3 of the Most Popular Instruments for Beginners

Jan 31, 2018

If you’re one of our dear Constant Readers, you’re already well aware of all the countless benefits learning to play music can have for both children and adults. Through music anyone can learn discipline, express their creativity, and find a healthy and constructive way to manage stress. And if your child sticks with it for long enough, music might even become a career! But whether you want to de-stress, or you’re looking for something for your little budding musician, music has no downside!

Every prospective musician has to start somewhere, but that perfect jumping off point isn’t always easy to find. There are so many different kinds of instruments out there, it can be hard to choose one. And if you don’t know anything about music to begin with, how can you be expected to choose the best instrument for yourself or your child?

Lucky for you, that’s where we come in!

The most important thing to consider when picking a beginner’s instrument is to choose one that inspires whoever the prospective student is to play (whether it’s for you or your child). This is especially true for children, who may not have the mental discipline or drive to stick with something that doesn’t immediately grab their interest every time they pick it up.

So let’s get to the list, and find the perfect first musical instrument for a beginner!

Guitar

We’re starting out with what is arguably the most popular instrument for beginners in Western culture today; the guitar.

Starting with the guitar is remarkably affordable. You can get your hands on a beginner kit, complete with everything you need to start playing right away, for around $200 or less. And you can even find a wide range of options at that price.

Guitar lessons are extremely easy to find, as are online and self-guided lessons. Finding songs to learn is super easy, and students can decide whether they want to actually learn to read music, or stick to tablature.

You’d be hard pressed to find much modern music that doesn’t include a guitar, which makes it an incredibly versatile instrument to start with. Young students who start with the guitar have a broad future ahead of themselves if they stick with it. They can go into classical music, or jazz, pop, rock, Latin, folk, songwriting, etc., etc., etc. They could even go on to study guitar at a prestigious music school. The sky is the limit with the guitar.

Piano/Keyboard

If the guitar is the most popular option for a first instrument, the piano might be the most common option. Everyone seems to either be someone, or know someone, who took piano lessons as a child, and there is a good reason for that.

The biggest advantage to learning to play music on the piano is the strong foundation of music theory that students are able to build; a foundation of skills and knowledge that is easily transferable to practically any other instrument. With the piano or keyboard, all the notes are laid out in front of the student, in a nice convenient row. With a setup like that, it’s easy to understand the theory behind musical concepts like chords and scales. That means picking up a different instrument, one where the relationships between the notes are less apparent, will be easier.

On the other hand, learning to play music on the piano isn’t nearly as financially convenient as, say, the guitar. Even a small piano can be extremely expensive, and will take up a sizable amount of space in your home. You usually have to pay a professional to come in and tune it for you, and thanks to all that music theory that goes into it, online or self-guided lessons aren’t nearly as useful as with the guitar. Getting good at the piano requires developing a strong sense of coordination, and any student will likely need at least a few formal lessons to learn to play the thing.

You can offset some of the expense of a piano with an electric keyboard. These instruments can make a wide range of sounds, compared to the piano’s single, distinctive sound, they’re actually portable, taking up a ton less space, and are usually a lot less expensive (assuming you don’t spring for one with all the unnecessary bells and whistles).

Drums

Drums are, without a doubt and with good reason, one of the most popular instruments in the world. They’re a lot of fun to play, and if a student gets decent at them, they’ll always stay in demand, and be able to play whenever they want.

Another advantage to drums is the kit itself. Once a drummer has a somewhat decent kit, they won’t need to continue to upgrade their equipment in the same way that a guitar player is always looking for a better amp or guitar. Sure, things can be added to the kit, like cymbals, additional drums, or other percussion instruments, like a cowbell or woodblock, but that base drum kit ought to last a long time.

That being said, getting that decent drum kit can be on the expensive side. You can expect to pay a few hundred dollars more for a drum kit than either a guitar or an electric keyboard. Add to that the fact that they are bulky and take up a lot of space, making them hard to move around.

One other disadvantage is the very sound they produce. Simply put, acoustic drums are loud, and a hard-hitting drummer is likely to make even the neighbours notice – electric guitars might get a bad rap when it comes to noise complaints, but at least they have a volume knob! If sound is a concern, the answer is an electric drum kit. Though these tend to be a bit pricier than the already expensive acoustic kits, electric drum kits let you bang away in relative peace and quiet. These devices really don’t make much noise at all, unless you plug in an amp, and most of them even feature headphone jacks for near-silent practicing. And they’re even a lot easier to pack up and move around.

This is only a short list of 3 of the more popular musical instruments to begin on, and it is in no way meant to be exhaustive. I, for example, began my musical education with the clarinet in grade 5. As I said at the beginning, the best option is always the one that inspires its musician to pick it up every day!