The arts: something we desperately crave when growing up but are often limited by your surroundings. With impending deficits and an ongoing whirlwind of school district budget cuts, arts education is often on the chopping block, right after gym class. Because who needs to move and/or express themselves? Right?

Nowadays, you pick up an instrument because you want to, not because it’s required as part of your Monday/Wednesday schedule right before lunch period. As someone constantly surrounded by talented musicians and fully polished bands, it’s easy to see just how much splendor life as a talented musician could bring to your daily psyche.

When I was 16, I picked up a guitar. And while it was all I could dream about at the time, I wish I dreamed a little bigger. A little further. A little past the norm. Instruments like guitar, violin and piano are fine and dandy. But with so many truly gifted players, it’s hard to find your place in a scene when you only know three chords.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have picked up something a little more obscure. Something I could excel in and make my own. An instrument that not everyone plays so I can stand out and drop in on a show every once in a while. Something that would make people say “Damn, that girl can play that unexpected instrument surprisingly well considering her current circumstances. She probably also has a great personality. I wonder if she will be my friend. I should buy her a beer.”

Do you ever think about getting on board this groovy train of potential musical wonderment? Thinking back, here are the top 5 instruments I wish I picked up when I was 16:

5. Kazoo
Grant it, jamming out on a kazoo is basically glorified humming. Which is why I could be so awesome at it. Plus, I could keep it in my pocket. You know, for all those kazoo-related emergencies.

4. Banjo
The banjo sound is all it’s own. Plus it’s relatively small compared to your standard guitar but the real reason here is that the banjo comes in a 4-string variety. Meaning two less strings than guitar and an instant leg up on the competition. Also, this choice may or may not have a lot to do with Steve Martin.

3. Ukulele
It’s so little and cute and I want to keep it right next to my bed to keep me company with the sweet, dancing sound. The ukulele is small enough to not be intimidating but still has all the same working parts as the bigger guys. You can train on the uke before moving up the instrument ladder, but how much cooler would it be to master this (m)in(i)strument and emerge as the reigning ukelele slayer?

2. Harmonica
Truth is, I’ve heard the harmonica is pretty easy to learn. But when you watch someone play, they look like they’ve got it going on. Take some time to master Tom Petty’s Mary Jane’s Last Dance or some Alanis and you are basically a professional.

1. Bass
It’s kind of like guitar except easier and more funky and I am a big fan of both of those things. Think of the bass as an easily attainable musical hurdle and you just might accidentally find yourself in a band. The Pixies and Talking Heads both had a glorious bass backbones provided by the likes of true rocker chicks. Are you ready for some bass in your face?

Remember, it’s never too late to pick up an instrument and create some sweet jams. I guess it’s time for me to take my own advice. What instrument do you wish you totally rocked at? Tell us in the comments!

Images via ShutterStock and Dana Drolet.