Difficult Decision: Violin or Guitar, Which One Should I Learn First?

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As with most comparisons, knowing which is more difficult will almost always be subjective. After all, what may be hard for some may be easy for others. 

There are, however, comparisons with clear winners, and this may be true for learning the violin versus learning the guitar. 

A quick search on the web will probably show you a consensus that it is the violin that is harder to learn than the guitar. 

But is this absolutely the case?

Let’s try to get some perspective on this subject. 

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Is the Violin Harder to Learn than the Guitar?

is violin harder than guitar

As we said earlier, most people would agree that the violin is‌ harder to learn than the guitar. And you probably think so, too. 

But let’s try to break it down on why almost everyone seems to think so. 

First, we must understand how each instrument is played. 

Playing the guitar is like dancing in the middle of a busy street, all while everyone else is cheering you on, if not dancing themselves. Sometimes, the dance goes low and slow, but then it picks up and blitzes into beat and now everyone is dancing again. 

To play the guitar, you need to hold the strings with your fingers to the corresponding note and then, with your other hand, strum the opposite side of the strings to create the guitar’s sound and beat. 

What can make the guitar difficult is that you not only have to learn how to change notes with your fingers in a snap at each portion of the neck, but you also have to learn all the strumming techniques that correspond to that specific note. 

Playing the guitar also becomes doubly hard if you plan to sing while playing it, since keeping your fingers and vocals synchronized can be tricky. 

Now, the violin, however, is more akin to formally inviting royalty if you can have this dance. 

Though you still use your fingers to hold the notes, what makes it challenging is how you produce the sound. Unlike the guitar, where you either use a pick or your fingers when strumming, you use a bow to strum the violin. 

The difficulty of this instrument lies in the fact that you have to angle your strumming along the strings in unique positions and combinations as gently as you can. You would try hard not to be forceful with it, since all its individual sound will depend on it. Not to mention that you can break the bow, too, if you do. 

But the absolute and trickiest part of all this is that you have to hold your violin right between your chin and shoulder, and then play it accordingly. 

If you’re still not convinced, just remember that masters of the violin never sing while playing, but masters of the guitar do. 

And whether that is a matter of traditional, artistic choice or extreme difficulty is a question best pondered for another time. 

Which One Should I Learn First, Violin or Guitar?

Is Violin Harder Than Guitar

In terms of difficulty, we suggest that you learn the guitar first, because it can help you get a solid foundation on how to hold your notes properly. 

Ultimately, though, which one you want to start with depends entirely on you.

What will guide you in your musical journey is your desire and proclivity towards an instrument. 

And if that instrument is the violin, then by all means go for it!

How Long Would It Take to Master Each Instrument?

Learning an instrument is one thing, mastering it is a whole different story. 

If you are musically inclined, it might take you a day or two to learn the basics of the violin. Once you have some foundation, you might only need to spend just a couple of hours to learn and play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on it. 

But what if, say, you want to play Paganini’s 24 Caprices, a notoriously difficult piece of music? 

Similarly, you might easily pick up the guitar and start playing some sick country music solos in a matter of hours. But what if you want to play Tommy Emmanuel’s version of Classical Gas?

The musical world is filled with musical prodigies who have conquered their instrument early or quickly. Jascha Heifetz, for instance, learned the violin at age four and then began playing Mendelssohn violin pieces at age seven. Can we say that he had already mastered the violin by then? 

A better question would be what would count as mastery of a musical instrument be for you?

If your goal is to play Paganini perfectly, then it might take you years to reach that kind of mastery. Still, there are a lot of factors that can come into play, so we can’t really know for certain “how long”. 

What we can be sure of is that it can’t happen overnight. Not even the great virtuosos of our musical history are capable of that type ‌of sorcery. Unless, of course, you believe what they used to say about Paganini. 

Is Violin Harder than Guitar? Closing Thoughts

Just like the vibrations on the strings of the guitar or the violin, how you feel when learning either instrument can and will have rippling effects in your relationships and your overall perspective in life. 

But remember that there is no wrong choice. If both instruments are within your reach, it is only a matter of which one should lead you like more. If you choose the one you don’t like, you’re less likely to stick with it. 

So the question is, which one would you prefer?

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