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Are you thinking about learning a musical instrument for the first time? Having trouble choosing between the guitar vs the piano?
If you’re thinking about learning a musical instrument, the task can seem pretty daunting. While mastering an instrument takes time and effort, simply starting one can be difficult as well.
The piano and the guitar are two of the most popular instruments to learn. But how do you choose between the two of them? And is piano harder than guitar or is it easier?
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything that you need to know.
Is Piano Harder Than Guitar?
While you may have heard from a family member or friend that the piano is a harder instrument to learn than the guitar, the truth is not so simple. Whether a person finds the guitar or the piano more difficult to learn is really a matter of personal opinion.
Both instruments are actually fairly easy to learn when compared to other musical instruments that are out there. Both are good options no matter what age you are, even if you’re above 50.
There are many online guitar resources and piano resources that are available to new players. There are also offline learning resources available for both the piano and the guitar as well as many great piano teachers and guitar teachers in just about every town. This makes both instruments easier to learn than you might expect.
With that being said, however, these instruments do differ in some really big ways. The one that will be easiest for you to learn may not be the easiest choice for someone else.
In some ways, the guitar is easier and in other ways, the piano wins out. The piano is a bit easier to play physically, for example, but reading guitar tabs is a bit easier than reading piano sheet music. You’ll want to think about all of the most important factors when deciding which instrument to learn.
Differences Between Learning Piano Vs Guitar
There are several key differences between learning the piano and the guitar that you’ll want to think about. Considering these factors can help you decide which instrument is right for you to start learning.
Note Organization and Layout
One of the main ways that these instruments differ is the way that the musical notes are laid out.
Piano tends to win in this category. The notes are all laid out right in front of you and are sorted in an easy-to-understand way. The lower-pitched notes are to the left while the higher ones are to the right. You can easily find your place thanks to the mixture of black and white keys.
With the guitar, things are also laid out in a logical way but learning the fretboard is a bit more complicated. You can’t clearly see what the notes are in an obvious visual way. There will be both low notes and high notes up and down the fretboard. It will all depend on which string you play.
It’s not too difficult to understand how the guitar notes are laid out once you’ve been playing for a while. However, it can seem daunting in the beginning.
Reading Sheet Music and Tablature
Learning to read sheet music is like learning a new language. Keep this in mind when choosing between the guitar and the piano.
When playing the guitar, you can choose to learn songs from sheet music or from guitar tablature, also known as guitar tabs. This gives you two great options to choose from, and most people find that reading guitar tabs is much easier than reading sheet music. Unlike sheet music, guitar tabs are widely available for free on the internet on sites such as Ultimate Guitar.
Guitarists that simply want to play chords while they sing may not even need to learn either of these. They may simply look at chord charts instead. Additionally, many guitarists focus on improvising. These players don’t memorize songs or play pre-written songs note for note the way that piano players often do, so they may not use tabs or sheet music.
For most piano players, reading sheet music is essential. As a pianist, sheet music tends to become second nature. Piano players learn to read sheet music while immediately translating it to their fingers.
Both simple and complex sheet music will be available to you as you progress in learning the instrument. Usually, a piano teacher will require you to learn sheet music as you’re playing your very first notes. Guitarists may never learn to read sheet music and many guitar teachers won’t focus on teaching it to their students.
If you prefer to play some of the beautiful classical piano pieces or even popular songs you’ve heard note for note, then piano may be the best choice for you. If you prefer to focus on singing while playing or improvising and don’t want to get bogged down with learning to read sheet music, then learning the guitar might be the better option.
Time to Develop Basic Proficiency
The amount of ease and the time it takes to learn the piano and the guitar are a bit different as well.
Generally, a new student can start learning a song on the piano very quickly and can start becoming proficient at it in a short amount of time. It’s not as cut and dry when it comes to playing the guitar, however.
With either instrument, your hands will both need to have a lot of coordination. However, the physical aspect of pressing down on the strings of a guitar is particularly difficult for newbies to the instrument. It can also be difficult to make the notes ring out clearly. This means that learning your initial songs will be frustrating and may not sound how you would like them to for a while.
When it comes to playing the piano, you can get beautiful sounds even as a complete beginner. Piano keys cause no pain at all to press down on. This means that you can make more progress in the beginning with the piano and can be happy with how the instrument sounds much earlier on. When you learn a song, you can make it sound pretty good even as a beginner player.
As mentioned above, the physical experience of playing the piano and the guitar isn’t quite the same. Pressing down on piano keys with your fingers is much easier than pressing down on the frets of a guitar.
Playing the guitar can be outright painful early on. As you continue playing, you’ll develop calluses on your fingertips and this will make guitar much easier to bear. However, in the beginning, you may not be able to play the guitar for long based on the physical discomfort alone.
When it comes to coordination, it can also be more difficult to play the guitar. While both instruments require you to use both hands, the guitar requires you to use both at all times, even as a beginner. You’ll need to use one hand to pick the strings or strum while the other hand’s fingers will need to be on the fingerboard pressing down on the frets.
When learning piano, you’ll learn how to use each hand separately. You’ll have time to practice each one before you try to bring it all together and play with both at the same time.
That’s not to say that the piano won’t get complicated. Playing a lot of complex series of notes on the piano with both hands at the same time takes some getting used to as well, as you progress in your lessons.
Overall, however, the guitar is really the more difficult instrument when it comes to the physical side of things, particularly in the beginning.
Learning Chords and Accompaniment
One of the differences between learning the guitar and the piano is in learning chords and accompaniment.
Many budding guitarists don’t spend time trying to play melody lines, riffs, or lead guitar solos. Instead, they simply learn chords so that they can play along with their favorite songs or try singing them themselves. You can learn basic guitar chords in one afternoon. While it can be tough to press down on the notes initially, understanding the basic chord formations and where the fingers should go is very simple.
When trying to learn chords on the piano and start playing your first songs, things can be a bit tricker. There are a lot of keys on the piano. Learning a few basic chords is fairly simple. However, it’s a bit tricky to understand how to switch between them at first. Additionally, it will take a bit of extra insight and music theory knowledge to really understand how to form chords and how they all fit together on the piano.
Most people find that the guitar is really the better option to start singing and playing along with songs quickly.
Tuning Your Instrument
A final difference to think about between learning the guitar and the piano is the need to tune your instrument. Instruments need to be “tuned” regularly so that the correct notes will ring out when you play them.
You’ll need to tune your guitar regularly, ideally every time you play. Guitars go out of tune little by little while you’re playing. They’ll eventually need to be tuned again.
Fortunately, learning how to tune a guitar is very simple and there are a variety of guitar tuners to choose from that make the process easy to handle, even for a beginner player.
While it can be a little annoying needing to tune your instrument every time you play, being able to tune it easily is also part of what makes the guitar interesting. Guitarists can use and experiment with all kinds of interesting alternate tunings that can help evoke new feelings and help players unleash their creativity.
On the other hand, you’ll only need to tune a piano about once a year. Tuning a piano, however, isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Most piano players will hire a professional guitar tuner to tune the instrument to ensure that it sounds its best.
Also, keep in mind that if you play a digital keyboard instead of a piano, then you’ll never have to tune the instrument. It will always sound exactly as it should.
Overall, you’ll have to worry less about tuning your instrument if you’re a pianist. However, the ability to easily switch tunings as a guitar player makes the instrument a lot of fun, despite the extra effort required.
Choosing Between the Piano and the Guitar When Learning An Instrument
So is piano harder than guitar or not? As you can see, there isn’t a simple answer to that question.
The piano is a great instrument to learn because it’s easier on your fingers and because you can start making some beautiful sounds more quickly. The guitar, however, offers a lot of versatility, is more portable, and eliminates the need to learn sheet music.
When it comes down to it, you should choose the instrument that you love the most. There is no wrong choice and each of these instruments is among the simplest to learn that are out there. However, if you’re really dedicated to music, you may even choose to learn both instruments!
After you learn one instrument, it becomes much easier to learn a second one. Many guitarists, for example, will end up switching to one of these instruments after they have a firm grasp of their guitar skills.
Be sure to consider all of the information above when making your choice. And remember, be sure to enjoy yourself!
Hi, I’m Harrison! I created this website to help musicians navigate the ins and outs of their craft and to help them choose new instruments and gear to add to their collection. I have 15 years of experience as a guitarist and singer and have also played many other instruments throughout the years including the bass guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin, and harmonica.