The 5 Most Popular School Band Instruments

Most popular school band instruments

Despite that, the popularity of each band instrument can vary during different phases of a student’s career, some instruments are more popular than others across all types of school bands and students’ ages.

An instrument can be more popular depending on the role it plays in the instrumentation, its form, and sometimes because it is somehow more “cool” to play it across fellow students (something which tends to vary across years or decades).

Considering only the typical band, the most popular school band instruments are:

  • Drums
  • Saxophone
  • Trumpet
  • Clarinet
  • Flute

The Most Popular Band Instruments to Play for Students

The Drums

A drumline closeup

Belonging to the percussion section of a band, the drums are one of the most popular musical instruments every year in most schools and across different types of bands.

It is a very common instrument to be taught in most schools.

Getting started with the drums is quite easy, although difficult to master.

Apart from concert bands, the drums play an important role in the percussion section of marching bands, taking advantage of their notorious sounds and portability (when suitable).

The Saxophone

A Eastman EAS240 Alto Sax

Definitely one of the most attractive instruments on school bands each year all across the United States.

Despite the limited number of saxophones that can play in a band, it is a very popular musical instrument that can be played by all ages. Even for elementary schools, there is the option of playing the alto sax.

Perhaps its popularity comes from the sounds it’s capable of making, from the fact of having an important role in jazz and blues music bands, as well as its pretty format with many keys and rounded shapes.

Similar to most of the other band instruments, despite being easy to start with, it is quite difficult to play it at a very good level.

They come in a variety of sizes and shapes making it a great first instrument for a student starting in a 4th grade or 5th-grade music class, that can choose the alto sax due to its smaller dimensions. Could be considered that the most convenient age to start playing it, would be around 12 years old.

Always needed in most school bands, this gives the player ample opportunities to play throughout the year.

If you are a student about to start or willing to join a band, the saxophone might be a great reason for you to take the next step.

The Trumpet

A closeup of a trumpet

Young players see this brass family instrument as one of the most popular ones to start in a band.

The trumpets are always needed in all sorts of bands, whether jazz groups, concert bands, and marching bands.

Another interesting factor is that it can perform melodic tunes possible to be played solo.

The Clarinet

Clarinet closeup

The clarinet is also a popular band instrument, however not as popular perhaps as the saxophone, the drums, or the trumpet.

Like the flute, it is part of the woodwind family and can also be found in different musical settings.

Children that start this instrument and continue to improve and master it, have a good chance of pursuing a professional career.

It is common as well, to start with the clarinet and then make a transition without much problem to another instrument like the saxophone.

The Flute

Flute player close up

The flute has many advantages as a first instrument to start with and has always been one of the most favorite instruments to play in a school band.

It is easy to start with, fun to play, generally cheap, and quite easy to transport. Due to these advantages, there is normally some competition for choosing it and throughout an eventual professional career.

Generally suitable for children to start playing it around 10 years old.


Other Popular Instruments Aside from the Typical School Band

The Guitar

Guitar player close up

The guitar is another very popular musical instrument and is a common presence in school concerts.

The guitar can be used for playing many different kinds of music and it is very versatile, having the status of being one of the most played instruments worldwide.

It is often used by teachers who are more into blues and jazz music and is easy to start with and very versatile.

The Piano

Piano and a player's two hands

The piano has always been a favorite musical instrument for many students to learn and many teachers present it as a first choice for learning music.

The piano is very versatile and can be played in almost every genre and also possible to play solo or accompanied.

It will take you a lot of patience and time to master, but the results could be remarkable and sound well to your ears and others.

The Violin

A girl playing the violin

The violin is another popular band instrument and is often taught in a way that allows the students to become comfortable with playing several kinds of music genres.

However, it is one of the hardest instruments to master.

It is sometimes available at schools in the U.S. being also a very common instrument worldwide.

It can be a difficult instrument to teach at a young age and can also be challenging for students to learn in a small amount of time.

That is one of the reasons that some teachers discourage students from taking up this kind of musical instrument, at least to perform in school.


Don’t Just Consider the Instrument’s Popularity

Despite some instruments being more popular than others, if you are a student or a parent helping your child to choose their first instrument to play, its popularity shouldn’t be a factor during the selection.

Instead, you should consider the physical attributes which are more suitable for playing it, the enjoyment in the sound it makes as well as the instrument itself.

In most schools across the United States, there is a big variety of band instruments available during a student’s career, whether in a typical school band, concert band, marching band, or jazz band.

Consider also, that choosing a lesser popular and on-demand instrument might get you an easier path to apply for a scholarship in the future or get a musical instrument grant.

Despite that some schools have a smaller instrumental list or have other instruments that are less popular, there is usually a great variety of musical instruments that you can start with or make a transition to.