If you’re thinking of learning to play the guitar or piano, it makes sense to start by asking what is harder to learn. It probably takes a lot of work to get good at both. Why not pick the one with the most potential payoff?
In this article, we will share our thoughts on which one between the guitar and a piano is much more challenging to learn as a beginner.
Is guitar harder than piano? The guitar is more difficult to learn than the piano because it has more strings and buttons than a piano with only 88 keys. Guitar playing also requires more memorization of positions and chords than the piano. Lastly, it requires more complicated playing techniques and tuning.
Why a guitar is harder than piano
Playing chords on the guitar is more difficult
Playing a chord on any instrument is relatively easy compared with learning to play scales, which require hours of practice just to get off the ground. Despite this, a guitar is harder to learn because it has more strings and buttons than a piano.
A guitar has 6 strings, 22 frets on a fretboard, and at least 1 or 2 more buttons. On the other hand, a piano only has 88 keys.
You can easily play an octave of notes on the piano by stretching your left hand across three or four keys. On a guitar, you might have to spread your hand out more than two octaves just to cover all the frets.
Stretching uncomfortably across several frets can make it difficult to hit certain chords or play melodies. All of this really adds up when learning how to play the instrument, making the piano much more accessible to play than a guitar.
Playing the guitar requires more memorization than the piano.
Learning guitar involves more memorization than learning other instruments like the piano.
A guitar has many different positions and chords that you must memorize to play. Constantly taking note of where the frets and strings are can be tedious and rote.
Meanwhile, the piano is an instrument that you can play by ear. You can also easily play the instrument without needing to read sheet music. As said earlier, a piano only has 88 keys making it easier to play intuitively.
If you want to play an instrument by ear, a piano would be ideal instead of a guitar. It’s hard for anyone to memorize more than 88 notes. Still, you can remember them much easier than multiple strings, frets, and notes on a guitar.
Playing style on a guitar is more difficult.
The guitar is more difficult to play because it requires more finger work. You’ll use both strings and frets to press the notes, making it harder to learn the exact position of each finger.
Guitar playing also requires additional coordination because one hand is playing the chords while the other hand is plucking individual notes or maintaining a strumming pattern.
In terms of technique, strumming can be tricky at first. As a beginner, you might find your strumming to go against the song’s rhythm at first.
Barre chords, which involve your index finger pressing down on all of the strings on a single string, can also be challenging to master and lead to hand cramps.
On the other hand, a piano has its keys arranged in an orderly fashion. There’s one note per key. You hit the note, and you hear it. That’s it! The challenge is using both hands to play chords and notes separately to create a complex piece of music.
Tuning a guitar can be complicated.
All kinds of things can go wrong when changing the tuning on a guitar. There are so many strings that need to be re-tuned at once. You also have to make sure that they are all in tune with each other.
For instance, you might decide to change the tuning on your guitar after playing a particular note. Because of that, you will have to re-tune everything connected to that note.
You’ll then find yourself re-tuning your strings and making sure that every string is set at the same pitch as each other.
On the other hand, tuning a piano is not an issue. It just needs to be tuned twice a year to keep it playing the right notes and at the proper pitch.
Compare this with a guitar that you have to tune every time you play. Guitars quickly go out of tune, especially if the strings are bent and played for extended periods.
Trivia: Piano tuning is done by a professional with skill and experience. The strings on the piano are under constant tension. They need to be tuned at regular intervals to keep them in tune. If they’re not tuned regularly or at least twice a year, the pitch of each string can drop noticeably.
Which should I learn first: piano or guitar?
You should start with the piano if you are just starting out on your musical journey, as it is easier to learn than a guitar.
Both instruments require a good amount of practice to play them well, but a piano is usually easier to learn because it has fewer strings, and the keys are arranged in a more orderly fashion. This makes it easier for beginners to know where their fingers go while getting used to the instrument.
If you want to learn a musical instrument, you should start with the piano rather than the guitar. But if you’re just looking for something fun to do, you can’t go wrong with either choice.
Trying to learn an instrument can be challenging. Not only do you have to learn notes, keys, scales, and rhythms, you also have to learn how to read music and develop good playing habits.
But when it comes to weighing which one is more difficult to learn for beginners, the guitar is more challenging to play than the piano.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.