Learning a musical instrument is one of the most important things anyone can do. Not only does it help with developing key cognitive and social skills, but it’s also something that’s just fun to do.
Choosing the right musical instrument can be confusing, especially if you’re looking for easy instruments to learn. In reality, the difficulty of instruments varies widely. Knowing which instruments are easier to learn can make a huge difference; especially for beginners.
The good news, however, is that most musical instruments are very easy to learn with the right training and mindset. In this article, I’ll share with you which musical instrument is easiest to learn. I’ll talk about the pros and cons of each musical instrument as well as the best equipment to buy if you’re looking to get started right away.
Let’s start off with my favorite instrument on this list; the piano!
The piano is one of the most universally recognized instruments in the world. It’s also one of the easiest instruments to get started with for kids and adults.
A full-size piano is made up of 88 black and white keys. Each of those keys represents a note, and it uses the same standard musical alphabet that spans from A to G.
The most difficult thing about playing the piano is coordinating the hands to work in concert with one another. Most piano compositions feature a clear accompaniment and a clear melody. Unlike other instruments, the piano allows you to train each hand separately until they are ready to be put together.
Many online piano training programs like this one teach beginners to learn through chord progressions and lead sheets. Others use color-coded systems or traditional means of training.
While a majority of piano music is written in the classical style, there is plenty of Jazz, Pop, and Contemporary compositions available. For a beginner, I recommend starting with very easy Classical music arrangements before venturing into other styles.
The best way to make the piano an easy learning experience for you is to use the right method books. I detailed some of the best piano lesson books for beginners in this post.
If you’re just getting started with the piano I highly recommend a good digital piano like this one. Digital pianos are cost-effective, use up less room, and have a lot of self-teaching features to help accelerate the pace of learning.
Acoustic pianos are also an option, however, the costs can be high. Upright pianos are the cheapest investment for those wanting an acoustic instrument. Grand pianos are the next step up, but cost much more and can take up a lot of space.
The maintenance of an acoustic piano is also a valid concern. Piano tuning can be quite expensive, but it’s easy to shop around. Usually, a piano only needs to be tuned 1 to 2 times per year.
One of the often overlooked reasons for a piano being the easiest of the instruments to learn is the availability of piano lessons. The piano is the most widely taught instrument, and finding a quality piano teacher is quite easy. Most piano lessons are relatively inexpensive, especially for a beginner.
When it comes to the violin vs piano, there is a lot of debate as to which instrument is easier to play. The honest answer is that they both present their own difficulties, but in general, the violin is just as easy of an instrument to learn.
One of the things that makes the violin easy to learn is the overall size of the instrument. Unlike a piano, the violin does not have 88 keys. Instead, it features four strings, each which need to be tuned prior to playing.
It’s much easier to move the hands around the instrument. There is less coordination required overall; especially with beginner repertoire.
One hand is responsible for moving the bow up across the strings to produce sound. The other hand has the task of applying pressure to certain strings to help produce those tones.
The violin has the ability to produce single notes or harmonies. Violinists can also pluck out tones without the use of the bow. For a new student, plucking out tones is a great way to build their confidence early on.
If there is one clear difficulty the violin presents, it’s the aspect of posture. The violin needs to be held correctly on the shoulders and beneath the chin.
Violins are a great first instrument for children especially. Thankfully, they make pupil sized violins for really small children that really want to learn. I highly recommend checking out the Bunnel Premier student violin.
An often overlooked musical instrument is the recorder. These can typically be found in dollar stores, however, a quality recorder costs just a bit more.
The recorder is a vertical pipe-shaped instrument. On the surface, it has several holes, each of those used to produce a pitch. More elaborate recorders like the Yamaha YRS-23Y feature double holes to allow players to play half steps.
Most recorders come in the concert pitch of C, so it’s easy to join in an ensemble with this. If you’re an adult looking to learn a musical instrument and socialize, this might be the best one to get started with!
All that’s required is consistent airflow and a knowledge of which tone holes to cover with your fingers. Recorders typically follow the Baroque or German fingering system. The big difference between the two systems is the size of the fourth and fifth hole.
Reading the sheet music for recorder is quite easy as well. A typical chart will show notation on the treble staff. Sometimes the music will show color-coded circles that correspond to the recorder. This way you know which hole to cover for that note.
Ukelele is another easy instrument that anyone can learn as an introduction to the guitar. A typical ukelele features four nylon strings. Like the violin, each string is tuned to a certain pitch. Ukeleles are widely tuned to A E C and G.
It’s really easy to pick up on a simple chord progression with this instrument. The charts are just like those you would see with an acoustic guitar. Because of the size of the instrument, it’s easier to adjust the fingers to form certain chords than it is with a full-size guitar.
Many of the popular songs to play on the Ukelele have a tropical island style to them. Even if you don’t know the melody of a song completely, you can always figure out the harmonies supporting it. It’s very common for ukelele players to strum simple chords while singing.
My favorite part about this instrument is that it’s very inexpensive to get your hands on one.
When it comes to rhythmic exploration, the drumset might be the easiest instrument to take on. It’s actually a combination of various instruments. A typical drumset will feature the kick drum, hi-hat, crash or ride cymbals, snare drum and toms.
What makes the drumset easy really depends on how it’s customized. The amount of instrument included in the drumset really depends on you. If you wanted to start off simple then you could just start off with a snare, hi-hat and kick drum. As your playing becomes more advanced, you can add in more toms and additional cymbals.
The coordination when playing the drums is very important. To get this right, most percussionists play rudiments and other rhythmic exercises.
Overall reading drumset sheet music is much easier than standard musical notation. Instead of seeing pitches, drummers will look for cymbals representing certain motions. For example, if a note is to be rolled on the snare drum, then they’ll see a special cymbal for that.
Everything that you play is lined up with one another so that you can see exactly where each part of the drumset is supposed to play. Even if you don’t want to learn sheet music, you can still play the drumset by ear.
For a young child, drumset is a great instrument to introduce them to music making. There’s not a huge learning curve, and it’s also a fun instrument that they can engage with immediately.
Not all drumsets are created equal, however, there are some really good inexpensive options out there. There are also sets designed in size for kids and adults.
An instrument that appeals to the older crowd is the steelpan. Quite frankly if you’re an adult, it’s a great starter instrument to learn.
The steelpan is a big pan that has notes aligned across its body. It’s really easy to play with a lightweight set of mallets.
There’s tons of island music available for it, and it follows standard musical notation. Musicians only need to worry about reading the treble staff. It’s up to the player which hand they’ll use to play which note. The steelpan is organized in a way that the most logical notes are on the right side, and the others on the left side for the left hand.
Most steelpan repertoire is of the island variety, however, there are many arrangements of pop tunes and contemporary music as well.
The harmonica is another beginner instrument that requires little investment and effort. Harmonica is an instrument that is often associated with Jazz, RnB and folk music. There is also an extensive library of Classical music available for those who play this instrument.
It’s a small instrument that can be held in the palm of a child’s hand. The most popular of the harmonicas are the 10-note diatonic version. Each hole represents a pitch when blown through, and another pitch when drawn.
Producing a sound on the harmonica is mostly effortless, but again, a lot of it depends on the thickness of the reed plate. Ideally, you’ll want to start with a beginner harmonica that’s in the concert pitch of C. To produce other notes, the player can simply bend the pitches through airflow.
The type of harmonica has a large effect on the learning curve. For example, bass harmonicas require a bit more air support to produce a good tone. Then there are octave harmonicas, diatonic, and those made just for orchestral playing.
Maintenance of the harmonica is pretty straight forward. There are special cleaning kits like this one to help remove debris and sludge. Harmonicas also come with pre-tuned reed plates, so all you have to worry about is playing.
A woodwind instrument that’s great for middle school age musician is the clarinet. Producing notes on the clarinet is a little easier to do than the saxophone.
Like any other woodwind instrument, the player has to blow through a mouthpiece which has a reed attached to it. When the reed vibrates, a note is created and can be manipulated through the tone holes.
Overall, I find that the fingering combinations of the clarinet are a bit easier to understand than the alto saxophone. The instrument is also more narrow, and easier for a young musician to grip.
9. Alto Saxophone
The alto saxophone has many similarities to a clarinet. The fingering is a little more complex, however, the same sort of coordination applies. While alto saxophones are heavier to carry, most players use a neck strap to help support the weight of the instrument.
Producing a tone on the alto sax really requires working in the reed. New reeds produce a harsher tone initially. Generally, new players should start with 2 1/2 size reeds. As you become more advanced at the alto saxophone, then it makes sense to graduate to either a size 3 or size 4 reed.
The higher the number, the stiffer the reed is. This means producing a tone takes a stronger embouchure. The higher level reeds produce a darker, more whole sounding tone than the lower numbers.
While alto saxophones are more expensive than clarinets, they are very popular among student musicians. Yamaha makes a really good student model that’s easy to play for beginners.
What makes the trumpet a simple instrument to play is the number of keys. The trumpet operates by using pistons, and there are only 3 of them to deal with. Those 3 pistons can produce all of the standard musical notes.
The difficult part about the trumpet is actually producing those notes through buzzing the lips. Buzzing out the higher pitches are particularly challenging which is why this instrument is further down the list.
However, the trumpet does not require nearly as much air to play as a Tuba or Trombone would. Finding the notes is also much easier to do on a trumpet than on a trombone which features over 7 different positions.
On the other hand, most beginner trumpet repertoire is written within a reasonable pitch range. The highest notes found in beginner band music is all within the staff; occasionally reaching higher.
To help make the learning curve less steep with the trumpet, I recommend getting a solid method book like Arbans method. This book amongst others contains breathing exercises and technical exercises to help make playing the instrument easy.
It’s also recommended to practice buzzing on the mouthpiece regularly. Taking breaks to allow the muscles in the lips to rest is also important to developing endurance while playing the trumpet.
11. Bass Guitar
The bass guitar is a great introduction to this family of string instruments. Most bass guitars feature either, 4 or 5 strings. Each of those strings needs to be tuned to the standard pitches of G D A and E.
Bass guitarists typically read their sheet music in bass staff, something familiar for those who are already pianists.
In general, most bass guitar music is simple in nature because of its role within an ensemble. The bass guitar is responsible for the rhythmic pulse and harmonic progression. Often times, bass guitar music won’t feature much more than quarter notes, half notes, eight-notes, and the occasionally dotted rhythms.
It’s not often that musicians will find bass guitarists trying to play sixteenth notes or anything that’s heavy in melodic nature. For that reason, it’s an easy instrument to learn, especially if you have a good grip on the chord progressions of the entire piece.
The bass guitar can be played by plucking, strumming, and even slapping the body of the instrument. In some ways that makes it a percussive instrument as well.
Bass guitars are primarily electric, so you’ll want a quality bass amp to produce sound. I recommend something like the Donner bass amp. It’s a compact 15W amp that can give good tone to any bass guitar without breaking the bank.
12. Acoustic Guitar
The acoustic guitar is a great instrument to try as a first instrument. I’m specifically referring to the classical guitar which focuses more on single note playing than just strumming chords (although there’s nothing wrong with that!).
Most classical guitar players use the five finger playing style. Although its a little more challenging from a technical standpoint, this helps build finger endurance and fine motor skills.
Most guitars have 6 strings, although some variations can contain as many as 18! The lesser the strings, the easier the learning curve. Because the instrument is acoustic, there’s no need for expensive equipment like guitar amps, cables, or foot pedals.
The guitar can make a sound through both strumming and plucking the strings. Those are similar characteristics to a violin.
13. Electric Guitar
Those looking for a bit more excitement in their first musical instrument will want to take a look at the electric guitar. There’s a bit more investment required, but electric guitars expand greatly on what an acoustic guitar can do.
Through foot pedals, laptops, and other gadgets, you can completely transform the sound of the electric guitar. In some cases, electric guitars can completely mimic other instruments through the use of sound samples.
One combination I like with electric guitars is looping. This allows guitarists to play a short accompaniment passage and through the use of pedals, loops that sample over and over again. This can be a simple chord progression for example, and while the loop is playing the guitarist can play melodies and chords on top of it.
Generally speaking, electric guitars a little easier to play than acoustic guitars and easier to tune. The grip of the strings is easier on the hands as well, meaning new players won’t get tired as quickly on an electric guitar.
The organ finds it’s way onto this list because of how similar it is to the piano. The layout of the organ is basically the same, although there are a few key differences.
Traditional pipe organs, for example, feature several manuals. This means that there are several rows that the organist can play on.
Jazz and Gospel organs like the Hammond B3 are the most popular for beginners to start with. The other difference with the organ is that there are foot pedals that represent pitches as well.
The organ differs from the piano in that the notes remain sustained for as long as you depress the key. Only when the key is lifted does the sound cut off. There is also a main swell pedal which helps control the volume of the organ as well as activate other musical effects.
While the organ requires a bit more coordination, it’s the perfect instrument for an adult who wants to play Blues music and experiment with different harmonies and tones. I recommend checking out the Nord C2D if you’re serious about organ playing.
These organs play the same as their traditional counterparts but are more compact in size. There are also additional tone speakers that can be added if necessary.
Perhaps one of the easiest orchestral instruments to learn is the timpani. The timpani usually comes in a set of 2, 3 or 4 drums.
Each of those drums is tuned through the use of a foot pedal. Timpani players will click the foot pedal until the tone of the drum matches the desired pitch in the sheet music.
While the instrument is easy to understand and operate through the use of mallets, there is quite a bit of coordination involved. Particularly in orchestral music where the pitches change frequently, the timpani player is responsible for making quick adjustments to the tuning of those drums.