Learning to play an instrument is a lifelong skill that can bring us so much joy. Children and adults can benefit from increased creativity, confidence, and discipline through consistent practice, and there are several benefits of learning to play an instrument. New musicians are often unsure of the best instruments to learn when starting out, however. Some can be seen as complicated for beginners, but many are quite suitable for all ability levels.
Choosing the right instrument is about experimentation, and it’s a great idea to sample options from each family of instruments, like woodwinds and strings. This guide will list the benefits of learning an instrument and the top nine instruments for beginners.
The Benefits of Learning an Instrument
There are so many benefits of learning an instrument and is often the beginning of a new journey that takes patience and dedication. It does provide numerous rewards to those that stick with it, though. These include:
Learning to play an instrument, as well as simply listening to music (the music that would be coming from your instrument) is a serious stress reliever. A study showed that a group that listened to relaxing music before exposure to a stressor had significantly lower cortisol levels than the other groups in the study that didn’t.
Strengthens the Immune System
Listening to music and playing an instrument increases the immune system, according to physiologists, Daniel J. Letivin and Mona Lisa Chanda. These activities help produce immunoglobulin-A, a natural killer cell, which kills viruses. Next time you feel a cold coming on, pick up an instrument.
Musicians have a larger amount of gray matter in their brains, which provides them with greater information-processing power. A study compared the brains of professional musicians, amateur musicians, and non-musicians and found the most gray matter in the brains of the professional musicians. It concluded that the more advanced one is in playing an instrument, the more gray matter they possess.
These are just three benefits in a long list of why learning to play an instrument is beneficial. Let’s move onto the best instruments for beginners now.
The Best Instruments for Beginners
There are numerous instrument options for beginners that are not complex to learn and offer the opportunity to develop the foundational skills of music-playing. Some of the best for early-stage musicians include:
1. Piano and Keyboard
Pianos and keyboards are part of their own category and a favorite for beginner musicians because they are easy to start playing right away. Piano students usually pick up playing melodies and simple songs early on. Piano as a first instrument helps musicians develop timing and establish an ear for musical notes, octaves, and tones. Keyboards tend to be easier because they are relatively lightweight and can be moved more simply than a full-sized piano. Keyboards are also a fun instrument because often they have many settings, so you can play unique sounds and not just traditional acoustic piano notes.
A ukulele is a great first instrument, especially as a string instrument. It is relatively small in size and has four strings. Its compact size makes it easy to carry, so you can practice anywhere, anytime, which makes the ukulele a great beginner option: Regular, consistent practice is an important part of the foundation of learning to play any instrument, after all. Another advantage is that ukulele is a good precursor to the rest of the instruments in the string instrument family. You will be able to transition to a slightly larger option, like a guitar or cello, after developing a basic understanding of how a string instrument works.
If you are interested in learning to play a string instrument but the ukulele doesn’t feel like the right choice, there are more common options such as:
A guitar has six strings that can either be made of steel or nylon. Beginner guitar students will have a learning curve for finger placement but once they grasp the basics of the chords, they can be applied to any guitar. This includes guitars with steel or nylon strings, and electric, acoustic, or classical guitars.
A violin is typically made of wood, has a hollow body, and is played using a bow made of fine hair. Sound is produced when these hairs are rubbed across the surface of the violin strings. The instrument’s small size makes it easy to carry, which makes regular practice more accessible. Learning to play the violin is a good choice for beginners because it is versatile, can be played solo or in a group, and can be used in a variety of musical genres. Players learn to coordinate both hands at the same time to create the sound.
Cellos, like violins, are played with a bow that’s pressed against the four strings of the body. They are significantly larger and create a lower, base sound, and the shape makes it easy to tune and play. The cello is a great beginner instrument because players can learn the foundation of bows and strings and how to properly hold a large-sized, hollow-bodied instrument.
Another nice beginner option is the woodwind category if string instruments are not your calling. This group includes flute and reed instruments.
This is a traditional beginner instrument and is a great option to learn to create sound with air as will be needed in any woodwind option. A recorder makes it easy to play melodic sounds and simple songs quickly. Kids love playing the recorder and gravitate toward its simplicity. Players develop a strong sense of control of the music with a recorder which allows them to grow into the reed section of woodwind instruments.
The flute, like the recorder, is an aerophone, so it requires no reed. The sound comes not from blowing directly down the air column but rather from air flowing across the opening by the mouthpiece. This instrument teaches beginner musicians to sit with good posture and helps develop strong lung capacity. This will help when practitioners are ready to transition into reed instruments.
The saxophone is smooth and relaxing to play. It creates a wide range of tones, from rough to smooth, and so can be part of a wide variety of music styles. This versatility makes it a great beginner instrument because players can take it in many different musical directions. The reed is part of the mouthpiece and vibrates when the instrument is played, which is where the sound comes from. Saxophones are a great beginner instrument and allow a segue into larger or more complex reed instruments.
Beginners seeking to learn to play percussion instruments are typically directed toward three-piece drum kits. These kits are smaller than the traditional set, which typically includes five pieces. The three pieces offer players the essential percussion sounds so students can learn the fundamentals of rhythm. Starting a music career with drums is also a great way to develop a strong sense of musical timing.
Any of the above options are great for new musicians learning to play an instrument. Beginners can develop the basic and foundational music skills with these instruments that will take them far as they progress.
Start Your Musical Journey
The important part of choosing an instrument to play as a beginner isn’t selecting the perfect one the first time around, but to explore, learn, and discover what you like. It’s a good idea to sample musical instruments until you find the one that’s right for you. You’ll develop a love and appreciation for music that will last a lifetime once you start playing an instrument.
If you feel overwhelmed or unsure which instrument to start with, consider contacting a music teacher. They’ll be able to guide you into choosing the perfect instrument for your desires and skills. Contact Sloan School of Music for more information about musical instruments, accessories, lessons, and more.