Keanu Reeves does it. So does comedian Billy Connolly and singer Taylor Swift. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere also do it. Any idea? They all play musical instruments*. 

So if you’ve ever thought of having a go at tinkling on the ivories or blowing your own trumpet (literally), we’ve teamed up with Elephant Music to give you some tips on getting started…

Think about what music you enjoy listening to

This is crucial as you’re going to be listening and learning sounds, rhythms and patterns a lot – so you need to enjoy them.

Don’t try the trumpet if you’re not aware of how this sounds and works within other compositions.

Start watching and listening out for musical instruments in songs you like and see how they fit.    Keyboards feature in many rock songs  - but might not be an obvious choice for many.  You may want to gravitate towards the guitar but think about what type, classical guitar, bass or electric all offer different options.

Get the size right

Like a good suit, you need to get the right fit for your instrument.

For the violin and guitar you can try different sizes (half and even quarter sized) for petite people and children.

You’ll hold the instrument better and your hands will be able to reach the chords easier leading to a better experience.  

Buying an instrument

It really is worth buying a good quality instrument within your budget.

You’ll get a better sound, it will stay in shape better (strings may not need tuning as much for example), and consequently you’ll enjoy playing better.

Try to go to a musical instrument shop where you can try out some instruments to get the right fit and feel.  

Finding a teacher

Ask around for recommendations through friends and colleagues.

You want a teacher who will motivate you and who you feel comfortable with.

Look at costs involved too. Some teachers will want payment made up front each term, others are happy to work on a pay-as-you-play scheme.

Try online resources

There are some fantastic websites and tutorials online which can really help you and get you started.

You may also want to consider what tools you need to help you – for example the beginner may not be able to tune in their guitar easily, but you can pick up a guitar tuner which does this for you for around £15, saving a lot of frustration in the early days.

Be prepared – patience required

Learning an instrument is tricky. You won’t sound perfect immediately. In fact you could sound awful.

Do you have somewhere you can practice on a regular basis? It’s worth checking with those you live with that they can also appreciate your practice time. But remember learning an instrument can teach vital skills in perseverance and respect for others, particularly if you’re working with a tutor or in a group.


Do you have room for an instrument at home? A piano or cello obviously take up a fair amount of space. You may need to invest in a carry case if you need to transport your instrument to lessons/school/groups.

It’s always worth asking your music retailer what they can do as a package in terms of buying a carry bag.

If you need something more portable, the ever popular ukulele is perfect.

This small string instrument looks like a small guitar – Ed Sheeran plays the uke and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to learn.

The most portable instrument of course is the harmonica. Simply pop it in your pocket and off you go. Perfect to wow your friends with around the campfire.

How much time do you have?

It’s better to learn for short periods on a regular basis. Even 15 minutes every day is better than one lesson a week and nothing else.

Have fun and get sociable

Try to team up with other people who are learning. You may be able to practice together and motivate each other – even if you’re learning different instruments. As you progress there are plenty of Open Mic nights in pubs around the area (some pubs accept under 18’s with an adult on these nights) where you can learn skills and practice while meeting others.

For more information on Elephant Music, go to

* Actress Julia Roberts plays the oboe and clarinet, Keanu Reeves the guitar and Billy Connolly the banjo.

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