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Difficulty of learning musical instruments

  1. Aug 17, 2006 #1


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    Does anyone know where I might find a rough guide of how difficult it is to learn different musical intruments?

    I guess I'm specifically interested in the fiddle.

    I know music theory, I can read music (at least, if given indefinite time) and even mangled a trumpet in high school, but have never shown any aptitude (or, frankly, interest) in music. My artistic talents are visual.

    I guess it also depends on the complexity of the musci I want to play.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2006 #2
    I can play quite a few musical instruments and learned them all with a minimum of effort. In my opinion, I do best with the piano. However, I have no talent for music. As a result, even when I play the right notes, it doesn't sound good.
  4. Aug 17, 2006 #3
    IN my experience, once you learn one instrument, it makes it incredibly MORE easy to learn another. That doesn't mean it is easy, just easier.

    Paden Roder
  5. Aug 17, 2006 #4
    well, i learned the clarinet to a fairly high level. and I've attempted the sax and flute. Both are easy to handle with my clarinet experience. Especially the sax.
    Out of those i would say hardest to easiest is Clarinet, flute, sax.
    I can play a bit of piano, but not well. I wouldn't say that it's hard...but it's not easy either. so take that how you want it.
    I just started learning guitar 2 weeks ago...I'm finding it extremely hard. More difficult than anything i've ever tried.

    But it's all relative. If I were a violin player i would probably find guitar much easier and sax much harder.
    I think it IS a general rule though that the sax is one of the easiest instruments to learn.
    Not too sure about brass, but the one time i tried a trumpet it made my lips feel funny. couldn't say anything about it's hardness though
  6. Aug 17, 2006 #5


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    I played trumpet, baritone, and French horn in HS, learned flute for some band-work in college (Tull), played guitar on weekends to help pay my way through college, and learned a bit of keyboard, too. Guitar was probably the most difficult to get proficient at, but once you learn how to use barre chords effectively, you can transpose up and down the neck easily and play songs in any key. This is not so easy on other instruments - especially keyboards. I bought a nice old violin once and tried to learn how to play it, but I couldn't stand to hear myself practice. That was by far the most difficult instrument for me.
  7. Aug 17, 2006 #6
    I found the trumpet much easier than the guitar because you only play one note at a time. However, I found the guitar much more rewarding once a certain proficiency was achieved. I like playing the classic(al) guitar better than my Strat.
  8. Aug 17, 2006 #7


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    i play guitar and piano. I've played around with all kinds of instruments.

    Piano and guitar are relatively easy compared to the fiddle. Mostly because of the bowing technique required.
  9. Aug 18, 2006 #8
    I went to a college that was attached to an excellent conservatory of music. I had tons of musician friends, and from talking to them I'd say that, for a beginner, any instrument where the basic tone is difficult to produce is harder to start learning than ones where producing the basic tone is part of how the instrument is made. Stringed instruments and the transverse flute are harder for beginners than, say piano or guitar. No frets on a fiddle: you have to practise and practise getting your finger on the right spot. Bowing out a smooth, even tone is also a huge amount of work to learn. It's also pretty hard to learn how to get a good tone out of a flute. Most people can't get one to sound at all on the first try.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't take fiddle lessons. You could well have a knack for it that obviates all the beginner's difficulties. In the long run it's a hell of a lot easier to read fiddle music than piano music since it's mostly one note at a time.
  10. Aug 20, 2006 #9
    Start with a cheap recorder for a little while. This is to get musical notation, along with finger momvements, off hat. Then (forgetting the recorder) try the piano because you have to read 2 lines of music (or the organ and get 3 lines of music :biggrin: ). After sometime (for me it was aout 3 years) you will start to find this easier and then it might be time to start another instrument, because you will have been so used to reading 2 line of music that the change (to 1 line) will seem easier.

    However, if you do not want to learn piano at all then you just needed to be very, very determined (and still try the recorder first :biggrin: ).

    As for books, normally the "Team Brass" (changing brass for the right catergory of instrument) and the "Tune a Day" for an instrument are good starts.

    Happy playing.

    The Bob (2006 ©)
  11. Aug 20, 2006 #10


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    I am just now learning to play the radio. It's only been a couple of months, and I'm already half-way up the FM scale. :approve:
    With luck and a lot of practice, by this time next year I should be into remedial tape-deck. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
  12. Aug 22, 2006 #11


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    There are four main types of instruments: Brass, woodwind, string, piano.

    Piano is different because anyone can make sound on a piano. There is no skill in playing the piano, skill lies in playing it well. If Joe Blow picks up a trumpet, he will not be able to make a sound. Developing one's embouchure is the main skill involved. This is not too difficult to do, but is very difficult to do well. Woodwind instruments are similar to the piano in that it is just playing keys, although there is more skill involved in making a quality sound on a woodwind instrument than on the piano. I cannot pick up a flute and make anything resembling a flute sound. It ends up sounding like blowing on a bottle. I really don't know a lot about string instruments, never having played one. Like brass, there is skill involved in simply making a sound.

    I've played piano, trumpet and baritone. I'd say piano was the easier to learn and do well. Trumpet is quite difficult to do well, but was pretty easy to be proficient at. Baritone was very easy to switch to after playing trumpet. Same fingerings, same clef, different but similar embouchure.

    I'm rambling. I miss playing baritone. Such a beautiful instrument. Far nicer than the other two I played.
  13. Aug 22, 2006 #12
    I've been learning the violin since the past 11 months. I'm learning it in Indian Classical Music, because that's what interested me. The key point is to concentrate and "listen". You've to develop an idea about what the particular basic notation sounds like.
    For instance: the basic notations in indian classical music are "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa" and backwards. What you've to know is the difference between the notes. You should know what "Sa" sounds like, what "Re" sounds like. And that's why you've to know which spot to put your finger. Fingering is not the problem - what you have to get perfect is the sound that you need. Once you start recognising the difference between each sound, you'll be able to do the fingering very easily. Practice makes perfect. Learning the Fiddle requires a lot of practice.
    Bowing is also a major part - you've take care you're holding the bow properly and it shouldn't touch two strings at the same time (unless you need it to).
    Once you know how to play one instrument well, the others become relatively simpler to learn. If you know singing, you'll be able to learn the Fiddle/Violin very well. It is said that Violin is the closest to human voice.
    The key part is - LISTEN to the music and understand the difference. Its not as easy as putting it in words. It requires a lot of concentration and hardwork and practice to get perfect. And you've to go with the flow of the music - so keep singing/humming the tunes as you play.
    Western music in the fiddle is simpler than that in Indian and others my teacher says. But you've chosen an instrument which is the toughest to play.
    Flute is basically how you angle the flow of air into the instrument I think. Pianos and Synchronizers are comparatively easier to play.
    But once you know the music and the way the notations sound, then things become 50% easier. At least thats what happened in my case. You get so used to listening to the sounds that you can distinguish them when they're played on any instrument after a long period of practice.
    Hope this helps.
  14. Aug 22, 2006 #13


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    Correction: piano is a stringed instrument.

    The four basic types are actually
    toot, whistle, plunk and boom.
    (brass, wind, string, percussion)

    Um... baritone isn't an instrument per se. Perhaps baritone sax or baritone horn?
  15. Aug 22, 2006 #14


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    Well, I've just learned something I didn't know yesterday.

    violin == fiddle

    There is no technical difference in the instruments. It's all in how you play it.
  16. Aug 22, 2006 #15


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    The piano is also considered a percussion instrument which is why it is usually in the rhythm section in smaller groups.

    When someone says "baritone" it is implied that they are talking about the b[tex]\flat[/tex] brass instrument. After almost 20 years of being in bands and orchestras, that is the only way I have ever heard of it being referenced. Just to be on the level:
  17. Aug 22, 2006 #16
    That's because the hammers strike the strings, so percussion, rather than plucking them like they do in a harpsichord, pianos forebear.

    Personally I don't have a musical ear, it's something I can live with, I can sing in key(ocasionally) and I can whistle like a pro, but these aren't instruments as such unless your Ottis Reading a diva or a soprano then your in another realm of talent from your average shower superstar :smile:
  18. Aug 22, 2006 #17
    I started out playing trumpet in middle school, didn't care much for it though. I moved on to percussion and played until the end of high school.

    I'd say that percussion is probably one of the hardest fields. The reason being, when you are a trumpet player you (generally) only play trumpet in the wind ensemble/orchestra.

    As a percussionist, you are expected to learn many different instruments, each with its own technique and nuances. Timpani, for instance, is among the more difficult instruments to master. Four mallet techinque on any keyboard instrument is also difficult.

    Many wouldn't think there's actually technique to playing a triangle, or tamborine but you'd be surprised. It's a highly rewarding set of instruments - i'd highly recommend it.
  19. Aug 23, 2006 #18


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    Oh yes, I also dabbled in the bells in high school.

    Let me tell you, the bells are HARD to play.
  20. Aug 23, 2006 #19
    I'm pretty sure the piano is not considered a string or percussion instrument, despite the fact it produces tones by percussively striking strings. I believe it's considered a keyboard instrument; in the same class as the harpsichord and pipe organ.
  21. Aug 23, 2006 #20
    I can play the guitar, bass, drums, piano and violin. Violin is the hardest of those for me. It takes practice and a fairly good ear to get your fingering correct. I took lessons very briefly, but I just wanted to get to a point where I knew how to play it, rather than actually play it.
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