‘What is a good musical instrument to learn first?’ is a question I hear as often as ‘When is a good age to start learning?’. We are all different and many of these questions can be answered once you get to know the individual in question – it is hard to generalize. Yet, there are certain instruments that have over time been hailed as ‘good first instruments’. We often hear about piano and piano keyboard that they are helpful for getting a good basic idea of music as one can easily learn notation and simple songs on them.
Out of curiosity, I researched the topic and discovered the most common first musical instruments in the UK. Here is the top ten:
So it does seem like keyboard and piano come out on top – yet we should not forget that different factors influence these outcomes, such as practical issue, e.g. it is much easier to have a keyboard at your house than a whole drum kit.
It has also been found that the level of parent’s education influences the decision of which instrument their child learns; some parents might not even be educated enough to consider other options than the keyboard. When parents themselves have received music education and been exposed to different types of music, they are more likely to consider other instrument options.
As an anecdote, yesterday my 5-year-old son came home from school having had his first ukulele lesson – he was buzzing with excitement. Not only because he is learning to play a musical instrument, but he also liked the social aspects of learning to play together with his friends. This social aspects seems to be an important factor to consider when younger kids are concerned as they might feel more motivated to learn when encouraged by their peers.
Therefore, I would say that any musical instrument is a good place to start – in any case, the student would learn all the basics of music, enjoy developing a new skill and potentially cultivating a life-long interest in music.
Our exploratory pilot study on the current practices and ways forward in the field of music education in Uganda took place from September 2017 to March 2018. During this time, we collected a vast sample of data from education professionals in Uganda, and conducted a thorough literature review on music education in the country. The exploratory approach enabled us to remain open-minded and with explored the issue with curiosity.
The main findings highlighted the evident discrepancy between the very musical culture across Uganda and the lack of and poor standard of music education found in schools. One would think that a country with such rich musical traditions would place emphasis on ensuring that the younger generations are educated in the field; however, what we discovered is that locals want to learn practical musical skills, yet schools fail to deliver music to a high enough standard. Further findings were a lack of national monitoring and assessment in music, as well as teachers feeling poorly qualified to teach the subject.
Moreover, a significant finding was that there is a need for professional musicians across the country, as live musical performances take place daily in all sorts of cultural functions ranging from school ceremonies to funeral. The fact that the younger generation are not learning practical musical skills in school is resulting in there being a growing void of professional musicians. At the same time, unemployment and poverty amongst the youth are increasing. This indicates that the young could be trained in practical musical skills in order to assist them in finding employment as musicians and avoiding falling into poverty.
We are currently seeking further funding for building a larger-scale project on the basis of the findings. The intention of the bigger project would be to trial training teachers in music and piloting a new improved music education curriculum. As part of the project, awareness of workshops on choosing music s a career would also be piloted.
For a full report on the findings from the first study, please see:
As part of our current research project, we have been learning about the National Curriculum in Uganda. It is different to the model that we follow in Europe. It is based on a Curriculum Wheel that consists of eight Learning Areas. The Areas cover subject knowledge, but also general skills such as creative thinking and workplace behaviour.
Being a prominently Christian country, Religious education features in all primary and secondary schools. In addition to the usual subjects of language, science, mathematics, social science and physical education with creative arts, something called Life Education forms a part of the curriculum. This section focuses on life skills such as living healthily in the community and taking care of one’s personal health.
Interestingly for us since we are specifically looking at music education in Uganda, music has been classed under Physical Education. What this entails is something that we are currently finding out and conducting a survey on current practices taking place – we will be sharing the interesting findings soon! In the meantime, you can learn more about the National Curriculum on the website of the National Curriculum Development Centre:
New term at our school in Uganda has got off to a good start. Children at the Mother Ann nursery school and music students at the Buna School of Music have been busy with their new lessons and curriculum for the autumn term, which is also their last term of the year since, in Uganda, the school year runs from January to November.
This week we have been spending time on researching music in Uganda. Like other African countries, Uganda has a rich history in music. It has been particularly interesting to learn about different styles of music from different regions of Uganda – how the local languages, dances,tribal practices and singing styles have influences the current musical culture in Uganda.
For those of you who know more about academics and researchers in music, you might find it interesting to know that Peter Cooke collected vast amounts of recordings in Uganda back in the day! These can all still be found at the British Library.
For more in-depth reading and knowledge on this, we recommended the two books that you can see in the images below – they are very comprehensive and very interesting reading indeed!
Our school and consultancy in Kampala, Uganda, has been working in partnership with Mulago Development Group. The group provides education and health care to children in Ghana and Uganda. Their ethos is that no matter anyone’s background, everyone has the same right to a good life.
You can find more detailed information on the group on their facebook page:
A few weeks ago, the group rescued a baby girl who had been abandoned by her parents and left in a pit by a road. She has been doing well whilst being looked after by members of the group . Generous donation from our European supporters have helped to get basic food and clothes for her. At the moment she is receiving treatment for malaria, which is still a very common illness across Africa. Any donations towards her treatment and other basics are much appreciated – please get in touch with the group via their facebook page in regard to this.
Here you can see her sweet face and what an adorable girl she is despite the tough start to life!
Our friend and colleague Ann Rich from the Mother Ann Foundation has been in Uganda for some weeks now. She has been busy working on her own nursery school project, but has also kindly kept us up to date on the work of our educational consultancy.
The consultancy has been doing many orders of school books and teaching materials for schools across Uganda. Ann performed an independent evaluation of the quality of the materials and the results have been outstanding. The consultancy is being widely acknowledged and it is gaining a great reputation in the field. We are delighted that this branch of work has gotten off to a great start and we hope to continue on such track.
Ann has also been busy decorating the classroom for her nursery kids where music lessons are currently also being held. Below you can see the charts, posters and fresh paint being used for decorating the room. For more details on her work, please visit https://motherann.org.uk/
In Uganda, the school year runs from January to the end of November, with Christmas break being the longest holiday of the school year. This means that the current autumn term is the last term for school year 2016. With the majority of Ugandans being Christians by religion, it is important for them to have a longer break for Christmas and also it is the dry season over there, meaning it is lovely sunny weather most of the time – in other words, ideal time for holidays.
Currently, our consultancy in Kampala is busy getting exam revision books and exam papers ready for the exams that are to take place later on this term. These are the end of school year exams and many schools lack the needed books and papers for completing them properly. Our consultancy is liaising with different school and education authorities in order to help them fulfil the requirements and to help pupils pass their exams with flying colours.
Our educational consultancy in Kampala, Uganda, is now offering teacher training on using text books at schools. This service will ensure that teacher know how best to utilise their text books in the classroom. In Uganda, many schools still don’t have libraries and so using text books is a new aspect to teachers. The courses we offer for teachers at a low cost can make all the difference in their classroom practice.
Should you be interested in learning more, please do get in touch with us!