Guitar Vs Keyboard: Which Is Better To Learn?

Guitar Vs Keyboard: Which Is Better To Learn?

If you’re undecided whether to play keyboard or guitar and you have no musical knowledge at all, keep reading. In this article we’ll look at both the guitar and the keyboard and ask the question, which is better to learn? 

Which Is Easier To Learn?

In the initial stages we would have to say that learning to play a keyboard is easier, because all you need to do on a keyboard is press any key to make a sound. Whereas with a guitar you need to press the string down correctly with one hand while plucking the same string with the other hand to make a sound. However, a guitar is far more portable, takes up less space and requires no external power source.

It’s worth noting also that learning how to tune a guitar is a vital skill that’s needed before playing can commence. Whereas a keyboard is always in tune and tuned to the correct pitch.

Once you progress further, the keyboard becomes more difficult, a guitarist can often get away with just strumming chords to keep the rhythm going or just play a lead riff to keep the melody flowing. A keyboardist on the other hand, is expected to keep both the rhythm and melody going at the same time.

Learning to play specific songs is also easier on the guitar because teaching yourself chord shapes and strumming patterns is far easier on the guitar and once you have these you can play your favourite songs. On the keyboard, you’ll need to learn chord inversions to transition between chords and it’s more difficult to create good sounding music on a keyboard without a music teacher.

Which Is Easier In The Early Stages; Guitar Or Keyboard?

In the early stages we have a 50/50 split,

TaskGuitarKeyboard
Note PositioningOne single note can be found on multiple strings [D]One single note found on one key [E]
Playing TechniquePlaying technique is more difficult because of finger pressure on the strings [D]No special technique needed to create a clear sound [E]
Song LearningThe shape of the fretboard makes chord playing easier [E]More chords and inversions needed to play songs [D]
Self TuitionIt’s relatively easy to learn chords and strumming patterns [E]Need a tutor to show the way round a keyboard [D]
TuningYou will need to learn how to tune your guitar before you can learn how to play it [D]The keyboard is always in tune without any input from the player [E]

[E] = Easy [D] = Difficult

But the keyboard has to win the early stages because pressing strings down correctly is a big issue. The inability to hold strings down correctly to play clear notes is one of the main reasons newbie guitarists give up. It doesn’t matter how hard you press the keys on a keyboard, you’ll always create the correct sounding note, technique isn’t an issue.

Playing The Guitar

The Advantages Of Playing The Guitar

The main advantage of playing the guitar is its portability and ability to be played without any external power source. Plus once you understand exactly how the fretboard works, it’s easier to play many tunes in a small area of that fretboard. 

The volume can be controlled simply by the amount of pressure exerted with the strumming hand and the strings can be manipulated (bent) to create a higher note without having to move to another string or position.

The Advantages Of Playing The Keyboard

It is possible to learn a whole song using just one hand on a keyboard, there is also no need to buildup calluses on your fingertips in order to play a keyboard. Simply pressing the key down will produce the desired note with no muffling of sound or string buzz etc. Many keyboards include the ability to sound like other instruments at the press of a button, you can even sound like a guitar!

Many keyboards have a metronome to help you keep in time as you play and many also include the ability to record yourself playing so you can hear how it sounds without having to concentrate on playing. The keys on a keyboard are set out in a similar fashion to how standard notation or sheet music is set out which makes it easier to understand exactly what notes should be played.

The same notes are repeated in the same pattern with the black keys signifying sharps and flats every time. 

Guitar Vs Keyboard; Which Is Easier To Play?

When all is said and done, the easiest instrument to play is the one you would most like to learn how to play. As human beings we are more likely to learn something we want to learn and have a genuine interest in than something we are forced to do. So if you feel the guitar is the instrument you would most like to play, then the guitar will be the easiest for you to learn.

Likewise with the keyboard, if you feel that you want to become a keyboard player, then the keyboard will be the easiest for you to learn.

Accessibility

The guitar has become  one of the most popular instruments in recent years which means more guitar based music is available to download and there is therefore more choice of music available for the guitarist to learn. With just a few chords it’s possible to sound like a rock star (to a certain degree). This is also true for the keyboard but to a lesser degree, there just isn’t so much music available to the keyboardist.

Plus the keyboard does take extra technical skills and more space. This makes it far easier to become a successful guitarist than it is to become a successful keyboardist. However, to become a master at either instrument requires a level of dedication not easily produced in most people.

guitar strings

The Benefits Of Learning To Play A Musical Instrument

Whether you decide to learn the guitar or the keyboard is a matter of personal choice, but there are scientifically proven benefits to learning to play a musical instrument. Learning to play a musical instrument can help to improve your memory, as well as increasing your levels of patience and relieving stress. Although this might not be true during the first few weeks of learning.

Playing Positions

The correct posture is important with both instruments, if you want to play with any degree of excellence. It’s possible to slouch on a bed to play either the guitar or keyboard, but you’ll never become a good musician with either instrument unless you correct this bad habit from the start.

Correct Posture For Playing The Guitar

The guitar can be played in both the standing and sitting positions, whichever way you choose, you’ll need to adopt the correct posture to avoid any pain in the back, shoulders or wrists. Your strumming hand will be your dominant hand while your other hand, the fretting hand will press down the strings to play the correct note.

The fretting hand should not be used to hold the guitar in position, that should be done by the strumming hand. To correctly hold the guitar in the right position you should press it into your body using the strumming hand. Or you can rest the guitar on one leg, usually the same leg as your dominant hand. If you use a strap this should be adjusted so the guitar is in the same position it would be were you to sit and hold it.

Correct Posture For Playing The Keyboard

When sitting down to play the keyboard, your chair should be positioned in the centre of the keyboard and you should sit with your feet flat on the floor. Your elbows should be relaxed and held at a 90 degree angle with your hands and forearms level. If this feels uncomfortable, you’ll probably need to adjust the height of your chair.

It is possible to play the keyboard from a standing position but many keyboardists prefer to sit down for comfort. Especially when playing something long or complex.

guitar chords

Shared Skills

Whether you choose to play the guitar or the keyboard, you will need good hand-eye coordination. This can be difficult to achieve at first, but it becomes easier over time.

Finger & Thumb Positioning For The Guitarist

The guitarist should place the thumb of the fretting hand as close to the middle of the back of the neck as is possible to allow easy access to the strings. When you fret a string you press down on the string but avoid actually touching the other strings. Initially on pressing steel or nylon strings, your fingertips will feel sore but as calluses buildup, over time the tips of the fingers of the fretting hand become numb.

Your strumming hand should be positioned above the strings somewhere near the soundhole of the guitar. You can strum using your thumb or you can use a pick. The pick is held between the thumb and index finger and dragged down (or up) the strings. It can feel odd at first, holding the pick with just enough pressure so as not to drop it but with enough flexibility to allow it to flow over the strings, but this comes with practice.

Finger & Thumb Positioning For The Keyboardist

The starting position for the right hand is with the thumb on the key that corresponds to middle C (the C note is the one between the two black keys and middle C will be either the second or third C depending on the size of your keyboard). It can be difficult to remember all of the notes at first and it’s a good idea to label the keys. 

The thumb of the left hand should also be placed on the middle C key. The left hand plays the notes below middle C and the right hand is responsible for playing the notes above middle C.

Reading Music On A Keyboard

To successfully play a keyboard, you’ll need to learn to read music in standard notation. This will be an easier task if you have labelled the keys. The notes in standard notation run above and below the staves and the notes on the keyboard run the same way. The notes of music below middle C are written below the lines ascending above the middle C note up the lines and the keyboard notes follow that same pattern.

Reading Music On A Guitar

Guitar music can be read in standard notation but is more often set out in Tablature which is usually abbreviated as TAB. TABs have six lines which represent the six strings of the guitar and TAB shows where your fingers need to be placed on the strings. If you only intend to learn how to play the guitar, the TAB system is all you’ll need to learn.

If you want to learn multiple instruments then standard notation will serve you well as it is used in most forms of music writing. TAB is a non-transferable skill whereas learning standard notation transfers to many other instruments as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s easier to learn, electric or acoustic guitar?

As acoustic guitars tend to have a higher action, it’s generally considered to be easier to play electric guitar than acoustic.

What’s the difference between a keyboard and a piano?

A piano has a keyboard but it is not powered electronically and it doesn’t have the ability to sound like other instruments. A piano also needs to be tuned at regular intervals whereas a keyboard is always in tune. Keyboards are also far more portable than pianos.

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