This is a question that has been asked countless times over the years. The short answer is that I believe the piano comes easier to small children and adults who cannot dedicate all of their time to practicing.
Aside from these concerns, there are numerous pros and cons to learning each instrument first. The choice boils down to the student's willingness to practice.
Piano vs Guitar
For beginners, learning and memorizing piano notes is easier because of the repeating pattern across all keys. To make things even simpler, many piano teachers start by teaching adults the white keys (there are 7 in total), or while kids learn the black keys (total of 5).
After they have been mastered, the remaining notes come into play. Beginners can also understand basic musical patterns on a piano. If the notes move downwards while reading sheet music, the student knows they’re moving to the left along their piano keys. Intervals, also known as the measurable distance between each note, are easily identified. Pattern based songs can be learned within the first month of lessons.
Note patterns tend to be more complex for beginner guitar players. Each string comes with its own arrangement of notes. This makes it far more difficult to learn which string will affect the pitch, allowing it to go higher or lower.
Unlike pianos, guitars must be tuned before playing. This is another area of study that must be conquered quickly. Otherwise, a student is unable to use their guitar without seeking assistance from their guitar teacher.
Piano lessons offer instant gratification. Playing a note is easier. Sit up straight, lift the wrists upwards, gently curl the fingers and go from there. While the piano will become trickier later on once rhythmically independent notes come into play, the student will learn more about the effect of different fingers and hands.
With guitar lessons, more coordination is involved during the early stages. Students must learn to to fret and pluck strings simultaneously without dampening the sound, whereas new piano students do not use both hands right away.
For piano students, learning curves slow once necessary coordination develops. Using both hands on the keys and playing different melodies and chords is not as easy as it looks. Playing guitar becomes easier over time. Guitar students can grasp chords and learn how to play songs at a faster pace than many piano students.
This point is debatable, as each student learns at their own pace. The student's own level of enthusiasm will also determine their learning speeds.
Learning to Read Music
Piano and guitar lessons provide better learning opportunities than singing lessons, as these teachers will offer a formal music theory foundation. Students are taught how to read music. Conversely, a guitar teacher may start with beginners' books before moving into teaching by example and by ear.
Classical guitar lessons are the exception here. Students must pass RCM exams after learning through graded lesson books. Those learning other styles of guitar playing can ask a teacher to include note reading and music theory in their lessons. The best instructors are always happy to oblige.
It’s All About Preference
The piano is an excellent choice for children. Instant gratification is offered during the first few lessons, there is less music theory to learn and the student is given a foundation from which to work with later.
Deciding between the piano and guitar is all a matter of preference. Do you require instant gratification from piano learning with every key laid out like a musical map? Or would you like to work a bit harder to memorize a fret board and become a master of the electric guitar?
Both instruments are able to provide a crash course on essential music fundamentals. Other instruments simply cannot provide the same benefits. They are both great beginner instruments that provide their own differing paths to the same objective: to enjoy playing music and maybe even become a professional musician over the long haul.
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