What instrument should I learn

What Instrument Should I Learn? [Quiz]

What instrument should I learn

If you’re completely new to music, you’re probably asking “What instrument should I learn?” Learning how to play an instrument is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself, whether you’re 15 or 50, so great job getting started!

There are so many instruments to choose from that starting from scratch can feel overwhelming. In this article, we’ll share a little bit about five of the most popular instruments to help you decide.

First, take this fun and helpful quiz that pairs you up with an instrument that matches your personality, preferences, and goals!

What Instrument Should I Learn?

The Smart Choice: Piano

Arguably the most versatile instrument on the planet, the piano is an excellent option for creating inspiring music.

One major advantage of this instrument is the way its keys are laid out. The keyboard is a near perfect mirror of the steps needed to understand music theory, and this is why we’ve dubbed piano “the smart choice.”

The piano is a great instrument for adults and children. Students of any age or background can learn how to produce tones on the piano within just a few minutes. However it can take years to master more advanced piano skills.

what instrument should I learn - guitar

The Popular Choice: Guitar

Electric, acoustic, and classical guitar – there are so many options! Each instrument is unique and better suits the needs of different students.

No matter how old you are, the guitar is an absolute blast to play. Students typically learn to master chords and scales after a month or two, but it can take years to master the instrument’s more virtuosic capabilities like fingerpicking, arpeggios, and soloing.

The electric guitar is the best choice for younger students because its strings are easier to play than the acoustic or classical guitar’s. Keep in mind though that you’ll need an amplifier to go with it.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Most Unique Instruments to Learn

what instrument should I learn - violin

The Challenging Choice: Violin

The violin is capable of producing some of the world’s most achingly gorgeous music, but it’s an instrument that can take many years to master.

The violin is similar to the guitar except that there are no frets, and this makes it especially challenging to learn. But even with its challenges, the right violin teacher can help students of any age navigate this incredible instrument over time.

If you’re interested in picking up the violin, give yourself six months to a year to master some of its basic concepts. The violin requires patience and persistence; you won’t sound like Joshua Bell or Antonio Vivaldi right away!

what instrument should I learn - ukulele

The Simple Choice: Ukulele

The ukulele is the friendliest instrument to learn on the planet, but that’s not the only reason you should consider playing it. Ukuleles are inexpensive, portable, and cheery-sounding instruments that are perfect for creative songwriters.

Amanda Palmer and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole are a few well known uke musicians, but thousands of artists around the world play this fun instrument. The only real downside of the ukulele is that it’s extremely limited as far as sound and dynamics go.

If you’re looking for an awesome starter instrument for kids, the uke is best choice available, hands down. Kids can learn how to play simple chords on the ukulele within a week or two.

what instrument should I learn - drums

The Fun Choice: Drums

If you’re looking for an instrument that lets you be loud and expressive, then the drums are perfect for you. Drums come in all shapes and sizes, but most sets have a snare, bass drum, hi-hat, and toms.  

Do Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr, and Keith Moon inspire you? Listening to some of music’s famous drummers before deciding which instrument you should learn is a good idea.  

It can take a few months of practice on the drums to be able to produce solid and discernible beats. The drums aren’t too difficult to learn, but you’ll definitely want to work with an experienced drum teacher to ensure that you’re learning correct technique.

We hope this article and quiz helped you answer the daunting question “What instrument should I learn?” If you need more help choosing the right instrument for you, try sampling a few beginner-level lessons in several different instruments before committing to just one.

Check out TakeLessons Live where you can take FREE classes in each of these instruments for 30 days!

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Guest Post Author: Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and educator. He records and performs music under the name, Straight White Teeth.

Most unique instruments to learn

Top 10 Most Unique Instruments to Learn

Unique instruments to learn

Tired of fitting into the status quo? Want to impress and surprise your friends with something different? If piano and guitar seem boring to you, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading as we share 10 of the most unique instruments to learn from across the globe.

Top 10 Unique Instruments to Learn


Fun Facts About Bagpipes 

  • The bagpipe is a wind instrument that has been played for an entire millennium.
  • Although commonly believed to have originated in Scotland, historians believe it was first played in ancient Rome and Persia.

Finger Cymbals

Fun Facts About Finger Cymbals

  • Finger cymbals are also known as “zills.”
  • This set of four small, metallic cymbals is often used in belly dancing performances.


unique instruments to learn - the banjo












Fun Facts About Banjos

  • Not all banjos are alike – the instruments can have anywhere from four to six strings.
  • It’s now associated with country music, but the banjo was initially designed by the first African Americans.


Fun Facts About Harmonicas

  • The harmonica is also known as a French harp or mouth organ.
  • There are several different types of harmonicas, including diatonic, chromatic, tremolo, octave, orchestral, and bass.
  • Because playing the harmonica helps promote deep breathing, it’s often used in physical therapy programs for pulmonary rehabilitation.

SEE ALSO: The 5 Easiest Instruments Perfect for Adult Learners


Fun Facts About Accordions

  • An accordionist performs by expanding the instrument’s bellows while pressing down keys with both their right and left hands to play the melody and accompaniment.
  • The accordion is commonly used in Brazilian pop music.


Unique instruments to learn - the harp












Fun Facts About Harps

  • The use of harps can be traced all the way back to 3,500 BC, but they gained popularity during the middle ages and renaissance period in Europe.
  • Harps vary in size – some are small enough to be played on your lap!


Fun Facts About Oboes

  • Oboe is pronounced “oh-boh” and it stems from the French word “hautbois.”
  • This woodwind instrument is most commonly played in concert bands and orchestras.


Fun Facts About Ukuleles

  • One of the most popular unique instruments to learn, the ukulele originated in Hawaii before making its way to the mainland.
  • Multiple celebrities have picked up the easy-to-learn instrument, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Ryan Gosling.

SEE ALSO: 15 Awesome Musical Instruments You Can Make At Home


unique instruments to learn - bassoon












Fun Facts About Bassoons

  • Like the oboe, this woodwind instrument is common in orchestras and concert bands.
  • The bassoon is known for its wide range and its sound is comparable to a male baritone voice.


Fun Facts About Mandolins

  • The most commonly played mandolin has eight strings and was first designed in Italy.
  • Considered an easier instrument to learn, the mandolin can be heard in country, folk, and bluegrass music.

Learn any one of these instruments and you’re sure to stand out from the crowd. With the right teacher, becoming a pro at banjo or mandolin is easy. Need help finding a music teacher who is experienced in an unusual instrument? You can easily search for a qualified music teacher here.

If you know of any more unique instruments to learn, leave a comment below and let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

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15 Unique Homemade Musical Instruments + DIY Tutorials

15 Awesome Musical Instruments You Can Make at HomeWant to make your own homemade instruments? In this article, we’ll show you how to make 15 fantastic homemade musical instruments, including a guitar, flute, and xylophone.

Instruments can cost a pretty penny. But you most likely have enough materials at home to make any of the instruments on this list, and many of them sound very similar to their real-life counterparts.

Are you ready to get started? Let’s take a look at 15 unique homemade instruments!

15 Unique Homemade Instruments

1) Shaker

Easy Homemade Instrument - DIY ShakerThis is a simple shaker made out of seeds, rice, beans, or beads placed in a film canister, pill bottle, or small tin box. The shaker can be used alone or with other DIY instruments to create the perfect percussion ensemble!

Materials Needed:

  • 1 canister
  • 1 handful of filler material (seeds, rice, beans, or beads)

How To:

  1. Place a handful of the filler material into the canister, cap it, and then shake it!

2) Rainmaker

Easy Homemade Instrument - DIY RainmakerThis is one of the easiest homemade instruments to make and only requires a few materials. It really does sound like rain! This particular rainmaker has two settings – tin roof and tropical rain forest.

Materials Needed:

  • 2 Pringles cans (or other tube-like canisters)
  • 1 handful of filler material (seeds, rice, beans, or beads)
  • 12 or more small nails
  • Duct tape

How To:

  1. Put a handful of filler material into the bottom of a Pringles can.
  2. Take the second Pringles can, place it open mouth to open mouth with the other, and tape them together.
  3. Take about twelve million nails (or maybe a dozen) and poke them in one at a time all over the Pringles cans until all of the nails are sticking into the can. The more nails you can poke into the can, the better, as this is what makes the sound.
  4. Lastly, you’ll need to cover the entire rainmaker with duct tape.

3) Glass Xylophone

Easy Homemade Instrument - DIY Glass XylophoneXylophones are always fun to make, and this is one of two xylophones you’ll see on our list. The other one is made of wrenches, which you’ll see in #14. The glass xylophone has a beautiful ring to it. As an added bonus – you can drink from it if you’re thirsty!

Materials Needed:

  • 4-8 Glasses
  • 1 spoon
  • Water

How To:

  1. Arrange several glasses (preferably of the same shape and size) in a row.
  2. Fill the glasses up with differing degrees of water. Start with maybe half an inch, then an inch, then two inches, etc.
  3. When you get the water in the glasses, start dinging them by tapping the glasses with a spoon, butter knife, or some other solid object.
  4. Bonus step: If you want to get really technical, get a chromatic tuner and actually measure the amount of water you need for each glass, and tune it up! (Free tuner apps: iPhone | Android)

4) Castanets

Easy Homemade Instrument - DIY CastanetsThis is really the fancy version of what most people know as “spoons.” But you could also use just about anything in your utensil drawer. Castanets are a classic Spanish percussion instrument, and you can come pretty close to mimicking them with spoons.

Materials Needed:

  • 2 spoons

How To:

  1. Hold the spoons back to back.
  2. Put your finger in between the handles of the spoons and grip the two handles with the rest of your fingers and thumb.
  3. All you need to do now is clack the two spoons together to produce a rhythm.

5) Thumb Piano (or Kalimba)

Easy Homemade Instrument - DIY Thumb PianoThe kalimba is an African instrument that’s best made with pieces of spring steel and a wooden box. But you can substitute these materials with something easier – a match box and some bobby pins. This substitution does not resonate as well as the wooden box, so we recommend getting one of those if you can.

Materials Needed:

  • 1 small box (wooden or metal)
  • 6-8 Bobby pins or other springy material (like paper clips)
  • Tape
  • [Optional] 1 wooden craft stick

How To:

  1. Cut a circle in the top of the box.
  2. Straighten out several bobby pins and then tape them to the top of the box, leaving the ends of the pins hanging over the hole.
  3. [Optional] You can use a craft stick to help hold the pins in place. Tape the craft stick over top of the pins and then tape that to the box.
  4. After all the tape is in place, start flicking the pins with your thumbs!

6) Box Harp

Easy Homemade Instrument - DIY Box HarpA box harp is a pretty cool little invention. It can be made a number of different ways, but the way we did it was as easy as looking around the kitchen for parts. The box allows the rubber bands to have a deep resonance in their sound.

Materials Needed:

  • 1 box
  • 6-10 rubber bands

How To:

  1. Remove the lid from the box.
  2. Stretch rubber bands around the open part of the box (or even around the lid itself).
  3. Pluck the rubber bands and have fun!

7) Box Guitar

Unique Musical Instrument: How to make a box guitar at homeThe box guitar is a large and powerful homemade instrument. Because of its size, you can get some nice resonance out of it. You can even make a more advanced version if you have the extra material.

Materials needed:

  • 1 shoe box
  • 6 rubber bands
  • Tape
  • 3-4 wooden craft sticks
  • [Optional] 2-4 pieces of wood

How To:

  1. Stretch big rubber bands around a shoe box that has a hole cut in the front for sound. Note: If your rubber bands are not long enough, cut them and then tie them to two different craft sticks.
  2. Stretch the rubber bands with craft sticks (you’ll need a friend to help you with this part) and then tape the sticks to either end of the box. Note: You might want to shove a craft stick under each side of the rubber bands to simulate a bridge and a nut.
  3. Strum away! If you want to do a more advanced version, glue some wood inside the box to frame it up and make it more stable.

8) Coca-Cola Trumpet

Unique Musical Instrument: How to make a coca-cola trumpet at homeThis one is a little tricky. When done right, it can sound pretty close to a real trumpet! The video below shows a man playing his own Coca-Cola trumpet. Although the video has sub-par quality, you can clearly hear the trumpet playing in action. In order to create the correct trumpet sound, you’ll need to learn how to shape your lips to create a buzzing noise.

Materials needed:

  • 1 Coke bottle
  • 1 box cutter
  • Tape

How To:

  1. Cut the bottom of the Coke bottle off.
  2. Flip the end around and tape it back onto the trumpet. Note: You have to tape it loosely so that air can emit from around the edges.
  3. Drill or cut three holes in the top of the trumpet near the mouth piece (the opening of the bottle). Put your fingers over the holes and then blow (tightly-lipped) with all your might!

9) Simple Drum

Unique Musical Instrument: How to make a simple drum at homeEvery DIY instrument list has to include some kind of drum. This is a very easy, yet super effective homemade instrument. If you don’t have drum sticks lying around, feel free to use wooden spoons, or your hands!

Materials needed:

  • 2-4 rubber bands
  • 1 container (bowl or jar)
  • 1 plastic bag

How To:

  1. Stretch a plastic bag across the mouth of a large container.
  2. While holding the bag in place, put rubber bands on until the bag is firmly held.

10) Straw Flute

DIY Musical Instrument - Straw FluteIt’s a flute in your pocket! This one is great because it’s incredibly portable. Not to mention, the low amount of materials needed means you can make a ton of these!

Materials Needed:

  • 1 drinking straw
  • Scissors

How To:

  1. Cut the drinking straw near the tip at a slight angle; you’re going to be making a reed, like a bagpipe or oboe reed.
  2. Cut the other side; simply cut two angles that meet at a point, and then cut the point off leaving a flat spot.
  3. Put the reed in your mouth and start blowing. Move the straw in and out until you find the sweet spot where it starts to vibrate and produce a sound.
  4. Bonus: If you want to be really creative, you can poke little holes every inch or so and use them as finger holes to create little melodies!

11) Hand Whistle

DIY Musical Instrument - Hand WhistleThis is a great little instrument that you can take with you anywhere. If you get really good at it, you can actually play a lot of interesting melodies. Enough practice will eventually lead you to being able to play entire songs!

Materials Needed:

  • 2 hands (preferably a left and a right!)

How To:

  1. Cup your hands together leaving a bit of space in the middle.
  2. Cup one hand over the other, not interlocking the fingers. All of the fingers of one hand go in between the thumb and first finger of the other, and vice versa.
  3. Press your thumbs together to make a small mouthpiece. You’ll want to have a small gap between the thumbs; you can make this gap by simply bending the thumbs a tiny bit.
  4. Put your upper lip on the knuckles of your thumbs and blow down over the hole that is created with both thumbs. Work at it a bit, until a sound is formed. Note: You can change the pitch by changing the size of the hole between your hands.

12) Cocoboe

Homemade Cocoboe InstructionsIt’s essentially a Coke bottle with a straw flute acting as the mouthpiece. This one can provide hours of entertainment. It takes some time to learn the technique, but once you get it down, you’ll be making sweet cocoboe music in no time!

Materials Needed:

How To:

  1. Drill several holes in the bottom of a Coke bottle. While you’re at it, go ahead and drill a hole the size of your straw flute in the top. If the hole is a little too big, put some tape around your straw flute until it fits in the hole.
  2. Start playing your straw flute! You now have a Coke bottle oboe.
  3. [Optional] If you want to get fancy, you can drill some holes in the Coke bottle and it’ll allow you to change pitches. Smaller Coke bottles work better than the larger 2 liter bottles.

13) Comb Harmonica

How to make a comb harmonica at homeThis is another simple and portable option. The comb harmonica is one of the most fun homemade musical instruments you can make!

Materials Needed:

  • 1 comb
  • 1 piece of thin paper

How To:

  1. Wrap a piece of paper around a comb.
  2. Put your lips against the paper and make a buzzing noise with your lips. You can hum as well, which changes the sound. A kazoo works pretty much the same way, but with a piece of paper or other material over a pipe.

14) Wrench Xylophone

How to make a wrench xylophone at homeThe wrench xylophone is a bit of magic. The entire thing is made out of wrenches that you can scrounge from an old tool box. Since you’re using high quality metals, it’ll sound really nice!


  • 6-10 wrenches of assorted sizes
  • 2 books or boards of equal size

How To:

  1. Arrange wrenches in order of size from the smallest to the largest on the books. Note: You might need to angle the books (or boards) slightly to accommodate the shorter wrenches.
  2. Start hitting the wrenches with another wrench or piece of metal.

15) Wall Guitar

How to make a wall guitar at homeThis one has popped up in many books about the history of blues music. It requires you to hammer two nails in your wall. If you can’t do that, consider using a very strong adhesive instead.

Materials Needed:

  • 1 long piece of wire or piano string
  • 1 empty glass bottle
  • 2 nails
  • Pliers

How To:

  1. Nail two nails on a wall – one high and the other about three to six feet lower.
  2. Wind a good amount of wire onto the top nail, then stretch the wire as tight as you can while winding it around the bottom nail.
  3. Once the wire is tightly bound (or multiple wires if you want to make several of these), you can pluck the wire to make sound. The building that you mount the wire to will actually act as a sound chamber.
  4. Take the glass bottle and slide it up and down the wire to play a melody. Note: If you have a guitar tuner, you can make markings on the wall where different pitches of the major or minor scale occur.

Have Any More Unique Homemade Musical Instruments?

That’s our list of 15 homemade musical instruments! If you really love playing your homemade instruments and want to eventually play the real thing, check out the private music instructors in your area.

Have you created any other homemade musical instruments? Comment below!

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston Salem, NC. He’s been teaching for 20 years, and his students range in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

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The Loog Guitar Revolution: Guitar Lessons for Kids Will Never be the Same

loog_slider01As a music educator and performer, I’m always interested in learning about new products and tools that can help students succeed.  When I discovered the Loog Guitar, a 3-string interchangeable guitar designed with children in mind, I immediately took notice.

I was excited to find out more about the Loog because I took guitar lessons when I was 8 years old, and it proved to be easier said than done. The guitar was added to the list of instruments that were uncomfortable for my tiny hands (which I thought would grow eventually, but never did – to this day, I still struggle to reach the octave on the piano!).

I became discouraged and quit after about 6 months, and eventually took up the ukulele many years later – which has been much easier for me to maneuver but even now, the ¾ size guitar is problematic for me.

Many of our TakeLessons instructors prefer not to teach guitar to young children for this very reason.  Now, with the Loog Guitar in the picture, instead of teachers having to focus on finding alternate fingerings and keeping a frustrated student focused on the difficult task of mastering an adult-sized instrument, they can focus on teaching the child to make music!  And isn’t that really what it’s all about?

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Rafael Atijas, the creator of the Loog Guitar, who provided insight into how his concept came about and what the benefits will be for children who want to learn the guitar.


When did you realize that there was a need for a guitar made especially for kids?

I saw my 6 year old niece trying to make music with one of those $30 guitars when I thought “There has to be a better way.” It was then that I realized that kids’ guitars are usually just cheap, scaled-downed replicas of classical guitars.  They are not really designed with kids’ needs, comfort or even safety in mind.

Where does your knowledge of guitars come from?

I studied guitar and was in different bands during high school and college (as was almost every other kid I knew). I was very much into rock music and at some point I just fell in love with guitars – especially vintage electric guitars.

What age group do you feel would benefit the most from the Loog Guitar?

Time will tell, but I think kids ages 6 to 9 will be the ones that will get the most out of the Loog Guitar, since this is the guitar that allows them to build chords without the need to form complicated shapes with their little hands.

Where did you get the idea to call it the “Loog?”

It is my subtle but very meaningful homage to Andrew Loog Oldham, the first manager and producer of The Rolling Stones. I always found him to be a fascinating character (I’m a rock nerd, as you can see) and back when I had a band, I had a chance to meet him and he was super kind to us.

What types of learning materials are you planning on coming out with to assist with the learning process?

We plan to include a manual on how to play with three strings, and we will also offer video tutorials on our website.

What does this product mean for kids who have an interest in learning guitar?

Kids will have a friendlier instrument that will stimulate them to make music and get creative with it. What I like about the Loog Guitar is that it works whether you already know how to play guitar or not. And that’s what I hope it means to kids who have an interest in learning guitar: a fun and easy way to play music.

Anything else you wish to add?

I am truly humbled by the response the Loog Guitar project got on Kickstarter (the website that helped raise the money to launch the product), and one of the things I like the most is that so many people from the education field have reached out to me and had very positive things to say about the Loog Guitar. I know reaches a lot of music teachers, so I want to use this opportunity to extend my thanks to all of them.


There you have it, folks.  I’m personally thrilled that there is now a product out there that will make learning guitar simpler for young children.  For teachers, what have you experienced in teaching guitar to young children? Parents and students, what are some of the challenges that you’ve faced learning guitar yourself or watching your child learn guitar?  I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave comments below if you feel so inclined!  Now if only I could travel back in time and learn to play guitar on the Loog, maybe I would have stuck with it! To learn more, visit or check out the Loog Guitar in action below:

The Loog Guitar in Action from Loog Guitars on Vimeo.


Monet Payne is the Community Manager for She is dedicated to providing the latest on music education and technology to those who seek it. By night, Monet is a professional singing actress, starring in musicals, operas, and everything in between. Monet has her Bachelors in Music, with a concentration in Vocal Performance, and enjoys teaching voice, involving herself as Vocal Director in several productions. She proudly co-founded a non-profit organization for Voice Education and her next venture will be to start her own theater production company.

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So You Wanna Learn to Play Guitar (pt.XX)

Kirk Hammett

Here is the latest entry from our excellent San Diego guitar teacher Jason M


So how do you play a Washburn acoustic?  One of the least asked questions I get is that of knowing your tone.  I don’t play a Washburn acoustic but I think that it’s important to note the tonal qualities of the guitar you own.  The sound that comes out of your axe will shape and define your unique voice to the point that it will eventually become “you”.

I use an ESP KH2 “Skully” Kirk Hammett signature model guitar with dual EMG 81 pickups.  It has 24 frets, an original floyd rose locking tremelo set up with a Jackson reverse dinky headstock and a body that looks like an MII Deluxe.  The neck is a little bit wider than your average electric guitar and has an almost “classical” feel to it when you grip it.  Rather than an old “file down the fret” cliche that allows for optimal shredding, my guitar has jumbo “rounded” frets which if pressed down hard enough can actually make a string bending sound.  The floating bridge takes some getting used to and if you haven’t used one before you can actually make the guitar sound out of tune by leaning on it too hard with your right hand palm mute.  It has a 3 way switch which unlike a strat and more like a Les Paul you can “cut” the sound immediatly and make a really nice Morello sounding percussive “on off” sound.

I also use a Line 6 upgraded AXSYS212 ampliphier with a floorboard that carries both a volume and a wah pedal.  The Line 6 was the first digital amp to master the art of “tube tone” back in the mid-nineties.  I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it as a solid-state amp to be honest.  With 32 presets and 32 user presets with 4 channels each, the options are pretty infinite.  This model can not only replicate the greatest artists of all time but holds

Jason M

countless configurations of individual amp models/effect pedals/cabinet sizes/ and even offers a “noise gate” that you can open or close at will.

Now that’s not my only rig.  I also play a Zakk Wylde custom Epiphone “Les Paul” with 22 frets that I’ve tricked out with his custom “.60” string set up.  Getting used to a set of strings of that caliber requires a huge change in the amount of hand strength that you need.  It’s also got a set of dual EMG pickups and the ability to “cut” the sound out immediately when you toggle between the rhythm and treble pickups (having one volume all the way down of course) like the KH2.

I play that one through a Scott Ian signature Randall ampliphier that has an EQ option of being able to shave your eyebrows off under the right amount of pressure.  It’s got a much more pure clean tone than the Line 6 and ultimately I think the distortion channel is superior as well, but it lacks in the pedal effect options.  I like this amp because it has an L and R input in the back that I can hook my CD player or digital studio into and use as a monitor while I’m training.

As the amp and the guitar make up your unique sound I have a digital studio that completly changes all that.  I record with a Boss BR-532 digital 4-track that has it’s own effects that just don’t match up to the tones that I can get live.  So technically I have a “recorded” voice and “live” voice.  There are a lot of subtle things that you have to pay attention to in the studio like thinking about “loop effects” and pre-post effects that you can alter during a mastering.

I bring these things up because as you continue playing you may start to realize that you can’t sound like Dragonforce on an acoustic.  Black Sabbath unplugged only works for “Planet Caravan”… and maybe some of their Dio stuff.  If you want to develop your own tone I believe it’s important to understand how to control those factors.

Breakdown your own rig and let me know if you have any questions that might help create your ideal sound.

Until next time, enjoy your tone!

Jason M

Jason M

How to buy the first guitar for a student

Guitar Strings

Here is a compelling article about how to choose a guitar from our Rancho Cordova teacher Bob C, who has a Masters in Music from Columbia University.

Starting musical lessons is a wonderful idea and can improve a person’s life.  It has been shown that students that seriously study music develop structures in their brain that MRI studies demonstrate are used for Math and Physics concepts.   In fact, Einstein credits his conceptual creativity on learning the violin at aged four.  As you learn, your brain grows musically and you’ll enjoy music much more.

To start lessons, as the teacher I am more than willing to help obtain a  reasonably priced, easy to play instrument.  Unfortunately students often show up with a guitar shaped toy.

The Toy:

Many parents show up or I find someone bought them a guitar at Wall Mart or similar guitar shaped toy.

The parents say, “If he/she likes it, we’ll get a better one.”   Well, it never works like that.
No one likes to play a piece of junk.  They are generally impossible to play; they hurt your fingers and sound terrible.   If they do everything perfect, which is almost impossible, it will still sound terrible.

The student won’t want to play the guitar.  End of lessons.   It is a sure path for failure.
Worse, it will discourage the student and think they can’t play guitar.     

The Recommended Starter Guitar:

A steel string guitar has 220 pounds of pressure, and usually has a narrow neck.  It is much easier for the student to start on a nylon string, usually called a classical guitar.
Nylon strings are much easier to play and there is more space between the strings making it easier to play chords.    It just is easier. 

Many children want to learn electric guitar.  At some point, when the student has progressed, that’s fine.  However electrics are a much more expensive proposition. You have to pay for a guitar, electronics, cables and an amp.       When a student is ready for an electric they can play and feel how well they play.    

If you prefer to go to a store, I’ll help work with a local store selecting an instrument.  You will pay more at a store, but they will be there if you need repairs or adjustments.

There are a number of excellent Chinese makers and but these people will only export a number at once.   While most Chinese guitars are junk, but there are a few shops that make excellent instruments for the money.  I used to import basses, and I can import very high quality supplier of guitars at low costs.  

Why a solid top?  That’s your speaker.  The more it is played, it will quickly open up and sound better and better.  Plywood tops will never get the beautiful sound.  But the top must be made of good woods and toned correctly.

Please buy a tuner.  Tuning is a fairly difficult task, and learning to tune a guitar with a tuner makes it much easier.   Tuning is tricky since it involves listening, getting used to adjusting the pitch.   Tuning takes practice.  And out of tune guitar really sounds terrible.
Get a tuner that will let you set which string you are on.  Some will play the sound of the note.  Even pros use tuners.  Regardless, I’ll teach you how to tune your guitar.

If you go to a store to buy a guitar, there are a few basic things you can check. 

1:  If you put a straight edge from the neck, it should hit the bridge, ideally, at the bottom of the saddle.  If not, the angle is off, and the guitar will be useless.  A yardstick or ruler is ideal for this.  If the angle is wrong,   the only repair is a neck reset which costs about $150 or more.

2:  If you push the guitar string down on the top and bottom fret the string should come close to hitting every string, with no more than a 1/8th of an inch.  If not it will be warped, and difficult to play.  Sometimes we can adjust the truss rod and straighten the neck.

3: Play every note on the guitar and make sure than all of them clear the next fret and don’t buzz.

4: It should be as easy to press down on the 12 fret as the first fret.  The notes are closer together up high on the fingerboard.  Once again, it is likely the guitar teacher will be able to help get a guitar. 

I think it is foolish to go to a store without someone that knows how to play guitar.  Each instrument that comes off the factory floor is unique.  You will pay much more.

In summary, a playable guitar is a musical instrument, not a toy.   If you buy a toy it will simply be money wasted and discourage your child.  A good student guitar is not very expensive, usually between $100 to $200.   I try and keep a few that I sell at cost to students.  I want my students to be successful and have a great time.  I will be glad to check out family instruments.   A string bass is well over a thousand dollars for even a playable plywood instrument.

And, a good guitar will likely appreciate in value over time.   So you see a good used solid top guitar, well taken care of is actually the better investment than the toy.

Even rock players do most of their personal practice on acoustic instruments.

Many children want to learn electric guitar.  At some point, when the student has progressed, that’s fine.  However they are a much more expensive proposition.   You have to pay for a guitar, electronics, and an amp.  Just think, the cost of pickups alone can easily exceed $100.   The cost for a playable instrument is much more expensive and a cheap one sounds terrible.    When a student is ready for an electric they can play and feel how well they play.     Only buy a guitar when you can get a good quality instrument and amp.

Finally, always wash your hands before playing the guitar.  The acids and dirt on your fingers will ruin the strings and even the guitar. Never let anyone play the guitar without washing their hands.

How To Pick Out A Guitar for Your Guitar Lessons

Are you getting ready for your guitar lessons and need to pick the right guitar? There are a dizzying number of guitars on the market to choose from. You can certainly spend upwards of $1,000 and get a fabulous guitar, but the trick is to find a guitar that works for you for much less!

Acoustic or Electric?

Acoustic guitars are either Steel String, or Nylon String (also known as a “Classical Guitar” or “Spanish Guitar”). They are good choices for children because they are available in ½ and ¾ sizes.

Steel String Guitars are great for finger picking and strumming, and are used by such artists as Jewel and Bob Dylan – the characteristic “Folk guitar” sound. The necks are of medium width, and the bodies come in many different sizes.

Nylon String Guitars are good for Classical Guitar music, and for Brazilian music. They have a mellower sound, smaller bodies, and wide necks, making them more challenging for people with small hands.
Electric Guitars have small, flat bodies, steel strings, and make little sound on their own. Therefore you will need an amplifier and cord as well (extra $$). The necks of the guitars are generally small to medium in width.

How much do you want to spend?

Below $250. There are some nice playing guitars in this range, but it is really hit or miss. All the major guitar makers now offer “knock-offs” of their more expensive standard models in this price range. Fender offers the Squier models. Gibson offers the Epiphone series. Really scrutinize what you are buying.

Generally guitars in this range are strung with extra-light gauge strings that can disguise problems with the neck. The action is often really high (height of the strings off the neck). This makes the guitar hard to play. They also have lower quality tuning machines and poor intonation that can result in a guitar that never seems to be in tune.

There are many used acoustic guitars in this price range. Shop with care! Some of these guitars will sound and play fine with a new set of strings and a professional set up, which can run you ~$60 on top of the price of the guitar.

$250-$750. There are a lot of decent quality guitars in this range. As a beginner or intermediate, a guitar in this price range should be well-built and provide years of enjoyment. Try Takamine, Fender, and Gibson.

$750 and above. Professional quality instruments. Higher quality through out. As the price increases, the use of expensive rare woods and cosmetic features such as mother-of-pearl inlays becomes more common. My favorite is a Taylor.

Picking the right guitar for guitar lessons Features to look for

Acoustic guitars.
Solid wood top is the way to go. It vibrates more freely than plywood, and will sound louder and more alive. Spruce and Cedar are the most common woods for Steel String and Nylon String guitars respectively.

Solid wood sides and back are better, but many lower priced acoustic guitars have plywood back and sides.
Size matters! – Choose a guitar with a body size that fits yours.

Electric guitars
Pickups – either humbucking or single-coil. Some guitars have both. The single-coil pickups can be noisy around fluorescent lamps, and humbucking pickups are constructed to avoid this (hence the name). Single-coil pickups have a thinner tone, and are found on guitars modeled after the Fender Stratocaster. Humbucking pickups sound thicker and more powerful and are usually found on Gibson brand guitars such as the Les Paul.

Body shape – really wild shaped electric guitars can look really cool, and if that means you will play it more – go for it! Often these guitars slide off your leg when playing sitting down, and you will definitely need a strap to help you hold on to the guitar.

Try out many guitars in your chosen style and price range

Pick up the guitar, and hold it in playing position. Make sure you can easily reach the end of the neck and the sound hole and controls. It should feel comfortable in your hands.

Press the strings down to the fret board at various places – if it feels like real work to do this, then you may have found a guitar with “high action”. This is a common problem with used acoustic guitars. It can sometimes be fixed, but it’s best to find another guitar.

Run your hands up and down the neck, check for sharp edges on the metal frets. The frets themselves should be polished with no obvious grooves.

Rotate the tuners at the end of the neck. They should move easily, and feel solid.

Pick each string, and listen – does it buzz or rattle?

Check all the switches and controls and the output jack on electric guitars. They should all move smoothly with no noise or crackling. If it is loose or crackling, it will need to be repaired. The store should do this for no cost. If not, find another guitar.

You will know when you find the “right” guitar. It will feel comfortable – not too big or too small. You will be able to get your hand around the neck, and easily reach the strings. It will probably look “cool” to you. For children, I feel the two main considerations are the size of
the guitar, and how “cool” it looks! For parents, cost of course is an issue!

The “right” guitar will make you more excited to play and that is what you want!  Happy picking!

– Guest contributor, Andy Garby

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