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You’ve probably heard it all at this point. “The guitar is super hard!” and “The guitar is super easy!” Well, finally, you’ll have 15 good reasons why the guitar is an easy instrument.
1. Guitar Is the Least Nerdy Instrument
This may sound tongue-in-cheek–but guitar is one of those unfair instruments where you are extremely unlikely to be made fun of, except by the band teacher perhaps because the guitarist doesn’t know how to read music.
Trumpet players get made fun of by their nerdiness, and their spit valves (and sometimes their egos). Flute players get called sissies. French horn players have a reputation all their one, but one that definitely has departed into the nerdy category.
The guitar player gets none of that. Somehow, the guitar is just “cool”.
If you walk around lugging a tuba case, you might get a few stereotypical reactions. But if you walk around with a guitar case or one strapped to your back, nobody will give you any trouble–in fact you might even get “that’s one cool person, right there”
Not fair, right?
2. Extremely Low TTS (Time To Song)
A carefully measured metric (not really) is TTS, or Time To Song.
I’m basically referring to how long it takes before you can actually play a song that sounds good (a couple steps up from Mary Had a Little Lamb).
If you focus on the guitar from a chord playing perspective, guitar has one of the shortest TTS of any instrument.
Guitar has another fantastic advantage in that the guitar can sound good the first day you play it if you learn to fret the notes, correctly. Fretting the notes correctly and consistently takes a lot of practice, but it’s not like wind instruments or the violin where the technique required to play a note that sounds any good is so difficult.
You will be able to play a couple dozen songs using simple chord progressions in just a few months of playing the guitar (see my post here on what else you’ll know about the guitar in 3 months).
3. No Micro-Coordination Necessary
The guitar takes massive coordination, but one thing that makes it much easier than other instruments is that it doesn’t take as much micro-coordination.
For babies, they track development by “gross motor skills” and “fine motor skills”. The guitar is certainly in the fine motor skills department, but if I were to add another category it would be “micro motor skills”.
What do I mean by that?
The brass embouchure is an excellent example of micro motor skills requiring an intense level of coordination.
An embouchure is simply a word to describe the mouth and lips of a player playing a wind instrument. The embouchure needs special coordination and wind instrumentalists spend hours of practice trying to improve that coordination.
The trumpet embouchure for example requires buzzing the lips over 1000 times per second for the higher notes! From personal experience I can tell you that being able to do this in such a way to create a good sound is incredibly difficult and takes months of constant daily conditioning.
The saxophone also needs incredible coordination as their embouchure has to adjust the reed’s vibration as it bounces on their tongue extremely rapidly. What’s difficult is to control the reed and to sound good without those horrible squeaks and then finally to form the sound exactly as a saxophonist wants, especially when combined with advanced techniques.
This ability to play your instrument is called “chops“. The guitar does need serious chops, but the coordination is not quite as fine and subtle as the requirements of a wind instrument embouchure.
4. So Many Learning Resources!
The guitar is insanely popular in comparison to other instruments. One side effect of this popularity is that you will never have any trouble finding a learning resource.
For example, if you go to Udemy and search for didgeridoo, you will only find one person that has created courses for the didgeridoo.
Or, similarly if you try to learn the bassoon, you’ll find only one teacher of the bassoon on Udemy.
Now, if you try the guitar, you won’t be able to scroll to the bottom for some minutes.
Udemy isn’t by far the only source of learning an instrument, but it does show the difference in how many resources are available for the guitar.
If you’re learning the guitar and you don’t like your teacher, your book, your YouTube channel, or your course, you can always switch! If you’re learning the bassoon, you might not have that luxury.
5. What You See Is What You Get
Guitar is a completely externally played instrument.
You might be thinking… what?
What do I mean externally played? Of course it’s externally played!
Yes, the guitar is played with your hands and arms, big deal!
For wind instrument players, they’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. If you are playing a wind instrument you have to learn to coordinate not only your hands to manipulate the length of the tube (which is how most wind instruments work) but you have to coordinate your mouth, and tongue and sometimes even the muscles that control your throat!
Yeah, your throat!
Even further down, a player of a wind instrument has to coordinate their diaphragm and is in fact one of the most important things to figure out. Not only do you use your diaphragms for accents but the diaphragm is also essential for breath support and for controlling your wind speed. (Which is how you play higher notes, particularly for brass embouchures)
That’s all fine and dandy, but the reason why this is particularly difficult for wind instruments is that you can’t see any of those things.
That’s right, when they go talk to the music teacher and ask for help, the teacher can’t see what’s wrong! They can only take a best guess.
If a guitar player is having an issue, you can just go to a mirror or to a mentor and they can see what’s going on, instantly.
TL;DR: it’s easier for the guitarist to fix posture or technique issues because they can be seen.
Furthermore, a bad sound on a guitar is purely mechanical, meaning it’s just a matter of where you are pushing down on a fret in the right place and if you can make fast enough transitions.
6. Visual Note Layout (No Magic Muscle Memory Required)
Guitarists have a huge advantage that they share with piano players in that the notes are visually laid out on their instrument with extremely well defined markers.
The strings of the guitar have specific notes they are tuned to, and they are stretched across 15+ frets. A fret is a vertical bar that the guitar string can be pushed against to make a different pitch. These frets are laid out in such a way to change the pitch to correspond with our music system.
Although, if you ask me, the guitar’s note layout is confusing, it still is a huge advantage for a beginner musician because you don’t have to “pick a note out of the air.”
What do I mean by that?
Imagine you’re playing trumpet–it doesn’t hurt, I promise…. well actually, it can if you have braces.
A trumpet only has 3 valves to press, which means there are only 6 combinations of valves. Since there are 12 notes over multiple octaves (a trumpet player can play 36+ notes), that means they have to use the same valve combinations for multiple notes.
The trumpet player presses the 1st valve down and then has to play the right note without any visual reference. They have to rely on the somewhat magical feeling of muscle memory that seems to just know where the note is.
A guitar player can just count the amount of frets or look at the interval and will know what note to play. A guitarists uses muscle memory to get a feel for the intervals as well, but there still is a visual reference to guide the guitarist.
It’s the same advantage on the piano. A certain key on the piano will always be that note no matter what. A visual layout is extremely helpful to a beginner learning music… or to anyone of any skill level really.
7. Easy Setup (esp. For Acoustic Guitars)
If you play the acoustic or classical guitar, you can just carry your guitar on stage or to your friends house or wherever and you’re ready to go! Perhaps you use a foot stool (P.S… do you need a guitar foot stool? Check out my post about that) —but that’s it.
If you play the electric guitar, you have to bring your pedals, your amplifier, your cables, and your pedals–so for an electric guitarist there is some set up and lugging around stuff that is required.
However, compare this setup to the poor drummer, and there’s just no comparison. Even pro drummers need help from roadies to set up their kit to get it done in any reasonable amount of time since it’s such a complicated setup.
Drummers have to get their drum aligned in the same way they practice since their muscles get used to their high hat being at the exact right height and location. Drums are so bulky that they need to be torn down to a huge extent and so putting all of that together can take half an hour.
8. Simple To Tune
Sooooo the guitar is actually more difficult to tune than many instruments, but it is MUCH easier than certain instruments.
The piano for instance requires someone to open up the floor board and change the tension for all 88 strings. The process of tuning a piano is very time consuming.
Then let’s talk about the marimba! To be honest, I didn’t know marimbas ever needed to be tuned! I thought that when they made the thing that it always stays in tune.
To be fair pitched percussion instruments like the marimba don’t need to be tuned often, but tuning actually requires you to carve away some of the wood because the shape of the wood is what gives the bar its sound. It makes sense because wood and metal bend and warp over time. These instruments are tuned extremely precisely to give their lively sound.
If you don’t know the difference between a marimba and a xylophone, check out my post here where I go into more detail about that.
Anyway, the guitar, although goes out of tune fairly easily and needs to be tuned often, it’s not a hard process and can be done in 2 minutes.
9. Guitars Are So Dang Portable
Remember that poor tuba player we left behind earlier in this post? Well, they are still walking carrying that 26 lb+ instrument–not far from where you left them.
Guitars are so portable! You can take them on planes, you can slide them under beds, you can suspend them from around your neck and shoulder with a strap and play standing up, sitting down, or even laying in bed.
Drummers, piano players, baritone saxophonists (except Leo P–YouTube, of course), tuba players, bassoonists and hundred other instruments don’t have the ability to move around their instrument that a guitar has.
10. Transposing Is Dead Easy
What if the singer you are accompanying can’t sing in the range of your guitar? Well, for any other instrument this would take a mental translation where every note has to be converted to another. Beginner musicians feel this especially–having to play with more sharps or flats is tricky and takes so much practice to do seamlessly.
Guitar players? They can just use a capo.
A capo is a device that clips onto the guitar frets and effectively raises the range of the instrument. So… raising the key a couple notes is a simple as attaching the capo and playing normally.
Not fair, right?
BONUS: Reason #11: Guitar is Fun to Play
All instruments are fun and rewarding–and I mean that! I have been practicing a different instrument every month for the year of 2020. You can see my journey in this experience on YouTube.
However, Guitar has an edge here, in that it’s fun sooner. Many instruments you have to struggle a lot to get to the point to where it’s fun. But the guitar is rewarding so much earlier–even if you play scales and sheet music.
I found this when I was practicing the guitar for a month compared to all the other instruments the guitar was one of the more rewarding instruments.
So, as it turns out, I actually think the guitar is a pretty difficult instrument. I think all these reasons I listed are completely true, and the guitar is easy in several different respects when you compare it to the experience of other instruments. I wrote this to kind of flesh out some of these reasons to more broadly discuss the topic of the big question… how hard is the guitar?
Anyway, if you want to see the other side of the argument, I wrote about how guitars are hard–so check it out to see why it may not be so easy after all.