If you are a musician, there are a few tools that are super important to helping you improve, and there are others that just make life easier. Tools like a tuner and metronome to websites for finding sheet music and learning pieces are extremely helpful. Other music supplies will make your life easier.
A lot of these tools can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet, so you don’t have to worry about carrying so much stuff to lessons or gigs. If you are a beginner, you don’t need to have all of these tools right away, but you should plan on getting them as you advance.
There are also certain instrument specific supplies that you will need, such as strings, reeds, or valve oil. For simplicity, I will stick to basic supplies that can apply to any instrument and musician.
An Instrument in Good Repair
This first one seems obvious, but it will really affect you and your playing. You want to have an instrument that will do what you need it to do. If the strings always break or go out of túne, or you have keys that are not aligned correctly, you will struggle more than if those problems weren’t there.
Yes, you make the instrument, it does not make you, but repair issues can significantly hinder your progress.
You can find decent instruments at a local music store or from a reputable dealer. Please avoid buying instruments are cheap. If you find an instrument that is hundreds of dollars cheaper than every other model, there’s probably a reason for the discrepancy.
If you have an instrument, be sure to take it to a repair person regularly. They know more about how to find and fix problems than you do. Having an instrument in good repair will do wonders for your musical career.
When you are learning how to play your instrument for the first time or you are learning a new piece, a metronome is necessary. You can set the tempo to as slow or as fast as you want (usually). A metronome will keep you on track when it comes to your speed.
If you plan to play with others, even just your teacher or a friend, tempo is crucial to the success of your performance. A piece will not sound good if you are not playing together in time.
A metronome will also keep you in time with yourself, and you can use it to slowly work a piece up to tempo. You can buy a physical metronome from your local music store or online, or you can download an app to your phone or tablet.
Most musicians will need a tuner. If you play piano, you will not need it every day, but it can be helpful to know when you need to call a piano tuner. If you play an instrument that you tune when you play it, a tuner is essential.
You can get a very basic tuning fork, which will sound the note “A,” which you can then match on your own instrument. The most complex tuner you can get allows you to tune to any note, and it will tell you how flat or sharp you are.
If you are playing with others, a tuner is super important. It is one thing to note play in time with another musician, and it is another thing to play in the same key as another person. As with metronomes, you can find them in music stores, online, and even bundled with metronomes.
As you progress as a musician, it is good to record yourself playing so that you can learn from your mistakes. When you listen to a recording of yourself, you can pick our small things that you ignored when you were playing the piece.
You don’t have to record everything, but doing so occasionally allows you to hear what others hear when you play your instrument. You don’t have to worry about editing out all of the problems, because this recording is for you. Eventually, you might want to share your recordings with others, but you don’t have to.
For now, you can get by with a simple audio recorder. You can buy them in stores, online, or use the app on your phone. I use and love an app called MusiciansKit, which comes with an audio recorder, tuner, and metronome in one.
Assuming that you still use printed sheet music, a pencil is uber important. You can use a pencil to mark in accidentals, tempo and key changes, and make note of other details. It is better to us a pencil than a pen, because the music is not always yours to keep. Even if it is, you might want to erase those marks in the future.
Also, if you make some changes after trying something out, you can erase the marks to reflect the changes. A pencil is just a lot cleaner than a pen, because you don’t have to scribble out mistakes or changes.
You should probably already own a pencil or two, but you can get a pencil or pencil set almost anywhere. Keep a pencil or two in your case so that you always have one when you need it.
When you start using individual sheets of music, you want a place to keep it all safe. This is where pocket folders come in. You can use a simple two pocket folder, or you could get a bit fancy and use one with multiple pockets.
Having multiple folders or a folder with multiple sections allows you to keep your music safe and organized. If you play with a few different groups, you don’t want to have to search through three ensembles worth of pieces to find the one you need.
I use a multi pocket folder for my music, and I have pockets for warm ups, current solos, past solos, future solos, and notes. When I had different ensembles, I had a folder for each group so that I didn’t mix up my music. In college, I would often have to turn in my folder after a concert, so having just that ensemble’s music in that folder kept me from forgetting anything.
You can buy folders at almost any place you can buy pencils. I got my multi pocket folder from Target, and it still works after using it for two years.
Unless you have a perfect memory, you will probably have to play with your music on occasion. In those cases, you need a music stand. You can get a cheap wire stand for about ten bucks, or you can spend more on a better quality stand.
Keep in mind that some of the heavier stands are not easy to transport. If you want to play in different places, you want a stand that you can take with you. At the same time, the really cheap wire stands can only hold so much weight before toppling over.
You can find a music stand at most music stores or online. Amazon has some great deals, and they carry a wide range of options. If you don’t know what to buy, ask for advice from a teacher who can point you in the right direction.
Now for some less important but still useful tools.
If you will be playing your instrument a lot, or you just don’t want to fuss with the case every time you play it, a stand is super helpful. As tempting as it might be to just leave your instrument on a table or chair or laying on the floor, it will be much safer on a stand.
Instrument stands are built to hold your instrument, so you will have much more peace of mind if you put your instrument on a stand that was built for it. These stands can cost money, but think about how much you will save by avoiding an otherwise unnecessary trip to the repair shop.
You can find instrument stands, as with other music supplies, in music stores and online. You can also ask local dealers of your instrument if they carry stands. Be prepared to invest no matter what stand you get, but it is an investment that is well worth it.
iPad or other Tablet
Now, this is most definitely an investment, but it is worth saving up for. You can use a tablet for many different things. For one, you can use it as a computer on the go. You can look up composer information, find directions to a gig, or even look up and order sheet music.
There are also some awesome websites such as IMSLP, where you can find tons of free sheet music for different instruments. These free pieces are great for daily sight reading practice or to learn in their entirety. You can also use your tablet to look up recordings of the music you are working on.
Tablets start at around a couple hundred dollars, so you should know what you want before you go out and buy one. But a tablet is a good investment if you will be playing music on the go or if you don’t have access to a printer.
A Private Teacher
This is less a supply and more of a resource. Private lessons will increase the speed of your progress tremendously, and you will learn more with a teacher than you would on your own. While lessons can be expensive, they can also be flexible.
You can choose the frequency and duration of your lessons, and even who you learn from. With the internet, you have access to thousands of good teachers from the comfort of your own home. Though if you are just starting, you should probably start with an in person teacher.
Lessons are an ongoing expense, and they can cost anywhere from $30-120+ per hour.
Those are some of my essentials for a successful musician. If I missed any of your favorite music supplies, comment below! I do plan on doing instrument specific needs in the future, so stay tuned for that!
Thanks for reading!