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Back when I first joined band in middle school, my band teacher gave us a small sheet to check off the instrument we’d like to learn how to play. This was incredibly daunting, as I could only guess what some of the instruments even looked like!

The most helpful thing he did for us was giving us a brief description of, not only what each one sounded like, but the process of learning it. I still remember that first day of class, and I use this approach often.  My hope is that this article serves as a useful guide as you and your student decide on the best instrument choice for them based on how it will feel to start on each one. I would also strongly recommend that your student supplement their time in band with band and orchestra music lessons, provided by one of many amazing instructors at Lessons In Your Home!

Woodwind Instruments

The Flute

The flute tends to be one of the more challenging instruments at the beginning, and is one of the woodwind instruments. The process of making sound on the flute is a little tricky. It’s certainly not impossible for students, but it tends to be more taxing than some of the other choices, especially in terms of demands on one’s lungs.

However once a student gets comfortable making sounds on the flute and their lungs become stronger, it tends to get easier from there. Fun fact, the only instrument that beats the flute’s air requirements is the tuba! Lower notes tend to be slightly more challenging, but the rest of the instrument is pretty easily accessible once the approach to blowing into the flute is setup properly. 

The Clarinet

Another woodwind instrument, this one tends to be the opposite of the flute in terms of learning curve.  Unlike the flute, clarinets have a reed that creates the vibrations that make sound. There are plenty of reeds that are very beginner friendly, as a softer reed is easier to play. As a result, the clarinet has less of an air requirement and it’s easier to create the first sounds.

Over time, the clarinet has other challenges that start to sink into one’s playing, such as the challenge of higher notes being significantly greater than that of lower notes. This makes the clarinet easier to learn at first, but becomes more difficult over time.

The Saxophone

Most band teachers require students learn clarinet before saxophone, but once you learn the clarinet the saxophone is very easy in comparison. The only thing that makes saxophone more difficult at first is the fact that it’s larger.

Saxophones tend to be less finicky in terms of creating sound. Compared to the clarinet, lower notes are significantly more challenging, but higher notes are a little easier. Otherwise, the saxophone tends to have less resistance than the clarinet.

Brass Instruments:

The Trumpet

One of the advantages of brass instruments over woodwind instruments in general is the fact that there are fewer keys to press. The trumpet is an extremely popular choice among students, because it can project loudly, it often gets the important melodies in band, and only has 3 keys.

Usually the only disadvantage to choosing trumpet is that it’s the most popular choice, for these reasons. The instrument tends to have a very good learning curve. It’s relatively straightforward to start, and gets more challenging at a balanced rate over time.

The French Horn

As with clarinet and saxophone, most band teachers have students learn trumpet before switching to French Horn. Fun fact: the horn is not actually French. More technically, it is called the Horn in F. The F, over time, was constantly mistaken for “French,” so we kept it as an alternate nickname.

The Horn is one of the hardest brass instruments to be great at. It’s pretty similar to trumpet in approach, but the instrument tends to be one of the hardest over time. This is perfect for students who love a challenge! Plus, the Horn has some of the greatest lines in music ever written.

The Trombone

The trombone needs as much air as a flute does. Between that and the size, those are two more difficult aspects of trombone. This is the only wind instrument without keys, as it has a slide instead. It tends to be more challenging to learn slide positioning than fingerings on keys, but the instrument itself is quite easy to create loud, powerful sounds on. Also making sliding sounds is just really fun sometimes…

The Tuba

This instrument requires the most air, and it is the heaviest. It also plays the lowest. This instrument is great for students who wish to have or currently possess strong lung capacity and ones that can handle playing a heavy instrument. Tubas are the bass part in the band, they hold down the harmony like a foundation holds up a house.  

Percussion

It’s easy to hit things with sticks. But doing it well? That takes time. This is perfect for students who like variety, as they’ll learn mallet instruments, drums, and other auxiliary instruments. Percussion instruments tend to be the loudest generally, and these are the only instruments that don’t require lung strength beyond normal breathing.

No matter which instrument you choose, Lessons In Your Home has instructors for band and orchestra students. Contact us today to grow deeper in your musical journey!