Cheapest instruments to learn. What are the instruments that are best for the wallet? A lot of people have this debate, especially if they have only just expressed an interest in learning a musical instrument for the first time. There is no point in spending thousands if you don’t know whether or not you (or your kid) are even going to stick with it. Instead, it is a good idea to start small. You can always invest in the future once you start to get good.
So, we’ve created a list of the cheapest instruments to learn here, considering a huge variety of different costs that could come with your instrument. There are certain cheapest instruments to learn that are very popular for school lessons and such, and our rundown will help you to decide which is ideal for you.
The number of people who decide they want to be the next Brian May or the next Chopin and go all out, spending thousands of dollars on the equipment, getting the nicest pianos and guitars possible. Luckily, they don’t tend to lose their value very quickly, but that still doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to chuck loads of money at it if you are not sure of your musical future.
So, let’s dive into some information on cheap instruments. Not just the cheapest instruments to buy, but the cheapest instruments to learn, including all of the costs associated.
How Have We Judged The Cheapest Instruments to Learn?
What are our criteria for the cheapest instruments to learn? Look at it this way, some instruments could cost relatively little to start with, but their maintenance might be really expensive. You might be able to get a banjo for cheap from eBay, but it might cost you a lot to get lessons, learning materials and maintain the instrument, replacing strings and cleaning it, for example. Some instruments don’t require cleaning, tuning or other maintenance, and this makes them cheaper in the long term.
Learning materials and the way you will need to learn the instrument in question are definitely a consideration. Look at the piano and the guitar, there are some relatively affordable ways to learn where you don’t need a tutor in person, and you can follow lessons on our academy to get started and learn all the basics of piano. There are also a lot of different songs out there with tutorials, sheet music, and more. Look at it this way, someone might offer you an unusual instrument for free, or you right be able to find a second-hand water phone that is affordable, but learning how to play it might be incredibly difficult (and pricey!)
So, in order to make our list, the cost of the instrument needs to be relatively affordable, but the cost of actually learning should be relatively cheap, too. Or at least, there should be a cheap way to get enough learning materials to turn yourself into a reasonably good player of the instrument in question!
Buying a piano is not cheap, but in order to learn the basics, you don’t have to buy a piano, you get opt for a small 61-key keyboard. They don’t necessarily feel identical, but they give you plenty of opportunities to learn chords, melodies, and more. If you want to move on and play an acoustic piano in the future then you can still easily transition.
If you want a realistic piano feel then you can also opt for a digital piano with weighted keys, this gives you the feeling of pressing the keys and getting resistance just like you would with an acoustic model. On top of this, the notes triggered are louder the harder you press them for more expressive play.
A decent keyboard can be picked up for under $100. They will not give you amazing features and functions at this price, and will probably have 61 keys instead of the full-size of 88. However, this is perfect for children or just those who are looking to get started with their piano journey without spending a fortune.
Learning materials for the piano are arguably the main benefit for your wallet, you can get your hands on a lot of piano books, watch YouTube videos, and follow courses like that on Pianu. The amount of information that you can find without parting with significant cash is amazing. Compare it to having to get lessons in-person, where a lesson a week could cost you $50 per week. We’ve got more information for you regarding the cost of learning the piano here.
The other massive benefit of getting a keyboard or a digital piano is the fact that it will usually require no maintenance at all. Because everything is digital, you do not need to get it tuned, and it will continue to do a reliable job for years. An acoustic piano needs to be tuned.
Some models of digital piano and keyboard also come with specific learning modes, perfect for beginners who are just getting started with their journey into playing the piano. Another brilliant benefit of a keyboard or digital piano is that it allows you to learn how to play in an interactive way. Pianu can show you whether you are playing the correct notes or not. This means that the keyboard itself interacts with the browser to show you whether you have got a section of a song either right or wrong, and how you can improve.
The ukulele’s popularity has grown an incredible amount over the last 10 or 15 years. There is a lot to like about this instrument, and the fact that it is one of the cheapest instruments to learn is just one of the excellent things about the uke.
Not all ukuleles are cheap, you can buy models that are well over $2,000 if you get to the professional level of uke playing. However, you can pick up beginner models that are $50 or even less, and these don’t have to be cheap and flimsy ukes, either. A brand like Kala produces a lot of good beginner products and as well as being some of the cheapest instruments to learn, many intermediate players use them as a cheap and portable option.
Portability is, in fact, one of the best things about this instrument. It makes it really popular for school lessons. On top of this, because of the popularity, there are a lot of different courses and other learning materials that you can make use of.
A lot of beginner ukuleles are sold as bundles, which come with both the ukulele itself, the accessories you need, and even learning materials, such as access to online courses. There are plenty of free videos out there on YouTube, too. This will allow you to get to grips with the basics of the uke.
Buying the right ukulele can be tough. It is hard to work out exactly what size you need, but the guide below should help.
The ukulele does have a few disadvantages when compared to other instruments. It isn’t as mainstream in terms of featuring within popular songs when compared to piano or guitar. You would need to have a specific interest in the ukulele, and certain types of folk music, for this to be particularly exciting for you to learn.
Another downside to the ukulele is that the skills you learn aren’t as transferrable as with some other instruments. If you learn the piano then you can shift to organs, keyboards, synthesizers, and more with ease. The way a ukulele is tuned is very unusual and this means that it doesn’t even transfer well to other string instruments. The chord shapes and melodies would not be the same on a guitar, for example.
Guitar might be the most popular instrument in the world in terms of featuring in songs, especially in the 21st century. Popularity means lots of competition, so there are some relatively affordable models of acoustic and electric guitars that can get you started. You aren’t going to buy an amazing Fender guitar for $70, but you might be able to get an acoustic guitar to get you started.
On top of this, you can find so much learning material on the internet, through books and even tutorial DVDs and courses. The guitar has been popular for a very long time, and this means that there are loads of lessons out there. A lot of people even learn from friends as so many people around the world learn how to play the guitar.
Though the initial investment might be small, be warned that a guitar hobby can be a real money pit. There is so much equipment that people buy in order to improve their guitar playing and change the sound the guitar can create or connect to other hardware. You can quickly find that your bank balance is severely dented by your love of the guitar.
For a child, a small acoustic guitar, such as a 3/4 sized model could be the best option to keep your outlay low, and to get a good instrument for a youngster to get to grips with.
Your Voice (Yes, Really)
Ok, so we’re bending the rules on this one. Whether or not it is an instrument is a debate for another day.
Why not learn how to sing? If you are worried about the cost involved in learning an instrument then there is nothing wrong with getting started with voice lessons, and you can do this “self-taught” rather than having to get specific lessons from a vocal tutor.
The information for learning how to sing can be a little harder to digest than some other musical terms, you will need to understand registers, and get a good idea of how tone and key works even without the knowledge of a piano or other instrument.
This is a good place to start, with some singing tips that those who just love to sing songs in the car or for those who really want to start singing for a band or be the next big sensation on “The Voice”.
Your knowledge won’t be as transferrable if you decide to learn how to sing rather than learning an instrument, but even though you won’t be learning the hand coordination needed in order to play an instrument you will be learning a lot of the different musical terms, at least you will if you decide to learn properly.
Can anyone be taught to sing? This is debatable. No doubt some people are totally tone-deaf, and this will make it very difficult to actually sing in tune. Have you ever seen those terrible auditions for TV talent shows? These people don’t even realize when their singing is sub-par. Though laughing at it might be a bit cruel, it is true that there are certain people who don’t suit singing.
That said, if you aren’t tone-deaf and you feel like you could learn how to sing then there are certainly ways in which you can improve your vocal performance. Most people singing don’t even stand in the correct stance or breathe correctly.
Singing has one big benefit over the other instruments in the fact that it might not cost you any money whatsoever. Even if you invest in a USB microphone or similar equipment to record yourself singing, your costs will be pretty low.
Are you looking to get up and running and start to play an instrument as quickly as you possibly can? It could be that a harmonica is for you. Did you know that harmonicas are designed to be in a certain key, so it is almost impossible to play something that sounds bad if you are playing in the right key!
A harmonica is affordable and can give you a basic overview of music. Though it is not the best instrument in terms of “wow factor”, it is incredibly forgiving.
The only significant disadvantage of learning how to play the harmonica is the fact that you might need multiple harmonicas to play different songs in different keys. This means an extra expense. Harmonicas don’t cost a lot generally, so there isn’t too much to worry about. What’s more, there is no need to tune-up or replace strings, a harmonica will keep working reliably for a long time with no maintenance required.
In schools and youth music groups everywhere, the recorder is one of the most popular instruments to learn, it is encouraged by music teachers due to the fact that it is cheap for parents to get their hands on a recorder and not overly difficult to get started with.
In terms of learning materials there are quite a lot out there for those who want to learn the recorder. There are nowhere near as many videos on YouTube, but there are many books aimed at beginners. The recorder is a good instrument to get your grounding as a musician as you will need to learn some aspects of theory and you can learn how the musical staff works, perfect for those who want to advance to another instrument in the future.
Music Production or Beat Making
Okay, we’re going to bend the rules again! Whether a DAW (digital audio workstation) is technically an instrument or not is for you to decide, but for those who want to start out with a musical hobby, it can be the perfect option. A lot of the younger generation are very good when it comes to technology, and this is the main skill that you will need if you are going to learn how to make music on a computer.
Making music in this way requires skills from a lot of areas of music and music theory, so to master it, people need to really built their musical knowledge up. A lot of people think this is just a case of throwing some loops together, but this is really not the case.
If you look at the piano roll (something most DAWs are built around) you will see that it is laid out exactly like piano keys, and this means that learning how the chords and keys work. There isn’t much that you can’t actually recreate on a computer these days. Technically, you could even learn all the notes and chords of a piano without ever actually touching a piano or keyboard.
The digital side of music production also ties in closely to drumming. You will need to learn how to program drum beats, and this can allow you to learn the basics of how a drum beat work in case you ever sit at a drum kit. A music producer will often be a jack of all trades when it comes to their musical skills.
So, why is this one of the cheaper options? If you don’t already have a computer or laptop to learn on then it may not be, but if you do, it could just be the price of some relatively affordable software to get started. Apple products such as iPads and iPhones, as well as Macs and Macbooks, come with GarageBand included. While this is not the industry standard piece of music software, it is great for those who are just getting started and you can learn most of what is required to make beats and structure pieces of music, often just using the hardware you already use every day.
Can I Buy Second Hand?
People who are looking for the cheapest instruments to learn are often drawn into websites like eBay or even local instrument stores specializing in second-hand instruments. There is absolutely no doubt about it, there is a huge second-hand market for a lot of the most popular instruments. Guitarists often own a lot of guitars at once. According to this poll, nearly half of the guitarists out there own 10 or more of the instruments. It is inevitable that people sell their instruments from time to time.
On top of all this, around 50% of people who start to learn an instrument give up pretty quickly. At this point, they will look to put their instruments on eBay and beginners like you can pick up some bargains.
When buying second hand, be careful not to get conned by fake “imitations” of brands of guitar. Also, if it is an instrument that you blow into or that may be unsanitary in some other way, follow the steps needed to give it a proper clean, something that is essential when the instrument arrives at your home.
Other Considerations When Choosing an Instrument to Learn
Most of the time, in the world of music and musicianship, you shouldn’t make decisions based purely on price. A lot of people who want to learn how to play music are confined by their bank balance, and as we stated at the very start of the article, there are a few other things to think about before you go ahead and buy an instrument.
- Whether you want to learn the instrument. You’re more likely to give up if not, so don’t buy a harmonica if you don’t think you will enjoy it.
- Whether the instrument will cost you in other ways. If a friend is getting rid of an acoustic piano then this might be a brilliant way to get a cheap instrument, but it will need tuning, and might even need repair.
- Whether the skills are transferable. As we mentioned with ukulele, some of the skills and musical knowledge doesn’t transfer very well to other instruments as it is tuned differently to the traditional way guitars and violins are tuned.
Every musician would love for money to be no issue when they were buying equipment. Unfortunately, we do have to consider the price, and some musical instruments will turn out to be a way to burn through money. For children, or those who just want an affordable hobby, a cheaper instrument will make a lot more sense, and you can always upgrade and move onto bigger and better things in the future if you show the dedication to become a talented, established musician.
Our list of the cheapest instruments to learn should give you plenty of choices to save some money as you embark on a journey into musicianship.