Learning to play your first (or second or third) instrument is exciting! But with the wide variety of wonderful instruments out there, how do you even know which one to pick? There’s, of course, no right answer, but here are some questions to ask yourself to help determine which instrument is right for you.
1. Do you love to sing?
If so, an accompaniment instrument can be a great option. Piano, guitar, and ukulele are the most common ones, but even harp and mandolin can be excellent options!
2. How much time do you have to practice?
Practice is imperative for getting good at any instrument, but some are harder than others. If you have very little time, a ukulele might be a better starter instrument for you than a guitar, for example. You don’t have to work as hard to callous your fingers on the uke, while guitar strings will hurt over and over again if you let too much time elapse between practice sessions.
3. How important is portability?
If you want to easily head off to open mic nights or make music by a bonfire at the beach, it’s hard to beat the guitar for portability. It’s not that you couldn’t bring a keyboard to an event, but setup is more of a production.
4. How important is getting a solid foundation in music?
No matter which instrument you choose, you’ll learn some music fundamentals, but the piano is amazing for giving you a visual of low to high notes, not to mention that it allows you to learn to read music in both treble and bass clef. Check out this great resource for a wonderful beginner’s guide to piano.
5. Do you want to be in your school orchestra?
If so, then piano actually might not be your best option, unless they allow keyboard players. Consider the flute, clarinet, violin, or any other orchestra instrument.
6. Do you want to be in a band?
You’ll see all sorts of instruments appear in bands, from harps to violins, but guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums are always a good bet.
7.Do you want to have a solo act?
Orchestras and bands aren’t for everyone. If you’re looking for some great standalone instruments to play solo, consider one that can produce harmonies, like a piano, guitar, or harp.
8.What do you like the sound of?
This might be the most important question of all. If the sound of a trumpet makes you cringe, you might be better off picking something else. If the richness of a cello makes your soul swell with meaning, and a violin sounds vaguely shrill and grating to you, by all means, go for the cello. If you find a great teacher and put enough time into any instrument, you’ll be able to make it sing.
Don’t get me wrong. Most of these answers have counterexamples. I’ve seen people accompany themselves while they sing with nothing other than a violin, and it was an amazing performance. But you can use these guidelines to get you started on your research!
Molly is the founder of Molly’s Music. She is a dedicated singer and pianist whose musical journey spans 2.5 decades, with stops along the way to sing for the pope, pass Certificate of Merit at the highest level, study with Gwen Verdon and Ben Vereen, and record an original album.