More children than ever in the UK are learning to play a musical instrument

16 Sep 2014

A major research report, supported by Trinity College London, has been released this week revealing that 76% of children in the UK aged 5 to 14 say they know how to play a musical instrument – compared to 41% in 1999.

The research reveals that among children who play an instrument, the highest number (30%) say they play the keyboard. This is closely followed by piano and recorder, both 28%. Next are classical guitar (20%), drum kit (14%), electric guitar (13%), and violin (12%) – the first time that electric guitar has overtaken violin.

While the research seems to suggest a huge growth in musical learning in the UK, it also notes that 15% of children in the UK have never played an instrument. Another finding is that sustained musical learning is typically the preserve of children born to wealthier parents.

Nick Beach, Trinity’s Academic Director, was closely involved with the research. He said: ‘Trinity was delighted to contribute to this project, which represented a true collaboration between many different organisations working in music education.

‘However, it is dispiriting to find that less wealthy children are still finding it harder to keep going with music lessons. For this reason, Trinity is committed to supporting organisations like the Mayor of London’s Fund for Young Musicians, which provides support for young people to receive music lessons over a sustained period.’

Chris Walters, Trinity’s Head of Qualifications for Music, noted that the findings on the most popular instruments are reflected in uptake for Trinity’s music exams. He said: ‘Trinity is committed to offering assessments that reflect and support current trends in music-making, including our exams for Rock & Pop, electronic keyboard and drum kit. This goes hand in hand with continuing to develop and refine our ever-popular assessments for more traditional instruments like piano and classical guitar.’


Notes for editors

The research, commissioned by music exam board ABRSM and supported by Trinity, focused on finding out how many children in the UK play musical instruments and whether any trends could be identified from this. Teachers who had previously registered with Trinity or ABRSM were emailed with an online survey, leading to a total of 4,491 teachers being interviewed. 1,726 children and 1,255 adult learners were also interviewed.

The complete research is available from ABRSM.

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