It's true that children who learn to play a musical instrument do better in school, are more emotionally mature than non-music students, tend to be more relaxed even in stressful situations and generally become more self-confident adults. The benefits of early childhood music education are numerous and well researched. The question is how your child should begin.
Even if a youngster doesn't have perfect pitch or any obvious natural musical abilities, it's still important to encourage any small amount of interest they show toward singing, playing or learning anything at all about music.
Once you decide to put your youngster on the path to a lifetime of success with early childhood musical education, you might be searching for the ideal stringed instrument for beginners. Most experts agree that the ukulele is the perfect place for kids who show even a moderate interest in learning to play an instrument. Compared to other instruments, the ukulele is easy to learn. It's also an inexpensive instrument that is small enough for most children to feel comfortable with.
What's the best way to select a ukulele that offers both value and quality for your child? The following guidelines offer parents a systematic way to find and purchase the right instrument for their child. Shopping for ukuleles is not difficult because there are several reputable manufacturers out there. The trick is knowing what to look for, what to avoid and how much to pay for your child's first ukulele. Here are the important factors to consider:
What to Look For and What to Avoid
Just like every other purchase you make, it's smart shopping to have a list of "wants" and "want to avoid" before you plunk down your hard-earned money. When it comes to buying a ukulele for your child, you'll be spending something in the neighborhood of $40 to $120 for the instrument itself. That's not much compared to most other musical instruments and will get you a perfectly good ukulele for your child.
But what qualities should you look for, and which should you shun? Here's a brief synopsis:
Try to buy a ukulele that:
- Comes with a gig bag of better-than-average quality
- Has a fully functional tuner
- Includes tuner, gig bag, a strap, extra strings, and picks
- Is easy to play
- Is on the middle to low end of the price spectrum
- Is well designed
- Sounds better than average, with deep, rich tone
- Is comfortable to hold and play
- Features durable wood with
- Is sold by a trusted manufacturer
- Includes a polish cloth and/or a clip-on tuner
Avoid purchasing a ukulele that:
- Is on the high end of the price range
- Comes with no-name strings
- Has a high-quality fret board
- Takes more than a few minutes to tune
- Includes no accessories whatsoever
- Needs to be tuned before each use
- Has no neck-strap pegs
- Is poorly designed for your child's hand or body size
Why Encourage Your Child to Play the Ukulele?
There's a wealth of research showing that music lessons, particularly learning to play a stringed instrument like the ukulele, can help children develop memory skills, learn perseverance, improve math skills, sharpen reading comprehension and more. In short, there's no better way to enhance your child's academic talents than starting them out with instrumental lessons as young as possible.
How Much to Pay
Paying for a ukulele won't force you to dig deep into your pockets. Because the instruments are small and lightweight, they are one of the least expensive stringed instruments on the market. That's just one of the reasons they're ideal for youngsters who want to explore the world of music. You don't have to commit thousands of dollars on the instrument. So, what is the right price to pay? Here are some short guidelines that many parents use when shopping for ukuleles:
- The high end of the price range is about $200
- The low end is around $40
- Small children will likely grow out of their first ukulele in a year or two
- There is an active market for high-quality used ukuleles should you decide to sell
- It makes sense to stick to the under-$100 price range for a first instrument
Look for Signs of Quality
Try to purchase an instrument with geared tuners and very little gloss. Avoid extremely cheap ukuleles sold in department or chain stores. A high-quality instrument will have a deep, rich sound when you strum it. Does the wood body have a solid feel? It should. Are the parts cheaply made? You'll know the parts are of low quality when they sound "tinny" if you tap on them. If it looks like a toy and feels like a toy, it probably is a toy.
Know What Accessories You Want
Get a clip-on tuner if the instrument you buy doesn't come with one. These little devices cost about $10 and make tuning simple and fast. You'll probably not need picks at first. Children should learn to use their fingers for the first year of playing. Also purchase a set or two of high-quality strings.
Sometimes even the best ukuleles come with cheap strings. Replace the cheapies with the good ones you purchase yourself. Be sure to have a few extra strings to replace any that break during practice sessions. Finally, buy a gig bag with good padding. You'll be thankful for the padding the first time you or your child drops the instrument on a hard surface.
Opt for a Soprano but Avoid Cheap Toys
There are four basic kinds of ukuleles with different names, primarily based on size. For a first instrument, always choose what sellers call a "soprano" ukulele. It's about 21 inches long and is the perfect "entry point" for beginners. If your child continues with the instrument, you can always sell the soprano and get larger ukulele later on.
Why the Ukulele Wins Out Over Other Instruments
Ukuleles are lighter, less costly and much smaller than their closest musical cousin, the guitar. Plus, even if your child decides later on to pursue guitar lessons, what he or she has learned on the ukulele will serve as excellent preparation.
Give Your Child the Benefits of Music Education
At Prodigies Music (prodigies.com), our entire team of professionals understands what it takes for young children to be successful when learning to play an instrument. We've taught hundreds and hundreds of kids to play various instruments, sing and read music, so we fully comprehend what it takes to make learning music fun for children of all ages.
The sooner children begin taking music lessons, the faster they learn. That's because their minds and bodies are able to retain information longer when they learn skills before the age of seven. Check out the Prodigies Music website and get your child on the road to a lifetime of fun and success today.