Is Guitar The Hardest Instrument? (Explained For Beginners!)


Starting out learning to play guitar can look daunting at times, and leave you wondering if it’s too hard to learn compared to other instruments.

This isn’t always an easy question to answer, and if you’re trying to pick between two instruments that you like the most then you can look more closely at what it takes to play those instruments.

Is guitar considered hard compared to most other instruments?

Guitar is not considered hard to learn compared to many other instruments, with musicians considering the violin to be the hardest string instrument to learn and play. Many orchestral instruments are considered harder than guitar to learn, however truly mastering guitar is no easier than any other instrument.

So what aspects of guitar are easy or hard, and how do those stack up against other instruments?

monkey playing guitar

Why People Think Guitar Is Easy

Many people agree that starting to learn guitar is quite easy compared to many other instruments.

It can feel awkward to learn the first few chords, but once you know the shapes on the fretboard it becomes quite easy to strum a long to many easy songs – and there are a lot of those!

Many other instruments don’t have patterns you can remember like on a guitar fretboard, and with a violin, cello, double bass, etc. you don’t have frets to show you where to hold the strings to get the right notes.

After a few months of practice you could even join a band to play some easy backing rhythm, where as with many instruments you would still be struggling to make them sound any good by that stage.

  • To get to a stage where you can make a guitar sound ok doesn’t take long compared to brass, woodwind, or many orchestral string instruments.

The musical notation named TAB is designed especially for guitar and is much easier for a beginner to learn to learn than reading traditional sheet music.

  • Learning the basics of guitar is also easier than many other instruments since playing a chord can be remembered by a fingering pattern on the fretboard, where many instruments require you to have a knowledge of music theory to play them.

If you’re playing rhythm guitar in a band it can be easier to get away with a few mistakes than other instruments like the drums that set the timing for the whole band.

Finding lessons and information for guitar is very easy these days since there are thousands of lessons for free on the internet, far more than any other instrument.

Check out this article about whether guitar is easy or hard to learn by yourself.

Why Do People Think Guitar Is Hard?

When people say guitar is hard to learn and play, they are mostly talking about more advanced guitar playing.

On guitar you can play a vast amount of styles from flamenco and classical, through to rock, blues, jazz, and shred.

To learn any one of these styles to a master level takes serious dedication of many thousands of hours just like any other instrument.

While it’s easy enough to strum a few chords or pick a few notes on a guitar, it’s not so easy to get it to sound really great. Guitar can be likened to the human voice, and with great skill can emulate subtle changes in pitch and tone expressing great emotion.

Becoming good at guitar requires you to develop finger dexterity and accuracy, and this takes a great amount of patience and perseverance.

There are many aspects to perfect to get a great sound, like bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, tapping, harmonics, etc. and to perfect these skills takes supreme effort.

Not only does guitar involve great fretting-hand technique, playing well also involves developing great left and right-hand synchronization.

A guitarist’s picking hand must be trained to keep perfect timing while strumming or picking different groups of strings, and also needs to be trained to play with a pick and also fingerstyle.

Along with all the techniques of playing and keeping good timing a good lead guitarist needs to develop the ability to change their volume and instinctively know when to blend into the background to allow the vocalist or other instruments to take the focus.

Is Electric Guitar Harder Than Acoustic?

Playing electric guitar in itself is no harder than acoustic guitar, although it may be a little easier on your fingers since the strings have less tension than a steel string acoustic.

One thing you have to contend with when playing an electric is that you need to learn about amplifier settings, and how they work in different spaces.

  • You will also need to learn about different sound effects, and things like how to stack pedals in the correct order to get the right sound.

An acoustic guitar can be amplified, but you wouldn’t normally want more than a little reverb, so from this aspect can be easier to set up a good amplified sound compared to electric guitar.

What Are The Top 7 Hardest String Instruments To Learn?

Rating the difficulty of instruments can be quite subjective according to each person’s experience, however we will take a look at what musicians think in general.

In our list we are only looking at western instruments, as it can open a real can of worms to start adding Eastern instruments into the conversation!

  • Musicians all agree that bowed string instruments are much harder to start learning than plucked/strummed string instruments and will sound awful when first starting out!

Here’s our list of hardest string instruments to learn from hardest to easiest:

  1. Violin
  2. Cello
  3. Harp
  4. Viola
  5. Pedal Steel Guitar
  6. Double Bass
  7. Guitar

Is Guitar Harder To Learn Than Bass?

When you’re just starting to learn then it’s easier to learn bass than guitar. There are only 4 strings, and you just need to follow simple walking bass progressions of 1 note at a time.

Guitar is harder when first learning as you need to create the melody of a song, and the finger shapes are harder to master for chords than just holding single notes on a bass.

Once you go further down the line into advanced playing the bass can be as hard as guitar, since the frets are wider apart making quick runs, solos, and chord shapes harder to play (don’t forget the thicker strings too!).

To sum it up, playing simple bass runs are easier than playing simple guitar riffs.

Is Guitar Harder To Learn Than Drums?

Similar to the bass, learning a couple of basic drum beats is quite easy and can be learnt in an afternoon – especially if you have a natural sense of rhythm.

Drums have large surfaces that are easy to hit, guitars have small strings and frets requiring accuracy, so early on guitarists have a few extra hurdles to jump.

  • At the beginner level drums are easier than guitar, and you would soon be able to play a basic beat behind an amateur band, your timing might not be the best but you could do an ok job.

Once you go beyond a beginner level thing ramp up quickly with drums, and you’ll need to learn how to separate your limbs to create different syncopated rhythms.

Is Guitar Harder To Learn Than Piano?

Learning to play piano is easier than guitar in some aspects, and harder in others.

A piano has clearly defined keys to press down on to ensure you always get the right note, where as on guitar if you press the strings too heavily, or bend them when fretting notes you’ll sound out of tune.

Where the two instruments differ is that you will need to build a basic understanding of music theory to lean piano, where you only need to remember some chord shapes when starting guitar.

  • Given that learning guitar requires no initial musical knowledge, we have to say that piano is harder to start learning than guitar.

Is Guitar Harder To Learn Than Violin?

Ok, you probably guessed this one straight away!

If you have ever heard someone first learning the violin you will know those terrible wailing noises, and for most learners it takes some serious practice to make them go away.

Violin is a very hard instrument to play for a few reasons. You need to learn how to move the bow across the strings at the right speed and angle, and there are no frets, so you need to memorize invisible places on the neck to hold the strings!

Another thing that sets learning violin apart from guitar is that to play violin you need to sight-read music, something that is not required for guitar.

Yes, starting to learn violin is no walk in the park and is definitely harder than beginner guitar.

The Final Verdict

Guitar has its challenges both when starting out as a beginner and also moving to higher levels of playing.

However, if you’re looking at beginner level playing of any instrument then guitar is not the hardest, there are many harder instruments to get started on.

When it comes to playing any instrument at an advanced level, they all require great skill developed from many thousands of hours of dedicated practice.

If you are naturally more inclined toward guitar than other instruments, then it may seem easier to you than for others who are better suited a different instrument.

Maybe the hardest instrument to play is the one you don’t yet know how to play?