Purchasing Your First Instrument

Modified on Tue, 06 Dec 2022 at 11:22 AM

Choosing the right instrument to purchase is a crucial choice for a student new to learning music. A poor instrument might be difficult to play, not hold tune, not provide the right type of feedback, and the list goes on.

We know that the abundance of information available online and an inundating number of choices can make purchasing a first instrument confusing and more challenging than it needs to be. We are here to help! We put together our favorite collection of first instruments, adhering to a few important pieces of criteria:

  • Reasonable price (under $600)
  • High-quality (instruments that could last well beyond a student's beginning years)
  • Easy playability


Purchasing your first instrument

Your first piano

While there is no substitute for an acoustic piano, students should make certain that they are in it for the long haul before purchasing an acoustic instrument. Aside from the expense of the initial purchase, acoustic pianos need consistent maintenance and tunings. While it is a worthwhile investment for an advancing student, we recommend starting off with a less expensive electronic piano. There are a few important things to consider before purchasing your first piano.

When looking at keyboards or digital pianos, remember that weighted keys are NOT the same as touch-sensitive keys! Acoustic piano action (the feel of the keys) is closest in feel to touch-sensitive keys. If the keys are just weighted, they will not respond in the same way that an acoustic piano does. Receiving proper dynamic and tactile feedback from a piano is extremely important, especially in the early stages of learning. We have put together a few great instruments at a few different price points.

Our recommendations

Donner DEP-20 Beginner Digital Piano 88 Key Full Size Weighted Keyboard

This is the most modestly priced of the three instruments we have selected. With 88-keys fully weighted keys, this is a great instrument for young beginners or students who want to try it out and aren’t quite sure if they will continue for the long term. This instrument does not come with a sustain pedal (which isn’t something particularly important for beginners) and students will need to purchase a stand and bench separately. It is very important that a proper stand and bench are used! Do not set up your instrument on a table, desk, or any other surface not specifically designed for a digital piano, not only does it pose a risk that the instrument may be damaged, but it will not help the student learn proper posture, finger technique, and may result in fatigue and other physical issues.

Purchase here

Yamaha P71 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano With Stand & Bench

It’s hard to go wrong with a Yamaha instrument! Since 1887, Yamaha has produced a significant number of well-made musical instruments and since the 1980s, has been a premier manufacturer of digital pianos and synthesizers. Yamaha has excellent customer service and their instruments generally hold value very well. We love the feel of the keys on Yamaha’s digital pianos and this model provides a great feel at a reasonable price. This particular model comes with a stand and a bench, so students are ready to go as soon as it arrives!

Purchase here

Casio PX-770 BK Privia Digital Piano

When some people hear the name Casio, they think of the little portable keyboards from the 80’s that played silly demos, but this digital piano is a serious piece of equipment! From the weight of the keys, to the high-quality furniture-grade stand, this is an excellent model that ticks almost every box. Students will need to purchase a bench, but this is the only model we recommend that comes with pedals! The internal speaker and extremely realistic key sensitivity allow students to explore every possible corner of the dynamic range. An instrument with great resale value and a fabulous look and feel, this piano tops the price range of our recommendations, but with good reason.

Purchase here

Your first guitar

Finding the right guitar is absolutely crucial to facilitating a positive and engaging experience for any beginner. The wrong instrument can have trouble staying in tune, have a very high action (the distance from the strings to the fretboard) making it difficult and even painful to press down notes, and worst of all, if it isn't a well-made instrument, those qualities may get worse as time goes on! For convenience, we have broken down our recommendations into two categories, acoustic (steel string) and classical (nylon string).

The acoustic guitars listed below all have solid tops. The top of the guitar, or soundboard, is important because it is where the sound of the instrument is produced and amplified. There are two types of tops, solid tops, which are made from a thin sheet of solid wood and laminate tops which are made from several thinner sheets of wood glued together. A solid piece of wood has consistent grain and density running through it. Because of this, the guitar will produce better sustain and a richer resonance, and an overall more pleasing tone. We do not generally recommend students purchase instruments with laminate tops.

Our recommendations (steel string acoustics)

Steel string guitars are by far the most common instrument used by beginners. They are versatile, help develop more hand and finger strength than their electric guitar counterparts and serve as a wonderful accompaniment for singing. The instruments we have selected are ideal for beginners because they both have smaller bodies, which make the guitar easier to hold (both when seated and standing). For very young beginners (7-8 years old) on the smaller side, we recommend nylon string guitars (classical guitars) which can be easier for little fingers. For any student starting before the age of 11, we recommend a 3/4-sized instrument, regardless of whether it has steel or nylon strings. Students 12 and up should be fine with a full-sized instrument.

Yamaha JR-1 FG Junior 3/4 Size

While this ¾ guitar may be small in size, it’s big in sound! A proper acoustic guitar that many adult players use as a travel instrument, the JR-1 makes no compromises due to it’s smaller proportions. High-quality tuning machines (the knobs at the top of the guitar that tune the strings), a truss rod (a metal rod in the neck of guitar that allows for the neck to be straightened; most inexpensive beginner instruments don’t have these), and a genuine spruce top make this little guitar a no-brainer for young students. It’s high quality construction means years of playing, even after students make the jump to a full-sized model.

Purchase here

Yamaha FS800

A small-bodied instrument with a full-sized sound, the FS-800 Concert Body has a proper rosewood fingerboard, a solid spruce top, and a mahogany back and sides. It’s smaller body allows students of all ages to play it comfortably whether they are sitting down or standing up. It’s an incredibly well-made instrument for the price and we love how consistently they play and how well they age. As with all of our recommendations, we want to make sure that students can continue to use their first instruments, even after they have advanced and upgraded their gear, and this guitar is no exception!

Purchase here

Our recommendations (nylon string acoustics)

Nylon string guitars are generally used to play classical guitar music, but they certainly are not limited to one style. Nylon strings are easier to press down and are more gentle on beginner fingers, so they can be a great option for a young beginner (7-9 years old). An added bonus for young beginners is that their necks are wider than steel string instruments so they can be easier to play certain chords without fingers getting in each other's way. If you are unsure of which instrument would be best, we are here to help!

Yamaha CGS103A 3/4 Size Classical

This little Yamaha is a great fit for young students, regardless of whether or not they are learning classical guitar. Nylon strings are softer and easier to press down, sparing small fingers from the sting in the early learning stages sometimes associated with steel strings. The CGS-103A is a well-made instrument, holds it’s tune, and is a great for young beginners, regardless of the style they are learning!

Purchase here

Yamaha CG122MCH

Classical guitars are different animals from steel string instruments. Generally, they do not come with truss rods (a metal rod that allows the neck’s angle to be adjusted), so the fact that the CG-122MCH has a 3-ply neck is important because it helps to prevent the neck from warping. With its solid cedar top, this Yamaha has a round warm tone, that in the right hands, can sound as good as guitars five times the price! Everything about this guitar feels more premium than it’s price tag from the excellent tuning machines to it’s terrific finish, the CG-122MCH will last forever if it is properly cared for.

Purchase here

Your first drum set

Picking out your first drum set can be a daunting task, with so many choices and combinations of cymbals and drums (How many toms do I need? How many cymbals?) Do you get an electronic or an acoustic kit? We are here to help! Both electric and acoustic kits are great choices for beginners, each with their distinct benefits which we will explore more in detail here.

First, it is important to decide what's realistic for your space and living situation. If noise and proximity to neighbors is a concern, you may want to consider an electronic drum set. They can be practiced with headphones which is great for ensuring students can practice at any time without disturbing others and they take up less space than their acoustic counterparts. If you have the space for an acoustic drum set and noise isn't an issue where you live, then an acoustic kit might be the best option for you!

Our recommendations (acoustic drum sets)

The acoustic drum sets that we have selected all come with everything a student needs to get started except for the sticks! They are made by reputable manufacturers with a long history of producing quality instruments and will last students a long time.

Ludwig LC178X025 Questlove Pocket Kit 4-Piece Drum Set

Pearl is another well-known name when it comes to drums. This particular kit is ideal for an older beginner, or even an intermediate player. Consisting of a 22” kick drum, a 14” snare, and two mounted toms and one floor tom, 8”, 12”, and 16” respectively, this kit is ready right out of the box for big sounds at a very reasonable price.

Purchase here

Pearl Roadshow 5-Piece Complete Drum Set

Pearl is another well-known name when it comes to drums. This particular kit is ideal for an older beginner, or even an intermediate player. Consisting of a 22” kick drum, a 14” snare, and two mounted toms and one floor tom, 8”, 12”, and 16” respectively, this kit is ready right out of the box for big sounds at a very reasonable price.

Purchase here

Our recommendations (electronic drum sets)

These electronic drum sets are a great solution for students who don't want to compromise by getting an electronic drum set and want a great sounding and feeling kit!

Alesis Drums Nitro Eight Piece Electronic Drum Set

Alesis is a great brand with a long history of producing innovative and well-supported electronic instrument offerings. This drum kit is a fabulous choice for beginners that aren’t able to accommodate an acoustic drum set in their space. The realistic sounds and feel of the drum heads provide students with the feedback they need to effectively develop their technical skills and do so without compromise. This kit even comes in a smaller size for young beginners!

Purchase here

Roland TD-1DMK Dual-Mesh V-Drums Set

There is no name more revered in the world of electronic percussion than Roland and their V-Drums line of products is as close to an acoustic drum set as one can get! The heads are actually tunable so students can adjust them to a truly acoustic-style feel that other electronic kits cannot produce. For students who want an electronic kit with as few compromises as possible at a reasonable price, this is the best option currently available. This kit does not come with a stool or kick pedal, so those will need to be purchased separately. technical skills and do so without compromise. This kit even comes in a smaller size for young beginners!

Purchase here

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