Are you or your child interested in picking up a new instrument and not sure where to start? There are many factors you should consider, like what type of music you enjoy listening to, how quickly you want to be able to learn how to play, and the cost of the instrument itself.
The benefits of learning a new instrument have been proven scientifically and anecdotally over and over again. Music students tend to excel academically. The benefits of music education can be an entire article by itself, so for now, let's assume you're here because a) you know about the benefits and b) you're excited and you want to learn a new instrument, but you don't know where to start!
First, start within. Do you have a favorite musician that you want to emulate? When you go to a musical concert, is there an instrument that you like listening to the most? You might have your answer already. The most important part of learning how to play a new instrument is to _enjoy_ it so that you continue to learn and improve, so it's extremely important to pick one that you are interested in.
If you are choosing an instrument for your child and they are very young (under 6 years old), consider that some instruments have kid-sized versions (e.g. 3/4 violins!) or -- consider enrolling them in piano lessons.
In fact, piano is widely considered among music educators to be the best instrument to start with. Students that start with piano undoubtedly have a head start on their next instrument. Given that they've studied the basics for piano, they will already know how to read music and have improved fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination for both hands.
Learning to play piano can take a lot of patience, however. So for students that are older, in their teenage years or even adults that just want to be able to pick up an instrument quickly, an easier instrument to get started with like guitar or ukulele may be a good option.
An even "easier" option to get started with is an instrument you already own and have -- your voice! Fear not, learning to sing is a skill that takes technique just like any other instrument. There is a widespread misconception that singers are born, not made. Singing is a skill just like learning to play any other instrument -- in fact, it's familiarity is why so many people claim to be experts in it! If you choose voice, make sure to find a teacher that has good credentials.
Without further ado, here is our full list so far, where we will outline the starting costs associated and pros and cons for each instrument.
The most popular instrument to learn for good reason is piano. It's especially good to start piano lessons as young as possible -- as soon as your child shows an interest, it would be beneficial to enroll them in piano lessons. For the very young (toddlers, pre-school), musikgarten classes are incredible, but I've seen students as young as 4 that were mature enough to start beginner piano lessons. You may wish to hire anyone to teach your child piano, but if you intend to have your child study piano seriously, or if they seem very interested in it, it would be much better to hire a well-established piano teacher with good credentials so that they develop good habits from a young age.
The cost to start piano lessons will range on your budget. The budget option is to buy a basic digital keyboard and use a book ($), or youtube (free) to get start. The normal option is buy an acoustic piano (uprights are good for beginners. ). Piano lessons start at around $20/half hour depending on your area. Plan on lessons once a week, as is standard for most musical instruments. The bougie option is to buy an acoustic baby grand or grand piano (or perhaps already own one) and seek out the best piano teacher in the area, who may be teaching a university or college ($$$ - in metropolitan areas, this can be as much as $150/hour or more).
Type of music: Any genre, but mainly classical
Most piano lessons use classical music for training, and supplement with books that branch out into other genres like jazz, pop, and more.
Guitar is a popular choice for many reasons, the primary reason being the ease of learning! Many guitarists are self-taught, so it's more in the norm to not take guitar lessons -- you'll find many great resources online, on YouTube, or at your local music store.
You can find guitars for as cheap as $100, but as with any instrument you can spend as much money as you want to as well. If you have budget in mind, it may be better to start with a cheap acoustic guitar rather than going electric so that you don't have to purchase the additional equipment needed.
Genres: All, mainly pop, folk and more
Most guitarists are NOT classically trained, and have taught themselves by learning how to play their favorite songs. Therefore, you will find a lot of guitar tabs and resources in modern day music genres, including guitar tabs for the top 40 lists and whatever the teenager's are listening to these days.
The best things in life are free, and that includes your natural instrument -- the voice. Do you love to sing? Do you wish to improve your singing? Do you wish to improve your public speaking skills as well? Taking voice lessons will help increase your range and power as well as teach your presentation skills like better posture, projecting, exuding confidence and more.
Your instrument is free. Lessons are not. For a free to cheap option, there are resources on YouTube as well as other online courses, however, because everyone has different strengths and weaknesses with their voices, it's ideal to sign up for one-on-one lessons. Don't want to take lessons or not interested in singing solos? Maybe choir (FREE- $) is the best option for you -- While you won't get as much individual attention, choir teachers do teach a little vocal technique and you'll learn from the other choir members as well.
Learning to play ukelele is a popular choice today mainly because the cost to start is as low as $20. The instrument is small enough for little kids to play, and not so expensive that it's a big commitment.
Sheet music is available online and at your local music store. Ukulele lessons are not the norm, but they exist out there if you are interested! Like guitar, many ukulele beginners start off by teaching themselves, so buy a how-to book and get started!
Not for the faint of heart, drums and percussion can be an exciting adventure for those who wish to learn it and everyone else in their family.
A full drum set will cost a couple hundred dollars, and it would be a good idea to take lessons from a more experience percussionist that can guide you on the ins and outs of that beat.
Learning to play a string instrument like violin will train your ear and teach fine-tuning and precision.
Beginner violins will cost a couple hundred dollars, and if you/ your child advances to become an excellent violinist, you/they will need a better instrument, which can get really expensive, from thousands of dollars, to the cost of a small condo or more (Have you heard of stradivarius violins?). The reason violins get expensive is because they are like wine - they get better with age. Taking violin lessons is a must, and pretty non-negotiable. The Suzuki method is very popular for all string instruments.
Top Music Man is a professional music teacher and has a bachelor's degree in music.