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Fine-tune your skills with a new musical instrument

Learn piano or guitar this semester with the help of student groups and local stores

As spring approaches, many people take on hobbies, like picking up a musical instrument. On top of the numerous studies exposing music’s many mental and physiological benefits, being able to play an instrument shows dedication, passion, a good work ethic and, most importantly, it’s sexy. Choosing your instrument can be daunting, but here are the benefits of some popular instruments, and where you can master them right here on campus:

Michael Contegni/Staff Photographer

1. Piano

The piano is the most popular instrument in the world because it’s the easiest to learn and is a gateway instrument. Once you learn piano, other more intricate instruments will come more naturally. The piano can deliver a delicate sonata or a thundering 12-bar blues, and is playable either solo or in a band. Though a real piano is preferable, keyboards are more practical for college. Good keyboards aren’t the most portable instrument in the world, though, and they can get pricey — a new, 88-key weighted keyboard goes for about $500. But for a beginner, something more simple would probably suffice. There are dozens of pianos in the Fine Arts Building practice rooms that are open for students. And if you need a teacher, the SA-chartered Piano Society teaches to beginners.

2. Guitar

The guitar is the classic college instrument because it’s portable and great for social settings. Whether acoustic or electric, a guitar player is essential to a rock band. However, beginners should think twice about springing for an electric over an acoustic, as electric guitars can cost from a few hundred to thousands of dollars for esteemed brands and models, not including amps. As for acoustic, pricing goes from around $50 to $200. To get started, check out Binghamton University’s Guitar Club.

3. Drums

The modern drum set is a great pick for anyone with a sense of rhythm, and bands are always in need of a good drummer. That being said, drums are a pain to lug around, and pricing can be a bit tricky since there is no “standard” set of drums. Usually, new starter kits that includes a bass drum, hi-hat, snare drum, tom drums and a crash cymbal will range from $300 to $700, depending on quality.

4. Saxophone

While brass instruments are great at getting you into college, some are unappealing. Tuba players aren’t exactly known for having a full social calendar. However, if you want to be romantically desirable, no instrument is more titillating than an alto or tenor sax. As far as pricing goes, saxophones range from $200 to $1,000 depending on the quality of the instrument. They transport well, though it’s mainly a jazz instrument. With some practice, it’s not a very hard instrument to learn.

5. Violin

The strange thing about the violin is, despite its relatively limited pitch, no other instrument conveys so much emotion. The funny thing is that the violin can somehow manage to squeeze itself into almost any musical genre it wants to. However, it’s important to know that the violin has a sinister reputation of being one of the hardest instruments to master. Most good beginner kits start at $200, but performance-worthy violins are usually at least five times more expensive. Though it may be hard at first, if you manage to become a competent soloist, you will always be the star of any show.

If you have some gaps in your schedule this semester, it’s worth picking up a new musical instrument. Some music stores have rental policies that let you get a feel for a new instrument with no obligation to buy. If you’d like to buy one, check out McNeil Music in Vestal or Guitar Center in Johnson City, or just keep an eye out for used instruments in local listings. It’s important to note that any instrument you try to learn will be frustrating at times, but keep practicing and you’ll be serenading the Peace Quad by the end of the semester.