Posted on August 1, 2011 by Andy John

What do you want to play?

That’s the first place to start.  If you want to play guitar, play guitar.

However, there are times I would suggest starting with a different instrument, but generally if you start on the instrument you intend to you are better off.

Many of my students do change instruments for various reasons.  Sometimes I will suggest that my student begin with slide guitar (watch the video for details) or ukulele because they are easier to start on.  They are also similar enough to guitar that the transition back to guitar is relatively easy.  I have also suggested to my guitar students to play bass.  Bass is often overlooked by many young musicians-to-be because it doesn’t have the charisma that a guitar does.  There are fewer “heroes” on bass (although there are plenty). Bass also has the advantage that there are never enough players.  Every band needs one.  My bass students get gigs IMMEDIATELY!

I keep my studio stocked with instruments of all kinds and let my students try them out, even instruments I don’t teach.  It’s a good idea to talk with relatives, musician friends, and school band directors.  Each instrument has a minimum “age-and-size-of-student” requirement.  Piano and violin can start as young as 3!  Auto harplap dulcimer, harmonica, xylophone, hand drums, and recorder are other instruments to start on.  B.B. King started on a diddy-bow which is an ancestor to the slide guitar.  Many cultures start kids very young.  Anyone who spends any time in Asheville knows there are plenty of musical families in these hills who have kept a tradition alive for generations and have kids playing “Bile dem cabbage down” on the banjo by 5 years of age!  Isn’t music great?

One last thing…  There’s nothing to say that the instrument you pick is the last one you’ll ever play.  It takes years to master your first instrument but everything you learn on it transfers to other ones.  If you are a good guitar player, you are automatically a mediocre bass player!  If you play violin, the mandolin is an easy second instrument to play.

Read this for further information:  purchasing an instrument

How do I choose an instrument to play?