9 Musical Instruments You Can Learn Quickly

Learning a musical instrument can be fun and rewarding, but perfecting your technique can take years of practice. Although you won’t be able to become a virtuoso overnight, there are several instruments you can pick up in just a few months. Even better, thanks to the internet there are thousands of readily accessible instructional videos to help you sharpen your technique. From familiar instruments like the snare drum and ukulele to less common ones like cajon and claves, here are nine musical instruments you can learn in a summer.


If you eventually want to play a drum set, you should start with the snare drum. A favorite of marching bands and orchestras around the world, the snare drum is essential to keeping time. Grab a pair of wooden sticks—thinner, lighter sticks are easier to use than heavier ones—and a metronome to keep time. You’ll want to practice rudiments, which are drumming exercises with fun names like rolls, paradiddles, and flams that strengthen your wrist muscles and boost your coordination. It’s better to start slowly, so you can play with accuracy and control before gradually increasing your speed and power.

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A smaller, more portable version of a xylophone, the glockenspiel consists of metal plates that you strike with a mallet. You can hear the glockenspiel’s vibrant, high-pitched notes in everything from rock to classical music. To achieve the clearest sound, hit the middle of the bar, and get used to using both your right and left hands to strike the glockenspiel. Once you’ve learned to play scales, experiment with playing chords by holding four mallets (two in each hand) as you hit the plates.


Before you laugh at the idea of playing that plastic recorder you last saw in grammar school, think again. Thanks to its design, this woodwind instrument is much easier to play than a flute or clarinet, and if you find you enjoy it, you can always advance to one of its more complex cousins. A recorder typically has a whistle mouthpiece and seven finger holes, plus one hole in the back for your thumb. Use a fingering chart to practice various finger positions and other techniques. The goal is to produce a smooth, steady sound that isn’t too squeaky.

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Your summer travel plans might not include a trip to Hawaii, but learning to play the ukulele can help you feel the island life no matter where you are. First, choose a type of ukulele: soprano ukes are small, while tenors and baritones are larger. Then try plucking the four nylon strings with your thumb or a felt pick. Use an app to tune your strings to the standard ukulele tuning (G, C, E, A), and study tabs to learn how to play chords. Start with C, which is the easiest chord to learn since it requires you to put just one finger on a string.


This Peruvian percussion instrument looks like a simple box, but it’s so much more. By slapping the box’s sides or striking them with sticks, you can create a rich, expressive sound that can function as both a bass and snare drum. Watch videos of cajon players to learn their different slapping techniques, and keep the beat by playing along to your favorite songs. If you don’t want to buy a cajon, you can use plywood to make your own DIY version.

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