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Jan 21 2018
by Zoe Forest

10 Uncommon Instruments to Learn in College

By Zoe Forest - Jan 21 2018

You've heard of the flute, the trumpet and the violin, but how about the ocarina, the autoharp or the mandolin? College is a great time to learn an instrument for the first time, or pick up another instrument to add to your repertoire. However, choosing which instrument to invest in can be a difficult decision. Many college students lack the time to commit to learning a more difficult instrument like the piano and it can be intimidating to learn a instrument most people begin early such as violin or cello. If you have decided to learn an instrument, but are still searching for the perfect match, check out this list of less-commonly played instruments.

1. Ocarina

The ocarina is an ancient wind instrument dating back thousands of years and found in various cultures, though it is perhaps best known for being featured in the game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It is a small and very inexpensive instrument that can be taken anywhere to impress friends or potential friends. It is also relatively simple to learn and songbooks can teach you dozens of pieces to play.

2. Mandolin

The mandolin is a stringed lute-type instrument originating in Italy during the 19th century. It is similar to the guitar, making the mandolin perfect if you want to play along with popular songs, but want to avoid the more mainstream guitar. Though difficult to master, it is easy to get started  and makes an interesting conversation topic.

3. Autoharp 

The autoharp is a stringed instrument featuring 36 strings. The keys, which can be seen in the image above, are used to create various chords by muting out any notes not played in a given chord. The instrument is slightly more difficult to learn, but it is portable and very versatile. 

4. Harmonica

Not exactly an obscure or unusual instrument, the harmonica is still a less-commonly played instrument and a great instrument to learn as a college student. It is very inexpensive and small, making it easy to acquire and store. It is also easy to play and goes great with a number of songs. 

5. Accordion

The accordion is a unique instrument that combines air compression and either a key board or series of buttons to produce various sounds. It is used around the world in both popular music and folk music, perfect for the person searching for a versatile instrument. 

6. Bagpipes

Though roommates may not appreciate the bagpipes, it is a fun and interesting instrument. Additionally, it is a great cultural instrument. Many cities have a Celtic Society which can be a good place to meet other bagpipe players or people with an interest in the bagpipe.

7. Zill 

Probably the easiest instrument on this list to pick up, zills are better known as finger cymbals. They are used in belly dancing and to make tambourines. They are an easy way to make some music and can lead to picking up other percussive instruments. 

8. Erhu

Wikimedia Commons

The erhu is a two-stringed bowed Chinese instrument. They can be relatively inexpensive and there is a large repertoire of both solo pieces as well as ensemble works for the erhu. It is used in both traditional and contemporary music in China.

9. Recorder

Wikimedia Commons

If your elementary school required general music education, chances are you have played the recorder at least once. It is an inexpensive, small instrument that can be learned quickly. Additionally, its popularity has been growing in recent years, meaning there is much more recorder music as well as ensemble groups of recorder players. 

10. Yodeling

If you don't want to buy or rent an instrument, use your own voice. Better yet, use your voice to learn unique singing techniques such as yodeling or throat singing. You'll never be without your instrument.

Learning an unusual or less-played instrument can be a great way to stand out and impress friends or new people you meet in college. It is also a fantastic way to meet other music enthusiasts. So choose an instrument and seek out either private instruction, beginning music groups, how-to books or YouTube to get started on your musical journey.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Zoe Forest - University of California, Berkeley

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