I teach piano/keyboard and the members of the woodwind family (which includes saxophone) as well as bass guitar and some guitar. Below is some basic info about each instrument, its pros and cons.
I try to engage students, whether children or adults, in a way that best suits their abilities and learning styles. This includes learning pop songs, reading chord charts, improvisation, song writing and jazz theory as well as the traditional classical approach using A.M.E.B. exams or the ANZCA system (a bit more modern in its approach). Most importantly I can provide a mixture of classical and modern.
Please feel free to call and arrange a trial lesson or demonstration of these instruments if you are not sure which best suits yourself, your child or your budget.
Group lessons are available mainly in schools but also if practical at home.
A variety of instruments are available for individual or group lessons.
Piano or keyboard is probably the most popular instrument alongside the guitar as it is musically self sufficient, ie. it can provide melody, harmony and rhythm simultaneously - which is fantastic as single note instruments are dependent on an accompaniment.
It's repertoire is enormous and the varieties of styles that it can be used for is endless.
One thing to bear in mind though is that school bands and orchestras can take multiple flutes, clarinets, violins etc but often only one piano (although I have incorporated several keyboard players in my own school bands.) This can mean students missing out on being in bands at high school which is a great way to learn the ropes of music.
Piano or keyboard?
Nowadays the cost of a good 2nd hand piano is $1500 upwards (although an ebay bargain or a Grandma hand-me-down is always possible!) and many people opt for a keyboard. You can't beat the sound of a real piano but keyboards do make a good cheap alternative, especially when you're not sure if your child will take to it.
It needs to be touch sensitive (the volume response is dependent on how hard the keys are pressed), have a piano like action (the keys are not too soft to the touch) and be able to take a sustain pedal - which is very important within a year of lessons.
There are many bells and whistles which kids do find fun and engaging - a large variety of sounds, rhythms which can be a great educational tool, live backing tracks and even teach yourself tools which many kids find extremely useful. You still need to spend $500 upwards though.
If you have the budget for it, having a piano and a keyboard is a great way to go.
Most sax teachers probably owe a huge debt of gratitude to Lisa Simpson who did so much to popularise the saxophone among children of the last generation!
The sax is actually the easiest of the woodwind family - easy fingering, relatively easy to get a good sound, the reeds are cheap compared to the oboe and it's a versatile and popular instrument for modern music.
The only drawback is that its the baby of the instruments - invented in 1840 and hence unknown and unwritten for during the baroque and classical periods and not used much in classical music after this.
Nowadays though most schools have brass, wind and stage bands that play jazz and pop and let's face it - most kids couldn't care less! The choice is yours.
The sax family includes the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone - most students opting for the versatile and lighter alto in the early years. Prices range from $600 - $800 for a decent 2nd hand instrument or dubious Chinese makes to thousands for professional models.
The flute is a great and versatile instrument, used from the dawn of classical music (the baroque period) to Cuban salsa! It's quite often difficult to get a sound out at first but once the trick is learnt it's plain sailing as fingering is relatively easy and there are no nasty reeds to contend with!
It's relatively cheap as you can often pick up a good second hand student flute for $100 - $200, although you will need help as there are frankly a lot of Chinese junks on the ebay seas! To be safe you need to allow for $500 upwards.
The clarinet is extremely versatile - used in classical music from the classical period (not the baroque) and common in jazz, especially in the Dixieland era of the 1920's. It's also very popular in Greek and eastern European folk and gypsy music. It's very popular for school bands and orchestras but has fallen out of favour really in the pop world.
It is relatively easy to get a sound out of - using a single reed - but the fingering is by far the most complicated of the woodwind family with a difficult "break" between the lower and upper octaves and different fingering for the notes in these two octaves.
Once mastered though it has a beautiful clear tone which many people love and it's relatively cheap to pick up a decent student model - $500 approx.
I'm probably biased as it was my main instrument besides the piano when I was young, but I love the sound of the oboe. Its evocative and rich tone is used to tune the orchestra because of the rich array of harmonics caused by its conical shape.
It's not easy - the double reeds can be difficult at first and are relatively expensive to buy (professionals make their own) but it's a fabulous instrument.
The repertoire is enormous as it's a very old instrument with many ancestors around the world from Egypt to India still in use, but it's not common to see the oboe outside the world of classical music.
One big advantage is that it's not so common and hence you don't have to sit in a band with 20 other clarinet players for example!
It doesn't come cheap, though I have seen an amazing Chinese made plastic oboe for around $500. Otherwise it's $1500 upwards for a student model - usually French or German.
Check out this great compilation of You tube Oboe concertos: Oboe
Ah the much maligned recorder! How many times have I heard parents say how much they hate it! And I've even had students say they couldn't practice because their parents wouldn't let them!
It's a great intro to the world of music and for less than $20 you can't go wrong. The baisc fingering is the basis of the fingering of the flute, oboe, saxophone - and the upper octave of the clarinet - so it's a great and inexpensive way to start off a musical career! And how easy is it to get a good sound? Put it to your mouth and blow - and away you go!
The only drawback is for very early beginners - especially preps - who can find it quite hard to cover the holes completely with their tiny fingers, so bear this in mind.
Go check out some Renaissance and Baroque recorder masters: