In my opinion, guitar is the best musical instrument for most newbies. Yes, I may be a little biased, but I am prepared to defend my position! The reason I put guitar number one is because it so accessible and popular in modern music.
Starting guitar is very affordable. You can grab a beginner’s kit for $200 or less, and you have many, many options to choose from. You can take lessons if you want, but there are also a wide range of learning methods available through books, computer software and even online lessons. Finding songs to learn is super easy, and if you don’t want to learn to read music you can always depend on tablature to help you along.
You have a broad future ahead of you if you choose guitar. You may go the classical or jazz route and study guitar at a prestigious music school. You may become a rock player and form a cutting-edge band. You may decide to play acoustic guitar and write songs. The sky is the limit, and over your career as a guitar player you may experiment with many ideas.
Should you start with electric or acoustic guitar? There are pros and cons to each. My advice is always to pick whichever most motivates you to play. In a nutshell: Acoustic guitar is generally more affordable to start out on, where electric guitar is a bit easier to play. The choice is yours and there is no wrong answer.
2. Piano or Keyboard
Piano is next on my list, This is actually the first instrument I learned to play as a kid, and even today I mess around with it a bit. While I’ve obviously gravitated to guitar, I recognize the major advantage of my early days learning piano.
Learning this instrument is nowhere near as convenient as guitar. A piano is expensive and takes up a big chunk of space in your home. You usually can’t tune it yourself, and you’re probably going to need a few formal lessons to learn to play the thing. Getting good at it requires developing some serious coordination.
The major upside to learning piano is that you get such a strong background in music theory, one that’s translatable to almost any other instrument. With a piano, all of the notes are right in a row, and it’s easy to see the theory behind musical concepts like chords and scales. If you later decide to take up guitar or another stringed instrument where the relationships between notes are not nearly as clear, you’ll have a major advantage.
You can make learning piano more accessible by choosing a keyboard instead. Keyboards are electronic instruments capable of a wide range of sounds, where pianos are acoustic instruments with one distinctive sound. Keyboards are easily portable, take up less space, and in general they are much less expensive.
3. Bass Guitar
Even though an electric bass looks like a big guitar with fewer strings it is a distinctly different instrument requiring a very different mindset. Still, many of the same reasons you might start out on guitar also apply to bass.
Beginner bass guitars are super affordable, lessons are cheap and abundant online and elsewhere, and finding music is very easy. If you prefer bass over guitar it is every bit as valid a choice.
I have a whole article dedicated to how to choose between bass and guitar, so I’m only going to touch on that a bit here. There are certainly a few things beginners should consider when deciding if bass is the perfect first instrument for them.
Firstly, bass is not necessarily easier than guitar. So if you have the idea that you’ll start on bass because it seems simpler and then move to guitar, you’ve got things a little backwards. Both require practice and both can be as challenging or simple as you wish to make them.