There are many good reasons to learn an instrument. Music is beneficial in many ways, and the last year has proven that this is the time to start a new hobby or renew an old one. Even if you play an instrument already, you can always improve, or try a new one.
Music helps elevate mood, brings joy – and sometimes sadness, and music can help you study by relaxing or by motivating. It can entertain, and some musicians can fill stadiums with thousands of fans.
Learning an instrument has emerged as one of the most widespread pastimes during lockdowns. Millions of people have delved into learning the piano, or the drums. Many more have gone for the guitar, which is perhaps the most obvious choice, but lots have taken up the flute or the saxophone.
Trying to decide which instrument to buy can be confusing. Although most people probably fancy themselves rocking out with a guitar, it might not be the right choice for you.
Reasons to try out a new instrument
You may be wondering why so many people have suddenly decided to purchase an instrument and play for the first time. It isn’t all first-time musicians trying out ukuleles and pianos though, many other people are revisiting their old hobby.
Covid and the pandemic are certainly a big reason why many people are playing instruments now and taking a keener interest in music. But there are other factors too.
With the extra free time available, many have decided to try and do something creative with it. Lounging around for the first week or two of lockdown was probably fun and relaxing, but then the boredom sets in, and you need something more to occupy your brain.
Then there are the people who once tried to learn the guitar, and have now decided to give it a second try. Or perhaps they’ve picked up a completely different instrument this time.
Can you be self-taught or do you need expensive lessons?
One thing that frightens many people from starting a new hobby is the potential cost of it. Some hobbies are very costly, think golf, photography, or scuba diving, for instance. Music can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
Having music lessons can be a very good way to learn, and many famous musicians have certainly used them when they began. Courtney Love admitted that took guitar lessons during 2020 when she was sheltering at home, and she has sold millions of records.
However, you can teach yourself with assistance from the internet. If you want to learn piano chords to your favorite songs then use one of the handy apps online. Some websites let you upload songs and then have the piano chords displayed on the screen for you to follow.
Some sites can also help you to learn how to read music, and even how to compose and write your own lyrics.
Does learning an instrument have to be expensive?
As mentioned above, music can be expensive, but it needn’t be. If you want your first piano to be a Steinway & Sons then you better have a big budget. But you could start with a second-hand digital keyboard.
PR Newswire has reported one frightening statistic. Over 50% of people who took on a new hobby during the pandemic ended up taking on more credit card debt. However, some simple but smart budgeting means you can avoid this
Decide how much you have to spend and stick to that. Don’t be tempted to buy a more expensive instrument purely because it looks cooler, or because a salesman is pushing you. This is your first instrument, you can upgrade later. First, you need to learn to play.
What instrument will work best for you?
There are many things to consider when selecting a new instrument such as budget and where you will practice. But you also need to compare the various choices and weigh them up against what will suit you the most.
One way to do this is to take the most popular instruments and look at what makes them good, and what their cons are too.
The case for and against guitars
Guitars are the biggest selling instrument in the world. Much of the world’s music features guitars on it, and the biggest bands have guitarists in them. Without guitars, you wouldn’t have Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, the Stone, or the Sex Pistols.
This doesn’t mean they are always the best choice though.
Pros of learning the guitar:
Can be learned without a teacher
Affordable and secondhand easily available
They look and sound cool
Hard to play with small hands
You may need to pay out for an amp
You’ll get blisters on your fingers!
Wide fretboards and heavy gauge strings can be difficult for children to get their hands and fingers around. Electric guitars are smaller than acoustic guitars, so they may be more comfortable but they may need an amp at an extra cost.
The case for and against the ukulele
The ukulele is the popular choice now. Although it cannot match guitar sales overall, it is growing in popularity.
Pros for learning the ukulele
It is light and portable
It is easy to learn
It is affordable
They can break easily
Cheap ones can sound bad
You might be accused of being a hipster
Ukuleles’ appeal lies in their sound and the simplicity of the instrument. There aren’t many cons against learning the uke, and it is a good choice to start with.
The case for and against the piano
The piano is one of the most enduring instruments. It crosses so many musical genres and can be heard in classical music, as well as EDM.
Pros for learning the piano:
All the notes are laid out in order
You can learn on a keyboard instead
Second-hand pianos might not be very good
Pianos are expensive
You need room for them
When it comes to learning to play the piano, life can be made easier by learning piano chord diagrams and using online resources. A digital keyboard can be a more convenient and cheaper alternative, making it more affordable.
A real piano can be expensive though, and secondhand purchases need to be inspected carefully. A keyboard may be a better alternative and will have volume and other controls too.
The case for and against the violin
According to Statista, there were over 230,000 stringed school instruments sold in 2020. This was a decrease from 2019.
This doesn’t mean that violins are no longer popular, more likely that school closures meant that fewer instruments were needed.
Pros for learning the violin:
Compact and easy to carry
Beginner violins available from $100
Can be used in more genres than you may imagine
Steep learning curve
Dismissed as being a classical instrument
Needs a lot of care and servicing
Violins can be less costly than you may imagine. They are actually a much more common instrument than you may suspect too, which can be a negative. If you are hoping to study your instrument in university you will have a lot of competition.
What is the winner?
There is no way to define one instrument as the clear winner, as you will have your own ideas of what you want to try. However, as an outsider looking at basics such as budget, versatility, size, and the learning curve, the ukulele stands out as a good starting point.
The other most popular instrument is the drums, and of course, many people would like to try these. The cons for drums though will decide for many whether they could learn them.
You would need a good space, preferably sound-proofed or far away from your neighbors. A good drum set can also be far more expensive than a guitar, violin, or ukulele.
Whatever instrument you choose though, remember to practice, and most importantly, enjoy it.