Piano Vs Guitar – Which One To Learn and Why

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

The piano and the guitar are among the top instruments to learn. Both instruments teach hand-to-hand and hand-eye coordination. They can also be played solo or in a group.

The piano and the guitar are versatile instruments and choosing which one to learn can be a dilemma. Read on to find out which instrument is the best fit in terms of preference and lifestyle.

Can you learn guitar and piano at the same time?

Yes, learning both at the same time is possible. There is no mental barrier to learning two instruments simultaneously. 

Reasons for simultaneous learning

Music enthusiasts and students in internet forums believe that learning both instruments can be beneficial for the learner.

  • Learning piano helps in learning guitar and vice versa

“Each helped the other. Figuring out was easier on piano, with its simple layout, whereas on guitar, there are several ways of playing the exact same note. Some songs worked better on one rather than the other, so it was (still is!) good to be able to slide across.”

[Source: Music Stack Exchange]

“ I don’t think it will be “confusing” at all, and in fact studying different instruments usually helps to illuminate some concepts and approaches on all of the other instruments. For example, you will learn a lot more about chords, as a necessity, playing guitar than violin. But that knowledge will help your violin playing.”

[Source: Quora]

“ I think the linear layout of the keys on the piano will help to develop some good [sic] fundenentals regarding music theory, and this will be helpful with any instrument you decide to learn.”

Source: Quora]

  • Learning both helps develop your intonation

“They’re both percussive.  You’ll get better ears for intonation with the guitar if you’re tuning it a lot.” 

[Source: PianoStreet]

Note: Intonation in music theory is the pitch accuracy of an instrument or a musician. The forum contributor above is saying that learning both will develop your ear for pitch. 

  • It promotes more strong and flexible finger muscles

“Doing piano exercises will strengthen your finger muscles and give you more speed for the guitar. It will also develop your hand and finger independence in ways that are helpful on the guitar. I have found that playing the piano makes a big improvement in my guitar playing.”

[Source: Quora]

  • Learning both helps you learn faster

“For one, it accelerates the music learning process. You can see composition as it relates to both instruments when you are learning them simultaneously. Eventually, you may find yourself playing a piano piece and wonder how it would translate to guitar.”

Source: Quora]

But progress isn’t equal when learning two instruments at the same time. Proficiency on the piano may not be the same on the guitar. 

Remember learning is limited to the time invested. Practicing the two instruments every day will give the best results.

“If you have good practice habits, absolutely … But it will require more of a time commitment to do both. And I’d recommend having a teacher for at least one of them, that you might consider your main instrument.”

[Source: Reddit]

Is Piano Harder To Learn Than Guitar

The two instruments complement each other. Knowing piano chords is a great prerequisite to guitar chords. 

But there are hard-to-learn aspects of each instrument. Keep on reading to find out which is harder to learn.

What’s hard to learn about piano?

  • Reading sheet music

Learning sheet music can be hard and frustrating. Sometimes finding what the note’s name is makes learning slow.

But this is a good thing. It allows you to read music. A skill that can be transferred in learning any instrument.

Learning how to read sheet music also helps piano students when they compose their own pieces.

  • Longer learning curve

Piano takes longer to master if learning the classical way.. 

But, there are ways of learning music such as the Suzuki method where students learn to play by ear first. They learn to read music later on in their studies

But a longer learning curve for piano is the general internet opinion.

“Piano is just a longer learning curve and generally involves reading notes, which is kind of like learning a new language. To become a master of either is a lifetime thing, but to become proficient in guitar is way faster in terms of time [sic] spend than piano.”

[Source: Reddit]

  • Getting better means harder lessons

One thing that most piano beginners don’t like about the learning process, is the progressive difficulty.

As you learn more, the lessons get harder. Some can lose interest and stop learning.

One forum contributor says that discouragement isn’t the answer. Students can do it if they practice:

“However don’t be fooled, piano gets much more difficult as you become more advanced. Playing with both your hands and pedaling at the same time is difficult. So whilst it is fairly easy at the beginning it gets much harder as you progress on. Please don’t get discouraged though, you can definitely do it if you’ve got the interest and practice well.”

[Source: Quora]

What’s hard to learn about guitar?

There seem to be a lot of people who know how to play guitar. 

Indeed many prefer it to learning any other instrument. But is guitar really that easy?

Are there hard lessons to learn about guitar?

Contributors to three online forums say “yes”.

First is,

  • Learning how to strum properly

Guitar players from the Ask Meta Filter online forum say that it may take a few months to learn proper strumming.

“In the very, very beginning the guitar will be more frustrating because it will make your fingers hurt and you will have a hard time getting any kind of musical sound out of it at all. This phase may last for a few weeks or a few months, depending on how consistently you practice. In contrast, even a non-keyboardist can easily hit a nice sounding chord on a piano without straining his or her fingers.”

[Source: AskMetaFilter]

  • Tuning guitars

Tuning an instrument is adjusting the pitch so that it is accurate. 

Guitar players do this by adjusting the tuning pegs attached to the strings.

It requires another instrument for the basis of pitch. 

And today, electric tuners are devices that you attach to the guitar neck for tuning.

“Tuning is not an issue to worry about, electronic tuners are cheap and reliable. Nobody tunes by ear anymore. “

[Source: AskMetaFilter]

  • Requires a lot more precise mechanical coordination

It’s hard to produce the correct sound on the guitar. Especially when still a beginner.

Fingers have to be placed in the right spots for the correct chord.

“Guitar requires a lot more precise mechanical coordination, whereas piano necessitates reading music.”

[Source: Reddit]

‘Guitar is significantly harder to have it make the correct sound. There is an actual technique to even holding the instrument, let alone playing the correct chords.”

[Source: Quora]

Which is harder to learn?

Piano can be harder to learn compared to the guitar. Especially if learning with the classical method.

But guitar can also be hard if learning the specific lessons taught with the classical technique.

If learning to play for accompanying others or singing: the guitar is the best choice. 

The chords are easier to learn. A lot of songs are based on just the basic guitar chords.

Learning to play with chords on the piano is also easier than learning the classical way. However, with the piano you need to learn how to play with both hands

With guitar, chords are learned on one hand and strumming technique on the other.

Reasons You Should Learn Piano Instead of Guitar

The piano is a versatile instrument. But is it worth it to learn?

The answer is yes.

Learn any type of music you want

Classical, rock, jazz, reggae. Any genre is possible on the piano. 

It may take more time to master, but learning the piano gives learners the ability to adjust to any situation, with any music genre. 

Learn to read sheet music

This is one of the major requirements for learning to play the piano. It teaches the student how to identify notes and even pitch. 

Piece composition is easy if the student has learned how to read sheet music. 

It’s also transferable knowledge that students can use when learning other instruments.

Foundation for music theory

What is music theory

It’s all about understanding the music or the piece. It’s learning about:

  1. Notes you play – chords, scales, melody pitch
  2. How to play notes – expression, dynamics, rhythm, timbre, articulation
  3. Note interaction – textures, harmonies
  4. Effects of music structures 
  5. Using notes to make music – composition

Learning piano teaches you all about these. 

With a good foundation of music theory, learning other instruments is easier.

Instant gratification

It’s easy to press a key and hear the note immediately on the piano. 

Simple songs on one hand are easy to learn within one day. Mastery of both hands may take longer. 

But learning to play even with one hand can boost motivation in the learner.

Widely appreciated

Piano is a widely appreciated instrument. It changes mood and adds to the ambience of any location.

People stop and clap for piano players on the street and even in shopping malls.

The piano is also highly versatile. It’s perfect for solo playing and accompaniment. Musicians use it for compositions all the time.

It’s an instrument that provides a good foundation for any future music learning.

Reasons You Should Learn Guitar Instead of Piano

There are a lot of reasons to learn guitar instead of piano. 

More affordable

The guitar is a great choice if restricted by budget.

It is an affordable instrument. Music students can buy it from any music store.

What makes it more affordable is the range of sizes. 

Smaller guitars are cheaper, large ones are more expensive.

It also depends on the quality of materials used. 

In the end, when buying a guitar there are a lot of options to choose from. It is easy to find one that will match your preference and budget.

Great for mobility

The guitar is more mobile than the piano.

Transporting a piano takes a lot of work. Even piano players practice on their pianos at home. And play for an audience on another. 

Guitars can be easily carried from one place to another. 

You’ll never have to worry about having space because a guitar can stand upright against the wall and save space.

Easier to learn guitar technique

Learning the piano takes precise coordination with both hands. Pianists have to follow rhythm and the right notes to play well. Each finger has to go somewhere.

Patterns are different for every music piece. Piano playing requires constant development of muscle memory.

But with the guitar, students learn chords on one hand and strumming techniques on the other.

Strumming follows a pattern. Most songs are built on 4 or less chords. Which is why finger placement for the chords is easy to memorize.

Piano or Guitar: The Bottomline

If you’re wondering which instrument to learn, the best answer is always the one you want to play.

If still conflicted, think about your answer to this question:

What is your purpose for learning?

Do you want to play for accompaniment, singing, or entertainment? 

If so, the guitar is the best choice for you. Most songs are based on 4 chords and learning them is as easy as memorizing them.

Do you want to learn in-depth about music theory? 

The piano is a great instrument for applying music theory. And if you ever decide to learn other instruments, the knowledge is easily transferred.

Do you want to hold concerts and play in front of people?

Both instruments are great if this is the goal. It may take more extensive lessons and more practice but you will eventually get there.

Learning to play instruments as a job takes more time and effort because you are making a living with what you learned.