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Tips for switching musical instruments: why and when?

Posted by Mariana Del Rosal on Nov 17, 2020 2:53:37 PM

If you have been playing an instrument for quite some time, and suddenly you decide there is another instrument you like more, what should you do? Are there instruments that are more “compatible” with each other to make the switch? What if the student wants to play something totally different than the instrument she is used to? And what can we, the parents, do when it’s our child who requests a new musical instrument after several months of paid private lessons?

In this article, we will explore some aspects of switching instruments and try to provide some useful answers.

A child who wants to quit

Sometimes, it may happen that someone who has been playing an instrument for quite some time suddenly decides to try something new: they fall in love with a new musical instrument, and they decide to switch. If this is the case of a child, we in Nabi Music believe parents should give them the chance to try! After all, it’s not always easy finding the perfect musical instrument for each personality, and sometimes we parents end up signing up our kid to piano lessons because the piano was right there in our house, so why not, and later the child decides she’d rather play the electric guitar

The first thing you should pay attention to, it’s whether this is the first instrument your child requests to switch. Because if it isn’t, perhaps she’s feeling frustrated, she lacks motivation, and as soon as she gets bored she tries to find amusement again in a new instrument, thinking it would be easier, or different. Should you just give up on her music lessons? Not necessarily. Maybe she needs a different teaching approach (changing her to group lessons could be a possibility). Or maybe your expectations are too high and she feels too much pressure!

She may have other reasons for wanting to switch: is she comfortable with her music tutor and the approach she gets in her lessons? Does she like the repertoire she is currently playing? Perhaps a subtle change in the lessons is all she needs, instead of a brand new instrument altogether.

A child looking for her perfect instrument

Of course, the other case is possible too: your child really likes music, but she has decided she prefers a different instrument, possibly something that she had never heard until now. In a case like this, what’s important is that she’s really into music, and we want her to benefit from learning what she likes!

However, first, we should have a talk with our child, and make sure the change comes from a genuine desire. Again, she shouldn’t give up on an instrument only because it’s challenging or she feels frustrated. In any case, we –and the music tutor- should look for approaches to help her deal with such frustration. Otherwise, she will jump from one instrument to another as soon as she bumps into the first difficulty. It’s not a good life lesson we’ll be teaching (not to mention, it would cost us a lot of money to buy new instruments all the time!).

So try to persuade your child into giving each instrument a trial period (let’s say, six months, or a year, depending on the child’s age) before fully giving it up or switching it for another. In the meantime, encourage her to practice and to do her best: if after all, she still prefers to switch instruments, she will still have gained qualities such as perseverance, patience, and some basic music knowledge which will be anyway useful.

This is a good reason for parents not to invest a huge amount of money in a professional instrument unless the child is fully committed, and has been learning it for a year or so. Remember, you can always rent instruments for your child to try.

Hey, now that I think about it, all of the aforementioned applies to beginner adult music students! Be sure that your eagerness to switch the instrument comes from genuine desire and not from frustration because you are not getting the sound you’d like.

A musician who wants to explore new horizons

There are some musicians who don’t always play the same instrument! You may find them in many famous bands: they are called multi-instrumentalists, and they don’t even need to be naturally gifted to master more than one instrument. Sometimes, a professional musician who has graduated from the music academy with one main instrument falls in love with a secondary instrument they learned during their career, and decide to make the switch.

The key here is having realistic expectations. You can’t expect to become a professional pianist overnight just because you are a professional clarinetist. Certainly, if you enjoy the piano, you will already have an advantage knowing music notation, basic principles of rhythm, melody, musical scales, and such, so you’ll probably learn your second instrument faster than if you had never played anything before. But if your main goal is to find a job in a respected orchestra, you may want to stick to that main instrument you already master after several years of practice, and you can still enjoy playing the second one just for fun.

Thus said, some instruments are easier to switch than others, and sometimes the transition almost feels natural. For example, if you have always played the guitar and you want to try the ukulele, the banjo, or another plucked-string instrument, most of your current techniques will be useful when playing your new instrument and you could complement your performances by playing both of them. The same applies if you are a talented violinist, but you still decide that the deeper sounds of the cello suit you better. You will have to learn new techniques, accommodate your sitting –or standing-position when you play, and get used to the new instrument. But it’s not the same as moving from, let’s say, the drums to the harp, or the tuba to the sitar!

Remember, you will find tutors available in Nabi Music ready to teach you over 60 different instruments. Sign up today!


Topics: Musical Instruments, Tips for Musicians, Children, Tips for Parents, Why Music?, Music Lessons, Musical Practice

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