Research into children’s interest in learning a musical instrument finds that young children are keener than ever, but interest among other children is dwindling.
A new piece of research by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra reveals nine in ten children want to learn a musical instrument.
The survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the RPO, asked children aged 6 to 16 around the UK about their interest in learning a musical instrument.
Band instruments like the guitar (45%), piano (36%) and drums (35%) proved the most popular. Meanwhile, 75% of children opted for an orchestral instrument, such as the violin (10%), flute (8%) and saxophone (8%). At the other end of the scale, children were least interested in learning the French horn and double bass.
Of those surveyed, girls (95%) were slightly keener to learn an instrument than boys (90%). The instruments most popular with girls were the flute (13%), recorder (13%), violin (14%) and viola (14%).
Boys, on the other hand, were far more likely to want to learn the guitar (50%), drums (45%) and bass guitar (28%).
The information follows a study revealing gender imbalance in orchestral instrumental sections, which found there were no women trombone or tuba players
in the world’s top 20 orchestras. It also found the majority of double bass (95%) and timpani players (96%) were men.
The RPO’s survey also indicates that the older a child gets, the less interested they become in learning a musical instrument. James Williams, managing director of the RPO, suggests more needs to be done to nurture children’s interests in music, saying: “The relative speed with which children’s interest in learning a musical instrument falls from 96% to 84% in just four years underlines the work that needs to be done to support young musicians and at a crucial age.”
Between the ages of ten and 14, the proportion of children who said they were no longer interested in learning a musical instrument quadrupled from 4% to 16%. This age group were also more likely to say their school did not encourage them to develop an interest in music (rising from 28% among 6-10 year olds, to 41% of over 14 year olds).
This follows a study by the University of Sussex which revealed that the number of schools offering music at A Level has dropped by more than 15% over the last two years.
“Wherever possible, music needs to stay on the school curriculum but, more fundamental than that, teenagers need reassurance that music matters,” says James Williams.
“Given the UK has some of the world’s most respected orchestras, we need to invest in tomorrow’s talent.”