Getting started with playing an instrument can seem intimidating at first, especially if you’ve already watched the pros at work.
Additionally, learning some of the most popular instruments, i.e. drum kit, guitar, bass, or keyboards, can cost a lot of money.
Let’s just take a look at what you would need to learn how to play the drums. For one, you need the kit itself. Even starter drum kits can cost around $300, and that doesn’t include cymbals.
Then you need a seat (called a throne in drumming jargon), which’ll run you about $60, then you’ll need drumheads, which average around $15 each.
And let’s not even get started on the costs of playing electric guitar.
But we still want to encourage people to learn how to play instruments, especially if they’ve been wanting to for a long time.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of weird cheap instruments that are fun to play, easy to play, and won’t put you in the poorhouse.
And we may or may not have had many of these instruments delivered to the LNGFRM offices so that we could spend a couple afternoons trying our best to make music.
Best of all, these instruments each stand alone and can be played and enjoyed without the use of any extra gear or peripheral equipment.
So go ahead and track them down, buy used to save some money, and start enjoying a brand new hobby, ASAP. That’s an order.
And if you’re looking to sell some of your older instruments, check out this article.
This little, plucky instrument goes by many different names, including kalimba, mbira, and thumb piano.
It was originally an African instrument, but it has since undergone several transformations.
Nowadays, you can get a kalimba for about $30 through most instrument retailers.
It consists of metal bars which are cut to different lengths so that they can produce different musical notes when plucked.
Once a player knows the layout of the different notes, it can be used to play just about anything. It just won’t offer multiple octaves. What you see is what you get.
Many kalimbas are hollow to increase the playing volume, while some models feature electronic components so that the instrument can be connected to an amplifier.
This is one of the least expensive instruments on our list, as well as one of the most fun to play.
The melodica is a bit of a hybrid instrument. It’s a bit like a keyboard, a bit like an accordion, and a bit like a keytar.
It also has a very distinctive sound, one that you’ve most likely heard many times before. It appears on songs like “Clint Eastwood” by the Gorillaz, “Boy in the Well” by R.E.M., and “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis.
Best of all, you can pick up a melodica for very little cash. Inexpensive student versions start out at just $14 and can range up to around $90 if you want one made from high-quality materials.
You play by blowing into a tube and pressing keys on the keyboard. There are also plenty of videos online that show exactly how to get started with the instrument.
To cut to the chase, these devices are the absolute epitome of weird cheap instruments. No, they’re not quite as inexpensive as a kalimba, but they’re potentially a whole lot more fun.
The Pocket Operators are a series of electronic instruments created by the Swedish design collective Teenage Engineering.
Basically, each Pocket Operator is its own instrument, with built-in effects and a 16-step sequencer, which can be used to create multiple patterns which can then be chained together.
Let’s take a look at just a few installments in the series.
PO-12 Rhythm ($59)
The PO-12 is a tiny little drum machine with 16 stock sounds, 16 effects, and a 16-step sequencer.
One of the big advantages of the Pocket Operator line is that they can be used by beginners with no prior knowledge of electronic music gear as well as by pros who already know what they’re doing.
There are plenty of demo videos out there that give basic rundowns of the instrument while also showcasing all the wacky wonderful things you can do with it.
PO-20 Arcade ($59)
The PO-20 makes use of sounds from classic arcade machines.
But even more importantly, the Arcade allows for the easy creation of chord progressions, which is a huge help for those of us who don’t know too much about music theory.
And don’t forget those fun little screen animations that make the experience of playing just a bit more whimsical.
PO-35 Speak ($89)
The PO-35 is part of the Pocket Operator Metal series, which are a touch more expensive than the original Pocket Operators, mostly because they’re capable of doing some cool stuff.
The Speak lets you record sounds via the tiny built-in mic, then translates those sounds into voice synthesis instantaneously.
Like the other Pocket Operators, the Speak is capable of making an entire song on its own, which is just not something we can say about any of the other instruments on our list.
Korg Monotron Duo ($70)
Korg is a Japanese company that has dedicated itself to making affordable synthesizers and other musical instruments.
For example, while a top-tier semi-modular synthesizer may cost $700 or more, a Korg semi-modular synth in the same style would most likely cost about $300.
But don’t worry, the Monotron Duo isn’t even that expensive.
The Monotron series essentially serves as a gateway to the world of synthesizers. More specifically, the Monotron Duo features two oscillators (hence the name), which are how many synthesizers produce sound.
It also has a cutoff filter and a pitch-shift knob. Oh yeah, it also features an adorable small ribbon keyboard so that you can play some basic melodies.
And if you’re the collecting type, you may also want to look into the Monotron Delay, which is built around a basic delay effect that will give your music some space.