.
This is a crucial skill for those who want to get good at playing the piano, but if you want to learn how to play guitar or another instrument then it won’t be as vital, which means that you don’t necessarily learn the same skills and get the same picture of what is happening when you play music.
Your child won’t be introduced to playing with two hands right away, and it takes some time to get used to this. However, eventually, it is a skill that all piano players will learn.
The Best Instrument for Kids to Read Music
Learning how to read music is optional in the modern age, even for aspiring piano players. However, it can be a really useful skill and if you do plan to read music then the piano is the best instrument.
Some other instruments such as the guitar will introduce you to tabs, which are very helpful but just provide you with something else to learn. With the piano, this isn’t the case.
A keyboard is laid out in a way that means you can see how one key relates to another and how the piano translates to the staff. This means that you can learn sheet music a lot more quickly and easily than if you were using a lot of the other instruments. On top of this, playing keys on the piano is actually pretty easy by comparison to some other instruments, which means your kid can focus on reading the music before playing.
Playing the Piano is Good For Kids
Okay, now we are aware this sounds like we’re just trying to convince you that the piano is the ideal instrument for your kids. Make no mistake, lots of instruments can help your child with their development, and learning how to play guitar is also good, but a lot of the conclusive studies we have on piano show that it is strongly linked with development.
Here are some of the ways in which playing the piano is good for a child’s body and mind:
- It can be a way for a child to express themselves. This is fantastic for their mental health.
- Playing the piano has been shown to help people improve their memory, which can also boost performance in school. Other studies have also shown that it can help adults, too.
- Playing the piano can open up a lot of social opportunities for kids. Joining bands and pursuing their musical passion might become a big part of a child’s life.
- Piano can help people to feel calmer. This is great for children and adults alike, but both playing and listening to the piano can be a good way for children to feel more relaxed in their daily life.
- It teaches children some important life lessons. The fact that you need discipline and perseverance to get good at playing the piano is a key lesson for children to learn early on in their lives.
- It can strengthen motor skills. Young children in particular will find that their coordination and other motor skills are improved when playing the piano.
Summary – Is Piano The Best Instrument for Kids?
It’s never too late to learn an instrument, and while there is a lot of pressure put on kids, the fact that they show any sort of musical interest should be seen as a huge positive. Playing the piano is a great pastime for anyone.
There are so many instruments out there to get started with. For example, loads of parents encourage their children to play the ukulele first as it is affordable and portable, but ukulele doesn’t have much resemblance to other instruments and it is quite unique. Switching to the guitar from a ukulele is a massive stepping stone. Switching from piano to another instrument means you have built a solid knowledge of theory before you get started.
As we made clear from the outset, learning an instrument should be celebrated even if it isn’t a piano. However, it is clear that the piano has a lot of advantages, and you can pick up a keyboard for an affordable price tag, meaning that the money doesn’t have to come into your concerns either. 20 years ago, it might have.
There’s little denying that the piano is great for children, and if you have a little one with the patience to learn, we recommend getting them started and seeing if it is the first step on an incredible musical journey.