20 Cheap Musical Instruments to Play (How to Learn for Free!)

Have you always loved the idea of being a musician? Learning a musical instrument can be a great hobby and can be a great outlet for stress. If you have thought learning an instrument is too expensive think again!

All musical instruments cost money to buy, but some are more affordable than others. If you’re just starting out or want to learn an instrument for fun, the ones that cost less will likely be the better choice.

This chart will give you an overview of the instruments we have listed from least expensive to most expensive.

🎵 Note: We have included a column that will help you understand the difficulty level of learning these instruments. The more music notes the harder it is to learn the fewer notes the easier to learn.

(Click the instrument name to jump to the part of the article that talks about it)

PictureInstrumentPrice RangeHow Easy to Learn
Silver harmonica on a white backgroudHarmonica$5-$200🎵🎵🎵
claves on white backgroundClaves$10-$20🎵
Jaw harp on white backgroundJaw Harp$10-$20🎵🎵🎵
green red and tan guiro on white backgroundGuiro$10-$30🎵🎵
Dark brown castanetes on white backgroundCastanets$10-$30🎵🎵
panpipes on white backgroundPanpipe$10-$2000🎵🎵
Tin whistle on white backgroundTin Whistle$12-$30🎵🎵
light blue ocarina on white backgroundOcarina$12-$130🎵
hands playing white steel tongue drumSteel Tongue Drum$13-$80🎵🎵
orange brown kalimba on dark grey backgroundKalimba$13-$800🎵🎵
rainbow colored handbells on white backgroundBells$15-$30🎵
Tambourine on white backgroundTambourine$15-$20🎵
cabasa on white backgroundCabasa$17-$80🎵
xylophone on white backgroundXylophone$17-$2500🎵🎵
Ukulele hanging on a wallUkulele$20-$1000🎵🎵🎵
didgeridoo on white backgroundDidgeridoo$35-$1000🎵🎵🎵🎵
lyre harp on white backgroundLyre Harp$40-$200🎵🎵🎵🎵
guitar on white backgroundGuitar$50-$5000🎵🎵🎵🎵🎵

Something that is important to understand when we talk about cheap instruments, we don’t mean cheap in the terms of low quality and going to fall apart a few weeks after you start using it.

When we talk about cheap instruments in this article, we are talking about instruments that are inexpensive to buy and very cheap (pretty much FREE) to learn how to play.

With that out of the way let’s get into the details of our list!

🎵 Note: Many of our musicians here at Top Music Tips have tried these instruments. The Ukulele happens to be my favorite, but all of these are a lot of fun to learn and play!

#1 Ukulele

This is my favorite instrument on the list which is why I put it first.

The ukulele is a member of the guitar family. It makes sound by strumming four nylon strings. The name itself means “jumping flea,” a homage to the ukulele’s small size and overall jubilant intonation!

The Ukulele makes a fun cheerful, buoyant sound that transports many to the tropics. 

Ukulele Price

Depending on the quality of the ukulele, this instrument can be made from woods such as mahogany or plywood and laminate woods. With this wide range of materials, prices of ukuleles can start from $20 and go all the way up to $1000 for high-quality, custom-made models.

My daughter received this ukulele for Christmas a few years ago and loves it! It has been a great instrument for her to sing along with.

How to learn Ukulele for free

There are so many free resources to learn the Ukulele. Here are a few we love!

Free Ukulele Lessons For Beginners | Ukulele Tricks

#2 Didgeridoo

I’ve always been fascinated by the incredibly unique sound of a didgeridoo. I never would have dreamed that this instrument would be cheap enough to fit in a beginner’s price range.

Of course, you can always find high-end amazingly custom didgeridoos for a very expensive price tag, but for beginners just starting out this instrument is surprisingly affordable.

Didgeridoos at an affordable price

You might be surprised to learn you can find some amazing instruments for a much cheaper price point on Etsy! Buying on Etsy comes with the even greater value of helping out a small creator.

Learn to play Didgeridoo for free

This YouTube channel rocks in teaching all things didgeridoo. It’s all completely free and with all the deep breathing that comes with learning this instrument, it’s bound to help relax and destress!

#3 Harmonica

If you have ever wanted a great instrument to take to a campfire jam session a harmonica is it! It’s small and super easy to take anywhere and after just a few months of practice, you can make some pretty awesome sounding music with it!

A harmonica is a free reed instrument. This means it makes sound by you blowing air through a mouthpiece that fits into your lips and over a set of free reeds.

The harmonica has been played in many countries around the world since it was first developed by a German musician in the early 19th century.

Harmonica Price

Harmonicas are pretty inexpensive to produce. The price range for this instrument is $5.00 to upwards of $2000 for a professional model. We’ve picked out some fantastic high-quality harmonicas that are just about the cheapest instruments you will find to learn and play.

How to Learn to Play Harmonica for Free

Again, YouTube is a great place for a plethora of free lessons. This YouTube channel (video below) is completely dedicated to teaching all things harmonica.

Top Tip: The website that goes along with it also has a lot of free lessons as well. Free Harmonica Lessons | 100’s of free lessons at LearnTheHarmonica.com

#4 Recorder

The recorder is another personal favorite of mine. It is considered a woodwind instrument, but by far it is the easiest woodwind to learn.

Similar to the clarinet you blow air into the instrument to get sound out, but unlike the clarinet, it has no reed.

Similar to the flute you cover the holes of the instrument with your fingers, but you don’t have to create a flute-like embouchure (shape of the mouth) to get a good sound out of it.

Recorders are so easy to learn and so cheap to purchase that it’s often one of the go-to instruments for elementary school teachers.

How cheap are Recorders?

The type of material a recorder is made out of is the main driver of the cost.

Plastic recorders are the cheapest to make and therefore buy. You can generally find a decent plastic recorder for under $10. If you are wanting to buy a multipack, then you can get them at an even more discounted price.

For a more advanced player that wants a deeper richer sound and knows how to achieve buying a more expensive recorder makes sense, but if you are a beginner looking to get started with something affordable here are our picks.

Learn to Play Recorder for Free

Top Tip: Another resource for free recorder lessons is this website listed below.
FREE Online Recorder Classes for Beginners – American Recorder Society

#5 Lyre Harp

Harps are one of the most beautiful angelic instruments that I know about. I have always been fascinated with these giant string instruments and how blissful they looked to play.

With harps being some of the most expensive instruments to buy and learn I myself thought it would always be out of reach to play such an instrument, but that all changed when I found the Lyre Harp!

The Lyre Harp makes learning and playing the hard accessible to anyone. I did discover when learning the Lyre harp that the sound is a bit different than a regular harp. It does have a bit more of a tinny high-pitched flavor to it than the regular harp.

Top Tip: The first thing you will need to do when you purchase and unbox your Lyre is to tune it. Needing to tune your instrument makes most of the string instruments on this list have a little bit higher barrier to entry.

Is Lyre Harp a Cheap Instrument to learn?

You can get a lyre harp for under $100, but it is still one of the more expensive instruments on this list. You can expect to pay anywhere from $40-$80 for this instrument.

This instrument in particular will be one that is hard to get a good quality instrument for very cheap. If you have a little more to spend we recommend going for the ones around the $80 price point to really get the most bang for your buck.

If you are set on getting the cheapest one you can find, we suggest checking Wal-mart. They sell a very basic Lyre harp for under $20.

Learn to Play Lyre Harp for Free

Learning the Lyre Harp This website is packed with free resources to help you get started with this intsrument.

Link to the Lyre used in this tutorial.

#6 Panpipe (Pan Flute)

Being a flute player at heart the panpipe (pan flute) was a fun instrument for me to discover! I always imagine the panpipe and the recorder to be the ugly stepsisters to the flute. 🤣

The truth is they really aren’t ugly, but when you have little ones like I did blowing on them just to hear them screech they sure can sound ugly.

The panpipe sound is made by blowing air over a row of different lengths of tubes. The tubes are linked together.

It does take a bit more skill to make a sound on the panpipe than the ease of blowing into an instrument like the recorder, but if you can blow over the top of a water bottle and get a sound then you can play this instrument easily!

Is a Panpipe Cheap to Buy

The best place to buy a high-quality inexpensive panpipe is on Etsy. These instruments can be handmade and have an even more beautiful sound when done by someone who knows what they are doing.

How to Learn to Play Panpipe for Free

Free Pan Flute Lessons | The Pan Flute Shop

#7 Kalimba (Thumb Piano)

I feel like the Kalimba is the most underrated instrument of all time. Its sweet music box-like melodies take me back to my childhood.

The Kalimba is one of the easiest instruments to learn quickly. It’s so much fun to learn to play popular music melodies with it. It can play a lot of harmonies that make the music sound both complex and soothing.

This instrument is held easily in your hands while using your thumbs to flick the metal tines that create the melody. It does take a bit of coordination to flick notes with both thumbs at the same time while using different rhythms. But let me assure you if you can learn to type you can learn to play the Kalimba!

Where to buy an inexpensive Kalimba

One of the cheapest most versatile instruments on this list I feel like this instrument gives the biggest bang for your buck! You can easily find a high-quality great sounding instrument for under $20.

How to Learn Kalimba for Free

Here is a wonderful website that is dedicated to helping you learn how to play the Kalimba.

This YouTube Channel is completely dedicated to teaching everything about the Kalimba.


#8 Xylophone

Xylophones are very interesting instruments with such a huge range in size, price, and sound it’s hard to cover everything amazing about a xylophone in such a short paragraph.

I think of Xylophones as the gateway instrument into all things percussion. Learning to play the xylophone can give you a very diverse range of skills. Xylophones are also played in almost every genre of music; from Rock music, children’s music, folk tunes, to classical and everything in between!

xylophone on white background

Top Tip: To really understand how amazing this instrument is you need to check out our series of articles coving all Xylophone topics.
How Sound Is Made on the Xylophone? (With Video Examples)
7 Most Famous Xylophone Players Throughout History!
17 Songs with Xylophones In Them

Are Xylophones cheap instruments?

Xylophones have a huge range in price. There are the notorious kid versions of xylophone that cost very little but also have a very pitching tinny tone to them. Then there are the very expensive Xylophones that concert orchestras save for years to afford.

Xylophones can range in price from $17 all the way to $10,000. Because this instrument is so popular there is a price that will fit everyone and anyone that wants to play.

There is also a size that will fit everyone that wants to play from the small handheld Xylophones to marching band xylophones that take a bit more effort to carry all the way up to concert Xylophones that take several people to move.

Learn to play Xylophone for free

Xylophone Playing (FAQ Guide for Beginners)

#9 Steel Tongue Drum (Tank Drum, Hank Drum)

If you think that all drums sound loud and sharp think again. The steel tongue drum is known for its soft resonating tones. Often used for meditation and stemming from the handpan the modern Tongue drum has a calming melodic sound that you can easily fall in love with.

The tongue drum does take some technique to learn, but it is very easy to start getting a tone out of with the first hit of the mallet. For that reason, this makes the Steel Tongue Drum great for beginner musicians.

🎵 Note: Learning the Steel Tongue Drum gives you an opportunity to learn an instrument that you can play the melody and harmony together.

How Cheap is a Steel Tongue Drum?

These drums come in different sizes 3 inches (with 6 notes) up to 14 inches with 15 notes. The larger the drum the more expensive it will be.

The cheapest steel tongue drum we were able to find was a tiny 3-inch drum on wish for $11. With shipping, it ends up about $13 total. The standard price for this instrument is $50-$100, but we did find some good deals for under $50 for you listed below.

How to learn Steel Tongue Drum for Free

It is called the steel tongue drum for a reason. The little slits in the top are the tongues and to make a sound you hit the specific tongue with your fingers or the mallet for the note you are trying to produce. The sound will resonate in the drum and come out the slits as a beautiful calming vibration.

To play a chord you would hit two notes at the same time.

#10 Ocarina

If you’d like an instrument that makes beautiful sounds but doesn’t cost too much money, then perhaps consider buying yourself an ocarina (also known as a shakuhachi).

Similar to the recorder it is played by blowing air through the instrument while covering the holes with your fingers. The sound of an ocarina is similar to the recorder except not quite as bright and high-pitched. It has a slightly woodsier sound.

Fun Fact: Ocarina in Italian means little goose. It gets its name from the shape of the instrument. It has also been known to be called sweet potato and globular flute.

How to get a Cheap Ocarina

Ocarinas are one of the less expensive instruments on the list. With how easy it is to play and how sweet it sounds this is an excellent choice for a beginner musician that wants to make a big impact in their sound!

Ocarinas range in price from $10 to $100. The least expensive being the little 6-hole ones that you can wear on a necklace with the most expensive being the handcrafted 12-holed Ocarinas made of ceramic.

🎵 Note: Avoid this Ocarina even though it is the cheapest it’s not made well and often plays out of tune.

Generally, Ocarinas cost around $20 – $30 which is the price range we are suggesting for a good quality but a cheap instrument.

Learn how to play the Ocarina for free

This channel has a 12 lesson series on YouTube.

Top Tip: If you really want to up your game and become amazing with this instrument (or another on this list) be sure to check out lessons with our very own Top Music Tips writer Chris K.

#11 Jaw Harp

This may just be the most interesting instrument on this list. It certainly is the instrument known by the most names. Other names for this instrument include:

  • Jew’s Harp
  • Juice Harp
  • Guimbard
  • Vargan
  • Mouth Harp
  • Trumps
  • Gewgaw
  • khomus
  • Ozark harp
  • Berimbau de boca
  • Murchunga 
  • Mungiga

This instrument may also be one of the oldest (most ancient) on the list. Known by a different name depending on which culture you are in the Jaw harp can be called by that simply because you use your jaw to play it.

For a most fascinating history of this instrument followed by a stellar performance check out this video that has over 2 million views.

How to buy an inexpensive Jaw Harp

If you are now convinced that you have to have one of these so you can learn how to impress your friends and family with amazingly weird and cool music it makes look no farther.

This is also a cheap instrument to learn. For around $10 or under you don’t have much to lose on trying out this unique-sounding instrument.

Learn to play the Jaw Harp for free

This website has a ton of free lessons all in one convenient place.

How To Play The Jews Harp – Jaw Harp Lessons (didgeridoodojo.com)

#12 Tin Whistle (Irish Penny Whistle)

The flute-type instruments that you can learn seem to be endless!

The penny whistle adds another to that list as it is a woodwind instrument that again you blow air into in order to produce a sound which is changed by covering holes with your fingers.

Even though both the recorder and tin whistle are considered “fipple flutes” (named for the specific way the mouthpiece is) they do have quite a few differences.

A recorder has 10 holes including a thumb hole, the tin whistle has 6 holes. The tin whistle has a more limited range of musical notes.

The Tin whistle sounds a bit more light and airy than a recorder. A recorder has a thick brassy sound whereas a Tin whistle has a more soft shrill sound.

Best cheapest tin whistle

Tin Whistles are a great option if you are looking for an instrument to learn that is under $15.00. You can play some fun Irish tunes as well as other fun songs with this sweet-sounding instrument.

Below we found some great affordable options for you.

Learn to play the Tin Whistle for free

This website is a great place to get started with all things tin whistle. Irish Tin Whistle Lessons & Tutorials (Online & Free ) (learntinwhistle.com)

There are also a lot of YouTube videos that can help you as you are starting out.

🎵 Note: Many of these instruments come with a plethora of free sheet music if you just do a little digging. You can get started with some free Tin Whistle sheet music here.

#13 Guitar

One of the more expensive, but most popular instruments on our list is the guitar. The reason we wanted to include this on our list is because it is possible to find a cheaper (less expensive) guitar that still sounds great!

Many people think guitars are out of reach for their budget, but we wanted to let you know that if you LOVE this instrument you can find a cheaper guitar that is manageable to learn on. Once you start learning and get better this instrument is a fun one to upgrade.

focused girl sitting on the couch playing the guitar

How to find a cheap Guitar

Finding a brand new guitar under $100 is doable, but the quality will only be so-so. If you really want to go budget for a nice instrument buying used is usually not a bad idea.

Many people buy a quality guitar thinking that they will love it and spend a lot of time playing it only to have it sitting around collecting dust for years.

You can check your local Craigs List, yard sales, or Facebook marketplace. We also have a few options for you below.

How to learn the guitar for free

With the amount of information on the internet, it seems possible to learn how to do or play just about anything. That is no exception for the guitar.

The guitar probably has more free resources than any other on this list just because it is so popular.

Here are a few of our favorites.

Free Online Guitar Lessons | Play Acoustic or Electric

Hand Percussion Instruments

Hand percussion instruments are some of my favorite cheap instruments to quickly learn. These instruments add so much spice and fun to any sing-along or dance party and are very versatile in the things that you can do with them.

Top Tip: We love the hand percussion instruments so much that we have a whole other article dedicated to the most popular ones and how to play them!

#14 Tambourine

A Tambourine is our favorite dance party instrument! It is used in all types of music, the most popular being folk music! You can get a great tambourine for less than $20.

Tambourines are typically circle shaped instruments. They are shallow drums that have round discs around the outer edge. It is played by a combination of shaking and patting or tapping the instrument.

🎵 Note: For a fun modern take on the tambourine check out these LED Light up ones! Fun for holidays or around a campfire.

#15 Maracas (Shakers)

Maracas are true party instruments meant to play some fun rhythms that everyone can dance to. Often used in Mexican and Latina cultures learning to play complex rhythms with these shakers is fun and fairly easy.

Here are some beautiful colored maracas on Etsy!

Here are the cheapest maracas on Amazon.

#16 Cabasa

A Cabasa is an inexpensive percussion instrument with a wooden cylinder that has a steel ball chain looped around it. It has a handle and is generally made of wood.

Check out this Cabasa on Amazon.

#17 Claves

Claves are another fun instrument that you can get for less than $10! In fact, you can get a couple of sets for less than $10, that way you can have fun learning with a friend.

Claves are deceptively simple. Probably the easiest instrument on our list to start playing they still take a lot of practice and effort to master.

The complex rhythms that can be played on the claves give this instrument a depth to it that most people don’t expect.

Claves can be really fun to learn and play in a group.

#18 Castanets

Another clapping instrument the castanets are used a lot in flamenco dancing. This little handheld instrument is a great cheap option for people like me who love to fidget!

It can give your hands something to do while your brain focuses on learning the rhythms.

Castanets are great for kids who are just starting to understand sound and rhythm. These little animal kid castanets are so adorable!

#19 Bells

Handbells can be a lot of fun, especially during the holidays. My mother-in-law has a set of handbells that she used in her kindergarten class.

Every time we would visit for the holidays my kids would get out the bells and see what songs they could learn. By the end of the stay, they were playing quite a few different songs and having a really great time doing it.

A set of diatonic handbells gives you 8 different notes to play. You would be surprised at how many songs you can learn and play with just these 8 bells.

Top Tip: For even more fun get a few friends and combine some of the instruments on this list for your own fun little band.

#20 Guiro

A Guiro made from a gourd-shaped piece of wood has notches all along the top. A wood stick is used to rub across the top in different rhythms to produce some fun sounds.

This fun and cute frog Guiro is budget friendly and fun to play!

How to find Instruments for free

If you can’t afford to buy an instrument right now, try asking around for one that people would be willing to lend out or rent. Some schools have music programs that have instruments that students use during class but leave at school when not in use.

If there isn’t a program at your school, ask around at other places where people might have old instruments stored away.

Churches and community centers sometimes host free concerts where they give out free instruments and sheet music as door prizes; there may be local organizations interested in lending out musical equipment so they can help kids learn how to play musical instruments.

Caution about trying to learn on cheap instruments

Spending a lot of money on an instrument and then finding out that you don’t really enjoy playing it or don’t have the time you thought you would to learn is not ideal.

So, if you’re just starting out or want to learn an instrument for fun, the ones that cost less are often the better choice.

But as we have all heard the old adage you get what you pay for that can also be true when it comes to musical instruments. That is why we tried to include instruments on this list that were generally less expensive to make. This makes them more budget-friendly without being cheaply made.

If you do go with a budget instrument, be aware that some instruments may not work as well as a more expensive model. Either being out of tune, not having as nice of a sound, or requiring more maintenance for broken parts.

Learning on a cheap instrument can be frustrating when it doesn’t sound right, and you don’t know why. Many people end up giving up in frustration before they ever get good at playing their instrument.

How to learn an instrument without spending a lot of money

If you are wanting to learn an instrument that wasn’t on this list here are some ideas for you to find a way to afford it.

  • Learn an instrument in your school band or orchestra. Schools often have fundraisers or programs that can help students be able to afford playing an instrument.
  • Make your own instruments from found objects like paper cups, tin cans, and spoons. You could also use things like PVC pipe and other materials that are easy to find around the house.
  • Buy a used instrument instead of buying one new at full price; this will save money while still getting the same quality sound out of it as when it was brand new!

Instruments that are cheap to maintain include violins (which only cost $50 each), flutes ($100-$200 each), clarinets ($300-$500 each) as well as saxophones ($600-$1000 each).

We hope this article has been helpful and informative for you in your musical journey. Please let us know if there is anything that we could add or change to make this article a better resource for our readers.
Please e-mail us at: [email protected] to let us know how we are doing!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend high-quality products that are used and recommended by real musicians. If you use these links to buy something we earn a small commission.