13 Easy Musical Instruments To Learn

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Looking for an easy instrument to learn but don’t know where to start? Whether you want to learn an instrument as an adult, or you’re searching for an instrument for a child or an elder, there’s something out there for everyone.

In this article, we’ll go through 13 easy musical instruments to learn for adults and children. Start learning how to play your favorite song today on one of these incredible instruments!

1. Cajon

Originating in Peru in the 19th century, the Cajon is a unique percussion instrument shaped like a box first invented by African slaves in Latin America. 

The Cajon was primarily used to play Afro-Peruvian folk music back in the day.

Today, though, people play this instrument in a wide variety of settings, and it’s trendy among buskers and jam bands.

Playing the Cajon is simple. The player sits on top of the box, using their hands to bang against the sides of the Cajon.

You switch the side that you’re playing on to change tone, add accents, and inject complexity into your music.

While more advanced rhythms will take time to learn, you can learn the basics of the Cajon in a matter of minutes. 

2. Recorder

Possibly the most recognizable of all of the easiest instruments to learn, thousands of musicians first picked up the Recorder in their public school music class as a child, and for a good reason. 

Aside from being an inexpensive instrument, the recorder’s finger holes make it really great for novice learners of any age.

Simply place your lips on the mouthpiece and blow air into the instrument, covering the various holes with your fingers to create notes and melodies. 

The recorder’s simple construction, low weight, portability, and simple playing mechanism make it the easiest flute instrument for beginners to learn, young or old. 

3. Bongos

The Bongos are another incredibly easy instrument to learn the basics of playing, an iconic pair of small drums originating in Cuba in the late 19th century. 

The bongos are two small hand drums that can come in various sizes.

Each drum has an open bottom, allowing sound from the batter head to project down and out through the instrument. 

To play the bongos, simply strike the tops of the drums with your hands.

Players most commonly utilize an eight-stroke pattern, but this can change depending on what type of music you want to play. 

4. Tambourine

An excellent percussion instrument for beginners, the Tambourine is a circular hand instrument used in various music types.

If you’re looking for an easy instrument to learn, the tambourine is one of the easiest out there. 

The tambourine consists of a plastic or metal circular frame interspersed with pairs of tiny metal cymbals known as “zills.”

Traditional tambourines have a drum head over one side of the frame, but other instrument varieties might not. 

As you strike either the frame or the drum head with your hands, the zills rattle against one another, creating a rhythmic crashing sound that you can work into jazz, folk, and more. 

5. Harmonica

The Harmonica, a free reed wind instrument, is considered one of the best travel instruments around.

It was developed in the 19th century by European artisans inspired by Chinese free reed instruments like the sheng. 

Playing the harmonica’s basics is easy. You simply put your lips to the holes along the length of the instrument and blow.

The air comes out the other side in different tones depending on which holes the air goes through.

However, while the basics of the harmonica are reasonably straightforward, the instrument becomes much more complex as you grow more advanced.

It’s a great instrument if you want something easy to learn at the start that becomes more challenging as time goes on. 

6. Ukulele

First created by Portuguese immigrants in Hawaii during the late 19th century, the Ukelele has become one of the most popular easy-to-learn instruments available today. 

You’ll often see backpackers, college students, and teens playing it with friends in their free time. 

The ukulele resembles a miniature guitar, and it plays the exact same way. However, the ukulele only has four strings, making it easier to play than a standard six-string guitar. 

There are four main types of ukuleles that are great for beginners: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles. Each one is unique, so choose the one that’s right for you!

7. Castanets

Part of the clapper family, Castanets are ancient percussion instruments that you play by clapping the two pieces of wood together in rhythmic succession.

Also known as Clackers or Palillos, castanets originated nearly 3000 years ago with the Phoenicians in what is modern-day Lebanon. 

Typically, a castanets player is also a fairly confident dancer. They rhythmically clack their pairs of castanets, timed perfectly with their body movements.

Castanets have become a staple instrument of flamenco, the popular Spanish dance form.  However, you don’t have to be a dancer to play the castanets.

They’re super easy to learn in that they don’t have any strings, tuning keys, or finger holes, and all you have to do is clack!

8. Mouth Harp

One of the more unique instruments on this list, the Mouth Harp, is a small bowed instrument that you hold in your mouth.

You may also hear it called by its other names: the Jew’s Harp, Munnharpe, Jaw Harp, Vargan, and more. 

The exact origins of the mouth harp are unknown, but the first recorded use is in China in the 3rd century B.C. 

Most mouth harps consist of a flexible “tongue” made from either metal or bamboo attached to a frame. Alternatively, the instrument can have a wooden reed instead of a tongue. 

The player strikes the tongue, creating vibrations in the instrument’s body. These vibrations turn into sound waves projected outward by the user’s mouth. 

While it might take a little practice to get right, the lack of complex parts makes it really easy to experiment with the mouth harp. 

9. Flute

The flute is another excellent choice for beginners who want to learn a woodwind instrument.

Unlike other woodwinds, the flute doesn’t have a reed, meaning its sound comes solely from airflow over its openings. 

By putting your lips to the lip plate and moving your fingers over the holes, you can create different tones on the flute.

Since it doesn’t have a reed, it requires a lot less effort to play the flute than other woodwinds. 

While it will definitely take some practice to play more difficult patterns on a flute, it’s really easy to get started.

All you have to do is practice holding notes consistently, and you’ll be able to play some iconic flute songs faster than you’d think!

10. Snare Drum

The Snare Drum is one of the most essential percussion instruments in a marching band or concert orchestra.

It’s also a staple of a drum kit, but you can learn how to play this drum all on its own, and it’s pretty easy too. 

Compared to tenor drum heads, a snare drum head provides a bit more bounce when you hit it with your drum sticks. As a result, it requires less effort to make louder sounds, making it easier to play than other concert drums. 

You can progress fairly quickly into the advanced territory by learning basic scales and rhythms on your snare drum. You only need a drum and some sticks to get started!

11. Lyre Harp

The Lyre Harp is one of the more unique instruments on this list and isn’t too well known in popular culture.

It’s essentially a small version of a concert harp, with seven to ten strings instead of 47. 

The Lyre date all the way back to Ancient Greece and are often depicted as being played by Gods and significant heroes in Greek mythology. 

Learning to play the lyre will require a bit of patience, but it’s well worth it. You can take and play a lyre almost anywhere, resting it on your knee and using both hands to pluck the strings. 

While many other instruments are quite expensive to start learning, the lyre harp is very affordable, another reason why it’s easy to learn. 

12. Guitar

An iconic and often intimidating instrument to learn, the guitar is actually a really good instrument for musical novices. 

There is a wide range of different guitars you can choose from, including inexpensive beginners guitars made from lightweight wood and nylon strings. 

Playing basic chords on a standard six-string guitar is surprisingly simple.

Once you learn where your fingers are supposed to rest, all you have to do is strum the strings.

You’ll be the next Bob Dylan in no time!

13. Keyboard

Learning to play the keyboard is a fantastic way to break into the piano world without breaking the bank. 

While the keyboard can be a challenging instrument to play at more advanced levels, it’s also one of the most accessible instruments to learn as a beginner. 

You don’t need any skill or musical knowledge to play the keyboard without training.

You can learn basic scales on the piano and build your knowledge from there, moving as slowly or quickly as you’d like. 

Keyboards also come in a range of sizes, meaning you don’t have to commit to a full-size instrument if you don’t want to. 

Wrapping Up the Easiest Instruments to Learn

Did one of the instruments on our list of the easiest instrument to learn stand out to you? Give it a try! 

None of the instruments on our list require any prior musical knowledge to learn, so you can start your learning journey as soon as you pick one up.

Whether you want to play the Cajon, the ukelele, or the harmonica, learning how to play has never been easier!

While we tried to include all the easiest instruments to learn, we might have missed a couple.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.