Home > Message Boards > Musical Equipment > General Musical Instruments > Best for beginners?

Best for beginners?
Posts on this Topic   Search in General Musical Instruments   
Showing 1-20 of 22 posts   Page 1 2 Next >> 
Hide member images Print     Start a new topic     Post a Reply
     
pvreditor Original Post: Dec 28 '05,  5:59 am           Reply
Reviews written: 427
Member since: May 31, 2002

moderator in Musical Equipment, Home & Garden, Cars
Post: 37740
Best for beginners?

What is the best instrument for a musical beginner? Is it best to get a guitar and learn a few chords so that you can play a song in a few months? Or is it best to get a piano/keyboard and a few years of instruction? How about band instruments, such as a clarinet or trumpet?

Obviously it depends on the individual and whether we're talking about a child or adult. But are there some guidelines that musical beginners can use to decide what instrument to learn?

BTW, I wanted to learn the oboe in elementary school, since the name of the instrument was so funny. My family couldn't afford it, but I did get a guitar at 16 and have played guitar faithfully ever since.

--Bob

     
pearannoyed Posted: Jan 11 '06,  6:04 pm           Reply
Reviews written: 197
Member since: Oct 3, 2003

Post: 39240
RE: Best for beginners?

Quote: pvreditor
What is the best instrument for a musical beginner? Is it best to get a guitar and learn a few chords so that you can play a song in a few months? Or is it best to get a piano/keyboard and a few years of instruction? How about band instruments, such as a clarinet or trumpet?

Obviously it depends on the individual and whether we're talking about a child or adult. But are there some guidelines that musical beginners can use to decide what instrument to learn?

BTW, I wanted to learn the oboe in elementary school, since the name of the instrument was so funny. My family couldn't afford it, but I did get a guitar at 16 and have played guitar faithfully ever since.

--Bob



Generally speaking, I would say that the overall best instrument to learn is piano. It's self contained, can be played as a 'one note' instrument for beginners or a chord based instrument for those who don't particularly wish to read music. It has a visual layout so is going to be easier to learn than something like trombone or even clarinet. And for young children it can give them a head start for learning to read and understand music, so when they're ready to take jr. high band class, they'll be a big step ahead of their peers in learning what they need to know to play in an ensemble.

All that bing said, if a kid has a particular interest in guitar or oboe or nose flute, I'd say do that. They will be more likely to stick with something they truly care about than something that feels like mom and dad are punishing them with.

(Bad Amy, ending on a preposition. Twenty lashes with a wet noodle for me.)

     
pvreditor Posted: Jan 13 '06,  9:53 am           Reply
Reviews written: 427
Member since: May 31, 2002

moderator in Musical Equipment, Home & Garden, Cars
Post: 39541
RE: Best for beginners?

Nose flute... I knew I should have learned how to play that!

I agree that it depends a lot on the student. Also, cheap keyboards cost the same as a cheap guitar, so there's no money barrier between learning guitar and piano.

Another question along the same lines is: Is it better to learn by ear or to be taught how to read music. Plenty of highly successful musicians and composers never could read music (e.g., the Beatles) but is reading music essential for a music education?

--Bob

     
pearannoyed Posted: Jan 14 '06,  10:16 am           Reply
Reviews written: 197
Member since: Oct 3, 2003

Post: 39651
RE: Best for beginners?

Quote: pvreditor
is reading music essential for a music education?

--Bob



Again I'd have to give you a definite "it depends".

Case in point...

At the church we used to attend in California we had two utterly amazing piano players. One of them learned to play by ear growing up in a church that used gospel/contemporary style music. The other learned through piano lessons and, eventually, going to a music conservatory.

By the time they were both in their mid-thirties each was an accomplished pianist in their own way, but they had much to learn from each other. The one taught the other to sight read and play the notes 'as written'; while she, in turn, taught the first to 'feel the groove' as it were.

Both have value, but in general I'd say that being able to read music is an extremely important skill.

Amy
     
jchapkovich Posted: Jan 20 '06,  6:53 pm           Reply
Reviews written: 67
Member since: Nov 28, 2004

Post: 40606
RE: Best for beginners?

Quote: pvreditor
What is the best instrument for a musical beginner? Is it best to get a guitar and learn a few chords so that you can play a song in a few months? Or is it best to get a piano/keyboard and a few years of instruction? How about band instruments, such as a clarinet or trumpet?

Obviously it depends on the individual and whether we're talking about a child or adult. But are there some guidelines that musical beginners can use to decide what instrument to learn?

BTW, I wanted to learn the oboe in elementary school, since the name of the instrument was so funny. My family couldn't afford it, but I did get a guitar at 16 and have played guitar faithfully ever since.

--Bob



I started playing the piano when I was 9 and took lessons for about 6 years. I do still play. My son really enjoys it. My husband played the viola in school but that was only for school. I have a lot of relatives that play the guitar. So my opinion....piano or guitar would be the best choice for a first instrument.

:-)Jenn
     
quarternotes Posted: Feb 28 '06,  5:47 am           Reply
Reviews written: 55
Member since: Dec 18, 2005

Post: 46705
not an easy question, but..

I own a music store in a small town and I get this question everyday. At first I told customers that the best instrument to learn how to play was the piano.
After pondering this question, weighing the facts that pertain not only to the price, but what most people would get out of it, I think a harmonica suits more people than any other instrument and there are alot of reasons why:
1. A good harmonica can run as cheap as $5.00.(some are even $1.00, but their junk), No kidding. I sell these all the time and you can play different styles of music as well as different ways, either single-note songs or harmonic songs. The prices can run up to $200.00, but we are talking about ALOT of choices between .99 harmonicas and $200.00 harmonicas.(tens of choices at least).
2. In 20 minutes, you can actually play a song. Individual preference and learning ability falls into place here, but I've had 5 year olds learning how to play something in an hour.
3. It fits in your back pocket.
4. There are plenty of easy-to-read booklets out there that will teach you notes on just about any song and will even show you tricks to playing the harmonica.
5. You don't have to learn how to read music neccessarily. I alot of booklets show you how to play with numbers to begin with and some booklets teach advance harmonica songs with the same 1-20 notes enscribed in the books.
6. last, but not least, I haven't met anyone yet that is actually bothered by someone playing a friendly tune with a harmonica. Pulling a harmonica out of your pocket and just blowing a friendly song walking down the sidewalk for example never raises an eyebrow and most people enjoy hearing a friendly tune.

     
pvreditor Posted: Feb 28 '06,  6:07 am           Reply
Reviews written: 427
Member since: May 31, 2002

moderator in Musical Equipment, Home & Garden, Cars
Post: 46707
RE: not an easy question, but..

Funny you should mention the harmonica. A few months ago, my wife and I were enjoying a pleasant walk in a park when we came across an old man playing the harmonica. He did a creditable job playing a couple old standards and we lavished praise on him. The old man's companion then said that the harmonica player was 100 years old! I hope I can still hold an instrument at the age of 100, much less walk in the park on a soft autumn day.

--Bob

     
Hypotenuse Posted: Nov 04 '06,  7:48 am           Reply
Reviews written: 31
Member since: Jan 14, 2000

Post: 85765
RE: Best for beginners?

I really had to think about this one, and after I'd finished thinking, the answer surprised me.

A recorder.

Easy to learn, not much to mess up. If you can breathe, you can play recorder.

Second would be a cheap keyboard. Kid sized maybe.

Thing is, if you like what you're doing, you can always move up. Move up to some kind of wind instrument or a full sized keyboard or piano. But to start out, seeing if you're even interested or have an aptitude, it's best to start cheap and easy.

(Cheap&Easy would be a great name for a band ya' know.)

My qualms about guitar and piano are for the upkeep. I've played guitar for over thirty years now and I still hate to tune it. Four racked guitars and a couple in cases, none of them are in tune. And the piano we had when I was a kid was never in tune either. And tuning a piano costs money. Maybe I should say MONEY. ;-) And who wants to put that kinda money down only to see if they even like playing music.

A recorder.

Thats the ticket.


Lyn

     
pvreditor Posted: Nov 05 '06,  4:23 pm           Reply
Reviews written: 427
Member since: May 31, 2002

moderator in Musical Equipment, Home & Garden, Cars
Post: 85927
RE: Best for beginners?

Quote: Hypotenuse
I really had to think about this one, and after I'd finished thinking, the answer surprised me.

A recorder.

Easy to learn, not much to mess up. If you can breathe, you can play recorder.

Second would be a cheap keyboard. Kid sized maybe.

-- snip --

My qualms about guitar and piano are for the upkeep. I've played guitar for over thirty years now and I still hate to tune it. Four racked guitars and a couple in cases, none of them are in tune. And the piano we had when I was a kid was never in tune either. And tuning a piano costs money. Maybe I should say MONEY. ;-) And who wants to put that kinda money down only to see if they even like playing music.

A recorder.

Thats the ticket.

Interesting idea, and much the same could be said for a harmonica. The big problem I see is that a recorder player is not likely to be able to join a band and further his/her skill. A harmonica player might be able to join a band or jam with friends. Certainly, guitar and keyboard players can jam and contribute to bands. However, if all you want is the pleasure of making music, a recorder will do. Actually, you could practice whistling and it won't cost the 99 cents for the recorder!

Tuning a guitar is always very difficult for new players. By the time I got good at it, there were inexpensive tuners available to make the job simple. However, I find that my fixed-bridge electric guitars stay in tune pretty well and my RainSong acoustic (made from carbon fiber and containing no wood) stays perfectly in tune for months at a time, even with daily playing. The RainSong is more stable than a nice piano in regard to holding its tune.

Thanks for the suggestion!

--Bob
     
zorrothepiking Posted: Dec 15 '06,  10:40 am           Reply
Reviews written: 59
Member since: Nov 13, 2006

Post: 93334
RE: Best for beginners?

The earliest instruments I tried were a trumpet, piano, and recorder. Although I enjoyed them, none of them catapulted me to a reaonable level of skill or interest in other instruments. The first instrument I played that made a difference was bass guitar. There are several reason why I think is a great starting instrument for anyone over age 12:

Ease of Learning - My wife, who had never played anything but piano in her life, could play songs with me on bass guitar after only 5 minutes of explanation. We pulled out some old church music and when it said G, she knew which string that meant and which fret. Sure, she had to ask a couple times where different notes were, but she was playing! In one day, she went from having never played to being able to play any song not requiring extremely fast fingerworkk.

Jumping Right In - Starting on bass allows a new musician to do something you can't do on any other band instrument: jam on first day you try it. Most of the people I know prefer playing music with others to playing it alone. Music is a social experience. It takes a long time to develop the muscle memory to play piano well in a group or to develop the dexterity to play guitar, but bass requires neither. You won't be ligthening fast to your notes, but there are no physical limitations. I am 100% confident that I could invite a friend to my house, teach him to play bass, and have the two of us playing songs off the radio in under an hour.

Versaility - Bass guitars show up in a huge range of musical arrangements. I played mostly at church, but I also got to play some other functions and in a talent show at school with a group. If you play bass, you'll always have a part in the song you're doing.

The Basics - Bass is what first taught me that chords are constructed from different notes. I learned scales and how to "walk" on the bass. In fact, I learned all this on an old acoustic. The guitar was given to me for Chistmas, but it was very old and I was young, so I couldn't actually make most chords on it for months because of how wide the neck was. Instead, I taught myself bass on it. Having learned the basics of music with an essentially simple instrument, I was much better equipped to learn to really play piano and guitar.

I now play piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass. I don't have classical training, so it takes an excrutiatingly long time to read sheet music, but I can read chords and I play by ear, which brings up another point. If you were to sit down and play a song for me that I had never heard before, I'd probably be playing it with you by the second verse. In fact, I can play most songs without any music if I've heard them, and I think a lot of this is due to the bass. Even now, a lot of what tells me which chord comes next is knowing what the bass line should be doing.

I learned on that old acoustic and then bought a Fender Squier P-bass. I still own the Fender, and the acoustic was passed down to siblings to learn on.

     
pvreditor Posted: Dec 15 '06,  12:24 pm           Reply
Reviews written: 427
Member since: May 31, 2002

moderator in Musical Equipment, Home & Garden, Cars
Post: 93373
RE: Best for beginners?

Great points... I had never thought about how easy it would be to learn the basics on a bass guitar. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience on this!

--Bob

     
bob_tomato Posted: Dec 16 '06,  2:23 pm           Reply
Reviews written: 286
Member since: Nov 17, 2002

moderator in Musical Equipment
Post: 93703
RE: Best for beginners?

hey Josh - that's some really great, and very simple advice you've offered... maybe you'd consider turning it into a general advice piece for the category? Musical Equipment doesn't get a lot of reviews compared to most categories, so it would be nice to have another contributor with real musical experience

think about it :)

(Note to pvreditor - Josh is quickly becoming one of my favorite new members...let's do what we can to encourage him)

oh did I say that out loud? :)
well, I mean it - keep it up, Josh. I like what I see in you!

Andrew

     
zorrothepiking Posted: Dec 17 '06,  12:32 pm           Reply
Reviews written: 59
Member since: Nov 13, 2006

Post: 93863
RE: Best for beginners?

Quote: bob_tomato
hey Josh - that's some really great, and very simple advice you've offered... maybe you'd consider turning it into a general advice piece for the category? Musical Equipment doesn't get a lot of reviews compared to most categories, so it would be nice to have another contributor with real musical experience

think about it :)

(Note to pvreditor - Josh is quickly becoming one of my favorite new members...let's do what we can to encourage him)

oh did I say that out loud? :)
well, I mean it - keep it up, Josh. I like what I see in you!

Andrew


I love playing, but have not had a wide range of experiences with different instruments. I've clocked a lot of time on the gear I have, but I've probably only played 5 electrics, 4 basses, 3 acoustics, and 2 keyboards. I feel like I should say 1 of something, but I don't know what. :) Oh! And a few amps.

Still, I hope to start reviewing my musical instruments soon, even if I can't do a good comparative review. And I'm more than happy to give write a piece on bass and why it's good for a first instrument. In fact, I could probably do a primer on playing by ear, too, (basic chord construction, etc), but I'd probably have to talk to my younger brother to make sure that what I call "diminished" or "augmented" is what is actually what it is. He's a music major and has had more formal training. :)

I'm having a great time writing reviews, and hope to keep it up. Work is slow right now, so I can do some writing there. I know that things are going to get busy and my output will drop, so I want to take advantage of this lull as much as possible.
     
zorrothepiking Posted: Dec 19 '06,  12:29 pm (Updated: Dec 19 '06,  1:06 pm)           Reply
Reviews written: 59
Member since: Nov 13, 2006

Post: 94389
RE: Best for beginners?

Quote: zorrothepiking
I could probably do a primer on playing by ear, too, (basic chord construction, etc), but I'd probably have to talk to my younger brother to make sure that what I call "diminished" or "augmented" is what is actually what it is. He's a music major and has had more formal training. :)


Well, I wrote it. It took... well, I don't want to think about how long it took. It took several drafts to make it somewhat cohesive, and I'm still not sure anyone would be able to learn from it. It's a hard topic to cover... harder than I expected. I'd love comments and suggestions on how to improve it. I know it won't earn real IS, and I'd just like to make it as good as possible for personal reasons. :)

Editted to include: I'm also working on a piece explaining why I think bass is the best instrument to learn on. Hopefully it will also contain an introduction to how to play it, too. Because playing by ear requires a lot of theory, I based the first piece on playing piano. Before trying to do any of that, though, I think it helps to play bass for a while. Hopefully I can do the topic justice. Oh... and hopefully it won't take xx hours to write.
     
pvreditor Posted: Jan 12 '07,  8:30 am           Reply
Reviews written: 427
Member since: May 31, 2002

moderator in Musical Equipment, Home & Garden, Cars
Post: 101046
RE: Best for beginners?

I left you a comment on your excellent essay. Nicely done!

--Bob

     
catie7211 Posted: Mar 25 '07,  9:56 am           Reply
Reviews written: 0
Member since: Mar 25, 2007

Post: 118264
Consider This

After reading all of the previous posts, I find that maybe a harmonica or a recorder may be very viable options for a beginner musician, but are they really practical? Your child could be the best harmonica player in the world, but then, in middle school, when band tryouts come around, do you think that a child who has played the harmonica for 5 years will be at as great of an advantage as the child who has played the flute for 5 years? Yes, the first child will know how to read music, but the second has an adept knowledge of an instrument that is actually played in an average middle school band. My 13 year old is a very accomplished flute and alto saxophone player. She began playing flute when she was in 5th grade, has private lessons, and made 1st chair in District Honor Band. I don't think it was a mistake to encourage her in music so young, and it certainly hasn't hindered her in any way as far as concert and marching band. As far as money goes, at first we rented her a very low cost flute from our local music store, and as her interest and playing level progressed, we successively bought her the flute that was most suited to both our needs. She is now looking into beginning trumpet, and we are again beginning the process of finding a suitable instrument to rent for her to learn on, and if her interest grows, we will probably buy her a student model. Thank you for your time and consideration! Catie

     
Saxguy Posted: Mar 27 '07,  9:37 pm (Updated: Mar 27 '07,  9:38 pm)           Reply
Reviews written: 671
Member since: Jul 10, 2000

Post: 118865
RE: Consider This

This is a tough question.

I think a lot depends on the student.

For very young students, piano and violin are the best options and there are available group classes as well as individual.

For school age children, band starts around 4th or 5th grade. Once a child is at that point, I really think it's up to them.

That also goes well for adults. I've taught adult beginners. It's never too late to learn.

Of course, I believe deep down in my heart that the saxophone is the voice of God, but there are plenty of instruments available for anyone's interest.

     
quarternotes Posted: Apr 11 '07,  8:41 am           Reply
Reviews written: 55
Member since: Dec 18, 2005

Post: 121737
close enough

On the average age to start for most is actually about 5-7 years. The violin teachers, as well as the piano teachers tell me this is THE prime age to actually start teaching students. Bass is a good idea of sorts, but there are a few things to consider also:
You need an amp.
You need a bass( they are not cheap)
They are a little bigger to store.
most kids that want to play BASS give up after about 4-6 weeks. few venture forward. someone that picks up a recorder or a harmonica, often then not, will go back after a break and pick it back up. I even have a few students that grasped onto music through buying and playing a harmonica and started with a bigger, more complex instrument.

     
pvreditor Posted: Apr 12 '07,  1:17 pm           Reply
Reviews written: 427
Member since: May 31, 2002

moderator in Musical Equipment, Home & Garden, Cars
Post: 122013
RE: close enough

Quote: quarternotes
On the average age to start for most is actually about 5-7 years.

I started guitar at age 16 and have since wished that it had been age 10. All my other guitar-playing friends had been doing it for three or four years by that time. I caught up fast but could have been even further along.

--Bob
     
leskataus Posted: Apr 14 '07,  1:09 am           Reply
Reviews written: 52
Member since: Mar 11, 2007

Post: 122433
RE: Best for beginners?

They should find an instrument they are most suited to. My daughter chose to play cello and loves it. From there, she's learning to play the piano.

Hide member images Print     Start a new topic     Post a Reply
Showing 1-20 of 22 posts   Page 1 2 Next >> 
Return to top