When people consider what instrument to start learning, one thing they think about is how easy it is to learn. For this purpose, we’re going to mention how easy or hard each instrument is to start. We’ll be ranking them from easiest to hardest, so scroll to the bottom if you want a challenge!
After all, there are specific pros to learning a difficult instrument first. Otherwise, read our list from the start.
A Quick Glance At The Easiest Instruments to Learn
Harmonicas are easy, portable, and fun. Maybe they’re not as flashy or fashionable as the following items on our list, but its simplicity can be endearing. We’ve placed it at the start of our list because of how hard it is to sound bad with the harmonica.
Harmonicas are all tuned to a specific key, so you can only play on one key or scale with the harmonica. For example, if your harmonica has a C tuning, then you can only play melodies on this key and scale. This way, the harmonica is pretty much always in tune. However, having it stuck in one tuning doesn’t mean you can only play songs in the key it’s tuned in. You can always transpose the song and find a similar melody.
If you want a simple instrument to bring music around, we recommend getting yourself a harmonica. You can fit it in your pocket and pull it out whenever you get the urge to play a melody.
For those who have not yet attempted any musical instrument, a ukulele is a great option. Compared to most other instruments on this list, the ukulele is affordable, lightweight, and relatively easy for your fingers to press; there’s hardly any fatigue at all, unlike pressing the steel strings of an acoustic guitar. Anyone with some time on their hands can pick up chords and learn to play a few songs.
The ukulele is also simpler than a guitar, given that it only has four strings. While guitars use “barre chords,” ukuleles hardly need such complication finger designations. And, while guitars usually use steel strings, most ukuleles only need nylon strings. Nylon strings won’t blister and hurt your fingers as much as still strings do.
However, don’t estimate how far you can go with a ukulele. It’s easy to learn, but it’s also versatile and great for performances. You’ll also be able to find plenty of resources online.
There’s a reason why you hear of lots of kids starting piano lessons. The piano is a classic, basic instrument that can give you the different aspects of music from the start. Whether it’s simple melodies or chords, it’s easy to make the piano sound great. Even nursery tunes are a fun thing to teach your kid to play on the piano.
Even better, if you like mainstream pop songs, they are easily executable on the piano. Older youths enjoy tinkering with chords on the piano and singing along to them. This level of ease and immediacy in learning familiar tunes is part of the piano’s appeal. You can also find lots of resources such as sheet music, or even visual piano guides on the internet.
However, there is much more to the piano than simple chords and melodies. The classical style of the piano takes years and years of lessons from a teacher. Those who aim to master the piano at such a level start young because of how long it can take to perfect your playing technique.
It’s not just the piano you’re learning either. You will also need to learn to read sheet music, as well as music theory. And mastering your piano technique is not necessarily fun since it involves hours of scales and exercises. The upside to the piano is that you’re only using your hands, occasionally accompanied by your feet on the pedals.
Being a rudimentary instrument, you may want to take up the piano. Even just a keyboard or virtual piano can give you a taste of the instrument. If you enjoy it, it shouldn’t be too hard to find you a teacher.
The guitar is a trendy instrument because of how easy it is to pick up. Learning basic chords and strumming patterns is simple enough for many youths to learn. The instrument is also relatively portable, so buskers and soloists love it for their performances. Only learning a few popular songs on the guitar can be accomplished within a few hours. But there are other tricks to be discovered on this instrument.
Aside from just chords, classical guitar technique involves a lot of plucking of individual notes. It can be easy to pick up and read tabs, but accomplishing fast riffs and solos with speed and skill takes lots of practice. With time, your fingers will gain the speed and firmness required to play these sequences perfectly. You can generally think of the guitar as a more advanced and versatile ukulele.
The guitar is not one of the most challenging instruments to learn. There are also plenty of online lessons, resources, and tutors around to help you get started. The guitar makes it an ideal instrument for both adults and children. But not everyone sticks with it. Remember that just like any other instrument, true mastery only comes with diligence and time.
Learning drums is entirely dependent on the player. You might have an easier time on the drums if you already have a good sense of rhythm. This instrument is generally quite easy to pick up, but depending on the genre and level of mastery you are going for, it could take years to accomplish. For example, playing drums for a rock band is one thing, but doing drum solos in jazz bands is a very different thing altogether.
If, as a learner, you are ambidextrous and ready to upgrade your dexterity, learning the drums can be a pleasure. But like several others on this list, you need many years of perseverance to reach mastery.
It’s fun to start with the basics. Learning the different parts of the instrument, along with basic beats, is enough to start you. But getting to the level of jazz drummers is nowhere near as simple. The best jazz drummers take years, even decades, to get where they are.
One unique thing about the drums is that it engages all four of your limbs. Playing drums is where you learn a heightened sense of coordination. Some have a hard time doing two things simultaneously. Learning the drums will be tough if you’re one of those people, but the skills you get from learning it will be worth the effort.
The harp is such a beautiful instrument to learn. You might think at first it’s relaxing since you’re seated the whole time, but the number of strings you have to pluck continuously makes it quite a difficult one.
Similar to learning the piano, learning the harp is a matter of learning notes, melodies, and technique. It’s easy to make a mistake on the harp, far more so than the previous instruments we mentioned. The harp is not a standard instrument, so there’s a lack of tutors and resources available for those who want to learn.
But learning the harp is well worth it. You get some of the most angelic, relaxing sounds produced by any musical instrument. But because of the time and dedication that goes into it, you best remember that only determination and commitment will get you there.
Maybe you weren’t expecting to see this on the list, but learning the accordion is as challenging as it is fun. Often, what comes to mind with this instrument are performers busking on old cobblestone streets in Europe. It does have its charm, so overcoming the challenge is well worth it.
If you’ve ever seen someone play the accordion, you can tell how confusing it is. You have to simultaneously press the keys while compressing and expanding the accordion itself. Players have described it as playing the bagpipes and the piano at the same time! We think this is pretty accurate.
Remember that the accordion is quite a heavy instrument that you have to hold up while playing. Children will not have an easy time learning it.
Multitasking on the accordion is quite a feat to accomplish. Getting the keys and buttons right while watching the pressure you apply is a skill. Of course, learning the instrument is done best with a teacher, which may be challenging to find since the accordion is not a standard instrument.
8. French horn
Compared to the others on this list, the French horn is probably a less popular choice depending on where you live. Still, this instrument is fun to learn and is useful for joining in with bands and orchestras. However, we’re pretty sure this is one of the more challenging brass instruments to learn.
Relative to its brass cousins, the French horn makes use of partials much more. Playing high notes on the French horn can get pretty tricky since they get closer to one another. It isn’t just a matter of using the partials either, but how you shape or move your lips. Considering everything going on with this instrument, you can see why we find it quite tricky.
Learning the instrument means having to get used to moving and shaping your mouth in all sorts of ways. It also trains your lungs to help you project the sound from the instrument itself. When played in an orchestra, the French horn is typically positioned towards the back but needs to stand out in volume.
Mastering the organ is not quite the same as mastering the piano. It’s significantly more difficult. Learning it is mostly a matter of technique and notes, which sounds simple enough. But truly mastering the instrument requires other aspects too. Aside from memorization and discipline, you have to be able to multitask just on this single instrument.
While your hands are playing the keys, you need your feet to press the pedals. Unlike the piano, organs don’t have pedals to sustain the notes. Instead, you will have to sustain the notes with your fingers physically.
Pipe organs, the organ’s cousin, uses stops to control the timbre of the sound it produces. Another thing you’ll have to take care of simultaneously is controlling the “stops” that create the timbre. If you’ve heard of “pulling out all the stops,” it comes from playing the pipe organ.
The violin is a diverse instrument. You can play it for an epic solo piece, or join with co-violin players and play for an orchestra. Regardless, mastering the violin takes persistence and elegance. Those who are wonderful at it can easily make it seem effortless. But it’s a long journey to that level of mastery.
We find that just from the standard playing position alone, learning the violin is already a challenge. Also, the strings barely have any distance from each other on the neck. Unlike the guitar where you play the strings with your fingers or a pick, the violin is challenging to perform. Violins don’t have frets either, so it does force you to train your ear and memorization skills.
We believe you can learn anything you put your mind to even though we listed the instruments according to learning difficulty. Although an easy instrument is convenient, we don’t recommend you choose it just for ease. Many considerations go into it, such as time, resources, and what you love. If you’re going to be serious about it, you have to love it enough to stick with it for years.
Not everyone will learn at the same speed. You may want to play to your advantage. But choose whatever instrument you have a feeling you will love.