Instrument Guide

Which instrument?

Minimum Starting Year

Trumpet/ Cornet – Year 3
Tenor Horn/ French Horn – Year 3
Euphonium/ Baritone – Year 3
Trombone – Year 3
Tuba – Year 3

Flute – Year 3
Clarinet – Year 3
Saxophone – Year 5
Oboe – Year 3
Bassoon – Year 3

Violin – Year 2
Cello – Year 2
Double Bass – Year 5
Guitar* – Classical – Year 3

Percussion* – Year 3

Piano** Year 3

Electronic Keyboard* – Year 3

Piano/keyboard required at home for practice

Voice – High School Pupils

* No free use available

** Mainly Music Centre based

The above shows recommended minimum starting ages.




Brass Instruments

Eight members of the brass family are regularly taught by Bury Music Service – Cornet; Trumpet; Tenor Horn; Baritone; Euphonium; French Horn; Trombone; Tuba. (There are other instruments which are rather more rare and only taught as extras.)

Some of the Brass instruments are more suitable than others for the very young; this is dependent on the shape and size of the lips (the “embouchure”). Generally brass players would require their 2nd set of teeth. Thinner lips and a tighter lip shape would normally suggest a smaller mouthpiece although this is not always the case.

If the lip shape (embouchure) is not suitable for their choice of instrument, the pupil may be advised by their teacher to change to a larger mouthpiece, hence, a larger instrument such as a Tenor Horn, Baritone, Trombone, or Tuba.

Having short arms may be a problem when choosing the Trombone but this is easily overcome as the child grows.

Pupils would normally transfer to French Horn once a good sense of pitching has been established on either a Trumpet or Tenor Horn.


Woodwind Instruments

There are 5 woodwind instruments available for lessons, the Flute and Clarinet being the most popular. The Oboe and Bassoon are also instruments which feed into bands and orchestras and are a good choice for those wishing to play something a little more unusual.

Woodwind instruments are all one size with the exception of the Bassoon where a mini version is available. Size is one consideration when thinking about which instrument to learn as the player needs large enough hands and fingers to reach and cover the keys. Year 4 is recommended but some Year 3 pupils may be suitable. Bassoonists are usually able to hold and control the instrument once in Year 5.

It is also recommended that pupils have their 2nd set of front teeth before starting lessons or they may encounter problems in blowing.

The Saxophone is also an option to those in Year 5 or above. Some choose, once a proficient player, to take it up as an additional instrument.


String Instruments

There are 4 members of the string family, Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass. The smallest of them, the Violin, makes the highest sounds, next comes the Viola followed by the Cello. The largest and lowest sounding is the Double Bass.

Pupils can start on Violin and Cello at an earlier age than most of the other instruments. These instruments come in different sizes and the correct one will be issued to each pupil. When they grow they can be moved onto the next size.

Some pupils start on a Viola which is slightly larger than the Violin but most learn the basics on a Violin, then transfer to the Viola usually at High School. A few pupils learn it as a second instrument.

Many youngsters enjoy learning the Double Bass because of its sound and the independence of the instrument when playing in an orchestra. Some Mini-Basses are available for beginners but it is best if the teacher assesses whether the pupil has the physical strength to hold down the strings, also if the parents will be able to transport a larger instrument when the pupil gets bigger.



Many pupils opt for Guitar at Primary School, learning on a classical Guitar. These come in different sizes to fit the pupil and can be re-strung for left-handed pupils. This is one of the instruments that the Music Service does not stock. Parents are required to buy their child an instrument once a place in a class has been arranged by the Music Service, but with them being so cheap this is not usually an issue.

Please inquire if you are interested in the Ukulele.



Most of the Percussion teaching occurs at the Music Centre after school where the pupils can learn on a wide range of instruments from Drum Kit to Tuned Percussion and many more.

Tuition does take place in a small number of schools but it is based around the Drum Kit only. If the pupil wishes to join a Music Centre band then they may have to transfer to the Music Centre lessons in order to cover other areas of Percussion work not available at school.



Most Piano lessons take place at the Music Centre after school. Pupils learn in groups initially with the teacher working at the Piano with a pupil whilst the others work on a Clavinova Keyboard wearing headphones.

Some lessons do take place in a small number of schools but is dependent on the availability of an instrument and room.

If lessons are taken up it is important that the pupil is able to play an instrument between lessons either at home, school or other convenient location if progress is to be made.


Electric Keyboard

Keyboard lessons are available in an increasing number of schools. Many pupils see this as their main instrument, whilst others take it up as a second instrument to extend their musical knowledge.

Pupils will need an instrument to work on between lessons if any progress is to be made.



Singing is offered in High Schools only as this is the age when the voice becomes more developed. Many take up this option if they are working towards their GCSE or A level music examination.