Is Piano Or Guitar Easier To Learn?

Is Piano or Guitar Easier

Is Piano or Guitar Easier

As I teach piano and guitar (sometimes both for the same students), I get this question often: Is piano or guitar easier to learn?  Should I learn piano or guitar? …or…Which instrument should I start on?

This is not an easy question to answer (but, then, what are blogs for, anyway!).

Let me begin by assuring everyone that I have seen very young children and older beginners succeed on guitar as well as on piano, so I can’t say for sure that one instrument is “better” than another to start on.  Much depends on the student’s interest and skill.  As for the “piano vs guitar, which is harder” debate, I can give reasons why piano is easier, at least as a starter instrument.  And I am of the opinion that, in general, piano is more reliable as a starter instrument.

THE CALL OF POP CULTURE

Unfortunately, a lot of young children prefer to learn guitar over piano because of the “coolness” factor.  From music videos to digital gaming, guitars appear to occupy a higher spot in pop culture.  Again, we certainly don’t want to discourage a child’s interest, and every child is different, but, in general, I doubt that a child’s interest should be based on what happens to be more “cool”.

If I were a parent, I would see about exposing my child to videos of pianists (including pop and rock artists like Billy Joel and Elton John) so that the child accepts the piano as a “cool” instrument as well.  This way, the decision to start on one instrument or the other can be made based on other reasons besides simply that “it’s cool” (since both instruments, in effect, would be seen as equally “cool”).

Basic guitar playing involves a high level of finger coordination skill.

Basic guitar playing involves a high level of finger coordination skill. (image source: http://photopin.com/)

THE TECHNICAL DIVIDE

Just from a very basic technical standpoint, the piano is an easier instrument to play.  While I have seen a lot of kids succeed on guitar when starting at a young age, I’ve also seen a lot of them grow more frustrated because of some difficulties they encounter when trying to play guitar.  All you have to do to make a sound on piano is press a key.  On guitar, you have to pick at a string (often with a pick) and simultaneously press a string down with your other finger.  It is more like trying to do two or three things at once, while piano-playing is less complex.

The piano provides for a more comprehensive understanding of how music works.

Of course, we are speaking here about beginning lessons.  The fact is (and I believe this is true for most any artistic skill), once you get past the first few years and begin to tackle more advanced material, it really doesn’t matter what instrument you play…it ALL is equally difficult.  But, at the beginning level, especially for young children, executing even basic moves on the guitar simply is more difficult than on piano.

Furthermore, most children want to learn how to sound like pop and rock stars on the guitar, but to really begin to sound like that, they need to learn chords and lead techniques which are very difficult for little fingers to master.  So, because it takes a while to get to that skill level, a lot of kids become frustrated and give up before they ever get there.  And learning classical guitar is even more difficult!

MY RECOMMENDATION

Most music educators agree that the piano is a universally more comprehensive instrument for learning music.  Piano music involves both treble and bass clefs (guitar uses only treble clef), chords and melody (as opposed to, say, trumpet or flute…which only express melodic lines).  Most college-level music programs require all music students to learn some piano (even if they are majoring in another instrument).  The piano provides for a more comprehensive understanding of how music works.  Many college-level students of other instruments express regret that they did not learn piano as a kid.

Beginning piano requires less finesse than beginning guitar.  Fingers simply press keys.

Beginning piano requires less finesse than beginning guitar. Fingers simply press keys. (image source: http://photopin.com/)

So, because it is easier to learn (at the beginning stages), and because it is more practical as a learning tool, I recommend very young and beginner students start on piano.  There’s always time to add guitar into the mix later.  As a child approaches his/her teens, they tend to grow more interested in pop culture.  But if they have taken piano while young, they will be better prepared if they decide to dabble in contemporary guitar.

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  • mardy

    Thank you for the advice !

  • Ashley

    You talk a lot about what instrument is best for a child to pick up. What about an adult? Is one necessarily easier than the other to begin playing. As a vocalist, I have a general background in choir & some knowledge of reading sheet music, I’m interested in choosing an instrument to accompany lyrics & melodies I’ve written but first need to learn an instrument. I have both a piano & guitar but am having trouble deciding where to start. Any advice? Thanks!

    • Great question, Ashley! In many ways, I believe my points apply to adults equally…but the difficulty factor of learning beginning guitar definitely is more acute with young kids. Generally speaking, I still believe piano works best as a beginning instrument because it involves more aspects of learning music (both clefs, harmony structure). But if you are mainly interested in accompanying yourself or others in contemporary style chording, I really don’t think it matters. In some ways, this kind of accompanying actually can be easier on guitar, as there is no need to differentiate keys (black from white), and many of your chord formations work up and down the guitar fretboard without you having to change the shape of your finger position. For contemporary accompanying purposes, I’d be tempted to recommend you actually learn chording techniques on both instruments simultaneously, as I believe learning each instrument will reinforce what you learn on the other…then you can decide after a few months whether one instrument fits your needs more effectively. One (minor?) difference would be that most accompaniment situations on a (real) piano will involve you sitting down (unless you play like Jerry Lee Lewis!)…whereas most performance situations on contemporary guitar involve you standing up (though this normally is not true with classical and jazz guitar). However you proceed, I’m sure you’ll do great!

    • Steven G. Johnson

      Ashley, I was in much the same position as you as an adult learner: I took three years of piano as a child but never became really proficient, but I spent a couple decades singing classical choral and other vocal music (at an amateur level) and wanted to learn to accompany myself. I could read music and knew rhythms and some basic theory (e.g. major and minor chords and scales). 18 months ago, at age 39, I bought my first guitar (a Breedlove Passport steel-string acoustic) and started taking lessons (and practicing 30-60 minutes a day). I focused on rhythm guitar (strumming chords, not picking melodies), and by this point, I can sight read and provide adequate accompaniment for typical folk and pop songs and most contemporary hymns, although jazzy arrangements are still quite challenging for me. My sense is that, for someone in my (our?) position, it was much quicker for me to become an adequate accompanist and sight-reader on a guitar than on a piano, largely because on a guitar it sounds okay to just strum chords in tempo whereas on a piano you need to fill in a lot more to sound reasonable (e.g. to the point where you would play in a public church or school setting). Also, you can read the chord names on the staff at a glance, which means it isn’t too hard to read and sing a vocal line too, whereas I think sight-reading and singing simultaneously from a piano score is much more challenging. It helps that, as an adult, I knew what I wanted to get out of the instrument, could focus on technique rather than theory (though I’ve learned a LOT more chord theory via the guitar, from dominant sevenths to flat nines), was mentally prepared for the initial frustration of not being able to play much right away, and could deal with the inevitable blistered fingers during the first month. I was actually shocked at how quickly I could “sound musical” and accompany fun songs.

  • Chris

    Wouldn’t it be easier to go from guitar to piano though? I mean, when studying music using guitar, because the notes are not spread out linearly like piano it’s difficult to learn. BUT, because it is not visually spread out like the piano, you’ll pretty much train your ear better and pretty much force yourself to study the complexity. After you get all those, when you move on to piano, it’ll be alot easier to advance as piano player since this time, the keys are all linearly shown, which we just have to follow the pattern to play.

    Tell me if I’m misunderstanding something

    • Interesting point! I’m not sure why the “visual spreading” or “linear” aspects should affect your ear training…or why you should feel forced to “study the complexity”…but it’s definitely worth considering! I think a lot depends on the student’s interest. I’d still maintain that if a student is very young (say, 10 or younger), having to multi-task on beginning guitar (press strings with LH, pick strings with RH) is still tougher than simply pressing piano keys. And (while I think that also can apply to older students), I still believe learning both clefs on piano provides for a more holistic, comprehensive perspective not only on note-reading, but on how music works generally. Ultimately, if learning guitar first helped you, that’s great! (Also see my comment to Ashley below).

    • I feel it is better to start on piano, then go to guitar. But I’m sure you could go either way.

  • Aryaman

    Man I play the piano and I want to learn the guitar but mom is against it what should I do

    • I’m afraid I can’t address the issue of your mom’s opposition to your learning guitar. I would contend, however, that she might have a point insofar as learning more than one instrument at a time can detract from your focus on your primary instrument…and possibly also can cut into your mom’s pocketbook! Nevertheless, my general recommendation would be that if anyone is interested in learning more than one instrument, s/he should be allowed to do so…as long as you manage your time wisely. If you just want to learn a few chords on guitar, perhaps to use as accompaniment for singing, it shouldn’t take too much time or effort.

  • Edward Chester

    Dear T. H. Gillespie, I’ve been playing piano and keyboard for almost 14 years now and I was keen to learn how to play guitar properly. I know how to strum and some of the basic chords but unlike in piano, I find it really hard to determine the scales and notes in guitar. Any tips and recommendations to actually start learning playing? Thanks 🙂

  • Edward Chester

    Dear T. H. Gillespie, I’ve been playing piano and keyboard for almost 14
    years now and I was keen to learn how to play guitar properly. I know
    how to strum and some of the basic chords but unlike in piano, I find it
    really hard to determine the scales and notes in guitar. Any tips and
    recommendations to actually start learning how to play properly? Thanks 🙂

    • Edward, learning individual notes on guitar is not that difficult. The musical alphabet is exactly the same as on piano (A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, etc…). You just need to know the notes of the open strings (low E, A, D, G, B, and hi E), then go up each fret and fill in the names of each note. Remember that each fret is a half step (just like moving from one key to the next on piano), and that E to F and B to C are natural half steps (with no need to account for a “black key” in between, as is true with every other pair of letter names; you can see this laid out plainly on a piano, while the guitar has no “black” keys as a visual aid). I’d recommend buying a beginning guitar method book which should get you learning and playing individual notes right away.

  • neverland

    I quit the piano as a kid after a few years bc lack of time/interest and a need to focus more o academics (i was just getting started in competitive math and science back then.)
    i’ve always had a genuine love for rock music so as a teen, it it too late/ time consuming for me to learn guitar? i still have to keep up with my academic competitions too.

    • There is no set amount of time that you must set aside in order to learn how to play an instrument. The more you practice, the better you’ll get…more quickly…but you can learn at a reasonable pace (especially the basics) if you devote even as little as 10 minutes or so a day. I usually don’t recommend a set amount of time so much as daily (at least 4-5 days a week) practicing of set amounts (say, a drill or two, and a line or two of music…or even a page or two). This way you’ll be more likely to accomplish specific goals rather than simply “practice” a set amount of minutes. Generally, I’d project that if you set reasonable goals, you’ll end up practicing around 15-30 minutes a day, on average. If you really start to get serious (playing classical repertoire or playing in a rock band), you’ll likely start spending closer to an hour a day (or more) practicing your instrument. Just remember that practice is not always “fun”…so you have to commit to goals and stick to them.

      • neverland (again)

        Ok me again… Is 14 too late to learn though? Because I looked up my favorite band members and all of them started young…

        • Jaco Pastorius, one of the greatest jazz bassists ever, didn’t start seriously learning the bass before he was 16. Of course, he practiced several hours a day…so maybe he’s not a perfect example of what you want to accomplish. Still, I’d say you are never too old to learn an instrument. Different people learn at different rates, but I still say around 30 minutes a day is all you’ll need to become fairly good within 2-3 years. Some of my students learned enough guitar in 2-3 years to play in bands locally…and some of them have gone on to become professional musicians.

        • SomeBodyInYourWindowsss

          I started at 12 and have friends that started at 20 and 25 haha I started teaching my 70 yr old dad guitar lol hes pretty good too its not too late bro

        • No!! Never too late

    • GuitarTeachJoey

      No! You can always learn guitar on the side! It’s reasonably quick to learn a few songs and scales and if you take lessons you will be playing amazingly in no time, and if you CANT take lessons there are literally MILLIONS of guitar videos of lessons and articles on playing style! I strongly encourage trying guitar, it’s a great skill to have!

    • Its never too late! Since you have piano backgrounds, it will be so much easier to learn guitar (trust me). I have 30 min lessons every 2 weeks, so I can keep up with academics and still learn guitar.

  • P.

    Mr. Gillespie. Can you learn music theory on a guitar? Is it a wrong if I learn guitar first and then move to piano?

    Though I’m a ‘musical’ person, I don’t have any favorite instument in particular. I’d like to play the digital piano because it has the beautiful piano sound and the strings, which for me is the perfect combination. Also, you can play the rythym with one hand and the melody with the other, while on the guitar it’s either the one or the other.

    I’m not into classical music. I like beautiful/ emotional music, whether it’s happy or sad. I know this is a rather vague statement. Well, I like songs like these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqvcRca3ecM

    I am the “quiet and highly intelligent” type of guy so I guess the digital piano would be
    perfect for me. But I’m still in college and need to spend the little
    money I earn wisely. So I can’t buy the digital piano now.

    I bought an inexpensive, plywood, classical guitar (which actually sounds good), a complete guitar course book and also have access to reliable music theory material. Will I do okay with these? I want to become a skilled musician, not a campfire strummer. I wouldn’t mind spending the remaining 4 years of college practicing on a guitar and then, after getting a much better job, buying a high-end digital piano.

    • Thanks for sharing the message and music! I’ll try to answer your two questions. First, can you learn theory on guitar? Absolutely. I’d say some aspects of music might be easier to learn on piano, and most college-level music programs require some work on piano, but music theory is the same regardless of which instrument you play. Second, can you do okay learning music with a guitar course book and some music theory material? I can’t be sure, because I don’t know your skill level or potential. Some people can learn at amazing rates, even without a private instructor. I’d contend, however, that your best bet would be to take private lessons. Try to find someone who’s not too expensive (say, NOT a college prof or concert pianist, who often charge high rates for lessons) and who can teach theory as well as technique. Since you want to become a skilled musician, I’d say you need to count on taking such lessons for at least a couple of years (maybe more)…and practicing a lot. Most skilled musicians who are professional have taken lessons for at least 5-6 years and have practiced an average of at least 30 minutes a day for all that time.
      Lastly, just a response to your comment about melody with chords. Such playing is also done on guitar…but I’d agree that basic forms of it are probably easier to do on piano for beginners. I’d also agree that piano commonly employs melody and chords, while guitar commonly focuses on one of these things at a time.

  • GuitarTeachJoey

    I feel that actually piano is an easier instrument as it takes two hands that do the same type of thing, where as guitar is also two handed but both hands do very different things. Also, there are many more styles of picking and fretting on guitar where piano is very simple of pushing down keys to make sound. I do recommend guitar more, though, because I feel it actually shows more music theory, like how the notes connect on the fretboard.
    I play both instruments, I prefer guitar and I learned guitar first, hope this helped!
    Don’t want to read everything — Here’s the point: piano is easier whereas, guitar is harder but I recommend guitar much more than I do piano.

    • Cole

      I played guitar hero a lot when I was a kid so it should be easy to learn guitar right

      • HaHa! I can’t vouch for guitar hero, but I will say this: Anyone who really practices guitar as much as some kids play guitar hero would be GREAT!

    • Yes, thats very true about guitar, however, piano isn’t just pressing down notes. There are techniques as well (stacato, legato etc.) and you have to have even fingers, its so much easier siad than done. And you fingers have to lift up, to play evenly. Also, you need to be able to get up to high speeds playing a series of complex notes.
      However I disagree, I think guitar is easier to learn (as a beginner). Piano takes a lot of time to get started but in guitar you learn how to hold it, and the first couple of notes and BAM you are set to play Mary Had A Little Lamb.
      But oh well, thats my opinion. And yes, I learned piano first so I prefer piano more but guitar is extremely enjoyable.

    • musicenthusiast 800

      Yes, the various ways of fretting and picking on the guitar, such as sliding, hammering a string or playing certain notes on open strings as opposed to fretting a string to form the same note, allow you to produce many different and colourful sounds. On the piano, you aren’t able to utilize all of those sorts of techniques to make the sorts of sounds you can do on a guitar.
      I do find the piano easier to understand as all the notes are layed out in front of you in order. On the guitar, there are many written arrangements out there that require the guitar to be tuned differently to the standard open tuning and/or for the use of a capo, so if I wanted to play another song, I would have to tune 2 or 3 strings differently each time, which is tedious when you’re having to lower or heighten the pitch a whole tone. As the notes are layed out in front of you on the piano, I think of it as more playable because I find it easier to understand music theory and you don’t have to worry about capos or alternative tunings. So in terms of playing and convience, I think the piano is easier to handle.

  • ForeverAnalog .

    I think guitar players will say piano is easier so they can feel more special. But I have seen more people struggle with piano than guitar. Guitar all you do is basic strum and hum. Once you know 3 chords, you’re set for most songs. Piano you got two hands doing opposite things. If you sing and play piano, that is much harder than just strummin yer guitar. If guitar is so much easier, why do you see so many more guitar players?

    • I think you meant: “if guitar is so much harder, why do you see so many more guitar players?”. Of course, in the world of classical music, there are far more piano players than guitarists, so it all depends on where you are looking. Anyway, to respond to your comment: You might have a point about basic pop/folk accompaniment. I might agree that doing so on guitar tends to be a bit easier than doing it on piano. Still, once you start including all kinds of genres and skill levels, I believe any instrument can involve great skill and challenge. That’s why I maintain that it’s hard to reach a high level of skill on any instrument. But I also maintain that piano is an easier instrument to tackle when you are very young. At this beginning level, I believe guitar tends to be more challenging for small fingers. Ultimately, I doubt one instrument really is easier than the other, generally…but, depending on your purpose, some aspects of some kinds of playing might tend to be easier on one instrument than another.

      • ForeverAnalog .

        I mainly meant when adding vocal performance, it is mainly easier to strum guitar chords than use piano. Singing and Playing piano at the same time require a much more myriad of things going on. But there is guitar playing, and then there is complex fingering not just in Classical, but even some styles of Country/Folk where dexterity and rhythm are immense. No disrespect to guitar players. But I don’t agree that piano is an easy instrument for everyone. For young kids, I would reccommend the Uke.

    • Honestly I find piano much harder. Non-pianists just go ‘oh whats so hard about tapping your fingers’ but thats completely not true. Piano playing requires even, steady playing and very high levels of finger dexterity. It is extremely difficult, time consuming and pretty expensive for good lesons, and a decent piano.
      Guitar is ovbiously hard as well, but it is much easier to pick up and learn.
      From experience, when I started piano I couldn’t play a proper song (mary had a little lamb) for about a week (I have weekly lessons), however, I learn’t a song the first time I picked up a guitar.
      So, both are extremely difficult in the long run but guitars are easier to pick up and start.

  • fred

    What is the best way to learn piano contemporary/pop advanced chord style. It seems books and most lessons does not do well at teaching the formula for applying advanced sounds.

    • Most legit methods and lessons don’t teach a particular style so much as an array of skills that can be applied to any style. Sometimes a method might try to appeal to more popular tastes by including pop tunes in its study, but most methods don’t really focus on a particular style. With most of my students, I include improvisational theory alongside more traditional note-reading and fingering technique. I teach students chords and scales and improvisational phrases in every key around the key circle. This way the student has the tools to play more than simply “classical” repertoire or straight note-reading. Beyond that, I believe the best approach is to do a lot of listening and jamming (with videos, CDs, and friends who also want to play contemporary material). The problem with a lot of note-reading methods (even those that include contemporary pieces) is that they often do not delve into improvisation…without which you really can’t get into what goes into a lot of contemporary playing. But I believe traditional skills are important as well. So I believe the best approach is to include both traditional and improvisational skills.

      • fred

        What is the best way to practice improvisation and harmonizing on the melody

        • This is a great topic for a blog post…so I need to create one soon! But, for now, I’ll just briefly add to what I said above. I believe the best way to practice improvisation is to drill two things: scales and chords. And, going along with David Baker’s methodology (Baker is the jazz education icon at the IU Jacobs School of Music), I believe these should be drilled, in rhythm, around the key circle, so that you develop proficiency in every key and so that you are better prepared for what actually happens during performance (most chord progressions include parts of the key circle). Many jazz methods incorporate key circle methodology (as in my brother’s (Luke Gillespie) book, STYLISTIC II/V7/I VOICINGS FOR KEYBOARDISTS published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz), but they often assume some previous knowledge and proficiency. I developed my own method (FIT TO BE PLAYED), which starts folks off from scratch, but it is now out of print and I need to get another printing under way soon (I’ll feature it on this website as soon as I get it printed). You also should try improvising to your own chord accompaniment, but if you are not quite ready to do this, try improvising as others accompany you (or just jam along with CDs and videos).
          Hope this helps!

  • Eduardo

    Could you give your opinion about he keyboard Yamaha PSR-E343 as a keyboard for a beginner?

    • I’m afraid I haven’t actually played on one enough to really give an opinion. I’d say, however, that most keyboards like this one are fine for a beginner. The main drawback is that the keys are fewer than on an acoustic piano and they are not weighted as normal piano keys. But I believe these factors are not that important for beginners.

  • Danielle

    difference of guitar sound vs piano?

  • Ali

    that was great, thanks

  • Parthiban

    Useful information. Really helped me a lot.

  • Preetha

    Very useful information. Now I got the answer for question clearly. Thanks a lot.

  • Eric

    I play both and have been playing both for over 20 years now. I completely agree that initially, it was easier to make crisp, clear sounds on the piano than it was on the guitar, however, over time, though guitar was hard to master in the classical sense, piano grew to be much tougher and more complex. You’re very right in saying that the treble and bass clef aspects, coupled with the mandatory analysis of melody and a balanced development of harmony make it the bigger monster, ESPECIALLY when it comes to classical piano! And don’t forget, in classical guitar, you don’t use your feet!

  • Kiara

    Hi, I play the guitar and i just realise i can cut my fingers on the Metal Guitar, rather then a Nylon Guitar, i’ve played quite a bit on a Metal and Nylon, which one is better for learning already written songs do you think?

    • Kiara, while I’m not sure about your specific situation and skin sensitivity, I’d say that the average guitarist has little problem with metal strings. Yes, they tend to be harder on your skin than nylon, but regular practice tends to create calluses on your skin which helps prevent actual cutting. Some guitarists spray a lubricant on the strings that helps make them less abrasive. Older strings tend to have grime and rust buildup, making them more abrasive, so keeping your strings fresh is a good idea (this also promotes better intonation). Better quality guitars tend to have the strings positioned closer to the fret board, which allows the fingers to move more smoothly over the strings without getting sliced (as tends to happen more with strings that are more raised off the fret board). Of course, if your skin already is cut or split, you might want to let it heal a bit before you resume regular practice. Otherwise, I believe you should be fine with metal strings. Perhaps others would like to chime in and share their own experience.

  • Simran Saluja

    Hello.. I have been learning piano since 4 years and now I’m an average player… I really want to learn guitar but in the same time I want to be a better piano player… So my question is.. As an average piano player, is it okay to learn guitar or should I continue with piano.? Will learning guitar help me in piano too.?

    • Simran, my general response is that learning one or two other instruments while continuing your principle instrument enhances rather than detracts. I’d say the only real caveat involves budgeting your time. If you cut into practice with the secondary instrument(s), then your principle instrument might suffer. My recommendation is that you stay on course with your principle instrument, then practice the other instrument(s) during added practice time.
      The only technical issue with taking up guitar and piano at the same time would be if you intend to use long nails for plucking guitar strings (especially, for example, if you study classical guitar). Advanced classical piano technique generally is best pursued with short nails (to help with curved finger technique and touch), so growing them out on your strumming hand for the guitar would tend to complicate matters. If you stick with a pick on guitar, however, then you can keep your nails short and continue piano without a problem.

  • The Super King

    I’m pretty sure a lot of people choose to learn the guitar over the piano, because it’s portable and it’s a whole lot cheaper, which is probably why it became the cooler instrument a loooooong time ago.

    • Miss Cellany

      Maybe the image of a travelling minstrel with his lute still sticks in our subconscious and lends an air of adventure to the idea of playing guitar…
      For piano we have images of fat, rich men in powdered wigs…just doesnt evoke the same excitement =P

      • The Super King

        That’s true too.

  • The Prince

    Greetings Mr Gillespie, I would like you to assist me with regards to the ‘correct’ way of practicing piano. I’ve been practicing piano for a while now and I still can’t play songs fluently. I don’t practice everyday because I sometimes come back from work exhausted. I don’t know if I’m practicing the ‘right’ way because I see no significant progress. The way I practice now is listening to songs and trying to play that e.g the piano in Christina Aguilera’s Hurt. I also practice the scales and I can say that I’m fairly comfortable but less comfortable certain minor scales. Before I write a whole essay, let me just summarize by saying that I’m frustrated because I think I’m doing something wrong during my practice sessions. Please help

    • I’m not sure I can help…because I’d need to know more specifics, including how advanced you are and how long you’ve been playing. I’d say one pretty clear bottom line is not that profound: the more time you spend practicing, the more progress you will see. But, as you imply, it is also possible to practice and see little progress because your practice is being done with little guidance or efficiency. Anyone who wishes to achieve even a basic level of proficiency should not expect to get there without at least two years of pretty steady practice. I’d say most folks need even more time than that. Furthermore, I’d stay away from so many spambots and late night ads bragging about “how to learn to play in 3 weeks” or whatever. I get these kinds of posts on my blog and try to clean them out every now and then. My recommendation is that you seek personal instruction with a private teacher. If you still don’t see progress, try switching teachers. If you still see no progress, then I’d say you’re likely not cut out for this skill…or you’re having extremely bad luck! It might help if, when you seek out a teacher, you ask questions up front (do they have a track record? do other students recommend them? what is their teaching style and philosophy? etc.: actually, this sounds like a good topic for a blog post!). I definitely agree that practicing scales and chords is fundamental…so keep that up!

      • The Prince

        Thank you sir. I’ve had no luck finding a piano school on weekends because I work during the week…but I’ll keep practicing and search for tuts and if it doesn’t help I’ll buy a guitar! 🙂

        • Miss Cellany

          it sounds like you are trying to play by ear? Are you learning how to read music? I think reading music is absolutely essential for piano, don’t believe anyone that tells you otherwise. I think you should get a book and teach yourself to read piano score and also buy grade 1 – 3 (or whichever grade fits your current ability) piano books and do the exercises & pieces in those. When you’ve mastered that level progress to harder stuff. You will see progress like this and you will have some structure to your practice sessions.

          I think it’s impossible to move to advanced stuff in piano without mastering the basics – your fingers need to be limber and know where all the notes are – as much of the time you will not be looking at the keyboard while you play (you will be referring to your score to remind you what comes next).

          Playin by ear is an advanced skill – if you understand music theory better it will be much easier to do this eventually and you will be able to hear a piece of music and replicate it at home. But you must start with the basics first – get a book and follow the lessons in it!

          • The Prince

            Thank you

          • Anne-Marie Hildebrandt Nelson

            I have a different

          • Good points, Anne-Marie Nelson…I’d say both skills–playing by note and by ear–are good, and each can help the other, and there’s no reason not to go for both. Traditionally, many teachers preferred not to encourage playing by ear, as they believed playing by ear would weaken note-reading skills. But I believe both skills can and should co-exist.

          • Anne-Marie Hildebrandt Nelson

            Yep… good thing there’s been plenty of research debunking that concern about playing by ear weakening note-reading skills! (In fact, the opposite has been shown.) However, I’d say it really depends on your culture and what you want to do with your instrument. I know plenty of people who lead fulfilling, creative musical lives only playing by ear, because the musical world they exist in contains plenty of satisfying, enjoyable opportunities for music-making without notation.

  • Junk Bond Trader

    Are many skills transferable from guitar to piano? I’ve played guitar for a decade, bare minimum an hour a day, usually 4 or 5. Anyway, I want to start piano. My question is, how much will my guitar experience benefit the learning process for piano? Is this a huge advantage, or is it more like starting all over again?

    also, do you have any idea roughly what the price in USD would be for an entry level keyboard WITH weighted key? Seems like once weighted keys are added the price really jumps…. Yet they’re necessary, for expression and what not. What’s your advice regarding entry level keyboards?

    Thanks! Enjoyed the blog, well written.

    • I play piano, and I started learning guitar very recently. I think that piano will be easier to learn as you already know the basics- timing, notes, expression etc. so it will definetly speed up the learning progress. Also, guitar should help finger dexterity which will most definetly enhance piano playing.
      Obviously, they are very different but it will be much easier than, say, someone with no musical experience.
      And yes, weighted keys cost a lot more!

    • Much music theory is the same regardless of what instrument you play, and can be transferred from one instrument to another. The actual execution and technique, however, tends to be quite different, so, apart from some rhythm drills, cannot be transferred. And, yes, weighted keys tend to be more expensive, but just learning basic note-reading on piano can be done on a less expensive digital keyboard. The concern over weighted keys shouldn’t play that heavily until you become more advanced and are performing a lot or are planning to tackle intermediate to advanced classical material.

  • Miss Cellany

    I learned piano on my own from a keyboard book at age 8. Didn’t get lessons until I was 14 and taking music GCSE. Now many years later I decided to learn guitar to play my favourite rock songs (they just don’t sound right on piano). I picked up my brother’s guitar and found a tutorial on YouTube and in about 4 hours I learned to play a song exactly as it is played by the band (not simplified). I have never been able to learn a piece of music so quickly on a piano (but then I’ve always played classical on piano).
    I found plucking much easier than chords (ugh HOW impossible some of them are!) and I had to put tape on my fingertips after about an hour as they were so painful.

    I came to two conclusions:

    1) Guitar is more physically demanding – it requires you to develop callusses and contort your left hand in ridiculous ways to produce clean chords.

    2) learning a new piece of music is much easier on a guitar than a piano (mainly because you’re learning melody on one hand and chords on the other whereas in piano music unless it’s very simple there will be a baseline melody on the left that has to interlock with the treble melody on the right).

    I think you always learn a second instrument faster but consider that a guitar piece can only have up to 6 notes played at a time and a piano piece can have up to 10, plus you need to learn how to move your hands independently for piano (different rhythms on each hand) but you don’t need to for guitar.

    I agree that piano is easier to START on and i think all muscisians shoukd start on it, but I still think its much harder to play advanced music on a piano simply because the music itself is more complex (more notes).

    • Thanks for sharing many great points!
      I believe it’s easy to get “difficulty” confused with “style”, something I believe you allude to above. For example, if you’re just playing chords to accompany a voice or solo instrument, the guitar tends to be somewhat easier than the piano. Learning barre chords on guitar, for example, is somewhat challenging, but, once you do, you can play all chords around the key circle fairly easily, while piano requires a knowledge of all the scales and keys (sharps and flats, etc.). On more advanced levels, both guitar and piano can involve intricate melody lines interspersed with chordal accompaniment, so both instruments can be quite difficult to master. But I believe we agree that piano is easier as a starter instrument, especially for very young kids, because the dexterity and coordination required just to pluck/strum with one hand while pressing down strings with the other can be challenging when compared with the basic pressing of keys on the piano.

      • Miss Cellany

        indeed, I definitely recommend piano as a starter instrument. I also think children can learn piano on their own whereas you should probably have a teacher for guitar (bad form can cause injuries on guitar – I don’t think you can injure yourself playing piano?).

        I understand that style makes a huge difference in terms of complexity – but I think that piano music is itself more complex at concert level simply because there are more notes. Guitar is probably harder to play at the same level (it’s certainly more fiddly – the strings are much closer together than piano keys) but the music itself is less complex so may be easier to memorise. But that’s my uninformed opinion – I’ve never learned a complex guitar piece so I’m just guessing!

        I’m really interested in learning classical guitar now, I will definitely search out a teacher 🙂

        • I would say that one should be cautious about learning any instrument without a teacher, not because of possible injury, but because it is so easy to develop bad habits and techniques. And, again, you can youtube any number of videos and see that guitar music can be just as complex as piano music. Any instrument is difficult to master at advanced levels.

          • Antonio Toni Sumic

            Yes thats true, you need to be cautious about that but what to do when you don’t have teacher anywhere close to your home in the first place, dont wanna talk about other things. But I just wanted to learn guitar and started by myself. Yes I developed some bad habits but it is what it is. I just dont wanna stop, playing for my soul and thats enough for me. Damn, I dont even know notes if they are not tabbed for guitar like numbers :). But hey, never give up.
            Cheers.

          • Sure…if you can’t manage to find a good teacher, trying to learn on your own surely is laudable! As I mentioned, you can find lots of free instructional videos on the internet. Still, I’d be wary of ads that claim you can learn to play an instrument in 2 weeks or the like. Gotta separate the real stuff from the fake!

        • Michael “Mike” Donigan

          Miss Cellany – one can certainly sustain injuries from excessive, or rather poorly executed practice. Repetitive Stress Injury (carpal tunnel) and tendonitis are quite common for university piano majors.

    • Anukritt.Sharma

      You are superhuman

  • h0cus_P0cus

    It very much depends on the level you want to reach. Kids may get frustrated but within a couple hundred – 1000 hours of practice (so like a year in) they can start tackling pretty advanced material on the guitar, and they would certainly have enough time in to be able to enjoy jamming out with others.

    On the piano 1000 hours in and you’re still in beginner land.

  • Pingback: Learning To Play The Guitar Vs The Piano | 12 String Guitar()

  • Himanshu Yadav

    I am 13 years old and I am very confused what should I learn piano or guitar . I know a little bit piano and I can play many songs on it also but I very much interested rock music also and playing guitar . So please help me in deciding what should I learn guitar or piano

    • Susi Chan

      A guitar is easier to carry around than a piano unless it is a light keyboard. I have a weighted digital piano and it is a little heavy for me to bring it with me. It’s easy for me to bring a guitar to a friend’s place to play or practice. Guitar also cost less. I find it easier to visualize the notes on the piano than on the guitar. I like piano because it is easier to compose music on the keyboard/piano. You are young and you can pick any one of them first and later learn the other one. Oh one warning. Once you become a guitarist, you will start to collect guitars. It’s not uncommon for guitarists to have 3 – 7 guitars.

    • Buffy Hocott

      I say go with both. Having the piano as your foundation and your primary, and then the guitar as a second. Also if you have an understanding of the song and the sound, you will be able to pick up on the guitar when the cords are not right. There are many videos out there about playing the guitar, to save money while learning the basics. Good luck and don’t give up both. I taught myself to play the clarinet in 4 months, and advanced to 1st chair in less than a year. You can master anything if you put your mind to it. Have patience and best of luck.

  • Michael “Mike” Donigan

    I have played piano for 43 years, started when I was four. I was a performance major for a couple years, and concluded that the competition was above my comfort level at that time. I have not stopped playing the piano since then.
    I have a great interest in learning the guitar, especially classical genre. At one point, I could lay a guitar flat and with my left hand depress the chords, and with the right pluck out “Stairyway to Heaven” intro. I remember that a brief (weeks) period had me trying to strum chords on a guitar, and my wrist didn’t seem to quite ‘fit’ that position which was required. Do you think this has anything to do with my physical adaptation to playing the piano? I mean, the wrists and forearms, of course the fingers, are perfoming with effort not proportional to that when playing piano.

    Thanks.

  • Yes, I completely to agree with your opinion. There aren’t correct answer for this question. It truly depends upon which type of music and which instrument you like to play or hear to in particular. But learning to play piano maybe is a much simpler instrument for beginners in comparison to guitar.

  • Docjoe

    I’m officially an old fart and have played in many bands for years, but when I was young, the only keyboards available were pianos and organs which were expensive took up a huge amount of space in the house, so I could never practice on either.
    I got very proficient on the guitar but it took many years, and it’s not as logical as a keyboard when you are trying to grasp the fundamentals of basic music theory.
    As a 62 year old guitarist who has taught guitar and played professionally for years, I would encourage everyone to at least dabble with keyboards so they can appreciate the underlying mathematical principles involved.

  • mhilg

    I am 50 and fighting depression and I failed at learning guitar when I was 13 for several reasons. Now I am seeing a that learning an instrument has helped people with depression so I am motivated to learn an instrument. Piano is a pretty big investment though so leaning towards guitar.

    With that said does anyone have any thoughts on learning piano on a keyboard? I can type the proper way with both hands so assume I can do either, however I would love to learn music theory too.

    Thanks
    Mark

    • Hi Mark! I’m afraid I’m unable to address the issue of depression, though I’m sure learning and playing music would be wonderful therapy! I believe music theory always is a vital part of learning to play music, especially if you plan to play contemporary/pop music (which usually includes improvisation). For an adult, I’d say learning beginning guitar is fairly easy, and beginning piano is quite easy. Learning to play chords to back up singing is fairly easy on either instrument. Once you begin to play more intricate melodies and arrangements, both instruments can be quite challenging. As for a keyboard for learning piano, you can find ones for under $100-200 pretty easily, while finding a real (acoustic) piano for that amount is rare (unless it’s used).

      • mhilg

        Thank you, actually I learned that music therapy is actually covered by my insurance for depression, ADHD, Dislexia, PTSD, and other mental issues. Unfortunately I can’t get them to buy a baby grand piano (lol) but I wanted to share that info for anyone else that reads this. I am lucky to have a plan not covered under Obamacare so not sure how other plans might work but doesn’t hurt to try.

        Also I found your article addressing the differences between keyboards and acoustic pianos, thank you for that. I am going to start out with an under $100.00 acoustic guitar and if I find success go from their, every penny is precious for my family right now so that makes the most sense.

        Thank you again for the quick response and as forsee using you as a resource going forward I pledge to do what I can to support you and your site.

        Mark