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What Is the Hardest First Instrument to Learn for A Child?

White Belt icon for Rock Dojo Guitar Lessons for Kids

We Love All Instruments 

As music educators we think all instruments have value and in a lot of cases it comes down to what your child’s interest is on deciding what might be the easiest for them to learn. At Rock Dojo we definitely lean towards the guitar as a great gateway to music education, but we recognize every kid is different. In this post we make general comparisons based on the opinions of established musicians and musical educators.  

Which Are the Hardest Instruments to Play and Why? 

According to Music-Mind.com the five hardest instruments to learn are the French horn, Violin, Oboe, Drums and Piano. That last one on the list might be surprising. As opposed to most instruments, the piano doesn’t require breathing techniques, or managing air pressure, or multiple finger positions for a single note. Why would it be on the list of hardest instruments to play? When you compare it to a guitar it may make more sense. Here is a quick list of the hardest instruments to learn and then we will dig deeper. Comparing each instrument to the guitar.  

  1. The French Horn. Before you can even produce an intentional note, you have to learn how to use your lips to produce the air required for the instrument. It can also be a beast to carry around.  
  1. The Violin. This instrument requires a lot of precision and you do not have the luxury of visual indicators for finger positions.  
  1. The Oboe or Flute. Similar to the French horn regarding learning the proper technique to produce air. Although easier to carry, it still requires a bit of endurance to play for a while.  
  1. The Drums. The drums require a mastery of the tempo. It is more complex and physical than most parents realize.  
  1. The Piano. The piano is actually pretty intuitive at first. Easy of you are playing one note at a time. When you start playing with both hands, melodies and chords get complicated fast.  

The French Horn vs. Guitar  

Horns in general can be tough especially for younger kids. Unlike a guitar or piano the same finger positions can produce multiple notes. You have to control the muscles around your lips to control pitch and volume. This means you have to concentrate on how fast you deliver the air and how much air you deliver at the same time.  On a guitar your child only has to pay attention to where their fingers go. The same position on a fret produces the same results every time. 

The Violin vs.  Guitar  

 A violin is a very precise instrument. Every time you run that bow across those strings you are trying to control volume, pitch, and tone. Even when you get the correct volume and pitch, the tone is the hardest to master.  

Another challenge is there are no guides for your fingers. Visually you won’t know if you are hitting the right notes. On a guitar there are frets and plenty room between them. These frets allow you to “see” the notes you are playing. As long as your guitar is tunes you should produce the same note every time.  

The Oboe and Flute vs. Guitar 

There is a lot breathing technique involved in woodwind instruments. Even after you memorize finger positions you will also have to control notes with your mouth, lip and tongue. Some feel that these instruments are a little hard to handle too. Holding them up can get tiring.  Notes on a guitar are as simple as finger placement and strumming. Handling a guitar is easy too. It can hang around your neck or sit in your lap.  

The Drums vs. Guitar 

The biggest responsibility a drummer has is to keep perfect tempo. Being a human metronome is just the beginning. Traditionally you don’t just learn to play one drum. You play several drums, several cymbals, and both your feet can be busy with multiple bass drums and high hats. Mastering the complexity of the drum is impressive, it is also very physical. A Guitar does not require the endurance of a drummer and you focus on just one instrument. As a bonus, once you are ready to show off your percussion skills there are actually techniques to replicate the kick drum, snare drum and hi-hat on a guitar.  

The Piano vs. Guitar 

The piano is one of the instruments that can make it on the most difficult to learn AND the easiest to learn list. Why? Classical pianist, Vladimir Horowitz, said it the clearest, “The piano is the easiest instrument to play in the beginning, and the hardest to master in the end.”  

The piano is very intuitive. For every note there is a different key. All the notes are laid out from lowest to highest. This makes it one of the easiest instruments to learn. As you advance the complexity increases when you play with both hands. Each hand could play independent melodies, chords and even tempos. On a guitar one hand presses on the strings and the other hand strums or pluck the strings.  

Sign Your Kids Up for Online Guitar Lessons 

The Rock Dojo is an award-winning guitar program for kids in Portland, OR. Online guitar lessons are the safest and most effective method for learning to play the guitar during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can register your kid now for our online group guitar classes for kids and private guitar lessons for kids. You can also try our FREE workshop, which happens once per month. 

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