10 Most Popular Musical Instruments and Why They're Favorites

Find your perfect jam with one of these top instruments or just satisfy your curiosity.

Published June 12, 2023


Since prehistoric times, humans have been making music using tools, and some of the most popular musical instruments have been around for thousands of years. Whether you're looking for a new way to jam or are just curious about everyone's favorite instruments, it's fun to learn a little more about the top picks, as compiled by news sources like Newsweek and the BBC.

Piano: Tickle the Ivories With Versatility


There's a reason kids everywhere take piano lessons. The piano is one of the most popular and versatile instruments, suitable for almost every style of music. It's also ideal for beginners as it helps develop a good understanding of musical theory.

When you "tickle the ivories," the piano produces sounds by striking strings with hammers. Besides being awesome, this allows for a wide range of dynamics.

Guitar: Rock Star-Level Great


First instrument you think of when someone mentions "rock star"? You're not alone if you said "guitar." The guitar is another versatile instrument popular in rock, pop, folk, jazz, and classical music.

It's portable, relatively easy to learn the basics, and allows for a wide range of expressions. Both acoustic and electric guitars are favorites for different genres and styles, and people sometimes experiment with both.

Violin: More Than Just Fiddling Around


The violin is a key instrument in orchestral music, but that's not the only place you see it. Also known as the "fiddle," it's a huge part in many other genres, such as folk and country. It's popular due to its emotive sound and the complexity of the music that can be played.

Need to Know

If you've ever listened to someone learn to play the violin, you know the value of a good set of earplugs. This isn't an easy instrument to learn to play, but it's totally worth the work.

Drums: You Can't Beat 'Em (Okay, You Can)


Drums are the backbone of many types of music, providing rhythm and tempo. They're popular because of the energy they bring to music, and they're also a primal part of human musical expression. If you've ever watched someone play a drum set, you know drums are actually many different instruments and not just a single thing.

Fast Fact

Did you know playing drums also has physical and cognitive benefits? They can improve mental health, coordination, and concentration.

Flute: No Need for a Reed


There are a ton of reasons the flute is a popular choice in both orchestral and solo performance settings. It's lightweight, portable, and capable of a wide range of tonal qualities and expressions. Technically a woodwind instrument, it actually doesn't use a reed like others in that group.

Saxophone: All That Jazz


Nothing says "cool" like the sax - just ask all those awesome jazz musicians (and Bill Clinton). The saxophone is a major part of jazz bands, but you'll also find it in classical, pop, and rock music. It's popular for its rich, expressive sound and the variety of sizes/types (alto, tenor, soprano, etc.).

Trumpet: Don't Blow It (Okay, Do)


Did you know trumpets have been one of the most popular musical instruments for centuries? They've been around since at least 1500 BC, and they're still super popular today. The trumpet is a brass instrument commonly used in jazz, classical music, pop, and even marching bands. It's popular due to its bright, powerful sound and its important role in many musical styles.

Bass Guitar: Bass-ically Amazing


While all the screaming fans might be looking at the lead guitar player, they should totally spare some of their attention for the bassist. The bass guitar might not always be in the spotlight, but it's often the glue that holds a song together. It's vital in many music genres for providing rhythm and harmonic foundation.

Clarinet: For Musicians Who Reed a Lot


A woodwind instrument, the clarinet uses a reed to help produce sound. It's an elegant choice, and it's popular in classical and jazz music. People love the clarinet for its warm, resonant sound and wide range.

Cello: Say Hello to Beautiful Sound


Although it's not the easiest instrument to play, the cello has a beautiful tone and mellowness. It's known for its deep, rich sound that can express a range of emotions. You'll see this instrument in orchestral music, string quartets, and also as a solo instrument.

Need to Know

The most popular musical instruments aren't always the easiest to play. There are lots of reasons people love to play certain instruments, including accessibility (piano lessons are easy to find), the tones the instruments produce, and their ability to express their emotions with the instrument.

Fall in Love With the Most Popular Musical Instruments


From professional musicians to amateurs who simply love making music for fun, there are so many ways to make the most popular musical instruments a part of your life. Start by listening to some of your favorites or even seeing a live performance. You might just fall in love.

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10 Most Popular Musical Instruments and Why They're Favorites