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I had been playing Piano (learning on my own through youtube and books) once a while for over 2 years now and I would call myself above novice. I can't read sheet music but I have a not bad ear. However, I was diagnosed with a problem and can't really play Piano for long so I was dropping it for a wind instrument primarily : Recorder, Harmonica and Bamboo flute. I like all three and my disorder won't interfere with me playing any of these three.

My needs are basically cheap instrument, light and something I can learn on my own.

Ideally, I'd also like one or more of the following:

  1. Not too difficult/Simple to pick up and play. No complicated techniques to learn.
  2. Good online resources
  3. Versatile

I mostly like covering the vocal parts of popular songs to play at parties etc. like Coldplay.

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1  
Might help to know what styles of music you're interested in. Penny whistle is cheap, and light, and there's a fair bit of music available online, but most of it is Irish... –  naught101 Sep 10 '12 at 8:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you enjoy classical, ethnic or folk music, go for the recorder. However, as you say you like rock, I'd say the harmonica is more common for this genre. Also, since you're playing at parties, I'd also choose the harmonica because it is louder than the recorder.

Harmonica

  1. It's simple, but like any instrument it gets more complicated as your learn more, but definitely an easy instrument to start on.

  2. There are many good online resources for it.

  3. Very versatile. It's used in many genres from jazz to blues and rock and even some classical.

  4. Relatively cheap. You can get cheap versions, but like any other instrument, you can go as expensive as you wish.

Recorder

  1. It's simple to learn. However, it requires significant study to master.

  2. There are more online resources for the recorder than the harmonica as it is frequently used in schools.

  3. It's used for mostly classical and folk music. I've never heard someone stand up and play a rock song on a recorder.

  4. One of the cheapest instruments there is. Of course, the professionals play on thousand dollar recorders, but you can get a decent recorder cheaply.


There's not a lot of difference in price between your basic harmonica and basic recorder. This is more of a non-issue. Although there are more online resources for the recorder, there are still plenty for the harmonica. This is another non-issue.

Considering your situation, I'd recommend the harmonica. It's easier to teach oneself, it's often used in the genres you want to play, and it's cheap.

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Holy crap. I thought you were being hyperbolic when you said "thousand dollar recorders", but bellwoodviolin.com/recorders.shtml <- $1800!! Wow. –  naught101 Sep 12 '12 at 7:12
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You can spend as much money as you want on anything. –  American Luke Sep 12 '12 at 15:00
    
Yes, of course, but that doesn't mean you're getting proportional value. Definitely makes you wonder. –  naught101 Sep 12 '12 at 23:31
    
I have been playing harmonica for a year now. And I can say it's definitely worth it! It's easy to start and fun to play. I prefer to play blues or folk, and man! It fits me perfectly. (It's my second instrument. The first one is guitar. And the other benefit is to use a harmonica along with guitar) –  Occulta Sep 17 '12 at 14:28
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Just as a side note: I am actually playing the alto recorder in a folk/black metal band. That's not common, but not totally unheard of either :) –  Morwenn May 27 '13 at 16:12

After playing the violin for 15 years, I didn't have enough time to practice anymore. So, I switched to a woodwind instrument. I've been learning the Irish flute and Irish tin whistle on my own. It's very easy to start playing, especially if you're used to playing by ear.

The technique is really simple at the beginning and you can play a decent tune very quickly.

There are very good tutorials online (I'd start with those tutorials), and you should also browse youtube videos as there are lots of tunes etc... This website is also a very nice resource for finding new tunes.

The Irish flute and tin whistle are remarkably inexpensive.

You may not be able to play Coldplay with it though, but it's worth considering. A whistle can fit in your pocket if you want to play at a party.

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