Bored During Quarantine? Here’s How to Get Started Learning a Musical Instrument!

by Michael Neufeld

Note from the Editor: We understand that buying new instruments might not be financially possible right now. There are cheaper alternatives out there, but this is what the author recommends as an option.

By now, you’re probably sick of avoiding the sick. What is left to do when you’ve already exhausted your favorite TV shows, read all your books, and grown tired of your arsenal of video games or other hobbies? A great idea would be to learn a new musical instrument! As a music student at Thornton, I already know a few instruments, but I’m taking this opportunity to improve my skills and even to learn a new one. Here’s a brief guide detailing some things to consider when starting out.

Photo from PXHere

The starting place for learning a new instrument is first acquiring an instrument to learn. There are many places to start for something like this, so normally it’s best to go into a physical store and talk to someone who can help you figure out what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, with coronavirus so pressing, it may be a little difficult to go somewhere like Guitar Center to get that help, and you may have to resort to ordering online. Here are a few options to help you get an idea!

For acoustic guitar: There are three examples I have for you as far as price and quality of instrument go. First, the guitar I currently play on is an older Takamine guitar, so it isn’t listed on Amazon; however a similar model is this Takamine Acoustic-Electric for $700. The professional features of a model like this include a beautifully resonant body and a dependable neck for being in tune. The biggest contributor to the cost is the “plug-in” part, with a tuner and some other fancy options on it. However, that’s an example of a very high-end instrument. The average beginner guitar that I started on when I was ten years old is the Baby Taylor for about $350. What you’re getting with this is a smaller guitar with an open body that provides nice resonance for a good sound, and still smaller distances between frets to make it easier for people with smaller hands, or just newcomers to playing guitar. And a cheap case (a necessity) is included if it is bought on Amazon! Still a little outside of your price range? Perfectly understandable if you aren’t ready to commit to a pricier instrument. The cheapest I found at first glance on Amazon is this basic beginner’s guitar set at $44.99. Included is everything you need to get started: a case, a tuner, a pick, a strap, and even extra strings! The tradeoff, though, is you may sacrifice some of its ability to keep in tune, and it might not be quite as resonant. Whatever you choose will be good for if you are just starting off!

Photo from UIHere

For piano: There are a lot of kinds of keyboards you can choose from to get what you need. Different factors include the number of keys (you can go lower or higher with more), and the number of sounds the keyboard can produce (you can make the keyboard sound like a piano, or even a trombone if you want!). I’ll start with a cheaper option first this time. For an absolute basic keyboard, this starter pack gets you everything you need. With it you get a stand for your keyboard, a bench to sit on, and more. You get a slightly smaller number of keys, but a large number of sounds and functions with it. It can get kinda confusing once you move past the piano sound into functions such as auto-chord and bass-chord functions, so make sure to read the manual and watch tutorials if you mess around with those! A higher-end keyboard is this Yamaha 76-key portable keyboard; included again are the stand and bench, but now you have a wider range to practice with, and better-sounding synthesized noises.

Guitar and piano are just the examples listed here, since they are the most popular instruments. You can also find cheap ukuleles or other instruments online.

Music is something that requires lots of individual practice time to build your skillset, and luckily (or unluckily) the coronavirus has made it easier to have lots of alone time. It’s important to have instruction of some sort, so Youtube can be a good place to start if you don’t know where to begin. Searching something simple like “how to play guitar for beginners” is great. Same concept with keyboard or other instruments. If you choose guitar or another pop/rock string instrument and you want something a little more established, I’d recommend checking out Fender Play, for a yearly subscription. I like it a lot not only because of its thorough approach to teaching, but because it’s taught by many USC Thornton School of Music – Popular Music alum!

Photo from Piqsels

Here’s the takeaway: when starting out on a musical instrument, you want to consider two important things: getting an instrument, and how you will learn. During these times, it would be a good idea to stick to buying online and watching videos to learn. When buying, think about cost and reviews. When learning, stick to Youtube for free lessons, or branch out for a more definite approach. There’s a lot that this article doesn’t cover, so don’t be afraid to keep looking for answers online; the guitar-learning community is often friendly and more than happy to help answer questions you may have on Youtube comments or in online forums. Good luck, and happy playing!

Featured image from Pxhere

Michael is a junior majoring in Jazz Studies at the Thornton School of Music. He lived in Fresno, California until moving to L.A. for college. In his free time, he can be found practicing the trombone, or playing video games. Michael has traveled all around North America, and he loves getting to know new people, listening to stories, and being a friend to others.