If you want to play a musical instrument, it's probably not a good idea to just pick out any random instrument you like. Sure, it may sound great to your ears. It might even seem like a fun and easy instrument to play.
The problem is you are seeing that instrument played by people who have put in the time to master it. They make it look so easy. But it's a completely different story when it comes time for you to take that instrument into your hands and try to make music with it.
This is how it usually plays out. People get all excited about playing an instrument, but they put it down and forget about learning to play it.
If you don't want that to happen to you, you have to focus on figuring out what instrument you should learn to play first. Your introduction to musical instruments has to produce a very positive experience. If not, you probably won't master even one instrument. That's how important it is.
This is especially true if you are impressed with stringed instruments. There's just something special about how stringed instruments sound, from guitars to ukuleles and banjos. The tricky part is that a lot of people who play such instruments professionally make it look so easy.
If you've listened to any kind of rock, country, or western music, the background instrumentals could easily be taken for granted. You can automatically assume that whoever is playing the banjo, guitar, or any other stringed instrument in the background knows what they're doing.
You have to make the right strategic choice after you've decided to learn how to play a stringed instrument. Your time, patience, and focus are on the line. It only takes a string of disappointments for frustration to set in.
Pretty soon, you will reach a point where you will feel that this really isn't worth it. You don't want to get to that point because you can play the same beautiful music with a wide range of stringed instruments if you really want it. You just have to start with the right piece of equipment.
Keep the following tips in mind when picking out the right stringed instrument to learn first
Beginners can play the banjo faster than a guitar
It doesn't matter what you think of banjo music. You may be in love with it, or you might find it corny. Whatever opinion you may have, you might want to set it aside when it comes to learning stringed instruments.
The truth is, given its simplicity and fewer strings, the banjo is easier to learn than a guitar. But don't let that simplicity fool you. While you have less to work with with a typical banjo setup, it is capable of producing very rich, varied, and diverse sounds.
Banjo music isn't just found in country and western songs. Banjo can be featured in a wide range of musical genres, including classical music. That's how versatile this amazing and compact stringed instrument could be.
Guitar sounds can be deep and complicated
A lot of beginners naturally gravitate towards a guitar. In fact, guitar music is almost inescapable. It doesn't matter if you're a big fan of pop, rock, heavy metal, reggae, or a wide range of other genres. You will run into guitar music.
Since it seems to be everywhere, too many would-be musicians automatically assume that they should start playing guitar.
They soon find out how challenging it could be because those guitar sounds are deep, complicated, multilayered, and heavily nuanced. This requires a tremendous amount of patience. Sadly, too many of us are simply busy. Our attention span is very short and is constantly shrinking.
You may not have the patience, time, and focus needed to make decent music with a guitar, at least if you're a newbie.
Banjos have a simple and narrow range that produces beautiful music
Since banjos are simpler than guitars, they have a narrow range of sounds. As mentioned above, you shouldn't let this fool you. That narrow range of sounds can actually produce very diverse music. Banjos can also produce sounds that resonate deeply with people.
All of this points to the fact that while banjos may seem simple and are definitely easier to play, that doesn't mean they're incapable of playing beautiful music. They do! This is why it's good to get your feet wet with stringed instruments by first learning and then mastering the banjo before moving on to more complicated instruments like the guitar.
The best banjo players are also decent guitarists
If you've ever loaded YouTube videos of banjo virtuosos, you will notice something curious. The way they pluck their banjos and otherwise create a melody, the realization hits you. The best banjo players started with banjos and went on to play the guitar.
Whatever unusual virtuosity they developed with the banjo, they easily carried over to another stringed instrument. Think of the banjo as your "gateway" to everything that is magical and awesome about stringed instruments. That's how accessible it is.
It's less intimidating. You feel that you don't have to do or know everything in advance before starting. Instead, you can just start plucking away because the initial sounds you make are unassuming. At first, they don't seem all that deep. You just need to go through the initial range.
Once you've become familiar with the sounds you're supposed to be making, you can start playing around. You can start improvising and fine-tuning. You don't have this pressure to get everything perfect from the start.
You feel that it's close enough even if you make a mistake here and there.
The secret to learning anything
Most people are intelligent enough to learn new tasks every single day. If they're put in a position where they have to learn something completely new every single day, most people have the mental faculty to pull it off.
But the problem is that most people fail and often take longer than necessary because they are intimidated. In their minds, they already believe that what they're going to do will take too long and will be so much of a hassle that they feel put off.
The process takes much longer because there's this built-in resistance. It has nothing to do with intelligence. It has nothing to do with their ability to take information, cut it up in a form that makes sense, and carry it out. It has nothing to do with any of that.
It has everything to do with emotions. They simply did not give themselves permission to learn something new because they felt that it was just going to be too hard. This has probably happened to you. How many times have you started something thinking that it's going to be a problem, but it turns out that it's easier than you imagined?
You just have to come into any kind of project with an open mind. Don't automatically think that you can't handle it. Don't automatically believe that you don't have the time to go into the ins and outs and truly figure things out.
First, you are smarter than you give yourself credit for. Second, things aren't really all that complicated. Once you learn something in the past, you will be able to use the same learning strategies to figure out something completely new in the future.
Third, it helps if whatever it is you're learning is simple enough, so you get a handle on the basics quickly. This is what the banjo brings to the table. The banjo is a great "gateway" to this whole family of musical instruments when it comes to stringed instruments.
It is simple, you can easily detect errors, improvise, and it's compact enough to keep practicing. Compare that with a heavy cello that you have to lug around. It doesn't even come close.
It all boils down to the music you want to play
The great thing about guitar music is there's always going to be a stripped-down or modified version that you can play on the banjo. If your ultimate goal is to play the guitar, a banjo is a great instrument to start with.
Think of it as a stripped-down guitar. That may seem like a putdown on the banjo, and, in some ways, it is because the banjo is an awesome instrument in its own rank. But if you have your eyes on playing guitar music, eventually, you can't go wrong by starting something simpler, less intimidating, and fun to play. That's where the banjo comes in.
Convert guitar music to banjo music first
There are many arrangements available online where you can get songs that were originally written for the guitar converted to banjo music. You can use these as your beginner songs as you learn the ropes of playing the banjo.
Once you get comfortable enough with the banjo, you can then switch over to the guitar and roughly make the same music. The key is to get your foot in the door of guitar music by playing something simpler on the banjo.
Once you start figuring things out as far as chords go and how pieces should sound, it should be an easy transition from the banjo to the guitar. What's important is you give yourself permission to learn, and a lot of people don't get around to doing this. They're just so intimidated and end up frustrated by the guitar. It's deep, complicated, and very nuanced.
Master the banjo first before moving on to guitars
Based on the reasons above, it's a good idea to master the banjo first. The great thing about paying your stringed instrument playing dues on the banjo first is that it's a lot of fun. You make all sorts of sounds that may seem weird to you at first, but eventually, you will find them fun and light.
It's also a very versatile stringed instrument that is more than capable of playing pieces that were originally written for the guitar. If you're looking for a great way to enter the amazing world of stringed instrument playing, you might want to seriously consider starting with the banjo.
It's not an expensive instrument. It's also very easy to carry around. This means that if you don't feel like playing in your bedroom, you can walk over to the living room. If that doesn't work for you, you can go to a nearby park. You can even play it while you're sitting on a bus bench or while you're in the subway.
Also, people are generally accustomed to its sounds. So it's not like you're playing something that is so weird and out of place that you stick out.