Today’s secondary-school kids are more likely to be able to play a musical instrument than their parents or grandparents, according to a new study by Town Hall Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

The new research has found that two-thirds (66%) of 11-16 year olds have learnt or are learning an instrument, compared with 61% of the generations before them. This rises to 67% in the Midlands, and 69% in the South of England.

Of those who had learnt/were learning an instrument:

  • 38% played an orchestral instrument  (compared with 31% of their parents/grandparents), with the most popular being the violin (19%)
  • 38% were learning the piano/keyboard, making it the most popular instrument above even the guitar (37%)

More broadly, the results gave a clear indication of which instruments were most popular across the different regions of the UK suggesting where the ‘orchestra of tomorrow’ may be coming from.

London – a hotbed of musical diversity, kids in London are the most likely to play the piano (with 29% of U21s having learnt at some point, or currently learning), recorder (21%), harp (2%), or bass (3%), and to sing well (8%).

West Mids – outside London, the next most musical group are the people of Brum and the surrounding area. 3% of kids can play the cello, and this is also the place you are most likely to find a bassoonist (1%), oboist (1%) or organist (3%).

East of England – A jazz vibe appears to radiate from the East as this is where you’d most likely find a saxophonist (3%), guitarist (23%) or trombonist (3%).

Scotland – Nicola Benedetti appears to have inspired a wave of Scottish kids, with 11% of kids having learnt, or are learning the violin. Meanwhile, 9% of kids have also tried/are trying the drums.

Everywhere else – trumpeters will be coming from the North West (4% of kids are learning or have learnt), clarinets from Yorkshire (6%), violas from the East Mids (2%), flutes from the South West (6%) and the harp from Wales (3%).

The results come as THSH launches a campaign to encourage more kids to listen to live classical music. Currently, all accompanied under-16 year olds can attend Birmingham Classical season performances for free.