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What instrument should I play?

It's an important decision, which instrument to play. You'll spend lots of time with your instrument. You'll be around other people who play the same kind of instrument. You'll be more successful if the instrument really suits you. Yes, it's an important decision, and it's lots of fun to decide. Here are some suggestions on how to select your instrument, along with some information about the most popular instruments.

Where do I start?

Is there an instrument that you really like? If so, you have a head start because you've already thought about it. But before you rush out and get that particular instrument, think about the other possibilities. Chances are there are lots of other instruments that you haven't thought about. And one of them may be even better for you than the one you have in mind.

Things to think about...

Where will you play your instrument? Do you want to play in a school band? an orchestra? a rock band? by yourself at talent programs? Some instruments are played only in certain places. For example, school bands use wind instruments but not violins. Orchestras use violins but not saxophones. Rock bands use guitars but not French horns. Look at the instruments that are used in the places you would like to play. Also consider which instruments are most needed in the places you want to play. You'll have more opportunities to play if your instrument is one that's needed.


What instrument do your friends play? It helps if you and your friends are playing the same instrument. But it can also be good to play different instruments, but ones that are compatible, so you and your friends can play together in the same group. But don't select an instrument just because your friends are selecting it. It's most important that it's an instrument that fits you.

Do you have any special capabilities? If you're a small person, you may have trouble handling a big instrument. You'll have to carry the instrument when you play it, like on the school bus or down the street. You'll also have to be big enough to reach the instrument. If you're small because you're young, you can start with a smaller instrument and then, when you're bigger, switch to the one you had in mind. For example, instead of starting on a tuba, start on a trumpet or alto horn, then switch to the tuba when you're bigger.

What can you afford? Some instruments cost more than others, and some might even be free on loan from your school. Lessons may be lower in cost for certain instruments, or available as part of a school program. Check on the costs for various instruments you like and compare that with how much money you can afford.

Is it an instrument for girls or boys? There's a popular misconception that certain instruments are for girls and certain instruments are for boys. There's no instrument that's played only by girls or by boys, and there are excellent male and female players of every instrument. In school bands there are sometimes more girls or boys playing a particular instrument, but overall, there are plenty of male and female players of every instrument. If this is important to you, check the groups you plan to play with and see if you still think it matters.

Comments by Paul Abbott, Phillips Guild mentor.