“I love music and I’ve always wanted to play a musical instrument.
There are so many choices. Which musical instrument is best for me? How do I choose one?”
“As a kid, my family moved a lot, so I never was in one place long enough to do the whole “band” or “piano lesson” thing. Now I want to learn music. But I have no idea how to choose an instrument.”
I hear comments like these often from people who want to play a musical instrument. In this post I’ll answer your questions and give you some good ways to go about choosing an instrument.
It is never too late to choose a musical instrument. And don’t worry if you pick one and then move on to another. Whatever you learn about music on one instrument transfers to the next. You’ll build knowledge about music that will help you learn whichever instrument you decide to stick with.
If you like music and you have an organized approach to learning, you will be successful. And, you don’t need to read notes to play an instrument. It helps, but you can learn to play first and then decide later if you want to read notes. I’ll give more information about learning to read music notes in the 2nd article of this series.
Listen to a lot of instruments and see which ones you like best.
It’s a good idea to listen and familiarize yourself with different kinds of instruments. Try listening to a variety of styles of music to expose yourself to a lot of different types of instruments. You can listen to musical instruments on Youtube. Green Bean’s Music has a nice series that plays short samples of each instrument.
Think about the following things…
What kinds of sounds do you like?
Do you like loud sounds? Or, do soft sounds give you comfort? Are you happy hearing the low, deep sounds like a roaring lion? Or maybe you prefer high sounds such as twittering birds? Think about which instrument sends tingles up and down your spine. You will be successful with an instrument that “speaks” to you.
What kind of music do you like?
Folk music? Indian ragas? Rock and roll? Hip-hop? Ragtime? Blues? Classical? Think of your favorite songs and which instruments are in those songs. This will help you decide what you want to play.
Do you like electric or acoustic music?
The kind of music you like will help you decide what instrument you want to play. An electric instrument can be played silently with headphones, which can be a big benefit if you are sharing space with others. And even if you prefer acoustic music, many instruments such as keyboards and guitars are also available with electric versions.
How much space do you have in your home for a musical instrument?
Is space an issue? Would a grand piano take up your entire living room? Do you want an instrument that is portable?
How do you feel about playing with others?
Do you want to be part of a band, orchestra or music club? Think about the instruments you can play with other people. Or, do you want to make music by yourself?
How much are you willing to spend?
Do you need to follow a budget? Are you in the market for something decent for under $200? Or, can you spend several thousand dollars on your new hobby?
Which instruments fit you physically?
Are you a large or small person? Do you have big or small hands? Being able to comfortably hold an instrument will make it a lot easier to play it once you have it.
Narrow down your choice of instrument
Once, you’ve thought about the above issues, decide what instrument family you like. The instrument families are: strings, keyboard, brass and woodwind, and percussion. Common stringed instruments are violin, guitar, bass, ukulele. Whereas common keyboard instruments are piano and organ. Common percussion instruments include all types of drums. And common brass and woodwind instruments are flute, clarinet, and trumpet.
So, let’s say you’ve narrowed your choices down to stringed instruments
You love guitar and the soulful sound of the violin. You think it’s really cool the way the bass provides the foundation for the song. So now it’s time to pick out a stringed instrument.
Here are some issues with these musical instruments
Guitar – Big with 6 strings. Chords are hard to change and the strings hurt your fingers.
Violin – Produces a beautiful sound when played by an expert, but it can squeak and scratches when played by a beginner. It’s hard to get the right notes because there are no frets. The bow is really difficult to manage. It’s EXPENSIVE.
Bass – Huge! An acoustic bass can take up a lot of space in your house. And if you want to take your bass with you to a group jam, you might need to get a larger car to carry it in.
But I don’t read notes!
Never fear, you can learn to play an instrument first. Check out the second post in this series to find out more about how reading notes fits in with learning an instrument.
7 reasons why ukulele might be the right musical instrument for you
- The ukulele is smaller than the guitar. It has only 4 strings, rather than 6. This means the chord shapes are easier than on guitar. Also, ukulele strings are nylon so they don’t hurt your fingers, unlike metal guitar strings.
- There is no bow, so you don’t have the awful screeching sound that comes with beginners on the violin. And there are frets, so you know where to put your fingers. In fact, the ukulele sounds pleasant when you strum it.
- You can take a ukulele anywhere. It’s accessible and portable.
- The ukulele is acoustic, so you don’t have to worry about it being too loud for your neighbors.
- You can get a decent ukulele for under $200, so it is an affordable instrument. Once you have your first ukulele, you can learn to play and decide if you like it or not. For the cost of a ukulele, an instruction book and an online course, you can be off and running without breaking the bank.
- The ukulele comes in many sizes, so you can find one to fit you. You can even get small, colorful ones for your kids so they can play too.
- Since ukuleles are quiet, you can play them with other people. It’s not like the guitar – a room full of guitars would be overwhelming. People play ukuleles in clubs and sing along.
What are the next steps?
Read the next post in our series about learning to play a musical instrument without reading notes.
If you’re sent on ukulele, decide what size of ukulele works for you. You can read more about ukulele sizes here.
Decide whether you would rather have private lessons or learn from a book or online course.
If you decide to get started by yourself with a book, you might enjoy our reviews of the most popular ukulele books here.