Building Your Instrument Library {Music Education In the Home}

Monday, August 10, 2015

One of the things that was beaten into our heads when I went to music school was that in the music classroom, the distinction must be made that instruments are not toys. So every time I see one of those giant plastic drums full of "instruments" shaped like animals, I cringe inwardly. When I see a "band in a box" at the toy store, I desperately want to hide it so that nobody buys it. You can get decent instruments for toy store prices, but you're not going to find them in the toy section at Target!

I'm not judging you for owning those toys - I know your kids love them! But they're not going to encourage anyone to love music!

So where do you start if you can't afford a piano or a guitar? It gets expensive to build up a supply of decent musical instruments! Here are some of my favorites that we've acquired over the years:

-- I love the quality of Remo drums, plus the kids love the bright colors. I recommend tossing any mallets that might come with them - they just end up getting used to whack each other over the head in our house, plus they make the instrument WAY louder than it needs to be. They can get pricey (especially for the larger drums) so maybe 1-2 a year as gifts to build your supply up slowly.

-- All our kids have loved these Nino egg shakers, and they're 6 years old and still going strong for us! A really great baby toy, but also nice to have as an inexpensive percussion instrument. Fun colors, good quality, simple for keeping a steady beat and just fun to shake! You can also get their maracas, but I like the feel of an egg shaker in my hand a little better.

-- There are a million brightly colored toy "xylophones" (technically not xylophones) on the market, and they can *sometimes* be fine for purchase if you can get one in person and ensure it has proper tuning. Sometimes they're totally off, and some instruments don't even have all the notes in a scale! For a basic "xylophone" (really a small glockenspiel), I love this Hohner Toddler Glockenspiel, because it's an *actual* musical instrument, not a toy, so you know the tuning will be right-on. And the sound is more pleasing than our Fisher Price Xylophone, that's for sure!

-- An 8-note "xylophone" is a good start, but if you want to play more complicated songs, you're going to need something a little more expansive. This is a great affordable option that has actual accidentals (sharps and flats) and more than an 8-note range, so you can play a wider variety of songs. The bars come off, so this is one you want to keep away from toddlers!

-- You probably have horrible memories of squeaky, obnoxious "recorder choirs" from your childhood. It's a popular instrument for a reason! It introduces kids to a different way of reading music and basic fingering, which will give them/you an idea as to whether you might want to explore the option of studying a woodwind or brass instrument privately. Do NOT buy a cheap, colorful plastic instrument. The wooden ones are beautiful, produce superior tone, and will set you back, but Yamaha and Angel both make perfectly lovely plastic instruments that still produce a nice tone and won't break the bank!

Anything you'd add to the list? I'd love to hear about it!

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