Why You Should Buy Musical Instruments For Your Children This Christmasmarshall_qtnpwj
Give The Gift of Music this Christmas
We know. The thought of your children making your teeth itch as they screech their way through a violin solo is not pleasant. Neither is having to face your elderly neighbor at 6 am on a Sunday morning when he comes round to complain about the continuous and very loud, drumming emanating from your child’s bedroom. However, there are numerous and well-documented advantages of introducing your children to the joys of playing music at an early age. You just have to know what to buy.
Musical instruments make fantastic Christmas gifts for children – as long as they’re age appropriate and of reasonable quality.
Benefits Of Playing A Musical Instrument
The benefits of learning to play an instrument go far beyond the pure enjoyment of music. In addition to manual dexterity, playing a musical instrument boosts memory and creativity, and can also increase basic maths and arithmetic skills. That may sound odd to you, but it’s true!
Playing a musical instrument actually has many parallels with maths. By learning to understand beat, rhythm and scales, children also learn how to divide, create fractions and recognise patterns. In fact, studies show that the benefits of playing a musical instrument music are proven more effective in strengthening abstract reasoning skills in both younger and older children than learning computers skills.
In addition, TIME magazine reports that regularly playing an instrument actually changes the shape and power of your brain, adding up to seven IQ points in both children and adults. When children learn to play a musical instrument, their brains start hearing and processing sounds they couldn’t otherwise hear. These enhanced sound-processing skills help with literacy, which can have a significant effect on their overall academic performance. Playing an instrument is also often a social activity, which helps foster discipline, patience, and cooperation while rewarding effort.
The same article referenced a study by Northwestern University that found it’s far more beneficial for children to actively play an instrument and be engaged in the music than to simply sit and listen to it. So, if you’re looking to buy musical instruments for your children this Christmas, here are a few points to bear in mind:
Buy The Real Thing, Not A Toy
It’s very tempting to buy a small child a toy xylophone or piano. In fact, toy shops are full of these kinds of things at this time of year. However, please don’t go this route. Most of the instruments found in toy shops are generally very badly made. Cheap toy instruments usually lack in both tonal quality and durability. Even small children quickly tire of something that sounds bad and breaks easily, and this can permanently turn them off playing an instrument. We’re not suggesting letting your toddler lose on an expensive drum kit or violin, but there is definitely middle ground here.
Make Sure The Instrument Is Age-Appropriate
Don’t go giving your five-year-old a saxophone expecting him to be the new Kenny G by the time he’s six. Brass instruments (such as tubas, trumpets, trombones) and woodwind instruments (saxophones, oboes, flutes and so on) are difficult to play for anyone under the age of nine. You need a reasonably mature diaphragm and lungs to play these instruments properly, not to mention dexterous finger coordination. Your child also needs to be able to control their breathing and facial muscles for extended periods.
The best wind instrument for small children is undoubtedly the recorder. This was, I’m sure, the first musical instrument most of us ever learned to play (the only one in most cases!) A simple resin or plastic soprano recorder is the best place to start. You can get one-piece ones, which are perfect for children between the ages of about two and six. Older children can handle the two and three-piece versions. Recorders are great for children because even simple melodies such as “Hot Cross Buns” introduce them to pentatonic scales.
Other great “blowing” instruments for children (between the ages of one and six) include kazoos and harmonicas. You can get fun, brightly coloured ones that make awesome stocking fillers. They’re inexpensive but still produce good sound. Try to get a metal one (as opposed to the uber-budget plastic ones), as they sound better, last longer and feel better in a child’s hand.
Guitars, even the three-quarter-sized ones, are difficult for small children to play. They can even be difficult to play for small-handed adults. Children should be able to start playing a smaller guitar from the age of about 11, but if you’re looking to buy musical instruments with strings for younger children, you can’t go wrong with a ukulele.
A four-year-old should be able to learn the ukulele without too much trouble. It’s much easier to play than a guitar. Not only are ukuleles significantly smaller, they also only have four strings, instead of six. A soprano ukulele is the ideal starter instrument as its frets and strings are closer together. This makes it ideal for little hands. It also has synthetic strings, which are much more fingertip-friendly than the steel strings of a guitar.
Again, you can pick up cheap ukuleles in toy shops, but don’t! Rather head to a dedicated music shop. Here, your child can try out the instrument under the expert guidance of one of the assistants. This also gives you the opportunity to adjust the specifications of the instrument specifically to suit your child. The action, for example, is the distance between the strings and the frets. This is easily adjusted so that it feels comfortable under your child’s fingers. If the action is “bad,” the instrument can be very difficult to play.
Check out our range of really fun and affordable Mahalo ukulele’s, available in a range of different shapes and sizes.
Pianos And Keyboards
If you want to buy musical instruments for your children that fall into this category, you really can’t go wrong with a keyboard. I’m sure many of us had those awesome little Casio keyboards as kids. There really is nothing wrong with them as an introduction to playing on keys. They’re an inexpensive way to find out if your child’s the next Elton John or whether it’s all just a five-minute wonder.
If it turns out to be the former, then at some point, you’re going to have to think about lessons and invest in a piano. Or, at the very least, in a good quality keyboard with weighted keys. By age six, most children have mature-enough hands and fingers to play a keyboard or piano. But before you go headfirst into organising lessons for your budding Mozart, make sure he or she is also mature enough to sit still and concentrate for half an hour at a time. They will also need to have the discipline and motivation to practice outside of lesson time.
Before you shoot us down, consider this. Drums are a fantastic way for small children to develop their coordination, as well as learn about tone and rhythm. However, drumsticks, eyeballs, and children under the age of six are not friends. This is why hand drums are perfect for small children. Not only are they safer to play, there are also significant neurological benefits to actually touching the instrument you’re playing.
Djembe drums are the perfect instruments for children under the age of four. These traditional, goblet-shaped drums originate from West Africa, and produce a wide range of sounds when played with bare hands.
If you want to buy musical instruments for your children this Christmas, come and chat to the musical maestros at Marshall Music. There’s not much about musical instruments we don’t know – in fact, we’re not sure there’s anything! – so trust us to help you pick the perfect instrument for your child.