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View Full Version : Musical instrument for an absolute beginner.


CounterPusher
11-30-2009, 10:56 AM
I have neither learned music/musical instrument nor have I listened to much music (at a serious level) up until now. Strange, isn't it? That's just the way it happened.

What would be your recommendation to me for a musical instrument? I can possibly practice 2-3 hours a weeks. I am not into drums. I like piano and saxophone. I am sure both require at least a couple years of learning before I can get some music out of them. It seems to me that guitar and violin may be harder to learn than piano and saxophone.

Your input is highly appreciated.

malakas
11-30-2009, 11:02 AM
Choose the one that you LIKE the most.You said you like piano and saxophone so there.:)

Dedans Penthouse
11-30-2009, 11:09 AM
Recorder..

CounterPusher
11-30-2009, 11:10 AM
I did a search about this after I started the thread and found some really good perspectives about this at http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061114090143AAxWWhd

Regardless, I am still interested in knowing which instrument you guys recommend. Thanks.

CounterPusher
11-30-2009, 11:16 AM
This will be a purely recreational venture. No plans to make a living or get admitted to college with this.

BigServer1
11-30-2009, 11:17 AM
My biggest regret musically was picking the guitar over the piano...There is so much you can do with a background in piano, and the stuff that you learn in terms of reading music and chordal structure/progressions will also help if you want to pick up any other instrument as well.

Camilio Pascual
11-30-2009, 11:18 AM
Hint: What do you call a person who lives with four musicians?
Da-dum.

jmverdugo
11-30-2009, 11:20 AM
My biggest regret musically was picking the guitar over the piano...There is so much you can do with a background in piano, and the stuff that you learn in terms of reading music and chordal structure/progressions will also help if you want to pick up any other instrument as well.

You can learn this with any instrument and you can learn piano without learning this.

malakas
11-30-2009, 11:22 AM
This will be a purely recreational venture. No plans to make a living or get admitted to college with this.

well I picked the piano,because that's what I personally play and love.But you should pick the one you like playing/listening to the most.
Piano is a great instrument but it's expensive to have and not very practical as a guitar or a saxophone.However if you have access and can have lesssons to all these instruments I guess that won't be a problem for you.

BigServer1
11-30-2009, 11:25 AM
You can learn this with any instrument and you can learn piano without learning this.

I mean, I guess if you're not concerned with actually being able to sit down and play something off of a score...

There isn't a single other instrument out there that forces you to read two clefs at once and multiple notes within those two clefs.

Also, for quite a while guitar songs have been available in tabs and not solely in full score...You'd be amazed at the great guitarists that can't read music.

Xenakis
11-30-2009, 11:35 AM
My biggest regret musically was picking the guitar over the piano...There is so much you can do with a background in piano, and the stuff that you learn in terms of reading music and chordal structure/progressions will also help if you want to pick up any other instrument as well.

I agree, piano is the best instrument to learn in terms of learning about music and it should be your second instrument if you play something else too (nearly all composers and writers can play the piano, at least a bit anyway)

Guitar is probably easier to start off with but the fretboard is more difficult in the long run as you need to learn where all the notes are if you want to read music or charts etc. The keyboard on the other hand is very rational in the way it is laid out (for tonal music anyway, i.e. music in a key as opposed to atonal harmony in modern classical etc)

Also for a hobby player you can accompany yourself fairly easily (you can on guitar too but that's more difficult to start with.)

There is also a massive repertoire for piano, in all styles more or less.

Wind instruments are technically difficult (embouchure) and are probably somewhere in between piano and guitar in terms of learning where all the notes are and getting some harmony under your fingers.

Wind instruments have a more limited range than the guitar and don't have multiple strings to consider but compared to the piano you don't get to see what you are doing as clearly and shapes are harder to learn imo (arpeggios and scales etc.)

Sax is probably the easiest woodwind instrument but it's a difficult one to call, the fingering is easier on the sax compared to the clarinet for instance and the embouchure is easier than the double reeds or the flute but some things are still difficult like getting the low notes to speak easily (the sax is a cone shape, unlike the more tubular clarinet which is easier to play across the range but the fingering is more troublesome to learn.)

Brass is similar to the flute in terms of having to maintain a difficult embouchure, difficult to start with and you have to practice regularly to keep it up. Fingering isn't that easy either as you have to learn valve combinations.

Strings, tough, you need a good ear as they don't have frets, combine that with how difficult the bowing technique is and the string family becomes a somewhat ambitious choice for a recreational/hobby player. Certainly not impossible if you are patient though. Cello is probably easiest if you have man size hands, also it's easier to hold/sit with compared to violin/viola. Double bass is difficult again because of it's scale and the strength needed to hold the strings down.

Percussion/drums, most tuned percussion is like the piano so you'll need to learn the keyboard structure, others like timpani are odd ones out really, that's more stick technique. Whether you learn drum kit or orchestral percussion you'll need to get your rudiments and grip sorted out, this takes time but at least you don't have to learn about harmony (if you avoid tuned percussion) and the music is easier to read too.

However drum kit is not easy to play, in a standard rock/pop/jazz band it's the hardest instrument to play well due to all the coordination even on a simple beat (bit like the service motion in tennis, lots of things to do in a short space of time.)

mozzer
11-30-2009, 11:38 AM
What music do you like?

Xenakis
11-30-2009, 11:47 AM
Oh and regards practice, if you have 3 hours a week to play, try and get in shorter more regular sessions, so 6 half hour sessions over 6 days are much better than one 3 hour session.

r2473
11-30-2009, 12:08 PM
Harmonica

...

ipitythefool
11-30-2009, 03:06 PM
Whistle...

TennisNinja
11-30-2009, 03:20 PM
I second the piano. It's a great base for music, as you can branch out anywhere, and it offers a lot of learning about chords and whatnot.

downs_chris
11-30-2009, 03:35 PM
my vote is for guitar...you can get a decent used one for less than those other instruments...although learning piano might make you a better musician -- more to think about (left hand is kind of independent of the right hand)...just my opinion...

Bud
11-30-2009, 04:18 PM
I have neither learned music/musical instrument nor have I listened to much music (at a serious level) up until now. Strange, isn't it? That's just the way it happened.

What would be your recommendation to me for a musical instrument? I can possibly practice 2-3 hours a weeks. I am not into drums. I like piano and saxophone. I am sure both require at least a couple years of learning before I can get some music out of them. It seems to me that guitar and violin may be harder to learn than piano and saxophone.

Your input is highly appreciated.

My biggest regret musically was picking the guitar over the piano...There is so much you can do with a background in piano, and the stuff that you learn in terms of reading music and chordal structure/progressions will also help if you want to pick up any other instrument as well.

You can learn this with any instrument and you can learn piano without learning this.

I agree, piano is the best instrument to learn in terms of learning about music and it should be your second instrument if you play something else too (nearly all composers and writers can play the piano, at least a bit anyway)

Guitar is probably easier to start off with but the fretboard is more difficult in the long run as you need to learn where all the notes are if you want to read music or charts etc. The keyboard on the other hand is very rational in the way it is laid out (for tonal music anyway, i.e. music in a key as opposed to atonal harmony in modern classical etc)

Also for a hobby player you can accompany yourself fairly easily (you can on guitar too but that's more difficult to start with.)

There is also a massive repertoire for piano, in all styles more or less.

Wind instruments are technically difficult (embouchure) and are probably somewhere in between piano and guitar in terms of learning where all the notes are and getting some harmony under your fingers.

Wind instruments have a more limited range than the guitar and don't have multiple strings to consider but compared to the piano you don't get to see what you are doing as clearly and shapes are harder to learn imo (arpeggios and scales etc.)

Sax is probably the easiest woodwind instrument but it's a difficult one to call, the fingering is easier on the sax compared to the clarinet for instance and the embouchure is easier than the double reeds or the flute but some things are still difficult like getting the low notes to speak easily (the sax is a cone shape, unlike the more tubular clarinet which is easier to play across the range but the fingering is more troublesome to learn.)

Brass is similar to the flute in terms of having to maintain a difficult embouchure, difficult to start with and you have to practice regularly to keep it up. Fingering isn't that easy either as you have to learn valve combinations.

Strings, tough, you need a good ear as they don't have frets, combine that with how difficult the bowing technique is and the string family becomes a somewhat ambitious choice for a recreational/hobby player. Certainly not impossible if you are patient though. Cello is probably easiest if you have man size hands, also it's easier to hold/sit with compared to violin/viola. Double bass is difficult again because of it's scale and the strength needed to hold the strings down.

Percussion/drums, most tuned percussion is like the piano so you'll need to learn the keyboard structure, others like timpani are odd ones out really, that's more stick technique. Whether you learn drum kit or orchestral percussion you'll need to get your rudiments and grip sorted out, this takes time but at least you don't have to learn about harmony (if you avoid tuned percussion) and the music is easier to read too.

However drum kit is not easy to play, in a standard rock/pop/jazz band it's the hardest instrument to play well due to all the coordination even on a simple beat (bit like the service motion in tennis, lots of things to do in a short space of time.)

If you were really young and seeking a solid musical foundation... I too would recommend the piano. When I was in band for 6 years... it always seemed that in most instances... the kids who started on piano as youngsters were top of their sections.

However, since the sax seems to be what you're most drawn too... I'd go with that as It's not particularly difficult to play. You may also want to consider where you'll be practicing. If you have drums, close neighbors can become an issue. Most musical instruments are louder than you may think.

I learned to play the trumpet and did so for 6 years but have always been drawn to the oboe (but they are so darned expensive!)

RealityPolice
11-30-2009, 04:53 PM
As a saxophonist with thirty+ years' experience....

It's not a difficult instrument to learn, and it has the advantage of being monophonic (although you can overblow to generate harmonics--a fairly advanced trick), so you don't have to deal with hand-independence issues. Sax is pretty easy to play to a medium skill level, but it can be very difficult to master (like any instrument).

Drawbacks? It's more expensive than guitar, and a top-quality horn can run you $5000+. You don't have the benefit of playing chords or independent lines (let's hear it for left-hand ostinatos!), so playing by yourself can get pretty dull, and you won't pick up music theory concepts as easily as you would with guitar/piano. It's also less likely to draw appreciative nods while you're learning it; the soundproofing of your walls may be all that stands between you and the ire of your neighbors. :mrgreen:

Miraj
11-30-2009, 05:14 PM
Go for the drums
You don't need too much practise to play some decent music.
I personally play drums and guitar. They're both really fun. I'd go with drums though

Also, everyone plays guitar or piano. If you ever want to make a band with some friends, playing the drums pretty much guarantees a place in the band. The drums are one of the most important instruments in a band, so its a good skill to have.

meowmix
11-30-2009, 05:31 PM
I've been playing the piano for 10 years now, and I really enjoy it. Contrary to what most people believe, it's NOT all that hard to learn piano, to learn to read score (something that you're pretty much forced to do), to play two hands at once, etc. Piano also really betters you as a thinker, since you're forced to be able to work with both hands at the same time.

Piano's not that hard to pick up, and at first, a few hours a week will be enough to get you by. But if you want to get more advanced, you'll gradually increase your time. It's also something that you have to do on a regular basis. For me, if I have a break of 2-3 days without playing, my fingers lose their nimbleness and finger memory, and I need a day to recover. As the person above said, practice 30 minutes a day, or if you don't have that time, 15 minutes. But keep it going.

Something else that you can consider is voice. I personally can't sing for my life, but I did enjoy my year in choir. It's something that will benefit you, and it's the most flexible instrument there is.

Dilettante
11-30-2009, 05:33 PM
Piano is a great instrument, but c'mon guys, he says he's a begginer.

Guitar is:

-Less expensive.
-Easier to play at simple levels.
-Easier to carry anywhere.
-And you can sing some songs for girls (important eh?) in any place, knowing no more than three or four simple chords.

I'm not saying this because I play guitar myself. But because you see a lot of people who barely play a bunch of chords but they're having fun anyway. You won't see a guy carrying his piano to a beach party or something like that.

Being a beginner and not having listened a lot of music he won't become Thelonious Monk, so let's take him to the more simple way of making some music.

BTW; blues harmonica it's not a bad choice either. If you can learn it and you can also sing, you could get in a band without knowing music and have some fun.

shaysrebelII
11-30-2009, 06:55 PM
guitar. specifically, a cheap classical guitar, which are easy to find in your local music shop. also, most guitar music is printed on tablature, which uses numbers on lines instead of traditional sheet music, and is far easier to learn.

piano is "the best" to learn, but space and $$$ are often an issue...

canuckfan72
11-30-2009, 10:50 PM
Dear OP,

here is my most honest opinion on what instrument you should pick:

CHOOSE THE PIANO, it is the most versatile instrument in the world. the different genres (kinds) of music is limitless. If you learn the piano you will find yourself with a reservoir full of music that you will be able to play at will. You will be able to choose from classical, rock, pop, jazz, "theme", and what ever you can think of. Trust me, everytime im in band class i envy the people who can just sit down and play the piano effortlessly. With the piano you are able to "jam" with almost anyone.

If you work hard and are "keen" or have that "drive" (its hard to explain) to play you will be very good and will find yourself well rewarded. btw, if you learn the piano first it makes learning other instruments quite easy.

only downside is that keyboards and pianos are not the easiest instruments to "lugg" around.

canuckfan

cucio
12-01-2009, 12:27 AM
Pretty much agree with what everyone says.

A monophonic instrument can be discouraging if you don't have many chances of playing in bands.

If your mind is logic-math oriented you will undoubtedly feel an irresistible pull towards learning music theory. For that piano is GOAT.

Be aware that wind instruments require more cleaning and maintenance. If you have 15 minutes a day you may very well spend 5 of them cleaning. On the other hand, it is much easier to manipulate their sound, which adds an extra expressive dimension that in piano is very limited until you reach a fairly advanced level.

An electronic keyboard (or electric guitar) can be played through headphones, which is an extra if you don't want to bother people around.

I'd consider the possibility of going for *both* instruments you are attracted to. An entry-level sax shouldn't be too expensive, or perhaps you can rent one, and you can get a Casio or similar 5-octave keyboard for $100. If you practice often you'll grow out of them quite quickly, but by then you will have a clearer idea of your relation to music.

maddogz32
12-01-2009, 05:01 PM
a recorder, i played one in 4th and 5th grade, if you dont call 4th and 5th grade beginner, then i dont know what a beginner is

meowmix
12-01-2009, 06:32 PM
A decent upright piano, from a less well known brand, will cost you 1500 new. A good upright piano from a well known brand will cost you 1500 used. A decent upright that's used will cost you about 800. Different between a good and a decent is how high the upright is, but if you're just starting out/not planning to get too serious, a 46' upright will suit you fine.

Alternately, you can consider a GOOD keyboard. If you want to go the keyboard route, then completely avoid the cheap stuff, as the keys are unweighted and just downright crappy.

jmverdugo
12-01-2009, 07:00 PM
the only problem with piano is that it is kind of hard to go and serenade your loved one...

fruitytennis1
12-01-2009, 07:15 PM
Easiest saxiphone. Easy to learn. Within a year you can play some pretty tough stuff. But piano is obviously the best in terms of things you can do.

Z-Man
12-01-2009, 08:05 PM
Play whatever you love. If you want to be in a band, get a bass. If you like live music, get a PA and start running sound.

malakas
12-01-2009, 08:28 PM
..not a single vote for violin?? :(

cucio
12-02-2009, 10:38 AM
Alternately, you can consider a GOOD keyboard. If you want to go the keyboard route, then completely avoid the cheap stuff, as the keys are unweighted and just downright crappy.

We are talking an absolute beginner here with some incipient curiosity for music, I don't think spending a grand to check whether he is bitten by the bug or not is necessary. I started with a $300 Casio, one year later a $2000 112 cm upright and, a few years later, a $5000 second-hand Baldwin baby grand, nice sparkly high register for jazz, too buzzy in the low register for a clean classic sound. For a discriminating ear even expensive instruments are far from perfect.

Besides, cathedral organ keyboards are unweighted too, and I'd hesitate to call them crappy, lol! Piano is not the only keyboard instrument and, even then, the difference in action between a grand, an upright and a weighted keyboard is huge when you have the motoric development to appreciate it.

El-cheapo keyboards have poor sound and response and are unbearable to the educated musician, but are adequate in the first stages when you are still trying to figure out how to press two keys at the same time. If you find you are hooked up, it is about time for an upgrade.

..not a single vote for violin?? :(

Curiosity killed the cat and made violin strings with its guts. Cat's bitter revenge against curiosity is beginning violin students, lol!

Not the most grateful instrument for a beginner: bow technique and intonation are big hurdles before the glorious music those instruments can produce comes out. I have always wondered how small kids that take up the instrument manage to keep their motivation for that long, since kids are all about immediate rewards. We are lucky they do, though.

CounterPusher
12-02-2009, 11:54 AM
Dear TTers,

Thanks for all your time, insight and recommendations. Based on above discussion, starting with an inexpensive keyboard seems the way to go. As one poster stated, if my interest lasts beyond the initial curiosity, I might advance to the piano. Guess the saxophone and other harder instruments will have to wait until I master the keyboard, followed by the piano.

Sometimes, I feel that I should improve my tennis before I start other ventures. Your help is greatly appreciated.

ttbrowne
12-02-2009, 11:54 AM
I've never heard of someone that didn't have a preference to play instruments. Usually you gravitate to one or the other because it draws you.

Guitar: I learned guitar at an early age and had fun. I had, and have, long slender fingers so it made it easier for me to play. Easy to carry. Chicks dig guitar players too. I wish I'd learned to sing too.

Drums: I was at a buddys house jammin when I sat behind my first set. It looked easy. It was easy! For me anyway. I found I was totally quadradexterous. From then on it was drums. Great time playing. But lugging an entire drum set from gig to gig was terrible.

Harmonica (Harp)- I loved the blues so I gave it a try. I got okay but not having any formal training...I learned to play with the harp upside down! God, What a hassle. Muddy Waters w/ James Cotton, Little Walter will get ya going in the right direction. *I've still got my bullet mic somewhere.

Bagumbawalla
12-03-2009, 08:17 PM
If you have a good ear, try the Theremin.

drummerdan
12-03-2009, 08:57 PM
It's obvious...drums. :)

I know you made your choice already but consider the drums. Many people think it's easy to play the drums but it's not. Think of rubbing your head and scratching your belly but times 2 (or more). When there's multiple drums, cymbals and other percussion pieces, there's a lot of mental challenge there.

Check out this guy for a little drumming:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmIpuWgt65k

There's an old saying that says that you don't pick your instrument, your instrument picks you. Go with the one that picks you. You'll know which one. I did.

dParis
12-03-2009, 09:01 PM
What would be your recommendation to me for a musical instrument?
Triangle.
Percussion/drums, most tuned percussion is like the piano so you'll need to learn the keyboard structure, others like timpani are odd ones out really, that's more stick technique.
I was considering taking up recreational timpani. How do the ladies react?

Seriously, your post was an interesting read.
Play whatever you love. If you want to be in a band, get a bass. If you like live music, get a PA and start running sound.What exactly does this mean?

If you have a good ear, try the Theremin.I saw Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) playing the Theremin with a nun hand puppet. He looked like he was having fun.

Ken Honecker
12-04-2009, 12:57 AM
I'd vote for the piano as well. I always wished I'd studied it but sports and play got in the way.

Both my daughters play violin at a fairly good rec level. One went from being the concert master of her High School last year to playing 1st violin in the College orchestra this year with her sister taking over as concert master. While I love the sound of the violin and even played it myself many, many years ago It is an instrument that I feel sounds better with accompaniment.

tenniskid567
12-04-2009, 11:53 PM
Piano and Saxaphone are excellent choices. They are probably of the easier instruments to play and to pick up quickly (I'm NOT saying they're EASY or simple, so no one get offended...) But I play both, (and i'm not half bad, despite missing a middle finger :) and would recommend it. Piano is nice because you don't have to get anything out and set it up and put it away...you just sit down and go. Saxaphone is fun and I really enjoy it, its fun to work with your fingers in that way, and I'm sure you could pick it up alright. Just get a good teacher haha.