Then I glanced at the price. Since this was a catalog of children's toys, I expected the lyre to be priced like a toy. Let's just say that it wasn't, and leave it at that. I tried to put it out of mind, but I found myself thinking about it over the next several days. I decided that I wanted to get a pentatonic instrument for our household and began to research in earnest.
Pentatonic Scale(I am not a great musician or an expert at musical theory, so take this information as a novice's summary of the information she has researched. If you know more about this and think something is incorrect, please send me an email so I can update this post.)
The typical scale most of us are used to is a diatonic scale with 7 notes (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). The pentatonic scale uses only five of those notes. In an instrument tuned to the key of D, those notes would be D, E, G, A, B. Eliminating two notes from the diatonic scale results in a scale that leaves only harmonious combinations of notes. This makes an instrument tuned to a pentatonic scale an excellent choice for a first instrument for a child.
Choices for a Pentatonic First InstrumentAs I was researching pentatonic instruments I found three main options: the lyre (the 7 or 10 string version is often called a kinder lyre), the glockenspiel (a metal xylophone), and the pentatonic recorder.
Kinder LyreA kinder lyre is a small stringed instrument. The ones I looked at had either 7 or 10 strings tuned to d-e-g-a-b-D-E (-G-A-B). The music is played by plucking the strings. Here are the four kinder lyres I looked at:
- Harps of Lorien-Kinder Lyre
- Auris Pentatonic Lyrea video that features the auris pentatonic lyre.
- Eyster Meadow Lyrethis video is an Eyster Meadow Lyre.
- Song of the Sea Kinder Harp target="_blank"sound sample of this lyre.
Pentatonic GlockenspielA glockenspiel is a percussion instrument similar to a xylophone. This Auris Pentatonic Glockenspiel has a beautiful tone.
Here is a video of a duet played on two of these.
Pentatonic RecorderA pentatonic recorder is a woodwind instrument that is similar to a flute tuned to a pentatonic scale. This Choroi Pentatonic Recorder sounds beautiful. a video that shows a Choroi Pentatonic Recorder (you need to skip to about 4:45 in to see it).
Which early pentatonic instrument should I choose?In my completely novice opinion, the glockenspiel seems to be the most accessible for very young children followed by the lyre and finally the recorder. If I were making a decision on which one to get for our family (a 2 1/2 year old and a just turned four year old) I would definitely choose the glockenspiel.
I wanted the lyre though. I was more excited about playing the lyre myself, and so I chose to get that one. I think the children will be able to play it a little, and they will be able to listen to me as I learn a new instrument. Perhaps we can get a glockenspiel too later and play multi-instrument pentatonic duets. Hmm. I'm probably getting ahead of myself a little.