8 Easiest Instruments to Learn for Musicians on a Budget
The best part? Learning a new instrument doesn't have to be a really challenging or costly affair! There’s a whole range of instruments out there that are affordable to get your hands on and won’t require years of practice to master the basics. Plus the huge volume of free online resources, training and tutorials means you can take a complete DIY approach to your learning too! Let’s get into it.
8 cheap & easy instruments to learn for beginners
1. Acoustic guitar
Not only are acoustic guitars much easier to master than electric guitars, but they’re also the cheaper option to buy as far as guitars go.
Alongside the piano, the guitar is a highly popular instrument - for both solo playing and as part of a band setup - making it a highly advantageous instrument for new musicians and songwriters to learn.
When it comes to learning guitar you’ll want to start with the basics - strumming patterns & chord progressions.
In simple terms, strumming patterns are essentially repeated patterns. The acoustic guitar is a very rhythmic instrument, so you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time playing around with different types of patterns.
Playing chords on the other hand is all about getting comfortable with your hands. To play a chord on the guitar, you’ll need to press your fingers onto the strings on the fretboard in different positions, while your other hand strums.
At first the movement can be tricky to get used to, but over time and with lots of practice, you’ll find yourself memorising finger patterns and shapes, and before long, you’ll have nailed the basic chords.
Sticking with strings, next up is the ukulele.
Ukuleles have some definite benefits for new musicians - they’re portable, they’re cheap and they’re a lot easier worn on the fingertips.
A ukulele is essentially a mini guitar with 4 nylon strings, which makes them much softer to play than a traditional guitar with steel or nickel strings.
Pioneered by musicians like Jason Mraz, the instrument has risen to popularity in recent years, becoming a staple in many a chart hit.
If you’re a musician who’s always on the move, the portability of the ukulele means you’ll be able to sharpen your skills and master your playing from practically anywhere.
But it should be noted, no two ukuleles were made the same - instead they come in different shapes and sizes.
There are 2 main types of ukuleles:
Although the ukulele has a similar look and feel to the guitar, it has its own unique sound which makes it more than a mere guitar wannabe and a firm favourite among many an instrumentalist!
No introduction needed for this one.
The keyboard is the best & cheapest alternative to the piano. And if you’re a musician who writes your own music, a keyboard is an incredibly valuable instrument to have on hand.
And because the piano is one of the most popular instruments for beginners, there’s an endless amount of free piano training, tutorials, sheet music etc. available online that you can use to learn the keyboard - without paying for lessons.
Compared to a piano, a keyboard also has some great additional features due to its built in technology - such as unboard click tracks, training features and play-along tracks - making the learning experience much more enjoyable.
Another great thing about keyboards is that most of them will support use of MIDI controllers. Keyboards with a MIDI USB port can be plugged into your DAW so you can access a range of sounds from the computer.
This makes the potential for sonic and music making endless - and arguably makes the keyboard a better choice over the piano for artists who’re more involved in actual music-making, opposed to playing and performing pre-written compositions.
The recorder - or perhaps otherwise known as the instrument of your childhood.
However there’s a reason why this instrument is taught to children and in schools - it’s one of the easiest and most affordable instruments to pick up, making it ideal for beginners to play.
The recorder is a woodwind instrument, which you play by holding it between your hands, similar to a tin whistle, and using your fingers to press down and cover different holes to get your desired pitches and sounds.
By only having to focus on playing a single note at a time, the recorder is the perfect instrument for playing, writing and learning tunes and melodies.
But don’t be put off by the schoolish trauma of playing ‘Greensleeves’ at a pitch beyond human range - in the right hands, the recorder has huge potential to sound pristine.
Whether you’re pulling it out to practice or entertaining at a spontaneous campfire party with friends, the small size and portability of the harmonica makes it an ideal choice for carrying around in your pocket.
The harmonica is played solely by breath. It sounds when you inhale and exhale breath through a channel which vibrates a metal tine.
This means a lot of the technique comes from using your tongue to focus air into the right holes. But as you can’t physically see where you’re playing, you’ll have to play by feeling, which can take some time to get used to.
Arguably the best part about a harmonica however, is that you can't play it badly.
Genuinely. That’s not a trick statement! Here’s why.
Without getting too deep into music theory, the harmonica comes with a set scale - known as a diatonic scale - which essentially means there are no wrong notes. Nice!
If you want to really challenge yourself, you could opt for a chromatic harmonica instead, which is a bit more difficult to play but offers more musical versatility, making it a better accompaniment to other instruments or in a group playing environment.
Like the recorder, you’ll only play one note at a time on the harmonica, making it an ideal instrument for melodic playing - plus it’s a lot easier to focus on playing one note rather than multiple ones at the same time.
6. Electronic drums
For drumming beginners, electronic drums are the recommended option to start with.
Mainly because they’re easier to handle, to carry and to play - not to mention they'll generate far less noise complaints from family and neighbours!
You can expect a standard electronic drum kit to consist of:
Going electronic also means you’ve got the added advantage of integrating drumming samples or drum VSTs to play along to.
7. Auxiliary percussion
The main role of an auxiliary percussion instrument is to provide rhythmic support to the rest of the band.
Some of the most popular kinds of percussion instruments include:
The majority of these are very easy to play and affordable to buy - you can usually find all of them for below $50.
Due to their percussive quality, you most likely won’t need to know how to read music or learn actual notes. Instead it’s about being able to keep a beat and producing solid rhythms.
But this isn’t as easy as it sounds - it takes a lot of time and dedicated practice to internalise rhythm. Many percussionists and drummers will train using a metronome to better engrain the motions and beats into their head, eventually resulting in muscle memory playing.
Once you’ve mastered some of the smaller styles, there’s always the option to up the ante and get involved playing some bigger types of percussion instruments, such as congas or bongos.
Possibly the best part about becoming a skilful percussion player is that you can seamlessly integrate these instruments into almost any band environment or song - especially in rock or metal type genres where percussion hugely enhances the vibe of the overall song.
8. Your voice
The least obvious (or arguably the most obvious) instrument of all is your voice!
Your voice is your own best natural instrument.
Whether you’re beatboxing or rapping, your vocal skills and vocal ability can be trained and strengthened, the same way your playing skills can be.
If you’re a singer-songwriter, honing in on your vocals can be really valuable when it comes to writing and singing your own lyrics.
If you really want to invest in improving your vocals, meeting with a singing teacher or going to singing lessons could be a great way to go. This is especially true if you want to sing professionally, or master a type of singing that requires a lot of technical skill, such as opera singing.
But you don’t need to! You can still learn completely DIY. There’s loads of free learning materials and tutorials available online that you can use to up-skill your vocal ability, whether you’re a naturally born Whitney or not.
Taking a look back at the different types of instruments we’ve discussed in this post, it’s clear that picking up an instrument is easier (and cheaper) than you might think.
So if you’re looking to expand your musical skill set, start making your own music or just simply get your fingers in a few more pies, then this is your sign to grab an instrument and start learning!
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