So, you want to learn an instrument?
At various stages of our lives, the desire to learn something new kicks in.
However, what isn’t interesting, or healthy, is a bunch of unfinished projects. A catalogue of incomplete attempts. A dusty guitar in the corner, and a harmonica hiding in your ‘miscellaneous’ drawer.
If you are keen to learn a musical instrument, you might also be keen that doing so is relatively straightforward. You want a challenge, sure, but you would also like to sound good as soon as possible!
Whilst all instruments take time and commitment to master, some are easier to get started on than others. Let’s have a look at some of the instruments you might be considering taking up, and how easy each of them are to learn..
In the last few years, the ukulele has experienced a huge surge in popularity, in children and adults alike.
It’s common to find ukulele clubs in local pubs – where anywhere from 3 – 30 people strum along –and it is not uncommon to spot ukulele-ists at open mic nights.
Why? Because it is fun, and easy.
The ukulele is a 4 stringed instrument which tends to be strummed using your fingers in a lively, simple style. There are 4 types of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone, but soprano is the one you most commonly see and hear. The soprano is the cheapest, smallest and most high pitched ukulele.
When it comes to learning, you can easily teach yourself using online resources such as our guide to playing ukulele in 5 easy steps. Obviously getting yourself a Ukulele teacher, or getting lessons from a friend who already plays, is the best way to fast track your learning. Many guitar teachers also teach Ukulele.
If you’re looking for something a little more versatile than a Ukulele, and maybe a bit more substantial, a six string guitar might be the right instrument for you.
The beginning might be slightly more frustrating than a Ukulele; beginner guitar chords tend to require more fingers (and two extra strings), but it still doesn’t take too long to establish a few basics that are fun to apply.
Once you learn a few chords (C A G E D, Em Am Dm) you will be able to strum along with a lot of your favourite songs! Then, if you wish to take it further than that, you can do so at a pace which suits you, knowing that you can at least always make some nice music, simply.
The most common banjo is the 5 string resonator banjo. This makes it right in between the amount of strings on a ukulele and on a guitar!
Just like with guitar, it is easy to learn a few simple chords that will enable you to play accompanist parts on a banjo: C A G E D, Em Am Dm are simple to learn and to play.
If you wish to progress to the stage where you are ripping out banjo solos, it will take longer but be an enjoyable journey.
It is, however, slightly harder to find a banjo teacher than a teacher of more common instruments.
Drums are great fun to learn, but can be frustrating at the start. The fact that you need to develop ‘independence’ in your limbs can cause many a cool person to lose their temper, but at least you have the kit to bang and take it out on.
Of course, this is a noisy instrument to take up, but there are many electric kits – of increasing quality – available, which you can use with headphones or an amp set to a reasonable volume!
Once you get started with your basic rock beat: 1 2 3 4 – with hi-hat on 1, 2, 3 and 4, kick drum on 1 and snare on 3 – you can play along to pretty much all rock songs. It’s the beat you recognise from ‘Billy Jean’ ?
After you have that, you can progress at a pace that suits you, knowing that you can at least drum like a rock star, already.
Learning Bass Guitar
The bass guitar is an instrument a lot of people pick up with the hope that it will be easier to learn than the guitar.
In a way this is true: getting started generally involves using one finger at a time, not three… and, of course, there are only 4 strings.
However, the strings on a bass are much thicker than those on a guitar, and the frets are wider apart.
The bass suits some people, whether it be because they enjoy the sound of the low notes, or the length of the neck (which suits some larger framed bodies and thicker fingers).
You’ll know if the bass is right for you as soon as you pick one up.
Some people love the bluesy, folky sounds of the harmonica. And it is used to great effect in combination with other instruments, regularly. Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart and even David Bowie have made use of this instrument.
But is it easy to play?
Well, like the Ukulele, yes.
This highly portable instrument is played by both blowing and drawing in breath, and the notes go along in a logical order: from C to D to E to F to G etc.
It’s easy to follow harmonica music and getting started requires no previous skills. However, like with all instruments, developing a superior technique and level of musicianship will take time, effort and commitment.
I truly believe that everybody wants to be able to play the piano.
How often do you hear people longingly dream, “I wish I could play the piano…”?
The piano is a beautiful instrument. It’s the instrument that many people consider the king of instruments. But is it easy to play?
It is easy to get started on the piano. You can learn a lot of ‘fivefinger pieces’ which remain in one position and allow you to get used to using the correct fingers and reading the music. And these can sound great!
However, the piano does require more commitment than some other instruments because of everything involved in the learning journey.
There are two clefs to read, and if you don’t already read music, that will take time to get used to. Playing the piano ‘properly’ isn’t an easy, fast journey to take on. It’s a much bigger task than learning the Ukulele!
If you are more keen to have fun with pop songs than to blast out some Bach, then the keyboard might be the instrument for you.
This can be very easy to get started on, because a lot of keyboards actually help you out! Many have features like flashing lights – telling you which keys to press –and inbuilt backing tracks, drum beats. Not to mention the bonus of one fingered chords!
This can be a great fun instrument to play your favourite songs on, pretty easily.
If you love the sound of strings and fancy yourself a fiddler, the obvious option is to begin to learn the violin.
But, many people say this is the hardest instrument to learn. Is it?
Well, it takes a lot of patience and commitment to get started on the violin. It’s no myth that you’re not going to sound great the first time you start bowing.
However, if you are an adult, it is unlikely that you are really going to start making those infamous screeching noises. Start slow, be patient, and it will be a pleasant learning journey.
At least you only have to read one clef!
So which musical instrument is the easiest to learn?
As we’ve found out, the easiest two instruments to learn in the above selection are the Ukulele and Harmonica. However, the Ukulele would have to take first place, due to how much easier it is to find a teacher and the fact that the technique is slightly more obvious.
If you fancy a more popular instrument, though, then guitar is great if you want to strum, and –unlike bass and drums – lends itself to solo playing, making it easier to progress at your own pace.
The keyboard is a great choice for those who want to have fun and play their favourite songs, and piano, violin or indeed another classical / orchestral instrument is perfect for those who want to take on a long-term challenge.
We hope that you’ve found this article useful, and that it has inspired you to go and pick up that instrument!