The Most Popular Musical Instruments

Despite the astonishing range of musical instrumentals, not to mention different music production techniques available thanks to technological developments, some remain more popular than others among people choosing to have professional lessons or take up a particular instrument as a hobby. In the last few years, some changes have also occurred among the top rankings for the most musical instruments.


According to the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, one of the UK’s primary music lesson exam boards, 76% of children between the ages of five and 14 years reported in a 2014 survey that they could play a musical instrument. This compared to a rate of only 41% in 1999, indicated nearly a 100% increase in just fifteen years. This must be great news for anyone concerned that playing musical instruments could be going out of fashion due to electronic music’s popularity.

Not only that, the actual instruments chosen by children to learn have also changed, from looking at the ABRSM statistics. 13% of children in 2014 reported that they play an electric guitar, making it one of the most popular musical instruments in the UK and overtaking the violin, which 12% reported being adept with. The electric guitar was only played by 1% of children in 1999, with 2% playing the violin.

Topping the list in 2014 for the most popular musical instrumental of all was the keyboard, with 30% of children saying they could play it. This significantly overtook 1999’s winner, the recorder, which used to be played by 19% of children, and 28% fifteen years later.

Although around 20% of children said they taught themselves to play their chosen instrument, the remaining majority relied on lessons to improve their proficiency. This somewhat explains other differences in the statistics, most notably the difference in proficiency rates between children from richer and poorer backgrounds. Close to three quarters of those from well-off families learned to play an instrument by 2014, while the figure was only just over half for those who were not so well-off.

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