Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How to Learn a Musical Instrument All By Yourself

Digital artwork of various musical instruments.

There is a wide variety of avenues for definitive absorption of the emotions music entails. Sometimes, it’s through listening to the lyrics of your favorite vinyl albums, and other times, it’s through being behind the instruments. For most of us, it’s a lot easier to process emotions coming from instruments since lyrics, for the most part, need to be contextualized first. This leads to a desire of wanting to learn musical instruments, as it is like picking up a second language.


Music lessons are great and should always be taken into consideration, when appropriate. In fact, many have moved online and are great resources while we navigate the pandemic while trying to keep our creative juices flowing. But if you’d like to go the DIY route, the internet has got everything you need to at least get you started on the musician front.

While instruments like the trombone and timpani are fantastic in their own right, they’re a bit esoteric in terms of general music. Here, we’ve broken down some easy-to-do routes to getting a handle on three of the most popular and accessible instruments: the piano, drums, and guitar.


Man playing a black piano.
Isaac Ibbott/Unsplash

The piano can be intimidating what with its sizable stature and attachment to geniuses like Mozart and Beethoven. Some are so grand they’re like giant pieces of furniture, almost too pretty to play. Look, we don’t expect you to become the next Herbie Hancock. But know that the piano is an inviting instrument and also an umbrella term, in this case, consisting of sibling instruments like the organ, keyboard, glockenspiel, marimba, and more.

If you have a piano or old keyboard, great. If not, a kids’ piano will suffice. And if you’re lacking even that, you can download countless instrument apps, procure attachments for your iPad and favorite music-making software, or simply just dink around with a virtual piano on your laptop.  Once you’ve secured your instrument, you’ll need some wisdom. Again, there are lots of sources, and forums like appgrooves do a nice job of rating and categorizing them.

If you wanna really go DIY, simply pull up an image of the basic chords for the piano and use it as your map. Learn a few major and minor chords each day, memorizing them for convenience. Work on simple scales (think middle school band class) to help your dexterity, and then start looking up easy songs to tackle. Outlets like tabnabber allow you access to the tabs of all kinds of music, which will get you on your way to matching notes with figure configuration.

A great organ app for experimenting at home is the Minimoog Model D brought to you by the ongoing legacy of the legendary Bob Moog. It has an assortment of fun settings, great key sensitivity, and solid sound given that you will probably just have it pumping through your phone’s speakers. Plus, it’s fantastically retro and a fun app to bust out when you’re trying to match the melody of a catchy song that happens to be playing. 


Man playing drums with drumsticks.
Oscar Ivan Esquivel Arteaga/Unsplash

If you can drive a stick shift, you’ve already got a head start on being a drummer. Both acts require similar hand-eye and foot-eye coordination. If you can keep a rhythm, you’re even closer.

Like the piano, a full drum set can feel a little daunting. A bass, snare, cymbal set, and a few toms eat up quite a bit of space. And while we encourage you to channel your inner Neil Peart (RIP) and go the whole hog, you may be serviced better by a smaller kit, an electronic setup, or something fully digital. For beat-making, there are some nice and relatively small drum machine options. For sticks-in-hand percussion, you can have a lot of fun with an Octopad setup like this drum set.

Again, if you wanna go very DIY, get a tricked-out digital kit by way of an app. Or, go next level and create your own out of scraps at home. It’s satisfying and a fraction of the cost of the real thing. Again, you’ll need some guidance. Learning the snare drum and some of its basics, like a roll, paradiddle, and the like, is a great way to start. Once you’re ready for the multi-tasking involved on a kit, try some intro beats like these.

And, of course, drum along with your favorite songs and try to match the beat.


Man learning how to play the guitar from his friend.
Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

Musicians are doing some pretty cool things online these days, from intimate performances to guitar lessons. And many of them involve the guitar, a ubiquitous instrument.

You may have one lying around, desperately in need of a tune. Or, perhaps a ukulele or electric bass. Either way, it’s time to learn. If you have an instrument and want to quickly learn some pop songs, outfits like CoachGuitar can get you there. Also, apps like Real Guitar and others are available and iconic names like Fender will have you playing on your phone or tablet, should you need some virtual strings.

For the assembly-minded, there are electric guitar kits out there, too. The internet is full of free advice and that’s especially so with guitar lessons. Test a few out to see what you do or don’t like. If you’re willing to shell out some bucks, go with something like ArtistWorks for a more personalized tutorial.

No matter the instrument, play often, try to replicate what you hear in the wild, and don’t be afraid to botch things often. It takes some getting used to but soon you’ll be dropping a four-on-the-floor beat or strumming along to Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty with ease.

Read More: Learn Guitar with Fender Play App

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
Ranking the 10 best Dustin Hoffman movies of all time
Dustin Hoffman's best movies are varied and incredible!
Dustin Hoffman

If you are a movie buff, or you had a family member who grew up in the 1970s, it's surely impossible for you to not have heard of the legendary Dustin Hoffman. Ranking right up alongside the iconic Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman's style was much more everyman and antihero than these other big names. Hoffman was able to provide a strange sense of comfort when he starred in a film, even if his characters made questionable choices along the way. Even though he's not as active in his 80s, Hoffman is still acting and will appear in the fourth Kung Fu Panda movie alongside Jack Black. We're here to rank the best Dustin Hoffman movies so you can catch up on all of his greatest hits!

10. Straw Dogs (1971)

Read more
5 types of cigars you need to know about

If you've never really enjoyed a cigar, maybe it's not you; it's the smokes themselves -- perhaps you just haven't found the right cigar for your pleasure. It's a given that the aroma and flavor of a cigar are primarily derived from the tobacco used to make it, both the filling and the wrapper. But cigar type, meaning shape and size, also significantly impacts how a stogie tastes and smells, not to mention how its profile changes during the smoking process.

Those huge cigars passed out at bachelor parties may start smooth but can end up heavy and harsh as they burn down. Likewise, a slender cigarillo may burn hot and intense from the start: Size and shape don't play a direct role in how the cigar will taste or how mellow or potent it will be, but they do dictate the smoke time and, depending on the tobacco used, how the cigar will change while burning down.

Read more
10 LGBTQ+ shows you need to binge for Pride Month
These gay shows will help you understand more about yourself this June!
Rainbow flag on house

Pride month is a time to celebrate who you are and what makes you special as an LGBTQ+ person. Not everyone gets the privilege of growing up in a supportive environment, and it often takes years for queer people to appreciate themselves even after coming out and sharing their sexuality with the world. Fortunately, media representation is really starting to pick up in the way of gay characters and storylines on TV. These LGBTQ shows are sure to warm your heart and help build confidence and community among queer folks all around the world. From coming-of-age shows to family sitcoms, the variety is sure to help anyone find a show they will be inspired by!

Heartstopper (2022)

Read more