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BRUTALLY Judging You Based on Your Favourite Instrument

By Virginia Riley

I’m an ex-band kid. Do you know what that means? It means I care too much about instruments, number one, but also: I hold grudges. When the trombones have emptied their spit tubes on the floor? I’ve remembered. When the clarinets have sucked at their job? I’ve remembered. And all this pent-up rage will now be put to a better purpose.

There will be 5 tiers: S tier (the highest), A tier, B tier, C tier, and D tier. Hopefully your favourite makes it into the top tiers.

#1: ‘The Builder’ - Predictable, chill, and a bit pretentious.

If your favourite instrument is the piano, you’re basic. It’s not a bad instrument, but it’s not a great instrument either. Have you ever tried to do a smooth crescendo on one note? It’s not possible- the piano is basically a glorified glockenspiel. You tap a note and a hammer hits a string. Granted, the creation of the pianoforte (or the ‘soft-loud’ in Italian) lets players make a wider variety of dynamic sounds, but still, it can be a pretty same-y instrument.

It’s not that I’m hating on piano, though. The Minecraft soundtrack is great, and it’s mostly written on piano; so are the classics, like Claire de Lune and Gymnopédie (not River Flows in You, though- I’ve heard it way too many times). Actually, I personally think in ‘keyboard’ language. When I imagine chords it’s on piano- mostly because it’s the easiest to visualize broad shapes on.

So it’s… fine. Piano music is just… fine. And you probably are just… fine. You do have issues; you probably listen to sad music and think about those issues obsessively, but ultimately, they’re not as poetic as the songs make it seem like they are. People who like piano above all else can’t have much exposure to a variety of instruments, so I’m going to assume you’re scared of change or trying new things. Or maybe you’re just lazy and comfortable in your taste. But either way, you’re okay. And for that, I’ll put the piano in C tier- not good, not bad, just there.

#2: ‘The Squeaker’ - Loud, versatile, and attention-grabbing.

If your favourite instrument is the clarinet, you are lacking something. 

Let me preface this by saying that, contrary to popular belief, clarinet music is pretty loveable. A good clarinet player will make it sing, and it’s got such a beautiful tone colour (for non-musicians), this is how the instrument sounds - for example, a set of bamboo panpipes will sound ‘airy’ and ‘breathy’ where a drum will sound hard and metallic.

But the natural beauty of the clarinet has unfortunately been ruined by my experience in bands, particularly in public school bands. In the hands of a child, a clarinet is suddenly transcending the realm of ‘instrument’ and entering the role of ‘weapon’. The squeaking noises are awful. If you ever hear screaming in a concert, it’s just a clarinet that a child is abusing. 

London Music Co. states that the clarinet is the ideal beginner instrument because it is affordable and easy to play. Easy? It’s a reed instrument (basically it has a weird mouthpiece). I’ve never played clarinet but, like, it can’t be that easy - not if people keep messing it up so bad.

Because of all these factors, I’m choosing to put this instrument in the B tier. It’s good, but if you like it, you’re a child. In my experience in bands, clarinet players fall into only two fields: very serious, dead-faced ones, and very unserious ones (think the boys who liked to pull on people’s hair to annoy them). Hopefully, you’re the former.

I almost feel sorry for the clarinet. Watching it be abused is like watching a car crash in slow motion. It’s terrible, but you can’t look away.

#3: ‘The Fighter’ - Silly, buffoonish… or a serious player?

If your favourite instrument is the recorder, you are correct; I don’t care how much it sucks from an objective standpoint. I love the recorder because it is stupid. It’s barely a real instrument; it has a plastic (maybe wooden) body and a couple of holes in it, and that’s the extent of its complex functioning. It doesn’t even play semitones - I had to play the Harry Potter theme on it once for Normo Fusion and it was the worst experience of my life.

Is the recorder a representation of the childhood we’ve left behind? Is it a way to connect with the most basic musical instincts of humans: to blow on something until it makes a sound? Maybe. Probably not. But it’s certainly funny to chase people around and play Hot Cross Buns poorly.

If you like the recorder because it’s silly, I like you. Go get some clown shoes and be a professional annoyance, because you’d probably be really good at it. If you like the recorder because you actually take formal lessons and have paid to play it? There’s something seriously wrong with you. Why would you pick that? Why the recorder??

The recorder is going in the D tier, but it’s definitely the S tier of my heart.

#4: ‘The Royal’ - Beautiful, elegant, but a little bit predictable. 

If your favourite instrument is the harp, I like you. This is maybe not the rarest answer, but it is a collectively ‘good’ option, and I can’t fault you. What’s not to like about an elegant and aesthetically pleasing appearance, a delicate, iconic sound, and an intriguing fusion between the percussion and string families? 

I don’t know how many harp players exist in Australia, but I’ve never met any, so I can assume that people who like harps don’t actually play it. This says that you’re the type to assume based on looks; you like things that please your eyes and ears. You might like dark academia or otherwise associate yourself very strongly with colours, textures and images- you have a defined ‘aesthetic’. You’re maybe a bit vain. 

I’m also including the modern guzheng (a significantly different instrument) here, because I have the same thoughts about you: You’re really cool, I like your style, and you like beautiful things. Any person whose favourite instrument is the guzheng knows what they’re talking about when it comes to music. I’m putting both you and harp enjoyers in the S tier.

#5: ‘The Piper’ - United, strong, and extremely stubborn.

If your favourite instrument is the flute, you played the flute. If your least favourite instrument is the flute, you also played the flute. Anyone who has interacted with a flute at any given time will have strong opinions on it, and honestly, I don’t know why. 

What is to like about the flute, really? Well;

  1. It’s a cult. You enter once and the energy of ‘flute player’ never leaves you. I (an ex-flute player) still know my bandmates from 10 years ago- and I don’t even know them out of choice, we just ended up in the same places accidentally.

  2. It’s an aesthetically appealing instrument. It’s more iconic and easier to draw than a clarinet, which is hard to find on band posters, and because it’s silver, it’s a nice visual contrast to the brass section and the strings.

  3. There’s a certain amount of pride in playing it. When you get into Band in Year 3 and they give you a flute to test out, everyone will be impressed if you can get the mouth shape right. That kind of pride sticks with you forever, man.

So I can only assume things about you depending on whether you rejected or embraced the flute cult. If you like playing, you’re probably social, relatively popular, and don’t get super fussy over small things. Your approach to life is relaxed (but not too relaxed. Don’t forget, you’re still part of a cult). 

If you rejected the flute and hated playing it, you’re a social reject with a superiority complex. Why are you reading this article in the first place? With all this to consider, I’ll put the flute in the B tier. We can’t be lower than our arch-nemesis (clarinet players).

#6: ‘The Rusher’ - Curious, competitive, and a narc.

If your favourite instrument is the violin, you are an interesting fellow! Violin players are a pretty broad spectrum, but there are some archetypes: there’s the small, tone-deaf 7-year-old, the middle-aged enthusiast, and the ‘first violin’ teenager who seems to always be battling it out for the violin throne. All of these fall into a similar realm; you’re smart, but irritating.

Either way, people who like violin really need to like classical music, because that’s where the instrument gets the most spotlight- think Swan Lake, The Four Seasons, et cetera. Maybe you don’t play pieces you really care about, but you want the opportunity to shine in the things you do and you will fight for it. Like a violin, you are fast, whether mentally or physically. 

Violins are also quite beautiful instruments, so I’m not ruling aside the possibility that you picked it up just to seem cool and elegant. Like the harp player, you might like ‘academia’ aesthetics.

I’ll put you in A tier. Good, but not good enough. I’m sure the burnt-out gifted kid failure-fearing violin players are happy to hear that.

#7: ‘The Romantic’ - Charismatic, fun, innovative.

If your favourite instrument is the saxophone, I have nothing bad to say about you. Immediately all I can think about is Careless Whisper and the other many iconic saxophone solos in pop, hip hop, and R&B, but jazz is truly where the saxophone shines. You’re cool; you probably don’t take music super deathly seriously, but it’s a big part of your life without holding it sacred.

But coolness doesn’t come without effort. You probably put some thought into your clothes and overall presentation- sometimes your personal taste is a bit hard to understand for the ‘normies’ (I’m thinking of the music teachers who like to wear colourful shirts and music-themed ties) but it’s striking nonetheless.


Fun saxophone facts: its inventor, Adolphe Sax, was attacked by nature for existing. According to The Brussels Times, he fell three floors as a toddler, drank a bowl of acidic water as a 3-year-old, and survived all kinds of poisoning, asphyxiation, blunt force trauma, and gunpowder explosions. He’d also been bankrupt three times. 

But I guess Aldophe Sax’s hard work wasn’t for nothing, because sax players are being put in the S tier! Congratulations.

#8: ‘Everything Else’ - Too broad or too niche to talk about.

Electric guitars: A clear B tier. They produce either a really good sound or a really ugly one, and they’re very annoying to be around while they’re practising because every electric guitar player thinks everyone wants to be deaf in their 40s. No, it’s just you. 

Trombone: D tier. I’ve never actually heard a professional trombone piece, but I’m sure if I did, my opinion would change. But as it is, they’re annoying, and they empty their spit valves on the floor and make a mess. I hold a grudge.

Bassoon: Clearly an S tier, and in my opinion, the best instrument ever. The low, resonant tone colour… The ‘ancient’ kind of sound… It’s so big, too. To play bassoon you need to care a lot about music, but you also need to be able to be subtle and in the background, so you’re not super self-obsessed. Oboe also fits into this category.

Percussion: Probably A tier. If you like percussion, you (again) take notice of things that aren’t necessarily in the foreground or the most obvious. Percussion players are usually really, really talented, and can make or break a song. You have an appreciation of the little details. I would argue that people who like bass guitar are in a similar category.

Finally, here’s the tier list, made with Tiermaker:


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