Since I am a pianist there will definitely be a little bias here. However, I want to answer and break this down as truthfully as I can as I find this to be a fun and interesting subject. I get asked this question all of the time since I’ve been playing in a band for the last 10 years. The more I get I asked, the more I ponder the answer myself. There are a couple main things here that are easier and harder for each instrument.
It is my opinion that learning the piano as your first instrument is easier than learning the guitar in the beginning. I believe it is easier because to make noise, all you have to do is press a key and it will sound good. With the guitar, the student has to learn how to press the strings hard enough without hitting other strings in the process. To me, this is what makes the guitar a little bit harder at first. As you continue your studies, I believe the piano becomes more difficult though.
I recently spoke in great detail about the difficulty of learning the piano in full detail here.
Piano Vs The Guitar
One Hand VS Two Hands
When a student starts to learn the piano, they will most likely be taught one hand at a time. You can’t really do this with a guitar because you need to use both hands in order to play chords or notes that aren’t just open. For younger students, the piano is easier because they can start to learn songs pretty quickly. With guitar, you need to get your fingers strong enough before you can begin to play songs.
This is discouraging to kids and even adults because it is human nature to want to be able to as much as you can as fast as you can.
You don’t have to worry about tuning a keyboard or a piano. With the guitar, you have to learn how to master this quickly, unless you want to wait until your once a week lesson. This is another thing that makes it just a little bit harder to play the guitar.
Kids like to be able to just sit at their instrument and not have to worry about tuning it before they can play it. It almost acts as one more obstacle for the musician.
I believe it is harder to read music than it is to read tabs. Most piano instructors will provide a very solid foundation when it comes to this whereas guitar instructors won’t usually focus on this as much. This is where learning the piano becomes harder in my opinion.
The instant gratification of hearing a noise makes piano initially easier, but as you go further in your studies, I believe the piano becomes more complex. Playing crazy different rhythms with each hander is no easy task and it becomes a huge obstacle that ultimately breaks a lot of pianists.
A lot of the more difficult classical or jazz pieces require the pianist to split their brain and understand different rhythms. You don’t really need to do this on the guitar as you’re not playing notes with both hands really.
Should I Start My Child With Guitar Or Piano?
I believe that you should start them with the piano at first. Get them excited and into music in the beginning. The piano is also arguably the best base to have to learn other instruments because you learn music theory with it. I am amazed by how many guitarists or drummers that don’t really have any music theory knowledge.
When you play in bands you will want to find people with a music theory background because they ultimately understand music more fully. When I was younger, a lot of guitar players I knew had no idea what chords they were playing or how to figure them out. I would say, “hey this chord progression is,” and they would have no idea how to play it.
With piano, you’re forced to know what you are playing and what notes make them up. Guitarists won’t always know what notes are in a certain chord or what singular notes they are playing since they have a full fretboard.
With the piano, you will know all of this stuff right off the bat. As well as learning the treble clef and bass clef in full.