5 Unusual Musical Instruments That Are Easy To Pick Up

  • Post last modified:April 4, 2024
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Many people learn a musical instrument as children. For some, it’s the start of a life-long passion for music – the instrument they first learned in childhood becomes a hobby, an escape, or even a profession.

Others, however, lose the connection with that musical part of themselves. As the busyness of life takes over, we find that years later, we’ve not touched an instrument. We find ourselves wondering if we will ever get round to picking up an instrument again, and even doubting how to approach it.

For some of us, rather than returning to an instrument you scarcely remember, and are rather rusty at playing, it’s easier to ease yourself back in with something a little more approachable. Here are five great instruments that are easy to pick-up, whatever your musical level. 

Tin whistle

The tin whistle, also known as the Irish whistle or the penny whistle, is a simple wind instrument with 6-holes. Held similarly to a recorder, the whistle is a staple of Irish and celtic folk music. But its appeal is wider than it – this accessible and easy-to-pick-up instrument has ancient origins in countries around the world, and so appears in the musical tradition of many cultures.

The beauty of the tin whistle is that beginners can learn how to play the basic notes on the tin whistle within a matter of minutes. At the same time, the instrument has a rich tradition, and as experienced folk musicians will attest that, takes years to truly master.


The kalimba, also known as the thumb piano, is a simple, tuned-percussion instrument that is derived from the Zimbabwean mbira. The kalimba consists of metal “keys” attached to a wooden plate, that are generally played with the thumbs – which is how it became known by some as a “thumb piano.”

The beauty of a kalimba is that it is very easy to quickly go from a total beginner, to playing a riff or sequence that sounds surprisingly beautiful. Even without understanding any music theory, with a little bit of experimentation, and a little bit of rhythm, most people get a pleasant sound of a kalimba within a matter of minutes. From there, the only way is up!

Tongue drum

Perhaps less-known than the other instruments on this list, the tongue drum is an underrated instrument for beginners. Technically defined as a type of idiophone, tongue drums are available in a range of keys (a pentatonic key is recommended for beginners). Usually fashioned from a steel vessel, it is called a tongue drum because slits or ‘tongues’ are cut into the vessel, with each tongue becoming an individual note within a scale.

You really don’t have to spend much to get a good sounding tongue drum – even the cheap ones are often beautiful sounding instruments. Easily played with the hands or with beaters, tongue drums enable you to combine rhythm and melody in an intuitive way. It’s easy to find yourself getting lost in a trance with a tongue drum, thanks to their gorgeous tone, and simple playability.


The djembe is perhaps the best known and most popular form of hand drum in the world today, partly because it’s so accessible. A djembe typically uses an animal skin, that is pulled over a goblet-shaped wooden drum, and which is held in place and tuned with string.

With its ancient origins in West Africa, the djembe sound is characterised by its boomy and resonant open sound, and crisp, muted slap sound. These two simple tones provide the foundation for this simple and effective instrument, which has proven to be one of the most popular percussion instruments of our time. In recent times, djembes have become particularly popular in drum circles and community drum groups.


The ukulele is a fantastically easy instrument to pick up. With its characteristically sweet, round tone, the ukulele is extremely versatile. Thanks to its nylon strings (and the fact that there are only four of them, rather than six!),it is more comfortable to play than a guitar, and easier to learn. It’s also extremely lightweight, making it easy to carry around with you to festivals, to the park, or wherever you feel like playing. 

Like the guitar, the ukulele is an excellent accompaniment instrument, making it the perfect foundation for singalongs. Thanks to its huge popularity in recent years, you’ll be able to find arrangements and tabs for almost any song you can think of, which means you’ll be able to play along with all the greats.

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