The majority of us listen to music, but if you want to become a music maker rather than a listener, you need to know how to choose an instrument to play. If you’ve always had a passion for a particular instrument – then fine – just go for it. If however, you’re just unsure, it’s not so easy. You might be concerned about your age (no way – no-one is ever too old to learn anything!), size of instrument, cost, difficulty and even size. Hopefully, these tips on how to choose an instrument to play will help you decide.
1. Consider Your Personality
The first factor you need to think about when you're wondering how to choose an instrument to play - and truly enjoy it - is your personality. For example, if you are the independent or meditative type and enjoy being alone with your thoughts, classical guitar may be perfect for you. Or, if you are generally tense, nervous or hyperactive, percussion instruments like drums or bongos can be a great way to release negative energy – and have tons of fun as well!
2. Think about the Time You Can Invest in Studying
Another important factor in choosing an instrument to play is the time you have available – or are willing - to invest in studying. Any instrument will require a lot of practicing if you want to truly master it, but some are easier than others. If you don't have much time on your hands, don't bother with something like the kora or the violin, which can be very difficult even at beginner and intermediate levels. A simple rhythm instrument like the djembe or the above-mentioned bongos – or even rhythm guitar - can be the best solution for busy people.
3. What Practice Space do You Have Available?
While you may love testing your skills all day, others may not be so keen on having to listen to you. Thus, the type of practice place you have available is also an important factor to consider when wondering how to choose an instrument to play. If you live in a thin-walled apartment in the middle of Chicago, perhaps drums or the Highland bagpipes aren't exactly your best option – unless maybe if all your neighbors are deaf. If you live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, feel free to play whatever you want, my friend!
4. Consider Your Physical Limitations
With enough will, you can learn to play just about any instrument, but various physical limitations can make it considerably harder for you. For example, if you can't hoist heavy objects, it won't be the best idea to choose the upright bass. Likewise, if you don't have good lung capacity, it may trickier for you to study the saxophone. Also, string instruments can hurt your fingertips, especially when you first start studying or after heavy practice sessions. If you're not ready for a little pain or soreness, you may want to choose something else.
5. Solo or in a Band?
Before getting to the question of how to choose an instrument to play, you must decide whether you want – or can – play in a band or not. Some instruments, such as the bassoon, shine best in ensembles. Therefore, if you're not the social type or you simply don't have anyone around to pick a tune with, you might have a hard time keeping it up.
6. Leader or Support Role?
If you want to play in a band or ensemble, what role would best fit you? Do you like being out front? Choose an instrument that gets a lot of attention and plenty of solos, such as the lead guitar in rock bands or the sax in jazz groups. If you don't like to be under the spotlight, a support role, such as something in the rhythm section, may suit you better.
7. Consider Your Budget
As much as we hate it, budget can play a big role in choosing an instrument to play. Though most instruments come in various price ranges depending on the quality level, some types are considerably more expensive than others. For example, a perfectly playable tin whistle can cost you around 15 bucks, while a student-level cello will usually have you forking out a few hundred dollars.
I hope you’re now in position to take your ambition to play a musical instrument forward. I’d love to hear what instruments you’re considering.