There won’t be a direct answer to the question of which band instruments are the easiest to learn and play. However, the usual so-called “big 5 instruments” that are present in elementary school bands, together with some percussion instruments, could be considered the simplest ones to learn and start with, whether for students or adult beginners.
Considering that, the easiest band instruments to learn, are:
- alto saxophone
Even when comparing those five instruments, they could be easier or harder depending on the player which is learning, due to its physical characteristics and the interest they have as well as the effort he or she is willing to put into learning it.
If you had to choose only one of the easiest to start with, the most common answer normally points to the alto saxophone. This is true despite that saxophones get really harder to master and are generally a very popular in different music genres and bands, increasing the competition when playing it.
But let’s find out how which advantages and disadvantages have each of these instruments for someone starting. This should help in choosing what will be the easiest instrument to start with or when helping your child to decide on one of those.
Remember though, being the most straightforward instrument to play and start with, shouldn’t be the main reason when deciding which could suit you better. Instead, think that any of these 5 music instruments are great for introducing you to the band and initiate a long music learning process. That can allow you to transit to other instruments, whether in the same family or in other, as well as on other music genres.
If you are in a marching band or willing to join one, check our article about the easiest marching band instruments to play.
Easiest Woodwind Band Instruments
Of the various advantages and disadvantages identified below to the Alto Saxophone, most are also applicable to the tenor saxophone, also an entry-level saxophone, despite that being a bit bigger in size when compared.
- very popular in many musical schools because of how easy they are to play and their range
- it has simple, logical fingerings
- the embouchure is simple enough, and it’s easy to get a halfway decent sound out
- possible to continue playing and explore other 4 different saxes with a somehow easy transition
- transition to bass clarinet, bassoon, and oboe is possible and easy due to the similar setup
- very hard to master it and to become a professional due to the sheer number of people who play it
- larger than most of the other elementary and middle school instruments
- isn’t comfortable to play for tiny players
- more than double the price of rental when compared to other musical instruments
- limited opportunities to perform in some type of music groups, like an orchestra
- Accessible price to rental
- It’s light and small to carry
- In a beginning band, this could be one of the hardest instruments to play
- Physical characteristics of its candidate player – mainly facial (lips related) – could determine if it’s recommended or not to perform it
- Like the flute, it is small and easy to transport
- Accessible to be rented
- Versatile if you are a beginner player
- The transition to other instruments like the saxophone, oboe, bassoon, and bass clarinet is conveniently
- Physically, its player would ideally have large hands and fingers to cover all holes
- All the different fingerings needed, could be a challenge
- Somewhat hard to dip into times
Easier Brass Band Instruments
- Producing a sound is really easy for students and beginners
- It is present in almost all sorts of bands (including, jazz groups and orchestras)
- The tiniest of the low brass section
- If wanted, the transition to other low brass like the tuba and or the baritone is convenient
- Maintenance and rental price is affordable
- Its players are normally in high demand as it represents a crucial role in a band
- Playing quick-moving notes can be difficult to perform due to the absence of valves or keys on a trombone
- Present in orchestra and jazz bands
- Smallest of the brass section
- Cheap to rent, needing only a couple of supplies when buying
- Possible to make a smooth transition to other brass instruments later on, like the trombone, baritone, tuba, and French Horn
- One of the more difficult brass section instruments to play well
- Could be uncomfortable and challenging for some entry-level players to hold
- Trumpets tend to stand out in an ensemble setting and the band director normally controls them closely
Easiest Percussion Instruments
The percussion section of a band is composed of various instruments and on an entry-level, you will need to learn both drums and keyboard mallet.
Some of the easiest percussion instruments are:
- Bass Drum
- No need to worry about pitch
- Breathing or “embouchure” technique not needed like in a brass or woodwind instrument
- A crucial role in all sorts of bands whether in a concert band or orchestra
- Accessible to buy or rent for a beginner level
- Previous Piano experience is always recommended
- Learning every single percussion instrument is difficult
- Some types of rhythms are really difficult to be played in certain percussion instruments
- Need for high levels of concentration
- As normally there is only one person playing each time a percussion instrument, you should be really confident on how you are playing it
If your child isn’t going to a school band yet, or is still not sure if going to play there, but does remain very interested in playing musical instruments, then a good alternative could be to present him with plastic band instruments.
We did a full guide about plastic band instruments, which are getting more popular each year, especially for younger and beginner level players.