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I get it–you don’t want to spend months practicing the wrong instrument! Guitar and violin are both complex and beautiful instruments, which one is easier to play?
The consensus is that guitar is an easier instrument to learn than violin, and that it takes more practice time to get to a performance-worthy level for the violin than the guitar. Violin is more difficult because of its lack of frets and its complexity in playing techniques.
so why is guitar considered an easier instrument than violin? Let’s dig into the particulars and maybe you’ll find out which of these instruments you’d rather learn.
Reasons Why The Guitar Is Easier To Learn Than the Violin
So, I’ll be upfront. Whether something is easy or hard to learn is kind of… subjective. Guitar may be super hard for some violinists, and violin could be almost impossible for some guitarists!
I decided to do some research on this, and asked several multi-instrumentalists which was harder, and out of 8 people who played the violin all 8 said that the violin was harder to learn.
To give more detail on why, here are 3 reasons why the violin is harder than guitar.
1. Fretted vs. Non-Fretted
One of the most obvious differences between the violin and the guitar is the lack of frets.
What’s a fret? A fret is a bar that is perpendicular to the playing board of a guitar. If you press a string down, the fret acts as a fulcrum, making it easier to push the string down to a specific length. The length of the string defines the pitch as it’s played.
Here is an example of the “fretboard” on a guitar:
Now, take a look at this violin as an example
The violin is a fretless string instrument.
Why does this make it more difficult to play?
A trained violinist doesn’t think about the location of the notes, they are simply there, memorized by thousands of hours of practice.
For a new beginner, there is no obvious visual (without the help of training stickers) that tells you where to push your fingers to make all the notes.
For a guitar, the frets are an obvious and easy way to distinguish one note from the other, making it much easier for a guitar teacher to tell a student “play the F# on the first string!”
The student could count to the 2nd fret and press the string down and poof! F#!
An extra step for learning the violin is memorizing the invisible locations of the notes.
2. Violin Tone Quality And The Curse Of The Bow
As any sibling of someone who is learning the violin knows, violin is incredibly difficult to get a good tone.
The finesse required to play the bow across the strings is nothing short of tough.
Every string on the violin requires a different angle from the bow. Getting the perfect angle each time on each playing position takes lot of practice. Furthermore, the pressure in which to apply to the strings from the bow is another tone factor, as is the location of the bow on the strings.
For guitar, although tone quality can vary from player to player, things are much simpler. A guitarist simply has to pluck or strum the note cleanly. This means plucking the note you want (and no others), and pressing the string right behind the fret with enough pressure to prevent buzzing.
Oh, and you have to have a nice guitar. (I suppose that’s the same for a violin, too)
As you can see, the finesse required for tone quality on a guitar is much more straightforward.
3. Just Plain Easier To Strum
Although you can play the violin pizzicato (where you pluck the strings), the main way to play the violin is with a bow.
As I’ve mentioned before, bow technique is complex and not as clearly defined as guitar or piano. It requires expert teaching in order to learn how to make the violin play beautiful music beautifully.
The guitar has its share of its own advanced techniques–some picking patterns and techniques styles are incredibly difficult, in fact.
However, the guitar has the benefit that it can be played in multiple ways (strumming, plucking via fingerpicking or via plectrum). With strumming perhaps being the easiest of all.
Strumming means to scrape across the guitar strings. Many open chords you strum all the strings at once, which is not a very complicated technique. This means that a beginner can actually play the chords of a song within as little as a month of practice.
When Advanced Techniques Come In It All Evens Out
So, I just wrote several reasons why the guitar is an easier instrument to learn then the violin–but being a beginner at the guitar or being a beginner at the violin is different than mastering the instrument.
At that point, all bets are off. You can spend a lifetime learning the complexities and intricacies of the guitar or the violin. They are both rich instruments that require years of constant practice to achieve expert proficiency.
Can Anyone Get Good At the Guitar or the Violin?
Pardon the grammar.
Well, it depends on how you define good–but if you mean being able to play professionally on a stage? Then yes!
Some people may have a longer road than others, what might take someone 6 months to achieve might take another 2 years. With solid practice and a good teacher you can achieve more faster.
I wrote about how anyone might achieve proficiency with the guitar in this article–much of the same principles apply to violin or any other instrument. You can check out that article here.
Is Guitar Hard To Learn?
We’ve been comparing guitar to the violin, and comparatively, the guitar is an easier instrument to learn (at least initially as we’ve talked about).
However, don’t think that guitar is an easy instrument to learn! It has some challenges even that violin players don’t have to face.
Fingerpicking is a beautiful way to play the guitar and although you can pluck the strings on the violin, it isn’t nearly as common as playing with a bow. In any case, the fingerpicking patterns for guitar are more complicated (more strings) and are more varied.
Physical Dexterity playing chord shapes looks so easy, but a new player will soon discover that their hands don’t want to hold those positions! It can take a long time to get to a point where you don’t get cramps from playing guitar chords.
And more reasons… I actually address several reasons why the guitar is a difficult instrument to learn. Make sure and check it why here.