September 12, 2008

Musical Instruments

Yesterday at school, the zipper of Rob's soft lunch box got stuck. So one of the cafeteria staff SLICED THE LUNCH BOX OPEN WITH A KNIFE.

Does that seem a little...extreme? Instead of treating this as an emergency surgery situation where the clothes are cut right off the patient, why not treat it as a Forgotten Lunch situation? Call the parent or have the child buy hot lunch or do whatever is ordinarily done when a child forgets a lunch box. Because I got that zipper unstuck with less than 5 seconds of wiggling, and so I'm pretty cheesed to have the lunch box completely destroyed.

Well. Anyway. Rob is in fourth grade, and in his school that's the year they get offered musical instrument lessons. They take them at school, so I don't have to do anything except provide the instrument and books, make sure he brings them to school on the right day, and nag him to practice. Well, and LISTEN to him practice. Perhaps that should be Item Number One.

Paul and I have decided to let him do it, and "let" is the verb we're using, too. Furthermore, we're not going to rent the instrument, we're going to buy it. Renting makes me nervous, and if we buy, we can reuse the same instrument for each child who gets all excited about band but then drops out after a year.

And so the question is, "Which instrument?" There is a list of seven instruments offered, and I've marked the four Rob says he's interested in:

1. Flute. After listening to my brother practice WITH DEDICATION for years and years and YEARS, I'm not sure I can bear to hear ONE MORE NOTE from a flute. And it didn't make Rob's list.

2. Clarinet. This is Rob's first choice, but his experience is limited to a short instrument demonstration given at school. My mother played the clarinet, and says that by the time she was done with it she never wanted to hear a clarinet again---and she's a musically talented person. Also, she says the reeds are disgusting and keep breaking. My dad says he thinks the reeds are synthetic now (and therefore less disgusting/breakable) for student use. Another issue: Rob has an overbite, and my mom thinks the clarinet could make it worse, since the clarinet pushes firmly against the inside of the front top teeth.

3. Alto saxophone. This has some appeal, but it's a more expensive instrument, and it's fourth on Rob's list. My mom says this one has the disgusting reeds problem too, though my dad again counters with the synthetic thing. My mom further declares that the sound of a child practicing on a saxophone "defies description." Then she describes it anyway: "absolutely nightmarish."

4. Trumpet. The dentist recommended it for overbites. It's second on Rob's list. But my mom points out that the trumpet is a LOUD instrument, and that we should take into account whether we want to subject the neighbors to a 30-minute daily practice session.

5. Trombone. Also recommended for overbites. Third on Rob's list. Loudness/neighbors issues.

6. Baritone. No. It's too large and it's too expensive.

7. Drums. No.


Nowheymama said...

I... am speechless about the lunchbox. I would be so angry.

Trumpet or trombone is my vote, in case Rob cares. Listening to my sister try to get "over the break" on the clarinet is still with me all these years later. Gah.

Rini said...

Actually, you may want to look into drums again before you write them off. In high school, the snare drummers "practiced" with a pair of drumsticks and a mousepad. Extremely quiet (depsite what you might think), and you may not have to buy an instrument at all, just the sticks.

Anyway. Just do get the details before you make a decision based on the name of the instrument. ;)

zoot said...

The lunchbox story is very weird. I mean, seriously? HUH?

Also - LilZ has done Stand-up Base (not loud, but pain in the ass to transport/carry) as well as Drums. It's like we entered instrument choice hell for a few years. I'm glad you're avoiding that.

g~ said...

I agree (with rini) about the drums--not necessarily as loud in reality as in theory. And it's a cool instrument and chicks dig drummers (but that might be a reason to NOT allow him to be a drummer).
I would definitely not be able to handle a clarinet player. Yeesh.

Mommy Writes said...

I played clarinet (for a grand total of 2 years) and, although I do remember reeds breaking/splitting and some horrid screechy noises on occasion, I don't remember the reeds being "disgusting."

Can't speak to the overbite, as I didn't have one, though I was wearing braces during my 2-year stint as a clarinetist.

Good luck. :)

ktjrdn said...

I hate reed instruments. They're so squeaky. I played the trumpet, and it's not too hard. but it is loud.

Kristin.... said...

I played the flute for a very long time (high school, college, and after law school) and I still want to play. My brother played the trumpet. They're both great instruments. :)

oh and I would be complaining LOUDLY to the school about the luncbox. Not so much the cost of replacement, but really, that dramatic of a fix? come on.

Gina said...

My son plays both the drums and trumpet and I had the "NO" feeling about the drums, too. But it turns out that listening to him practice drums is NOTHING compared to trumpet. And even though he is getting quite good at both, drums is more like background noise, while trumpet kind of takes over.

In fact, trumpet can be more painful than any of the instruments in the house - drum set, djembe, bongos, acoustic and electric guitar and keyboard.

Jess said...

That lunch box thing is very strange. And I would go with the trumpet or trombone as well.

Rachelle said...

The flute is probably a good middle ground instrument, if only because it's quiet enough that you could probably drown out the sound of practice with ipod headphones stuffed in your ears.

I also think the drums are actually a pretty good idea, though. If it's a snare, then he CAN practice without making a whole lot of noise, 'cause the point of practice isn't making a lot of noise, it's keeping the right time, and making the sticks do the right things. It's not the same as having a whole drum set in your garage or anything.

Sax IS a beautiful instrument, but I think your mother is right. "Nightmarish" pretty much describes the sound of sax practice perfectly.

bethany said...

I played the trumpet and loved it. I'm not sure my parents did (it is a very loud instrument), but they were always supportive. I don't think it bothered the neighbors at all, but we did have rules about when I could and and couldn't practice.

I also had an overbite and had braces for part of the time, and it was a challenge. I still have a scar inside my mouth from the braces pressing against the trumpet mouthpiece.

That said, I loved playing the trumpet. :)

Mommy Daisy said...

OK, I was a band geek, so I have to put my 2 cents in. I played trumpet for years, my husband too (guess how we met). We currently have 3 trumpets in our house as well as a trombone (because Matt likes thinking he can play it). But seriously, I love the trumpet. **Also, you can buy a mute that might help at home too.**

Like Bethany, above, I had braces and still continued playing trumpet without any problems, even in marching band.

My sisters played trombone and clarinet. I think I'd recommend the trombone over clarinet. I'm pretty grossed out by all the reed instruments. That said, the trumpet does have the whole "spit valve" thing too, so I would recommend making sure there is a trashcan nearby when practicing (so he doesn't empty it on the floor).

Good luck!

wafelenbak said...

I played the clarinet, and I really loved it. But that was in high school, and I didn't have dental problems by then.
I also vote for drums. The trumpet has got to be my least favorite instrument EVER simply because of the sheer volume of that darn thing. Drums may be noisy, but they pale in comparison to the trumpet and can't really go "out of tune"...which makes them a little easier on the ears.
Also, you could make him practice in the garage. Hee.

moderndayhermit said...

I'm curious how a reed instrument is "disgusting". That just sounds so odd to me. :)

I've played the clarinet since I was about 12-years-old and we have many reed instrument players in my home without any "disgusting" issues. I have to admit my mind is just boggled at such a statement, lol.

The clarinet is also a very versatile instrument that can play a variety of music types successfully - orchestra, jazz, klezmer, big band...the list goes on and on. Of course, all instruments have that ability but I find the clarinet to be exceptionally versatile.

I've also never had a problem with it being squeaky. My son is 2 and can already play notes out of the clarinet as well. Of course, it all depends on working on embouchure.

But, everyone is different. Perhaps you can set him up in a situation where he can try a variety of instruments and see which ones he likes the best. And, see if there are any he just has a natural inclination towards being successful.

In terms of overbite: my top teeth overlap my bottom teeth and it never caused any problems for me when playing.

I also played the flute and it is a beautiful instrument as well.

I do think in order for a student to be successful in playing an instrument it is important to manage their expectations. I think a lot of people just get frustrated if they aren't as good as they thought they should be after time.

Psuedokim said...

I'm also in shock over the lunch box debacle. I might complain about it if I were you. That's just weird.
My sister played the flute and I remember it being not too bad. And I agree with the person who talked about drum practice and have seen an accomplished drummer use the practice pads at home because he lived in a condo and actually cared about his neighbors. Good luck with whatever he chooses and I hope he likes it enough to stick with it for awhile. Our passive/aggressive mother still mentions my sister quitting the flute after one year...and they DID rent it for her with no problems returning it! Ah, mothers. So so special.

Becky said...

I played flute through high school then switched to trombone. One of my sisters played trumpet, another trombone and the last drums. You might think you can drown out a flute, but that high pitched sound is much harder to ignore than you would think (and especially as you get more into it that's what you end up playing. God forbid he get to a picolo). I LOVE trombone, because of not only the range you can get but also the fun of playing. My sister loved trumpet, and that's a great instrument too, although very loud. And my sister that played drums loved that...and I agree that especially in the beginning it is much quieter than almost any other instrument.

I had braces while in high school, and even flute gave me scars that I still have to this day, although I think trumpet players had it worse. that I wrote a book...good luck!

Anonymous said...

Go for the trombone. My sister played flute throughout highschool and the high pitched trills piercing through every room in the house is a nightmarish memory.
My brother played the trombone for a few years, and while it is loud, at least it's low. It doesn't disrupt your every thought the same way, it's much easier to ignore.

Gwendolyn said...

I would be extremely annoyed about the lunch-box, and would probably call the school over it, because I am annoying like that. But, oh...I wish my fourth-grader could start learning an instrument in school! I have very fond memories of the school band, and here they don't start the kids until middle school. :o(

Angie said...

I think I would consider what he might be good at more. Does he have pretty good finger dexterity? (As in already plays the piano, types on a keyboard, etc.) If so, he might be good at the trumpet or clarinet. I played the clarinet, and liked that changing registers only required fingerings, not mouth changes. (I think I'm remembering right. It's been awhile, though I played for 7 years.) The trumpet or trombone don't require as much finger dexterity. My husband would never have been able to play the clarinet, because his fingers were too thick. I wouldn't have been able to play his trombone, because I cannot judge distances. I also don't have enough rhythm to play the drums. I think you need some of that naturally.

Oh, and I always thought brass was gross, not woodwinds, with that whole spit valve thing. Yuck.

Bertino Verse said...

Mom Daisy and I have a very similar take. I too was band geek #1 (leader of the band and president of the music honor society). I was a flute player, and wish I had taken more into account when choosing my instrument. I chose the flute because that's what all my girlfriends were playing. I loved the instrument, and was the only one that stook with it all the way through school. But in hindsight I may have chose something else had a been a bit more autonomous at age 10. If I had thought more about what I found most appealing, I would have went with the sax or drums (although my parents also immediately forbit the drums).

You didn't mention if Rob had any interest in the drums. It really is a wonderful instrument. They do start off on the pad, and then progress to 1 small tom. It would be years before you're subjected to the larger array of the drum kit. The clarinet is indeed versitile, but can be very hard to learn, much like the sax. Trumpets are great...I was going to comment on the spit valve (one of my favorite parts of Mr Holland's Opus). Beware!

And the same goes for Trumpet and a mute and it will save your ears.

Good luck...I hope that Rob picks the instrument that calls to him- it can be such a rewarding experience for a child. = brain power!!!

t2ed said...

Two bits of advice.

First, tell Rob to never get his fly stuck at that school.

Second, having played the trumpet as a wee one, make him play guitar. The chicks really don't flock to the trumpet players. Had someone explained this earlier on, things would have been much different.

Jen said...

this has pretty much all been said but i wanted to weigh in since my experience with musical education (and later marching band) was awesome. :) i started on alto saxophone, picked up the other saxophones in jr high and then learned a few brass, double-reed & some percussion in high school.

1. in my opinion, brass instruments rank higher on the gross-scale because of the spit valves that have been mentioned. woodwinds (sax, clarinet, flute) break down into more pieces and can be cleaned easily.

2. reconsider drums, not only for the shockingly quiet practice pads but also because (at my school anyway) playing percussion also included learning to play the bells, a tiny version of the xylophone. i learned how to play the marimba in high school and i think it would have been easier if i had had bells earlier on - plus, since it familiarizes kids with keyboard instruments in general, it might make picking up piano easier, later on if he has any interest.

3. consider the case. if i recall correctly, the ones you're considering rank in size like so: flute, clarinet, trumpet, sax, trombone. i don't know how rob gets to school (bus, carpool, whatev) but i hated lugging a big sax case on the bus. i'm sure my mom hated tripping over it too - yet another bonus of percussion!

4. it cannot be said enough: if you end up with trumpet or trombone, get a mute.

yay band! such fond memories for me and the only friends i have from school days are ones i knew from band.

at the risk of totally geeking out (too late!) i know he's in 4th grade and there's a good chance that he won't like it enough to carry it through to high school BUT it also provided a sort of social safety net for me at that age. i had other friends but i also had a 200-member family in the big room in the basement that i could fall back on. :)

Jane said...

What, strings aren't an option? Aren't most 4th graders too little to play some band instruments? My son's school district has a thing where you send your kid to a couple of days of "music readiness" camp and at the end they give you an evaluation and tell you what type of instrument your child will excel at. The idea is that if you pick the right instrument, the child will have a better chance of succeeding and won't quit. If I'd let Elliot choose, he would have said trumpet or some loud boy instrument, but the evaluation said, "Absolutely, positively, strings, particularly violin and viola," and he said, "OK," and he is now 2nd chair in the high school orchestra as a sophomore. And he never practices. okthxbai

Mimi said...

I can't believe what happened with the lunchbox. I would NEVER have thought to cut the thing open. What a waste.

Thia said...

How rude to just cut the lunch box open!
The instrument thing is tough. The ones I am partial to didn't make the list...

Mary said...

Well, elementary school cafeteria workers are not exactly known for their intelligence, but that is very strange.

I played clarinet (for a very very short period of time) and don't remember it being disgusting at all.

CP said...

I'm shocked at the sliced open lunchbox. WTF?

As for the instruments- I have 3 kids. Among them we have 2 cello players, 1 piano player, 1 trumpet player and 1 flute player. (The oldest 2 each play a string and a reed instrument.) The trumpet IS loud but E picked it up quickly enough that there wasn't much of the painful getting started noise. It's really not that bad to listen to. But. It. Is. Loud. The flute is OK but eh. Not my favorite.

If I got to be the one to choose, it would have been the saxophone all the way. My husband played the saxophone and I love the sound of it. But, I guess this isn't about me?

Trumpet or Sax. My vote.

Farrell said...

the good thing about string instruments is that once you learn how to read music (treble and bass clef), you can pretty much switch from one to the other. Like, if he starts with cello but then decides to play bass, that's an easy transition. whereas, if he starts wtih the trumpet and later wants to switch to the clarinet, he has to learn all over again because they are completely different.
I would NOT recommend purchasing ANY instrument at this stage. Let's say he changes his mind, and/or the next kid says "But i hate trumpet! I want to play violin" but you own a trumpet and not a violin...well, you know.

Anonymous said...

I am going to be a (fe)male chauvinist pig here and say I think the flute is sissy for boys.

Kristi said...

That lunchbox cutting thing is ridiculous! I'd really want to know whose brilliant idea that was!

I vote for the drums! Cleanest and, unbelievably, less all-around disrupting. It would be a good intro to music - because really, a lot of kids do NOT want to stick with an instrument no matter how much we want them to. There aren't any string instruments offered at his school?


stupormom said...

Drums for certain. Electronic sets are silent! Either that, or the triangle. The rest of the choices all seem loud.

And - as far as the slicing should make sure all the zippers in his pants are WD40'd, you know, so he doesn't have to have his freaking pants sliced off if he has to tinkle.

the new girl said...

I'm sorry that I didn't read through the other comments and sorry if I'm repeating.

My sister played the trumpet. They have that thing you can stick in there to muffle the sound. Still, I recall that it was interesting.

Music teachers should AUTOMATICALLY receive bonuses, as far as I'm concerned.

Or, counseling for Teh Masochism.

Shannon said...

French Horn. That was my first instrument and it is, when no kid is playing, makes great Christmas decorations.

I would be peeeeved beyond belief at the lunch lady. In fact, it might just warrant a call.

drowninginlaundry said...

Trumpet players rock, see Chris Botti online. mmmm.... Ok so maybe your fourth grader isn't into being hot yet.


For home use you can buy a plug/plunger that goes on the end of the Trumpet to dampen the sound so when he practices he will not drive you nuts with the noise.

I always wish I played the brass instruments instead of Flute myself because DUDE the jazz band music rocks when he gets better at it!

Elizabeth said...

When I was growing up, our neighbors were grandparents to 16 children, and also had an old trumpet lying around. A day did not pass when one of us did not consider marching next door and stomping that trumpet into smithereens. and we didn't live particularly close together, if that influences your decision at all.
I am totally going to make my kids play some fake band instrument, like the triangle or the tambourine. Or the piano, but they'll have to learn on a mat you roll out on the table, like my grandparents did.
I know it's not on your list, but was the french horn on the overall list? My mother always claimed that there was a dire shortage of french horn players and that playing one would get you into Harvard, and Mr.E played it in school and really loved it.

Hillary said...

Trumpet or percussion.

As a former band geek (played the flute), I can tell you my favorite people always were trumpet players or percussionists.

fairydogmother said...

I can't believe how the lunchbox situation was handled! It boggles the mind how any thinking adult would not first try wiggling the zipper to get it unstuck then, like you said, if that didn't work proceed to whatever plan B is for kids who forget their lunch. How hard is it to get the kid a hot lunch, send them to the office to call a parent, etc? Destroying a student's lunchbox is just crazy!

Lizzie said...

If volume is your only concern? It's not going to matter which instrument you pick - they're all loud. And obnoxious when squeaked and squawked while learning.

d e v a n said...

That lunchbox situation would tick me off!

I would go with either the trumpet or trombone.

Is the triangle not an option? lol

kel said...

I played French horn and alto sax both, and sax is way easier to carry but I found it a lot harder to learn. Maybe that's just me.

I agree with the anonymous commenter, although I wouldn't go so far as to say it's sissy, he's likely to be one of the only boys playing flute and may change his mind about liking it as he gets older.

Drums are way cool.

Also, you didn't mention tuba, but in my school, they let the tuba guys rent TWO so that they could keep one at home for practicing and have another school. Eliminated the transport problem completely.

kel said...

AT school, I mean.

cait said...

I was a flute person myself, but there wasn't a single boy who chose flute in the class before me, my class, or the class after me.

My brother played trumpet, and the practicing wasn't nearly as horrendous as you'd expect. As long as the doors and windows are shut, it's really not so bad.

As for drums, I agree with what a few people have said regarding the use of practice pads instead of actually using drums. If I remember correctly, the kids who took drums at my school didn't actually buy or rent any of the instruments - they practiced snare drumming at home just using drumsticks, but other than that, everything was done at school.

I think it's awesome to learn an instrument or two as a kid, especially in an environment where all your friends are doing it, too. It's really cool to come together for band performances, and even though to the audience it might not sound perfect, I remember as a kid I thought our band was freaking AWESOME. It's such a wonderful program.

Alias Mother said...

I was a trumpet player and I recommend it. No screechy learning curve like with flute or clarinet, three simple keys, easy to clean, and has a spit valve which I imagine boys would love. You can use a mute at home while he's practicing to lessen the impact.

Only downside: it's heavy and awkward. As someone who had to walk a mile to school while carrying it, I thought this was a big deal.

pseudostoops said...

I vote trombone- same kind of cool factor as the trumpet, same overbite benefits, but in a lower, less screechy register. Then again, I played trombone, so I might be biased. Squeaky clarinet practice noises would drive me straight off my rocker.

Erin said...

I vote for (1) trumpet, (2) alto sax, or (3) clarinet. For no other reason than I've known people who played these instruments and liked them immensely. That should count for something, right?

Tracey said...

Dude. I can't believe she sliced the box open!!

I'm going with trumpet for him. ALL the instruments are loud. His overbite would be the clincher. Maybe you can get a two-fer and not have to invest in braces or retainers???

Kate said...

I played the clarinet. I had an overbite and the clarinet was actually suggested because of this (I wanted to play the flute but the shape of my mouth make it really tough). I don't beleive it made my overbite any worse, though I will say it hurt like hell in later years when I had braces on. I remember the inside of my bottom lip being completely torn to shreds. Though I suppose this might be the case with pretty much any instrument.

As for reed instruments being disgusting, I'd say they are more annoying than disgusting. I had a couple of performances where my reed broke right before we were to play and I had to fake it the entire time.

Jennifer said...

My husband and I and his siblings were in band. My 6th grader had access to a clarinet (mine), an alto sax, a trombone, a trumpet (his dad's), and a trombone.

He picked the French Horn. *rolleyes*

We're renting (it's only $25/year from the school district).

And since his folks lived through practices of a clarinet, trombone, trumpet and an alto sax, I am positive you'll survive. Good luck.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I agree with someone who said that they're all loud and annoying to hear too much of. Sorry. :)

That being said, where do you hope he will play it (eventually)? Only at school? In a neighborhood orchestra? In a jazz quartet? At church or community functions? That may inform your decision. For example, flute can go anywhere (including church, funerals, weddings, etc.)

shannon said...

Let's be serious. All instruments sound awful and loud and screechy at the beginning. I don't know that any of them are really a whole lot quieter. I have played the trombone for 18 years and while I do love it, it is loud. But trombones and trumpets can use a mute for a softer sound. I don't know if your music instructor would recommend it for practice, but it would keep things a bit quieter. There was a period of time when I played trombone, one sister played trumpet, and another played flute. And we all had to practice EVERY. DAY. I'm surprised my parents didn't completely lose their minds. So much noise.

I only have one little thing to say about buying vs. renting. You know that buying an instruments basically ensures that none of your other kids will want to play the same instrument, right? Because it's basically a given. Renting isn't really all that bad. I'm not sure what makes you not want to do that but if it's the cleanliness of the instruments, I can assure you that you can easily clean most instruments and certainly the parts where your son's mouth will come in contact. I take my trombone apart and give it a bath every so often. This is just my personal opinion so feel free to disregard, but I would suggest renting and then if your son doesn't continue with it, nothing lost. Good quality instruments are expensive and if he continues with it, make owning his own instrument a reward for sticking with it.

PS- There was a guy who played the flute in my high school and he ROCKED IT. And he was always the only guy in the whole section. So in addition to being an amazing musician, he was surrounded by girls all the time. As if he didn't like that!

Anonymous said...

Go with the smallest acceptable instrument. I played trombone, and hauling it back and forth had me envying the kids with flutes and trombones.

Also, in the big ick-off, is the theory that a reed is more disgusting than a spit valve? (I believe with a sax you get both.)

JustACliche said...

One of mine plays the flute and one the trombone (and wants to switch to the trumpet). Personally we chose on how annoying it was to listen to and what was available. I really love the sound of the trombone and even beginners can make a nice sound. Not so with the clarinet. And the trumpet? Well, I just don't like the sound as much.

webbjray said...

Is there a rent to own option?

I played violin and rented at first with the rent to own option. We (my parents) ended up buying it at a reduced price. I also first had to outgrow my 3/4 sized instrument and move on to the full size before we decided to buy.

I would be wary of buying until they show a commitment. you could also spend the brief rental period gauging the sibling's interest in the instrument. Some sibling's want to be like their older sibling's and some want to be different. So in a way it also depends on your children's reverence for the eldest.

staci said...

My brother played the saxophone and I completely agree with your mother that the practicing defies description and is abosolutely nightmarish.

On the other hand, my husband plays the saxophone and is quite good at it... it sounds heavenly.

Anonymous said...

The cafeteria ladies must be REALLY stressed out there! Whatever you do, don't complain about the lunchbox....they might cut out your tongue or something!

Dr. Maureen said...

LOW BRASS LOW BRASS LOW BRASS! I vote trombone, because low brass rocks.

But I am biased, because I played the tuba in high school, if you can believe that. I didn't play it WELL, but I played it. I learned how in the fall and was playing in the spring concert, but that is because I could already read music thanks to years and years and years of piano lessons, and because high school tuba music is really really easy.

But I will add to the spit valve warning: Brass players have no problem just emptying their spit valves wherever they happen to be. But for maximum grossness: In marching band one year, we had to "play to the box" which means we had to point the horns up at a 45 degree angle, and all the spit ran back out the mouthpiece into my face. It was my spit, but it was still DISGUSTING.

I also think you might want to rent, because the other kids might hate whatever the oldest chooses, but I have no personal experience on the matter. My parents owned a piano and I got use the school tuba in high school.

Jill said...

Um, I don't believe I'm adding anything original, but I played clarinet for more years in school than I would care to admit (cough marching band). Reeds are not in and of themselves disgusting, but a clarinet will *become* disgusting if it is never cleaned. However, so will any other instrument. I've never heard of synthetic reeds, but the nice thing is you can buy an actual wood clarinet or cheap out and buy a plastic one. (especially if you think this will be a shortlived hobby) Mine was wooden, and after having it refurbished and then letting it sit at my parents for about 10 years my dad finally donated it to a local school district.
Reeds will add to the cost, though, depending on how careful he is with them, and whether or not he's using the right strength.
I think brass instruments are perfect for boys (woodwind [minus, say, basson] and flute players were about 95% female in my high school) and I 83rd whoever suggested getting a mute for it. I also seem to recall that some of the practice can actually be done with just the mouthpiece without actually attaching it to the loud instrument.
My brother played trombone for 6 months. I tried it a few times and thought it was way more difficult than trumpet or french horn. (my band director was big on trying different instruments. I'm sure that explained a lot of illnesses going around)
You know what's really a cheap music idea? Choir.

Astarte said...

Hooray, band!!! Welcome to the screeching instrument club! :)

I would recommend renting simply because of the replacement policy - anything happens, for $5 a month it gets replaced, no questions asked. Also, depending on what he chooses, it may come in different sizes, and you can change them without having to buy a new instrument. Third, if he decides he hates it, you can trade it in for something else at no cost. Fourth, rental fees are put toward the eventual purchase price, so you really don't lose much. Seriously, I would rent for at least the first few months until he's SURE.

WTF on the lunchbox?!?! Holy crap! What is she, Atilla the
Freakin' Hun?

Miss Grace said...

I played the alto sax, and I don't think absolutely nightmarish really does it justice. I vote for the trumpet for overbite, size, oh and fyi, saxophone is just as loud as a trumpet. Totally trumbet.

CAQuincy said...

They CUT is open? WTF?!

Hey--no matter what instrument you get, it's going to be a lot of freakin' noise in the house. I can hear my daughter practicing her violin when I'm over yakking at my next-door neighbor's yard (makes me wonder what the heck else they can hear?). Go for the trumpet!

T with Honey said...

Since clarinet is his first choice I'll chime in on his side.

Yes, it will occasionally sound like there is a dying goose in the house as he learns to play it. But after 7 years of playing the clarinet my overbite did not get any worse and my dream job, if I were not so opposed to frequent travel and working during holidays, would be to play clarinet in an orchestra. Preferably with the Boston Pops. I still love pulling my clarinet out every now and then and even with a disgusting old reed sitting in the case for over a year it never grew mold or mildew.

Swistle said...

Re "disgustingness" of reeds: it's that you have to put the reed in your mouth and saturate it with spit, then screw the spitty thing onto the mouthpiece.

Swistle said...

Re drums: I wrote "NO" because it was funnier that way, but the real reason is not the noise but that Rob has no (1) interest (or (2) rhythm).

Swistle said...

Oh, Jane, that music evaluation thing sounds like SUCH A SMART IDEA! That is my main struggle here: I keep thinking, "How am I supposed to know what he might do well at?" They don't have strings for some reason. Just flute, clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, trombone, baritone, and drums.

JackeeG4glamorous said...

Please tell Rob never, I mean NEVER report his fly zipper to be stuck to the school personnell. They may have a larger knife they use for "those" zippers.

I shudder. I'd kick me some lunch lady butt for knifing the lunch bag!

I'd pick the cheapest instrument, unless of course you think he's dedicated enough to make band his major in the future.

Swistle said...

Farrell- Strings sound good to me, but they're not one of the options. Just flute, clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, trombone, baritone, and drums.

Elizabeth- No french horn. The seven I listed are the only seven options offered.

Swistle said...

Re loudness and annoyingness of all options: I KNOW, RIGHT? This is why we're using the verb "let." We consider it household suffering in exchange for possible enrichment.

Anonymous said...

Re-think the drums.....equipement includes buying a pair of sticks and a practice pad. No noise and no cost :)

Funny story about band. There are 5 kids in my family. I picked the clarinet. My parents bought a nice, new one. I sucked. I played in the school band for 7 years only to take the band trip. My brother played the drums. He was OK. My sister was the trombone. She was pretty good. My parents bought a used one for her. My last 2 sisters were twins and came along late. By that time, my parents were sick of spending money on instruments and 'encouraged' the twins to pick either the clarinet or the trombone. Turns out that both are extremely gifted musically and both have taken private lessons (not school based) and my parents have invested a few thousand dollars each into new, better clarinets and trombones. I often wonder if they would would have picked other instruments if they had more of a choice.

HollyLynne said...

I TOTALLY THINK YOU SHOULD BUY THEM GUITARS! If all goes well with a guitar, then it couldn't possibly be long before one of them buys you, you know, a YACHT or something. There's more or less no chance of that with a clarinet.

skiplovey said...

Love your tag line, btw!

I vote for clarinet. It's smallish, not so loud and it's not drums. Plus it's pretty classy. And it will never be plugged into a Marshall full stack and played out a very loud volume. These are things to think about.

Alice said...

you've got a LOT of input already, but here's my 2 cents as well: i've played both clarinet and drums. clarinet is TOTALLY not as bad to listen to as the trumpet, i swear. i can't speak to the overbite, though.

i LOVE THE DRUMS. and while it may be true that currently he'll only have to practice w/sticks and a chair, i guarantee you he will want a kit at some point, because OMFG DRUMS ARE SO AWESOME.

Nora Bee said...

Hello! I played the trumpet in fourth grade, but we lived in the country. It is rather loud. Good luck with this adventure!

Danell said...

Trumpets have a "spit valve"...? Ew. *gag*

What exactly was in that lunch box that someone was so desperate to get to?? A live beating heart? Holy christmas...who cuts open a damn stuck zipper with a KNIFE? What if it had been his jacket zipper?? WIGGLE THE ZIPPER, DUMBASS.

My Buddy Mimi said...

My sister chose drums, mostly to annoy my parents. But all she brought home was the relatively non-loud practice pad. The actual drumming was done at school. She quit after she figured out that playing the drums would not be nearly as annoying to my parents as she had hoped.

amysflock said...

Ha! I played the oboe for 8 years (6th grade through high school), but I would definitely give the drums another look. For one, I remember friends only being able to take their sticks home, not the snare drum (or anything, for that matter), so practicing might be relatively quiet...provided you can get over the kiddo saying "chocolate-chocolate-chocolate" all the live-long day as he learns triplets. If you have neighbors close by, they're likely to hear any instrument Rob practices at home, flute, bari sax or otherwise...but most definitely trumpet and trombone!

Tess said...

I vote trumpet, it just seems like a sophisticated and manly instrument to me, it is a great "boy" instrument. No offense to your brother, but I think things like the flute and clarinet are more female instruments. JMO.

Lindsay said...

Trumpet all the way! It's not to big, there are no reeds, and it can sound ok by itself when he's practicing. And it gets the fun solos in the few band performances I have seen. The emptying of the spit valves is disgusting but you'll have that with any instrumetn.

Now, remember last week how you were talking about how the dentist will auto charge $100 whenever you go in? Well, I think they just figure out what their net income for the year needs to be and advise accordingly. Last yr my dentist recommended I get my wisdom teeth out but i was po' so I didn't do it. I specifically remember him saying my wisdom teeth were "super erupting". Yesterday I was at the dentist and he must have forgotten last yr's recommendation because he said they weren't super erupting and his recommendation was to leave them for now. What?????? I guess he's already hit his quota. Works for me, but yeessh. Best leave a musical instrument to fixe your son's overbite, God knows how reliable some of the medical advice out there is.
DISCLAIMER: to all the family members of dentists; I am sure my dentist is not representative of all dentists, and that your dentist family member is lovely.

Sherry said...

I was in band in middle school and high school, and I played percussion. They sent me home with a pair of drum sticks and a little "practice pad" that was about 9 inches in diameter and hardly made a sound at all. So you see, drums are the quietest, not the loudest.

And here are my thoughts on the others:
1. Flute is beautiful, but girly.
2. Clarinet. HOLY SQUEAKY!! I pray my future children never want to play such an instrument.
3. Saxophone. Also sometimes squeaky.
4. Eh. It seemed like all the trumpet players had big egos. Also, very loud, and the band directors were constantly telling them to stop trying to out-play the rest of the band.
5. Trombone, much bigger than a baritone, but the sound isn't as pretty.
6. Baritone. Refer to #5. You should really reconsider this one. the baritone has a beautiful tone.
7. Drums. Not that bad. :) (I actually mostly played the mallet instruments like xylophone and marimba because I don't have enough rhythm to play the actual drums.)

Omaha Mama said...

Wow - who knew that band and luncboxes would bring on the comments?! You did, that's who. Anyway, the instrument I would pick is saxophone since that's what I played. Reeds and all. Second, trumpet. But I actually like how it sounds. Loud and all.

I heart band.

Kate said...

I'm going to completely ignore your NO to the drums and pick that one, due to my own childhood trauma. I wanted the drums when it came time to pick instruments and my parents vetoed it- I ended up playing the clarinet. I did enjoy it, even with the reed issues, but I always wished it were the drums. It has now been over 20 years since then, and I'm still a little bitter. :)

Kelsey said...

Oh, my junior high boyfriend (who I am still friends with!) played trombone. So that gets my vote! :-) He's a good guy. Maybe the trombone is character building?

Meredith said...

Ooo-k. This is going to lengthy but, as a band nerd and former "Purveyor of Fine Musical Instruments to Band Students and Their Parents" I wanted to chime in. This is the same advice I've given friends:

Flute: This is what I played and, honestly, I picked it because the case was small and I could navigate the school bus with it easily. Can be difficult to master with the embouchure and all. Also, social stigma of "guy plus flute" to deal with if he sticks with it. Piccolo is fun to play (same fingerings as flute) and, if you're good at it, you get really great solos when you play marches. Plentiful but people who are not so good tend to drop it eventually since it's hard to master.

Clarinet: As mentioned, it's hard to make it "over the break". Child has to have reeds all the time. Now, reeds are NOT really nasty. You just "squeeze" them (for lack of a better word) carefully but firmly when you take them off of your mouthpiece so that they will dry. Reed guards and cases are your friend and I recommend that Mom/Dad have a stash of whatever type of reed your child is playing on (not a whole box--just one or two) so that you don't get a 10PM "OMG-- I need a reed before 8AM!" freakout. Again, stigma of "guy playing clarinet" but not too bad as guys can excel and ignore the naysayers and/or probably transfer to bass clarinet later. MANY MANY people play clarinet so they are easy to find used but MANY MANY people play them so honor bands, scholarships are very competitive.

Sax: Chosen by my brother, who plays still (along with just about anything else as Brian= disgustingly talented)-- reed info. applies. Fairly expensive because of all of the springs and rods/moving parts. Players are plentiful and are highly competitive for spots in honor bands/scholarships.

** Woodwinds have to be adjusted (to make sure the springs and rods make the keys cover the holes properly) and repadded (leather/felt pads warp, wear over time and have to be redone) and it's very important that the student SWABS OUT THEIR HORN to get the moisture out and away from the pads, otherwise they come unglued and that's a pain. And expensive.

Trumpet: Brass. Loud. Easy to find used. Not too terribly expensive new (comparitively speaking). Takes awhile to get a pleasant tone. Dents/crumples in bad places can render the horn D.O.A. Many students play it. Valve oil and a mouthpiece and you're set (for the most part)

Trombone: Brass. Loud. Easy to find used. More expensive than trumpet though because of the lovely slide. Tone/crumple info. from trumpet applies. Slide oil and mouthpiece and you're set (for the most part). Less popular than trumpet but still pretty popular. More difficult to get a very good tone.

**BUT brass instruments can be muted (!) and there is also a lovely item called "Silent Brass" that can be used so that tone isn't too terribly affected and the student can practice away without really disturbing everyone in the house.

Baritone: Good bari players are hard to find and the horns are expensive. HOWEVER, no one I knew (short of majors in college and that was still pretty rare) owned them-- they borrowed them from the school and bought a mouthpiece. Not as competitive.

Drums: No. NO NO NO. Everyone wants to play drums but, you know what? There are only so many drum parts when you get into actual concert band when you're older so sometimes you spend a long long time waiting to bang a cymbol once every 18 measures. Not something you can play for friends/family/ceremonies/church as a solo's a DRUM. You don't really practice reading music very much (unless you play mallet instruments) because a drum score has "Xs" on a staff to mark where you play--no notes. And if I had to hear "Trip-Pull-Ett, Trip-Pull-Ett" one more time while they learned to play triplets I thought I would cry.

If you think that there's any way he might stick with it I'd say (ideally) go woodwind and learn oboe if the opportunity presents itself-- no one plays it, it's a beautiful (but expensive!) instrument, but scholarships and honor bands are easy to get. Same with playing brass and later learning French horn.

And...that's all. I hope you haven't collapsed into a bored heap in front of your computer.

Black Sheeped said...

I played clarinet and later switched to bass clarinet, which was a totally AWESOME instrument. Clarinetists can also switch to CONTRABASS, which is super big and boomy. (Plus, many schools will own the bigger ones and you don't have to buy it, bonus!) Reeds were not as gross as they sound, and if I remember correctly you can get inexpensive ones. Also, the longer you play, and the stronger the reed you are able to use, the longer they last. Bonus: I think the reeds helped me learn Responsibility and Planning Ahead.

I had an overbite, and wore braces, then a retainer, then played bass clarinet/clarinet for several more years. I don't think it really did much to my teeth.

Note: all instruments are loud. ALL. And they all can make awful noises. And they can all be lovely. I'm so happy he's going to do music!

Jess said...

Oh gosh. I love the clarinet. Woodwinds are so much more pleasant to listen to (TOTALLY biased). My brother "played" the sax.... eyes crossed. Just kill me. And what the ?!!! with the lunch box.

DCmomma said...

I always wanted to play the flute, I have always though it was so pretty. I played the oboe in grade school and hated it. My brother played the trombone.

How could they not open the lunchbox if it just took you a couple minutes. People need more patience.

Anna said...

I'd vote clarinet, for the following reasons:

1. Small: easy to store for one of the others if he loses interest after a week. I mean! A year. As others have said, it would be easy to carry on the bus, too.

2. Seems like a good "starter" instrument.

3. But mostly because he WANTS to play that one. Easy way to make him happy, and perhaps insure a few more days--I mean!--months of practice.

aibee said...

Okay, I'm loving the choices on offer:







big loud bashy things.


Personally, I'd go for the BLBTs.

I don't think I could live through the year it took my kid to work through the off key, blatty type noises and on to something more melodic. He'd probably give it up by the time it started sounding less like Music To Kill Yourself By anyway.

Drums, otoh, have no Off Key issues. I mean, it's not like he needs to hit the right note to make it sound good, you know? He's just got to learn to coordinate or whatever - and everyone's got at least some sense of rhythm - so how bad could drum practice be? Comparatively speaking, of course ;)

Also, about the lunch box slaughter? I'm thinking someone needs that lunch box carcass thrown at their head.

Anna said...

Uh, I meant "ensure" more practice, not insure. You know what I mean.

Black Sheeped said...

I feel I need to clarify that I had the teeth alignment issues BEFORE I started playing, and they didn't get worse during/after.

Katie said...


I was a clarinet player and agree about the nasty reeds and the overbite problem. My voice teacher even said it made me stick my chin out weirdly as well....

Pann said...

Flute would be my advice. I play flute, and it's nice and easy to carry. My brother plays flute as well and he did have to put up with some teasing that it was girly but that stopped because he!!!

For non-girly examples, see Jethro Tull.

That said, you mentioned wanting this instrument to interest your other kids potentially. And you have 4 boys and 1 girl. Hmmm....

Clarinet is also nice.

I dunno. Get the overbite fixed some other way than just by picking a musical instrument, would be my advice!!!

Plus: the lunchbox? THAT IS SO WRONG!

Swistle said...

Pann- He'll be getting braces. I just don't want to work against the braces with his instrument choice.

Michelle said...

Wow. Maybe you just discovered the reason the cafeteria staff are cafeteria staff and not high powered CEOs somewhere. I'd be pretty peeved myself.

And I vote against flute (not that it was on his list). Cleaning hte spit out of it was SO gross (see: reed issues). The only one listed that doesn't involve cleaning spit out of the instrument (again EWWW) is drums. And they weren't bad when I played them.

Mrs. M said...

What crap on the lunchbox! I'd totally talk to someone about that.

I played the alto sax. I don't remember it pushing on my teeth but I didn't have an overbite either so maybe I don't know. The thing with it is that it's big and heavy.

The trumpet is big as well but not nearly as heavy.

(big and heavy are important if he's riding the bus, carpool, etc.)

The trumpet would probably be more viable for all of the kids and also enjoyable for him. He can be in a jazz band! (I was in a middle school jazz band. HA!)

As for loud--they're all loud! The flute would be less loud but I've never met a boy who played the flute....and didn't get wedgies and swirlies!

Leaf, probably... said...

They all sound pretty aweful, but to tell you the truth I think you should consider drums, They're actually quite easy to listen to, and can be played less loudly than you'd think. We had a neighbuor who would play on them twice a day, and he was just learning, and we didn't mind at all, it really wasn't too awful and distracting.

RainyPM said...

I'm so annoyed about the extreme lunchbox solution. It reminds me of this summer - my babysitter locked herself out of my house with the kids (and her cell phone and her car). Instead of calling her mom to come get them, or me to find out where we might have a spare key hidden, she busted my doorknob. Later she told me she had decided to break out the window, but decided to try the doorknob first.

Thank goodness for the little things.

Melis said...

As a band nerd who played many instruments, the two I lay most of my musical claim to are the flute and trombone. I played flute from 4th grade through my freshman year of highschool but switched when our entire trombone section graduated and we were left with a skimpy brass line. I loved the trombone. Yeah, it was heavy and cumbersome to walk home from school with but something about the rich tones just really sang in my heart. Plus it gave me some killer arms. I'm just sayin'....

Amanda said...

Are there ways to completely avoid the whole band thing? I'm going to try to think of them before my oldest gets there - none of those sound appealing. After reading the comments, I think I'd have to go for drums although they clearly weren't on your list.

Lunchbox - I'd be livid!

Swistle said...

Amanda- In our school system, at least, it's totally optional. They take the band kids out of class during "seatwork" time, so they don't miss anything. I asked an older kid at our bus stop, and he says a third or half the class goes, and the rest don't.

KiniWoman said...

My daughter started with clarinet in fifth grade. She liked it alright, but struggled with it a little. Her cousin (a year older) was playing alto sax, my dd tried it and fell in love with it.

From what I understand, though, moving from clarinet to sax is common. And, although we went from using my sister's clarinet (thus, for free) to buying a sax (payment plan on three years!) I'm really happy. She loves it and plays really well and really does have episodes where she just wants to play it for fun!

Good luck. Does your school do rentals or do you have to buy an instrument? You could always look into used pieces at the music stores (that work with the schools) often they are from kids who changed instruments, quit or upgraded and are in great shape!

KiniWoman said...

Oh... my dd is now in 8th grade with sax. She was in the 8th grade band last year as a 7th grader and was first chair most of the year. This year she is first chair currently as well.

The worst part of the reed instruments (in particular) when the kids practice is getting the reed saturated otherwise it sounds airy and squeaky.

Good luck!!