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Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano

Posted By: dontquityourdayjob

Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/09/06 10:58 PM

I have a question for those people who may play the piano as well as the guitar.
I work with a bunch of guys who all play guitars; it seems that I’m the only pianist in the group. They were laughing at me when I explained that I needed 1-2 hours of practice a night, before I started to see any improvement in my current skill level. Also, it seems to take me much longer to learn new pieces. These guys claim they can prefect most pieces within a couple of weeks. I have worked on pieces for the piano for months before I could consider them perfected. I have been told that the piano is one of the easier instruments to learn. So, am I just a slow learner or is the guitar a little easier to learn?

Posted By: Euan Morrison

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/09/06 11:30 PM

Hi BobR,

I think it depends on what your friends are playing on the guitar. Are they just strumming basic chords? To recreate that on the piano would probably take a similar timeframe as on the guitar.

I think the easiest comparison is to get your friends to try and play some Stanley Jordan stuff and see how they get on.

Like playing a piano, he uses two hands on the guitar to play both a melody and a bass line together.
Posted By: Cookie74

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 12:46 AM

I'll agree with the last post, and add this:

To learn to sound decent on a guitar, you need only learn how to play about 10 to 15 basic chords, and some variations of each of those chords. It was difficult to actually learn the hand positions for each chord and be able to shift positions without thinking about it, but once you get those down, a wide range of songs are at your fingertips. All you do is memorize the chords of the song and, oualah (sp?), you are done with the song, and you sound (sort of) like what you hear on the radio.

It's actually easier to learn chords on a piano, since the same hand shape (with slight adjustments for sharps and flats) is used in a C-major chord as in a chord for any other major, and the same for minor and whatever other chords you learn. The problem with piano, however, is that you are usually not just playing the chord progression. You are including the bass, the rhythm, the harmony, the chord progression and the melody. You are, in effect, a one man band.

Even if you are playing just the chords of a song, piano is more difficult, as you have to coordinate both hands--left hand has the bass, and right hand the harmonic chord progression. For guitarists, one hand holds the chord shape and the other hand just strums.

That said, with most pop songs, if you are just learning accompinament (that is, just chords and bass, with no melody), it really shouldn't take too long (depending on your skill level of course) to learn one song. I would say for an intermediate player, maybe a couple weeks. I would say it is a little more difficult than guitar, but not much.

Now, I'm talking basic music here. If you are trying to learn a lengthy Pink Floyd solo on guitar, it's not an easy task, but would still probably not take as long as learning a beethoven sonata. Same thing if you are playing classical guitar music--villa lobos cannot be learned in a couple weeks time unless, maybe, you are a virtuoso.

I would be interested to see which songs you are comparing here. Are your friends just learning old beatles tunes, or are they mastering a bach fugue in a couple weeks? Big difference there. Also, what songs are you learning. Let's make sure we're not comparing apples to oranges.
Posted By: Mr.Joshua

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 02:38 AM

I've played guitar on and off for the past 20 years, and I've only just started playing the piano, and I think that while starting piano is easier than guitar, but the piano is going to be harder in the long-run. My fingers still haven't had blisters from the piano wink

I can listen to a song that's guitar based, and pick it up quickly, as can most guitar players. I might not get all of the subtle details, but I have the rythem, chords, etc. I think you'll find that most guitar players are happy with that level of "perfection", while piano players generally spend time with the sheet music, and work on it until they have really mastered the song.

Now if your playing the same piece of music on the piano, and the guitar (maybe a BACH Invention) by an equally experienced player (say 3 years experience), I'd say they will learn the song at the same pace, but that the one who has better sight reading skills will learn faster. Remember, most guitar playes can't read music.

Just my 2 Cents...
Posted By: tunerguy

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 03:43 AM

I've been playing guitar since I was 14 and piano since I was 19 (I'm 34). For me piano was much easier, but they say the second instrument is the easier one.

It does depend on what you're trying to play that's for sure. What kind of music are we talking about here? I notice most piano players have a hard time with rhythmic music. Unless they are Jazz musicians of course.

For me what's easy on the guitar can be hard on the piano and visa verse. For instance it's easy to move from chord to chord and play more complex profressions on the piano. But on the guitar that is exhausting. And it's easy to play odd chords on the guitar. The odd chords I come up with on the guitar takes less effort on the guitar and more effort on the piano.

Either way I don't think you say say one is easier than the other.
Posted By: mr_super-hunky

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 03:47 AM


Why not just do what I do and play the "guitar" on the digital piano!!....Sounds kinda close huh?

Posted By: Piano&Violin

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 09:05 AM

Would be interesting to hear what music your friends play on the guitar. The guitar is great for many people as you can make music without investing much time in learning and practice, if you play chord-based accompaniments. When playing the guitar I only touched the classical part so I cannot tell for sure how much time needs to be invested before you see feasable results.

But thinking of musicians' biographies for any instrument I've noticed excellence/mastery usually always needs intensive practice.
Posted By: pianojazz

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 02:35 PM

BobR - are all of you beginning guitar students? Do you all spend about the same amount of time practicing? Is guitar their first foray into learning a musical instrument? Generally speaking, a few "gifted" students will pick things up very quickly - but those are few and far between - not the norm. And there is the other side of the coin - but remember that even Einstein couldn't understand fractions as a boy. Bill Evans wrote some interesting things about learning piano - he never considered himself "gifted" or a quick learner - but he did persevere because he enjoyed it. So the main question to ask yourself is: "are you enjoying it". Forget about measuring your progress by that of others - just enjoy the learning experience and the music you can play.
Posted By: dontquityourdayjob

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 03:54 PM

These guys play mostly bluegrass. They claim that a ½ hour a night is good enough. I play mostly classical on the piano, since I’m taking lessons at a local university close to home. I think these guys are just giving me trouble because they want me to play some bluegrass with them. I took guitar for a couple of years when I was a kid, I don’t remember it being that easy, especially building those calluses.
Posted By: Jacky

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 04:25 PM

I have been playing classical guitar for the past 16 years. While I am not great, I am good enough to show off some concert pieces. I just started piano earlier this years as it is my dream since I was 14. In my opinion, classical guitar in particular, is extremely hard to get a nice, rounded, sweet tone. There are just too many variables involved, such as nails, strings, LH, RH striking angle, and the instrument itself. Even playing for such a long time, I am still not satisfied with my tone. In comparison, piano is relatively easy to control the tone as the rigid mechanical design does not allow too many variation. The tone of my piano playing while still have a long way to go, the sound that it produces still pleasing to my ear without extreme attention. Personally, I think learning piano is more fulfilling in this respect.

The way guitar is designed does not make solo playing (melody and harmony) completely convenience. In advance pieces, the fingering can be really awkward. In addition, my experience shows that it takes a lot more time and effort to achieve good accuracy for the left hand to get used to the fret board and remember the corresponding notes (as it is non-linear). It will take even longer for the hand to be able to "fly" across the fret board. Plus, LH got tired (and painful) really quickly for some demanding pieces (lots of bars position). Piano, on the other hand, while takes time to achieve accuracy, it does not take as long to achieve an acceptable level of accuracy. It is very encouraging as there are steady improvement that I can feel everyday.

However, if you are not into playing classical guitar pieces but just accompaniment. Many of the difficulty that I talked about above many not apply. Guitar is a very difficult instrument. Piano is difficult too, but I think, in my limited experience, I may enjoy piano more in the long run.
Posted By: wolfindmist

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 05:25 PM

OK I got most of the errors out! LOL

Hi everybody:

I really have missed PW during my long absence. It feels good to be back.

Playing fast tempo intricate bluegrass music (with lots of 16th notes for instance, and modulations) parts on a flat picking six steel string acoustic guitar or on a mandolin (using cross picking) is fairly similar to playing Jazz or Classical on a piano. It requires intensive practice to master the faster bluegrass material just like playing any kind of up tempo music with intricate/complex melesmas like some classical or Jazz pieces.

Mandolins btw are tuned up like violins usually (standard tuning); mandolins have frets unlike violins and each of the 4 strings has a mate next to it. The two lower strings are an octave apart, the two higher strings are doubled on the same pitch. The guitars traditionally used in bluegrass have six strings (though there are some folks who will bring in a 12 string guitars)

I like to think of it this way; that bluegrass is to popular styles of music (like country/pop) as Jazz/Classical is to popular styles of music. Newgrass (takes traditional bluegrass to other "planes") using instruments not commonly seen in tradinal bluegrass. (Nickle Creek is a band that plays both traditional bluegrass and newgrass. Taking songs from one genre to bluegrass is a form of newgrass bluegrass. There is a newgrass version of Johnny B. Goode out there that I really like. Beatles songs have been played as bluegrass.

And there is a guy who plays fantastic mandolin who plays classical pieces like "The William Tell Overture". Bluegrass like Jazz/Blues is truly an American evolved style of music. This guy has worked at Disneyland. But he is doing the fair circuits with his band Bill Hilly and the Hill Billy's.

Many bluegrass and country style players do not read music notation but some used tabulature and tab chords. But there are many guitar players out there playing bluegrass and country who play by ear and don't even know the names of the chords they use.

I know a gal who came from Guam and learned to play a Uke by ear. Later she picked up a guitar and taught herself to play it by ear. She is so good that she plays very complicated jazz chords not knowing what names they are. Funny thing is she also doesn't know what G, C, D and other major basic hillbilly open chords are; yet she can step in with any group of players and play anything, transposing by ear when the time is appropriate.

Between learning to play both guitar and piano; both instruments have their challenges and certain eases. With piano; all the notes are right there in front of you which makes doing chord inversions on a piano easier than a guitar. With a piano you can play many more notes at one time than you can on a guitar; hence you make more complex jazz orchestration chords on a piano. A piano is less limiting in those ways.

Learning music theory on piano seemed easier for me; though learning chord progressions on a guitar first made it easier to pick up improvising and chording popular styles of music.
The late great Chet Atkins did not know how to read sheet music btw.

The guitar also is by far to me a more physically demanding instrument as you have to go through a period of finger strengthing and building callouses; let alone learn how to get your fingers in all the right places at the right time. The chord most beginners fret learning to play is the basic hillbilly F chord. (They don't call it the F chord for nothing. Then later down the road is bar chords. Some stretches I to this day still find uncomfortable.

Picking up on the piano (as a guitar player who also sings) was much easier than learning to play guitar; just press down a key and you get your note/pitch. Some of the music theory stuff readily translates to a guitar, but some of it seems easier to grasp on a piano. Used to be the guitar was more portable than playing a piano; but keyboards/digital pianos have really changed things up fo us now and now we piano players can take a piano-like "axe" to so many more places than Mozart could in his day.

A piano to me seems more versatile; as a piano can be more like an orchestra than a 6 string guitar. And with a keyboard/synth/digital piano that can do layering the sky is alnmost the limit.

If I had to grow from child to playful adult again; I would have preferred to start on the piano first. So I guess would I would lean towards recommending piano first for most newbies to playing music. But there are some plusses to learning guitar before a piano.

But my family was into guitars so that was where I got my start (Grandpa helped me get started out). But as a child I was drawn to any piano I saw and just had to tickle those keys. Press a key a hopefully a wonderous sound would come out of it (the exception being the old broken uprights I happened to venture upon LOL).

Learning to play classical guitar is a difficult
adventure (as difficult if not more difficult than learning to play classical or jazz piano) but many players find it rewarding. Playing some jazz stuff on a guitar can also be a challenge but it is a very intimate thing to hear. Listen to Ella's recording of Solitude (Verve)... on Ell's "Best of Ella's Love Songs (a pink CD). Just a solo jazz guitar and Ella.

PS a trick for dealing withn the pain of building up a good guitar playing callouse that worked for me anyway is to put ora gel or neosporin if your aren't allergic to it (Maximum strength with the pain releiver in it on the sore parts of your finger tips for about 30 secs).... then wipe it off once the tips feel numb.

Makes your thin calloused fingers sores numb good to go for another spell of time. I figured this out when I had a regular 3 hour gig on guitar. This tip also worked out when I occassionally accidently ripped off a callouse. To keep my callouses in good standing I used hand moistureizers on them after washing my hands/bathing/and throughout my day.

Hope this helps. It feels good to be back after both myself and my computer have been sick. The old computer has been retired, and I am doing better. I am off to a gig so I will probably be going offline after this post today.

I couldn't get the spell check to work on the new computer so forgive me if there are any greivious spelling errors. I typed this up pretty fast as I need to hurry of. Cio!
Posted By: wolfindmist

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 05:31 PM

I wrote:
I couldn't get the spell check to work on the new computer so forgive me if there are any greivious spelling errors.

Reply : If I becomes before except after C then I am nailed already on this! LOL Geesh!
Bye Bye again.

Today I will busy with 2 gigs; tomorrow I have a travel gig. God give me strength as I am not 100% right now. Bye again.
Posted By: Mr.Joshua

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 07:48 PM

There's a free program called ieSpell that loads right into your browser...really easy to use.
Posted By: wolfindmist

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 08:24 PM

OT but a thanks going to Mr. Joshua.
I re-read my message and I can see I really needed the spell check earlier.

I am waiting for the rain to let up before loading all my gear for todays gigs. Us folks in the NW are being slammed quite hard right now; we got salmon crossing the roads as it is chum spawning season here.

Please forgive my spelling errors until I get that spell check worked out. I suppose there is one a spell check on my browser somewhere on this emachine. LOL

Posted By: tunerguy

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 08:55 PM

I agree with just about everything wolfindmist said. I'm going to try that callous trick with the pain reliever ointment.
Posted By: wolfindmist

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/10/06 09:12 PM

Using pain number medications has saved me a lot of pain for long playing gigs. Just make sure to wipe it off good after the numbing takes effect. That way you don't leave any residue on your fret board, fret wire and strings.

The Neosporin/pain reliever medication for me killed two birds with one stone... on long days doing music therapy on a steel string guitar. It was there for germ protection also; as I play in nursing homes a lot.

Some folks like liquid bandage but that stuff just came off because the steel strings wore it off; it did nothing to numb the pain/soreness.
Violinists sometimes use liquid bandage.

Also a tip for diabetics, make sure if testing your blood sugar on your playing fingers to do the test on the sides of the fingers instead.
I taught a resident to play guitar who was diabetic; so it was just killing him after awhile.

So I told him to ask the nurses to use the sides of the fingers when testing on his fretting fingers. It worked.
Posted By: tunerguy

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/11/06 01:38 AM

I've put super glue on my finger tips before, with mixed results. For the most part it helps protect your fingers, but there is a price. Your finger tips don't grip the strings the same way, so you'll slide right out of the fret you're trying to hit!
Posted By: wolfindmist

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/11/06 07:20 AM

Yikes Tunerguy!
I am envisioning a guitar player getting his fingers glued together with super glue. Personally I'd be worried about getting super glue on the guitar; I'd rather use the max. strength Neosporin ointment (generic works too as long as it has a medication in it to numb the pain) and wipe it off with tissue. The ointment is like vaseline, the cream based stuff also works and is less greasy of course.

I only wish I had figured out the finger numbing trick when I was first learning to play guitar. It would have made the initial weeks of learning to play less painful.
Posted By: meanie

Re: Learning the guitar Vs. Learning the piano - 11/12/06 09:05 PM

Originally posted by BobR.:
These guys claim they can prefect most pieces within a couple of weeks. I have worked on pieces for the piano for months before I could consider them perfected.
It really depends on what they play. I would be really impressed if they can play this in a couple of years :p

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