Robert Estrin - piano expert

Choosing the right instrument to study

Practical tips to choose the right instrument for you or your child

In this video, Robert gives you some tips to help you choose the right instrument for you or your child to study.

Released on July 29, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, this is Robert Estrin at and Today's question is how do you choose an instrument for yourself? Boy, this is a very big topic, and it's a personal choice ultimately but there are a lot of factors that go into this. And I'm gonna try to break it down for you.

Now, if you're just starting out or maybe you have a child who's starting music, you might think, boy, you should start with a violin or a piano. And I know a lot of parents who are adamant that this is what the kids should start with. It's important that they should start with these instruments. Why? Well, because of the foundation it's laid plus starting piano or violin at a young age is really important to develop later because you could start guitar or maybe a wind instrument and maybe do well starting a little bit later in life. But you really need to start violin and piano at a younger age.

So if you have a youngster, maybe it's a good case for starting them with one of these instruments. And I'm a little bit biased towards the piano as a foundational instrument because it really gives you tremendous understanding of the depth of understanding of music theory because of the visual nature and the fact that you can play many notes at the same time. However, starting violin at a young age to develop that the whole sense of the instrument is imperative. So there's a good case to be made for that.

But beyond that, really what's important is what engages you or your child because if you force somebody to study an instrument that they have very little interest in, they're bound to fail at it because they're not going to want to practice. So if somebody's saying I just love the tuba, I want to play the tuba, and you're going, "You want to carry that thing, really? Hey, but I love the sound of it. Give the child a tuba or if you yourself you think I just want to play accordion, and the people say you're going to play accordion?

If that's your love and your passion, you've got to follow it because it takes tremendous time and commitment over a long period of time in order to develop musically on any instrument. So you better pick something that you have a real excitement for for the long haul. Do some real soul searching. Now, if you don't have a real preference, piano is a great foundational instrument that will make it easier to approach other instruments later.

On a personal note, I started the piano when I was seven and a half. In the fourth grade, I was able to start French horn at school. After the first week, I came in my second lesson, and I knew the whole book and they couldn't believe it. Well, you know, French horn music, especially Book One is pretty simple compared to piano music that I was playing at that time. So my reading was very advanced for, you know, somebody starting out, So there is something to be said for starting with piano,

If you just have no particular preference, it will really help you on other instruments plus you can accompany people. It's a lot of fun but go with your heart ultimately and do what you enjoy doing, whether it's singing or playing the trombone. Thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Douglas D Anderson * VSM MEMBER * on April 18, 2018 @5:32 am PST
An excellent presentation. One other factor, however. I came from a family of piano players, and very much wanted to learn as well. But, to play the piano requires the ability to move the left and right hands independently of each other -- a basic ability that I lacked. I happily played the cornet from the age of 10, and numerous other instruments since then, including learning the ukulele at age 67.
Robert Estrin - host, on April 18, 2018 @11:57 am PST
Everyone must find the instrument that suits them. My teacher Ruth Slenczynska's father was a violinist and wanted his daughter to play violin. But she would have none of it! She turned out to be one of the greatest musical prodigies since Mozart and is the last living student of Rachmaninoff.
Geoffrey Dixon * VSM MEMBER * on October 14, 2015 @8:37 am PST
I am new to and your videos are very helpful. I am 72 and learning to play the clarinet, a challenge but one I am enjoying. I am also learning to read music, another challenge and not so easy. Fortunately my wife is a very good musician and a great help to me. Thank you for your music and videos.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 14, 2015 @8:53 am PST
Dear Geoffrey, thank you for your comment and welcome on Virtual Sheet Music! I am so glad you enjoy Robert's videos, he's a great music teacher. Feel free to ask him, or me, any questions related to music you feel like, we'll be delighted to hear from you, at any time! Thank you again.
Katy Frost on July 29, 2015 @4:51 pm PST
I fully agree with you on using the piano as a foundational instrument! I played the piano for about three years before starting the violin. Learning the violin is a tough instrument to learn, without having to learn to read music. Having the piano background helped me tremendously. Great advice!
Edwin Hawke on July 29, 2015 @8:44 am PST
Great advice! Anything I ever learned about theory came from pianists and bassists. As for picking an instrument, music is ultimately an expression of your soul, to be shared socially, so that picking something that meets your aspirations of interaction is the best course.
Steven Cooke * VSM MEMBER * on July 29, 2015 @7:31 am PST
I'm a brass player now (trombone + ), but also got my 'start' with three years of piano. The foundations of music (and introduction to reading different clefs) learned there are essential to any musician. I passed that method down to my children from my parents. One prefers voice, and the other plays multiple instruments well, but both learned music at the keyboard!
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on July 29, 2015 @6:15 am PST
I fully agree that piano is the foundation for learning other instruments later in life. I had no problem self-teaching myself to play the guitar to accompany my singing as a teenager, and later on, the accordion when it was needed to accompany the Washington Swiss Folklore Group. In fact the accordion was perfect for my small hands, with the keys being 1 mm narrower than the piano.
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