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  #1  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:13 AM
Winston Smith Winston Smith is online now
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What Musical Instrument is the easiest to learn to play?

I've got a Yamaha keyboard that I can plink out a few songs on, what with my limited ability to read music, and I bought myself a guitar a couple years ago, but it's collecting dust (school, kids, demanding job, etc). Anyways, I'm not even sure it's music I'm making with them: you know if you read the words to a song it's not singing, well it's kind of like that, I think. Be nice to be able to pick something up quick, though. Thoughts? Kazoo? Comb & tissue? Should I just hum?
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  #2  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:19 AM
bouv bouv is offline
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What do you mean by play? Do you mean play well enough so i sounds ok, or be really good at it?

It's not too hard to learn a bunch of guitar chords and strum out a tune, but on the other hand, learning how to pluck really well is much harder, from what little I knwo of playnig a guitar.

I would imagine, though, that the easiet "middle of the road" instrument would be the clarinet. At first it seems intimidating, because there's a lot of buttons and holes and whatnot, but it really isn't hard to learn all the fingerings. Then it's just a matter of knowing how to make it produce a good sound, which, with a woodwind, doesn't take much work at all. (As oppossed to a brass instrument, which relies much more heavily on mouth movements and position.)
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  #3  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:25 AM
Winston Smith Winston Smith is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bouv
What do you mean by play? Do you mean play well enough so i sounds ok, or be really good at it?

It's not too hard to learn a bunch of guitar chords and strum out a tune, but on the other hand, learning how to pluck really well is much harder, from what little I knwo of playnig a guitar.

I would imagine, though, that the easiet "middle of the road" instrument would be the clarinet. At first it seems intimidating, because there's a lot of buttons and holes and whatnot, but it really isn't hard to learn all the fingerings. Then it's just a matter of knowing how to make it produce a good sound, which, with a woodwind, doesn't take much work at all. (As oppossed to a brass instrument, which relies much more heavily on mouth movements and position.)
I mean play well enough that it won't make people's ears bleed. If I had the time and money, I wouldn't mind taking some piano or guitar lessons. But I don't. Like they call Pot a gateway drug, I'm wondering if there's soem simple-to-master musical instrument that could be a gateway to being a musician.

I'm sure that doesn't make any sense.
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  #4  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:41 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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I'm not trying to be funny here, but the question's answer seems obvious to me: drums!

Getting good at drums requires a lot more than just a sense of rhythm and some dexterity, but the average person who can walk, chew gum, and hold a briefcase ought to have enough of the basic skills to learn basic drumming technique.

Now if starts having to make a tune, chords and keep a beat going all at once, I guess drums go by the wayside and you have to move on to guitar, keyboards, or some other string instrument. Violin, banjo, bass, melodica, etc. seem to me to require fewer skills for minimal competence. Any of the wind instruments are more complex.

The one wind-operated instrument that demands little more than just plain blowing is the melodica. It's a one-hand instrument with keys so you can't be worried about all the coordination needed to play piano or electronic keyboards. You can make chords if you want, but making simple melodies is quite easy. They're pretty cheap (or were when I bought mine 30 years ago or so). They sound a little like an accordion but they don't produce a lot of volume. Kind of a step or two up from a kazoo in that you do have to let your fingers find the notes instead of just humming them.

Just for what it's worth, I've seen pictures of (and probably heard) Steely Dan's Donald Fagen playing one on some number(s).
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  #5  
Old 02-27-2006, 11:07 AM
FlyingRamenMonster FlyingRamenMonster is offline
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Unless you really are talking about kazoos and combs with toilet paper around them, I doubt there *is* an "easiest" instrument. If an instrument is easy people will write harder music for it. In that sense piano is probably "easy" to play "Hey, you just push the keys down like this!" but are the top-level pieces easy? Hell no. If you want to play an instrument stop worrying about "easy" and pick something you like and stick with it. By the time you get reasonably good at it the difficulty is not going to matter.
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  #6  
Old 02-27-2006, 11:33 AM
ZebraShaSha ZebraShaSha is offline
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For me, it was the ukulele. Hear me out..

I'm quite well versed in music, from Mississippi Delta blues all the way up to contemporary indie rock, yet I never could play an instrument. Just not something I coul do, and I tried - I have an accordian, harp, did have a guitar, etc. Then, I got a uke for Christmas, and let it sit for awhile.

Now, in the past month, I have learned several strum patterns, most of the notes on it, how to read music, chords, whatever. I'm getting pretty well versed with it, because it is so easy. Everything sounds happy or atleast mellow on it, and there are only four strings to mess with.

Online, there is everything you could possibly need to learn how to play it. Some places, like this one site called Pineapple Petes or something, basically tells you everything to get started. There is one site that has just about every Beatles song along with an animated guide of which cords are playing during which part of the song. Basically, there are TONS of ukulele stuff online, enough to get you started or more.

Best of all, they are cheap. You can get a really cheap ukulele that sounds really good for less than 100 bucks. 50 bucks, even. I know one place that sells a 64 dollar uke with pickups.

Even still, as most people will tell you, the easiest way to learn how to play is to be dedicated, no matter what instrument. You can learn just about anything if you try hard enough, as it isn't really too difficult. If you are discouraged, though, it becomes very difficult very quickly.
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  #7  
Old 02-27-2006, 11:37 AM
sciurophobic sciurophobic is offline
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My vote would be for the recorder. Best of all, you can get one cheap.
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  #8  
Old 02-27-2006, 11:38 AM
Zabali_Clawbane Zabali_Clawbane is offline
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The recorder isn't very hard to play decently, so long as you remember to blow more gently on the low notes. The piano is an instrument that beginning musicians at least learn something about. For example, they often make you learn the piano if you are interested in becoming a drummer. If you can already sing passably, why not stick to that as a musical talent? Or, maybe learn to whistle a few melodies if you can do that?
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  #9  
Old 02-27-2006, 12:01 PM
redtail23 redtail23 is offline
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Can you explain better what you're wanting to do? Do you want to be able to pick out melody or do rhythm chords or what?

If you're wanting chords, guitar is really fairly easy, but it does take practice. We recently got a friend of ours started on auto-harp because she was intimidated by the idea of learning chords. She loves it.

I'd suggest learning some basic chord progressions and go from there.
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  #10  
Old 02-27-2006, 12:25 PM
Amazon Floozy Goddess Amazon Floozy Goddess is offline
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I've learned to play several different instruments (piano, french horn, violin) but none of them was as easy as the djembe drum. If you've got good natural rhythm (tapping foot in time with music, rubbing head/patting tummy at same time, etc.) you'd most likely be able to jam pretty good on a djembe. You can get a decent starter one for cheap. Mine has a clay body and fish skin head, and I got it at an international food market for $20.

Beware though, if you get one like this, check the drum head carefully for tiny pinholes, which are indicative of infestation of a little worm which will gradually eat holes in the skin and weaken it. The skin should have no perforations.
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  #11  
Old 02-27-2006, 12:28 PM
KlondikeGeoff KlondikeGeoff is offline
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One vote for the jew's harp! Really, it's lots of fun.

Also agree with the suggestion of a recorder. Quite possibly the easiest.

However, I'd strongly suggest going back to your keyboard for another try. If you did not get a beginner's book with it, go buy one. I have absolutely no musical talent, but with a little time, it's amazing how much I can do. There are a lot of beginners books with easy tunes, and they are not very expensive. Get several of these, and just learn to play the melodies at first.

If it is one with built-in chords, backgrounds, etc, all you have to learn is to pick out a melody with your right hand and it sounds great.

If you put it in the "organ" mode, it is very forgiving and you can noodle through a lot of great songs and it sounds far better than you would think. Later you can learn a few left-hand chords in this mode, and you'll be surprised how good it sounds.

Suggestion if anybody else is in the house: use a pair of headphones at first to avoid murder.
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  #12  
Old 02-27-2006, 01:07 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZebraShaSha
For me, it was the ukulele.
EVIL!
EVIL!
EVIL!
EVIL!

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  #13  
Old 02-27-2006, 01:11 PM
Rodd Hill Rodd Hill is offline
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[Walken] This thread...needs more cowbell! [/Walken]
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  #14  
Old 02-27-2006, 01:32 PM
ZebraShaSha ZebraShaSha is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
EVIL!
EVIL!
EVIL!
EVIL!

When my friends and I wander around the school playing our instruments, people run in terror from the accordion. However, they generally smile at the ukulele. Now, the accordion is the easier instrument to play, as it only really requires good timing and a complete lack of sympathy for humanity. Still, it was not recommended, as society needs as few accordionists as possible.

So, not the most evil, by far.

(I'll also point out that the theremin, saw, and spoons are also pretty easy to play, but still much worse than an ukulele.)
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  #15  
Old 02-27-2006, 02:35 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZebraShaSha
For me, it was the ukulele. Hear me out..

.
You can play real music on a uke, too. There is a Japanese-Hawaiian performer --sorry, name escapes me--who's filling auditoriums with his uke playing. Also, I was in the local music store once when I heard a fellow playing "Blackbird" on a uke...it was beautiful!

And if you want to move upmarket, you can get a Martin uke for several hundred dollars.
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  #16  
Old 02-27-2006, 02:48 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZebraShaSha
When my friends and I wander around the school playing our instruments, people run in terror from the accordion. However, they generally smile at the ukulele. Now, the accordion is the easier instrument to play, as it only really requires good timing and a complete lack of sympathy for humanity. Still, it was not recommended, as society needs as few accordionists as possible.
This is very funny. It reminds me of what Ray Manzarek said in his memoir, which I'll paraphrase here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Manzarek (paraphrased
In the 1950s there was a fad for the accordion in the Upper Midwest. All over the region, there were kids standing on recital stages pumping out "Lady Of Spain" on their accordions. It was not a pretty sight...
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  #17  
Old 02-27-2006, 02:48 PM
Amazon Floozy Goddess Amazon Floozy Goddess is offline
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My aunt once found a perfectly good ukelele in the garbage outside her apartment building. All it needed was strings.

5 bucks later she had a new ukelele.
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  #18  
Old 02-27-2006, 03:21 PM
XaMcQ XaMcQ is offline
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My husband, the jack-of-all-instruments and master of none, recommends the baritone ukelele as a great beginner's instrument. It is cheap and easy to play, and if you tune it properly it is a great stepping stone to the guitar. From what he says the chord fingerings transfer easily. Besides, it is cute, portable, sounds nice and girls will like it.
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  #19  
Old 02-27-2006, 04:11 PM
ZebraShaSha ZebraShaSha is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
You can play real music on a uke, too. There is a Japanese-Hawaiian performer --sorry, name escapes me--who's filling auditoriums with his uke playing. Also, I was in the local music store once when I heard a fellow playing "Blackbird" on a uke...it was beautiful!

And if you want to move upmarket, you can get a Martin uke for several hundred dollars.
Do you mean Shinji Maki, the comedian?

And, here's classical gas on the ukulele. It definitely is not just a toy.

Now, sorry for the hijak OP.
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  #20  
Old 02-27-2006, 04:38 PM
cwthree cwthree is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bouv
would imagine, though, that the easiet "middle of the road" instrument would be the clarinet. At first it seems intimidating, because there's a lot of buttons and holes and whatnot, but it really isn't hard to learn all the fingerings. Then it's just a matter of knowing how to make it produce a good sound, which, with a woodwind, doesn't take much work at all. (As oppossed to a brass instrument, which relies much more heavily on mouth movements and position.)
As a <HUFFY TONE>trained clarinetist</HUFFY TONE> and a less-trained trumpet player I have to nitpick. It's really easy to get sound out of a clarinet, but it's really hard to get a good tone. And the bad tone produced by a clarinet is unpleasant to the player and the neighbors.

I ended up playing the clarinet because the winds teacher in elementary school said "It's a lot like the recorder." Seriously, I play both, and if you're looking for something that you can learn quickly and get a good sound from, go for the recorder. Decent instruments are inexpensive, they sound nice, and it really is easy to play.

I understand your frustration with the keyboard. There's a big gap between basic competency and skill which I was never able to bridge, either. There's no shame to just plinking around on it, though, if you like what you hear and it makes you happy.
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  #21  
Old 02-27-2006, 07:44 PM
Llama Llogophile Llama Llogophile is online now
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I'll second the ukulele.

I've played a lot of string instruments: two kinds of banjos, guitar, bass. But lately, I'm really enjoying the uke. I just got a nice one called Fluke, which I really like.

Very simple to play, and sounds really sweet.
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  #22  
Old 02-27-2006, 07:59 PM
bouv bouv is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwthree
As a <HUFFY TONE>trained clarinetist</HUFFY TONE> and a less-trained trumpet player I have to nitpick. It's really easy to get sound out of a clarinet, but it's really hard to get a good tone. And the bad tone produced by a clarinet is unpleasant to the player and the neighbors.
My point was more that getting competant and decent at a clarinet is easier than a brass instrument, not neccesarily that either were super-duper, pick it up and play it two minutes later, easy.

And AFG, you played French horn? Rock on! I haven't met very many other F-horn players. it is easily the hardest of the "mouth" instruments to play. At least for me it was hard, but then I transferred to it from the trumpet, which in comparison is as easy as a clarinet! (I kid, I kid!)
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  #23  
Old 02-27-2006, 08:24 PM
Elza B Elza B is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bouv
My point was more that getting competant and decent at a clarinet is easier than a brass instrument, not neccesarily that either were super-duper, pick it up and play it two minutes later, easy.

And AFG, you played French horn? Rock on! I haven't met very many other F-horn players. it is easily the hardest of the "mouth" instruments to play. At least for me it was hard, but then I transferred to it from the trumpet, which in comparison is as easy as a clarinet! (I kid, I kid!)
I have a performance degree in French horn.

Which is why I work in fundraising .

Actually, I love my horn, and I've recently started to work my way back up to some Mozart horn concertos - it's amazing what a few years of very little practice does. It's got a beautiful, deep tone, but I wouldn't recommend starting it with the idea that it's 'easy'.

The trumpet, on the other hand... .


E.
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  #24  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:09 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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Whenever these threads come up, I always put in a plug for the Irish Whistle, also known as the Pennywhistle.

They are easier to play than a recorder. You'll be playing your first tune in minutes. They're dirt cheap (one of the best whistle players in the world plays with a $10 Clarke whistle). There's a whole genre of music written specially for them, and if you want to try playing with a group you can always find a Celtic jam somewhere around.

Easy to play, easy to play with a good tone, but you can spend a lifetime mastering it if you really dig it. And because the whistles are cheap, you can collect them and find ones with different tones, quiet ones for playing at night, loud ones for jamming, etc.

There are also tons of good internet resources available. Chiff and Fipple is a large, active message board specifically for whistlers. And because so much of traditional celtic music is in the public domain, you can find lots and lots of music online.

You can pick up a whistle starter kit at any music store for under $20, containing a whistle, an instruction book for beginners along with sheet music, and a CD so you can hear what the songs sound like and play along. You can also order them online from a place like The Whistle Shop, which also has some free tutorials and music.

If you want to hear some awesome whistle music, listen to Paddy O'Malley or Mary Bergin. You can also hear whistles in quite a few pop and rock songs.
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  #25  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:09 AM
Marley23 Marley23 is online now
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What about the harmonica? Similar to a number of the other instruments mentioned here, it's not too hard to get a reconizable tune out of one, and there's no fingering involved.

I always think that the guitar can't be too hard to learn. But then again, I've been playing for ten years and I'm still not that great- so maybe I'm dead wrong!
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  #26  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:34 AM
Astroboy14 Astroboy14 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marley23
What about the harmonica? Similar to a number of the other instruments mentioned here, it's not too hard to get a reconizable tune out of one, and there's no fingering involved.
Yeah, one might think... however, I know better first hand.

I bought a harmonica a couple of years ago from a peddler on a subway in Seoul for, IIRC, about $3. I had in mind learning to play it and ditching this whole "working for the Man" crap (having failed rather spectacularly with my guitar chops).

I took the thing home and commenced to wail out some meaty blues... for about a second and a half: long enough for the plastic housing on the top to rip out about a quarter of my mustache.

I threw it into the corner of the room, and as soon as I stopped bleeding from my upper lip, surrounded it with burning incense and crucifixes.

Far as I know, the satanic harp is still there in the corner of a 10th floor dorm room in Seoul. I pray for whoever got that room after I left...





Never again.
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  #27  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:52 AM
Amazon Floozy Goddess Amazon Floozy Goddess is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bouv
And AFG, you played French horn? Rock on! I haven't met very many other F-horn players. it is easily the hardest of the "mouth" instruments to play. At least for me it was hard, but then I transferred to it from the trumpet, which in comparison is as easy as a clarinet! (I kid, I kid!)
Yup...liked it quite a bit. Very comfortable to hold, which is one reason why I liked it. I tried the Baritone too but I hated that thing with a passion. And it easily had the most disgusting spit valve in the universe.
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  #28  
Old 02-28-2006, 03:01 AM
flodnak flodnak is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwthree
It's really easy to get sound out of a clarinet, but it's really hard to get a good tone. And the bad tone produced by a clarinet is unpleasant to the player and the neighbors.
As the sister of a former clarinet player, may I just say, this is a serious understatement. A good tone out of a clarinet is pleasant. A bad tone is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard, and for reasons not entirely clear to me, carries further than the good tones. If you'd like to learn to play clarinet, be prepared for a lot of squeaks and squawks at the beginning.

Recorders, by the way, have similar problems. I know they're a popular choice for mass music education in elementary schools, but I think they're a poor choice. Tough to get music out of them, as opposed to noise.

Oh, which instrument is easiest? Damned if I know, I played trombone
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  #29  
Old 02-28-2006, 09:11 PM
spingears spingears is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Winston Smith
Kazoo? Comb & tissue? Should I just hum?
You beat me to those. Add a mouth organ aka jews harp, penny whistle, and an ocarina in that order.
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  #30  
Old 02-28-2006, 09:50 PM
Kiminy Kiminy is offline
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Personally, I think the piano (or an electronic keyboard of some kind) is the easiest instrument to play, if you are only interested in playing a melody with one note at a time, or understanding how chords work. Musical scores are *very* easy to interpret using a piano, and I doubt I would ever have understood the concept of 1-step (A-B, for example) and flats/sharps if I hadn't learned how the piano keys correspond to a musical scale. It's not even very hard to learn chord-theory, based on notes played either with one hand, or only two fingers with both hands. However, it is not that easy to learn how to play multiple notes at a time using two or three fingers on two hands. It's not impossible, but it's not intuitive, either (for most normal humans, anyway).

If all you want to learn is individual notes in a melody, and you don't care about music theory or chords, any wind instrument will do. You can get a soprano recorder for next to nothing, along with a fingering chart, and learn how to play a tune within minutes. Flutes, clarinets, and saxophones are a little more complicated in terms of actually producing sounds, but essentially as easy to learn. (I learned flute, then taught myself recorder.) Oboes and bassoons are slightly more complicated in terms of producing sound, and trumpets/French horns/tubas are also more complicated.

The guitar is good if you don't really want to play each individual note in a melody. The guitar is gear toward chords--a "group" of several notes that are played at one time. It's very good for choral singing, since you can simply play an appropriate chord that includes the note expected in the melody, and let the singers sing the correct notes.
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  #31  
Old 02-28-2006, 10:57 PM
woodflute woodflute is offline
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I'd like to add another vote for pennywhistle.

It's a rare thing to be able to get a real, performance quality instrument for less than the price of a loaded pizza.

They are deceptively easy to play...you'll probably play your first tunes the same day you get it.

If you decide to really learn to PLAY the thing, there's enough there to challenge you the rest of your life.

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  #32  
Old 03-01-2006, 10:30 AM
Wnabtokio Wnabtokio is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bouv
I would imagine, though, that the easiet "middle of the road" instrument would be the clarinet. At first it seems intimidating, because there's a lot of buttons and holes and whatnot, but it really isn't hard to learn all the fingerings. Then it's just a matter of knowing how to make it produce a good sound, which, with a woodwind, doesn't take much work at all. (As oppossed to a brass instrument, which relies much more heavily on mouth movements and position.)
Saxophone, actually. Same reasons, but you don't even have to learn to cover the open holes completely with your fingers, because it doesn't have any! I honestly believe that anyone that can get a squeak out of a sax can learn to be competent at it within a week or two. I taught my roommate how to play mine, and it took about three days before her tone was acceptable and she knew the keys. No big deal.

Although, I'd like to point out that even though it is almost as easy as a recorder to learn to play, it takes a lifetime to master. I'm never going to do it.
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  #33  
Old 03-01-2006, 10:39 AM
Malacandra Malacandra is online now
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Just to add that though the recorder's dead easy to get a tune out of, it's severely limited, mostly because the accidentals all need cross-fingering. Anything with more than a couple of sharps in is a bugger to play. That's where the wind instruments with all the complicated keywork score - that machinery is there to make things easier, strange to relate.

Trumpet's mechanically simple, what with only three valves to learn and not every combo being unique (third valve alone is near enough to 1 & 2 together that you very seldom use 3 alone), but it does need regular practice to build up the muscles. And by "regular", that's supposed to mean "every day" (as if).
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