8 Cheap Instruments to Learn – Easiest & Cheapest

Author: Brett Clur | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Learning an instrument is something that everyone can be interested in. Music is such an accessible and enjoyable part of life and learning to play it yourself can be extremely rewarding. With that being said, getting an instrument can cost a hefty sum.

Luckily for you, there are some affordable options out there that won’t cost an arm and a leg to get started. I’ve picked out 8 instruments that are easy to get into and affordable to buy. Let’s get right to them.

Voice

We’ll start out with something that you probably didn’t think was an instrument. However, every vocal coach in the world will tell you that your voice is one of your greatest instruments that can be trained and strengthened. Luckily, it doesn’t cost anything at all to start using.

There’s a huge misconception that having a great singing voice is just something that people are born with. Although some people do get lucky with their natural ability to sing, everyone can train their vocal abilities to become a good singer.

To learn to sing, you need to develop control over your vocal muscles. You also need to develop a great ear for tones as you need to know when you’re singing in key or not. One of the biggest things that stop people from singing well is their listening ability.

The one expense that will come in when learning to sing would be to go for some singing lessons. Although there are many free learning materials out there, your voice, in particular, is one instrument that needs a teacher to guide you.

The teacher will keep you accountable and will be able to cater to what you need to improve. Teachers will also steer you in the right direction and help you with practicing materials.

The great thing about singing is that you can do it anywhere and at any time. Singing to your favorite tunes while driving can technically be counted as practice. However, you’d need to focus on vocal exercises that stretch your voice in order to drastically improve as well.

Recorder

The recorder arguably holds the title for being the easiest wind instrument to learn. If you ever went to a junior school that had a music program, you undoubtedly would have been offered some recorder classes.

Schools will teach students to play the recorder first as it takes a very short time to get the technique down. It’s a fantastic instrument to play if you want to start learning how to read sheet music.

Don’t let the fact that children mostly play it stop you from learning. Most students only learn to play it at a basic level. Recorder music can get extremely complex the further down the road you go.

However, we’re looking at it through the lens of being affordable and easy. So, the main reason to learn the recorder as an adult would be to teach yourself how to read music while playing an instrument that doesn’t require much technical proficiency to make sounds.

The way to play the recorder is fairly simple to grasp. You just need to hold your right hand at the bottom and left hand at the top. This will give you enough room for our fingers to hit all the notes. You then need to learn which fingers to hold down to play the different notes.

Once you’ve got that down, you can start reading music on sheets. To do that, you’d need to have an idea of how notation works and what things like whole notes and eighth notes mean.

The recorder is a great platform to start with if you want to go on to play other wind instruments like clarinets or saxophones. It will make it less intimidating once you make the transition.

Keyboard

One of the most important instruments in the musical world is the piano. It’s the instrument that gets referenced when talking about music theory and it’s also the instrument that a lot of famous compositions were made on. Learning to play the piano is a great idea for anyone.

However, pianos are expensive.

That’s where the keyboard comes in. Keyboards have the same piano key layout, except they’re digital and a lot more affordable in most cases. You can learn to play the piano perfectly fine with just a keyboard.

The great thing about keyboards is that they offer a bit more thanks to technology. You can play with different sounds, use onboard click tracks, and play with play-along tracks. Many keyboards even have training features that are great for people who are learning.

One great thing about learning to play the keyboard is that all the notes are laid out in front of you. The keys are simple to learn and you don’t need to remember in complex finger patterns just to play one note like you would with wind instruments or guitars.

There’s also an extremely wide range of things to learn on the keyboard. You could learn how to play intense compositions or you could just learn to play the chords for your favorite songs.

Most cheaper keyboards don’t have weighted keys, meaning it might feel a bit weird to transition over to an upright piano. However, you’ll get used to it in no time if you do make that transition.

Snare Drum

Drums are one of the most expensive instruments to get into as you need to buy a drum kit along with cymbals to get started. So, learning to play the snare drum would be a great alternative. Snare drumming is a huge deal, especially in the marching world.

All you would need to get started would be a snare drum and some drum sticks. It’s arguably easier to learn than melodic instruments as you don’t need to worry about playing notes on a scale.

The snare drum doesn’t make any melodic noise, so you’d be focusing on learning to play rhythms. Similar to the recorder, learning rhythms on the snare drum is a great way to get into music theory and notation. There are an endless amount of rhythmic exercises to play that will improve your music reading abilities.

The tricky part of learning to play the snare drum would technique. You’d need to learn how to hold the sticks properly and optimally to be able to play fast patterns. You’d also need to learn about things like rimshots, ghost notes, and buzz rolls.

Once you have all these techniques down, you could transfer them over to the drum kit and be able to play quite a few things. However, many people are pure snare drum players and don’t play the full drum kit. So, don’t feel like you need to play more than just the snare.

There are a few differences between an orchestral snare and a marching snare. However, both can be learned the same way.

Guitar

Next to the piano, the guitar is the next highly popular instrument around the world. We’ve all heard about that guy at the party that plays guitar to get all the girls. Well, that could be you after a few months of learning to play.

The two types of guitars are acoustic and electric. Acoustic guitars are often the cheaper option to buy, so we’re going to focus on them here. Electric guitars also require amplification which can become a mission if you just want to get straight to playing.

The acoustic guitar is played mostly rhythmically. This means that you’re going to be playing chords in repeating patterns. You’d need to learn how to play a few chords to get started.

To play chords, you need to press your fingers down in certain positions on the fretboard while your other hand strums the strings. Chords such as E Minor and C are extremely easy to learn and they’re generally the first ones you’ll get a grip of. Luckily, those two chords are used in many songs, meaning you’ll be playing tunes in no time.

Once you learn to play a few chords, you could have a go at learning some melodies. It can be tricky to play chords and melodies at the same time on the guitar and you’ll mostly just see pros doing that. So, it may be better to play the keyboard if that’s something you want to do.

When first learning to play the guitar, it would be better to use a pick to strum rather than your fingers. This will allow you to focus on your fret hand without worrying about the subtleties of your strumming hand.

Ukulele

Speaking of stringed instruments, the ukulele is a hugely popular one that has risen in fame in recent times. You may just assume that it’s a miniature guitar. However, it has its own unique sounds as well as different chord structures.

This means that if you know how to play guitar, that doesn’t mean you’ll know how to play the ukulele. It takes a bit of practice, but it’s not difficult to get a good hold on.

The ukulele is a great instrument to play around campfires and get-togethers. It’s extremely portable, thanks to its small size. You’ll find that people who play these like to carry them around with them everywhere.

Unlike the guitar, you’ll strum the chord patterns exclusively with your hands. You’ll rarely see someone using a pick. It’s still doable, though. Just not very common.

There are a few different ukulele sizes. The standard and most common one is the soprano ukulele. You could also play a tenor or a baritone which are a bit bigger.

Percussion

Other affordable and easy instruments to learn would be any type of auxiliary percussion. These all fall under one instrument category. However, there’s a wide variety of things to play. Things like tambourines, shakers, castanets, etc.

Percussion has the potential to be affordable since you can buy one bag that is full of small things to play with. They’re easy to learn since there are no melodies involved.

If you want to get a bit more interesting, you could learn to play bigger percussion instruments like congas or bongos. These are their own entity entirely as you need to develop a great technique with your hands to play them comfortably.

Xylophones and glockenspiels are also easy percussion instruments to learn. However, these fall under the category of pitched percussion, meaning they have melodic notes to play.

Most percussionists in an orchestra know how to play a wide variety of percussion instruments. So, learning to play all of them will keep you busy and entertained. Luckily, the entry-level products are not very expensive.

Harmonica

The harmonica is a fantastic instrument that is extremely easy to learn to play. It’s that instrument that you hear being played in a lot of old-time Western movies. The reason it’s easy to play is that most harmonicas come with a set scale.

This means that you can’t play any wrong notes, stopping it from sounding bad. These harmonicas are called diatonic harmonicas as they have a diatonic scale.

If you want to get a bit fancier, you could get a chromatic harmonica. Chromatic harmonicas are more versatile and can be played along with other instruments. You can change the notes by a half step with the push of a button, meaning this version of the harmonica is more difficult to learn.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve seen from this list that many instruments are easy to pick up and start playing. If you’ve ever wanted to play an instrument, right now is the best time to do it. There are so many great educational materials online that are freely accessible.

You just need to buy the instrument and start learning. If you want to just jam to your favorite songs, consider picking up a guitar. If you see yourself making music at some point, a keyboard would be a great option.

Things like recorders, snare drums, and percussion are great starting points if you want to play in an orchestra eventually.

About Brett Clur

Brett has been drumming for almost two decades. He also helps his students get better at drumming. He can be found on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where you can regularly catch glimpses of his drumming.

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