Tips & Tricks

A Comprehensive List of Band Instruments for New Musicians

Ever heard the phrase "the more the merrier?" Well, this couldn't be more true when it comes to music. Joining a band is like becoming part of a musical family, where each member brings their own unique flavor to the table, creating a shared musical experience. 

But before you join a band, you need to pick the right instrument to fit seamlessly into your new musical family — which can be daunting, especially if you're new to band music. 

Luckily, Trala has you covered. In this post, we’ll look at different band instruments and how to choose the right one, either for yourself or your child. 

Understanding the different sections of a band

A band is simply an ensemble of musicians who play instruments or sing together. Like any other group effort, from sports teams to businesses, every person has a unique role to play. Whether it’s a jazz group, orchestra, or marching band, each member brings a specific musical talent. 

Band instruments fall into three categories: woodwind, brass, and percussion. Woodwind instruments are narrow cylinders with openings at the top and bottom, typically made of wood, metal, or plastic. You play them by blowing air into the mouthpiece. 

Brass instruments are long pipes, typically made of brass, curved into varying shapes. You play them by vibrating your lips against the metal mouthpiece. 

Percussion instruments are a diverse family of instruments that produce sound when shaken, scraped, or hit with sticks, hands, or mallets.  

The benefits of joining a band

There are thousands of bands in the U.S., with more popping up each year. Why are people so eager to join these music ensembles? Here are some great reasons to join a band.

Musical development

Joining a band allows you to develop your musical skills by exposing you to musicians at varying skill levels. You can learn to read sheet music, identify and reproduce rhythms, melodies, and harmonies, and stay in tune with other players. These are vital skills regardless of whether you want to take up music as a passion or a profession. 

Discipline and responsibility

Performing in a band is not easy. You have to be in sync with the rest of the group and learn each others' cues to execute the perfect performance. This calls for regular practice and preparation. 

As a band member, you must be at rehearsals at the agreed-upon time, follow group rules, and be responsible for your instrument and part. This can teach discipline, time management, and accountability.  

Sense of community

Human beings are naturally social. Joining a band eliminates the boredom of solo performances and creates a sense of community and belonging, which is essential for emotional well-being. Playing with a band can even help you overcome stage fright since you won’t be alone up the stage.

You may also find it easier to develop lasting friendships with bandmates because of your shared interest in music and frequent time spent together. If you're an introvert looking to get out more and meet new people, a band is just what the doctor ordered. 

Our list of common band instruments and their roles

As we mentioned earlier, band instruments fall into three main categories. So let’s take a deeper look at them, as well as an instruments list for each, to see what your options are should you decide to join a band.

Woodwind instruments

Woodwind instruments often carry melodic lines in performances, enhancing the overall musical theme. Their wide range of tones supports expressive playing, allowing bands to execute diverse compositions. 

The number of woodwinds can vary depending on the band and composition — for example, there are generally 10 woodwind instruments in an orchestra performance. Woodwinds include: 

  • Oboes
  • Clarinets
  • Flutes
  • Saxophones
  • Bassoons
  • Contrabassoons
  • English horns
  • Piccolos 

Several of these instruments also come in different styles, such as alto and bass clarinets and flutes, as well as alto, soprano, tenor, and baritone saxophones.

Brass instruments

Brass instruments get their name from the material they're made of and their sound. They often play a leading role in performances because of their powerful sound and wide dynamic range. 

Common brass instruments you're likely to find in a band include: 

  • French horn
  • Trombone
  • Trumpet
  • Tuba
  • Euphonium
  • Cornet
  • Flugelhorn

Percussion instruments 

Percussion instruments add excitement and color to a performance, enhancing its overall character. They also make special sounds and maintain a performance's rhythmic foundation. 

Examples of percussion instruments in school bands and orchestral performances include: 

  • Snare drums
  • Bass drums
  • Tenor drums
  • Tambourine
  • Cymbals
  • Xylophones
  • Timpanis
  • Marimbas
  • Chimes
  • Maracas
  • Glockenspiels

How to choose the right instrument

Now that you understand your options, how do you choose the right one? Simple: by assessing the physical demands, your musical interest, and your budget. Let's take a deeper look at each of these aspects.

Think of the physical suitability 

Different instruments have varying physical demands. For example, woodwind instruments require considerable breath control, and brass instruments require control over lip tension and significant hand strength. Percussion instruments, on the other hand, demand physical strength and endurance. 

So, it’s important to determine what your body can handle before settling on a particular instrument. If you have a condition like asthma, percussion instruments may be more suitable than woodwind instruments. 

On the other hand, if you have excellent lung capacity but lack in the hand-eye-coordination department, a woodwind or brass instrument might be a better choice.

If you're a parent looking to get your child into a band, consider their physical size and strength as well. Instruments like tubas and marimbas require significant strength and a specific height to play effectively. 

You may want to start them with smaller instruments like flutes and encourage them to move to larger options as they grow and build their stamina. 

Evaluate availability and cost

If you’re a beginner, we recommend choosing an instrument you can easily rent or buy, like a trumpet or drum set, over hard-to-find options. While specialized or highly unique instruments can be appealing, you may find it difficult to find teachers, equipment, and care and maintenance experts for uncommon instruments.

Also, consider the cost of each instrument, especially if you're just testing the waters. You don't want to spend thousands of dollars on an instrument you're not sure you'll play long term. 

Instrument rentals are a great way to experiment with virtually any instrument at an affordable price without a long-term commitment. Additionally, larger instruments like the tuba or baritone saxophone may sometimes be provided by a school or institution due to their prohibitive cost. If your chosen instrument falls into this category, it’s worthwhile to check with your music school to see if it’s offered.

So, create a reasonable budget and compare different brands to find an affordable option — and be sure to take into account the cost of maintenance and accessories as well. 

Consider your musical interests

Do you like classical, contemporary, or jazz music? Your answer can help you narrow down your instrument choices. If you like the graceful melodies of classical music, instruments like bassoons and oboes are excellent choices. 

For contemporary music, options like flutes and clarinets may be better. And for jazz music, trumpets and saxophones are great options. Choosing an instrument that aligns with your musical interests can help keep you motivated. 

Test a few instruments if possible

Chances are, even after considering these factors, you may be torn between a few instruments. Not to worry — find school programs or music stores that offer trial periods or rental options and test out your top options. You may even consider taking a lesson or two to test the waters to see if an instrument is something you’d want to pursue further.

This can give you clarity on which instrument to choose and allow you to get in some practice sessions on your own to get a feel for each choice. Proper instrument selection is vital for aspiring band musicians, as it can impact learning motivation, comfort, and, above all, personal satisfaction. 

Start your violin journey with Trala today

If you’ve experimented with a few instruments and found that the violin speaks to you the most, Trala can help!

Trala provides online violin lessons from some of the world’s best instructors. You can also take advantage of our free Trala app for iOS and Android, which provides valuable tools like a digital tuner, signal processing feedback technology, plus practice resources to help keep your skills sharp between lessons. Whether you're a complete beginner or a seasoned performer looking to take your violin skills to new heights, we can provide the guidance you need to move forward in your musical journey. 

Start with Trala today to work with world-class violin teachers who can help you meet — and exceed — your musical goals!

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