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What is the Best Musical Instrument for You?

 
By Jane Bertin. Updated: January 16, 2017
What is the Best Musical Instrument for You?

There are few things as widely beloved as music. No matter your age or origin, you probably have a favorite song that you always hum along or bang the air drums to, play in the car, or sing in the shower. Learning to play a musical instrument is one of the best choices you can make, either for yourself or for your children. It will help you develop your concentration, your reading skills and it will be an excellent chance to socialize and have fun.

There is no easy instrument to play, but if you give it a chance and follow a plan, you'll learn surprisingly fast. In this OneHowTo article, we'll explain what is the best musical instrument for you according to your age and personality.

What types of instruments are there?

First of all, let's take a look at the immense variety of instruments you can choose from. This is just a selection of popular Western musical instruments - most cultures have their own, and they can vary by region. Musical instruments are classified according to types:

Percussion

Percussion instruments - the drums and their auxiliary elements - are used in orchestras or bands to keep the beat. They are usually not played solo, but they can have solo sections within songs. If you find yourself tapping a song's beat on your desk as you work, or if your child always claps along, choose a percussion instrument:

  • Drum set: Includes cymbals, bass drum, snare drum, tom-toms, hi-hat.
  • Conga drum
  • Bongo drum
  • Djembe
  • Cajón
  • Gong
  • Tambourine
  • Mallet perscussion: Xylophone, vibraphone, marimba.

Wind

They are played by blowing on them, and thus require a good set of lungs and fine motor skills. They are common in orchestras, jazz bands and rhythm and blues sets, while harmonicas are good solo instruments.

Children usually start playing wind instruments at 8 or older, depending on their skill and the instrument's size. In the case of brass instruments, it might be better to wait until the child has grown adult teeth.

Woodwind

  • Recorder: A common starter instrument in the wind family, often taught in schools.
  • Tin whistle: Small and cheap, it's also good for starting out.
  • Flute
  • Clarinet
  • Saxophone: Alto (smaller, higher-pitched) or Tenor (bigger, lower-pitched)
  • Oboe: Maybe the most difficult woodwind instrument, since the wind is blown between two reeds - better for advanced players.

Brass

  • Trumpet
  • Cornet: Smaller than the trumpet, adequate for smaller children.
  • Baritone horn
  • Trombone: Since it's quite a long instrument, children's arms might be too short for it.
  • French horn: More difficult to play than the rest.
  • Tuba: Large and deep-sounding instrument, adequate for older players.

String

If you're looking to join an orchestra, a string instrument might be the best choice for you. They are adequate for classical music, but also for folk, jazz, and even rock. They require good coordination and, in some cases, a good hand stretch. There are different sizes available, so you can choose an instrument depending on your arm's length.

  • Violin: The most common starter instrument in the string family.
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Upright or double bass: Since it's so much bigger, it's more appropriate for older players.
  • Guitar: Acoustic, classical, or electric, it's perhaps the most popular instrument in modern music. It's particularly good to accompany the voice.
  • Mandolin: Shaped like a small guitar, tuned like a violin.
  • Ukulele: Shaped like a small guitar, currently gaining popularity.
  • Harp: Big and elegant, it requires being able to read two staves at once, like the piano.
  • Banjo
  • Lute

Keyboard

Keyboard instruments are particularly good to learn musical theory, since the player can see all the notes and thus learn patterns and chords visually. They require a good hand stretch and coordination, but not an excellent musical ear. They are usually played solo or to accompany the voice.

  • Piano: The most popular starter instrument of all.
  • Organ
  • Harpsichord
  • Accordion
What is the Best Musical Instrument for You? - What types of instruments are there?

How to choose an instrument according to your preferences and budget

Now that you know what types of instruments are there, choose an instrument by taking into account your personal situation and preferences.

1. Experiment

Music schools and school bands will let you try different instruments and guide you so you find the perfect choice. You can also go to an instrument shop; they are often open to let new players try out their products.

If all of them sound nice enough to you, go for the ones that allow most versatility: guitars, keyboards and saxophones are used in different styles, while if you learn the trumpet you'll learn other brass instruments quite easily.

2. Choose a starter instrument

If you don't know any musical theory at all, it is good to start with piano (you'll learn notation, chords and patterns), guitar or violin (you'll focus on sound and phrasing).

3. Think of your own situation

  • Size: Violin, flute, alto sax, clarinet or trumpet are good choices if you'll be carrying your instrument around and have little physical strength. If your fingers are short, the flute or the sax would be the best musical instruments for you instead of the piano or the clarinet.
  • Breath: Do you have any trouble breathing? Choose percussion, keyboard or strings.
  • Teeth: Trombone is easier to play if you have straight teeth. If the player doesn't have their adult teeth yet, pick woodwind rather than brass. Braces can complicate playing wind instruments as well.
  • Budget: A tin whistle is much cheaper than a harp, for example. Do some research. Common instruments are easier to find in cheaper versions or second-hand shops.
  • Space: Can you keep a piano, double bass or drum set in your home? Will your neighbors appreciate your drumming or playing the bagpipes? Soundproofing is an option, but you can also look for digital or electrical models that you can play with headphones.
  • Personality: If you want to socialize, string, wind or percussion instruments would be the best for you, since you would be able to play in a band. Trumpets, flutes, saxophones and violins are good for extrovert, leading types, while tubas, basses, baritone horns and drums are better for those more comfortable in the background - they are also those who keep the band's sound together! If you're a dreamy solo player, pick classical guitar, piano or the harp.
  • Uniqueness: An unusual instrument will get you a spot in a orchestra or band for sure, but it might be more difficult to find a teacher or online tutorials.
  • Location: Take a look at the folk music of your area - is there any local instrument you could learn? What genres and kinds of bands are more popular?
  • Favorites: What are your favorite genres? If you're a jazz fan, you will love the double bass or the sax. Woodwinds are more common in classical music, while brass instruments are marching band staples. The most important thing when choosing an instrument is to love its sound. When in doubt, pick the guitar - it fits every style!
What is the Best Musical Instrument for You? - How to choose an instrument according to your preferences and budget

What if I choose the wrong instrument?

That's fine, and nobody can take that learning experience from you! Remember that all instruments are difficult, especially if you don't have any musical background. Give yourself time to learn the basics - perhaps you'll grow to love it.

First of all, locate the source of your problem with the instrument. If you realize you have a terrible ear for pitch, switch to percussion. If it just sounds grating, try a similar instrument with a higher or lower pitch (flute/clarinet, violin/viola).

It is actually quite easy to learn a new instrument if it's in the same family. Good instruments for this kind of change are, for instance, viola to cello, trumpet to trombone or horn and saxophone to clarinet.

Just in case, avoid choosing the wrong instrument by taking some time to experiment before committing to anything. Don't buy an instrument at first, and when you do, consider buying a second hand model. Ask your music teacher or musician friends.

How to choose an instrument for a child

The aspects to consider in order to choose an instrument for a child are basically the same as those when you choose an instrument as an adult.

  • Age: If they are younger than 8, the best musical instruments for your child are the violin or the piano. The ideal instrument size depends on the player's age - maybe it's too early for a bassoon. If they will have to carry their instrument themselves, pick something light.
  • Personality: Watch how they usually behave. Do they try to catch your attention or talk non-stop? Are they happy in groups? They might be sax, flute or trumpet players in the making. Do they dance to their own tune? Consider the piano or the tin whistle. Do they clap along? You have a drummer. Does noise distress them? Choose something quieter or with regulable volume.

Learning a musical instrument will greatly help the child's fine motor, reading and listening skills. They will learn to categorize sounds and organize information, and it will be easier for them to learn mostly everything else. Since it's such an important thing, remember to support them. Don't force your child to become a violinist if they don't want to - let them have a choice in the instrument they play. They might grow out of it, but it's better than quitting completely.

Motivate your child to play music by singing with them and clapping along when they're very young. Play them your favorite music and listen to theirs. If you can, take them to see live musicians. If you love crafts, make your own instruments together!

What is the Best Musical Instrument for You? - How to choose an instrument for a child

These have been some tips on what is the best musical instrument for you according to your age and personality. Now you only have to get on with it! Do some research, arrange a plan and lessons, and jam on.

If you want to read similar articles to What is the Best Musical Instrument for You?, we recommend you visit our Learning category.

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