The easy answer is, “The one they like the sound of.” But, that’s not the right answer in reality. The choice boils down to a finely seasoned stew of the kid’s personality, patience, work ethic, talent and physiology. Since the general public’s knowledge of music is exceeded in horror only by their lack of patience talking about it, I usually cut my opinions way short. However, the general public loves to talk about sports, take their kids to sporting events, team practices and games several times a week. Parents would probably benefit by realizing that learning an instrument and playing a sport are THE SAME DAMN THING. (Exception being the fitness aspect, which judging by the fitness of many parents, is not really a priority. Zing.)
Piano is Soccer.
And so it goes with soccer. Every child should play soccer for at least a year. It is the undisputed King of all Sports. Anyone can play it. Just kick. Even toddlers understand it. And yet…like the piano it’s a bitch to master, and really easy to be bad at.
ONE OBJECT: SCORE. Ball----> Net. Yay! Repeat. The net is HUGE, and it’s right there, on the grass.
ONE RULE: don’t use your hands. That’s it…go play. As a beginning soccer kid, there are no special super hard skills or techniques like skating or dribbling a basketball or hitting a baseball to slow the process down. It’s a great beginner’s sport; Instant success. YET…like the piano, mastery is evasive. There are advanced dribbling moves and strategy, and a few more rules, just like piano, but in order to get out there and play as a kid, you need not know these things. That is the beauty of it. Easy to learn, hard to perfect. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that soccer is the most popular sport on earth.
Guitar is Football.
Just like American Football. It’s #1 sport in USA, origin of the "guitar-God" concept. Idols and Heroes play football. On television, football is gorgeous. Football looks if it was made to be on the screen. Guys like Tom Brady, Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders have made it appear effortless to throw like a cannon, elevate and catch like a dancer, or brilliantly elude destruction like a fighter jet. But, as I realized when I played real, organized football, like the guitar….IT SUCKS if you’re not one of those guys who’s ‘GOT IT’. On any given play, 72% of the offense doesn't even touch the ball, and that's counting the center! You need the natural skills to succeed like the Gods of the NFL. If you don’t have them, well, it’s Guard, Safety or bench. Maybe D-line if you’re big. And by the way, getting hit in football really, I mean, REALLY sucks. Even with the pads. It’s a horrific experience. Worse than, but much like, learning to switch your fingers from chord to chord instantly on the fret board…complete with frustration and blisters.
Flute is Ice Hockey.
So, beginner Flute? Sucks.
Just like hockey. I know, playing in the driveway is a breeze. Floor/Street hockey is like, soccer level easy, but the skating part? Yikes. Skating is a sport on its own, let alone to go along with hockey? Brutal. I watched my own little kid spend 3 Weeks learning how to effectively STAND UP OFF THE ICE after falling. That’s it, man, that’s ALL HE DID for weeks. Waddle like a penguin—fall---get up. Repeat. 3 weeks. Some kids were just laying there on the ice in full hockey gear, crying. I don’t lie. Coaches were like, “Yup.” Totally unscathed by it all. Just like these poor little kids with a “tear drop” shaped upper lip trying to learn to breathe from the diaphragm, blow straight air and make a sound on the flute…it is painful to watch and worse to teach. And, oh it’s boring.
But to be fair, IF you can make it through the beginning of flute/ice hockey…you rule. It’s so fun. We all know about how much hockey rules, but in school, the flute players get all the melodies and are usually awesome because the impatient kids have been weeded out in the first year.
Trumpet is Basketball.
Dribbling a basketball as a little kid is the pits. I had to look away as little toddlers attempted to dribble, chasing the ball around, occasionally smacking it with their hand, but inevitably falling on their faces. It really is very much like buzzing those fart sounds on a trumpet. It’s a disaster. So, if you make it past that…Then there is the hoop! Forget it. You have to WORK to get that ball to even go near the 10 foot rim. Building up your shot is just like building up your embouchure (lip position/strength) to play “real songs” on the trumpet. But most of us just stick with fart sounds and throwing crumpled up paper into office trash cans.
Violin is Baseball.
Making a sound on a Violin is “kind of” instant. It’s easier to produce than the wind instruments, but not as instant as piano. So, they can get away with starting kids in pre-K. There’s a special bow grip and posture, and a highly regimented system of easing them into it called “Suzuki” where they use little mini Violins and memorization. Kinda like Tee ball.
Baseball. Classic. Traditional. Peanuts. Relaxing. They even have a stretch. Like Orchestra, Baseball sets itself apart from the other sports. It doesn’t have the destructive, outward, viciousness that you may see in these other popular sports. Still though, baseball has intensity, don’t get me wrong. But it’s an inner game, where you always know the situation, and need to step up and act in a split second after carefully waiting and watching. While that inner intensity builds and builds. It’s like…going to the BPO! Hell, the Philharmonic even plays at the games sometimes. Try that at a Football game.
Like basketball and ice hockey, there are specialized skills necessary to play baseball and violin even as a beginner. But Little League, like Suzuki Strings, has a system for this - they start you on a tee, and then the coach pitches for a few years. Learning Baseball and Violin are alike in that they both have widely accepted systems for slowly introducing the full game to the kids.
Oh and lastly - I don’t know about Coaches of kid sports, but I will always choose the hard worker over the more talented kid any day. So please - whether it’s sports or music - PUSH YOUR KIDS (not too hard, though), don’t let them cheese out like Barrister when he was trying to learn guitar with his small hands. Hard work is the one skill they will forever benefit from no matter what they do.