Learning to play a musical instrument is not easy. It doesn’t matter what instruments you choose to learn, getting good at an instrument requires time, patience, commitment and practice.
That said, it’s also super fun and rewarding! There is no better feeling than mastering a part, jamming with friends, or writing a full song. Music heals and music makes life worth living.
So, if you want to get started on an instrument, or if you’re looking to start your child on an instrument, you may be wondering: what is the easiest way to get into this?
Choosing the right instrument is important. If you don’t feel a connection with the instrument, you may not feel motivated to practice. Your instrument should be something that you want to pick up and play.
When choosing an instrument, there are a few things you should consider:
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What Are My Musical Goals?
If your goal is to accompany yourself while you sing, and maybe play an open mic or two, then learning to play drums is probably not the best place to start. Ukulele, guitar, or a keyboard instrument is probably more up your alley.
On the other hand, if you want to play with others and potentially start a band, your options are wide open. Drums, bass, harmonica, percussion, etc. – if you’re a part of a group, you can contribute in all sorts of ways.
Make sure the instrument you play matches your musical goals.
What Kind Of Music Do I Like/Want To Play?
If you don’t like bluegrass, the banjo is not your instrument.
I got very discouraged as a young pianist, because none of the music I liked had prominent piano in it.
Of course, now, I’m happy I continued taking lessons.
However, I took up guitar when I was 12 (around seven years into piano lessons) and that kept me interested in music. I got to play music I cared about, which saw me improve rapidly, even though I was just getting started.
Pick an instrument you’re excited about!
Can I Find A Teacher Easily?
When you start, it’s highly recommended that you get a teacher. As you move along in your musical adventures, you may find yourself learning from the internet, friends, and otherwise direct your own learning.
As you're getting started, having someone show you the basics is invaluable.
Finding a bagpipe teacher in small-town Utah might be hard. Finding someone to teach you the basics on drums or guitar, not hard. Make it easy on yourself, and pick an instrument with an available teacher.
What Is My Living/Practicing Situation?
Can you be loud? Do you live with roommates? Are you neighbors grumpy and sensitive to loud noises?
Some instruments are more abrasive than others. Most percussive instruments are loud and annoying to everyone but you.
Other instruments are quiet. Some instruments can even be played with headphones on – that way there is no sound at all!
Consider how easily you’ll be able to practice, given where you live.
How Much Money Do I Have To Spend?
Most instruments are cheap when you start out. Beginner instruments aren't hard to find, and the used market is filled with decent, cheap instruments.
That said, some instruments are inherently more expensive than others. Drums and guitars tend to be pricey, and the further you get into keyboards, you can end up spending quite a lot of cash.
Ukuleles on the other hand, are quite cheap. They remain very affordable even as you get better and better ukuleles (until you get into ukes made with more expensive and rare woods).
Do I Have Any Physical Limitations?
Instruments range in size from very large and cumbersome (think upright basses and tubas), to pocket-sized (think harmonicas).
If you can’t lift something large and heavy, take that into consideration. If you have trouble getting full breaths, wind instruments will be challenging for you.
If you lack dexterity in your fingers, you’ll have trouble playing intricate parts on guitar. Choose something that won’t be frustrating for you!
Best/Easiest Instruments For Children
Now that I’ve given you a few preliminary questions to think about, let’s get into specific instruments.
When you’re a kid, learning any instrument is hard, but your brain is so malleable, that the world of music is your oyster.
In a sense, there is no real “easiest” instrument, but there are better choices based on your interests and needs.
For example, learning guitar when you’re under 10 to 12 is not recommended.
Take it from someone who taught guitar to a lot of under 10-year-olds – when your fingers are that small, it’s just not that fun.
You’re much better to learn the basics of music on one of these instruments:
So many kids take piano lessons, it’s almost cliché. That said, it is popular for a reason.
Piano may seem complicated, but it’s a fantastic way to learn about music.
All the notes are laid out in a logical way and they are all right in front of you. It’s also not hard to get a pleasing sound out of a piano, as it does not require fingering (like on violin or guitar) or embouchure (as with trumpet or saxophone).
And while you can certainly play wrong notes, you can play out of tune as you can with most stringed instruments.
Piano will teach you to read music in both clefs and teach valuable sight reading skills. Once you start learning music theory, knowing how to play piano makes your life much easier.
It’s easier to understand how notes and chords work together when you see them laid out on a piano.
Finally, due to the popularity of the instrument, finding cheap keyboards and finding good piano teachers is not difficult. You’ll have no problem finding resources and learning materials as well.
Drums may seem like a strange choice for a kid, but they’re a great place to start.
Rhythm, time, and feel are some of the hardest things to teach. If you learn how to play the drums, you'll get a great sense of the intricacies of rhythm and grooves ingrained in you.
Many multi-instrumentalists are drummers first, because drums are much harder to learn later in life.
Drumming from a young age teaches you incredible limb independence and you gain a lot of limb strength as well. This makes learning other instruments easier.
When you move a drummer onto other instruments, they tend to have a natural feel for how to play the instrument with others. Drumming with instrumentalists teaches you a lot about how a good bass player plays, what makes a good drum part, etc.
A good drummer is a good listener, so learning harmony is often intuitive to drummers as well. The more a drummer learns about drums, the more they will want to learn about the music going on around them.
Of course, drums are loud and expensive. Take that into consideration when you’re starting your kids off on the kit!
Ukuleles are cheap and fun to play. They are one of the easiest stringed (and fretted) instrument to learn.
The size makes them an easy start for both children and adults alike. They only have four strings, and they are closer together than on a guitar.
The strings are also nylon, which makes them much easier to press down and obtain a satisfying tone.
When starting on ukulele, you can pick up a few simple chords and play a ton of songs.
The more you get into ukulele, the more you’ll want a nice ukulele. Thankfully, you can get a high-end ukulele for under $500, which is way less than most other high-end instruments.
They are fairly quiet and portable as well.
Violin may seem like a weird choice for an “easiest instrument to learn” guide, and it’s true – violins are not easy to play. In fact, they are notoriously fiddly and difficult to play.
I would not recommend learning violin as an adult necessarily, but they are a good instrument to learn as a kid.
Getting a good tone out of a violin is a lifetime achievement. The pros are constantly working on improving their tone and intonation.
This quest teaches kids an enormous amount about important musical skills. Learning to play a violin in tune develops your ear.
Learning to play with good tone develops your dexterity and finger independence.
Learning violin will teach kids to read music as well, and it teaches people to play with groups – most beginner violin classes are group classes and require you to play in a group.
Violin is also a common instrument for multi-instrumentalists to start on. Learning violin can be great for a young musician!
Easiest Instruments To Learn For Adults
As an adult, learning an instrument brings with it different advantages and challenges.
One of the main challenges adults are faced with is a lack of time. It’s hard to squeeze consistent practice into a busy adult life.
However, adults are generally more self-motivated and independent, so if you put your mind to it, you can learn anything.
Here are my picks for the easiest/best instruments to learn as an adult:
Ukulele is a fantastic first instrument for somebody who has never played an instrument before, but wants to accompany themselves while singing.
It’s a great instrument for adults, as it is for kids.
The soft strings, the price, and the ease with which you can learn simple chords all make it very appealing.
One of the best parts about ukulele is the huge amount of free online resources for teaching yourself. You can easily learn uke by watching free YouTube videos, and there are tons of tutorials on playing popular songs on the uke.
Again, piano is not necessarily easy, but it’s not terribly difficult to learn a few chords to start accompanying yourself.
Piano is intuitive for many learners because it’s visually structured. Chord shapes are transferable (playing a C chord is much like playing an F or a G chord) and it’s not hard to get a nice tone.
Piano is extremely difficult to become an expert at. Most professional piano players have been playing since before they can remember.
However, a motivated and independent adult learner can pick up basic piano skills quite quickly.
I would recommend getting a professional piano teacher, even as an adult. It’s important to develop good habits and technique right from the beginning, as bad habits will follow you around forever.
If you’re looking to jam with friends and play with others, learning percussion is a fun way to do that.
It’s not easy to play percussion well – despite popular belief – playing bongos or shaker or tambourine in time for an entire song is hard.
But! It’s fun and satisfying to learn. There are also many resources online that can teach you basic patterns and techniques.
Learning to play drums as an adult can be rewarding as well. Many people find drums to be a fantastic way to release stress, as it’s very physical.
I started my dad on bass, because he used to play guitar. He loves it!
It’s often easy to follow the bass line around in any song, and there is usually only one bass line (whereas with guitar there are often a bunch of different parts layered on a recording) so it’s a fun instrument to learn by ear.
Bass is also very satisfying to play with others.
It’s not easy to become a great bass player. Principally, because having good feel and locking in with a drummer is a skill learned over time.
However, it’s a fun instrument to jam on and is less intimidating than guitar for many learners.
Last but not least, there's guitar (any type).
Guitar comes in last because it is in no way easy to learn. You really have to want to learn to play guitar.
When you start, your fingers will hurt, nothing you play will sound any good, and you'll realize that it’s going to take a lot of work to play like Stevie Ray Vaughn.
That said, it’s also incredibly fun. When people think of playing instruments, guitar is often the first one that comes to mind.
There are tons of good, cheap guitars out there, lots of great guitar teachers, and an overwhelming amount of resources (both free and paid) for learning guitar online.
If you want to learn guitar, do it. Just know that it’s not easy to start out, but it gets easier the more you do it!
Easiest Instrument To Learn Conclusion
So there's our take, but which instrument have you tried to learn? And which did you find easiest? Let us know.
Update: We've now got an article on the hardest instruments to learn too, so you may want to check that out.