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The First Time

Photo of Piper Kaplan, Pearl Harbor.

Piper Kaplan, Pearl Harbor.

Well, my sister plays guitar, and we kind of needed the other instruments to write songs, haha.

Photo of Sofia Talvik

Sofia Talvik

"I've been playing the piano since I was a child, but for my 18th birthday I got a guitar and started writing songs to learn how to play it."


I was always the performer. Dancing, singing and making a show of myself. Singing was just natural. I later became a songwriter and found my passion for communicating through music.

Photo of Frankie Rose, Frankie Rose and the Outs

Frankie Rose, Frankie Rose and the Outs

Well for a long time I didn't, I sort of landed on the drums , because there are very few drummers. I feel like being the drummer is a little like being the goalie if you play soccer. i'm much happier since ive been getting to play the guitar more.

Photo of Marianne Dissard

Marianne Dissard

I'm fairly new to singing.I had been writing lyrics for other singers for many years when a friend of mine, Joey Burns, from the band Calexico, asked if I wanted to do an album with him. I said, hell yeah! I had not sung before, but when someone like that asks you to do it, you have to go ahead and trust that he knows something about you that you yourself don't. I don't regret it.

Jen O'Connor, Sgt. Dunbar & the Hobo Banned, We are Jeneric

"Yes definitely. Just looking on most stages the ratios are way off. Out of eight musicians in Sgt. Dunbar & the Hobo Banned I am one of two girls. I remember before I joined the band I would often go to watch them play. I felt differently about the band because Donna was in it. Although we are all best friends now, I didn't know any of them back then. I don't know if I would have felt so fondly about the band if Donna weren't a member, and I don't know if I would have joined if she weren't in the band. I think often times bands appear to be boys' clubs, very exclusive -which isn't necessarily the case. Because Donna was in the band somehow it made it feel like it was okay for me to be there. There just don't seem to be as many female musicians in bands as there are men. Maybe there are, I just haven't seen it.

I remember last year after our South by Southwest Showcase a guy came up to me and was really praising the band. ""You guys are great. Those boys can play so many different instruments...but you girls really need to work harder."" I got totally bummed out, because in my case it was true -in the set we decided to perform I only played violin, percussion, and sang a few songs... all the while the guys were swapping guitars, banjos and basses for trombones, tubas, trumpets and accordions. All I could do was defend Donna who I knew had played trumpet, trombone, and french horn in the set. The guy continued to pick on me. I just wanted to say ""hey man, violin's not even my main instrument!"" but I just smiled. I didn't know what to say. I don't think he would have said that to any of the guys if they had stayed on a small number of instruments the whole set."
"I've always loved to sing, it helps me to express myself in ways I can't anywhere else.

I started playing the violin when the original bass player for Sgt. Dunbar moved to Syracuse. The guys asked my husband Eric if he wanted to play bass with them and asked if I wanted to join the band as well. I told them that everyone else already played every instrument I knew. They told me to learn a new one. It was the impetus I needed to really learn the violin, and so I did. I love it. I think it suits me. "

Photo of Lily Chapin, The Chapin Sisters

Lily Chapin, The Chapin Sisters

don't remember. thought it was cool? I played viola and piano as a kid, picked up guitar later when I started writing songs I guess.

Photo of Zoe Keating

Zoe Keating

a music teacher asked me when I was 8 if I would like to play the cello. I didn't know what a cello was, but I said yes. Been playing ever since

Photo of Zahira Gutierrez, Wild Moccasins

Zahira Gutierrez, Wild Moccasins

I've always loved to sing and perform , I've been singing since I can remember. I cant imagine doing anything else at this point, it has always come naturally.

Photo of Sue Lott, Luder

Sue Lott, Luder

"I am a multi-instrumentalist, since childhood, but bass has been the way I fit into a rock group. I have a great deal of control over what I want to accomplish that way, and in my vocals, I can push a song even further. People are not singing to music that sounds like ours in the way that I sing."

Photo of Sandra Velasquez, Pistolera

Sandra Velasquez, Pistolera

I was forced to play the piano at age 5 and begged to take guitar lessons. My dad bought me my first electric guitar at 13. It was right handed. I strung it upside down and haven't turned back since.


because no one ever played the stuff i wanted... also i think girls should start learning to take over the instruments! (not just the mics)

Photo of Reyna Kay, Blessure Grave

Reyna Kay, Blessure Grave

"I chose to play the synth because I like how it sounds and it is also something that I was to pick up fairly quickly. Slowly as my confidence grew my vocal abilities grew as well. I'm still learning guitar, I have little fingers and have to practice a lot but I like guitar because I think it could be helpful in performing other songs live that require an additional guitar."

Photo of Blair Gimma, Blair

Blair Gimma, Blair

"I began playing the guitar because I looked up to guitar players like Neil Young."

Photo of Julie Feeney

Julie Feeney

Never thought about it it just happened naturally.

Madame Scorpio, Scorpio Rising

It was destiny to be a front woman.

Photo of Beth Tacular, Bowerbirds

Beth Tacular, Bowerbirds

I picked up an accordion belonging to a member of my boyfriend's band, while they were out on tour and had left some instruments in my apartment. I just started fooling around on it and was blown away by how beautiful it sounded, and how right it felt in my arms. I had always dated guys in bands, probably because I just love music so much, but sort of felt like I had missed my chance to be in a band. I was 29 years old, so I thought it was late to start playing guitar or something. But then the accordion wasn't as overdone in bands, so I figured I could just decide how I wanted to play it, and that there wouldn't be as much of an expected level to achieve before starting to play live. There aren't many accordion players around here who could tell how bad I sucked at first.

Amy Rude and Heartbeast

I feel very strongly about my skills as a guitarist. I never wanted to be the "girl with the tambourine." Some women are great at that and actually I admire that. But since I was young I always wanted to be someone who could dance with their guitar, use it as a tool for performance and really let it sing with me. I admired females musicians like Nancy Wilson (from Heart) as a kid--I think because a woman with guitar conjured up such an image of strength for me back then. When I was in high school I became more influenced by the leading and improvisational styles in bluegrass music and country and that's what ultimately drove me to learn guitar. Now I also teach guitar to girls.

Photo of Laura Ballance, Superchunk

Laura Ballance, Superchunk

this guy I was dating needed a bass player!

Photo of Carolyn Wonderland

Carolyn Wonderland

Perhaps they choose us? I cannot help myself when I am near an instrument, I feel compelled to make it sing.

Photo of Martha Johnson, Martha and the Muffins

Martha Johnson, Martha and the Muffins

"Vocals are what I mostly do and it chose me back in the punk/New Wave era. I started playing very simple Acetone organ parts like 'Telstar' and gradually moved up to the mic where I have stayed all these years.

In high school I got tired of watching my boyfriend playing in bands so I joined in. I was the only girl involved in a band that I knew of in my circle. Most girls wanted to be like Joni Mitchell. I liked Roxy Music and Motown."

Photo of Olivia Broadfield

Olivia Broadfield

I think the audience and the public requires different things from a male and female musician. If you're in a band and you're a woman and you're not the vocalist, you have to make a real point of being amazing and standing out. Guys can be in bands and just blend in and be part of the background. Something like a female drummer makes such a statement, I guess because it's a rarity. It's kind of a stereotype but a true one that women have to be sexier too. Male musicians can be fat and hairy and no one cares, if I was fat and hairy, I don't think people would like it so much!
When I was growing up, my parents kind of imposed piano lessons on us from an early age and I am so pleased they did, sitting at the piano calms me down and inspires me. I never get bored of sitting writing at a piano.

Photo of Madi Diaz

Madi Diaz

i can carry it with me wherever i go!

Sara Bell, Regina Hexaphone, Shark Quest

My mom played the piano and so it was the first instrument I learned to play. She became interested in learning tenor banjo when I was about five years old, so I started to pluck around on that when I was a teenager and listening to a lot of Irish music, and I loved old-time American music and got a 5-string banjo and a mandolin when I was about 18. I wanted to learn to play guitar when I was 11 or 12, so my mom's boyfriend helped me pick out the Takamine that I still play at a pawn shop.

Photo of Kristin Diable

Kristin Diable

I had a guitar already and it seemed the most obvious for songwriting.

Photo of Amelia Meath, Mountain Man

Amelia Meath, Mountain Man

I was born with it, and it is what I understand the most.

Photo of Christina Marrs, Asylum Street Spankers

Christina Marrs, Asylum Street Spankers

"When the Asylum Street Spankers first formed, I didn't play any instruments. I picked up ukulele and guitar at about the same time, as I needed a way to teach our songs to a revolving door cast of substitute bass players and guitarists. As the Spankers were a side project for many of our members in those early years, we constantly had members bailing on our shows for more lucrative ones, and for some reason it fell to me, the person with the least musical skills, to find substitutes and teach them our repertoire. The guitar gave me a means to at least strum chords so that I could show the chord progressions, stops, tempo changes, etc. to new or temporary members. The ukulele was something no one else in the band played at the time; a difficult feat considering our earlier inceptions were sometimes 10 or 11 members strong. I picked up the tenor banjo and tenor guitar later to add to the rotation of rhythm instruments I could play. While I used the guitar to write songs and as a means to teach our songs to others, I didn't start playing it in the band until about halfway through our history; now I play guitar more than any other instrument. I picked up the saw about 4 years into our history. We'd had a couple of guitar players who had picked it up and played it occasionally, but they both quit the band about the same time. I spent about a year really missing it on certain tunes, until I took a stab at it and realized it was something I was actually good at. "

Photo of Jackie Bristow

Jackie Bristow

I first learnt guitar at school when I was only 8 years old, then got into piano but once i left home and only had my guitar to travel with, guitar became my main instrument.

Maya Miller Band

we started off in another band with friends and we needed a drummer and so I said I'd learn how.

Photo of Ruth Merenda, Mike & Ruthy

Ruth Merenda, Mike & Ruthy

"My Dad plays the fiddle. His name is Jay Ungar and most people know his tune, ""Ashokan Farewell,"" from the PBS Civil War series by Ken Burns. I grew up at square dances on the weekends and folk festivals in the summer, so the traditional roots music scene is where I sprouted. Our 2-year old son is now starting to play the little fiddle that I started playing at 4. I say I've only been playing for 12 years professionally, but before that I was a kid with a fiddle who loved to sing. My mom, folk-singer, Lyn Hardy, is now a skilled luthier and lives nearby. We still sing together whenever we can. You might say that I didn't have much of a choice about playing the fiddle and making songs.

I chose to be an actress in college and for a couple of years after that in NYC, but I came away from the city with a renewed love for music instead, and a lifelong musical collaborator too!"

Kate Levitt, Teeth Mountain and the Dan Deacon Ensemble

Honestly, I guess I started to play the drums becuase I had a ton of energy when I was a kid (still do) and felt like it would be a good way for me to use that energy. Then I realized I never wanted to stop. I also have always been really in to listening to music, since I was a little kid and hence playing music seemed like a natural choice.

Photo of Liz Burke

Liz Burke

At the time a friend needed a bass player so I gave it a shot.

Photo of Pilley Bianchi

Pilley Bianchi

Always loved the piano and knew it was what I wanted to do, since I was 4.

Jone Stebbins, Imperial Teen

Well as a pre teen in the late 70's early 80's I was really into Saturday Night Live. At that time it was one of the only places to see current happening music being performed plus it was just so funny and cool...anyway I clearly remember seeing the Talking Heads on SNL and saw Tina Weymouth playing a guitar ( I thought it was guitar at the time) I had NEVER seen a girl playing an instrument in a rock band before!! My best friend and I decided then and there to do it too. We formed our all girl band The Wrecks soon after recruiting some girls from school one of whom was Lynn Perko who amazingly I AM STILL IN A BAND WITH 21 YEARS LATER. Weird. I played guitar back then but play bass in Imperial Teen now, mostly. We do trade instruments around...

Kelly Crisp, The Rosebuds

Instead of a honeymoon, my husband and I started this band just for fun the week we got married. We were just hanging out at the house and he started playing the guitar so I grabbed a keyboard, which was the first instrument I had on hand.

Mel Watson

"I love making music, and so I try to play the sounds I hear. Trumpet was my first instrument, I loved the dynamic range of the instrument. I used to love playing loud, now I am appreciating the softer qualities of the horn. :)"

Kristina Esfandiari aka Mountshout

my parents got me a guitar for my 16th birthday. took me years to actually pick up the thing and play it. maybe i was a little bit compelled towards guitar? i love instruments in general.

Photo of Pamela Rose, Wild Women of Song

Pamela Rose, Wild Women of Song

Funny thing - I was always pretty shy; folks that grew up with me are usually pretty surprised when they see me perform as a lead singer. I was always writing and arranging songs, and trying to give them to bands, but when I would sing the song down, I'd be asked to join that band as a singer. So....eventually I just accepted it's a big part of my alter ego.

Submitted Anonymously

I don't believe you choose the instruments you play; they choose you. That said, I do favor lighter instruments and acoustic instruments, especially when touring abroad since lugging amps gets pretty grueling and limits you in terms of travel and being able to do shows that require minimum set-up.

Photo of Elizabeth Cook

Elizabeth Cook

my mother played

Sara Hickman

"The guitar became my best friend at age seven. I could mimic what I heard on the radio, and I started with a strict jazz instructor who taught me voicings, tablature and to think in a broad, musical spectrum. I credit him with teaching me picking variations.

I've traveled the world with my guitar(s), and they help me through good times and bad. I always turn to my guitar to express myself. We're pretty married, I'd say :)"

Photo of Hatii Rose De Leon, Dazzle Ships

Hatii Rose De Leon, Dazzle Ships

In all honesty I didn't really choose, it was kind of my only option since bass was the only electric instrument I had, not to meantion that I was already familiar with the instrument from playing the cello. After I got more comfortable with my role in the band though the instruments I played become more broad and I'm glad I get to express myself with the guitar and keyboard. I have to say though, that singing has been my favorite part. I feel like people get a more personal view of me, they hear me, and not my fingers on an instrument. I feel more vulnerable with singing but it also gives me more of a rush. I'm truly addicted to performing live.

Photo of Angie Hart, Frente

Angie Hart, Frente

It was a great way to express myself and I soon found it was something I was good at.

Shannon Stephens

I started out playing piano as a kid, and I complained a lot about it. So my Dad promised me that if I persevered for a few more months with the piano, he would buy me a guitar. He did buy me a student-sized guitar, and it just seemed the perfect thing to accompany my songs. It was portable, all-purpose, and lovely on its own. No wonder so many people play it.

Tanya Horo, Sherlocks Daughter

It seemed the easiest instrument to play whilst traveling, my dad also played guitar and when i moved away from home and overseas, i missed my family and that instrument made me feel close to home.

Photo of Meklit Hadero

Meklit Hadero

"i'm afraid this is not a very romantic answer. i chose the guitar because i wanted to play something quickly.... i wanted a language that i could learn right away. and i was right! i wrote my first song on the guitar only a month after my very first group class. those first few months i played three hours a day, every day. immersion.

and i also grew to love the physicality of the guitar. the sensation of cradling an object made of wood. that came from a tree. but was now pressed against my body, resonating tones. i loved the sensation of fine motor control.... moving my fingers just slightly to make huge shifts in sound. the way that fingering shapes repeat along the neck of the instrument. and how the instrument gets used to you, after a while.

my first guitar was an old gibson from the early 60s. a friend of mine sold it to me for $300. he bought it in a music store in the middle of nowhere america on a road trip. her name was little sister.

i'm learning the kerar because of a recent trip i took to ethiopia. i was there this past december with a group of ethiopian diaspora artists of many disciplines called the arba minch collective. we traveled through the south of the country, learning about the incredible diveristy of cultures there. it is an enormously culturally rich land, you know. while in the south, we saw a master kerar player, playing by fireside in the mountaintop village of dorzey. i was nearly in tears from how beautiful it was.

and in ethiopia, there is also strong tradition of great women players. women who were poets as well as accomplished musicians. women like mary armedey and asenakesh worku.

and these women are not your typical conservative ladies. they are rule changers, and i like that. i aspire to that. "

Photo of Jessica Martins, Via Audio

Jessica Martins, Via Audio

I've been singing as far back as I can remember - it's the most natural instrument to man, ever. I guess I always tinkered around on keyboards, and in 4th grade started in the school band playing flute and piccolo, but quickly got antsy and moved to oboe, bassoon, glockenspiel, and by the time I got to middle school was deeply immersed in guitar. I have a pretty good collection of instruments by now, including accordian, autoharp, and a drumset, just to name a few, and plan to continue adding to my collection. I guess I never really chose any of the instruments, they kind of presented themselves to me at different points in my life, and I've never been able to resist at least trying to make any and all instruments make a pleasant sound. Just about anything you can touch can be an instrument in some way, I suppose.

Miranda Lee Richards

To express subtext and mystery, and deep emotions associated with life's experience.

Stephanie Winters

Gardiners Avenue Elementary School orchestra needed cellists and I was tall for my age (still am) so the cello was a fit - 39 years later and the cello is still the center of my life.

Rachel Ratner, Partman Parthorse and Butts

"Partman Parthorse: I'd never played bass before and thought it'd be fun Butts: I never sang before and wanted to try. I've played guitar since I was 15"

Photo of Lou Hickey, Codeine Velvet Club

Lou Hickey, Codeine Velvet Club

"I have been singing as long as I can remember. I started learning piano when I was 6. We had a piano in my house, and my sister used to go for lessons, and listening to her made me want to play.

At primary I learned the clarinet, and in high school I took up the cornet and trombone. At University I moved my focus to vocals. "

Carrie Clark

If a none to bright dude in a rock band could play guitar, certainly a smart girl could.

Betty Rupp North Elementary

I like em all!

Photo of Lisa Shelley, Let's Pet

Lisa Shelley, Let's Pet

I love the drums because it is fully interactive and loud. I aspire to make the drums an instrument that can carry a song and become a song within its own right rather than being a simple metronome.

Photo of Kera Washington, Zili Misik

Kera Washington, Zili Misik

I didn't begin playing percussion until college. I met a Professor from Haiti who taught me about the importance of Haiti, particularly to this region of the world. He also introduced me to the world of ethnomusicology (which was not yet taught at Wellesley College) in an independent study. During that course he explained to me the importance of playing music -- in order to truly understand it, so it was a natural next step that we begin playing -- I invited some of my friends to meet with us and that course became the drum and dance troupe that I now direct at Wellesley. I began to travel to study with master musicians (Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde) and to seek them out more intentionally here in the U.S.

Tania, Via Tania

"My older sister and I used to jam when we were kids and naturally I followed her around mimicking her, thank goodness she discovered the Ramones . When I joined a band with her at 16 we needed a bass player so I switched to bass for a good 7 years but continued to write on guitar. A few years ago I moved to Chicago without barely anything and I wanted to write really simply so i got a barritone ukulele it was a test to keep it simple and see if they songs could almost play themselves."

Photo of Meaghan Smith

Meaghan Smith

My dad bought me a guitar when I was in the 8th grade. I had expressed an interest in learning after falling head over heels in love with the music of Sarah Mclachlan.So I learned to play and have been doing so ever since. I didn't become a musician till very recently. I used to be an animator, so I took my time getting to this point. I am now managed by Sarah's manager and consider her to be a good friend.

Terra Lopez, Sister Crayon

I've always sang. I used to be really shy when I was younger and would never sing in front of anyone, but when I was alone in my bedroom-man. I would jump on my bed and grab a hairbrush (you know, the classic tale) and sing and scream and dance to Elvis, Diana Ross & The Supremes, and 50's music. It was always 50's music. I would charm my stuffed animals that I would have lined up in my room. I lived a completely different life in my bedroom. I was about 5 when I first started this. Gradually, I couldn't prevent from singing. I started a band in high school and played a lot in the area. And I've been in different bands ever since...all sounded drastically different from one another. I finally feel complete in Sister Crayon.

Shonna Tucker, The Drive-By Truckers

The feel of the bass has always caught my attention. When I was a kid learning how to make chords on the guitar, I would always throw the pick down and play bass lines. (Mostly playing along with Creedence Clearwater Revival cassettes) I don't even think it was the bass line itself that grabbed my attention, just the way it made me feel. Luckily, my Daddy recognized this and got me a bass for my 12th birthday.

Carol Lester, Carol Lester & The World Women

The guitar can be played in a highly emotive way. It's a great portable, light weight instrument that can be strummed, picked, banged and electronically enhanced for many different sounds. i like to vary the dynamics within a show so that the listener is not bored with too much of the same. Singer songwriters need to be sure they stay strong on their instrument or the listener will start to only hear the similarities in their pieces.

Kelley Mickwee, The Trishas

Well, I was initially interested in the banjo. I was in a duo at the time and wanted to learn an instrument that would accompany a guitar. I saw Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines play a show at a festival in Texas one summer and they were a duo, where she played mandolin on a few songs. After their show, I went up to Lloyd (whom I greatly looked up to) and mentioned I was interested in playing the Banjo. I asked him if he had any tips or pointers on which banjo to buy, etc. He said to me " You shouldn't learn the banjo, you should play the mandolin." "It will fit better with what you are doing, and plus...it's much easier to learn!". So, I took his advice and went out the next week and bought a Weber mandolin. Im still learning how to play the thing!

Jill King

"I didn't get into the piano lessons as a child, but loved guitar. I learned quickly how to play songs by ear, which made it more fun for me.

Portability is another big plus."

Photo of Amie Maciszewski, Amie & Sangeet Millennium

Amie Maciszewski, Amie & Sangeet Millennium

It cast a spell over me!

Jill Barber

Because my brother played guitar, and I picked his up.


I have been singing almost all my life, and I wanted to play an instrument so I could accompany myself when singing (my own) songs. I loved the sound and the look of the guitar. Besides that I was (and still am actually) really interested in Spanish classical music when I was younger. My mother introduced me to that kind kind of music, as she plays acoustic guitar as well. So I started playing Spanish guitar when I was 8 years old. Then at the age of 13/14 I also wanted to make pop/rock music, so I bought an electric guitar and started in my first band.

Meredith Sheldon, Family of the Year

My uncle is a great guitar player/songwriter and started teaching me when I was a kid, so I guess the desire stemmed from watching him, and of course, the early obsession with Jimi Hendrix..

Photo of Hannah Lew, Grass Widow

Hannah Lew, Grass Widow

Well In my first band-The Insides -I was the only girl. I didn't play any instruments, besides Moog on some songs. I mostly just sang and jumped around a lot. I really didn't feel very empowered to play any instruments. Then years later I moved back to SF from the east coast and met up with Frankie Rose. She and I were in a similar place of jadedness and depression and decided to start a band,although neither one of us could play any instruments. We convinced our friend Wu, who knew how to play guitar- to jam with us. We really had no pre-conceived notions. The three of us got together and I decided, pretty arbitrarily, to play the bass. It just kind of stuck.

Photo of Amber Rubarth, The Paper Raincoat

Amber Rubarth, The Paper Raincoat

"I chose to play guitar because the piano was too heavy for open mics. I traded my acoustic in for a hollow body electric Washburn through a Fender amp because I wanted the guitar to crunch and was inspired by Adam Levy's playing.

I play piano because my favorite thing in life is watching the hammers hit the strings.

I play glockenspiel and vibratone and melodica because they make the sounds that are in my head for those songs.

And I play drums because drums are rad."

Photo of Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

For it's simplicity. I like being able to sing complicated melodies and lyrics and rhythms over the strums. Makes it more interesting to me... a lot more room for harmonies when recording and performing live...

Photo of Stephanie Luke, The Coathangers

Stephanie Luke, The Coathangers

for fun!


I mainly sing, it's the closest connection possible to yourself, and I produce because I want to be free to sing as much as I want :-))

Mia Doi Todd

My mother had an old Martin nylon guitar that she bought new in the 60's, which I loved. I found a similar one and put a pickup in it. It is a very gentle, feminine guitar.

Sharon Jones, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

been signing since church

Barbara Kooyman, Barbara K & Sparrows Wheel

The guitar called to me when I was 9 years old.

Margaret Ayre, Fern Knight

I came from playing the electric and upright bass to cello and guitar because of the versatility and songwriting ease they bring; plus, they're smaller.

Jen Olive

well guitar is my primary instrument... and it just feels right

Utah Green

My father gifted me his guitar when I graduated high school, and it perfectly fit my soul. Later I decided to accompany my songs with harmonica, and learn the banjo, for the round moon feeling on my belly suited me so.

Photo of Ginger Brooks Takahashi, MEN

Ginger Brooks Takahashi, MEN

"The work that the wimmin's movement and feminism have accomplished have propelled us through to the radical activist work of riot grrrl. Now some younger women can dream and be. We love intergenerational collaboration!"
I first started off on violin, moved to bass guitar to express myself and write songs, and then onto guitar, inspired by more strings and possibilities of tone and texture.

Camila Grey, Uh Huh Her/Adam Lambert

I saw Amadeus at age 6 and decided playing piano was what I wanted to do. I was fascinated that he could play backwards, and so I made it my goal to play backwards like him. I ended up becoming so passionate about piano that my parents never had to force me to play, I just wanted to. Years later I went to Berklee college of music to study full-time and have never really looked back since.

Photo of Alanna Meltzer, Jews and Catholics

Alanna Meltzer, Jews and Catholics

When I was like 11 years old, in elementary school in Idaho, this group of local musicians came to an assembly at my school to teach us all about string instruments. So they demonstrated each one and I was just like yeah, yeah, whatever, and then this guy, (who I wound up later playing in symphonies with), lifts up this big bass, and plays the low E string and it reverberated through the whole room and I loved it immediately! I asked for one right away. The school district, however, did not have an extra at that moment, so I played cello for a year or so until they could get me a bass. And the rest is history.

Photo of Mo Perce, Lick Lick

Mo Perce, Lick Lick

Because my band mates were willing to back me up.

Janiva Magness

It chose me, I did not choose it... ; ) and its the one thing that came the most naturally to me. Singing speaks to the place where there are no words, and I need that speaking.

Petra Mases, Francis

From the beggining it was just the very best thing I knew in the whole world. To sing and to play music. And as I evolved the meaning for me become even bigger. Its something that I need to do, and I dont have no chioce.

Photo of Cariad Harmon

Cariad Harmon

I chose it more or less accidentally when I was about 16 because it was easy to carry around and I could sing at the same time as play. It was easy to put a song together with a little bit of knowledge and there were guitars in my house when I was growing up (the guitar I still use is one I stole from my brother as a matter of fact). The artists that I gravitated at first were also guitarists, Dylan, Mitchell, Van Morrison. Later, when I got into listening to vocalists like Nina Simone who also played piano my instrument choice was made. I dabble in other instruments but the guitar definitely came first.


"I love the idea that I can controle everything. Having a Labtop give you the possibility to be the conductor of every instrument/sound in the world. You can shape the sound into your own and even invent new sounds. My Labtop as an instrument give me the chance to play with the sound around us, by recording them and the manipulate them in the programs."

Jennie Arnau

Always loved the acoustic guitar--- was a fan of country when I was a kid

Photo of Sarah Tracey

Sarah Tracey

My primary instrument being vocals--- I really give all the credit to Judy Garland. My earliest memories of singing and the magic that the human voice can create were from watching The Wizard Of Oz as a very young girl. I would sing along to 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' over and over and over... I think of my voice honestly as a gift that I didn't necessarily choose; but Judy was probably what opened me up to using that voice for my own artistic expression.

Dawn Landes

A guitar is the easiest thing to carry around to gigs. If I could I'd bring my whole studio to the stage, the 1,000 pound organ and the delicate Optigan! I just don't have the resources to do something like that...yet, anyway.


It feels good to tell stories, and singing is also a natural outlet for release.

Emily Neveu, Calico Horse, also solo artist

I started playing piano when I was 6 years old. I learned to read and write music which then helped me to learn other instruments. I moved down to San Diego in late 2001 to go to college. The typical thing to do in the dorms is to learn the guitar and play it on a blanket in the courtyard of your dorm building, so naturally, I did that. I had never sung in front of people until college, so I'm cool with living out that stereotype.

Jenny Conlee-Drizos, The Decemberists, Black Prairie

I grew up playing classical piano music. I have always loved rock music and slowly learned to play electric piano and organ. I started to play accordion about 15 years ago to play more folk music and play acoustic gigs.

Jennifer Knapp

Initially, it was a rather innocent attempt to learn a stringed instrument. But later it evolved into a physical experience, the resonating wood, the shape, the freedom that guitar gives me to have instant access to a song, wherever I find myself. With a band, without a band, at home alone...My guitar is the wellspring of my musical joy.

Evie Ladin, Evie Ladin Band/Stairwell SIsters

I started lessons when I was a kid and it stuck. I came back to it as an adult, added guitar, and have always been dancing - so I bring the percussive elements into the music. I grew up in a social scene where music & dance is a part of social communication, and this has remained important to me.

Photo of Laura Burhenn, The Mynabirds

Laura Burhenn, The Mynabirds

My mom is the daughter of a Methodist minister. She grew up playing piano in her dad's church -- hymns, spirituals and the like. We had a piano in our house when I was growing up and I started taking lessons from a friend's mom who also helped clean our house. I've tried my hand at guitar and violin over the years, but i like the linear design of the piano (all that math), and the percussive element, too -- all those hammers striking strings. My first job ever was reconditioning old pianos. I still haven't learned how to tune my own. I'll leave that up to the professionals.

Shilpa Ray, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers

By default. I was forced to sing and play the harmonium as a child.

Elisa Randazzo

Because it was small and because is was romantic!

Kelley Darlin, Those Darlins

Yes, I think mostly when you are a pre-teen or teen and gender differences are becoming so much more apparent and important in your social circles that being a girl who plays music can be awkward and even discouraged by your peers. Mostly I think it's because more boys play and that it has a lot to do with sheer numbers and the awkwardness of gender interactions as a teen in general. In the professional world though, I think people are very open-minded and receptive to women musicians, especially as artists. I worked in live sound and production before doing Those Darlins full time and that world is still very hierarchial and non-receptive to women, I think mostly because of the physical labor involved and a general macho roadie mentality. Because the gender discrimination happens so early, I think it's important for girls to be encouraged at a young age to pursue music. I think all of the girls rock camps are making huge progress in this area. In fact, I helped start the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp and all three Darlins volunteer at it each summer.
I originally wanted to play drums but my parents said noway because they're so loud, so I asked for a guitar instead. I was 12 and got a small folk guitar for Christmas. Once I started learning around the age of 14 I knew I wanted an electric and wanted to be louder so I got a summer job and bought my first electric guitar, a Fender Squire, then started my first band with some older guy friends around that time.

Kim Shattuck, The Muffs

I love the guitar and that is why I play it.

Arum Rae, White Dress

I play guitar to accompany myself and it's the instrument i use to write music with

Photo of Edie Carey

Edie Carey

I had always been a singer in a cappella groups, high school bands, etc, but I never played an instrument. I studied classical voice from when I was 9 until I was 19. When I quit, I went out a lweeke later and bought an acoustic. I wanted to be able to make music even when there was noone there to play for me. I loved the sound of guitar - and I loved that it would grant me the autonomy that I was craving. Plus, it was a heck of a lot more portable than a piano.

The Whispering Tree

"Singing was not really a choice so much as something I have always loved to do. Singing is the most intimate and direct way for me to communicate. I feel like while performing a song there are things being communicated on two different levels; one has to do with the words and imagery of the song and the other is completely ineffable and more of a communion with the audience and not beholden to the 'subject' of which I'm singing. I started playing keyboard and guitar in order to help my songwriting. Piano is such a rich and rewarding instrument. Its also such a friendly and inclusive instrument and even without great technical knowledge can be very effective."

Stephanie Nilles

The piano was in my house when I was a little girl. My mother played until high school, and her parents had this upright they wanted to get rid of, so we inherited it. Apparently I had sounded out most of the parts to the Nutcracker and would play and sing them simultaneously by ear before I learned to talk. But I think I talked pretty late, so my parents were worried... They didn't sign me up for piano lessons until I was 6. I started playing cello when I was 10, because a Suzuki teacher moved in down the street and I was fascinated by the shape and sound of it. I started guitar at 18 and then started writing on it primarily at 22 because the piano isn't portable, I couldn't afford a keyboard at the time, and none of the clubs I played at in NYC had pianos. There is also something to be said about the romance of setting up shop when you are on the road with a guitar in tow and playing/writing. I didn't start officially singing or writing until 22/23, and the singing was just a ploy to enable me to explicitly write politics into my music. It wasn't until very recently I started thinking of my voice as its own solitary instrument.

Catie Curtis

"Most men say they learned to play guitar to attract the opposite sex. I personally learned to play in order to avoid the opposite sex. Early on, men like to show what they can do, whereas women want to show who they are. Women always have to prove themselves. The first time I realized it was going in to a music store to buy a wah wah pedal. The sales guy asked if it was for my boyfriend. "
I was given a guitar as a teenager, by a woman artist/neighbor who said "you can have this as long as you promise me you learn to play it." I have since started an online endowment called Inspire to Aspire (link to photo in Billboard: http://www.catiecurtis.com/index.php?page=press&display=1817&from=) to give guitars away to kids.

Photo of Anni Rossi

Anni Rossi

My mom got some wrong info when she signed me up for a community ed class when I was 3. We showed up expecting a group music class for toddlers, but when we showed up it turned out I was signed up for private violin lessons. We just rolled with it. Violin lessons eventually turned into piano lessons and I ended up with a viola for chamber music in high school. i started writing songs when i was 10 and have been focusing on my own songs and solo stuff for about 6 years.

Ashlyne Huff

I chose to sing because I write and I love to sing my own words.

Nikki Darlin

I was turned on the baritone ukulele by a friend of mine when I was living in Olympia ,WA. I moved shorty after that back to my hometown. My Dad had one laying around his shop and gave it to me (which is still the one I play now). I started playing bass because we switch off instruments so much from song to song in our band. I enjoy playing bass a lot. Although I am so new to it and is a such a contrast to the uke.

Luxor, Bam Bam

I saw my older sister played the bass in a band so i just took it by curiosity... then started playing my favorite bands songs, got bored of other peoples songs... then I made my own, when you know how to play an instrument, the next instrument you try to play comes easier, then the other one too, so i would say i can play any instrument, I didnt took any classes but if I see a guitar im not gonna chicken out becouse i dont really know how the chords are called or anything... im not a super musician but Im not affraid to play anything and i can get stuff out of it that sounds good even tho i dont literally KNOW how to play it. I hate people that hates musicians that play simple stuff, like you need to be a virtuous player to sound cool. duuh no, I punk

Photo of Jonatha Brooke

Jonatha Brooke

I was infatuated with my camp counselor Mindy Jostyn when I was ten, - she played and sang so beautifully. So I begged my dad for a guitar until i got one for christmas when I was 13.

Olivia Fetherstonhaugh, Fanshaw

I used to play classical piano but I didn't write any music until I picked up a guitar. I had no idea how to play it, and didn't really bother with tabs so I became really inspired by the learning curve. The guitar was just sort of ..there. I don't know why I picked it up, I just became obsessed with it out of the blue.

Jessi Darlin, Those Darlins

It's kind of a recquirement in my family to play an instrument, and since my grand father taught guitar lessons I decided to try it out.

Kate McGarry

just how it went down

Simone White

I started writing songs vocally, was always trying to find musicians to help me play them. picked up the guitar so I could do it myself.

Grace Parker, The Blue Hit

I have always sung, but I have not always been "a singer," if that makes sense. Growing up I was pretty insecure about it - about everything really. I knew I had an extraordinary gift, but I could never visualize myself singing for people. I guess you could say I was afraid of doing well, thus drawing attention to myself. After twenty or so years of closely studying music, I came out of my shell and took command of my voice. I started writing and singing because it was so therapeutic for me - something I had to do to maintain my physical and mental health.

Rebecca Schlappich, Kiss Kiss

"   You would think that my parents had predestined me to be a violinist, considering how young I started playing the instrument. On the contrary, it was my little 3-year-old, hair-brained idea to pick up a violin. I was watching television when a PBS program featured violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman. I promptly informed my parents: ""I wanna do that too!"". My mother found Pat Chandler, a Suzuki violin teacher who lived within walking distance of my house, and I started violin at 4 years old.  Incidentally, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Perlman a year later, backstage after a performance. I don't remember what he played, but I do remember informing him that I was also a violinist and that someday I was going to be just as good as him. I was a precocious child. My mother almost died.   I studied the Suzuki Method with Mrs. Chandler and with Linda Fiore, who is one of the premiere Suzuki instructors in the country, and had the opportunity to tour Austria, Germany, and Bermuda with Mrs. Fiore's performance group, The Dacore Performing Strings.  My final teacher before college was Lee Snyder, and I consider my education with him the most formative years of my musical life, as a classical violinist anyway. 

I went to Manhattan School of Music, and although my degree program was a classical performance degree, these were the years that I started exploring and finding my niche in the worlds of jazz, experimental, rock and pop music.  I joined my first band during my senior year, joined Kiss Kiss a few months later, and while my roots will always be in classical music, my heart has been stolen by my band and the music we create."

Olivia Merilahti, The Do

"Because no one could play as clumsily as me! I started playing classical guitar when I was 12, but i never thought i could play and sing at the same time. I liked to focus on one or the other. When we started rehearsing as The Do, we looked for guitarists, but they were all trying too hard, they were too skilful... And we were in such a hurry, we had a gig in like two weeks, that i just had to pick the guitar and handle the problem. It wasnt easy, but i made it, and i even enjoyed it. Then I play the keys for fun, to change a little, but it's more Dan's instrument."

Krista Loewen, You Say Party! We Say Die!

I've always felt like older, analog gear is much more authentic sounding for the type of music we play. I am not interested in having a laptop on stage (not to discredit anyone who does, because for some kinds of music it makes sense). I also prefer to not have too many things going on at once, so that I'm not totally distracted with the technical aspect of performing and can fully engage with the crowd and my bandmates and enjoy the music we're making.

Jessica Larrabee, She Keeps Bees

i wanted to sing live...i didn't think back in 1994 i could play drums and sing... i thought only phil collins could pull that shit off. i was wrong. i felt like i sold out learning guitar - i liked being a girl who played drums. i almost felt like picking up a guitar would lead me to folk songs... a typical thing girl musicians were doing. i stayed with electric to set myself apart. i found bands in college.. all boys - i was always the only girl in our indie rock scene. then i left those bands to start a solo thing in NY... almost folk/country still with electric guitar. it wasn't until i found my now drummer that i allowed myself to just BE - stopped "trying" and let a natural process of songwriting happen.. leading to more aggressive/rock.

Chandra Watson, The Watson Twins

My mom played guitar so there was always one in the house and it seemed like a good tool for writing.

Mary Pearson, High Places

"I began playing bassoon at age 11 because I loved the role of Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. I was also quite small at the time, and I was attracted to the idea of playing a large, low-pitched instrument. I considered the tuba, but I liked the melodic voice of the bassoon. It sounded to me like if a cello were a wind instrument. I recently started teaching myself to play guitar because it is such an important instrument in rock music. I was tired of only singing when my band performed live. As a wind player, I've always been a bit intimidated by string instruments, but I'm getting over that fear the more I play my guitar."

Photo of Becka Pimenta

Becka Pimenta

"I chose piano because my older brother started taking lessons when we were kids and it sounded so beautiful I wanted to also. Then I fell in love with the intimate sound of an acoustic guitar and decided to pick that up and began playing it. I have always sung since I was 18 months old, so it wasn't really a choice!"

Jen Gloeckner

It depends on the crowd you are targeting. Young teenage boys are more likely to listen to electric guitar driven indie bands. My music seems to attract more of an older crowd, which is probably not the biggest music buying crowd. But I think they relate more to my music.

Photo of Carolyn Cunningham, Woven Bones

Carolyn Cunningham, Woven Bones

"When I was in 5th grade, the middle school band director came over and had the aspiring band students try out several different kinds of mouthpieces and instruments. When I told him that I played piano already, he had me pick up the drumsticks and tap out some rhythms. That was the start of me playing drums.

I have stayed with it because it is really fun and I see playing drums as making a big contribution to whatever group I’m playing with. "

Rebecca Lucille Cannon, The Texas Sapphires

I have been performing in front of an imaginary audience since I was real little. I love making people smile, laugh, cry, dance. I want to move people, and I can do this with my emotive vocals. I want people to feel the song, and listen to the stories. That's why I chose to front bands and sing lead vocals.

Rebecca Scott, Panda Riot, architecture

I took piano lessons beginning when I was five, and I'm not sure I had a reason but I knew that I wanted to play music when I was very young. In high school I started playing the guitar because I wanted to be able to play the kind of music that I listened to. I have always wanted to play lots of different instruments.

Doris Cellar, Freelance Whales

I started singing in the third grade after my homeroom teacher gave me a solo part in our spring musical. When I realized how much I enjoyed performing, me and my best friend Nina started a duet called "Double Diamond." Even though we were only 10 we were really serious about our project and even went as far as writing our own a cappella songs.  When I entered high school I met a friend who let me practice on his drum set and when I got good enough to keep a steady beat and that's when I started  "The Doxies." At rehearsals I would tinker around with the guitar and bass and when the band broke up after 2 years of punk-rock mayhem, a friend of mine was kind enough to lend me her guitar. I began writing songs, and recording them on Garage band and before I knew it I had my own solo project going. After graduating high school I decided to go to college where I studied music theory and learned how to read and compose songs on piano. During the summer break of my Junior year I went on Craigslist.com in search of a new band and instantly clicked with lead singer/ song writer  of "Freelance Whales," Judah Dadone who was also looking to start a band. Shortly thereafter, Judah leant me some of his instruments and the glockenspiel and harmonium were soon added to the list of instruments I play to this day.

Meagan Beth Plummer; Jonas Sees In Color.

It's the instrument I relate to the most; I feel the most connected with the piano. It brings the most out of me.

Photo of Emily Robison, Court Yard Hounds (and Dixie Chicks)

Emily Robison, Court Yard Hounds (and Dixie Chicks)

Banjo was my first serious instrument and I picked it because I didn't see any other girls playing it at the time.

Elana James, The Hot Club of Cowtown

I heard my mom playing it around the house when I was three and thought it would be fun.

Photo of Sara Bareilles

Sara Bareilles

It was accessible and my big sister played it growing up, so I think I started mostly as a copycat. But I fell in total and complete love with the piano. I never studied, but growing up, I spent every spare moment getting to know it. I'm still working on becoming a better player, but I play with passion and it is the perfect foundation for my first love, which is singing. I have been singing since I could talk, and it absolutely is one of my dearest friends. I feel like I know myself through music. It's like going to church. Except I don't go to church... so maybe it's a little bit different.

Kelly Ogden, The Dollyrots

"Well I started off on acoustic guitar when I was going through my hippie phase in high school. I took a few lessons and tried to learn 'Scarborough Fair,' and felt pretty overwhelmed. I decided to ask Luis (Luis Cabezas, our guitar player) to help me lean some easier songs... that's when I learned about Hole, The Ramones, Nirvana, Bikini Kill, The Vaselines etc etc.

After high school and my new appreciation for music Luis and I went to a weird liberal arts college (New College) and started a joke band. It wasn't long before the bass player quit I had to pick up bass and singing. I had only played rhythm guitar and sung back-up at that point. That joke band became our real band and we moved to Los Angeles to live the dream. And now I'm performing at SXSW for the fifth time!"

Fay Davis-Jeffers, PIT ER PAT

I just play whatever feels like I need to, whatever I'm being drawn to.

Jan Seides

Piano was where I started as a small child and is the most intuitive for me. I took up guitar in my teens, mostly because it's portable, but also because I loved the sound. Now I've been playing long enough that I'm almost as familiar with a guitar neck as I am with a keyboard.

Talia Sekons, The Lost Pines

it's easy to pick up and take a guitar with you wherever you go, especially the porch, and I wanted to be able to accompany myself when I sing

Vanessa Silberman aka Diamonds Under Fire

I chose to sing so I could say how I feel & the guitar is great for accompanying those vocals.

Katy, Peggy Sue

Singing because I was good at it. Guitar probably because I think its cool. Everything else I play - the accordian, ukulele, percussion - is usually because there is one lying around or because its needed in a song.

Jennifer Leonhardt

"Just to accompany singing, and only got as good at instruments as was needed to accompany! "

Leslie Stevens, Leslie and The Badgers

"The piano was picked for me, the guitar I picked for myself. I come from a fortunate household and I was raised playing the piano and reading Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers and I was to have a coming out party as a debutante when I was old enough. But I didn’t end up becoming a debutante. When I asked for a guitar, I was eventually given my mother’s old guitar (a useless prop from her hippy days). Once I got strings I couldn’t make it sound right. So I ended up getting my first guitar from a boyfriend years after that. So it took a long time to get to a guitar.

The guitar itself represents a sort of independence or freedom. It is actually physically freeing, you can take it anywhere you can play it alone, even on the roof and you can’t take the piano on the roof. So the guitar leant itself to private musings and freedom just by virtue of the physicality of it.

And then in my mind if you played the guitar you could say whatever you wanted and do whatever you wanted to do. Joni Micthell, Bonnie Raitt seemed so self possessed- K.D. Lang, these icons were not going to bow down as debutantes to a man wearing a veil. (That’s what you do at the debutante ball in my hometown, you submit by bowing down to a guy in a veiled disguise. You can google it. The VP ball, Saint Louis MO. It’s 2010 and young women bow down, some of the debutantes lay down completely submissive on their bellies, to a stranger, and I don’t think I like that.)"

Photo of Vanessa Lively

Vanessa Lively

"My mom owned a guitar growing up and played it a bit here and there, mostly for her school, the church or weddings. She loved to sing, and we would sometimes sit and sing Beatles songs together.

The guitar feels like a universal instrument. It is played all over the world. You can take it with you wherever you go. I don't know how many times I have sat around a campfire and swapped songs with strangers, who through the night became friends. It is a communal activity and feels beautiful."

Rebecca Pidgeon

I chose to play the guitar because it was the instrument that seemed easiest to write on. At the time I was writing with another musician who played the guitar, and I did not. My then boyfriend bought me a guitar of my own, and so I started to learn. I am self-taught. One of these days I'm thinking of taking lessons!

Catherine MacLellan

It was the most appealing to me when I was 14 and I learned all my first songs on the guitar.

Photo of Emma Anzai, Sick Puppies

Emma Anzai, Sick Puppies

"I played guitar at first and learned the basics on it however when I met my singer in high school he actually played guitar as well so in order to start a band I moved over on to bass. It turned out to be the for the best! I love how bass is a mixture of drums and guitar, a mixture of rhythm and melody."

Chris Humphrey

Playing a large number of instruments adds tonal color and variety to the music I play in my bands and also gives me a versatility that makes me hire-able for freelance projects.

Photo of Leanne Macomber. Neon Indian

Leanne Macomber. Neon Indian

Keyboards are the most avaiable and the funnest and most versitile.

Margo Timmins

Its easy.

Photo of Datri Bean, Minor Mishap Marching Band and Datri Bean

Datri Bean, Minor Mishap Marching Band and Datri Bean

"Our neighbors across the street were moving to Saudi Arabia (he was a medical doctor interested in working with underprivileged populations abroad) and they gave us their piano. I started playing on it immediately; I was 5. I remember trying to write at that age as well, though it took me quite a few more years to learn to write songs. My piano teacher taught me classical music, but I was obsessed with an old Scott Joplin record my mother had and would listen to it all the time. I feel like my music now is a quirky fusion of classical technique and a love for the earthier, sassier sounds and rhythms of early jazz.

In my adult life, I picked up the ukulele, mostly due to its prevalence in the popular music of the 1920's. I find writing with the ukulele and its sweet delicate sound inspires some of my most vulnerable work. I also leads me to whistle in public.

I taught myself to play the accordion within the last few years. I love Klezmer music and French chanson, and accordion is a good entrance into both genres."

Becky Ninkovic, You Say Party! We Say Die!

i always loved to sing and dance and play dress up since i was a little girl.

Photo of Suzanna Choffel

Suzanna Choffel

"I sang from an early age because it came naturally and I loved it. It was very innate. Guitar was something i gravitated to as a teenager in the 90s when the female singer-songwriter trend hit hard with Sheryl Crow, Sara McLaughlin, Jewel, etc etc. I already played piano and wrote many songs on my Casio keyboard, but I wanted to rock it standing up with a guitar strapped to me. Plus I got into Bob Marley and wanted to make those funky, percussive sounds that he and Peter Tosh played on the guitar. It was easy to sit in bed all day writing songs on guitar and learning others' songs, whereas with the keyboard/piano I usually had to be in a different room. I liked the intimacy the guitar offered me. And I just enjoy hitting strings."

Debi Nova

I didn't have much choice with the Piano... at 4 yrs old my mom had all do with it, but after years of torturous classical lessons I finally fell deeply in love with it. The guitar came almost as a rebellion to my classical piano education, I was dying to play rock and roll and play in bands; and the bass was solely because of Me'shell Ndegeocello. I remember listening to her album Peace Beyond Passion at 14 and thinking "this is the coolest thing I wanna play bass"

Terri Hendrix

Mainly what was going to go over live. When I started playing, I was playing solo in redneck dancehalls. So, country blues like Mississippi John Hurt went over well. That was suited for acoustic guitar. Then, I fell for Sonny Terry and that brought on the harmonica. I like to shake it up live, so the different instruments add color to a show.

Photo of Wendy Colonna

Wendy Colonna

It was portable. I wanted to bring music everywhere I went as a teen. Singing has been a passion since grade school, so it was a no brainer to begin composing on guitar.


My music as my life is a product of my environment. I also describe it as semi-intellectual, tapping into subjects of life, the psyche, and a representation of the ethnicity, culture and people of which I come and who I am.

Arran Murphy, Dark Room Notes

it was an organic thing, my mum is a piano teacher and while i have never been classically trained, i have always tinkered around on the piano, one night when i was 18 my friend Terri asked me to come and rehearse with his band the next day, they were looking for a keyboard player, for some reason i said yes and that was the beginning!

Ginger Leigh

Since I was a child I was a vocalist just like my mother, two aunts, and grandmother. I took piano lessons, like many kids. I'm thankful for that because I believe piano is a very strong basis for understanding music and other instruments. I began picking up my aunt's guitar when I was a senior in high school. I think I wanted to be able to take the instrument to my room. I couldn't really drag the piano down the hall. So I borrowed the guitar and began teaching myself the chords, and soon after writing my own songs. I received my first acoustic guitar as a high school graduation gift from a friend and her mother. I still have it!

Sara Hickman

It's my best friend (the guitar)

Astrum Lux Lucis, One World (R)evolution

It came naturally to me. I started playing music as young as 4 years old. My Mom plays piano so we always had a piano in the house and I'd bang around on it and play by ear. In grade school I played trumpet, snare drum, and alto saxophone. In 1981 I saw The Go-Go's on MTV and decided I wanted to be a rock star. I began playing drums and a year or so later joined my first band. In high school I started messing around on a friend's guitar and it felt really natural for me so I switched to guitar. My Grandmother likes to tell me I've been singing since I was in nursery school. I just really love to sing and write great songs. Music is my outlet and my little piece to be the change I wish to see in the world.

Stephanie Bradley, Stephanie Bradley Band

To lead the band

Rose Baca

I didn't take the guitar seriously till I was about 12... when I was gifted a nice guitar, and I decided I loved nothing more than to sing and play.

Rochelle Terrell

Growing up in church I was encouraged to join the childrens choir. I was around 5 years old when was chosen to sing my first solo, I received so much love form that day, I just knew that singing was what I wanted to do and what I was supposed to do. My grandmother still has the program from that day!

Alyse Black

Piano was the first instrument I sang to as a child with my father playing ragtime-style with me. It is the instrument my voice just sinks into best. But I also love singing to my guitar.

Michele Murphy

"I play what I need to play. There are only 12 notes, it's not that hard. I started on classical piano, ended making most of my money in a country band, if you don't count teaching. "

Stefanie Fix

I'm not sure, probably a number of reasons. As a young girl, who wanted to write songs - guitar seemed like the appropriate choice. I tried piano for a while but I was so hungry to express; that guitar lent itself more quickly to my being able to write. It was also easier to learn how to play songs I liked by other people in a very parred down form. My experience was that piano teachers usually started off with nursery rhymes where as guitar teachers started me off with songs that really spoke to me. Finally, I think I wanted to be like Bob Dylan.

Elizabeth McQueen, Asleep at the Wheel

"Being a woman musician is definitely different from being a male musician. First off, there seems to be major differences in the early life of male and female musicians. All the guys I know who are pros spent a fair amount of their adolescence ensconced in their rooms, woodshedding. The really got into their instruments during that time. I only know a few women who had the same experience. That time of their lives is usually spent concerned with more social things. Women tend to come to the game later and with less musical experience than men, which makes them very often dependent on men to create the actual music, talk to other musicians and generally navigate the musical landscape. And also, women have kids. Not that men don't have children, but let's face it, it's different when you gestate and birth another human being. Your priorities shift in a huge way, one that can make a career in music seem less important. My husband and I had our first child almost 15 months ago. And I'm extremely lucky, because my husband is the drummer for the Wheel, so we've both been able to stay on the road and continue playing music. We simply bought another vehicle and brought the baby along (she was 6 weeks old when we went on our first tour). It's been amazing, but pretty grueling. And the guys in the band think we're nuts. Because those of them who have kids, well it never occurred to them to bring their kids along on the road. They missed first steps and soccer games and recitals and pretty much everything, so they could continue playing music. Me, if I had to make a choice between my baby and the road, there would be no choice. I'd choose watching my daughter grow up, hands down. Luckily my husband and I have reached a compromise, but many women don't have such flexibility. So careers and creativity may veer off track during the childbearing years. "
I gravitated towards guitar because I wanted to be able to accompany myself. Also, I've learned the vocabulary of theory through guitar, which I think is crucial to making your own music and playing with other people. Being able to speak the same language as the people (mostly men) I play with is huge. Chick singers do not normally command a lot of respect in that area. Plus, you can get a lot more done.

Photo of Kerry Davis, Two Tears

Kerry Davis, Two Tears

"My first band the Red Aunts was started by a group of friends, whichever instrument our boyfriends had determined what instrument we played. Free gear. I bought my own guitar shortly after."

Julieann Banks

"My main instrument, bass, chose me. I struggled for years with guitar. Became an excellent rhythm guitar player. But lead always evaded me and when rehearsing it I was always bored and frustrated. One day a friend of mine, Buddy Flett (recently toured with Hubert Sumlin and Kenny Wayne Sheppard) handed me a bass to borrow and said - ""you need to be playing this"". I ignored the bass, it sat in my house for about a year untouched and I continued on as a guitarist but I was on guitar synth playing lots of bass parts. When that broke down I started playing a real bass on the stage one night - and I was hooked. I will say that now I'm starting to want to get back on guitar again because I've been inspired by some ""delta blues"" flavored solo performers who incorporate bass notes with picking patterns. We'll see!"

Photo of Phoebe Hunt, The Belleville Outfit

Phoebe Hunt, The Belleville Outfit

When I was 6, a sweet lady tapped me on shoulder as I was eating lunch on a picnic table at The Austin Montessori School (my elementary school), and said "It's time to get fitted for your violin." I remember asking "Does my mom know about this?", and she said, "She is the one who told me to come get you." I also remember having watched a violinist on the TV before this meeting and wanting to play, but I had no idea my mom knew. It was definitely a mothers intuition. Now, I took a liking to the ukulele because I wanted to learn applicable music theory and although people say I should play mandolin, I feel like I am cheating when I play mandolin and dont actually learn what I am doing, so I needed an instrument tuned completely different so I couldn't cheat. And at first the guitar was to hard on my hands, so my boyfriend of the time gave me a ukulele for my 21st birthday and I fell in love. Now, I have adopted a serious interest in the guitar because I really want to be able to back myself up on self written songs, and sometimes the ukulele is just not a big enough sound. So, I have sucked it up, and worked on the hand strength and dexterity required of guitar, and my father (an excellent guitarist with both undergraduate and masters degree in classical guitar) has been giving me lessons for the past few years, and I am almost ready to show up to a show with a guitar in hand. Was that long enough? ;)

Photo of Gretchen Peters

Gretchen Peters

I was 8 years old and wanted to play Bob Dylan songs.

Corrina Rachel, Corrina's Dreamland Band

I have been singing since childhood and have played several instruments over the years including saxophone and piano. I ultimately decided on guitar because it is a good accompaniment instrument for vocals, it lends itself to songwriting and bandleading as well.

Photo of Emma Cooper, Standard Fare

Emma Cooper, Standard Fare

I started playing bass because bands always need a bass player and I wasn't comfortable being the only guitarist in a band and having to do amazing solos! Singing I have done for a while and improved loads! Mandolin I am still learning but love it.

Laurie Lewis

because I like them

Melissa Greener

It chose me. Before my ninth birthday when I received my first acoustic guitar, I would stand on the vacuum cleaner using the handle as a microphone, and a tennis racket as a guitar. All my stuffed animals were in bands and played gigs with each other... It seems like I was meant to sing and play the guitar from the get-go.

Champian Fulton

I always loved to sing. I have been playing the piano since I could walk, but around the age of 8 I became more serious about it because I realized it was a way to work on my singing. Playing the piano while I sing gives me more control of the music and the bandstand. Once I began to truly study piano, around age 8, I just fell in love with it. Now I would consider myself more a pianist than a singer.

Kellye Gray

I'm a natural singer and rhythm maker -- can't imagine not singing for a living, actually

Photo of Deann René, On Edje

Deann René, On Edje

"I just mess around on the guitar and piano to help me write songs. Its just what I've always done since I was a kid. I choose to sing because its just part of who I am. I come from a family of musicians and music teacher so its in the blood."

Photo of Suzy Thompson

Suzy Thompson

You can play any type of music on the fiddle, and I had a head start with my classical lessons as a child. With guitar, at age 10 saw another kid playing and asked my parents to get me one, my mom showed me a few chords and I was off and running, never had any lessons. With Cajun accordion, I had been playing Cajun fiddle for over 20 years with a great accordion player (Danny Poullard) in the California Cajun Orchestra; when my fiddle mentor, Dewey Balfa, passed on, I decided to take up the accordion and learned from Danny.

Kim Miller

I was stunned by James Taylor, Joni Mitchelle, Peter Paul and Mary, Mary Hopkins, Cat Stevens, etc ... the great guitar slingers of my youth. Also, Joni played dulcimer in a non-traditional style that lured me to try one out. I figured out it was esy to play yet the notes were complex and layered because it was tuned like a banjo - an open tuning. Then I learned that I could do the same thing to a guitar - alter the tuning. Freedom! I also played piano for a while but lost it in a flood along with my good dulcimer.

Sarah Brown

I was drawn to the bass. I heard it, felt it, and understood it's role at about 13, when I started listening to the radio with concentration. I played the cello in junior high and high school.

Samantha Vanderslice, Good Goddess Almighty

I love the richness of the bass. It connects me to earth energy.

Jean Synodinos

My dad put a guitar in my hand when I was 8 years old. That, and it's easier to practice quietly on a guitar. Who wants to be heard making serious gaffs? Especially when your husband's a brilliant player?

Lindsay Wells

At age 4, the church choir director noticed my voice, and gave me my first solo singin' at church.

Submitted Anonymously

"Voice: I began to sing as a child, when there's no such thing as logic, it just felt good to do. I forgot about it along the way. I came back to it at 23, wondering if maybe I could make music with my voice? I wanted to impress my musician (now ex-) boyfriend at the time. We broke up before I could impress him.

Guitar: The original reason was probably to win the affection of the musician ex-boyfriend, with the added benefit of proving to my brother that I could play guitar too. The relationship with the guitar was on again, off again. At some point I got tired of asking guitar players to learn songs and play with me, so I decided to commit to learning. The reason I keep playing is that it gives my songs a bed to sleep on. And somewhere along the way I surmounted the first, long, painful learning curve, and have gotten to the part where I like it, it's fun, it's still very hard, and I even crave playing it sometimes. "

Myrna Cabello, The MyrnaRocksBand

I've always sang since I was a little girl in musicals, open mics, for my family. I didn't decide to put my own band together until 2005.

Ruby Jane

I asked my mama for a violin at age 2 because she wouldnt let me watch tv but put in a video of Itzhak Perlman and I fell in love with strings.

Brigitte London

I fell in love with the guitar as a child, starting taking classical lessons at age 6 but switched to writing songs and playing "chords" ( a definite no-no to my classical teacher) at age 11. I also play piano but only for writing and bass only if needed for something.

Laura Mordecai

When I was 11 picking an instrument to play in the school band, my Dad really bought a tambourine and a set of brushes and taught me a few basics of playing drums - he needed a drummer for his dixieland jazz band. My sister played piano, my brother played bass so, of course, I picked drums.

Laura Marie

Singing came naturally to me and there was a guitar in our house when we were little. I loved playing with it.

Tortilla Factory

I really enjoy being able to project what I feel inside . And to be able to connect with others the music I sing is a great and wonderful experience . It's truly an honor for lack of better words

Phanie Diaz, Girl In A Coma

Was a guitar player and my bass player convinced me to play drums because I could keep a beat. My father drummed.

Lauren Morris

I started out on voice and guitar. I now use virtual instruments because of their production power.

Photo of Audrey Auld

Audrey Auld

I sing because I write songs and I play guitar because I wanted to be able to play my own songs, and the freedom to play solo.

Photo of Anne McCue

Anne McCue

I fell in love with the guitar when I was a kid. The Beatles??? and my brother played really well. I inherited his electric guitar and that was it for me. But not for that I'd probably have been an English Professor.

Susan Osborn

Hmmmm...everyone was playing the guitar. Came to piano much later. Violin was my elementary school choice...love the sound.

Sara K.

Taught myself at age 15 on a guitar that was missing some of the strings. Needed something to sing with and write on. Consequently play a custom made 4 string guitar

Maddy Prior, Steeleye Span

I worked a week in a Wimpy Bar for £10 and did a gig on my own with a banjo for £8 so I figured I'd try it for a while. That week was the only work I've ever done.

Lisa Sanders

it was the most accessible for writing music . my first passion

Photo of Lynda Kay

Lynda Kay

Out of necessity. I started singing at the age of 3, so my voice was the first instrument I was drawn to. I really wanted to learn to play piano, but my parents didn't think I had the patience, so my sister got piano lessons, and they put me in tap dancing (I guess that's where I got my sense of rhythm.) And when I was in my late 20's, I decided to teach myself to play guitar so I could put chords behind the melodies in my head and began writing songs.

Mandy Mercier

I was given the chance to study a string orchestral instrument in 4th grade through my public school; I chose violin. Later as a teenager I took up drums at school, and played in the concert and marching bands (as well as orchestra and string quartet on violin); I discovered guitar and started playing that as a teenager as well. I studied piano at a young age which gave me a grounding in music theory. I went on to play in symphonies in high school and college before dropping out and pursuing music full time.

Connie Todd, The Occasionals

I've just been a singer all my life--since I was 2.

Photo of Janet Robin

Janet Robin

When I was a young girl, my brother started playing guitar and I wanted to do everything he wanted to do. (now of course, he's a dentist! like my father!) Anyhow, I followed in his footsteps. I started with folk and classical, and eventually I moved into electric guitar like he did. We had the fortunate pleasure of being taught by Randy Rhoads, he was Ozzy Osbourne's famous guitarist (he eventually died tragically in an airplane crash). Randy was actually more of blues player then being confused with a heavy metal guitarist. I studied with Randy for 5 years and was his youngest and only girl student. Nevertheless, I got some great chops being taught by such a master. I was obsessed with the guitar and would practice all the time as a little girl, not what many girls did when they were young. I only had a few girl guitar players to look up too. As I grew up, I got into a neighborhood bands and just knew this was going to be my life.

Julie Christensen

I don't remember not singing. And I'm trying to be more self-contained and less reliant on having to pay a whole band in these more difficult times, though I love so much to work with other musicians. That's why I picked up the guitar again after having been frustrated with it in my youth.

Texas Ladybugs

Bass speaks to me!

Brandi Carlile

"because it was mobile piano was my first love but i couldnt carry it with me to lilith fair when I was 17 so i learned to play guitar."

Photo of Cindy Cashdollar

Cindy Cashdollar

I started out playing regular guitar, and switched to Dobro and steel because I fell in love with the sound, and wanted something different to play/hear.

Franc Graham

older sister played the guitar and taught me some chords, loved the immediacy of it and being able to accompany myself. eccentric musician friend of my dad gave me untraditional (sometimes he just played the flute for me) but basically classical lessons and i found my niche in playing pick-free rock...

Photo of Aimee Bobruk

Aimee Bobruk

"I primarily play guitar. I chose it because the first live musician I heard in my hometown of Huntsville, Tx was playing a guitar. I also wanted to write songs and it seemed portable. You can't travel easily with a piano and keyboards never sound the same."


I've always sung - with my family and in church. Guitar was added to accompany the voice. I learned piano, violin, and flute since I was a kid.

Jenifer Jackson

"my dad plays guitar & growing up, we always had his guitars around. my parents bought an old piano when i was a baby & i also began to play that, since it was in our living room!

drums i began later when a boyfriend moved his kit into my living room.

i have always sang!"

Jessie Torrisi, Jessie Torrisi & the Please, Please Me

"It chose me. I played other things when I was younger... suzuki piano lessons, then clarinet & saxophone in school band. Drums was the first thing that stuck. Either it becomes me, or 14 just is the age when I was ready to actually practice & not just play.

After college, I became a closet songwriter. It took me many years to both get the courage to sing (to really develop my voice, unlock it physically & learn how to sing)-- and also realize that if I didn't perform my songs, they would never see the light of day.

I was 31 when I recorded *my* first album. It just came out last year. It is good though.

I fancy myself a late bloomer. Though I'd been playing music all my life, I didn't really give myself permission to do it 100% 'til now."

Jan Bell and The Maybelles

As a writer/songwriter made sense. Was living on the road at the time, so piano would not have made sense as primary song writing tool.

Ruby James

i grew up playing piano but i was classicly trained and i hated playing it.. i instictively new that i needed to learn to play guitar because there would be a lot of songs waiting for me once i learned the instrument.. i started writing my first song on the guitar in my first lesson that i ever took.. that motivated me to practice about 4 hours a day until i couldn't stand the pain any longer.. i was so determined to write and start playing live right away.. my first club gig was about 6 months after i took my first guitar lesson

Photo of Kelley Ryan

Kelley Ryan

Honestly, I like the way it feels in my arms. All instruments I use primarily as a showcase for the SONGS. I consider my self a songwriter, first and foremost, I sing and play and record only as a means to get the SONG out. The end result is I've spent most of my life making music and have totally come to LOVE THE PROCESS as much as the end result. In fact, 'loving the process', I believe makes the end result better.

Christina Martin

I had to learn something so I could independently play my own songs. Piano seemed a bit expensive and heavy to lug around to gigs. Guitar was the obvious solution 10 years ago.

Kat Edmonson

It chose me.

Jess Klein

Because I could accompany myself singing with it. When I was a kid I played classical and jazz music on the clarinet, but then I got interested in singing and in writing my own lyrics. My dad had an old classical yamaha gathering dust in his attic, so he leant it to me so I could figure out how to get these songs out of my head and into the world.

Shelley Short

I wanted to be like Jimmie Rodgers.

Molly Neuman

we needed a drummer so I learned.

Photo of Betse Ellis - The Wilders

Betse Ellis - The Wilders

Circumstance. My mom saw an ad in the paper for a new violin teacher in town, offering group lessons. She asked me and my brother if we wanted to try. We said sure. Six months later we both moved on from group to private lessons, and piano lessons too. Fortunately my first teacher was incredibly enthusiastic and fun, and I never stopped playing, even during the dangerous junior high/high school years, when it wasn't very cool to play the violin. I made up for it by listening to The Clash, Velvet Underground, and doing funny things to my hair. Nowadays it seems a lot cooler to play a stringed instrument as a young person.

Photo of Cathi Walkup

Cathi Walkup

I've always been drawn to sing and my mother sang around the house when I was a child so it was always something I thought of as totally accessible. Music is magic and can heal. I discovered early that it could uplift and make me feel better and later learned it could also do that for others.

Marilyn Harris

always loved the piano, which I first encountered at my grandma's house - saved my allowance for 5 years to buy my first upright at age 10

Stephanie O'Keefe

I was so young - just liked the sound of the horn

Judy Chamberlain

I am a fourth generation singer and musician.

Cat Conner

Just been singing since I was a little girl. I am lucky to be blessed with a sweet voice.

Photo of Ayelet Rose Gottlieb

Ayelet Rose Gottlieb

"I played flute for many years, and when I started singing (at age 17) I loved the how immediate singing felt. straight from my head / soul to sound... nothing in between... I felt much more connected to the music through the voice than through an instrument, that suddenly felt limiting...

another reason is, I love working with words. literature, poetry, ideas... have always been a big part of my life. as a vocalist, I am able to link those into my work easily... "

Photo of Carol Heffler, Carol Heffler Trio or Quartet

Carol Heffler, Carol Heffler Trio or Quartet

My parents bought a piano and I started lessons when I was 6 years old. I like the piano so much I never wanted to change.

Alexandra Frederick

My parents were given a Steinway Grand when I was a child

Laurie Krauz

Have no idea. We all sing, mine just became a calling.

Photo of Andrea Wolper

Andrea Wolper

I've sung my whole life. It's always been part of how I've expressed, entertained, comforted myself, as well as one of the most powerful ways I have to communicate my inner life and connect with other people. It's such a direct, immediate route to and from the full range of human thoughts and feelings.

Mary Foster Conklin

I have always been a singer, even as a child

Lisa Otey

"Piano was my mother's instrument. I fell in love with it as a child. In my family of professional musicians, it wasn't a question of whether you would play, just what instrument. I started at age 4 on the violin, my father's instrument. When I was 6, I wanted to switch to the piano. My mother told me I needed to be serious and couldn't just flit from instrument to instrument. She said if I was still asking for lessons in a year, I could take piano. In the meantime, I started making up songs. Mom taught me theory and how to write down the notes for my songs.

I moved to Tucson to study with a jazz piano teacher, Jeff Haskell, at the UofA. My roommate asked what I wanted to do with my life. I said, ""I think I'll play piano."" She asked, ""What if it doesn't work out for you?"" I replied, ""it has to. It's all I know how to do."" So far, 25 years later, it's been working fine."

Amy Cervini

I played classical piano very intensely until I was 18. I also played saxophone both jazz and classical. When I started playing saxophone I was asked to sing with the big band. It became a very strong personal passion. I went to New England Conservatory for my Undergrad as a saxophonist and ended up a vocalist. It chose me.

Photo of Amanda Monaco

Amanda Monaco

My father was a guitarist and he inspired me to pick up the instrument.

Diane Moser, Diane Moser's Composers Big Band, Diane Moser Quintet

I was drawn to the piano and organ at the age of 2. By the age of 5, my grandmother gave me her very old and very big upright piano.

Amy Camie

My father was the Administrator of Music in the Alton School system and there wasn't a harpist, so he asked me if I wanted to play and I said "sure."

Dori Levine

love voice as an instrument

Anita Brown, Anita Brown Jazz Orchestra

I think my great aunt bought me a 2-octave tiny, white grand piano for my first birthday. Can't remember ever being introduced to the piano keyboard. My mother, grandmother, great aunt, great uncle in an extended household all played piano.

Photo of Anne Mette Iversen

Anne Mette Iversen

I started out on the piano when I was little and later on transferred to the bass. It just felt right. Like coming home.

Jan Leder

my mom suggested it when i started 7th grade because it's "easy to carry" and I could always switch

Lisa Sokolov

Been singing and playing since I was tiny

Sharman Duran

My mother sang and played piano and wrote tunes which she performed. My parents were both jazz musicians, so growing up I heard a lot of good piano players (both live and recorded) in my house.

Cady Finlayson

I fell in love with the violin hearing it as a child and I have had that feeling ever since!

Photo of Jane Stuart

Jane Stuart

I was a 'show biz kid'. I started at 5 yrs. old singing "Me And My Teddy Bear" on a local (NYC) TV show called the Moser Starlites. I was always putting on little shows on my street, just like in Our Gang Comedies. I really was training to be a dancer and became a very good tap dancer (alongside Christopher Walken) at Charlie Lowe's School of Tap and Personality (NYC). One day they had me sing The Trolley Song and it came easy to me. That was that!

Photo of Susan Krebs

Susan Krebs

I just always loved to sing!

Submitted Anonymously

My first grade teacher used to play while we sang in class and I was fascinated by watching her fingers and the keys. I went home and told my parents I wanted to play.

Photo of Mary Louise Knutson

Mary Louise Knutson

I don't know. My family had a piano in the house when I was growing up and I just gravitated to it.

Christiana Drapkin Jazz Group

I've sung all my life, remembering songs from all the way back when I was in diapers.

Jessie Reagen Mann

Initially it was my mom's choice, I then decided I couldn't live without it.

Catherine Dupuis

It chose me at a very early age. I also studied piano extensively as well as 6 years of violin.

Photo of Nicole Pasternak

Nicole Pasternak

I grew up in a family where music and singing was a part of everyday life, and certainly all family gatherings. I received a scholarship at age nine to study violin. I did that for several years, along with some piano and guitar. In high school I had an accident that injured my left hand and prevented me from playing violin. I still managed to play mandolin and guitar and would accompany myself. On one occasion I was playing and singing and my friend said, "You know, you should get out from behind that instrument and just sing." So that's what I did. I was lead singer in a nine-piece band, and also the school jazz band. I found I could improvise better through singing than with an instrument. So that's where I went with it. I feel most comfortable out in front of a band in live performance. I'm a live performer, not so much a "recording artist." That's an art in and of itself.

Gale Cruz

Natural ability

Hailey Wojcik

I know a lot of people are tired of hearing about this, but I definitely think it (obviously) needs to be addressed. While I think the situation is getting better, there are still many subtle (and not-so-subtle) reminders of inequity--little comments people make all the time, etc. You don't see many female guitarists or drummers featured in mainstream Guitar and Drum magazines. And growing up in a small town I never even KNEW any girls in rock bands; it was always guys getting up there and playing classic rock covers while their girlfriends took pictures or clapped or something. There is a really amazing book called Cinderella's Big Score about this subject, and namely the issue of women's discrimination even in the "progressive" indie scene.
I played piano before guitar, and I still do, but somehow it never clicked with me the way the guitar does. I find the guitar really lends itself to songwriting for me. Plus, not to state the obvious here, but there is just something really inherently cool about guitars... especially when you watch someone like Jack White or Annie Clark (two of my favorites) play--who wouldn't want to play guitar?

Amy London

"I have played the piano since I was a toddler. I have a picture of myself in diapers at the piano in our home. My Mom played, I was always drawn to it, and I took lessons all throughout my childhood and teen years. I always sang along with the radio, I was weaned on girl groups and Motown. My sister played guitar, and at a very young age (I was 6, she was 12) We were harmonizing together. When I was 12, I heard Laura Nyro for the first time and fell in love with her music. I bought the Laura Nyro songbook in my teen years, and spent many years playing and singing her material. I discovered jazz in high school, through the excellent big band at my high school, and also at local jazz clubs. I studied opera in college, but really wanted to sing jazz. I listened to lots of Ella Fitzgerald at that time, got the gig as the Syracuse University Big Band vocalist for three years, and sang in other bands in college as well. I also studied musical theatre, had a few roles in college, and after graduating from college, played Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof at an Equity dinner theatre for four months, worked in Florida singing at a night club for 6 months, then moved to New York to begin pursuing my dreams in the Big Apple. I found work as a singer immediately, and have worked in a large variety of setting ever since, from church choirs to cantorial work in synagogue to jazz clubs to TV commercials to film scores to Broadway.

Sorry, I went off on a tangent! I love to sing, I always have and always will. It is the ultimate expression of freedom and individuality, and when you sing with a group and the music works as a whole, it is an exhilarating experience."

Elli Fordyce, The Elli Fordyce Jazz Quartet

It chose me and has chosen me the numerous times I tried to quit over the years, the most recent being 4 years ago.

Libby York

I feel my voice is a gift I was given. I've worked hard to develop it and learn my craft, but the instrument was given to me.

Holli Ross, String Of Pearls

I grew up in a musical family and although I studied bassoon for which I hold a bachelor of music degree, singing was the most accessible and I loved vocal groups. I took up guitar to accompany myself.

Teri Roiger

I started piano when I was five, and eventually became a church organist at age 13. I fell in love with jazz when I heard it in my late teens/early twenties, and never looked back. I started singing jazz when the legendary pianist (of the Garrison Keillor show) Butch Thompson heard me sing and told me I had something special. We worked together for awhile, and even toured Europe when I was in my 20s. I became a singer then and now I play and sing and record and write, and teach also!

Regina Harris Baiocchi

My first instrument was guitar, which I played for liturgies since I was 9 years old. Trumpet was chosen since it was the instrument that remained when attendance was taken. I later played French Horn also. In college piano performance was mandatory.

Judy Niemack

I was gifted musically, and always sang. I decided to focus on singing professionally at age 17, and studied to be a classical singer before focusing on jazz and improvisation.

Photo of Judi Silvano

Judi Silvano

I chose my voice as my main instrument because I have the most variety of tone and textures and the most control technically and dynamically.

Photo of Jody Sandhaus

Jody Sandhaus

"I loved singing and love lyrics. I played piano through college as well. I sang and played the guitar for a summer during college."

Submitted Anonymously

I've been singing since at least age 4.

Cassandra Douglas

I would say my voice choose me. I never woke up one morning and decided to be an opera singer. It was something that I came into gradually. One main reason is that my voice simply felt more comfortable singing the beautiful melodic lines in opera and art songs. I was never able to really sing musical theater or pop song with any sort of ease. I also was very moved by some of the profoundly beautiful poetry with which inspired the composers to set the music in the first place. I also fell in love with this art form over time because as I gained my own plethora of life experiences I realized that I could offer more in my own performances. It is a demanding task to draw on emotions so that one can express an emotion without being drawn up in the emotion itself. In other words, I can't sing if I'm crying. Art songs gives a singer a chance to draw on those personal experiences and in turn offer the chance for an audience member to recall their own life experiences. For a moment in time, music allows one to look on their intangible emotions as the music and the words recall all sorts of memories. Opera, on the other hand, is about an emotion felt in a period of time by the character(s). It can be funny, sad, devastating, love-filled, or any emotion that man-kind can feel in a given moment. It is the culmination of the human emotion in the form of theater and drama. When watching a great performance I feel as the character feels and when the music is added to it I feel that my soul opens up and it soars.

Cristie Strongman

"I don't know what it's like to be a man so I don't really know how to answer this question.

But I think that as a (classical) singer it's easier for a woman to express one self in song in this society than a man because men are taught to be interested in other things not dealing with feelings. You always find many women and few male classical singers almost anywhere.

Also, it's harder to train tenors because their voices change at puberty and not women's and this is a very delicate type of voice, a more exposed instrument and it's often difficult for a man to want to deal with the training of allowing the voice to crack at first. Just what I have heard men say and what I have heard in practice rooms myself while they perfect their craft."
My grandmother taught me how to sing since I was 3 years old (she was a pianist and singer herself). Always loved the sound of the human voice.

Photo of Marni Nixon

Marni Nixon

I am a singer..that is my instrument. I studied instrumentally, but my instrument has me by the throat....

Laurie Rogers

Started studying piano when I was 4. Don't even remember choosing to study. Has just always been part of my life.

Photo of Michelle Trovato

Michelle Trovato

I was encouraged to take voice lessons when I was in middle school.

Deborah Karpel

People responded to my voice. I began to study. Actually, I believe I was making fun of an opera singer at the time and someone told me I should join the school chorus.

Sharon Azrieli

"Because it is the most challenging thing I could do with my body mind and soul. And there is such beautiful music out there, like the monks who believe that thier prayers matter to the world, I believe that putting beautiful music out there matters too. SO if I can do it, then it is my spiritual obligation to do it to the best of my ability."

Submitted Anonymously

It chose me.

Julie Rohwein

Composing sort of chose me. I was trying to learn to play jazz and ended up here instead.

Sunny Zank

It was available

Photo of Karen P. Thomas

Karen P. Thomas

Nothing in the world is more fun than conducting!

Susan Borwick

I could take lessons from someone my sister studied with.

Susan Cohn Lackman

I started as a pianist at age 3. Discovered I was a composer at age 8. Went to undergrad school as music ed major so I play all.

Elizabeth Vrenios

The love of it.

Anna Maria Manalo

My Mom got me a toy piano when I was 4

Photo of Jennifer Higdon

Jennifer Higdon

I started on flute, which was sitting unused in our household; then became interested in composition

Lana Mountford

I started on piano -- switched to voice when I learned I could sing


I started out on piano as a child but my hands couldn't reach a tenth. My piano teacher recommended I try the violin.

Terri Sandys

The violin I chose in high school after trying many instruments and the final approval of my violin teacher, Edward Seferian, (a Julliard graduate teaching at the Univ. of Puget Sound). The viola I chose post graduate while studying with Alan Iglitzen, the original violist of the Philadelphia String Quartet. He had brought a number of instruments back from the East Coast and this is the one I chose.

Emma Lou Diemer

We had a piano at home.

Judith Shatin

Enjoyed the timbres of piano and flute.

J. Michele Edwards

"was a pianist & trombone player. Piano = ?. Trb = probably because it was a ""boy's instrument."" also played a bit of cello in high school when there were no trb parts in orchestral pieces

Conducting - probably as I liked to be in charge (smile)."

Jenn Cristy

I'm classically trained in piano. Have played since I was 4 years old. Was accepted in the Indiana University Music school for classical piano performance. It's what I know best!

Nicole J. McPherson

I had heard a recording of Doriot Dwyer play Afternoon of a Faun by Debussy

Beth Anderson

My grandmother had a piano and I used to try to play it when I was 4 and my mother and grandmother decided to give me lessons. I played flute in band because my mother thought it was a nice light instrument for a girl. I sing because that's what I do. I play recorder because I enjoy playing chamber music. I learned to play recorder because when I was in graduate school one of my teachers thought it would be useful to introduce young people to basic musical reading and ideas.

Photo of Vivian Adelberg Rudow

Vivian Adelberg Rudow

"I have been playing piano since I was 6 years old but don't perform. Love the electroacoustic music performance art thing, The Vivian. Why because it's fun."

Pro Arte String Quartet

public school progra

Gabriela Lena Frank

I'm mainly a composer, so while I concertize as a pianist, composing is my main gig. The piano was what we had in the house, and I took to it quite well.

Sarah Mattox

Voice is the most personal and communicative instrument, and offers unique challenges. It also offers the most opportunity to incorporate a whole body performance, from facial expression, to costumes, to cartwheels on-stage!

Barbara Case, Free Range Chix

"Natural singing voice, no choice. Mother chose piano, which I now appreciate. It led to organ. I chose banjo because it is a nice bright,fun instrument, and felt it would be easier than guitarfor my small hands. "

Anna Rubin

I would answer this with the answer -- the computer -- because of its flexibility and range of possibilies.

Jennifer Elowitch, Portland Chamber Music Festival

My own initiative in first grade after hearing some kids play violin in my calss

Hasu Patel

"My father chose this instrument when I was only 6 years old. I was trained for 15 years -- 6-8 hours a day under the Sitar Maestros. Today, I arise @ 4:00 am and practice in the early silent hours to be with Divine.

Recently, I have composed two different Sitar Concertos for Western Orchestras. I also played with them. This was the firt time in the history of indain music that a Indain music composer has composed for the Western orchestra. I am so blessed to be the first."


I was 3yrs old. I'm not sure how much thought went into that choice.

Joanna Messer, Madison Symphony Orchestra (WI), Wisconsin Philharmonic, International Chamber Artists (Chicago)

"On my tenth birthday, we had trials for instruments for band. I wanted to play the oboe, but the double reed was difficult to vibrate. Flute was next on my list. It became my voice in many, many ways.

But why I became a professional is more complicated than that.

When I was almost 15 and a sophomore in high school, I moved away from home to attend a public, state-wide math and science high school. I didn't take private flute lessons for much of my sophomore year because I couldn't afford them, but I saved my money from part-time summer jobs to pay for lessons for as long as I could during my junior year. That fall, for my 16th birthday, a number of my close friends in school pooled their resources to pay for flute lessons for me for the balance of my junior year. There was enough money left over to purchase some music for me that I needed, too. I wept then, and every time I tell this story, I cry again. That gift of support and love that I received to me at such a tender age from such young and mature people led me to the work I do now. I will never, ever forget it. Though it was a gift, I feel like I became responsible--in the best way possible--to others for my opportunity to play. To that end, I have pursued music ventures that aim in particular to give back to those who cannot always afford a concert experience."

Elena Ruehr

My parents had a piano and they both played.

Oberta Stephen, classical musician

I love to sing.

Linda Swope

love the sound of it

Marcia Bellamy

It was in the house (piano) and I was born with it (voice).

Rosa Avila

My parents are both classical musicians , my father is a symphony conductor and my mother is a classical concert pianist , so there was always music around and I wanted to be a musician , I kinda didn't have a choice haha but i didn't want to do what my parents did , so call it rebellion but I had a chance encounter with drumsticks at age 11 or so , and fell in love , I tried playing all the instruments at home , and never felt comfortable with any of them , so I knew that I was very happy with sticks in my hands , and i thought , ooohhh that'll piss the parents off hahahahaa and it did for a while , but once they realized I was in it for real , they understood and are my biggest fans ;-)

Lisa Lorenzino

Honestly and truthfully: because I thought it was the neatest band instrument because of the way it looked. It was shiny and you got to hold it sideways. That was very appealing to me. It had nothing to do with the sound, the size, the repertoire or anything like that. All visuals.

Sarah Stiles

My parents put me into piano lessons as a kid, and I chose everything else from there on. The music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Debussy, and Satie inspired me to become a composer when I was 18.

Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio

I love it and I'm good at it.

Photo of Hsiao-Lan Wang

Hsiao-Lan Wang

I learned the instruments when I was a child. It was not a personal choice.

Amy Zigler

I actually don't know. As a young child, I loved to sing and dance to music, and I grew up listening to classic rock, but especially works with piano (Billy Joel, Elton John, Bob Seeger, Yes, etc.). A neighbor could play piano and offered to teach me. Although I picked up other instruments in the public school band program, I always gravitated to the piano and found the greatest solace in it. Ultimately, I gave up playing the other instruments and focused solely on piano in college. It was what I loved the most.

Linda Dusman

I chose to be a composer as it was the most creative involvement in music and felt like the right fit for me.

Sumitted Anonymously

I love piano.

Cathy Wilde, Cloigheann & Your Irish Pocket Companion, Three Scones of Boxty

My mom wouldn't let me play drums and wanted me to play the clarinet. To my fourth-grade mind, the flute was the only way out.

Adriana Figueroa-West jazz band

because I liked the sound

Antoinette Montague

Came out of the womb using it. I love to sing to people and give them joy and my own spin on the story of the tune. Interpretation is important to our idiom.

Patsy Rogers

I like it!

Michelle May of Musique Noire

"Piano: I started taking lessons with my mother, Mary Walton, when I was very young. Violin: a teacher came to our classroom in elementary school and stated she was going to start string classes. I was intrigued. Flute: I had an intense love affair with the Jackson 5-- and in particular, Michael Jackson. Berry Gordy, then president of Motown records, lived exactly two blocks over on the same street that I did in Detroit's Boston-Edison Historic neighborhood. I was determined I was going to meet my husband, Michael, some kind of way. I heard the song ""Never Can Say Goodbye"" and there was a flute on it. Somehow I thought I had my ticket to meeting the boy of my dreams. True story."

Photo of Laura Schwendinger

Laura Schwendinger

I heard a chamber group play at my primary school, and it had a flute player.

Photo of Geri Allen

Geri Allen

"The piano spoke to me, and I had many choices before I settled on it because of the Public Schools. The Public Schools are is crisis in most of our Urban centers, and we must make a strong collective effort for our children sake to keep the arts alive and active in the schools.

I would like to be involved in any national campaign you might organize in support of this."

Photo of Clare Shore

Clare Shore

I guess composing chose me. . .it is a compulsion really.

Submitted Anonymously

"piano - mother started teaching me violin - they gave me one in grade school because they didn't have a small cello i became serious about violin but as an adult switched to cello, which i had fallen in love with when i was really young and saw a documentary on pablo casals/"

JoVia Armstrong

Its fun.... I picked it up easy...... it was challenging

Photo of Kate Vincent, Artistic Director of Firebird Ensemble

Kate Vincent, Artistic Director of Firebird Ensemble

I was very drawn to the timbre of the viola when I first tried playing it in my late teens. Prior to that I studied piano, violin and oboe.

Eva Kendrick, Anne's Cordial

I have always loved to sing. I actually started off on guitar because I wanted to be like Maria from "The Sound of Music" but didn't stay with it too long. I also liked piano because I thought it could tell stories very well.

Rebecca Rottsolk

I was a singer who always sang in choirs and the role of conductor naturally evolved

Sibylle Johner, Damocles Trio

I was 8 at the time, my mom suggested it.

Roma Calatayud-Stocks

I love it since I first started playing at age ten

Annalisa Pappano, The Catacoustic Consort

I found my voice in this instrument.

Photo of Dena El Saffar, Salaam

Dena El Saffar, Salaam

I couldn't stop talking and thinking about the violin as a kid. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to learn starting in 2nd grade.

Beth Nelson, aka Johanna Volkert-Nelson

I chose the cello because it was what my older brother *didn't* play. (He was a violinist.)

Andrienne Wilson

I started flute when I was 9 years old, in public school - the 4th grade. I wanted to play violin, but my father had played violin in high school and said he would rather die than listen to me screech as I learned, and that I could play any other instrument. I chose flute which was next on the list. He made me a deal. If I could play "The Swingin' Shepard's Blues" in three months he would buy the rented flute. If not I had to quit and never mention an instrument again. So, of course, three months to the day I stood in front of him and played "The Swingin' Shepard's Blues." He was furious because he had to borrow the money to buy the flute. I was very happy, as I immediately loved the flute.

Suzanne Juniper

It chose me : ) I came out of the womb singing, just about.

Carla Cook

Vocals are the best way to express myself. The use of lyrics and improvisation give me the best of all worlds.

Wendy Evans, Elgin Symphony

From my earliest memory I wanted to play the violin.

Photo of Stephanie Jutt

Stephanie Jutt

my parents chose it

Amy Rhodes

yes, most certainly.

Lucille Field IAWM

I was born singing.

Photo of Alisa Ohri

Alisa Ohri

... there's nothing more joyful, and so completely fulfilling than feeling your voice resonate with a beautiful melody. - how cool is that .... and earn a living doing it? :)

Rika Seko

there was a violin in my house when I was a little girl.

Carol Lahti, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Lyra String Quartet, ESQ (the Elgin Symphony Quartet)

My parents are both musicians, so I was exposed to instrumental music from an early age. My mother is a cellist and I suppose I saw her carrying around that big, heavy instrument and decided I would play something that was easier to carry!

Sally Reid

I switched from alto saxophone to oboe in high school. Although I continue to perform, my instrument has very little to do with how I spend my days as a composer of music for chamber venues and historical documentaries.

AnnMarie Sandy

I love what singing does for my mind, soul, and body. I also like that being a performing artist gives me the freedom of now, of being in the moment.

Tia Imani Hanna

I heard some kids playing in elementary school and decided that was a great sound to make.

Deborah Burton

I loved it.

Becca, War Tapes

It choose me

Jennifer O'Connor

I think because most of my favorite music was guitar based.

Elizabeth R Austin

I started public school piano lessons at age 7-I play the piano (organ)


My mother taught me and was my inspiration

Kelly Irene Corson, The Art Of Shooting

I play the guitar becasue I was a bad drummer, and pianos weren't a practical instrument for me once I moved to NY. I also play guitar because my first instrument is my voice, second is pianos, and the best way I've found to form songs is to pluck them out on the guitar, and then find ways to sing around what I've created.

Kathy Leisen "Glass Rock"

After playing simple casio keyboards for years, my close friend and music collaborator bought me an acoustic guitar for my 23rd birthday. It felt right and it just stuck. I still play the same guitar. I like the way it sounds with my voice.

Alex Marvar, Common Prayer

Because I could play it, and it was useful to my band.

Sabrina Pena Young

"I chose the drums because I thought that drumming would be my life. Later in college I got involved with the experimental electronic music studios SYCOM at the University of South Florida and discovered that the insanity in my head could better be expressed by insane sounds.

Got my masters in Music Technology at Florida International U. and went back to school for a little while to study video and film.

I compose because I have to compose. There is too much music inside of me to keep bottled up."

Automatic Loveletter

because i wanted to Rock'n Roll haha..no really because most of my idols all played and i wanted to be able to play shows by myself and not have to depend on others to perform.

Carolyn Keddy, Dog Rats

because I thought it would be fun.


The piano is so expressive. It allows me to accompany myself in live performances. It is also a great instrument for me as a songwriter.

Photo of Alicia Jo Rabins, Girls in Trouble

Alicia Jo Rabins, Girls in Trouble

my mom was watching the phil donahue show when i was 3 and saw a special on suzuki violin! so she brought me down to the local suzuki school, and that was that. i dont think she intended it to be a career....oops.

Jessie, Public Radio

I took some lessons playing bass a few years ago, but the band already had a bass player so I warmed up my piano fingers and gave it a shot. I'm definitely not the most talented musician in the band, but I love playing keys and singing.

Photo of Hiromi


My mom took me to the piano lesson and I instantly fell in love with it.

Jude Johnstone

It chose me.

Cynthia G. Mason

My uncle would come in from Santa Cruz to visit the family. He would walk around the house in the morning, with his acoustic guitar, improvising the most wonderful finger-style tunes. I would wake up to his music. I couldn't take my eyes off of the guitar. My parents bought me my first classical guitar when I was seven.

Photo of Georgia Muldrow (G&D)

Georgia Muldrow (G&D)


Betty Widerski, Ginger Ibex, Las Aboricuás, The Gobshites

My public school offered in-school lessons (for extra $) starting in 4th grade. I wanted to play trombone because my father said he had, but was told "girls don't play trombone". So I picked violin because my mother had once played it as a child. I was strictly classical until college, burned out on it and stopped playing for 20 yrs. Realized I still missed it but didn't want to go back to classical, so started lessons in how to improvise with a woman who played in a rock band. I realized I LIKED being in a grungy room being blasted by amps, and my rock etc career took off!

Cat Hartwell

Initially I tried to play guitar and sing in Holy Hail, but I still haven't figured out how to do both and the rest of my band sort of nudged me to concentrate on vocals and performing (I share the vocals in HH with a guy).


It was natural, something that came effortless, so it was nothing for me to start doing music.

Rene' Ormae-Jarmer, Here Comes Everybody

When I was in 5th grade (back when the music programs were actually strong) they came around the class and asked what we wanted to play. I spoke right up and said "Drums!". I have a degree from Lewis & Clark College and have studied with some of Oregon's top teachers (Don Worth Sr, Alan Jones, Mark Goodenberger, and Brett Paschal). For piano, I've always played and experimented since I was 4. Studied with Arlene Zeller and Lee Fricke (LC College). Drums are visceral. Piano is a melodic way to be percussive, only you have the entire orchestra right there so you can write songs! They go hand in hand. I still take advanced lessons in percussion.

Kip McCLoud in Lucky 57

My father was a trumpet player. He wanted me to play an instrument from an early age and I was fascinated with radio and siging along to it. I also liked to perform. He signed me up for accordion lessons at age 7. At age 13 I finally got an acoustic guitar -- it was a lot easier to sing along to than accordion.

Photo of Kay Stanton, Casper & the Cookies, Supercluster

Kay Stanton, Casper & the Cookies, Supercluster

Bass was my first instrument, and It was the one I could afford at the time. Also, my friend needed a bassist. I've picked up other instruments to vary my writing style and out if necessity. Everyone in the Cookies is a multiinstrumentalist. We switch up a lot.

Haley Fohr, Circuit des Yeux

I was classically trained in voice since the age of 12. In my final year of high school I fell into depression. Instead of going to school, I picked up the guitar and taught myself to play. All instruments are self taught except voice.

Jennifer Glass, Starling Crush

was forced to learn piano as a kid, learned to play guitar because... well, all the musicians were doing it, and it was easier than carrying a piano around. Harp because it can really flesh you out when you are playing solo.

Cheetie Kumar, Birds of Avalon

i always was drawn to guitars and what they were doing in a song. i learned how to play by playing bass early on, but i found myself wanting to play guitar lines on the bass- so i just went for it! i think the guitar is a very versatile and expressive instrument and can be made to sound like almost anything.

Wendy Richman, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)

I started on violin and switched to viola when I was 10 because I was getting really tall--at the time, there was a greater demand for violists, and it seemed like I would be able to handle the slightly bigger and heavier instrument. As it turns out, I ended up being 5'10", but it's also better-suited to me personally...a little lower, mellower, not as on-edge as a violin (and violinists!!).

Photo of Anna-Lynne Williams aka Lotte Kestner

Anna-Lynne Williams aka Lotte Kestner

i love the piano, but guitars are easier to transport. and it's nice to write in the bedroom

Submitted Anonymously

When I was 8 years old I heard Vivaldi's string music, and I knew that I needed to learn how to make those sounds.

Lisa Simpson, Finn Riggins

As far back as I can remember, I've wanted to play the guitar. I really have loved moving from the acoustic to the electric guitar and playing around with the differences between the two.

Rebecca Coseboom, Stripmall Architecture (formerly from Halou as well)

Because I love to sing and I stink at playing guitar or bass while I'm doing so.

Photo of Stefanie Drootin, The Good Life And Tin Kite

Stefanie Drootin, The Good Life And Tin Kite

When I was 14 or 15 years old I went to see the band Fire Hose play with my brother and was completely mesmerized by Mike Watt. I couldn't believe how fast his fingers were moving! I also remember the thump of the bass and how you could feel it through your whole body. I decided then and there that I NEEDED a bass guitar.

Photo of Jordan Valentine, Jordan Valentine & the Sunday Saints

Jordan Valentine, Jordan Valentine & the Sunday Saints

Little Kerri Brown. I was in 3rd grade and we were putting on An American Musical, and all I wanted to do was sing Chatanooga Choo-Choo. I got up and thought I aced the audition, til Kerri got up there with her pigtails and saddle shoes and five years of tap lessons and whupped my little butt. Never underestimate the power of abject jealousy to engender inspiration.

Gin Wigmore

I can write my songs easily on these instruments and I like to play rythym guitar live to still be in the picture instrumentally as well as singing of course.

Boshra AlSaadi, SAADI

Out of necessity, honestly. I played lead guitar in my old band, and when I need a bassist for my new project, I just started playing. I wrote and recorded the parts anyway, and the bass is my favorite instrument to play.


I sing because it feels whole to me. I play piano and violin because my parents put me in lessons as a child and I grew to love both.

Photo of Rachel Flotard, Visqueen

Rachel Flotard, Visqueen

Guitar has always been the iconic instrument for me. Plus, I was using my violin bow as a sword and got it taken away in 3rd grade.

Carly Comando, Slingshot Dakota

I love the piano. I was classically trained, but I had more fun writing my own melodies. When our original guitarist for Slingshot Dakota quit, I realized I could make the piano sound like a guitar and I taught myself how to make really cool sounds come out of my keyboard. I think it is really fascinating to take an instrument that has a "classical" element associated with it and turn it into a punk-sounding guitar.

Kelly Lynn

I began singing because I enjoyed the singing of certain others, and I was so deeply moved by it. Then, I realized how much others were moved by my live singing.

Meg Castellanos, Totimoshi

it's rhythmic, I'm also a dancer so this was the easiest instrument for me to pick up. plus I've always been attracted to women bass players.

Lucy Woodward

My mother was an opera singer and my father is a classical conductor/composer. My step-mom was also an opera singer. Surrounded by singers so I was verrry much born into the singing world.

Megan Burtt

I was inspired by other female singer/songwriters that play guitar. My dad has an old classical guitar in his office. Just before I turned 16 I decided I wanted to learn to play it. So, we took it to the folklore center, got the cracks fixed, and I'm on my forth guitar.

Whitney McGraw, Cotton Jones

I began taking piano lessons when I was about 15. Each of the instruments I play now take the same basic knowledge. I've just gradually adjusted to what was needed for each individual song and record.

Stephanie Gunther, not currently in a band.

I got involved with musical theater in the 8th grade and was extremely passionate about it. I spent my high school career singing in plays and taking voice lessons. When I went to college I realized that I was more interested in singing in bands than in plays and so went on from there.

Photo of Chhom Nimol, Dengue Fever

Chhom Nimol, Dengue Fever

My family - we're mostly singers.

Photo of Exene Cervenka, X, the Knitters, and solo

Exene Cervenka, X, the Knitters, and solo

dave alvin taught me the fundamnetal chords and strumming techniques. he's one of our greatest guitarists.

Annie Palmer

"voice: always have sung. always! before I could talk! guitar: was obsessed with Eddie Vedder when I was 13 and desperately wanted to rock. banjo: a renewed interest in americana and bluegrass in my late 20s, plus I love the way they sound

truly, if I had the time and the money to become skilled at every instrument i thought sounded pretty, i would."

Jocelyn Greenwood from Jets Overhead

I studied classical guitar because I love the instrument then I fell into playing bass originally due to a lack of bass players. I love the sound and what you can do both rhythmically and tonally with bass.

Tasha Golden :: Ellery

"My dad was a pastor, and he had four daughters (no sons, poor guy), each of whom he insisted take piano lessons ""at least until you can play the hymns."" It was strategic (when would he ever suffer the absence of a church pianist?), but I have to give him credit - It roped us in. I also confess to idolizing my oldest sister, who was (and still is) a fabulous pianist and made it seem thoroughly glamorous. I think in the beginning, I practiced piano so I could be like her."

Cheryl Lindsey, The Breeders, The Carrions, Tsk Tsk, Exene Cervenka

When listening to music, I have always been attracted to the sound of a guitar over anything else in a song..the guitar is the easiest way for me to communicate..Oh, plus when I was 12 years old, seeing Slash in the Paradise City video..

Maree McRae

Started on piano lessons at age 5!

Photo of Catherine  Cavanagh, Chop Chop

Catherine Cavanagh, Chop Chop

Honestly, I was just singing in bands, but my brother - who has had a bit of success in the music industry, told me I would never get any respect as a musician if I didn't really focus on an instrument. I enjoyed guitar and the challenge of learning. Keys I've always played a little, but guitar became my focus. Somehow this has evolved into self-producing my own records.

Photo of Lili Haydn

Lili Haydn

When I was 7 years old, I had a dream I could play violin, and my mom honored it by renting me one, and writing a song in G Major, so I could play open strings with her and have a sense of music right away.

Kat Burns - Forest City Lovers

I chose guitar because when I was a kid it seemed like all the cool kids were playing it. I studied piano briefly when I was a child but didn't return to it til I was 20, the same time I started playing guitar and writing songs.

Rebecca Martin

Singing is one of my earliest memories. The guitar, I was simply drawn to.

Kim Bonner, The Backsliders

love music, love the spot lite-didn't work hard enough on the other instruments in time to get them down before joining bands but maybe someday...

Photo of Chantal, Morningwood

Chantal, Morningwood

because I love to singa, about the moona and the juna and the springa, i love to singa, about a sky of blue and tea for two, anythinga with a swinga means i love you, cuz i love to singgggg!

Photo of Camilla Ingr

Camilla Ingr

Because I was no good at guitar... sort of. It was an organic process-- I started playing guitar in my first band but I never practice so just started singing and playing toys instead (a small glock and a child's accordion). I was introduced to the Q~Chord by a talented musician named Lara who was in a band we opened for on tour. I had never seen one before. It wasn't received well, but my next band loved it, and the frontman of that band also gave me my first keyboard and I started playing piano that way.

Photo of Lyla Vander, Des Roar

Lyla Vander, Des Roar

" I chose the drums because they are really fun to play! You get to bang and make a lot of noise, and be heard which was really appealing for a small lady like myself. Your whole body is involved, because you are using different parts of it to play different things at the same time, so in that way your body becomes a part of the instrument. It's very physical, which I like. "

Megan Reilly

I never wanted to just sing where my fate depended on finding other musicians. So I taught myself guitar and began writing my own songs.

Marie Parker, Secret Cities

"I picked up each instrument for a different reason. Piano was compulsory in my household; much to my dismay. I took four years of formal piano lessons, and about a year after dropping them, I approached the piano on my own and discovered that I had a talent for playing by ear. Shortly after, I started experimenting with writing music as well. I picked the horn because I thought it looked weird and nobody else in my school's band played it. When I was in high school, somebody left an old guitar in my choir director's office and never went back to get it. My choir director also happened to be my dad, so, hooray, I had a guitar! I decided to learn to play it. The cello was least convenient for me to start because my school district had no string program. I didn't even know what a cello was until I was about fifteen. Right away, I loved the way it sounded. It took a few months, but I finally convinced my parents to rent me a cello -- which had to be mailed to us -- and then I started taking monthly lessons. In Montana."

Julia Cafritz, Free Kitten

I didn't want to be the girl on bass. I thought they were lame. But I basically play bass lines on guitar so it is mainly just a conceit.

Photo of Laura Pleasants, Kylesa

Laura Pleasants, Kylesa

I liked the sonic quality of the guitar the best. And it looked the coolest.

Photo of Lauren Denitzio, The Measure [sa]

Lauren Denitzio, The Measure [sa]

I wanted to write songs and it was the easiest for me to play and sing at the same time. I loved performing at open mic nights when I was a kid, and a guitar made the most sense. I'm a classically trained pianist and already knew a lot about music theory and song structure, so picking up a guitar was pretty easy for me when I started playing at age 14.

Photo of Paz Lenchantin, The Entrance Band

Paz Lenchantin, The Entrance Band


Rykarda Parasol

I want to be able to accompany myself and be able to move on stage same time

Silvana Kane, PACIFIKA

i studied violin and piano, but have always enjoyed using my voice the most... i can't help myself.

Sarah Saturday, Gardening, Not Architecture

I started out playing piano and violin when I was three, but when I got into rock n' roll at age 14, my mom taught me to play bass (I later taught myself to play guitar), and bass was my favorite instrument to play live.

Photo of Natalie Brown

Natalie Brown

It was the one that I had been naturally gifted with and quite honestly in my family there was never money for lessons so I did what was free to study, which was voice. Eventually I ended up moving to California and got a scholarship to study Speech Level Singing method with Dave Stroud and Seth Riggs. I also studied voice at college. It's just what I was drawn to the most and had the most passion to practice!

Rebecca Vernon, Subrosa

My Schecter guitar playing through my VTM amp gives me a heavy, gnarly, distorted sound that I think other heavy stoner bands spend thousands of dollars to get through their Orange and Sunn amps. My VTM doesn't have a clean channel. I think that says it all. Of course, my amp might not be as good quality, but I am satisfied with the tone and sound.

Dottie Alexander, of Montreal

I was good at it

Photo of Gwyneth Moreland, I am the girl half of a boy/girl duo called Gwyneth & Monko

Gwyneth Moreland, I am the girl half of a boy/girl duo called Gwyneth & Monko

I play live with a guitar mainly for ease of traveling...I would love to add the accordion and banjo to the live show eventually, but for now, I stick to guitar...

Lisa Pykäri / Regina

I write the lyrics and it was a natural thing to become the vocalist of the group as well.

Kimberly van der Velden, Daily Bread

I didn't choose to play the keys. When we first started the band we felt that the combination of bass and drums was too minimal. The only option for us was not another bandmember but me learning keys. We didn't want a guitar in the band so the only option was keys.

Photo of Elizabeth Elkins, The Swear

Elizabeth Elkins, The Swear

I like the power of electric guitar and bass.

Beth DeSombre

My dad bought a guitar at a charity auction when I was young; it came with a "Mel Bay Teach Yourself to Play Guitar" book, so I did. And I was a huge folk fan at an early age, so it was an obvious instrument. (I also play about 8 other stringed instruments at this point in my life, but when I perform my own music guitar is what I play.)

Clare Muldaur Manchon from Clare and the Reasons

Well, my main instrument is my voice, because that's what I was born with, or what my father gave me, depending on how you look at it. I studied voice at Berklee College of Music, but I regret not studying guitar, which is a secondary instrument for me. I wish I had been more booted in the booty to really learn reading and theory on guitar, would have been a great experience. I certainly work on guitar, but without the fundamentals of having studied it seriously, I have a strange relationship with it. I perceive the guitar to really be a tool to write and a tight connector to my singing, rather than an independent "voice" in the music I write... maybe someday! So, to answer your question, I didn't choose to sing, it chose me I suppose, and I really like to sing for people in an audience.

Photo of Liz Hysen

Liz Hysen

It was the most accessible (cheap, easy to carry around).

Sarah Elizabeth Foster

"I was born with an amazing gift that was obvious to everyone who I encountered musically since birth practically, so I feel that my instrument chose me. I then enjoyed that voice so much and honed it with training until it became as good as it could be.

At four years old, my mother put me in piano lessons where we would sing and play the pitches at the same time. She also put me in ballet where I was able to not only dance, but develop my rhythm and artistry. "

Jenelle Coleman

God blessed me with it! :)

Eleanore Everdell

I developed a weird compulsion to sing when I was 11. It never went away. Luckily I learned to control it in public. Guitar was the next instrument...I just had a major crush. Got the first one when I was 14.

Photo of Julia Kugel, The Coathangers

Julia Kugel, The Coathangers

I had played acoustic guitar since 16 so playing the electric in the band was the obvious choice.

Ana Egge

Because I made it and it's amazing.

Di Gomes, Dayenu, The Shucks

I don't discriminate, it's what you do with it not the instrument that's important

Eden Fineday, Vancougar

I've always admired rock and rollers. I've always wanted to be in a band. I've always wanted to write songs.

Joanie Leeds, Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights

I started Suzuki piano lessons at 2 years old andhad a very good ear. When they tried to switch me over to read music at 5 or 6 years old, I used to trick my piano teachers into thinking I could read the notes by asking them to play the piece first. I would play it perfectly just by listening. A very stubborn kid I was! I never learned to read music but in high school in order to become a Songleader in the NFTY organization (my high school youth group) I had to play guitar. I was determined to teach myself how to play so I took a few lessons and with the basics, I practiced on my own until I eventually won the position of songleader. I'm so glad I had the drive back then because I would never be what I am today if it weren't for that day I said "I want to do that!".


I was given a keyboard at an early age and was drawn to it.

Photo of Emm Gryner

Emm Gryner

I was forced at gunpoint by parents to learn piano at age 5. I picked up bass at age 14 after a whirlwind trip to California in an RV. I played clarinet briefly with David Bowie (I wanted to play flute but my music teachers said i had "the wrong lip shape").

Photo of Samantha Crain

Samantha Crain

They were most accessible to me when I became interested in music. Its easy to find a guitar at someone's house or a piano in a church.

Zina Goldrich

I started music at 3, and piano at 5. My Dad was a trumpet player (as well as a doctor) and he and my mother felt that piano was self contained. I took to the piano immediately, so I didn't mind the choice. Coincidentally, I took drums in elementary school and junior high, but never felt the same affinity for it.

Cynthia Nelson, Freesia

Started with bass because guitar too frustrating at first and was offered a spot in an all-male band as "female bass player." Continued with bass in all-female band but gravitated to guitar as it lent itself better to singing/songwriting for me. Learned the drums for thrills and to complete the understanding of rock instruments, wrote on piano as a challenge to self, chose flute in grade school because someone played "Frosty the Snowman" on it and ended up being in demand as a flute player on people's recordings after 2000 when it came back into fashion. Basically use whatever works in service of writing songs, and teach other people to play guitar, bass, and drums and how to write songs or parts to other people's songs.

Erin Tidwell Overcasters

Started out on guitar and always wanted to play drums. Drumming is not usually an instrument that alot of women play. My mom and dad took me to a music store and bought me my first kit. Best thing I ever did.

Sara Magenheimer, WOOM

Seemed like fun.

Jerry Casey

I started studying piano at age 5 with a relative and studied through high school. I began singing a youth choir as a teenager. In college I majored in piano performance, but also continued voice lessons. My graduate degree was in church music with a major in voice. Although I "dabbled" in composing throughout my life, I only became really serious in the late 80's and early 90's. The last three years have been the best in terms of works performed and commissions received. I have received the ASCAP Plus Award annually since 1996.

Photo of God-des and She

God-des and She

I could always sing ever since ever. I play guitar and write music on that as well and God-des(the MC) was a drummer for many years but she wanted a voice to express her frustration and have a voice for all marginalized people.

Dana Falconberry

my dad brought home a little 3/4 size guitar he got for free at work, and i started playing that. i was obsessed with the beatles and wanted to learn all their songs, and guitar was the most readily available way to do that.

Ash Reiter

Its a very natural instrument to write with. Plus its just such a fun way to get into you body playing it because its both melodic and rhythmic.

Photo of Zambri


singing always felt natural, and for a brief moment, i used to take piano lessons, which got me interested in keyboards. from there, guitar was an easy next choice as i like to mix it up and try out new instruments all the time.

Abby Musgrove

I was inspired by other conductors and love teaching others about music. I seemed to have a talent for conducting and singing at an early age, and it was the only thing that a nerdy, not particularly "cool" girl could latch onto!

Photo of Carmen Souza

Carmen Souza

"I grew up singing, and because I grew up in church you get that taste for singing, The guitar I had the example of my dad who played the guitar, but it was only when I met Theo Pas'cal that really went deep into it, composing in it and discovering new sounds. The wurlitzer and rhodes are the ones I really enjoy and I really identify with them, because of the similarity to the piano, and because for example the wurlitzer has such a roots sound depending on the compromise between your fingers and the instrument. It really sounds like an african timbila or kalimba, the african thumb piano., because if you see the inside of a wurlitzer it is built almost like that. And that brings me closer to a more roots taste."

Photo of Sara Renner of Sara Renner & The Elements

Sara Renner of Sara Renner & The Elements

Singing is my way of communicating my heart and my thoughts to the world. Whether I am singing songs I have written or am interpreting other's songs, I feel like it is a way to share my spiritual and life experiences and also, in a way, leave a legacy in recorded form.

Melissa McClelland

started with violin as a kid, but picked up guitar & piano in my early teens. good tool for writing songs.

Tory Daines, Those Mockingbirds

"Growing up I was strongly influenced by the singers in my family, my mother was an Interlochen Arts Academy trained opera singer, and my godfather Michael Sylvester used to sing the lead tenor roles at the Metropolitan Opera House, because of them I fell in love with music, but I didn't feel comfortable singing so I went to and instrument I could sing through. I choose the violin and I demanded I get a one at the age of 3, it was about the size of a shoe box and sounded like nails on a chalk board. A few years later I decided to play the piano as well but only recently began to develop on it as a player. As I got older I began to feel more comfortable singing but this is the first band I have sung in."

Traci Eggleston, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band

I play keyboards more out of necessity than a personal passion. I have always wanted to play drums but our drummer is extremely talented and it wouldn't have made sense to compete for the role.

Photo of Sandra McCracken

Sandra McCracken

I begged for a piano as a little girl...always wanted to sing and play. I think I was born that way. Nobody in my family played an instrument. My Dad has a great voice, but never took it to heart. I fell in love with the music my family always had spinning on the record player; Johnny Cash, Olivia Newton John, The Eagles, Elvis...

Megan Birdsall, MBird

I sing the songs after I write them, playing occasionally onstage. I choose to do it because I like to share my lyrics and maneuver the melodies I write my particular way. Plus, after I write the song, allowing other people to play with me lets me step into their instruments, creating a world for us as a team, and stretches me as a songwriter and performer. (and my favorite is singing)

Eve Goldfarb

I don't feel like I chose it. It chose me. I wasn't even big enough to get up on the piano bench by myself (I was 3 1/2 when I first started taking lessons).

Photo of Alli Rogers

Alli Rogers

Although we had a piano in the house when I was growing up, I was more drawn to the $30 garage sale guitar that belonged to my brother. The musicians I was listening to all played the acoustic guitar and I wanted to to! Now I also play some piano and wish I would have taken piano lessons as well as guitar when I was younger.

Ruth Gerson

I grew up with a piano in my room, so I started there. Growing up, I would shut the door and write songs for hours. I didn't get a guitar until my last year of college, and I chose to learn it, because it made traveling/gigging easier. (I din't know how to drive, so i always had to use public transport to get to shows, I knew learning the guitar woudl get me mobile - I ended up loving it, and it changed how I wrote music.)

Photo of Nona Invie, Dark Dark Dark

Nona Invie, Dark Dark Dark

My mom had me take piano lessons when I was 7. I never really liked the piano. So I learned a bunch of different instruments - guitar, ukulele, bass, omnichord, melodica - until I played my friend's accordion and fell in love. After that I started playing the piano to write music and it spoke to me more as an adult. I do almost all of my writing on the piano now.

Photo of Heather McIntosh, Gnarls Barkley, Circulatory System, used to play w Lil Wayne

Heather McIntosh, Gnarls Barkley, Circulatory System, used to play w Lil Wayne

when i was a kid, i flipped out over the sound. the cello was also the biggest instrument i could choose in the string family when i was in fourth grade.

Shannon Steele

My mother plays violin. When I was little we went to a toystore and saw a pink toy violin. I later told my mom I wanted it. I guess I wasn't very specific because she took me to Schuback Violins and we got a real one.

Diane Cluck

Singing feels good vibrating through my body; guitar-playing feels good vibrating against my body. I feel the instruments have chosen me. I never felt built to play wind instruments.

Tracy Bonham

because my sister didn't want to

HolleThee Maxwell

I did not choose to play piano...my mother chose it for me...which now I apppreciate...due to composing and being able to sight read and just be great!!!!!

Ariana of Admiral Radley & also Earlimart

"As far as piano, my mom's a piano teacher, so that one's no surprise. As far as bass, the guy that played bass in the band i was in way back when left town, so i picked it up."

Beth Waters

I think I chose piano because my older brother played and I wanted to be like him. But more than that, it's such a naked canvas every time you sit at the keys. It takes no effort to make something happen and there is a sense of control to what you are doing. Also piano is very linear.. it's all laid out in front of you and the choices are obvious. It seems like with guitar, there are several ways to play a chord and it feels like they are all hiding waiting for you to explore them. I guess that's how I feel about the difference between the two. Also, as a child.. your fingers don't hurt when you play piano. The texture feels good of the cool keys, so there is always a positive association.

Rupa, Rupa & The April Fishes

because it's chordal and supports my voice.

Susan L. Yasinski Group, Susan and the SurfTones

I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and my life was changed. Really.

Lisa Mathews, Milkshake

There's something incredibly empowering about putting on a guitar and letting it rip. I feel strong and invincible without having to become one of the boys.

Juju Stulbach, Undersea Poem

I didn't. Chris (my husband and band mate) did.


Because I saw my uncle play the classical guitar badly and I wanted to get better than him. Then I fell in love with the instrument.

Coco, The Ettes

Because singing without something in front of you is scary, and I need a weapon. A weapon that makes sounds?? Awesome!

Sarah Dashew

I played piano for a couple years when I was a kid, but then I let it go...When I was studying abroad in Spain I thought, Why not pick up a guitar? What better place to learn? So I started taking lessons in Madrid! Plus guitar is so easily transportable, and I always felt sorry for drummers. :)

Submitted Anonymously

From the age of 5 I studied the piano, because my parent had one. I loved playing Bach and Beethoven on the piano, and when I entered college was practicing the piano 40 hours a week, intending to be a professional pianist. In college while studying classical composition I took singing lessons because I wanted to write better of the voice. I found that the voice was my true instrument, and quickly became, as a perfomer, a professional opera singer, singing solo roles with opera companies in the U.S., and Italy.

Rachele Eve Guastella

Good question. Probably because I liked it over playing the piano.


I've been singing since I was a kid. It was a way for me to shut the world out and keeping my self sane. I started to play guitar so that I could write music.

Leslie Sisson, The Wooden Birds and Matt Pond PA

Absolutely, at least in rock and roll, which to me, has been a male dominated field since its inception and still is. Guys seem to become attracted to rock music at a younger age and thus start learning rock instruments, such as guitar, early on, which gives them a head start on their skill level. Ever since I picked up a guitar, I knew I had to keep up with the boys from the start which motivated me to practice constantly. I've been told I play guitar better than many guys, which is a compliment. I play a lot of lead guitar now in my bands and it's amazing how the response has been geared towards the fact that I'm a chick doing dude's work. Touring constantly the past year has opened my eyes to how much of a boys club music really is. I'm okay with that, but I feel like there's a little extra effort for me to prove that I can fill those shoes and not just be in a band because I'm a trophy girl, but because I'm a good musician.
Guitar and voice are my current primary instruments. My dad, Joan Jett, The Go Go's, Heart, & The Bangles played guitar, so I wanted to. I began playing piano as a little kid, then flute in school, then cello, then guitar. My dad didn't originally want me to play guitar nor be in a band because he thought guys in bands would try to get in my pants. He had a change of heart when he heard me sing and now he's my biggest fan.

Clara Kebabian

When I was 5 I begged my parents to play and I have always played. It's been a bit of a conflicted relationship. When I was in my teens, I threatened to quit and my parents, in a brilliant use of reverse psychology said "go ahead." And then I though the better of it. I played all the way through college and perhaps got a bit burnt out and stopped playing for awhile. When I started playing again, not to overdo a cliche, I felt like I had come home and found new purpose.

Jana Herzen

I started on Piano as a 5 year old, and at 13 started on guitar and never stopped mainly because it was portable and I could accompany myself singing at events, and it was fun to play.

Photo of Lys Guillorn

Lys Guillorn

I think I was always meant to play guitar. Years of piano lessons didn't really stick, I was just waiting to pluck strings. The guitar makes a lot of sense to me, and it's far more portable than a piano.

Bari Koral, Bari Koral Family Rock Band

"it kind of chose me. We were in canada in a mall with my dad and on an impulse i bought a nylon string guitar which basically sat under my bed for 2 years. then my senior year of college a roomate had a boyfriend who would come around and play guitar- and I said ""hey, I have one of those"". I dusted it off, he showed me some chords, and once I knew a little about how to play I was off and running. I always sang, even semi professionally so finally I had a way to accompany myself."

Esme Patterson, Paper Bird

my dad always sang while my sister and i were growing up, we three would sing together, i can't remember a time i wasn't singing.

Julia Richter

Band instrument demonstrations

Tara Vanflower, Lycia

I'm a singer

Lucia Turino, The Devil Makes Three

A girl in my high school played upright and I thought she was so cool. So, a few years later, when some friends gave me the opportunity to learn upright and join the band they were starting I jumped at the opportunity. I haven't looked back since!

Gayelynn Mckinney

"I really didn't choose it, it chose me. According to my mother, I was beating a rhythm before I was even born. My mother told me a story about the time when her and my father were sleeping in the spooning position, and my father woke up to a tapping in his back. He tried to wake my mother, and she was sound asleep. The tapping stopped so, he went back to sleep, only to be awakened again by more tapping. This time he was able to wake mom up, and she said ""What is it?' Dad said: ""Why are you tapping me?"" Mom said: (with irritation in her voice because, he woke her up) ""THAT'S NOT ME SILLY, THAT'S THE BABY!""

So, apparently, I knew what I wanted to do early on. :-D LOL!"

Elizabeth and the Catapult

started very young playing the greats(chopsticks/heart and soul)

Merica Lee, The Naked Heroes

I love to dance. It seemed that playing the drums was just an extension of that. Plus, it's pretty "tough" for a girl to play the drums.

Submitted Anonymously

Wanted to make dance music so I learned how to do it on the computer.

Ariane Cap

"Yes and no. I think the experience of music and the urge to express oneself musically is universal. I see striking differences in the way my female students learn and memorize music as compared to their male counterparts (grossly simplified, women seem to learn more visual, men more auditory, women seem to use their voice more directly to help their ears, whereas males tend to be analytical...) There sure is still a lot of prejudice about women rhythm section players - I was excluded from auditions because of being female ('This band is not a punk band!'), and it was often assumed that women in the band would not get along ('There will be cat fights', 'They will fight over the spotlight/the drummer' etc.), assumptions on sexual orientation are being made (a very famous bassist once asked me: 'Are you gay?') and I will never forget that sound guy who asked me - as I walked in the door with my amp and bass - 'So, do you have a REAL bassist, too? Where do I plug him in?' "
"I started out on piano and recorder, all classical music. Later I joined bands and played guitar and keys. At one point our band, a Blues Rock band, lost their bassist and we couldn't find replacement. We had gigs on the books. So I went an bought a bass. The guitarist showed me the lines and a few weeks later I played my first gig. It was love at first sight.

A year later I started taking formal lessons. I went on to marry my favorite teacher....


Photo of Tessa Souter

Tessa Souter

My mother taught me to sing when I was three. One of my earliest memories is of performing grown up songs for her friends. I learned the piano from the age of eight until I was eleven or twelve, when my piano teacher suggested I focused on singing, because she loved my voice (and ...er ... also, I never practiced the piano). At twelve I taught myself to play the guitar to accompany myself singing and pretty much everyone I knew thought I would become a professional musician. However, at 15 I ran away from home and had a baby (and got married), which put a damper on my musical ambitions and I left my guitar at home. But I never gave up singing. All the years I was a journalist for UK publications (Times, Guardian, Elle, Vogue), I sang at home and sometimes for friends. Years later someone heard me singing in a gay karaoke bar in San Francisco and made it their mission to get me to become a professional singer. Three years later (in 1999) I had my first ever professional gig and now, three CDs and a lot of gigs later, here I am.

Kit Wallach, Gracious Calamity

So portable!

Kristie Rethlefsen, The Very Foundation

I took piano lessons as a kid.

Rennie Sparks, The Handsome Family

I love the 19th century sound of playing clawhammer banjo

Chrisopher Clara Brasseur

I started experimenting with composition as soon as I started learning my first instrument (piano). It never made sense to me to be musician without writing music. I put on a senior recital in high school, which was the first time I presented any of my own work in public and directly led to me pursing composition in college and now graduate school.

Photo of Olof Arnalds

Olof Arnalds

The violin I chose as a kid. I just decided, don't know why. Sometimes I wish I hadn't, it's such a brutal beginners instrument. Later I switched from the violin to vocal lessons because I didn't have the humor back then to tolerate myself playing flat notes and knew I could trust my voice better. I started teaching myself guitar in my teens because I needed to have one instrument that I could approach my own way, untouched, only by ear. Lately I've started learning what the chords are called on the guitar, for practical reasons.

Monica Jackson

didn't. signed up for clarinet in 3rd grade, but school ran out of clarinets and had plenty of violins, so that's what I eneded up with.

Lisa Hearns

Started singing and playing music at a very early age. My family is very musical, and it was a natural progression.

Danika Holmes

My parents put me in piano lessons at a young age. My second instrument, guitar, I picked up when I was 25 when I was going through a really rough personal time. I spent about 8 hours a day learning to play guitar as a way of clearing my mind. Worked better than 8 hours with a therapist a day!

Susan Morton

I loved it.

Gazelle Amber Valentine, Jucifer

i loved the sound of strings and distortion...still do! writing and making awesome sounds was always my first goal. singing was an afterthought, but i've learned to enjoy the range of texture and emotion that my voice can add to the songs.

Razia Said

because i love singing; it's the best way to communicate.

Jackie Stewart, Smegma

I have always played records well.

God-Des & She

I love rhythm. I thought playing the drums as a little girl was super cool. I was one of the few female percussionists in my school. I was the section leader as a sophomore in our drum line for marching band. And eventually I started playing drums with a couple different punk bands in high school. I loved playing but I hated being the girl in the back with all male fronted bands. I really wanted to have more of a voice and verbally express my story. I always loved hip-hop but was scared to try to be a rapper. I thought everyone would make fun of me for being a tomboy and trying to do something that was hyper masculine. I was also worried about appropriating black culture. However, hip-hop at it's core, is about having a voice and telling a story that needs to be told. Even though I am not African American, I am an openly gay female and knew that my community needed a major voice. We were invisible in so many ways and I wanted to change that. I wanted to be the first openly gay rapper that "made it" in the mainstream.

Lóa Hlín, FM Belfast

Because it seemed right.

Dr. Jennifer Kelly, Lafayette College

I grew up with a music program in place in my school system - but that's another topic! Because of this, I sang, played recorder, then trumpet and piano and guitar. I continued music in college and soon learned that I did not want to make a career of singing, (but I still perform and take the occasional classical or cabaret gig). I quickly learned that conducting combined my talents and my desires. I am an advocate for new music, women composers, and live music. I believe that storytelling through passion is even more important than the "perfect" sound. If "perfect" sound is desired in classical music, then there are a host of digitally mastered recordings out there from which to choose. Although I believe in recorded music, and have been a part of recordings, the nature of my job puts me in the business of live music. I have the opportunity and responsibility to make an impact on an ensemble and an audience, to teach, to create art, to help someone feel something, if only for the length of a single piece. These are my talents, my desires, and why I chose conducting/ensemble as my instrument.

Anna Rose

I fell in love with the guitar when I was 5 years old. I used to sleep with it in my bed. The piano is more of a recent development and I simply love to sing. I don't feel like I chose those instruments, I just feel like they are very much a part of who I am.

Monique Buzzarté

I loved the sound. Back in those days, girls weren't "supposed" to play trombone, and I was told I couldn't...


In5th grade I told my mother my elementary school was offering music training. I asked if I could play violin. I got a cello. I grew up thinking everybody sang because I heard my parents always sang

Photo of Jessica Bailiff

Jessica Bailiff

I play whatever I have to to get the songs in my head recorded. I'm more of a recording artist than a performer, and have never managed to master any one instrument.

Photo of Erin Barra

Erin Barra

"My parents put me in a music pre-school that led into piano lessons. I've never stopped since. I didn't start singing until I was about 17 - just out of sheer necessity because I needed someone to sing my songs. "

Perley Rousseau, Sonny & Perley

"I chose voice because I enjoyed singing and people encouraged me to pursue it professionally. I chose percussion because it seemed to come naturally and I love the way rhythm instruments, especially shakers, rain sticks, bells, wood blocks, etc enhance and color music."

Photo of Naomi Yang / Damon & Naomi / Galaxie 500

Naomi Yang / Damon & Naomi / Galaxie 500

I started out on electric bass -- and I thought that playing basslines was like singing -- it was like another voice in the band. The band was a classic trio line-up: guitar, drums, and bass -- and they needed a bass player!

Kristy Osmunson

I just had that moment tonight. I saw the first woman I have ever seen playing lead guitar down on Broadway. I have lived here in Nashville for eight years, and I have never seen a woman grabbing a slide and ripping a solo on an electric. I just recently switched to electric in the Bomshel shows, and it is amazing to see how it freaks people out. For some reason, we don't have very many women on the radio in country music, and we don't have hardly ANY female musicians. I can think of one female session bass player, and NO electric players, no drummers, no steel players, and only one or two fiddle players that are actually A session players. I don't know why this is, and I it is one of my missions in life to bring about a change and inspire little girls to PICK UP INSTRUMENTS!!!!! If I ever have a daughter, I want to be able to look at her and say, "Baby girl, of COURSE you can be a rock star guitar player! Look at all these other girls who have done it... and I was one of em:)"
My first memory was of my grandmother playing the violin. She was a musical maverick. My second was from watching the group I grew up touring and playing with, called the Fiddler's Hatchery. I saw my first show at three and I never looked back.

Annie Fitzgerald

I grew up singing. My voice is my primary instrument. The piano & guitar were means for me to have something to sing a long to.

Kendall Jane Meade, Mascott

I wanted to write songs, not shred.

Photo of Andrea Rogers, Night Driving in Small Towns

Andrea Rogers, Night Driving in Small Towns

We had a piano in my house growing up. My mom played piano while she was pregnant with me, so the joke is that she instilled it in me before birth. I remember clunking away as a kid (there are pictures of me sitting on her lap around age 2, clunking on the keys). I started "really" playing around age 7 or 8. I remember the first song I learned, which was "Sandman's Lullabye" (not to be confused with "Enter Sandman").

Photo of Ann Savoy

Ann Savoy

because I love rhythm and the instruments I play are mostly about groove

Brooke Waggoner

I grew up on it from a very young age and have always loved it.

Photo of VV Brown

VV Brown

Love chopin

Submitted Anonymously

Because I rebelled and quit piano lessons, but I loved the idea of playing guitar because it was "cooler" than piano. I was just drawn to it from day one, and practiced my heart out after my dad borrowed one from the school he worked at.

Robin Renee

"I began on piano at age 7. I began to become interested in the guitar while still in elementary school and learned a few chords. I liked the rock sensibility that felt natural on guitar, but I honestly think I chose it more wholeheartedly for its portablilty when traveling and performing live. I stil love the piano & long to come back to it with greater attention.

In 2001, I had a spiritual vision - perhaps it could be described as a kundalini experience - that transformed my life. I had been exposed somewhat to kirtan chanting beforehand, but after the experience I was profoundly moved to spiritual singing and to immerse myself in this form of Indian chant in particular. It was natural, then, that I started to play the harmonium and to incorporate that element into the music that I perform. "

Karla Schickele, Ida and k

Easier than guitar and I like the role bass plays in most songs -- melodic, rhythmic, stealth influence on overall feel of the song.

Laurine Celeste Fox

Its expressive capabilities

Courtney Kaiser, Kaiser Cartel

I always loved to sing. It was very natural to me. I sang all the time as a child so I never stopped. My mother started me on piano lessons at 3 years old. I enjoyed it and it was my first writing instrument. I used to just wrote the letters of the alphabet on notation paper in order to write songs until I was able to read standard notation. I chose to play the cello in 4th grade when orchestra was a option. I first picked the violin but didn't like how it felt, so I went with the cello. I still love the cello today. It is one of my favorite adds to our music. I am way out of practice, so I get others to play. Xylophones are used in our music because when I was a music teacher, we had many different kinds in the classroom. I loved their sound then and love what they add now.

Stephanie Budge, Cadette

My best friend played guitar. His brother played drums. They needed a bass so I bought one at a musican's flea market sale.

Heather Dea Jennings

When I was a child, I always had an affinity towards music, and one day as a 7-year-old, I picked up my mom's flute and taught myself how to play. When I started to learn how to sing, I was in choir in junior-high, and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to continue.

Susan Slesinger

I started composing when I was 9 or 10 but was told not to waste my time by my then piano teacher. When I changed piano teachers, my new teacher said that she did not care about my playing and that I should get composition instruction. I was lucky enough to get accepted as an external student at Trinity College of Music when I was 13 or 14 and started formal composition studies at that time.

Shunda K, Yo! Majesty

I feel dat music is supposed to encourage da people and give us hope to a brighter day. It should be used as a forum to teach and inspire da people to greater depths

Mother Banjo

Because I've always loved the banjo--the percussive nature of it. Also, everyone I knew played the guitar, so when I was looking for a string instrument to accompany my songs, I knew I needed to do something different.

Melissa Beattie. Band name: True Womanhood

The singer/guitarist of my band, Thomas, and I hung out nearly every day for a couple of years. He always had a guitar in his hands while we were watching TV, etc. It had always been a dream of his to form a band. For about a year straight, he begged me to learn how to play an instrument. He figured, "We're hanging out enough. I know Melissa likes good music. Why not give it a shot?" One day he randomly asked me what my favorite instrument was. That was his sneaky way of deciding what instrument he'd teach me how to play. I gave it some thought and concluded that the bass was probably my favorite instrument. It's versatile and it can completely change the mood and feel of any song. The bass is an integral part of some of my favorite music. The next day, I came over to his house. There was a bass on the bed. Thomas said to me, "Here is a bass. You are going to sit here with me and I am going to teach you the basics of this instrument." I remember throwing my hands in the air and shouting quite a bit that day. I'd never even picked up a guitar in my life! I thought I was too old to learn and was resistant at first. But Thomas was an excellent teacher and I was able to pick up the instrument pretty quickly. It also helps to practice with other people.

Nicole Kern, Balmorhea

I knew that I wanted to be in orchestra by age 9 and loved the cello's expressive, mid-range tone. Since it can make sounds that resemble violin, viola and bass, it was easy to reach a decision on which instrument to choose.

Mama Doni Band

The instrument I play is...ME! I have always been immersed in the arts, music, and Jewish life, and when this music came to me I knew this was what I was meant to do. I felt like there was nobody sharing Jewish culture in a light and fun cool way through music like this, and it became my passion to do it. I had an immediate heart warming response from kids, families, seniors, mothers, everywhere and I know feel that it is my life's work. This music is my heart and soul and I am so grateful to be able to create it and share it with people. I feel like it is my job to share Jewish culture with all audiences so everyone can get a little flavor of the richness of Jewish culture - weather you are reform, conservative, orthodox, reconstructionist, Half-Jewish, Not Jewish, married to a Jew, or "Jew-ish", this music will make you feel just a little Jewish! ;-)))

Photo of Samantha Stephenson, The Gypsy Nomads

Samantha Stephenson, The Gypsy Nomads

I have always sung. For me singing is a direct line to the soul. Singing was also an integral part of my upbringing. On my French side; my grandfather had wanted to be an opera singer but was not able to devote himself to that, he had a beautiful voice. (he was a "chef de gare" a train station master and later a small business accountant) Both my mother and uncle have really nice voices too (also French side). My uncle invariably sings at the end of meals..(the wine perhaps!) and my mother performed as an amateur singer for many years. Her favorite songs to sing were by Edith Piaf. My father (British) has played guitar and banjo from an early age and he loves to sing as well. As a family we used to sing in the car whenever we were on road trips. Percussion came naturally for me as an offshoot of dance. I have always had a yearning to play drums and have gravitated to that sound for as long as I can remember.

Photo of June Millington

June Millington

the moment I heard someone play a guitar, in the Philippines at the convent we attended just before we moved to California, I instanly knew this was for me. Not only that, I knew it was the key to my entire life. I got up like a sleepwalker and followed that sound (down the hall), and have been following it ever since ...

Libbie Schrader

My mom made me take lots of piano lessons as a kid. (I think she wanted me to be well-rounded...she wasn't expecting for it to end up as my career! Thanks Mom...) I started writing instrument pieces when I was about 10, and then I started singing and writing songs when I was about 15. Soon afterward I thought it would be smart to pick up the guitar.

Photo of Vassy


i didn't it chose me ;-)

Photo of Madeline Gallo

Madeline Gallo

I was three and a half, and everyone else in my family played the piano. I was at a recital for my older brother and sister, and their piano teacher asked at the end if she had missed anyone who wanted to play. I marched up to the front and she led my fingers through something simple (Mary had a Little Lamb?) while I beamed at the audience. My parents decided soon after to start me on piano lessons. I picked up the viola in 4th grade because we had the option of starting an instrument at school, and I thought the violin was too screechy, but the cello was too big. I might have been influenced by the fact that my brother played violin.

Aurore Ounjian. Mean Creek

"Since I was a child, I've always had interest in music, both playing and listening. I grew up playing piano, but the music I was listening to in my room (Nirvana, The Beatles, R.E.M., etc) were all guitar-driven. So, I bought a guitar and taught myself some rock songs."

Miss Murgatroid

i am a rhythm slut. both the accordion and the drums appeal to this. i think in patterns, and with song write with them. before i started learning the drums, i called myself an accordion player that plays like a drummer, now i call myself a drummer that plays like an accordionist. the bass keys and the drums are the same to me.

Nicole Chamberlain

I was fascinated by how the flute produced sound. I originally started on clarinet but kept breaking reeds and was at the mercy of my parents to get me more reeds. The flute was not only appealing but more practical.

Heather Edwards

When I was 6 1/2 years old my parents bought a piano. I was trying to play a song but it wasn't going the way I thought it should or wanted it to. I asked my Mother what the problem was and she explained that I had to take piano lessons. My Father was a high school math teacher and asked his students if any of them had a piano teacher that they really liked. One girl told him that she had a piano teacher and she really liked her and that is how my parents found my piano teacher. After my first lesson I ran to the piano once we got home and tried to play the song. I exclaimed to my parents that the piano lesson didn't work. They told me I needed to take more than one lesson and so I kept going back. Four months later I gave my first recital (playing at a fourth year level, which I didn't know was a big deal at the time). After that performance I was on Cloud 9 and knew that a pianist/performer was what I would be 'when I grew up'.

Photo of Leandra Peak, Neal & Leandra

Leandra Peak, Neal & Leandra

it's portable

Nive Nielsen

I got my little red ukulele from by boyfriend while I was studying in canada - I was bored and he thought I should have a uke. Not sure why, hihi - I ´d never played anything before, and he surely never heard me sing. But well I got this uke - and I started messing around with it and all of a sudden songs just came out!

Photo of Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette

It was the one I was given.

Heather Perkins

I play so many, they seem to choose me.

Faith Fusillo, ISIS

"My sisters (twins) had a folk group in the 60s and bought themselves a beautiful acoustic classical guitar (Gibson). I always wanted to be like my sisters...

Then when my professional career as a vocalist came to fruition, I was encouraged by other female musicians to play guitar on stage. The thought of playing electric guitar in a band wasn't even on my radar 'cause there were no role models to emulate."

Jimena Villalobos/ Bring That Shit. A hardcore punk band

Because I found out that one of my stress releases was singing and as time passed putting up a performance. Having the more extroverted part of me come out and play and scream out my lingering thoughts.

Debbie Cunningham

People have always responded positively when I perform and I enjoy entertaining them!

Photo of Janis Ian

Janis Ian

"Started on piano and moved to whatever I could get my hands on. You can carry a guitar; you can't carry a concert grand piano."

Photo of Eternia


I didn't choose to rap - it chose me. I was 8-yrs-old when my brother brought home NWA, 2 Live Crew, PE, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, etc... I've been rapping ever since. It never once occured to me that white chicks from Canada don't normally become emcees.

Angie Lynch, Sasquatch Mountain

I already play guitar, so it was an easy transition (the banjitar is tuned like a guitar). All my other musician friends played guitar so I thought I'd bring something unique to the table.

Photo of Eve Sicular

Eve Sicular

"Yes. I had talent and interest as a child and a teenager, but certain hostile adolescent boys and one lecherous male teacher almost alienated me from music. Playing a 'non-traditional' instrument for women/girls, I had to look for places to feel welcome. It made a big difference when after a full year of asking for a drumset, I opened the door the week before my bat mitzvah and saw my dad carry in a set of Ludwig drums from Manny's Music shop. My mom did not encourage me to continue drumming when I went away to college, but I was determined to bring my drumset up.

Also, once I listened to a rehearsal tape for an R&B group I was playing with, and at the end the guys forgot the mic was on and all talked about me. They liked my music but seemed perplexed about how to relate to me; I never told them I heard this recording. "
I was eight years old in summer camp. The choices were drums or ukulele. The drums came naturally to me. I had also studied piano & grew up with a very musical father.

Emily Jane White

My parents encouraged me to play piano throughout my childhood and teenage years. I picked up the guitar when I was 15 because and later on became very inspired to play more rock oriented music. I then discovered song writing and have written both folk and rock songs using the piano and guitar.

Photo of Raina Rose

Raina Rose

i adore the acoustic guitar. I always have. My dad is a guitar player (he has a degree in the history of country and western music from UCSC) and they were never off limits when i was a kid. I took piano lessons for a year in 2nd grade. hated it. Then tried cello, i wasn't great. Then tried saxophone, that was beyond me. Then i started taking guitar when i was 11 years in 6th grade. I loved it. I stopped doing my homework and pretty much spent my afternoons playing guitar. It is like an extra limb.

Corrie Harrigan, Kitten Forever

No one I was friends with knew how to play drums, and I certainly didn't know any girl drummers at the time. I had played guitar in another band previously and never really liked being up front on the stage, having to put on a show or something. Really, we wanted to start a band, and one of us could sing, and one could play guitar or bass, so I just said, "I will play the drums!" Whether or not I knew how to didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time.

Saskia Lane, The Lascivious Biddies

I was told that girls told play the bass when I was eleven years old and curious about the instrument, that sealed the deal! I also thought I would continue growing but alas, I am a mere 5 "1 and a 1/2!

Canie Ritchson

I do not play and instrument but I was taking a class one time how to play piano. I would really like to play keyboard because a keyboard cam have mix of instruments and it is more portable than a piano.

Genevieve Patterson, Paper Bird

Singing is the only thing i've been doing my whole life.

Laura Larson, Cadette and Kitten Forever

I was mad at the boys at school that thought they were hot shit because they could play a Green Day song.

Photo of Claudia Schmidt

Claudia Schmidt

Just the right sound! I was in my first choir at age 5, the rest followed. .

Photo of Poni Silver, The Ettes

Poni Silver, The Ettes

I think it chose me.

Jane Vincent, Abiku and Morgaine

I love vintage synthesizers because you have to spend time creating sounds, you work within a confined palette to find what expresses the feeling you're going for in a song. I also like that it's a feminine instrument, and I make this harsh aggressive music from a female perspective. I love guitar too though, I love taking what is seen as a masculine instrument and being able to play that role. There is still something transgressive about a girl with a guitar. It's like cross-dressing.

Natalja Mari, Minimum Of None (MINIM)

Minimalism can deliver some interesting results. Everything has a sound waiting to emerge. I like to cultivate something ecstatic within what would seem otherwise mundane or trivial, so the simpler the better...

Sarah Shannon, The Not-Its!

I discovered I could sing in the 5th grade when auditioning for the school play and got the lead

Jane Herships

I picked the guitar so that I could have something to sing along too. When I first started to play, I would sing Joni Mitchell and the 10,000 Maniacs. It wasn't until my late 20's that it even occurred to me that I was a guitar player.

Jolie Holland

I never got any encouragement or support from my family. I just got some occasional shreds of support from older musicians and strangers. I've seen young male musicians get a lot of support from strangers and their parents. But I've also heard a lot of male musicians talking about pressure from their families to leave music behind and go into fields where there is more sure money. Women are less expected to make money in any area, so there is less family pressure to 'get serious' about making money, and burying their musical aspirations.
I play a lot of stringed instruments, and the piano. I basically started to play instruments that were available, anything I could get my hands on when I was younger. It didn't really seem like a choice at the time. I was just reaching for tools, and found these.

Danielle Sullivan, Typhoon

It's what I am most comfortable with. I've been singing since I was in grade school. Back in those days it was mostly Disney jams.

Dot Allison

I found my voice had a unique sound and worked with that..

Cherish Alexander, Bella Bazarria

i play many different instruments. right now, bass is my love. just depends on what i'm in the mood for. but i play piano, bass & guitar.


My big brother had a guitar that his dad had given him....he never played it, so it stayed in his closed like a secret...and this kid was very curious....my mom is a singer and pianist, so it was natural for me to start playing professionally.

Maia Sharp

I started on Oboe when I was 11 and it was a beast. I noticed how much fun the saxophone section seemed to be having while the double reeds whimpered and turned purple. So, at 12 I switched and loved it. Years of saxophone obsession led to Cal State Northridge as a music major where I met many future writing and performing cohorts. Songwriting took over at about age 20 but I still play sax in my shows, on the albums and an occasional sit in.

Liz Fullerton. Dutch

my dad gave me a guitar when i was 13, and I've been trying to play it ever since. I have always been singing, since I was just a little girl, and really started to explore my voice in high school.

Photo of Karolyn Troupe, Venice is Sinking

Karolyn Troupe, Venice is Sinking

"The viola has the qualities of both the violin and the cello. It can reach most the notes that a violin can reach (or at least the ones you want to hear) and some of the low notes of the cello without being too bulky and difficult to carry around. The baritone ukulele is perfect for someone with small hands like mine. I learned to play guitar, but the neck was too wide so I switched to the uke since the bottom strings are the same as a guitar and I didn't have to re-learn chords. Plus I can bring the uke anywhere I go just in case I have some inspiration hits me. "

Photo of Renee LoBue

Renee LoBue

Vocals chose me. It just seemed like the thing to do - to sing. I never took voice lessons. I feel like a better version of myself when I sing. As for piano and keys, I play them as a means to write songs, I'm not really a good player. I'd like to think of myself as an audio painter. I don't want to know the technicalities of how the paint is made, I just want to paint.

Miss Jack Davey, J*DaVeY.

My voice has a unique thing about it, & lyrically i always felt like i had something strong to say. I started off as a rapper & hated my singing voice, but other people would hear me sing & suggest that i do it more often.

Nicole Simone

Any instrument that completely haunts me I am drawn to. I love unique sounds that you don't hear everyday which is why I started to play the autoharp. It evokes so much to me and I just adore it. I love the marxophone for the same reasons. It's just so strange and beautiful.

Lana Mir

I've been singing since I was a little girl and it is the only thing I've ever wanted to do.I moved to NYC from Ukraine to be a vocalist and a musician.I left my country seven years ago and haven't been back since,all in an effort to follow my dreams.

Niva Chow, Dearly Beloved

"i always loved bass and wanted to play. i started sticky rice to have fun.

for dearly beloved it's been more organic, started as just vocals, then gradually picked up percussion to add to the songs. played second bass a few shows which was a totally different experience."

Megan Jacobs

my parents started me out on the piano at the age of 5. Luckily it caught my interest enough to stick with it. And luckily my parents pushed me to stay with it through my teen years ...when i wanted to do everything else but practice piano.

Diana Darby

I mainly play the guitar. I got interested in it when I was a teenager and continued from there.

Kimme, Suxxcess Records

"I chose to rap because someone believed in me and saw my real potential so then I knew my God- given voice would reach and empower a host of people,especially young girls. "

Blake Hazard, The Submarines

My father plays guitar and taught me Bossa Nova and country songs when I was about twelve years old. I had played piano before that, but the guitar felt really comfortable -- and I could secret it away in my room and write songs in a way I couldn't with the piano.

Photo of Jesse Sposato, Holy Hail

Jesse Sposato, Holy Hail

I have always known drums were for me. I was a tap dancer when I was little and really loved that. tap dancing and drumming always kind of felt like the same thing to me, and music was always a big passion...then it became an even biggen passion in my teen years and after, so it just seemed kind of obvious/logical.

Karen Waltuch, The Roulette Sisters

Started on violin, but as I approached the 6'1" stature I was to become my teacher suggested (at age 11) that I move to violin's bigger cousin the viola.

Photo of Ellen Rowe, Ellen Rowe Quartet and Ellen Rowe Trio

Ellen Rowe, Ellen Rowe Quartet and Ellen Rowe Trio

We had two pianos in our house, my dad was a professional pianist and I inherited perfect pitch from him so it was easy to figure out songs and play by ear

Photo of Samantha Maloney

Samantha Maloney

Because I saw a Motley Crue video called "Wildside" Headbangers Ball on MTV back in the late 80's. I saw Tommy Lee rolling around in a drum cage playing on tour and thought.. "That's the job for me!"

Alison, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

I've played piano since I was very little - it chose me.

Melodie Bryant

It was in the house where I grew up.

Maria Tiscia

My parents chose the piano for me. I chose to sing and study when I was old enough to pay for the lessons myself.

Kathryn Doherty-Chapman, Acres of Diamonds, Kitten Disaster

I have always loved music and i love how physical playing drums is and it's WAY simpler than guitar! no blisters or callouses!

Nancy Falkow

"Forced into piano lessons and thanked my mother many times Guitar - because you can't really take a piano from dorm room to dorm room Bass - because i felt like something new in my mid early 30's and it's awesome"

Patti Rothberg

I had a toy guitar and a piano in the house

Lorraine McGurt, American Speedway

Joan Jett

Veronica; Loafass

I started with guitar when I was 11 years old, in high school a band needed a bass player so I started playing bass. I've been playing bass in bands ever since, but still play guitar for myself.


Its' what Santa left under the tree.

Sara Radle. I am in Walking Sleep, and also perform and release records under my own name.

My grandparents paid for piano lessons as a kid, so that's how I learned music theory and the basic piano I've retained over the years. My parents are folk musicians, and my mom taught guitar lessons to her third grade students who wanted to learn the instrument. After watching my brother sing and play guitar in his high school punk rock band, I wanted to do that, too. I stumbled upon one of the chord charts my mom used to teach her students, and taught myself basic chords. My brother saw me trying to teach myself, and showed me how to play a barre chord. With that under my belt, I could play any Ramones or Nirvana song I liked, and I was unstoppable. :)

Photo of Ada Rovatti

Ada Rovatti

Because the saxophone reminds me the human voice but being a terrible singer I opted for the instrument.

Submitted Anonymously

My family owned a piano and I just started to play.

Tim Yehezkely, The Postmarks

"I chose to play guitar because my mother always had one lying around and I liked learning chords and writing songs. I pined for a piano and the family finally got one, but I didn't have the patience for formal lessons and taught myself by ear and gleaned what I could from anyone who would show me anything. Received an accordion as a present and fell in love.


Photo of Christine Smith, Marah

Christine Smith, Marah

"Short answer: my parents brought a piano into our house when I was 4 and I immediately took to it.

Long answer: My Mom had always asked her parents for a piano and lessons but they couldn't afford it. When I was 4, my parents heard there was a broken old player piano up for grabs at a nearby church (they were going to take a sledgehammer to it if nobody wanted it!) My parents said they'd take it, and I'll never forget the day they wheeled it down the street to our house. I started playing it right away, and when I got to Kindergarten, my teacher would play piano in class and we'd sing songs. I'd come home and figure them out. Eventually I'd be the one playing in class, and every school play or event in the years to come."

Rhonda Laurie

It chose me

Holly Saucy

I was born into a family of musical artsy folks it was very natural that I sing. I began emceeing at 15. Becoming a producer was more out of necessity and desire to be more hands on with my projects.

Photo of Pam Fleming, Fearless Dreamer

Pam Fleming, Fearless Dreamer

Gut reaction as a child, and I wanted to play a 'boys' instrument.

Lily White

It was cool, and a boy I liked played it in the 6th grade

Photo of Paula Kimper

Paula Kimper

I must make music to maintain my health and well-being.

Laura Kahle

started when I was a kid

Photo of Amy Domingues, Garland of Hours

Amy Domingues, Garland of Hours

I have been in love with the cello since age nine when I started playing in elementary school. I studied it in college and got my degree in it. I knew I had to use it in a different way, not just in the symphony or string quartet. It is my other voice besides my voice, and it can say so much more!

Katie Morrison, band name Betty Iron Thumbs

Piano: my mom made me (good thing.) Violin: my sister played it so I wanted to, too. Viola: I am 6 ft tall and Viola is easier for us lanky girls to play than violin. Guitar: I wanted boys to like me. Bass: thought it sounded cool. Vocals: Had no idea I could sing until someone asked me to sing for them a song I had written.

Submitted Anonymously

Chose flute because in 1960 it seemed like an instrument a woman could play. Chose sax 12 years later because it was an instrument that was often played in my family by relatives.

Photo of Aisha Burns, Balmorhea

Aisha Burns, Balmorhea

It was actually a bit of a fluke. My best friend in the 5th grade joined our elementary school's string program and I thought she was the biggest nerd for choosing violin. Probably in an effort to validate my notion of how simple and boring it was, I picked it up to see what it was like. All of a sudden, I found myself having fun, and even taught myself a few simple songs. I joined the class shortly after that. She stopped playing that year and needless to say, I was pretty hooked.

Camille Escobedo. BERETTA76

I have always been a singer and graduated with a degree in music with concentration in voice. I chose the guitar because I felt that in order to write my own music and be able to collaborate with anyone or bring my original material to a band that I would at the very least need a vehicle for me to do it with. So I taught myself to play guitar. The rest I learned along the way...and still am learning.

Virginia Mayhew

Love it

Karen Correa, Demander

I played viola because of my older sister. I chose bass because I really love to create strong musical foundations and work in the darker, fuller registers of that instrument. Singing was a natural extension of playing since it allowed me to create entire songs alone.

Melissa Ferrick

"I think it really chose me. I bought my first acoustic the day I started at Berklee and haven’t put it down since."

Katherine FitzGibbon

I fell in love with choral music in middle school. I had played piano since I was in elementary school (mostly because my friend, Maureen, had started taking lessons and I thought that sounded "cool"), and I was the kind of kid who would race home because I couldn't wait to practice the piano. When I started singing in middle school, it was because I wanted to join our famed show choir in high school (think "Glee"), and I was an aspiring dancer. It turned out that I had a good voice and loved to sing, and I studied music seriously at Princeton, the University of Michigan, and Boston University (my degree institutions).

Ingrid Jensen. The Ingrid Jensen quartet

"I did not chose it. It was forced on me. Something to do with a spunky,feisty attitude that my parents and band director noticed in me at a very young age. Trombone was my first choice but my older sister already had chosen it. thank GOD!"

Stephanie Flati, The Lopez

Because it's all in FUN!!!!!!!!!!!

Clare Cooper

I learned piano as a child because my parents felt it was the basis for learning music.

Audrey Silver

I've loved singing since I was a child.

Lena Dhayni, The Lightning Bugs.

i chose to play the guitar and sing because it's fun, and it rocks, and it's a powerful form of expression.

Geri Smith

I was drawn to it at a young age. Piano at 5, guitar at 9

Noelle R. Nordstrom

It was the only activity that set me apart and that I shone in.

White Widow

It's sexy.

Alejandra Deheza, School of Seven Bells

because my band at the time needed a guitar player

Natalia D.

I didn't choose opera, so much as my voice did. I always loved to sing, but pushing my voice in the pop, r&b or broadway belting style hurt my throat, but when I started working with a voice teacher and she showed me the operatic technique which allowed me sing the way I wanted to. Before I knew it I was winning competitions singing opera, and so I learned more about it, and grew to understand and love the art form over time.

Photo of Jenny Hill, Easy Star All-Stars

Jenny Hill, Easy Star All-Stars

When I was 9, I chose the flute because it was shiny. When I was 16, I learned the tenor sax to join the pep band, and jazz band in high school.

Sarah Bernat

it's all about what i can get my hands on

Shab Bashiri, The Constellations

I don't know if you could say that I chose it. I think that vocals are such an important part of music. In my situation there was a need for more vocals so I was lucky enough to fill the position. I would love to eventually play more instruments though. What I really want is to learn how to play a horn instrument.

Photo of Emily Rodgers

Emily Rodgers

Guitar makes the most sense for me in writing music with lyrics.

Mary Chun

My older sister was denied piano lessons as a child in China due to economics and when I was growing up in U.S. our family was a little better off. So she signed me up for piano lessons.

Nicole Binion


Psalm One

My voice chose me; I wanted to play the saxophone forever. People told me I rapped before I ever took it seriously from just flowing in a couple of cyphers. I couldn't escape the very thing I'm doing right now--I wouldn't have it any other way.

Photo of Shanna Carlson

Shanna Carlson

Started out in church and piano player was needed. Everyone sang, some, like me, were able to sing solo, duet, etc. without shaking like a leaf...it seemed natural.

Submitted Anonymously

I saw a friend of mine playing when I was 7 and I felt in love with the sound and the look of the instrument.

Cat Martino

"I have been singing my whole life, since before I could speak, it came very naturally. I took piano lessons as a child, and after several years became bored of the teaching style. But I am very grateful for that strong foundation in music/reading. I had a great school system where we had an all-star type Choir 5 days a week, which strongly developed my ear, and a high level musical theater program afterschool (this is so sadly unheard of in Music/Arts Education these days). I also sang in an experimental rock band in high school.

Guitar came later, in college. I fell in love with Joni Mitchell. She taught me I could play guitar, because before I thought you needed tons of lessons to do it like some of the guys I knew who played in my band. But she made shapes, used instinct and ear. That was for me. Nick Drake, the Pixies, Velvet Underground, Patti Smith they were and are all heros."

Photo of Deborah Voigt

Deborah Voigt

My voice - I could sing, it more or less chose me.

Ginny Owens

There was a piano in our dining room. I fell in love with it when I was two and began plunking out songs by ear.

Suni Paz

I learned it from my father and then from folk musicians in Argentina

Photo of Anne Akiko Meyers

Anne Akiko Meyers

Because it was the only one I understood right off the bat!

Photo of Sondra Radvanovsky

Sondra Radvanovsky

Loved singing from an early age and always wanted to sing. Plus, if I can make $$ doing what I love, then it must be right.

Rachael Rine of Cockpit

I've been in love with rock & roll since I was a small child. I think I was sold on the drums when I went to my first concert and felt the kick drum in my chest.

Linda Lou - Cockpit

"I've always been a fan of guitar. At first I wanted to play an instrument that I could sing and play at the same time. I later became a big fan of metal and started taking my guitar playing to another level.


Photo of Allison Iraheta

Allison Iraheta

The guitar is the easiest for me to play when singing and writing songs, not to mention it's a lot of fun! I also love the fact that you can make something sound extremely edgy, but can also make it sound soft and beautiful.

Rose Cousins

picked up piano by ear as a kid , fell in love with guitar in university and fell in love with mandola when i played one in boston 3 years ago

Photo of Allison Scola

Allison Scola

"Piano: so I can accompanying my singing and write songs Clarinet: because I love to sing Frame drums: because I love to dance"

Submitted Anonymously

It chose me, and I was unafraid.

Elizabeth Brown

"Have played classical flute since age 16. Heard shakuhachi while on an orchestra tour of Japan in early 1980's, and fell in love with the sound. Heard theremin in the 1993 documentary about the life of Leon Theremin, and fell in love with that sound."

Anat Fort

i played piano growing up (classical) and got into jazz towards age 20. I just stuck with it.

Photo of Christine Brewer

Christine Brewer

I come from a family of singers. My mother sang semi-professionally in a jazz/gospel trio. My mother, brothers and I sang gospel music when I was growing up. I played the violin all through school, but always sang in choirs at school and was in the high school musicals. I went to McKendree College in Lebanon, IL and got a degree in music education. I taught K-12 music for a while, all the time continuing to study singing. My voice didn't start to come into its own until my late twenties and that's when I decided to pursue singing professionally. I got my start in the chorus of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and that company took me under their wing helping to pay for voice lessons and audition tours, etc. After winning the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1989, my career path opened up. I signed with IMG Artists in 1990 and with the London-based management Askonas Holt in 1993. I have remained with these two managements. Alison Pybus is my general manager at IMG Artists and Peter Bloor is my manager at Askonas Holt.

Photo of Patty Larkin

Patty Larkin

Its intimacy the visual quality of the fretboard, the ability to translate popular music to it.

Stephanie Schneiderman

Grew up on piano, picked up guitar when I started writing back in college.

Nedra Johnson

I think in terms of bass mostly though I play guitar more than anything these days. The guitar allows for a little more independence... I can cover chords and bass lines.

Marilyn Crispell

My parents decided to start giving me piano lessons at age 7- there was already a piano in the house.

Photo of Danielle de Niese

Danielle de Niese

I felt that of all the ways to express myself, my voice was the most truthful and powerful direct path to my artistic expression. I just fell in love with singing and the affair continues...

Photo of Anji Bee of Lovespirals

Anji Bee of Lovespirals

I used to play guitar, and attempted piano and keyboards, but the truth is that I just wasn't very skilled at it. Particularly when performing live, it was best for me to simply focus on singing. I've always had a natural talent for singing and poetry, so spending more time on those skills have been much more satisfying than struggling with instruments.

Vienna Teng

Supposedly I climbed up on a neighbor's piano bench when I was 4 and started plinking out notes. I was also singing before I could talk. I had two wonderful piano teachers growing up, particularly one who taught me a bit of composition, transcription and jazz theory as well as classical repertoire. A combination of circumstance and the instruments choosing me, I guess. I haven't really fallen in love with playing anything other than piano, though I love the sound of a lot of other instruments—strings, drums and electric guitar especially. I often wish I were a multi-instrumentalist. But I think there's a certain willingness to plow through the frustration of being an utter beginner, a certain innocence and stubbornness I had as a kid, that I don't have anymore. And the piano is an instrument of boundless depth—I've played it most of my life and I've just discovered the tiniest corner of what it can do.

Kate Simko

I've been playing piano since I was 5 years old.. it's my natural instrument. I use analog synthesizers because they sound better than the software instruments (digital).

Grace Potter; Grace Potter And The Nocturnals

I always loved the piano because it's just a bunch of buttons. I like to push buttons. Playing the organ came later, suggested by my band mates, who thought I needed to play an instrument that can match my loud voice! I picked up the guitar because I wanted to use a different instrument to write songs, hoping that it shed new light on my technique and song styling.

Lynne Hanson

the guitar is very portable, and is well suited to solo performance when bands are too expensive to take on the road

Emily Arin Snider (I perform under the name Emily Arin)

1. I played a Clash tribute concert last year and a girl came up to me after my set saying how great it was to see a female fronted band at the event. I think there was only one other female fronted band in a lineup of ten bands. 2. Men may be more likely than women to make sexually laced comments in either rehearsal settings or venue settings...and it's important for a woman to know how to set limits. 3. In general, however, I don't usually pick up on a difference as an audience becomes attached to the artists they love whether male or female.
I grew up playing classical piano. While attending an arts high school for piano performance, I sensed an urge to be more musically free, but couldn't access that on the piano since I was so used to reading music while playing. I asked my parents for a guitar and found it opened up my ability to really listen and explore sound. I remain technically amateur on the guitar, but find it to be the most useful instrument for my songwriting.

Mary Lorson and the Soubrettes

My dad's a killer jazz pianist, so the piano chose me at an early age. I adopted the guitar in my early 20s because they were cheap and portable, and I always seemed to have friends playing them around me. As I became more confident, I allowed myself to bang on anything in the studio--I have marimbas, triangle, harmonica, drums, etc.

Pamela Marshall, Spindrift Music Company

Lydia Fortune

It's portable and I love the sound. I'm a moderate player who used guitar to primarily create songs. Taking my playing more seriously now and learning more.

Mary Jennings

There was always a piano out in my house for me to sit down and play.

Maranda Mae of The Texas Duet

I've always like the guitar but could never learn as child. Got a lefty and was able to pick it up no problem.

Valid Responses: 669