When considering what the world’s best selling musical instrument is, there are multiple factors to consider. Since instrument prices vary, you can’t just look at the total retail value of a given instrument market. It’s better to evaluate how many units were sold of each instrument.
The Overall Most Popular Instrument Worldwide
The most popular instrument worldwide is the guitar, both electric and acoustic varieties. The second most popular musical instrument is the piano, particularly the electronic piano or keyboard.
This trend seems to carry across the globe except in Japan where piano sales, particularly electronic pianos, far outnumber guitar sales (700K vs 125K in 2014).
Finding worldwide musical instruments sales data is hard since there is no centralized entity that tracks sales across the globe. The closest such entity that we could find is the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) which is a US company that tracks global sales, imports, and exports of musical instruments. They issue an annual report with the status of the musical instrument sales industry.
The Most Popular Instrument in the US
The most popular instrument in the US is by far the guitar. According to the 2015 NAMM report, there were 1.1 million electric guitars and 1.5 million acoustic guitars sold in 2014. This accounts for over 30% of the 8.7 million musical instruments sold in the US in 2014.
The US musical instrument market is a great indicator of worldwide trends since the US has over 40% of the global musical instrument market share which totaled about $16 billion in 2013.
In terms of retail market value, guitars also dominated. In 2014, sales of electric and acoustic guitars totaled $1.2 billion of the industry’s total $7.0 billion.