Beginners Guide to School band / orchestra instruments

This is a beginners guide (for parents) to understand the various school band / orchestra instruments so that you can introduced your child to music.


Most schools have a school band and offer music as a subject. Your child joining the school band is definitely a great thing for him/her because of the sheer advantages (including joy) that music provides.

In the case of kids, developing fine-motor skills, social skills, focus, working in a group, are just few of the things that they can expect to learn. Besides,learning to read music is like math, good for your little one’s intelligence as well.

So, as a parent, if you’re excited about your child’s foray into the world of music, here are some other things to know like what are the various instruments available, how much do they cost, and so on.

Also Read: School band instruments names: Band & Orchestra Musical Instruments and accessories.

Marching in the band as tough as playing sports

While the mental benefits of playing music are well documented, not many realize that the physical demands of participating in a competitive high school marching band are similar to those experienced by athletes who compete in competitive sports like football, according to research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting in Seattle.

“In the past 20 years, marching bands have gone to these highly choreographed visual shows, where performers are literally running around the field at very high velocities with heavy instruments while playing very difficult passages. At the top levels of marching band and drum corps, you get a level of competition and athleticism that is equal to a division I athletic program,” says Gary Granata, an exercise physiologist, registered dietitian and owner of the New Orleans-based company PerformWell.

Fatigue, muscle soreness, and injuries — often associated with competitive sports and athletics — were commonly reported by band members. Almost every band member reported muscle soreness or stiffness after practice, and nearly half said they were “frequently tired” after band practice. Nearly a quarter said they felt faint or sick to their stomach after marching band participation and more than half experienced heat-related illness.

Yet, there is almost no research on marching bands, where kids engage at high intensity levels and also incur injuries. Experts say safety guidelines and effective training regimens are needed for marching band and drum corps — a “strenuous physical activity that has rates of both participation and injury similar to competitive sports”.

Let Your Child Make the Most of the School Band Experience

One of the great things about middle school is that students can finally participate in activities and sign up for subjects that they’ve been looking forward to since elementary school. Joining the middle school band can be a milestone, but also a learning experience for tweens. If your child is considering the school band or orchestra, consider the following tips to make the experience the best possible.

The Middle School Band – Tips for Teens and Parents

  • Give it a Try: Every student should at least look into joining the middle school band or orchestra. Even students who have never played an instrument before, or who can’t yet read music, should ask if they can participate. Schools often hold a “band night” for parents and children to meet the instructor and try out the instruments, or you may have the opportunity to learn about the band program at school orientation. It’s a good idea to try every instrument, in order to determine which one might be best for your child.

    Also Read: Introduction to Classical Music

  • Save Money: Joining the band or orchestra may seem costly, but it doesn’t have to be. If your child decides to give the band a try for a year, consider renting an instrument as opposed to buying one. If your child decides to stick with band, you can look into purchasing a used instrument from a student who has dropped out of band, or shop for used clarinets, flutes, or trumpets at pawn shops, or through local classified advertisements. Many music stores also offer parents the option of paying for an instrument in monthly installments. It’s not a bad idea to look into optional insurance coverage, because at some point during the school year there’s a good chance your child’s instrument will need some professional adjustments.
  • Be Patient: Your musician should know that it takes time to master an instrument, and at first the band may seem like it will never master a song together. Be sure your child knows it takes time for the group to put it all together, and to be patient with the band instructor and with other members of the band. Your child’s school will likely have a performance at the end of the year, so that you and your child can enjoy just how much the group has learned together.


To Rent or Buy

If you’re shopping for a beginning student instrument, its tempting to rent an instrument, because your student’s commitment is unproven, and some musical instruments can be expensive. But then, there are some good reasons to opt for a purchase (instead of renting) for the following reasons.

  • Long-term rental fees can add up quickly. A perfectly playable entry-level instrument can usually be purchased for less than the cost of a year’s rental.
  • A well-chosen beginner’s instrument that is well cared for will retain its value and usually return a substantial part of its purchase price when sold used or traded in for a better quality instrument.
  • Higher-quality instruments may appreciate in value over time; and in the case of stringed instruments such as violins, their voices “open up” as they age.
  • Rental instruments may be a bit worse for wear with nicks, dents, and scratches, You’re also liable for any damage on a rented band instrument.


However, it makes sense to check with your school or with local libraries; in certain cases you do get musical instruments on rent for cheap.

Buying a Musical Instrument for Your Child

The ‘cost’ of a musical instrument worries most parents, but then you do not have to pickup the most expensive one.

You’re not going to go out and pick a Stradivarius violin for your kid. But then again, buying the cheapest instrument available is likely to backfire.

Cheap instruments will probably have poor intonation and difficult to get into tune. Shoddy construction could compromise playability and tone, causing your child to get frustrated and even give up learning.

So in order to ensure your student’s initial enthusiasm is sustained as they make progress, pick up a worthy starter instrument (there are plenty of good starter instruments).

A clever thing to do is to strike a balance between price and performance, and it’s actually easier than you’d think. Because so many parents face this same predicament, leading manufacturers aim to juggle sound and playability factors with affordability.

Are You a Band Geek

If you spent even a few years of your teenage life playing for your school band (marching band), its very likely that you consider yourself a “band geek”.

Here are signs you are that individual:

  • You try to guess the tempo of every song you hear.
  • You’re walking behind someone and you try to be in step with him/her.
  • You think people who can’t tell the difference between woodwind and brass are less intelligent. You also try to convince people that flautists don’t have to be always women and trumpeters always men.
  • After reciting alphabet A through G, you almost always start back at A again.
  • A part of your closet is designated “for concert attire”. Your desk drawers will have chipped reeds, valve oil or drumsticks.
  • When you meet someone who was also in band, you judge each other based on instrumental stereotypes
  • You’ve named your instrument
  • Your license plate says “BNDGK”
  • Read more here

12 things only Band Geeks understand (Funny)

  • How band geeks were perceived in the 1970s (as shown in the movies): Frail losers, Braces and headgear, thick glasses, ‘snorty’ laugh, always talking about band camp, bullied.
  • Fashion & Appearance: Blue Jeans, Flannel Shirts, Glasses, “Geeky” looking. Marching Uniforms – Tall hats, Fuzzy/Fur covered, Tassels, coat with Brass Knuckles
  • Behaviors: Hung out in groups, Lot of time in the band room, pretty good in school

Band Geek Stereotype Video

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