As a piano teacher, there is naturally going to be some bias here. But after so many years working at Elite Music Academy, I’ve been asked hundreds of times about piano vs guitar lessons for a beginner. In short, while Elite Music Academy is an excellent Toronto guitar school, I believe the piano is easier to start with- especially for young kids and adults with little time or patience. Aside from that, there are many pros and cons to learning each instrument first, and it boils down to which sounds the most appealing how hard the student is willing to practice.
Piano vs Guitar
For a beginner, it is easier to learn and memorise the notes on a piano because they repeat in the same pattern across all the keys. To make things even easier, most piano teachers will start off with teaching only the white keys for adults (a total of 7), or all black keys for kids (total of 5). Once those are mastered, then the rest of the notes come into play. It is also easier for beginners to understand musical patterns on a piano. When you read sheet music and the notes move downwards, you know you’re moving to the left along the piano keys. Intervals, which are the measurable distances between notes, are very easy to identify. This makes it easier to play pattern-based songs in your first month of lessons.
On guitar, the note patterns are a little more complex because each string has a different arrangement of notes. For a beginner, it is much more difficult to know which string to use when the pitch goes higher or lower. Unlike a piano, the guitar needs to be tuned before you play, which is another learning curve students must conquer quickly. Otherwise, they will only be able to tune once a week when they see their guitar teacher.
Piano lessons provide for more instant gratification. It is simply easier to play a note – all you have to do is sit up straight, pick your wrists up, gently curl your fingers and press a key. Granted, the piano does become tricky later on when you start to play rhythmically independent notes between different fingers and hands. With guitar, there’s more coordination involved in the beginning. Students have to learn how to pluck and fret the string at the same time without dampening the sound, whereas beginner piano students won’t use two hands right away.
For piano students, the learning curve can slow down as they develop the necessary coordination to use both hands on the keys and play different chords and melodies. With guitar, playing tends to get easier over time as students often grasp chords and learn several songs faster than a piano student might. However, this is debatable, as each student has different learning abilities. Enthusiasm for the chosen instrument is also a determining factor in how quickly and easily the student can learn.
Learning How to Read Music
While both guitar lessons and piano lessons provide a better opportunity for learning to read and understand music than say, singing lessons, piano teachers traditionally provide a formal foundation in music theory and how to read music. On the other hand, guitar teachers may start off with a beginner’s book, but they often move into teaching by ear and example within a few months. The exception here would be classical guitar lessons, where students learn through graded lesson books and have to pass RCM exams. For other guitar lesson styles, you can also ask your teacher to include music theory and note reading in your lessons; a quality instructor would be happy to oblige.
It’s All About Preference
For children, the piano is excellent choice to begin on. It offers more instant gratification for those first few music lessons, it breaks up the music theory, and it still provides a foundation from which they can tackle any instrument later on – including guitar.
When deciding piano vs guitar lessons, it boils down to preference. These are all fairly minor considerations in the scheme of things, especially compared to other instruments. Do you want instant gratification on the piano with all your keys laid out in front of you like a map of music? Or are you willing to work a little harder to memorise the fretboard quickly so you shred on electric guitar? Both piano and guitar are equally good at providing the essential fundamentals of music that other instruments like drums or voice don’t offer. They are both excellent beginner instruments that offer different paths to the same goal – to enjoy playing music and perhaps even become a professional musician someday.
Who Are The Best Piano Teachers in Toronto?
If you’re looking for the best piano teachers in Toronto or East York, we recommend Nick Maclean for students who love jazz. For aspiring composers and classical players, Constantine Caravassilis would be a great match. If you’re more into pop and R&B, you’ll love studying with Dana Jean Pheonix!