• Instrument Selection Guide
Clarinet - Listen

The clarinet is very popular for beginners and is a very widely used instrument. Clarinets play an important role in bands (such as marching band), symphony orchestras, jazz groups and small instrumental groups. The clarinet is a member of the Woodwind instrument family.

The basic clarinet is compact and easy to play for young students. Student clarinets are made of plastic and intermediate to professional clarinets are made of wood. Generally the basic Bb clarinet is preferred for beginners.

Sound is produced by vibrating a single reed, which is the same sound producing method as the saxophone. Because of the similarities, children starting out playing the clarinet could later progress to the saxophone.

Once the reeds are damaged or worn out they require replacement. Typically, students needs several reed replacements per month, especially in the beginning.

The clarinet requires maintenance and cleaning. See Clarinet Care and Maintenance.

Flute - Listen

The flute is one of the more popular instruments in band.  It is used in many different musical genres like bands (such as marching band), symphony orchestras, some jazz groups and small instrumental groups.  The flute also works well as a solo instrument.

The flute is the smallest and highest pitched band instrument and is a member of the woodwind family, even though it is made of metal and doesn't use a reed.  In order to produce the tone on the flute, the player blows across the tone hole of the mouthpiece, much like blowing across a soda bottle.  Since the flute is so small, it is easy to carry.

Your child's arms must be long enough to reach the keys comfortably.  Most ten year old students have enough arm length to reach the keys and the child's music teacher can determine if there will be an issue.  Intermediate and professional flutes have "open hole" construction which is more expensive and not necessary for most beginners. 

The flute requires careful assembly and periodic cleaning.  See Flute Care and Maintenance.

Trumpet - Listen

The trumpet is certainly one of the most popular instruments for young players and is the smallest and highest member of the brass family.  As with all brass instruments, the sound is produced by buzzing the lips into a mouthpiece.  Trumpets are always needed in bands (such as marching bands), symphony orchestras, jazz groups and small instrumental groups.  It is very common for the trumpet to perform solos and melodic lines.  All beginning trumpet players should start on a Bb instrument.

It is stored in its case in just two pieces.  Regular maintenance includes oiling the valves now and then and greasing the slides as needed.  See Trumpet Care and Maintenance.

Violin - Listen

The violin is the smallest member of the string family and the highest pitch of the four stringed instruments.  Sound is produced by drawing the bow across one of the four strings or by plucking the string with a finger.  The violin is a very popular instrument for beginners and is one of the most widely used instruments in the world.  It is well known for its use in symphony orchestras as well as county and bluegrass bands and other popular groups.  The violin is also good as a solo instrument and it is very common for the violin to perform solos in orchestra scores, as well as the melodic lines.

The violin comes in just two pieces, the instrument and the bow.  The bow uses horsehair or a synthetic material to vibrate the strings as it is drawn over the instrument.  The bow should be tightened before it is used and loosened before it is put away.  The most time consuming activity other than playing the instrument is tuning.  The violin should be tuned every day or every time it is taken out of the case.  In the beginning, teachers tune the string instruments for each student.  Eventually, students will learn to tune their own instrument.

A small amount of maintenance and cleaning of the violin is needed.  See Violin Care and Maintenance.

PLEASE NOTE:  A unique feature of student stringed instrument, is the variation in sizes.   Students have the option of full size, 3/4 size, 1/2 size all the way down to a 1/16 size violin.  The correct size for each student depends on the arm length and overall size of the student.  Before renting or purchasing a stringed instrument, please check with your school teach for the correct size, or measure your child to obtain the correct size needed.

Saxophone - Listen

The saxophone is very popular for beginners and is a very widely used instrument.  It is a member of the woodwind family even though it is made almost entirely of metal.  The sound is produced by a vibrating single reed which is the same sound producing method as the clarinet.  Many beginning students may not have hands large enough to fit around the saxophone keys.  In these cases, starting with the clarinet and switching over to the saxophone at a later date is suggested.  The most popular and best beginning instrument is an alto saxophone.  Saxophones are commonly found in bands (such as marching band), symphony orchestras, jazz and rock groups and small instrument groups.  The saxophone can perform solo melodies as well as play harmony parts.

Since the saxophone is the only woodwind instrument made of brass, it is capable of very loud sounds by a beginner.  With practice, a player can produce a very soft and sweet sound.  Since the saxophone is a reed instrument, regular replacement of the reeds is required. Typically, students need several reed replacements to per month.

The saxophone requires regular maintenance and cleaning.  See Saxophone Maintenance and Cleaning.

Trombone - Listen

For some reason, the trombone is not nearly as popular as the trumpet or clarinet so its players are considered very valuable assets by band teachers.The trombone is a member of the brass family that plays the important bass parts of the music.  As with all brass instruments, the sound is produced by buzzing the lips into a mouthpiece.  A unique feature of the trombone is the slide.  While other brass instruments change pitches by pressing valves to change the length of the air flow, the trombone player simply moves the slide in and out to change the length of the instrument.  The trombone is played in bands (such as a marching band), symphony orchestras, jazz groups, brass quintets and as solo instruments.

It is stored in its case in  two pieces.  Trombones require  slightly more care than the other brass instruments because the slide of the trombone is very delicate.  See Trombone Maintenance and Cleaning.

Percussion

In elementary band, there are two main instruments played; the Bells and the Snare Drum.  These instruments are percussion instruments and are a part of the band, along with the brass and woodwind families.  Both Bells and Snare Drums can come in a combo kit, or as individual instruments.  Your band teacher will instruct you on which to choose for your school band.  Beginning percussion students may also learn other various percussion instruments such as bass drum, cymbals and several other smaller instruments.

The Bells sound is created by striking pieces of metal with a plastic or wood mallet.  The notes are configured like a piano keyboard and usually have the name of the notes printed on each bar.  Different kinds of mallets can create different sounds, such as softer or louder tones.  Occasionally mallets break or wear down and may need to be replaced.

The Snare Drum is the smallest drum in the percussion section and sound is created by striking sticks on the drumhead (or skin).  This is the most popular drum and is used in nearly all styles of music.  For beginners, practice pads are often used to dampen the sound.  Drumsticks can often break or wear down and must be replaced.  The drumhead can also crack or wear and sometimes requires being replaced.  Snare Drums require a drum key to tighten or loosen the drumhead.

Cello - Listen

The cello is the second largest member of the string family.  The cello is played in an upright position with the left hand resting on the back of the neck and the right either plucks the strings or holds the bow.  The player should be sitting with the body of the instrument resting between the legs, on the end pin which rests on the floor.  The cello is not nearly as popular as the violin and because there are fewer cellists, orchestra teachers consider cello players very valuable assets.  Cellos are seen in symphony orchestra and string quartets.  The cello can perform solo melodies but more often are used to play harmony parts.

The cello comes in just two pieces, the instrument and the bow.  The bow uses horsehair or a synthetic material to vibrate the strings as it is drawn over the instrument.  The bow should be tightened before it is used and loosened before it is put away.  The most time consuming activity other than playing the instrument is tuning.  The cello should be tuned every day or every time it is taken out of the case.  In the beginning, teachers tune the string instruments for each student.  Eventually, students will learn to tune their own instrument.

A small amount of maintenance and cleaning of the cello is necessary.  See Cello Care and Maintenance.

PLEASE NOTE:  A unique feature of student stringed instruments, is the variation in sizes.  Students have the option of a full size, 3/4 size, 1/2 size all the way down to a 1/16 size cello.  The correct size for each student depends on the arm length and overall size of the student.  Before renting or purchasing a stringed instrument, please check with your school teacher for the correct size, or measure your child to obtain the correct size needed.

Viola - Listen

The viola is slightly larger than the violin and is the second smallest member of the string family.  Its pitch is lower than the violin and students read alto clef instead of treble clef music.  Sound is produced by drawing the bow across one of the four strings or by plucking the string with a finger.  The viola is not nearly as popular as the violin and because there are fewer violists, orchestra teachers consider viola players very valuable assets.  Violas are seen in symphony orchestra and string quartets.  The viola can perform solo melodies but more often are used to play harmony parts with the violin.

The viola comes in just two pieces, the instrument and the bow.  The bow uses horsehair or synthetic material to vibrate the strings as it is drawn over the instrument.  The bow should be tightened before it is used and loosened before it is put away.  The most time consuming activity other than playing the instrument is tuning.  The viola should be tuned every day or every time it is taken out of the case.  In the beginning, teachers tune the string instruments for each student.  Eventually, students will learn to tune their own instrument.

A small amount of maintenance and cleaning of the viola is needed.  See Viola Care and Maintenance.

PLEASE NOTE:  A unique feature of student stringed instruments, is the variation in sizes.  Students  have the option of a full size, 3/4 size, 1/2 size all the way down to a 1/16 size viola.  The correct size for each student depends on the arm length and overall size fo the student.  Before renting or purchasing a stringed instrument, please check with your school teacher for the correct size, or measure your child to obtain the correct size needed.

Other

Now that you have reviewed the most popular instruments in our selection guide, there are other instruments that are available for students to play.  Often, because these are not as popular there is a greater demand by teachers for students who are willing or interested in playing them.

Below is a list of other instruments that are available for your child to play:

Brass Instruments:  French Horn, Euphonium, Cornet, and Trombone with F attachment

Woodwinds:  Oboe, Tenor Saxophone, Piccolo