Whether you’re a beginner getting started, or a current musician branching out with an upgrade or new instrument, read on and see our top recommendations to get you started.
When you think of learning an orchestral instrument at school, violin might be one of the first instruments to cross your mind.
Violins are readily accessible instruments that can cover a wide range of genres. Many people will think of orchestral playing as the main outlet for violin playing and artists such as Nigel Kennedy, Nicola Benedetti, or Andre Rieu.
While classical music is undoubtedly the mainstay of the violin, there is so much more to explore than orchestral music. By looking at the world of electric violins, you can vastly expand your horizons and play in a more reaching range of genres – artists such as Lindsey Stirling and Mark Wood have been pushing the boundaries and exploring different effects that would be more associated with guitars.
One of the first considerations would be what size violin to choose. As a rough guide:
Ultimately, the best way to size an instrument is to hold your arm out straight and measure the distance from your neck to your wrist:
Another important consideration is what extra equipment need to get started.
Most violins come either as an outfit or instrument only. The advantages of buying an outfit is that the violin will come with all essential items to start – this will include the violin with strings and the bridge, the bow, the case, and other accessories such as rosin. An additional purchase would be a shoulder rest to improve the comfort whilst the violin is in position.
What the violin is made from is also important. Tonewoods help the sound to resonate and help shape the sound of the violin, alongside the bow and the strings. Student violins are made from materials such as plywood and ebonite which offer an affordable way to get started and make a good sound too.
More premium violins are made from solid spruce for the top; solid maple for the neck, side and back; and materials such as ebony for fittings and fingerboards. Bows can also be made from a wide range of materials such as hard wood, Brazil wood (also referred to as bullet wood), permanbuco, and carbon fibre.
Wooden bows generally offer a warmer sound whereas carbon fibre bows are less affected by humidity and have a great response. As for strings, most violins come with steel core strings which are perfect for beginners as they tend to stay in tune for longer, are easier to tune, and are easier to make a sound with.
A complete violin outfit with everything you need to get you started.
Focused on students.
Yamaha instruments are synonymous with quality.
Explore different sonic universes.
For our full range of violins, please check out our Violins section of the website.
Saxophones are often associated with jazz music and have a definite ‘cool’ factor about them.
Current saxophone players, such as Jess Gillam, have been bringing the modern classical saxophone to a wider audience with performances at The BBC Proms and showcasing the versatility of the instrument. Artists such as YolanDa Brown combine their love of the saxophone with a passion for education and bringing music to the masses through her broadcasting.
Within the saxophone family, there are four main types of saxophone – soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.
The most popular type of saxophone, especially for beginners, is the alto sax. This sax is most commonly associated with classic songs such as ‘Baker Street’ or ‘Careless Whisper’: must-learn pieces for any budding sax player! The alto saxophone is generally the easier of the saxophones to pick up – it requires less air than the tenor saxophone and it better for smaller hands. That being said, there are certainly advantages to playing the tenor sax, such as the smokier, velvety low notes!
A mouthpiece, ligature and reed are all essential to getting a sound out of the saxophone. This combination sits at the top of the saxophone and creates the sounds which is then essentially amplified through the saxophone. Most starter saxophones would come with a mouthpiece, ligature and reed as standard to get started.
Reeds are an important part in the ‘set up’ of an instrument and are consumable. Beginner players tend to start on a lighter reed, such as a 1 or 1 ½ which offers less resistance and are easier to get a sound from. With this in mind, it would probably be worth buying a small box of reeds to try out too.
Designed with affordability, durability, and comfort in mind
Quality checked by Trevor James technicians in the UK.
Top quality student saxophone.
An ideal all-round saxophone
Check out the saxophone area of our website to see our full range
Trumpets are also extremely versatile instruments – from regal fanfares to jazz and big bands, the trumpet takes pride of place.
Prominent jazz trumpet players of the past include Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong, while more contemporary players include Louis Dowdeswell and Wynton Marsalis. The most common trumpet is the Bb trumpet, but others do exist and can be found in orchestras and other settings. Cornets and pocket trumpets (which are similar to trumpets) are also available on the market.
Although they are both fairly similar instruments, there are some differences between the two. Cornets do look smaller than a trumpet, but in actual fact, the length of the tubing is the same but just in a more compact area. The weight distribution of a cornet is different to the trumpet so it is easier for younger players to play the cornet without tiring. Cornets are also found in brass bands instead of trumpets as the bore, or the diameter of the tubing, is different to a trumpet and therefore is more similar to the other brass band instruments and it blends better.
The finish of a trumpet can make a difference to the tone. Trumpets are generally either finished with a clear lacquer (and the brass colour shines through) or covered with a layer of silver plating. Generally, clear lacquer provides a solid yet mellow sound whereas silver plating makes the sound brighter. Regardless of finish, all brass instruments would need TLC to ensure they are kept in tip top condition with cleaning clothes, brushes and valve oil.
A rich tone for a budget price.
Professional features at a student price.
Start small, dream big.
A dependable student trumpet.
Check out our whole range of trumpets.
A cornerstone of the musical world. The piano is an expansive instrument that straddles all genres of music. In fact, in terms of a musical education, there might be no better starting point!
By its nature, the piano is the perfect gateway to learning about music theory, chords, notation, composition, and songwriting. You’ll even be able to transfer your skills to modern music production, where your keyboard ability and harmonic knowledge can be used to maximum effect. Once you’ve learned the basics of piano, you’ll be able to join almost any ensemble and branch out to any genre of music.
When starting piano, you’ll want to choose between a keyboard, digital piano, acoustic piano or hybrid piano. If it’s your first instrument, you may also think about buying a bundle with everything you need to start playing.
Keyboards may look like pianos, but these affordable digital instruments include a huge range of extra instrument sounds and are perfect for beginners or younger players. Many keyboards offer built-in lessons or musical accompaniments to play along to.
Keyboard workstations are enhanced versions of digital keyboards with even more options for songwriting, composition, recording, and creating complete arrangements.
Digital pianos generally include fewer sounds than a digital keyboard, but they replicate the feel of an acoustic piano more closely. If you’re serious about learning classical, popular, and jazz piano, this is a great starting point.
Stage pianos are the most compact variety and perfect for taking up little room at home – their pedals come separately, and they require a stand or tabletop.
Digital upright pianos look more like a traditional acoustic piano and are just as much a classy piece of furniture as they are an instrument.
Hybrid pianos are a premium piano option, featuring the convenience of digital technology (many piano sounds, headphone output etc) combined with the real playing mechanics of an acoustic instrument (real hammers, dampers, and more). These pianos feature stunning cabinets and you’d be hard pressed to tell they weren’t ‘real’ acoustic instruments.
Shop now | Pianos and Keyboards
One of the most popular instruments for any beginner. With the classical guitar, you can perform solos by John Williams or Julian Bream, or join in with other musicians - think of the guitar/violin tango duos of Piazolla or the might of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.
Once you’ve picked up the basics, you’ll be able to easily move onto fiery flamenco, rock and pop, acoustic guitar, jazz guitar, or even the exciting nylon-strung sound of Rodrigo y Gabriela. Many classical players also make an easy transition to electric guitar after they’ve honed their technique and musical understanding.
Classical guitars have the added advantage of being strung with nylon strings. These cause less wear and tear on a new player’s fingers, making the classical guitar a great intro to acoustic and electric guitar playing (both of which feature steel strings).
New classical musicians may also want to consider the mandolin: played with a plectrum, this compact instrument has a wonderful classical, folk, and bluegrass repertoire.
You may also consider the ukulele: with its compact size, soft nylon strings, and its quick learning curve for beginners, this instrument is ideal as an introduction to the guitar.
Shop now | Classical Guitars
The cello and double bass may look similar at first, but they occupy very different musical realms...
Choose the double bass and you’ll become the foundation of the orchestra. This grandiose instrument produces the lowest notes in the string family and is frequently used for dramatic effect in the orchestral section - think of the harrowing theme from Jaws.
Once you’ve mastered the basics (pun very much intended), you’ll have no problem moving beyond classical music. The double bass is a staple of jazz ensembles, big band, musical theatre, bluegrass, blues, and more. You may even branch out to electric bass for playing in musical theater, jazz, or rock/pop groups.
Choose the cello and you’ll enjoy the best of both treble and bass. While capable of reaching the lowest notes in a string quartet, the cello is equally at home playing soaring melodies of the most expressive kind.
The cello is also a keen solo instrument; this instrument opens up a world of Bach Cello Suites, Beethoven Sonatas (accompanied by piano), as well as singing melodies (imagine Camille Saint-Saëns' The Swan).
Shop now | Double Bass
Shop now | Cellos
The recorder is a great way to learn the basics of music. This incredibly robust instrument is very common among school-age children, and for very good reason: it’s super quick to get started!
The straight-forward pleasure of being able to create a tune you recognise, in an afternoon, is the thrill of playing music.
The recorder is the perfect gateway to playing other woodwind instruments, or it can be truly mastered to a professional level. If you do take your recorder playing to advanced levels, you’ll find the genre of early music performance where great work has been done to revive historical instruments and repertoire.
Shop now | Recorders
The Clarinet can be a natural progression from the recorder, or it can be a fantastic starting point to playing reeds. It lends itself perfectly to orchestral playing, where you’ll often be one of a small selection of clarinet players in a section.
The clarinet is capable of highly expressive playing, as well as incredible dexterity. It is for this reason that the clarinet replaces the role of the violin in a wind orchestra. The clarinet is also a wonderful solo instrument, accompanied by piano or orchestra (search the Mozart Clarinet Concerto K622).
If you choose to explore other styles beyond classical music, the clarinet is no stranger to pop (Acker Bilk – Stranger on the Shore), jazz (the iconic opening to Rhapsody In Blue), as well as a large repertoire of big band music.
What’s more, learn the clarinet and you’ll be halfway to playing the saxophone (in a manner of speaking). Both instruments are played with a reed and have very similar fingering. You’ll find many players who double on both instruments.
Shop now | Clarinets
The flute is perhaps the nimblest of all wind instruments. If you seek exciting melodies, delicate textures, and a small but key part of the orchestra, look no further! Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un Faune is a prime example of the huge tonal range of the flute.
As well as orchestral settings, the flute is also found in wind bands, smaller ensembles, and as a soloist. The flute has even ventured into rock music (think Jethro Tull or Van Morrison’s Moondance) as well as contemporary music (The Great Train Race by Ian Clarke).
Shop now | Flutes
Another member of the loud-and-proud brass family. One of the loudest instruments in the orchestra, the trombone is a crucial part of the brass section.
With its unique sliding mechanism, you’ll see trombones in brass bands, marching bands, wind ensembles, and played solo (often with accompaniment). The trombone also crosses genres into pop, soul, funk, Motown, ska, jazz, and much more.
Getting started with the trombone is made more affordable by the pBone and playLITE range. They have the same workings as a brass trombone but are constructed from plastic. This has the benefit of making them weather resistant – perfect for street performance!
Shop now | Trombones
The harp is a specialist string instrument with a delicate plucked sound. While you may only find a single harp player in an orchestra, the harp is very common as a soloist and small ensemble player.
The harp is also well-known as a folk instrument, with smaller Lyre harps offering a compact alternative to the larger sized instrument.
New players may consider a 12-string Irish harp to master the basics of hand technique, before upgrading to a larger harp with more strings and levers for playing in different keys.
Shop now | Harps
Once you know what instrument you'd like to learn, you may also be interested in some accessories to help you on your way.
There are a few accessories which are essential for learning an instrument. Items such as a music stand, metronome, tuner, and tuition book will all assist your learning and make for a much more enjoyable experience. All of these can be found on our Orchestral Accessories page.
If you're looking for something more specific like a mouthpiece, piano bench, or valve oil, then make sure you check out or specific accessory pages below. Here you'll find an abundance of different accessories from some of the hottest brands in the industry.
Find out more: