If you don’t like music, please stop reading now. Also, if you don’t like music, please go back to swimming in circles because you must be a goldfish.
As a parent of two young kids, I sometimes have to remember that my kids probably won’t be the next Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning or Carrie Underwood. No matter how much I decide to push them, the reality is that my wife and I want them to find things that they love, try their best and enjoy whatever hobbies they do. That being said, I want my kids to learn to play an instrument, any instrument. Even drums, despite my wife’s future protest. Sports are great and definitely have all kinds of benefits. I played baseball in college and I’m glad that I did. Those days are long gone and I’m a washed up athlete these days. However, I still get to play guitar for my daughter and write silly songs to keep her entertained. Learning an instrument is something that is *yours* and it’s a gift and blessing that you can keep forever as long as you keep playing. So here is a simple list of some reasons to encourage your children to take up music in one form or another.
1. Music makes kids smarter. It’s science, look it up. Here’s where I could say something clever like, “A 2004 study by blah blah of 500 blah blah in the American Journal of Blah showed that wocka wocka wocka,” but the truth is, a lot of research has been done on this. Playing an instrument improves memory and stimulates the part of the brain that develops abstract reasoning skills. Is your kid failing math? Teach them to play the trombone and they’ll get straight A’s. You can tell the teacher I told you that and it’s a fact.
2. Music provides them with an opportunity to meet people and build social skills (more science you can look up). Pretty self explanatory. Music brings people together with a common purpose: To make awesome music (or in the case of pop music, crap that sells on iTunes).
3. Playing an instrument builds confidence. Even if your kid isn’t any good at it, the nature of learning an instrument is that it’s an incremental process with step-wise goals and tangible ways to measure progress. It’s a great opportunity for kids to learn patience as well which means I probably should have learned to play 14 or 15 instruments.
4. Learning to play teaches discipline. Watch the movie “Whiplash.” Not that kind of discipline unless you smack your kids across the face to keep the tempo. I’ve only done that three times and my daughter was 2 years old so she won’t remember. Learning an instrument requires the aforementioned patience as well as attention to detail and practice. I’m pretty sure those things are part of discipline but then again I used to get D’s in elementary school citizenship.
5. It’s a great opportunity to *be a parent*. Helping your kid achieve goals, fostering the discipline required to practice, celebrating milestones, listening to them practice, it’s all a great opportunity to be present with your child.
6. Music relieves stress. Maybe not for you while your 10 year old is learning to play drums in his bedroom, but I’m sure it helps him deal with the drama going on in his life. 4th grade is super stressful so she needs it, back off. Playing music is a time when the mind is focused and everything else can disappear.
7. I mentioned this before, but I want to emphasize it. Music is for life. As a parent, you can help give your kids a gift that they can keep forever.
So how do you start? What instruments should you buy? Here’s a hint – don’t fall for the idea that you have to buy your kid the most expensive instrument at the local music store in order to give them a chance. You also don’t have to do one of those school instrument programs where some outside vendor comes in with a sales pitch and you end up paying like $1700 for a trumpet that’s really worth about $500. First off, don’t be afraid to invest in some lessons unless you already know how to play. GuitarCenter.com offers lessons and they have stores across the country. Here are some great beginner instruments for everyone, no matter your taste or budget. If you don’t like any of these, I’m a big fan of GuitarCenter.com because they have good prices and a better selection than most places. You can try them out in the store, but make sure to have them drain the spit valve on the tuba before your kid starts blowing on it.
ESP Guitars are awesome. This one is for less than $100. A lot of people recommend kids learn on an acoustic, but honestly, I prefer kids learning on an electric. They are simply easier to play because the action is lower and I find acoustics can sometimes frustrate a kid out of continuing to play. Try this one out and if they hate it, you’re only out $99.
If you’re looking for something else other than this particular guitar, here’s all of the offerings from Guitar Center.
This trumpet looks awesome and it’s under $300. It has great reviews as a beginner instrument and this is how I learned to read music. Big fan of the trumpet. Big fan. Here are some more brass instruments for you to peruse at your leisure.
This violin is a great starter for those wanting to learn one of the most beautiful sounding instruments ever created.
Here you can find more great orchestral stringed instruments if this violin isn’t up your alley
Want to give your kid a chance to learn piano but don’t want to fork out all the money for a baby grand or get a thrift shop antique with sticky keys? This full-scale electronic piano is an awesome choice at a good price. And if it falls on you when you move it, you won’t die.
More pianos/keyboards can be found here.
And finally, the one that all parents hear in their nightmares and the one that you definitely need to buy if you’re an aunt or an uncle to some lucky kid:
Okay, this portable kit from Traps is one of the greatest inventions EVER. It *had* to be made either by a parent or a really angry drummer’s neighbor. It is lightweight and portable AND can be played on “silent” mode for practicing. Seriously. Granted it’s never silent when you’re banging something with sticks but this kit has a built-in dampening system to significantly reduce the sound when desired. Pretty awesome.
Here are all the drums available, enough percussion to create migraines that never go away.
Bottom line, even if you don’t buy something today, consider asking your child if they are interested in getting “the most badass gift ever known to man that will make their life amazing and fulfilling.” After they ask you if you’re getting them a new dog and you say no and crush their dreams, encourage them to try out an instrument.