Which way will the wind blow? Choosing the right band instrument

There are so many different instruments to choose from in the woodwind and brass family! Which is the right band instrument for your child? Picking an instrument can be fun … and overwhelming.

Unlike string instruments, wind and brass instruments do not come in different sizes to adjust to the stature of the student. Many wind and brass instrument players begin at the earliest around the age of 9 or 10. It is very important that fingers can reach the keys of their chosen wind instrument. Some instruments have keys with open holes and the player’s fingers must be large enough to create a complete seal to create the desired note. Budding musicians must be able to develop an appropriate embouchure for a reed and/or mouthpiece with their mouth and lips. For children who are in the process of losing baby teeth and waiting for their new teeth to come in, this is a huge hurdle!


How do you choose the right band instrument for you or your child?

A few things to think about when deciding what instrument to play:

Size- Do you want to be able to put your instrument case in your book bag? A flute is a great choice! Can your school provide you with an extra instrument so that you don’t have to lug a tuba home every day? Your arms will get tired even holding the smallest of instruments as your muscles build up stamina to support your new posture. Even though a piccolo is small, your arms might get more tired than if you are playing a French horn that you can rest on your lap.

Sound- Listen to several wind and brass instruments and see what sound you prefer. You won’t sound like a professional at first, and you need to practice a lot, so make sure your instrument will eventually make a sound you are interested in listening to on a regular basis.

Register- Are you interesting in always playing the melody? Pick a higher sounding instrument. Do you prefer the harmonies and accompaniment parts? Pick a lower sounding instrument.

Genre- What kind of music do you like to listen to?

  • Classical? An oboe is awesome and the star of the orchestra!
  • Jazz? Saxophone is king- and there are so many different saxophones that you can try after you learn alto saxophone!
  • Big Band? Trumpet and Trombone are exciting, loud, and fun!

Cost- Some instruments are definitely more expensive than others. Instruments will need maintenance and upkeep. Many woodwind instruments require that you purchase new reeds on a regular basis. And brass instruments will need valve oil. Always consider how much it will cost to buy or rent an instrument when first starting out. Sometimes a school will provide an instrument (bassoon and tuba for example.) However, students are usually responsible for obtaining most wind and brass instruments. When you take private lessons you want to make sure you have your own instrument for each of your lessons and for your daily practice!

No matter what you pick, it will be the appropriate way to toot your own horn!


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