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What Instrument Should I Learn First?

This is a question I hear often, and the answer is somewhat simple, but we need to ask ourselves a few questions before we choose. 

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  1. Bass Guitar

  2. Piano

  3. Ukulele

  4. Electric Guitar

  5. Acoustic Guitar

Playing Guitar

How Much Time Do You Want to Invest?

Ranking Instruments by Time Investment Rquired

Like any skill, learning a new instrument takes time, and if you aren't willing or don't have the time to invest you may find yourself discouraged an give up. 

  • This list is ranked from least amount of time to most amount of time required to pickup and be able to play the instrument above a beginner level. 

  • This list will only include the basic, most common instruments, I will not talk on brass, woodwinds, other stringed instruments as well as percussion as I am not as experienced with them. 

  • This is in no way is saying "piano is easier than guitar". At professional levels, all of these instruments can be extremely difficult to fully master, this list only ranks going from knowing nothing to being able to play some songs.


Here's a brief explanation for these rankings:

  • Acoustic and Electric guitar both require time to build hand strength, dexterity and "calluses" before you're able to play with good sound and little pain.

  • Ukulele and Bass both require the same but at a much lower level. Both Ukulele and Bass only have 4 strings and Bass guitar rarely requires you to hold more than one note at a time.

  • Bass guitar can be learned very quickly and at a beginner level is the easiest of the bunch, but don't think that means bass is boring, bass is an extremely fun instrument to play and still has a high skill ceiling. 

  • Piano is the only of these instruments that doesn't require a buildup of calluses on your fingers and thus can be picked up somewhat faster.



With motivation, all of the instruments listed can be learned in roughly the same amount of time, but if you get discouraged easily you may want to consider an instrument that requires the least.

How Much Money Do You Want to Invest?

The money required to start playing an instrument is not usually extravagant, but this is still something you may want to consider.

Ranking Instruments by Cash Investment Required

  1. Ukulele

  2. Acoustic Guitar

  3. Piano

  4. Bass Guitar

  5. Electric Guitar


A decent quality Ukulele could run you as little as $75! Compare that to an Electric Guitar where you'll likely spend around $300 for a beginner quality Guitar and another $100+ for a beginner level amplifier;

Add on top of that a couple effect pedals and some necessary accessories and you're looking at a $600+ investment.

Starting piano may be a different story, you can get away with a cheaper setup as it won't heavily effect the "playability" the same way a stringed instrument might hurt your fingers to play if it's low quality.

That being said, I'd still recommend getting a decent digital piano (better known as simply a "keyboard") as it will have a better sound and feel. Something decent would run you somewhere around $300-$500

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*From least to most.

My Opinion

My first instrument was "technically" acoustic/electric guitar. I took lessons and never practiced. It wasn't until I was taught to play Bass Guitar that I got the drive for it and proceeded to learn Guitar, Ukulele, Piano, and some other various instruments on my own. 

Could it be that the simplicity of beginner level Bass gave me the confidence and motivation to push through the difficulty of guitar? Maybe. But if your dream is to grow out your hair and shred electric guitar in a metalcore band, you may get bored playing something like Ukulele or Piano.

So, "What Instrument Should I Learn First"?

There are a lot of things to consider, but at the end of the day it comes down to one main question:

What do You Want to Play?

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