Mastering a musical instrument is one of the most rewarding pursuits. But if you’re new to learning music, you might want to choose an easy instrument to play.
Guitar and piano are two of the most popular instruments in the world to learn. And if you’re considering learning one, you probably want to know: is guitar easier than piano?
Choosing Guitar vs. Piano
There’s no easy, clear-cut answer to whether guitar or piano is easier. To help you decide, we’ve compared the two in a number of different areas.
Learning Music Theory
A lot of newer musicians don’t see the need to learn music theory. But the truth is that theory helps you understand music, and when you understand music, you become a much better player.
Because of the layout of the keys on the piano, this is the best instrument to learn when it comes to music theory. Because the keys are arranged in order of pitch, it helps you get a real understanding of scales and chords. And since the accidentals are on black keys, learning piano makes it easier to understand sharps and flats.
Of course, both piano and guitar can help you to learn music theory, and some people may find stringed instruments like the guitar to be more intuitive. But generally speaking, the piano is easier to learn when it comes to theory.
Learning piano also may make it easier to learn other instruments. Piano gives you a clear idea of how music works, and that grasp of theory may make learning other instruments a bit simpler.
That’s not to say that you don’t learn any music theory when you learn to play guitar. If you do a deep dive into theory, you can understand playing in different modes, get a better understanding of songwriting, and more. It’s just easier to get further along as a guitar player without knowing music theory.
On a related note, you might want to consider whether you want to learn to read music or not. Just about all piano music is in traditional musical notation. So to progress, you’ll need a decent grasp on how to read sheet music. This is a useful skill to have (especially if you want to learn to play other instruments as well), but it can take some time to establish a solid foundation.
Unless you’re focusing on classical music for guitar, most guitar music is written using tablature, a simplified musical notation. If you largely want to play popular music, you likely won’t need to learn to read sheet music.
Since tablature takes a lot less time to learn, guitar is the easier instrument in this regard.
When you look at piano and guitar, you’re probably wondering about how challenging it is to physically play each one. The difficulty depends on your skill level. Of course, once you reach advanced levels, both instruments require difficult techniques.
In the early beginner stage, piano students generally have an easier time than guitar students. Even if you don’t hit the keys with perfect technique, they’ll still ring out clearly. And even when you begin playing with your right hand and your left hand at the same time, your hands use similar positions.
As you begin to play guitar, you’ll face some initial hurdles:
- Your fingertips are likely to hurt until you develop calluses.
- You’ll need to learn to press the strings down close to the frets. If you don’t, you’ll hear a string buzz.
- Coordinating your fretting hand and your picking/strumming hand takes some time. That’s because both hands are in very different positions.
- Switching between guitar chords takes some time to master, as many chord shapes (especially those for open chords, which many beginners start with) are very different.
It’s worth noting that learning on an electric guitar or acoustic guitar can change the difficulty of your learning experience. Many guitar teachers suggest completing the early stages of learning on an acoustic guitar largely because it’s easier to move from acoustic to electric than the other way around.
But if you find yourself worried about the physical challenges of playing, electric guitars might work better for you. Electric guitars have lower action, meaning that the strings are closer to the fretboard. That makes it easier to fret notes and chords.
Most electric guitars have thinner necks than acoustics. That also makes them easier to play, especially if you have smaller hands.
Intermediate and Advanced Technique
Many musicians and music teachers assert that advanced piano playing requires more technical skills. But as you progress on guitar or piano, each presents unique challenges:
On a piano, especially in more difficult pieces, the left and right hands play different notes at the same time. Especially in challenging pieces of music, you may find yourself playing complex fingerings with both hands at the same time.
As you progress and play songs that are more difficult, you’ll probably find that you need to use more and more of the keyboard. Sometimes, you may need to move your hand a fair distance relatively quickly.
Bar chords are one of the most infamous challenges for intermediate guitar players. This is where your index finger forms a “bar” across the fretboard and the rest of your fingers form a chord shape behind it. This takes some physical strength to do, and without good technique, you’ll likely experience some string buzz.
Part of the beauty of guitar is the subtlety you can impart to your playing. String bends, vibrato, playing fingerstyle vs. with a pick, etc. are all fun to explore. But mastering these techniques can be tough!
A lot of people learn guitar so they can play their favorite songs. And especially when it comes to pop music, just knowing a few basic chords will allow you to play a whole host of songs.
Even if you only know a couple of chord shapes, you can play drastically different things. If you hold a chord with your fretting hand, you can use your strumming hand to strum, pick an arpeggio, or fingerpick in just about any pattern you can think of.
Since most beginners learn chords and strumming patterns almost immediately, the guitar is easier when it comes to learning songs.
If you want to learn piano or guitar and would prefer to self-teach, you may wonder if one is easier to teach yourself than the other. It’s often easier to learn guitar on your own than it is to learn piano.
Much of that is due to the fact that you can start learning chords and songs quickly on guitar. Even if you use the same pattern when you strum at first, you’ll be able to play a variety of songs.
Of course, you can self-teach when learning piano. But generally, learning piano involves learning a good bit of theory from the start. In most cases, it’s helpful to have an experienced teacher to guide you through the process.
If you opt to teach yourself one of these instruments, it’s a good idea to have some level of guidance. Music books and/or online courses for guitar and piano can help you make sure you have a clear idea of what to focus on next.
If you’re considering teaching yourself and want some advice before you start, check out this helpful video!
Teaching Kids to Play
If you need to choose one instrument to teach a child, you might wonder if one of these two is easier than the other. Usually, it’s easier for younger kids to learn to play piano. It can be hard for small children to exert the hand strength needed to play (and especially to bar) chords. A very young child may also have trouble with the finger soreness that happens as calluses develop.
Kids sometimes struggle with coordinating the fretting hand and the strumming hand. And while piano and guitar both require coordination, young children can often start out on piano by playing melodies with one hand.
As a bonus, kids who start out on piano are more likely to get a real understanding of music theory. If they want to play other instruments later in life, this is likely to set them up for success!
Playing While Singing
Once you know a few chords on guitar or piano, you might want to start playing and singing a few songs. Experienced performers make it look easy, but it often takes a little practice before you can play and sing at the same time.
So is it easier to sing while playing guitar or piano? A lot of that depends on how comfortable you are with the instrument as well as the difficulty of the song. But since you can strum chords in a variety of patterns while singing, guitar is probably the easiest instrument to learn to sing to.
You can sing while playing simple chords on a piano as well. But since you can strum each chord indefinitely (and with a whole range of rhythm patterns) on a guitar, a simple, chords-only song will usually sound richer and fuller when played on a guitar.
Regardless of the instrument you play, it’s wise to take your time with this step. The best course of action is to progress through the song slowly as you coordinate your voice and your hands. Once you can play and sing through it slowly, you can move up to the song’s actual tempo.
Before you choose between guitar and piano, there are a few other factors besides ease of playing that you may want to look into:
Portability. If you’re interested in the possibility of sharing music with others, considering guitar and piano portability is a good idea.
Obviously, a guitar is a lot more portable. Especially with an acoustic guitar, you can take it along with you and simply play where you wish!
Of course, if you’re a piano student, you can still find ways to take your music with you. If you want to play at an open mic or otherwise perform, you can bring a keyboard and stand. These can take some effort to haul around, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Cost. One very important factor to consider when deciding between these two instruments is the cost. A decent guitar for a beginner will almost always be cheaper than a piano.
If you want a guitar that’s decently affordable but still sounds good, aim for something around $300. Acoustic pianos are usually hundreds more than this.
You can learn piano on a keyboard or digital piano, too. For the best and most piano-like learning experience, choose a keyboard with weighted keys. A quality weighted keyboard can be very expensive, so if cost is a concern, it’s fine to learn on non-weighted keyboards and digital pianos, too.
Space. A piano takes up space. And if you live in a small apartment or are otherwise short on space, a guitar is a lot easier to store. A keyboard takes up less space, but it can be challenging to find a good place to set it up.
Maintenance. Guitar and piano tuning are very different processes. You can tune a guitar yourself in a matter of seconds or minutes. Acoustic pianos need to be professionally tuned periodically, and tuning can cost hundreds of dollars. Of course, you don’t need to tune a keyboard or a digital piano.
Is Guitar Easier Than Piano?
So what’s the bottom line? Generally, learning guitar is easier than learning piano. But learning an instrument is a major commitment, and you shouldn’t make ease of learning the sole factor in your decision.
Ultimately, you want learning an instrument to be fun. When you think of playing guitar and playing piano, which one excites you the most? Put some thought into the decision, pick up your first instrument, and embark on your musical journey!
Still have questions on whether piano or guitar is easier? Here are some answers:
Most music teachers and musicians think that learning guitar is easier than learning piano. That’s largely because it’s easier to start playing songs on guitar, and the layout can be less overwhelming for beginners.
The answer to this question depends on your goals. Learning piano makes it easier to master music theory, but learning guitar tends to be easier for adult beginners. Ultimately, the best course of action is to learn whichever you’re most excited about!