Although many children are given some form of musical tuition, and the number of young people learning an instrument is rising according to this report from ABRSM, there are still a lot of adults who still haven't learned to play, or regret giving up their musical lessons at a younger age. If you're one of those people, then we're here to tell you that it's never too late to learn! All you need to do is figure out which instrument you're going to learn, first of all.
Guitars are the first stop for many people looking to pick up a new instrument, and what's not to love? There's loads of customisation, it supports so many different genres, and the ladies love a guy who can play guitar (or so we're reliably informed).
In seriousness, a guitar is a pretty good option for people who are looking for something new, but not too difficult to pick up the basics of. There are plenty of musical styles and ways of making a guitar sound good even when you're just a beginner, and after that all you need is more practice. It's even easy enough to pick up on your own without tuition, though a guitar teacher will generally help you progress much faster.
If you want to learn electric guitar, but don't want to spend too much on a new one, check out our post on guitars that sound great and won't break the bank.
A lot of the benefits of learning a guitar can be said of the piano as well: there are loads of different ways to play it, it fits in almost anywhere, and there are plenty of options for different types of piano. Of course, pianos are also generally more difficult to learn, less portable and more expensive, but the payoff is an even richer understanding of music, and even more interesting things to play.
The piano is famous for being able to play melody and harmony at the same time, which can help you learn a lot about music, and works as a baseline for almost anything. Learning piano will require a lot of time, practice and patience, however, and you will almost certainly want a teacher to guide you through.
Despite what you may have been told, learning violin as an adult is not "too late", "too difficult" or any number of other discouraging remarks. While children who grow up learning to play it may have a head start, a lot of violin teachers who offer their services to adults comment on how it can be easier for a dedicated adult to learn than a child who lacks motivation.
Violins produce a beautiful, delicate sound and what's more, will make you look very refined. Whether your aim is to play as part of an orchestra, or simply to understand one of the string families most simple-yet-complex instruments, it's certainly never too late to learn the violin.
"Woodwind" covers quite a variety of instruments, and it seems unfair to group them as one category of instruments to learn, but they do have enough similarities to talk about them together. Generally, a lot of the woodwinds are not too difficult to learn, as long as you pick the right instrument. Not everyone is built for playing the flute, and you may find that you're better on the clarinet, so if you get the opportunity, try a few different instruments before settling on the one you want to learn.
The double reed section of the woodwind family do require a brief aside to mention that they are somewhat more challenging to learn than their simpler counterparts, but the rewards could be considered much greater. The difficulty of learning an oboe or bassoon compared to their relatively low popularity means that a good double reed player will almost always find a space to play, if that is your aim. Even if it isn't, the rarity of these instruments definitely gives you something special to talk about at the dinner table.
Drums are sadly overlooked as a learnable instrument, but drum enthusiasts know that a good drummer can do some amazing things with these instruments. The good news is that with the right amount of practice and dedication, it's never too late for you to start learning some amazing things too. As long as you take it slow at the start, practicing the right techniques before you get ahead of yourself, you'll get to where you want to be.
A lot of advice surrounding the learning of a brass instrument is your ability to blow a raspberry, creating the sound that is required for the instrument to function. As different instruments require slightly different mouthpieces, you may find that you're simply unable to create the sound that your preferred instrument requires.
If you're simply interested in learning a brass instrument, this may not be a problem, but if you had your heart set on a specific one, it may be very difficult (not necessarily impossible) for you to learn, impacting your enjoyment. As with the woodwinds, try out a few different types of brass to find the one that suits you best.
Something Else Entirely
Of course, there are many more instruments out there, either with small variations from the above, or completely different. From the harmonica to the accordion to the keytar, you might have your heart set on something really specific. As with all musical instruments, if you can find a teacher, put in the practice and enjoy playing it, then you should definitely be encouraged to try. After everything else, these are probably the most important things to take into account when looking for a new instrument to learn as an adult.