‘What is a good musical instrument to learn first?’ is a question I hear as often as ‘When is a good age to start learning?’. We are all different and many of these questions can be answered once you get to know the individual in question – it is hard to generalize. Yet, there are certain instruments that have over time been hailed as ‘good first instruments’. We often hear about piano and piano keyboard that they are helpful for getting a good basic idea of music as one can easily learn notation and simple songs on them.
Out of curiosity, I researched the topic and discovered the most common first musical instruments in the UK. Here is the top ten:
1. Keyboard 30 %
2. Piano 28%
3. Recorder 28%
4. Classical guitar 20%
5. Drum kit 14%
6. Electric Guitar 13%
7. Violin 12%
8. Percussion 6%
9. Bass Guitar 5%
The findings are based on instruments learn in and out of schools (ABRSM, 2016
So it does seem like keyboard and piano come out on top – yet we should not forget that different factors influence these outcomes, such as practical issue, e.g. it is much easier to have a keyboard at your house than a whole drum kit.
It has also been found that the level of parent’s education influences the decision of which instrument their child learns; some parents might not even be educated enough to consider other options than the keyboard. When parents themselves have received music education and been exposed to different types of music, they are more likely to consider other instrument options.
As an anecdote, yesterday my 5-year-old son came home from school having had his first ukulele lesson – he was buzzing with excitement. Not only because he is learning to play a musical instrument, but he also liked the social aspects of learning to play together with his friends. This social aspects seems to be an important factor to consider when younger kids are concerned as they might feel more motivated to learn when encouraged by their peers.
Therefore, I would say that any musical instrument is a good place to start – in any case, the student would learn all the basics of music, enjoy developing a new skill and potentially cultivating a life-long interest in music.