Inexpensive Musical Instruments – 7 Interesting Instruments That Won’t Break the Bank

Playing instruments is a highly rewarding and enjoyable experience for people of all ages.  But many of them cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars!  The average person simply cannot so much of their income towards buying instruments.

But there are many cheaper options to consider.  While they are inexpensive, that does not make them any less fun or fulfilling to play.

Today, we’ll be looking at just a couple of inexepensive musical instruments that won’t break the bank.

Recorder

The recorder is a member of the woodwind family of instruments.  It’s a narrow and light instrument that features a mouthpiece and seven finger holes.  There is also a lone hole on the bottom which is used by the thumb.

There are multiple types of recorders that play within different musical ranges.  Here’s a short list (ordered from deepest to highest):

  1. Bass
  2. Tenor
  3. Alto
  4. Soprano

The recorder first appeared in the Middle Ages in Europe.  It continued to be used throughout the baroque and renaissance periods and is played and appeciated by many fans to this day.  With such a rich and long lasting legacy, how can you go  wrong?

The recorder isn’t just a great choice for its price, but it’s also a great introductory instrument for anyone who has never played an instrument before.  They are compact and require little maintenance.

Beginner recorders are priced at as low as a couple of dollars.  For those with even a slight interest in this instrument, there isn’t much to lose financially.

Melodica

The melodica looks very similar to a keyboard but is unique in that it requires air to be blown through a mouthpiece in order for notes to be played.  And it sounds more like an accordion or harmonica than a piano.  It’s a unique instrument for sure.

Early forms of the melodica existed in Italy back in the 19th century.  The modern version was created in the 1950s by German manufacturer Hohner.

Famous musicians who have used the melodica in their music include:

  • Augustus Pablo
  • Damon Albarn
  • Ben Folds
  • Mike Patton

Melodicas are not very difficult to learn to play at a basic level.  Anyone who plays piano will have an edge up on playing melodica because they share the same notes and chord shapes.

Melodica prices start at around $20.  That is a small price to pay to experience such a unique instrument.

Ocarina

The ocarina is a woodwind instrument that features multiple finger holes (usually 10 or 12) and a protruding mouthpiece for blowing.  The finger hole layoud and overall look of this instrument is

The ocarina is known to have existed for over 10,000 years.  It’s earliest use is traced back to ancient Mesoamerica as well as ancient China.  Talk about lasting appeal!

This instrument gained a large boost in popularity due to it being featured in the Nintendo 64 videogame The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of TIme.  In the game, the main character Link plays songs on his ocarina that allow him to teleport within the game world and overcome various puzzles.

Ocarinas are very compact and easy to maintain as well, making it another great choice to consider when buying a new instrument.

A basic ocarina costs around $20-$30.

Kazoo

Kazoos are tiny instruments that are played by humming into them.  The tone at which you hum is the tone that the kazoo plays.  That’s all there is to it.  When it comes to being inexpensive and easy to play, nothing beats the kazoo.

The kazoo was first invented in the late 19th century by Warren Herbert Frost.  Since then, kazoos have been enjoyed around the world typically as an eccentric and playful toy instrument.

Kazoos have been used in studio recordings and live performances by professional bands and musicians.  Some of these bands/artists include:

  • The Grateful Dead
  • Frank Zappa
  • Queen
  • Tame Impala

Kazoos sell individually for a couple of dollars.  They can even be bought in bulk!

Harmonica

The harmonica is a free reed instrument that is played using the mouth.  Different notes are played depending on which area of the harmonica you’re mouth is located and wether you are blowing air out or sucking air in.  It’s an instrument that is easy to understand but hard to master.

The earliest harmonicas were invented in the 1820s in Europe.  By the 1860s, they had made their way into the United States.

The harmonica has had a huge impact on the musical landscape.  It has appeared in popular songs across many genres, including blues, folk, country, rock, and jazz.  This instrument has a large fanbase of not just players but enthusiasts all around the world.

You can buy a harmonica for as low as $10.  This is convenient because you will need multiple harmonicas since most harmonicas are diatonic.  This means that they can only be played within a single musical key.

Ukelele

The ukelele is a stringed instrument that is synonymous with Hawaiian culture.  Hearing a ukelele in action may make you fantasize about tropical beaches and beautiful, sunny weather.

Portugese immigrants brought a stringed instrument similar to the ukelele called the machete into Hawaii in the 18th century.  Not long after did the Hawaiians create the ukelele, which was their own version of that instrument.

Beginner ukeleles are available for as low as $30.  For a stringed instrument, that’s a steal!

Otomatone

The otomatone is a Japanese instrument that has a face.  That’s right, it has an eyes and mouth.  One hand manipulates the “head” of the otamatone to control volume, vibrato, and wah-wah effects and the other hand uses the neck to determine which note is played.

This bizarre instrument was created in 1998 as a collaboration between a toy company called CUBE Works and Maywa Denki design firm.  This makes it a relatively recent instrument compared to anything else on this list.

The otamatone is essentially a handheld synthesizer.  Most otamatones are monophonic, meaning that they can only produce a single note at a time.  They come in different colors as well as different versions that have some unique features between them.

Otamatones start at around $30.  This eccentric instrument is definitely worth it at that price!

Forget Those Expensive Instruments!

These inexpensive musical instruments we’ve looked into today make for great personal purchases or as gifts for any friends or loved ones with any interest in playing instruments.  They provide countless hours of fun through learning, experimentation, and collaboration with other musicians.

Do you feel inspired to explore any of these instruments?  Are there any other excellent, cheap instruments that were left out of this article?  Feel free to let me know in the comments section down below.

And don’t forget to have an excellent day!

The Best Exercise Music – These Genres Will Make A Difference

Exercising requires you to stay motivated and push your body in order to see progress. Music can be a powerful tool in helping you enter the “zone” where you feel like you can smash the workout goals you’ve set for yourself.

Certain music genres have characteristics in their sound that give you the motivation and energy you need to go the distance and beyond. Today, we’ll be looking into the best exercise music and why these songs helps you.

Everyone’s personal music taste is different so you should look into these genres yourself and see what kind of music may benefit your workout routine.

What Characteristics In Music Help You Exercise?

There are many traits found in certain music styles that energize your brain and body.

Song tempo is one of these characteristics. Tempo is basically the speed at which the song was recorded. We’re looking for high tempo. Songs with high tempo are naturally more intense and stimulating than low tempo songs.

A consistent beat is another ideal trait. People can’t help but lock in to a consistent beat and bob their heads or tap their feet to that beat. This idea applies to physical workouts as well. We find that constant rhythm and adjust our movements to it, often subconsciously.

Loudness is another important characteristic to consider. If a song is too quiet, it can be drowned out by background noise. We’re looking for songs that are moderately loud and will always be discernible no matter where we are exercising. When it comes to volume, never go too loud. It will not only become distracting but it will also damage your hearing.

Vocals can have a motivating effect as well. It can depend on what the lyrics are about and how the vocals are delivered. It’s very subjective; some people prefer instrumental music because they find vocals to be distracting

Hard Rock

Turn on any modern rock or classic rock station on the radio and you will undoubtedly hear some hard rock music.

Hard rock will typically feature distorted guitar riffs and solos, powerful drumming to hold the rhythm, and strong supporting bass grooves. The vocal styles found in hard rock are typically more vicious and aggressive than in standard rock and roll music.

There are so many hard rock bands that it’s impossible to list them all. Famous classic hard rock bands include:

  • Aerosmith
  • Thin Lizzy
  • Black Sabbath
  • Def Leppard
  • AC/DC
  • Van Halen

Rap

Since the 1980s, rap has found massive success in the musical landscape and has garnered an enormous following among music listeners around the world.

Rap music is defined by dominating beats and unique vocal deliveries that are more like rhythmic speaking than singing. But rap songs do often feature singing and a focus on melody.

Famous rappers/rap groups include:

  • Drake
  • Kanye West
  • Nas
  • Eminem
  • Wu Tang Clan

Metal


Metal is an extreme subgenre of rock that was first being played all the way back in the 1970s. Despite many cases of controversy in the mainstream media throughout the years, it has developed a worldwide fan base.

Metal music is loud and aggressive; much more than hard rock. The guitars are louder and more distorted, the drums are impressively precise, the basses shred like guitars, and the vocals can go from soft to growls or screams in a matter of seconds. Solos are found aplenty in metal and they never fail to impress.

Famous metal groups include:

  • Black Sabbath
  • Metallica
  • Judas Priest
  • Slipknot
  • Megadeath

Electro House

Electro house is a subgenre of electronic music that makes you want to get up and dance like a fool. This style of music is very high energy and loud. As such, it is very popular with young people and those who love to party.

Electro house features a heavy emphasis on bass lines, hard-hitting percussion, catchy synths, and drops (sections where the music builds up and then explodes). Vocals are often present as another melodic tool within the music.

Famous electro house artists/groups include:

  • deadmau5
  • Avicii
  • Skrillex
  • Steve Aoki
  • David Guetta

Pop

The last genre on the list, but certainly not the least. Pop music has been an important part of music culture for a very long time. It is a term that refers to popular music, or music that appeals to a general audience rather than a specific audience.

Pop music covers many styles and has no single defined sound. They can feature all kinds of instruments (digital included). Pop songs are always written with choruses and hooks in mind so that they get stuck in your head.

For the sake of this article, we want to find loud and energetic pop that enhances the exercising experience. Luckily, there is no shortage of pop artists that fit the bill.

Famous pop artists include:

  • Michael Jackson
  • Lady Gaga
  • Bruno Mars
  • The Black Eyed Peas
  • Kesha

Music isn’t just fun and enjoyable to listen to. It stimulates our minds and bodies. We can use this stimulation to improve our workout and exercise performances to see better results. Music can be a useful tool in this regard and I think everyone should harness its power.

Let me know what music works best for you down below. Or feel free to leave some feedback for the article. Thank you for reading!

Bass Guitar Effects Pedals – A Guide for Beginners

The utility of effects pedals is undeniable.  They are capable of modifying the sound of your bass drastically or just enough spice up your sound and your playing.  If you aren’t using effects pedals, you are missing out on important tools that will not only make playing bass more interesting but also a more creative and inspiring experience as well.

There are many different types of effects pedals that serve all sorts of functions.  Understanding exactly what they do and how they change the sound of your playing can be confusing and intimidating especially for those who are just starting out.  Many guides on effects pedals use advanced musical terminology that will simply frustrate the reader if they aren’t seasoned musicians or master producers.

This bass guitar effects pedals guide will try and keep things as simple as possible throughout.  Let’s get started.

Chorus Pedals

Chorus pedals duplicates the original sound of your bass and changes its timing and pitch to create a fuller sound .  Think a single vocalist singing a note versus multiple vocalists singing a note.  Despite singing the same note, those vocalists will sound different from each other (slightly delayed or faster, slightly lower or higher pitch, etc).

Chorus pedals also give a slight wobble/wavering effect to your sound.

Wah/Wah-Wah Pedals

Wah pedals, also known as wah-wah pedals, literally give your bass a ‘wah’ sound.  If you say the word ‘wah’ out loud over and over, you’ll get the idea.  You press down on the wah pedal to control the amount of wah you want to produce as you play.  The wah pedal has seen much use in the funk and psychedelic music genres, but it can also be heard in rock music and even metal.

Compressor Pedals

Compressor pedals reduce the dynamic range (loudest notes versus softest notes) of your bass to make your playing sound more even.  They can also help your notes sustain much longer than they normally would.  A compressor pedal is an invaluable tool for any bass player.

Volume Pedals

Volume pedals allow you to control the overall volume of your bass.  These are very useful because it can sometimes be downright impossible to use the volume knob on the front of your bass as you’re playing.  

To operate volume pedals,  you simply press down on them to make your bass signal louder.  That’s all there is to it.

Delay Pedals

Delay pedals create an echo effect for your bass signal.  Delay pedals create a unique effect that can make your bass sound very trippy and out of  this world (literally).

Phaser Pedals

Phaser pedals create a wobbly sweeping effect that is reminiscent of a wave going up and down.  It is hard to explain in words but most music listeners have undoubtedly heard this effect before considering how popular it is among guitar and bass players.  

Reverb Pedals

Reverb pedals recreate the effect that occurs on sound in a large room.  It’s a resonating sound that everyone has experienced and is familiar with wether they realize it or not.  

Flanger Pedals

Flanger pedals create a swirling type of effect on your sound.  The flanger effect has been compared to that of a jet plane as well.  This effect is created by the pedal duplicating and delaying the original sound of your bass.

Tremolo Pedals

Tremolo pedals give your bass a sound that is similar to constantly increasing and decreasing its volume.  Except with the pedal it sounds much smoother and is far more convenient than trying to recreate this effect with your volume knob.

Tremolo gives your bass sound a sense of atmosphere and airiness.  It’s a very interesting choice of effect when used properly.

Octave Pedals

Octave pedals produce the same note that your bass is playing but at a different octave.  Depending on how the settings for these pedals are configured, the notes can be played simultaneously or the original signal can be silenced so that you are only hearing the octave notes.  

Keep in mind that octave pedals are typically reserved for single note playing because the effect interacts strangely with chords.

Overdrive/Distortion/Fuzz Pedals

Despite having different names, these kinds of pedals all produce a similar effect but to different degrees of intensity.  They all give your bass a distorted, fuzzy sound that is commonly heard in more aggressive genres of music like rock, metal, and punk.  It’s the kind of sound that you can’t help but headbang to!

What to Look For When Buying Headphones – A Handy Guide

Headphones give us the ability to become engrossed in the music we listen to and the TV shows and movies we love without bothering those around us.  This makes exercising at the gym, flying on an airplane, or even just going for a walk a much more enjoyable experience.

Knowing what to look for when buying headphones can be difficult.  There are a lot of considerations to take into account in order to make a wise purchase.  We’ll be going over some of the most important things to consider in your research process so that you can find the perfect pair of headphones to meet your needs.

Consider What Type of Headphones You Want

Headphones come in a variety of styles that each have their own advantages and disadvantages.  The type of headphones you want is one of the most important factors to think about.

The first type we’ll be looking at is over-ear headphones.  The earpads on these kinds of headphones completely surround your ears.  This also means that they are capable of providing the highest quality listening experience since outside noise will hardly be an issue.  Over-ear headphones can be very comfortable to wear for extended periods which makes long listening sessions more enjoyable.  

Over-ear headphones are not perfect.  The earpads can deteriorate over time due to sweat from your ears which will cause the material to flake off.  It’s also difficult to hear what’s going on around you because of the earpads smothering your ears.  Over-ear headphones are the largest kind of headphones as well.  They are hardly portable and will take up a lot of space in your backpack, luggage, or wherever you may be keeping them.

The second type to consider is on-ear headphones.  This type is similar to the over-ear headphones but the earpads are smaller and don’t entirely surround the ears.  It makes for a lighter set of headphones that take up less space than over-ear headphones as well.  Think a more portable version of the over-ears.

The flaws of on-ear headphones include their size and the size of the earpads.  These kinds of headphones, while still smaller than over-ear headphones, naturally take up space due to their design.  The smaller earpads don’t create a seal like the over-ear headphones do and that can jeopardize your listening experience in a loud environment.

The last type of headphones to discuss is in-ear headphones.  These are wildly different from the previous types because they don’t have earpads.  Instead, they are inserted directly into the ear canals.  This type of design is incredibly small and allows them to fit in your pocket.  They completely block outside noise as well since they fill up your ear canals.  Despite their size, they can provide a high quality listen experience just like the other kinds of headphones.

There are downsides to using in-ear headphones you should keep in mind.  They can pose a safety hazard due to how well they block outside noise.  They are prone to slipping out of your ears as well.  The sensation of wearing in-ear headphones can be very uncomfortable as well depending on the sensitivity of your ears.

Wired or Wireless?

The age old debate of wired versus wireless also applies to headphones.  Each has its own benefits and ideal situations.

Traditional wired headphones carry certain advantages you need to consider.  They don’t require a charge because they don’t need batteries or a charge to operate.  The solid, physical connection you get through the wire provides a consistent listening experience as well.

Wired headphones can be a burden if the wire length is not long enough.  The wire can also get caught on objects which can either cause the plug to be yanked out of your audio/video device or your headphones to get ripped off your head.

Wireless headphones provide a completely wireless experience which many users find appealing for various reasons.  No wire means it is simply less annoying to handle.  No need to coil the wire around your headphones when you’re putting them away.  There’s also no risk of getting snagged on objects as you’re moving like with wired headphones.

Wireless headphones need to be charged in order to function and that can be a problem if you forget to charge it before a long flight.  They generally provide worse audio quality as well since it is a wireless connection.  If there are other wireless devices operating around you, they can potentially interfere with your headphone’s connection to your device.

Where Will You Be Listening the Most?

Are you always on the go?  Or are you a homebody?  Do you listen to music or podcasts while you’re jogging or at the gym?  These are just a few questions to consider during the research process.

Wired headphones are ideal for stationary listening as well as situations where the burden of dealing with a wire connection will not matter very much.  Think sitting at home or during a flight or train ride.

Wireless headphones are most suited for listening while being active.  Working out or hiking with a set of wired headphones is simply not a good idea when there’s going to be a loose wire flailing around.  Wireless connections fit the active lifestyle far better. 

What is Your Budget?

The price range on headphones is vast.  A quick search on Amazon shows headphones starting at $10 and going all the way up to $1500 and beyond.  You need to know exactly how much you’re willing to spend so you can narrow your options down.

Unless you are an audiophile (someone who is obsessed with high quality audio), you will not need headphones that cost you an arm and a leg.  There are plenty of headphones in the $50-$200 range that will most likely fit your needs.  Do your research by checking out reviews or going to a physical location to test out some headphones yourself.

So Many Options

The market for headphones is bigger than it has ever been and is continuing to grow every day.  There’s bound to be a perfect pair of headphones for you out there if you are diligent in your search.

This has been a quick run down of what to look for when buying headphones.  Use this information to help yourself make an informed purchase.  I would love to hear any feedback or comments about this article.  Have a great day!

Tuning a Guitar Without a Guitar Tuner – Tuning Methods You Need to Know

Keeping your guitar in tune is an absolute must if you want to play properly.  An out of tune guitar is going to sound terrible even in the hands of a master guitar player.

 But is tuning a guitar without a guitar tuner possible?  Why, yes it is.  In fact, it is not difficult to tune a guitar even if you do not have a guitar tuner on hand.  Here are some ways to do it that are just as effective.

How to Tune Your Strings

But before we get into it, I’d like to explain how to tighten or loosen the strings on your guitar.  On the headstock of your guitar are tuning pegs that correspond to each string. Most guitars are six-string so typically there will be six tuning pegs.

 

Some guitars have all six pegs on one side of the headstock while others have three on one side and three on the other.  The way you turn these pegs depends on which kind of guitar you have.Guitar Headstock with Six Tuning Pegs

For guitars with all six pegs on the same side:

Turn the pegs away from you to increase string tension.  Turn them towards you the decrease string tension.

For guitars with three on either side:

The three pegs corresponding to the three lowest strings are tightened by A Guitar with Three Tuning Pegs on Either Sideturning away from you and loosened by turning towards you.  The three pegs corresponding the three highest strings have the turning reversed, so you turn them towards you to tighten them and away from you to loosen them.

Tuning Your Guitar to Itself

The first method for tuning without a guitar tuner is to tune it to the low E string.  This method requires you to memorize the sound of the E note. Memorizing how a note sounds can be very difficult and take some time but it is possible.  So here’s how it works:

  1. Tune the low E string by memory.
  2. Tune the A string to the fifth fret of the low E string.
  3. Tune the D string to the fifth fret of the A string.
  4. Tune the G string to the fifth fret of the D string.
  5. Tune the B string to the FOURTH fret of the G string.
  6. Tune the high E string to the fifth fret of the B string.

That’s all there is to it.  Your guitar is now tuned to itself.

Tuning Your Guitar to a Piano

Old Piano

The second method is to tune your guitar to a piano.  If you have a piano or keyboard handy, this is a quick and easy way to get perfect tuning.  It’s very simple:

  1. Play the E4 note (two white keys above C4 AKA middle C) on your piano and tune the high E string to it
  2. Play the B3 note (one white key below C4) on your piano and tune the B string to it
  3. Play the G3 note (two white keys below B3) on your piano and tune the G string to it
  4. Play the D3 note (three white keys below G3) on your piano and tune the D string to it
  5. Play the A2 note (three white keys below D3) on your piano and tune the A string to it
  6. Play the E2 note (three white keys below A2) on your piano and tune the low E string to it

This may seem confusing if you are unfamiliar with the layout of a piano.  But once you have done this just one time, you will understand the process much better and will be able to tune to a piano very quickly.

Tuning Your Guitar Using Harmonics

The third method is to tune your guitar using harmonics.  It is similar to the first method because you are tuning the guitar to itself.  It also requires the low E string to be tuned properly either by memory or by tuning it to a piano.

Playing harmonics on a guitar is different from playing a normal note.  You want to lightly touch your finger to the string right above where the fret marker is for the note you are playing.  When you play the note it should sound softer than a normal note. It will also continue to ring even if you take your finger off the string.

Here is the tuning process using harmonics:A Guitar Bridge

  1. Tune the low E string.
  2. Compare the harmonic on the fifth fret of the low E string to the harmonic on the seventh fret of the A string.  Tune the A string so that the harmonics sound the same.
  3. Compare the harmonic on the fifth fret of the A string to the harmonic on the seventh fret of the D string.  Tune the D string so that the harmonics match.
  4. Compare the harmonic on the fifth fret of the D string to the harmonic on the seventh fret of the G string.  Tune the G string so that the harmonics are exact.
  5. Tuning the B string is different from the previous strings.  Use the seventh fret harmonic of the low E string and compare it to the twelfth fret harmonic of the B string and tune accordingly.
  6. Tuning the high E string is also a special case.  Use the fifth fret harmonic of the low E string and tune the twelfth fret harmonic of the high E string to it.

Tuning with harmonics may seem strange at first, but you will find it to be an invaluable  tuning technique once you understand how to do it.

Now You Can Tune Like a Professional

These are a few ways to tune your guitar without the need of a guitar tuner.  I recommend using more than one technique listed here when tuning to double check that your guitar is properly tuned and ready for action.  Remember to always tune your guitar before playing so that you have an optimal playing session. 

I hope this article has been helpful to you.  Feel free to leave feedback on this article in the comment section below.  I would truly appreciate it.  Have a great day and keep on playing! 

About Connor

Hello and welcome to Audio Embassy, a useful resource everything music related. I aim to cover a wide spectrum of topics on this site including audio equipment, educational articles concerning music, music reviews, and other miscellaneous topics related to music.

MY STORY

When I started my music listening journey as a young teenager, I was clamoring to listen discover new artists and genres. Music captivated me in a way that I had not experienced before. It was like being in love. That feeling has not faded even a bit since then. Music is such a huge part of my life that I can’t imagine living without it. My life would be a lot more bland if that were the case.

I listen to many genres of music but my favorites are indie and alternative music. My favorite artists/bands include Beck, Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead, and Modest Mouse. I’ve always like weird music and found a lot of popular music to be boring. I try to discover new music as much as I can in order to expand my mind.

WHY I WANT TO HELP YOU

I want you to learn something on this website whether it’s about music, audio equipment, or anything else I may post on here. If I’m discussing products for sale, I want to give you a detailed overview of them so that you can make an informed decision. When I’m writing an article discussing music, I aim to provide detailed information about the topic. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to help out my fellow music fans.

THE GOAL OF AUDIO EMBASSY

Audio Embassy’s goal is to inform you about everything concerning music. I want you to walk away from my site feeling like you’ve learned something related to music or discovered a product that interests you. It’s as simple as that really.

If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

All the best,

Connor
audioembassy.com