Music is divine. It can shape our attitude, change or enhance our mood, and create clarity and peace of mind. It is without a doubt the most important yet subtly natural part of movies and story telling (try watching a movie without sound and then just listen to the movie without picture—which is more enjoyable?). It’s in the background when we work, blasted in our cars when we drive, and we create it when we’re alone in the shower. There is nothing more natural and fluid yet confusingly mathematical and perfect than music, so why not learn to make some of your own. But how do you choose the right instrument?
Look before you leap
In order to make the best decision on what instrument you want to play, you first want to know your choices. Find out what’s out there and what would be available to you. When you are doing your instrument research, make sure what you pick is practical and a good fit. If you suffer from extreme asthma, avoid the wind instruments. If you are 80 pounds and anemic, avoid the Tuba. On the flip side of that, you don’t want to let stereotypes limit your choice. Ladies, feel free to try masculine-dominated instruments like the drums or upright bass. And dudes, flutes can be manly (um, Ian Anderson? Jethro Tull? The defense rests).
Also, there are plenty of non-traditional instruments that can be very fun learning. Here some good non-traditional choices: the banjo (you don’t have to be from the South), the ukulele, the harmonica, or the theramin (just watch Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page work his magic on one and you’ll be sold).
Genre Matters (but not completely)
What kind of music do you like? Chances are that is the music you will want to play. However, genres are bending and changing all the time, so feel free to push the boundaries with genre and instrumentation.
More important than genre is forum. What are your music goals? Do you want to play for high school band (usually brass, winds, or percussion are the options), or are you more interested in the symphony (where strings are king), or do you want to start a garage band? While playing in a rock band might sound cooler, playing in the high school band can be quite rewarding (after all, you won’t get a college scholarship for breaking an electric guitar on stage…). All musical options allow you to enjoy the beauty and magnificence of music, and many instruments overlap genres and forums, but your choice will help narrow your instrument options.
Now it’s that time to be practical, though we will limit our stern expressions and avoid wagging our fingers.
Though the options seem limitless—there are thousands of instruments across genres and cultures—if we are being realistic, you probably won’t be able to choose ANY instrument. Some instruments might be too expensive, while others might be unavailable.
Along with this, you will want to consider whether or not you are going to take music lessons (and the costs inherent with them). School bands are a great way to get free lessons within a community of musicians, while private lessons might the only option for other instruments like guitar or cello (unless your school provides symphony courses). Also, for more obscure instruments it might be harder to find affordable and local lessons. Conversely, it is possible to teach yourself instruments, but it is far from easy.
If you can, we recommend you try a slew of different instruments first-hand. Get a sense for how the instrument feels in your hands, the sounds it makes, the kind of music its suited for, and whether you could see yourself playing it. Many music shops allow customers to tinker a bit with the instruments, so check out as many as you can and ask lots of questions.
Stick with it!
Once you pick an instrument, you want to stick with it for a bit! There are very few musical prodigies who find that all instruments just come natural to them. Practice and take your time before getting discouraged and quitting. The better you get the more you’ll enjoy it. And the more you understand about one instrument and the more you know about music in general, the easier other instruments are to pick up…you don’t have to be limited to one!