What is the hardest instrument to play?

What is the hardest instrument to play?

a friend asked me a while back which instrument i thought would be the hardest and easiest to play. it’s a weird question because i know that a lot of people start playing the tin whistle and build up from there.
personally, as a whistle player, i know it’s actually hard enough to master it because of cuts, rolls and breathing etc. i have tried my hand at fiddle, flute, accordian and banjo but didn’t stick at them long enough to know if they would be hard to learn. (that does make sense yes?). so what do yous think? what is the hardest instrument to play?

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

the whistle

Posted by .

No doubt …

1. Bohdran
2. Guitar
3. Hammered Dulcimer

These have the greatest quantity of truly pathetic musicians playing them at sessions. Nothing else comes close. And, it is only when played exceptionally well that any of these belong in a session at all.

—Eliot

Posted by .

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

The hardest instrument to play? It’s an interesting question but one that beg’s another question! The hardest instrument playing what kind of music? Personally, since I play all instruments, I believe string instruments, violin, viola, cello bass etc. are the the most challenging. How could someone have conjured-up putting strings on a box, and then putting horsehair on a stick, and then rubbing sap (rosin) on the hair, and then with all these, make beautiful music with the left hand doing one thing and the right hand doing something completely different! HA strings have to be one of the most challenging. On the other hand, if you were a midget the tuba might be the most difficult or if you were a giant the piccolo might be the hardest! I guess it”s all relative!

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Dunno, d’you have to be able to play it well? I reckon it’s going to be different for every person. The pipes would probably rank up there, though. I’m a string person, got an affinity for them, so for me they’re not particularly difficult to get the hang of, but woodwinds? forget it… 🙂

zls

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Right, Zina. I’ve tried a few times to play flute (the regular orchestra kind, with keys, not the open hole variety), and it just seems so distant and mechanical. The violin is intimate and personal, like an extension of your body (OK, so there’s nothing natural about clamping a piece of wood under your chin and sawing at it with a stick with horsehair attached). Frets and picks are challenging to me. And pipes, like you say. Are they even possible? Must be, somehow.

All that said, I think everybody musical has a natural affinity for a particular instrument(s). So what’s easy for me is difficult for somebody else, and vice versa. Ain’t it a wonderful world?

Carol

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

I’m sure the river rock player mentioned a few posts ago thinks he’s found the hardest instrument of them all…maybe for a caveman though. Keep in mind that cavemen probably played the bones as well, hmmm, interesting thought….

Being a fiddler and a failed piper, I’d definately say pipes are the most difficult. I had to sell my pipes to save my sanity (and my bank balance).

Posted by .

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

I love all of the answers so far…here’s my two cents.
Probably the instruments that have reeds. i.e an inbuilt variable. One day the reed is perfect, the next it sounds as if you cut it yourself, drunk, from a lollypop stick. At least (climate conditions-playing by a roaring fire or in a freezing back room aside), most of the other things are the same from one day to the next, the brass have the same mouthpiece, the Bohdran has the same skin (OW !!! Stop throwing things at me…at least i used a capital B!),and the flute has the same hole to blow, which is fine unless you’ve eaten an assortment of salted snacks…peanuts, crisps etc and your lip doesn’t feel the same any more.
B

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

The flute may have the same hole, it’s your mouth that is the variable…

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Some people say you need 21 years to be a good piper: 7 years of learning, 7 more of practicing and 7 of mastering .. or something like that.
Anyway, I agree with bacchus on the reed instruments theory.

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Well i think the accordion is fairly difficult. ive seen people playing in concerts who have only been playing for a couple of years. The accordion however is a different story. Ok for a start you can just play the right hand like a piano and rouhly get a tune, but to get bellows control, variations in light and shade, along with bases and the right hand fingering to respectable quality, and then to have these all in sync with each other takes a bit of mastering. Also the accordion has melody and accompaniement in the bases whereas the violin only plays the melody. I must appologise for my lack of knowledge about the pipes as i have not yet given them a try. So my point is that the accordion is not an easy instument at all.

Re: what id the hardest instrument to play

well a mistake with my first post what an embarresment.

the people i have seen playing in conerts after only a couple of years were fiddle players.

so pick up an accordion any of you violinists and tell me its easy to play

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

not sure what’s the most difficult instrument to play - how about what is the coolest instrument to play?

Posted by .

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

I think playing one of those 7 meters long Steinways must be cool. The difficulty would consist in making it fit in your pub.

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

just move the piano where you want it and build the pub round it? Obviously you’d need a dust-sheet or something. I reckon the coolest instrument has to be banjo - is it the the folk equivalent of the sax?

Posted by .

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Actually, I didn’t find the accordion to be too terribly hard the one time I picked one up, but then I learned on a piano as a kid. Button box was much tougher for me.

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

yea, I haven’t done anything here in like a month . . so I’ll say something:
by a banjo being the folk equivalent of a sax, well, the sax is sort of the uber jazz instrument (I think), if you think the banjo is sort of an uber folk instrument, which I could see as being plausible, then yea
this is probably off topic but I think the hardest instrument to play is veena (south indian music) ‘cause this one week I’m playing it about as much as I’m sleeping daily and in the beginning it’s an easy instrument to learn but a fairly hard one to master, especially the ornamentations and fast parts, because for something like a violin or mandolin (we have both in south indian music) you have to moving your hand a couple of inches translates to moving your hand 2 feet to the right really really fast on a veena. and then you have to pick according to the words of a song.
also I don’t think the fact that you have a large number of people who badly play a certain instrument means that instrument is necessarily harder than others

… but I’m probably just biased

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Nothing is easy to start with.
I’ve had a go at several species of yokes. To play respectably, then going down to getting a recognisible tune out, from my experience, this is my list from most straightforward to most difficult:
Boehm flute >wooden flute>Tin whistle(harder than you think to make it do what you want)>Bodhran(to keep it in time and to really do it justice is exhausting!) >D/G Box>Harmonica>Piano box(I kept pushing and pulling!)>Fiddle(the fiddle IS tough… but not impossible, if I had a spare half-decade)>B/C Box (to me, this IS impossible).

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Have you ever tried playing one spoon?

I had a go at playing the saw the other day. Whilst I’m no virtuoso on any instrument, I can usually get some kind of coherent sound (e.g. part of a scale or a few notes of a tune) out of an instrument within, say, ten minutes of picking it up. Not so the saw.

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

My musical odyssey began at age 9 with the piano accordion, followed a few months later by the violin. I didn’t find either of them hard at all (at the time), but when you’re 9 it never occurs to you that you can’t do something, and you have no idea how awful you sound.

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

One spoon? David, you’re like, totally Zen.

Posted by .

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

viola
arf,arf

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

If a good fiddle player wants to get some idea of how difficult the instrument is to a beginner let him or her try playing left-handed (or right-handed if already left-handed, er… that is, with reversed polarity). It is a sobering experience and one thereafter treats all beginners with even more respect and kindness.
Trevor

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

A friend of mine made a fiddle out of sheet steel - that’s pretty hard… ho ho. It sounds amazing, as I remember. (I was young and impressionable at the time, mind.)

Posted by .

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Fiddles made from sheet metal were fairly common in Donegal at one time, when the wood variety was difficult and expensive to obtain. A travelling metal worker like John Doherty and others would make a playable metal fiddle in a day, such were the skills they had in those times. I believe a few examples, probably corroded and rusty now, are in the museums.
Trevor

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Maracas - I’ve never been able to get a note out of them.

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

a button accordian, it’s just weird that whenever you push it in it’s one note and pull it out it’s another! actually the whistle is hard to master and it always surprises me that people think otherwise. the string players i have seen always make playing either classical or trad music effortless which is strange because i assume the fiddle and co. are difficult. flutes take a fair bit of puff which gives to the right wee head ache but then so does playing an air on a whistle at times. i tried my hand at a tenor sax this year for a while and it’s kinda like an overgrown tin whistle which was pretty cool considering i thought it would be impossible.

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

I would imagine the uilleann pipes are the hardest. Can you imagine learning to play them, every time you make a mistake the neighbours must say to themselves "listen to that eejit nextdoor, choking one of his cats again".

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Sticks, Stones, Spoons, Digeridoos and Jungle drums must also be pretty hard to learn, judging from adverse comments in threads passim.

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

At first I thought it’s got to be the instrument that you’ve tried out and and failed, like me with the English concertina or double bass. On second thoughts it’s probably the instrument that you would never dream of trying, e.g. the pipes. And I don’t mean because of the technical problems with the reeds.

Posted by .

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Marymcaffrey, if fiddle playing looks effortless you can be sure that many, many years of hard work and practice has preceded that effortless playing! And indeed, when you’ve got to that stage the technical side of playing may very well be near effortless, but what never goes away is the intense mental work and concentration needed to prepare and perform the music at such a level, especially when the punters are paying to hear!
The same comments apply to almost every instrument, but some take longer than others.
Someone mentioned a little way back that it is said to take a pipe 21 years to learn his craft. Give or take a few years, I think this is about the time it takes for most performers to become established on the international scene, whatever instrument, or other activity they’re doing. Start in medical school at 18 and, if you’ve got what it takes, you may become a consultant in your mid to late 30’s. An eminent concert pianist or violinist may start learning the instrument in their late sub-teens, but they’re not usually said to have "arrived" until their mid-20’s at the earliest (I’m excluding child prodigies - far too many of them have unhappily vanished into obscurity by the time they become adults).
Trevor

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

For me, it has to be the 5-string banjo. A good friend lent me one last year and I’m still finding the learning of it difficult. I can play the 4-string banjo ok, but the 5 string is a real hard one. You’ve got to concentrate on all the complicated picking patterns as well as trying to keep a good rhythm and play at a reasonable speed. On top of this, you have those plastic fingerpicks on your fingers. Must take years of practice to master which strings to pluck when and how. I’ve not even mentioned all the techniques they incorporate, i.e. slides, rasps etc. Scary stuff!

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Out of curiosity I tried out a 5-string fiddle (with a low C) in a violin shop the other day. I won’t comment specifically on the tonal properties because it was new and unplayed, but it took some effort and thought to get to grips with 5 strings that are just that little closer together, and with a bridge profile that made it an interesting experience to work out which string I should be playing on. I concluded that it is a specialist instrument, perhaps for a violin/viola teacher, and that probably one should have to persevere with it rather than swapping to and fro with the standard 4-stringer.
Trevor

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

Trevor, never meant to offend any fiddlers out there by implying learning the instrument was easy. i just said it looks so effortless and obviously, as you rightly said, years of hard work goes into becoming that good. i just think that there is something mentally working behind the scenes that makes string players look more ‘professional’? - i don’t know how to describe it really. i guess you’d need to see the string players i have to understand. sorry if you took offence though!

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

MaryMc, I didn’t take any offence at all 🙂
Trevor

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

I think what the orriginal question was asking was "what is the hardest instrument to learn on?"

Tin whistles are obviously easier than bag pipes, and mandolins are obviously easier than fiddles. But where you need to be concentrating is way beyond this. The instrument is incidental when it comes down to it. You reach a level of technical ability and then you forget about it. Or rather, you reach a level of ability concordant with the kind of music you want to play, and you forget about it.

Posted .

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

You’re right, Michael. Once you get to a certain level of technical ability the instrument becomes an extension of yourself and a vehicle for your self expression.
I’ve yet to get there though…

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

uilleann pipes….there is so much to do at once

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

1. The Harp
2. The Fiddle
3. The French Horn
4. The Saxaphone
5. The Violin
6. The Banjo (only hard if you can’t move the fingers fast)
7. The Tuba (only hard if you have hard time breathing or exhaling)
8. The Guitar (1. Rock Hard 2. Classical 3. Just Playing)
9. The Drums
10. The Flute

Re: What is the hardest instrument to play?

PirateX12 has only one comment and I’m not sure if it’s a trollish comment or real.

I think that’s all I’ll comment.