Interested in music, but nervous about getting started? That’s why we’ve compiled the easiest instruments to learn for adults. It’s a common misconception that learning to play a musical instrument as an adult is too difficult, if not impossible. Yet the myth that you need to pursue music lessons early in life has kept many people from exploring their musical skills. The good news is that it’s never too late to learn! In fact, there are many advantages to learning music as an adult. These can include mental, social, and even physical benefits. If you’re not sure where to start, here are five of the easiest musical instruments to learn for adults.
What Are the Easiest Instruments to Learn?
The easiest instruments to learn are ukulele, harmonica, bongos, piano, and glockenspiel. Learning these instruments as an adult will be straightforward and accessible, and we’ve included step-by-step tips for each below.
Inexpensive to buy and super fun to play, the ukulele is one of the most accessible instruments out there. With just four nylon strings (instead of the guitar’s six), you can quickly pick up simple chords and play some of your favorite songs in just a few weeks. You’ll also be able to gain many fundamental skills that make it easier if you ever want to graduate from the ukulele to the guitar.
The uke may be small, but it can still pack a punch. With just a handful of chords, you’ll be able to play some of your favorite tunes and start a singalong with your friends. Ukulele can be used to play music in just about any genre; from blues to singer-songwriter. It only takes a few lessons to get down the basics of ukulele, and many people find that pressing down the strings on a ukulele is a lot easier than it is with a steel string guitar.
Why learn ukulele?
- Affordable: you can get a great quality instrument for under $100
- Portable: so you can carry it around with you when you travel, or take it to the park
- Easy: it doesn’t require the same finger strength as a guitar
- Versatile: you can play just about any song with just a few chords
Be it blues, jazz, rock, folk, or country music, the harmonica (also known as the “Blues Harp”) is a great choice for adult beginners. You don’t need to know a lot in order to start playing, and it has a big advantage that any note will be “in key” — it’s hard to sound bad on harmonica!
Plus, harmonicas are very portable — you can carry and practice harmonica anywhere and anytime. Whether you want to blow the folk style harp like Bob Dylan or explore the nuances of jazz and blues like Toots Thielemans, you can work on your skills no matter where you are!
Why learn harmonica?
- Portable: you can literally tuck this instrument in your pocket
- Social: this is an instrument you can use to join in just about any jam
- Style-Specific: if you love blues and jazz, this is the instrument for you!
If you’re a fan of salsa, the bongos might be your calling. Bongos originated in Cuba and consist of two conjoined drums. It’s a simpler option than a full drum kit but can provide the same satisfying percussive experience. It’s fun to bang on the bongos, even without any technical knowledge. Although difficult to master, these drums are one of the easiest instruments to learn the basics on.
The best part of learning bongos is that they are a truly social instrument. Learning to play this instrument means joining a drum circle, being part of a salsa band, or just jamming with friends. As an added bonus, learning to play the bongos gives you enhanced rhythm skills which you can use on other instruments.
Why learn bongos?
- Rhythm: learning a percussion instrument like the bongos improves your rhythm, which is a skill you’ll use when expanding your musical skill set to other instruments
- Social: every band needs a drummer, and having excellent rhythm can make you a sought-after member of any group
- Portable: bongos are easy to carry in the back of your car or under your arm
The piano may seem complicated — after all, you need to learn to coordinate both hands at once — but it’s actually one of the easiest musical instruments to learn for adults.
Learning to play piano lays the foundation for learning other instruments. When you learn to read piano sheet music, you are gaining the skills to read music on just about any other western instrument. And furthermore, the music terms and concepts learned in piano lessons are universal terms that will help you as a musician later on.
Because the notes are all laid out in front of you on the piano, it’s easier to understand than many other instruments. And although you can play wrong notes, you can’t ever play out of tune the way you can with other instruments. That is to say, you don’t need to worry about intonation like you do with instruments like the violin. Moreover, due to its popularity, you’ll have no shortage of useful learning materials when you choose piano as your instrument!
Why learn piano?
- Useful: knowing how to play piano and read sheet music is considered one of the most useful skills to learn as a musician, because it enhances coordination and improves your music theory skills which will lay a foundation for a lifetime of musical success
- Versatile: you can play just about any style music on piano, from pop to rock and classical
- Beautiful: there are few sounds as captivating as a piano, and learning to play will keep you occupied for hours
You might recognize the glockenspiel (pronounced “glock-ench-peel”) from your elementary school music classes or if you were ever enrolled in a Kindermusik class. It looks a lot like a smaller version of a xylophone, but instead of having wooden bars, its bars are made of metal, producing a bright and cheery sound. The glockenspiel is a great way for you to get in touch with your inner child and your inner musician.
Even better, glockenspiels are commonly used in marching bands, and so by learning this instrument, you can join a community of musicians in a local marching or other band. A great way to meet new friends and grow your community.
Why learn glockenspiel?
- Social: a perfect instrument to add to a band or marching band setting
- Versatile: glockenspiel is used in many different styles of music, from marching band repertoire to orchestral, and even some rock songs
- Easy: glockenspiel is considered one of the simplest instruments to learn
- Useful: glockenspiel gives you a solid foundation in music theory, helping you learn rhythm, pitch, and understand the layout of the Western scale. This is a useful skill if you decide to play an instrument like the piano later on
Which Instrument Will You Choose?
Learning how to play a musical instrument as an adult isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. There are dozens of instruments out there that are simple and easy to get started with. And while the options listed above may be some of the easiest instruments to learn, there’s no need to limit yourself!
This point is illustrated beautifully by the story of the 100-year-old woman who looked back on her life and said, “I wish I started playing piano when I was 60… I’d have 40 years of experience by now!”
Whatever instrument you choose, excelling at music will eventually feel easy and natural, just as long as you’re genuinely engaged in your lessons and have a dedicated teacher who will nurture your inner musicality along the way. Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to connect with the perfect music teacher online. No matter where in the world your ideal teacher may be, you can find them on TakeLessons.
Ready to get started with achieving your musical goals? Check out the music teachers at TakeLessons and start becoming the musician you’ve always dreamed of being!
Guest Author: Christopher Sutton is the founder of Easy Ear Training and Musical U, where musicians can discover and develop their natural musicality. Born and raised in London, England, he lives with his wife, daughter, and far too many instruments.