Is Piano or Guitar Harder to Learn?

Are you ready to take on a new instrument but are unsure of which way to go? You like the sound of both but are wondering if piano or guitar is harder to learn? Well, you're in the right place!

Both instruments are beautiful and popular, for good reason, but each have their own unique set of advatanges and disadvantages. But which one is right for you?

Learning Curve: The Bumpy Start

Ever held a guitar? Those six strings and frets can feel as perplexing as attempting a three-dimensional Sudoku. Initially, the guitar might feel quite uncomfortable and like you've got to twist up your hand. And it can take some time until you feel like you're playing a real song in real speed. This can leave aspiring musicians feeling a bit discouraged. 

In contrast, look at a piano. It’s logical, it’s linear, it’s laid out right in front of you - white keys for natural notes, black keys for sharps and flats. The piano is the Gandalf of instruments, essentially saying, “This is your note, dear Frodo, play it.”

Verdict: In the initial stages, piano might seem a tad more approachable.

Chords and Harmony: The Jigsaw Puzzle

Guitar player

Sure, piano starts off easy, but then comes trying to remember the names of the keys while learning to read music. And then we introduce you to chords and hand independence.

Your right and left hands, usually in peaceful co-existence, suddenly need to march to the beat of their own drum (or should we say, piano key?). Imagine patting your head and rubbing your stomach, all while trying to solve a Rubik’s cube (that's reading the notes). We go steadily but this can be tricky.

Guitar, on the other hand, may become simpler once the initial hurdle of mastering a few chords is over. You can strum away and make pretty decent music with just a few chords under your belt.

Verdict: When it comes to chords and harmony, the guitar might just steal the spotlight.

Musical Sound and Range

With its 88 keys, the piano has a wide range that surpasses any guitar. This allows you to play a broader spectrum of musical pieces in various genres and complexities. It's an orchestra at your fingertips!

Does that make it easier? Not really, but it may be worth it!

On the other hand, the guitar’s strength lies in its portability and versatility. You can take it anywhere, play it anywhere (campfires, anyone?), and its rich tones can resonate with all kinds of music, from rock and blues to pop and country.

Verdict: Here, it's a tie. Both instruments offer unique, delightful sound and range possibilities.

What Do You Want To Play?

Grand piano at sunset

The real question here may be what do you want to play?

You can play chords on both piano and guitar. So you can accompany yourself on either instrument. You can accompany others on both as well. You can play for church on both. 

If you want to play classical music, both instruments will also work but you might have an easier time finding a piano teacher over a classical guitar teacher. 

What You Really Want To Know - What's Faster to Learn?

There is one clear winner, I think, in the debate over if piano or guitar is harder to learn. And it's the speed debate. 

Guitar, can definitely be faster to learn if you're learning basic chords. You're basically learning positions for your hand to get in and out of and while that takes time, once it's mastered, it's there forever. 

Piano doesn't have positions in the same way. There is a much great variety of what you can play and where to play it. So with that complexity comes a slightly slower pace of learning. 

That being said, you can learn piano chords and guitar chords in a pretty similar time frame - months - but also expand on what you've learned on piano over years. 

Verdict: guitar is faster but piano can be a close second. 

My Honest Opinion on if Piano or Guitar is Harder to Learn

While, I could waffle and say, it's up to you, it depends on how much time you put into it, your current musical knowledge, your goals, etc, as a piano teacher who has also learned some guitar (I'm not "fluent" but can play some), I think piano is harder. 

But piano isn't harder all at once. It's harder because you can take it so much further. Keep learning and learning. Keep adding complexity and layers. So it depends on how far you go. 

So choose the one that you feel the biggest draw to remembering the pros and cons. And just get learning!

How To Start Learning

If you'd like to start learning piano, I'd recommend starting with my beginners guide here

For guitar, this Guitar Lessons website is a good start.

Frequently Asked Questions: Piano vs. Guitar

Which instrument is easier to start learning: piano or guitar?

While this can vary depending on the individual, many people find the piano easier to start learning. The layout of a piano is straightforward - white keys for natural notes and black keys for sharps and flats, making it easy to understand and play basic tunes. The guitar can be initially challenging, with its six strings and multiple frets that require finger dexterity and strength.

Can I transition from piano to guitar or vice versa?

Absolutely! Learning one instrument can often help in understanding another. The theory and ear training you learn from one will definitely benefit you when learning the other. However, the physical techniques required for each are quite different, so there will still be a learning curve.

Which instrument has a wider range of sound: piano or guitar?

The piano has a wider range, with 88 keys compared to a guitar's 6 strings. This range allows pianists to play more complex and richly layered pieces. However, the guitar offers unique versatility in terms of techniques like bending, sliding, and vibrato, which can add richness to the sound.

Can I play both chords and melodies on both instruments?

Yes, you can! Both the piano and guitar are capable of playing melodies and chords. They are polyphonic instruments, meaning they can play multiple notes simultaneously.

Which instrument is more portable: piano or guitar?

The guitar wins on this front. Its compact and lightweight nature makes it ideal for travel or impromptu performances. However, with the advent of portable keyboards and digital pianos, pianists also have more portable options than before.

Which instrument is better for songwriting: piano or guitar?

Both are excellent for songwriting, and the choice between them usually depends on the style of music you're aiming for. The piano's wide range and harmonic capabilities often make it preferred for complex, intricate compositions. The guitar, with its portability and ease of use, is fantastic for creating and playing songs on the go.

Remember, both instruments are beautiful and capable of producing soul-stirring music. The choice between piano and guitar should come down to which one resonates with you more.

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