How to Decide What Instrument to Learn to Play

How to Decide What Instrument to Learn to Play

deciding on an instrument to play

You love everything about music — the sound, the way it makes you feel, the type of emotion it evokes.

There is no better way to truly connect with music than to learn how to play an instrument. But this requires dedication and commitment. 

How do you choose the right instrument for you?

By the end of this article, you’ll hopefully have your answer.

Table of Contents

choosing an instrument to play

Understand Why You Want to Learn to Play an Instrument 

A recent study found that only approximately 10% of Americans can play an instrument. 

Before you dive into research on different types of instruments and torture yourself with trying to decide which instrument you want to play, focus on your “why.”

What inspires you to want to learn how to play an instrument? Maybe it’s your favorite band. Or maybe it’s the memories you have of your grandfather sitting on a porch strumming a guitar. 

Chances are, your “why” can help lead you in the right direction when it comes to deciding on an instrument.

How to Choose an Instrument to Play: 10 Questions to Help You Decide

Now that you’ve contemplated more about why you want to learn how to play an instrument, let’s walk through some additional questions that can help you decide which instrument may be best for you.

#1: What Kind of Music Do You Like?

If you decide to learn an instrument, you’ll probably want to be able to jam out to your favorite tunes. Consider what type of music you like to listen to.

If you love heavy metal, you may be more interested in learning how to play the electric guitar vs. the piano. If you love folk music, the acoustic guitar may be a great choice for you.

It’s also a good idea to pay attention to where your ears are drawn to most when listening to a song. Do you focus on the singer or the guitar? Maybe you’re locked into the beat and hone in on the bass and the drums. Figuring out what sounds you tend to gravitate towards can help you figure out which instrument you may enjoy learning to play the most.

#2: What Is Your Budget?

It’s no secret that some instruments are notoriously more expensive than others. For example, a full drum set is going to do a lot more damage to your wallet than a ukulele. 

It’s important to keep your budget in mind when choosing an instrument. However, don’t let passion take a backseat in your purchasing decisions. Choosing to purchase a more affordable instrument won’t help you save money if you lack the commitment and interest it takes to learn how to play it.

#3: How Easily Can the Instrument Be Transported?

If you are the type of person that loves to be on the go and wants to be able to take their instrument anywhere, you’ll need to consider transportability.

Guitars, bass guitars, violins, and ukuleles make great choices when it comes to portable instruments. 

#4: What Size Instrument Are You Comfortable With? 

Size is an important factor when it comes to choosing an instrument. For example, does the long neck of a bass guitar seem too intimidating for your small hands? Maybe the ukulele would be a more suitable choice for you.

#5: What Environment Will You Be Practicing In?

You did it. You finally settled on which instrument you want to play — the drums! You’ve made your purchase when an intrusive thought pops into your head — “Where am I going to set up this drum set in my one-bedroom apartment?”

Don’t let this be you! Make sure to consider how much space you have before committing to an instrument. Some small instruments like violins or ukuleles can easily be stored just about anywhere. Other instruments like drum sets and pianos? Not so much.

#6: How Do You Intend to Learn to Play Your New Instrument?

How are you planning to learn your new instrument? From a how-to book? Music lessons? YouTube? 

The answer to this question is important. 

Some instruments are easier to pick up than others. You may be able to teach yourself how to play the guitar or bass guitar by watching tutorials or following along in a how-to book. But if you try to learn an advanced instrument on your own, like the violin, you’re probably going to have a bad time.

Looking to skip out on a lot of frustration? Let us help you at Northwest School of Music. Our musical instructors are experts at helping guide you through how to play an instrument while keeping your passion alive and frustrations at bay.

how to choose an instrument to play

#7: How Much Time Are You Willing to Spend Learning Your New Instrument?

Let’s get one thing straight — learning any type of instrument will require patience, time, and commitment. 

That being said, some instruments are more advanced than others and can require more practice time to master. For example, simple rhythm instruments like the bass guitar and guitar will be easier to master than complex instruments like the violin.

#8: Do You Have Any Physical Limitations?

Do you have any physical limitations you may need to consider? Some instruments can be physically demanding. Here are some questions to consider regarding your physical ability:

  • Do you have sensitive fingers? If so, the nylon or steel strings of a guitar may be a problem for you.
  • Can you hold up a heavy object? If not, the upright bass may not be a good fit.
  • Do you have poor lung capacity? The saxophone and trombone may be too taxing for you. However, some wind instruments have been found to be therapeutic for asthmatic people. 

#9: Do You Want to Be Able to Play an Instrument and Sing at the Same Time?

If you’re a singer or would like to dip your toe into learning how to sing, you probably want to learn an instrument that you can play and sing at the same time. 

If you want to be able to play an instrument and sing at the same time, here are some great options: 

These types of instruments focus on rhythm, making them perfect companions for singers as it is easy to multi-task. While not impossible, other instruments like the bass guitar and drums make it difficult to focus on playing the instrument and singing at the same time.

#10: Do You Want to Learn to Read Music?

There’s no way around it — if you want to learn how to play certain instruments like the piano or woodwinds, you need to learn how to read music.

Some instruments like the guitar or bass guitar can be learned without the need to read sheet music. This can cut down on the amount of learning needed to play these instruments.

However, there are so many incredible benefits to learning how to read music, like:

  • Being able to write your own compositions
  • Making it easier to learn how to play notes with other instruments
  • Providing a visual way to learn an instrument
  • And more

Learning sheet music can be applied to any instrument. Even if you don’t “need” to learn how to read sheet music, this extra commitment can help make you a better musician later down the road.

choosing what instrument to play

Additional Tips for Choosing an Instrument to Learn

Take Your Time Deciding on an Instrument

Remember, instruments are a huge investment — financially and time-wise. Take your time in deciding which instrument is best for you. 

If you decide on the piano because it’s what someone else suggested but you don’t actually have an affinity for the way pianos sound, you are likely not going to be interested in committing to practicing and learning how to play.

Really think about the type of instrument you see yourself enjoying learning how to play.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Maybe you’re really interested in learning how to play the violin but feel discouraged because other people have told you it’s hard to learn. That may be true — any instrument can be hard to learn. But just because something is “hard” doesn’t mean that you can’t do it!

Follow your passion. If there is a certain instrument that you know you would love to be able to play, don’t let feelings of self-doubt discourage you.

Manage Your Expectations

Keep in mind that whatever instrument you choose, it will take time, patience, and lots of practice to be a great player. You likely aren’t going to be amazing right off the bat. No one is! So don’t base your decisions on what instrument you may think is the “easiest” and “fastest” to learn. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment and may miss out on learning how to play an instrument that you are actually passionate about.

Consult With a Music Teacher

Having a hard time making a final decision on an instrument to learn? Consult with an expert! A kind music teacher can help walk you through which instrument may be the best for you based on your preferences and concerns.

how to choose an instrument to play

The Experienced Teachers at Northwest School of Music Can Help You Learn to Play the Instrument You Choose

Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, you have a better idea of how to choose an instrument to play. 

At Northwest School of Music, we’ve been helping students realize their potential and learn how to play musical instruments since 2006. Our highly talented and personable instructors are ready to help ignite your passion for music and help you master your chosen instrument. 

Check out our programs and register for a free session today.

deciding on an instrument to play
deciding on an instrument to play
It can be tricky to figure out how to choose an instrument to play. Ask yourself these six questions to decide which instrument is right for you.
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Northwest School Of Music, 387 Mission Street SE, Salem, Oregon 97302, USA

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Northwest School Of Music, 387 Mission Street SE, Salem, Oregon 97302, USA​
503-999-4343​ | office@nwschoolofmusic.com​

Follow Us

Northwest School Of Music, 387 Mission Street SE, Salem, Oregon 97302, USA​
503-999-4343​ | office@nwschoolofmusic.com​

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