Merit School of Music

The 10 Best Musical Instruments for Beginners

A young student smiles while playing a keyboard. In the background, two other students play.

There are so many benefits to learning a musical instrument. It’s easy to see why you might be interested in signing up your child for music classes or lessons—an investment in music education is truly an investment in their future!

But now comes the question: Which instrument is best for your beginning musician? It can feel like a big decision. There are endless instruments to choose from, and you don’t want to sign them up for an instrument that will cause them frustration and leave you with the chore of reminding them to practice.

From instruments that are easier for kids and teens to pick up quickly to the instruments that tend to foster a long-term interest in music, read on as we break down the top 10 instruments for beginners.

👉 An important call out before we dig in! There are a variety of other factors to take into account when choosing an instrument—age and physical considerations, initial skills, and more. And, of course, the best way to choose an instrument that your child will get excited about and will stay motivated on is to involve them in the selection process.

1. Piano/Keyboard

A young student plays keyboard standing up with a pair of headphones around her neck. Another student is blurred in the background.

Piano (or keyboard) is by far one of the most popular instruments for beginners. This is partially because kids can begin music classes or lessons quite young (age six), but it’s largely because of the ease of getting started on the piano. New students can usually start playing simple songs and melodies relatively quickly, providing them with a sense of accomplishment that will foster excitement about their music studies and motivate them to build strong practice habits. In addition, learning to play the piano also lays an excellent foundation in reading music, learning scales, and basic music theory.

2. Voice/Singing

A choir of children sing together, standing on risers. In front of them is the ensemble director conducting.

One of the best parts of choosing your voice as your instrument? It’s the lowest cost instrument—completely free. 😊 Some people can be intimidated by singing, not sure if they have a “good singing voice”. In reality, everyone can sing! It just takes coaching from a good music teacher and plenty of practice to find your voice. While we don’t recommend taking private voice lessons until the age of 12 (it’s best to wait until post-puberty for more rigorous vocal study), kids can join choir starting at age seven. Choir is a great way for kids to learn the fundamentals and gain confidence using their voice without the pressure of singing solo.

3. Flute

Flute is a fantastic starter instrument in the woodwind family. Unlike the clarinet, oboe, or bassoon, the flute doesn’t have a reed, so it’s a bit simpler for learning the basics of playing a woodwind instrument

Outside of choir, band instruments are the first to enable students to perform in an ensemble. So if you’re looking for a way for your child to make new friends and build teamwork and communication skills, flute or another band instrument (see below! 😉) are great choices. And at Merit, many students continue with our band program from elementary school through middle school and high school, helping to build a tight-knit community outside of school and motivating students to stick with it.

A choir of children sing together, standing on risers. In front of them is the ensemble director conducting.

4. Saxophone

Two students are facing each other and smiling as they play saxophone.

The saxophone is another great beginner-friendly woodwind instrument. The saxophone’s fingering system is relatively easy to understand, and its distinct sound is extremely versatile for different genres, making it an appealing choice for young musicians. Students can start on the alto saxophone and eventually progress to other saxophones (such as the baritone or tenor) or switch to (or add on) other wind instruments if their interests shift.

5. Percussion

Percussion is the best instrument for giving beginners experience with rhythm and keeping a steady beat. A drum kit can have a steeper learning curve, but beginners can learn the basics on other percussive instruments such as the snare drum, bass drum, glockenspiel, and xylophone. Young students often appreciate that by choosing percussion as their “instrument”, it opens them up to a whole world of various percussion instruments to learn and play—from the djembe to timpani and cymbals.

A young student holds a tambourine, surrounded by several other percussion instruments.

6. Trumpet

A group of students play trumpets while standing in a line

This small brass instrument is a hit with kids and teens who want to make some noise and are looking for that cool factor. While its size makes it easy to handle, a trumpet’s three simple keys and the ability to buzz the mouthpiece often appeal to student musicians. Since trumpets are often the center of the brass section, this instrument is a great choice for aspiring musicians who like being the star of the show.

7. Acoustic Guitar

A young student in the foreground smiles down at the guitar she's playing. Two other students are blurred in the background.

Guitar is another extremely popular instrument for beginners. While chords are a little trickier and will take beginners more time to tackle, guitar students can start plucking and playing basic songs early on. Keep in mind that acoustic guitars have a significantly shorter learning curve than electric guitars. Another great thing about choosing guitar for your young musician? The variety of songs they’ll be able to play—folk tunes, classical pieces, rock classics, pop hits, and so much more—will help to pique their interest and get them excited about performing for friends and family.

8. Ukulele

This petite instrument is a great choice when you’re looking to get your child started learning an instrument young. The size of the ukulele and reduced number of strings (four strings vs. a guitar’s six strings) make it easier for smaller children to handle. It also allows them to develop and strengthen their finger dexterity. And, like guitar, students often find the ukulele repertoire to be fun and engaging. In ukulele classes at Merit, five to eight-year-olds learn the instrument side-by-side with a parent, making it a bonding activity and empowering plenty of musical memories at home.

A young student plays ukulele with her parent smiling in the background.

9. Violin

A violin student focuses on playing her instrument

Kids can start violin lessons as early as age four, so it’s a great beginning instrument if you want your child to get started young. Its small size makes it easy for small children to handle and learn the basics of strings instruments on. In beginning violin classes and lessons, kids learn proper string technique, critical listening skills, and basic musical concepts. Another perk of the violin? The vast array of genres to keep your child engaged—classical, Latinx, folk, country, jazz, and more.

10. Cello

Three cello students sit in a line, playing.

Similarly to violin, cello is one of the best strings instruments for beginners. Although significantly larger than the violin, the cello is still relatively easy for beginners to handle and teaches the basics of strings technique. It’s also an extremely versatile instrument, allowing musicians to play everything from the bass line to melody. And due to being less popular than the violin, cellists are often more in-demand when the time comes to participate in orchestras and ensembles.

There you have it! 10 great options for your budding musician—instruments to get them excited about music, tap into the benefits of music education, and help them master basic musical concepts.

Remember: There are a handful of other important factors to take into account when choosing an instrument for your kid or teen. Check out the resources below to learn more, and make sure your child plays a role in the selection process!

Guidance for Parents of Budding Musicians

Wondering what age is right for your child to start learning music?

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