There is not a single person I know who does not like music. Whether it is to calm their nerves or to find a temporary safe refuge for their troubled soul, music can be such a magical thing to engage in.
Many people don’t realize all the years of hard work and training that goes into making good music. My instruments, especially the ones on this list, take unparalleled dedication to learn and master.
Curious about what these musical instruments are? Then join us as we narrow in on the world’s hardest instrument to learn and play.
Table of Contents
Here Are the Hardest Musical Instruments to Learn and Play
I have met many people who believe that learning to play the violin is as easy as learning to play the guitar. After all, both are string instruments. They also have almost the same shape, except that the guitar is larger than the violin.
Unfortunately, I do not want to be the bearer of bad news. Playing the violin is never a walk in the park. If you look at how violinists play, it would seem as if they are shutting the rest of the world down so that they can focus more on the notes they create.
And while I agree that there are many wonderful kids out there who have become virtuosos in a short period of time, I can only guess that they practiced every waking hour of their young lives to get to a point where they can outplay an adult violinist.
There are many reasons why violinists spend many years training, practicing, and perfecting their violin-playing skills.
A Violin Produces Non-linear Vibrations
You need to understand that the vibrations produced by a violin’s strings do not have the same parabolic shape as that of a guitar. The vibrations are more V-shaped, known as the Helmholtz motion. This requires a very different manner of producing vibration.
Now, here’s the really fun part. You don’t use your fingers to vibrate the strings on a violin. You use a bow. What complicates things is that you have to master how to hold the bow and use it to create vibrations in the strings.
It’s All About the Bow
There is the amount of bow force you have to master to produce the desired Helmholtz effect. Pressing too hard will produce a graunch or raucous noise. The vibrations produced become chaotic. Too light and the sound you produce can be that of a surface sound.
It is also critical that you know where exactly to position your bow. If you want to avoid any of the undesired sounds from a violin, you will need to place the bow in the right place on the strings. In general, this should be away from the bridge for it to produce the Helmholtz effect. Unfortunately, it will take many sessions of pure trial and error before you find the sweet spot.
It is important to hold the violin in the correct manner. In case you haven’t noticed, you have to position the body over the shoulder and by your chin. For a right-handed person, one must hold the violin’s neck with the left hand. The right hand will hold the bow.
You might think this is easy. It’s not. The posture requires absolute control and focus. It also requires coordinating your right and left arms, while performing two different functions simultaneously.
Violins Don’t have Frets
How you position the fingers of your left hand can have an impact on the tonality of the violin. Why? Have you seen any fret on the neck of the violin? Well, there’s your answer.
Guitars are so much easier to play because they have frets that assign a specific semitone. The section in between frets can also make positioning of your fingers a lot easier to memorize to produce a specific kind of musical tone.
We don’t have these frets on a violin’s neck. You will have to memorize the exact placement of your fingers on the neck to produce a specific tone. And in case you do not know, there can be hundreds of different tones you can produce.
Your right hand will be holding the bow. You will draw this across the strings to produce vibrations. As I already mentioned, this is where your knowledge of the Helmholtz motion will come into play. That is why there are many techniques of holding and using the bow that violinists need to master.
Violinists have a Unique Set of Lingo
You will need to learn how to read musical notation that is specific to playing the violin. These can include vibrato, pizzicato, and the markings for bow direction. The last one is important so you will know if you have to draw your bow upward or downward. Other notations include arco, au talon, bariolage, bow lift, col legno, and flautando.
These are the most important reasons why learning to play the violin is not that easy. There are other reasons. I haven’t even touched on the importance of choosing the right violin. You see, no two violins sound exactly alike. That is where your hearing acuity will come in.
Nevertheless, I did not say that you cannot learn how to play this instrument. It just requires more dedication and commitment on your part to learn the basics. Unfortunately, even the basics can take time to master.
The notes produced by a piano are some of the most enthralling sounds you can ever hear. I am referring, of course, to an acoustic piano. The kind that we see in orchestras and other formal events. I am not referring to a keyboard or even a digital piano. These latter musical instruments are a breeze to play because manufacturers already simplify the process of learning for you.
Unfortunately, there is nothing simple about playing an acoustic piano.
A grand piano used in concerts can span a whopping 9 feet across and about 5 feet deep. Of course, there is always a baby grand or a studio piano to play.
What is important here is the number of keys that are arranged across the width of the piano. A grand piano typically comes with 88 keys, although I have seen a grand piano with 102 keys. You will have to memorize the notes of each key and the distinct sound that each one produces.
Both Hands, Please
And then there is the fact that not all of us are ambidextrous. Most of us are right-handed. Some are left-handed. And it is very rare to see a person who does not have any dominant hand. Either right or left works in exactly the same way and with the same exact level of competency and precision.
Why is this important you ask? Well, if you are right-handed, then most of the things you will be doing are performed by your right hand. Playing the piano requires both hands striking on the different keys of the piano.
Playing the piano with your dominant hand will be easy. But, believe me, the kind of music you will produce will be less than spectacular. That is why you will also have to train your left hand to be as adept in striking the piano keys as your right hand. This takes a huge amount of time.
Not only do you need to train your non-dominant hand. You will also have to learn to coordinate their movements. This can be taxing to the brain. Your brain will have to integrate simultaneous inputs from both the right and left hands and then send out motor impulses to both hands in a synchronized manner.
Don’t Forget the Feet
Modern pianos also have foot-operated levers called piano pedals. There is the una corda on the left, the damper pedal on the right, and the sostenuto pedal in the middle. These pedals allow you to change the sound of the piano in different ways.
As such, you will also have to learn the different effects of these pedals and how each one can improve your music piece. It goes without saying that you will be adding another skill for your brain to master. You will have to learn to coordinate the movements of both hands and your foot as it presses on the pedals.
The Unique Music Sheet
And then there is the music sheet of a piano. Most musical instruments only come with a single staff. Piano music sheets come with two, sometimes three staves. The staves represent what your hands should be playing. The first staff represents the notes that your right hand will be playing. The second staff below it will be the guide for your left hand.
In other words, your eyes will have to look at both staves. These visual cues will then go to your brain for processing. The brain will then ‘command’ your hands to strike the exact keys that will produce the notes on the staves.
Believe me, it is not an easy feat.
So, you think playing the piano is easy? Yes, it is. But, only if you have already mastered the basics. And only if you have already learned to coordinate the complex movements of your hands and feet as well as the musical note reading capabilities of your eyes. When discussing the hardest instrument to learn the piano certainly has to be near the top of the list.
We always associate Oktoberfest with plenty of merrymaking, overflowing booze, and gastronomic delights. What many of us fail to appreciate is the music that provides the festive backdrop to the occasion.
The reason why I wanted to point this out is because Oktoberfests always feature the accordion in creating those fun and lively German music we always associate with the festivities. There is something almost magical about the music created by this instrument.
And the way musicians play the instrument will give you a false belief that it is easy to learn and master. You’d be wrong. As in dead wrong.
There are so many different kinds or types of accordions. But before we go into the types, let us first look at the basic components.
The most important part of the accordion is the bellows. This is that component that gives the accordion its ‘airy’ sound. If I have to be blunt about it, the movement of the bellows is similar to the importance of how the bow moves over the strings of a violin. If you do not know how to move it properly, then you will not be able to produce amazing music at all.
Let me simplify. Consider the bellows as the breathing of a professional singer. Singers have to master their breathing to control the overall quality of their sound. It also has an effect on the volume of the song, including the tone and the pitch.
As for the accordion’s bellows, you get to control the volume of the sound. This can include fascinating fades and exciting swells. You can create clear tones and mimic a singer’s expressiveness.
As I already mentioned, there are many kinds of accordions according to the variable components that accompany the bellows.
The right hand of the accordion can have diatonic button accordions, chromatic button accordions, piano accordions, and 6-plus-6 accordions. On the left hand panel are a stradella bass, a Belgian bass, or a free-bass system.
Mastering the Instrument Takes Time
It goes without saying that learning to play the accordion requires learning how to play the specific type of variable component that this musical instrument has.
Unfortunately, mastering the movement of the bellows alone already takes time. You have got to learn the different bellows motions and then integrate these with the actions of the variable accordion components.
Here’s the thing. Your right hand will be playing the musical instrument that is in the right box of the accordion. Your left hand will be playing with the bass settings of the accordion on the left. While both hands are at work, they will also be pulling and pushing the two parts together to move the bellows.
Sounds complicated? It is. That is why an accordion is one of the most difficult musical instruments to master. And I haven’t even touched on the physical dimensions of the instrument.
An accordion is quite large and heavy. That is why most musicians and music teachers recommend that accordionists should play it sitting down. A keyboard accordion, for example, can have 41 keys. The smallest of this type of accordion is about 14 inches and can weigh anywhere between 10 and 12 pounds. Larger ones can come it at 30 to 35 pounds.
Can be Backbreaking
While an accordion has shoulder straps to help distribute its weight, there is still the risk of injuring or hurting your back. I have met some people who complain of back pain after spending a few hours learning to play the accordion. So, you might want to think again about learning to play this musical instrument.
Learning to play the accordion is not only challenging. It can also be very tiring. You need both strength and patience to see yourself as a true accordionist. You will also need absolute coordination of your two hands. If you’re looking for the hardest instrument to play consider taking up the harp!
4. Acoustic Drums
The drum is one of the oldest musical instruments known to man. Of course, it wasn’t always a musical instrument. It served as a defense tool, sounding the alarm to a fort of an impending threat. It also provided the cadence to a marching army as it moved across the fields of battle.
There are also civilizations and cultures that use the drum for warding off evil spirits and other supernatural creatures. Whatever and however you view the acoustic drum, this instrument has served its purpose well.
So, playing an acoustic drum set should not be difficult, right? I mean, even prehistoric man was able to use it without the luxury of modern technology. Unfortunately, playing the drums involves more than beating the surface of the drum.
Arm and Leg Muscle Strength Needed
If you look at the modern drum set, you will see at least two fundamental instruments. These are the cymbals and the drums. The drums can include a floor tom, a snare drum, a medium tom, and a high tom. There is also a bass drum. The cymbals can include the ride cymbal and the crash cymbal. You also get the high hats.
Given the number of components that a typical drum set has, you will need well-developed muscles to hit the different components. You need to have arm muscle strength and stamina to keep on beating on the drums nonstop.
While the drumsticks are not heavy, it is the repetitive motions of the drum beating that can be very unforgiving. If you have weak hand and arm muscles, there is a good chance that you will not be able to hit the surface of the drum with enough force to create a definitive sound.
Rhythm is Not Everything
You will most likely start learning how to play the drums by playing a basic 4/4 rhythm or beat. However, this is only the basics. Remember, you have other parts of the drum set that you need to beat, too.
Drums set the rhythm in any kind of music. It would be useless to learn how to play the drums if you do not have a basic understanding of rhythm.
Now, I did say that rhythm is not everything. You also need to understand the different accents and taps that are expected of any drummer. The funny thing is that learning to play the drum gets harder as you progress through the ladder.
Coordination of the Peripheries is a Must
Beating a single drum should be easy. Beating two drums in perfect harmony should still be a breeze. However, the moment you include beating the toms, the high hat, and the cymbals, playing the drums can get really complicated.
The point here is for you to develop absolute coordination between your arm movements and your foot movement. You need your foot to beat the large bass drum by stepping on and off the foot pedal.
It takes a lot of focus to will your mind to coordinate the different movements of your peripheries. This is not a problem if you are beating to a slow rhythm or beat. Once the tempo picks up, then your brain’s integration and coordination capabilities will be put to the test.
Learn the Music Sheet of the Drummer
I once encountered someone who said that playing the drums is a lot easier than playing other musical instruments. He said that drummers do not have music sheets to worry about.
I am really sorry to burst your bubble. This is not true. Drummers also have a music sheet. You will need to learn how to read drum grooves. The music sheet will tell you how many beats you need to perform on the snare drum. You will also learn how many beats from the cymbals, high hat, toms, and the bass drum will accompany the snare.
The most important part of reading the music sheet is exactly when you need to beat the different parts of the drum set. I do not need to remind you that learning how to read a drummer’s music sheet is very important. The only time a drummer will not need a music sheet is when he plays solo.
It would take many years before you reach this stage, however.
Drums Do Not Produce Melodies
Can you distinguish a C or a B or even a G# in a drum? No? Well, that is because beating along will never produce a melodic sound. You only get that loud thump on the drum or tom or that classic clang on the cymbals.
However, just because it cannot produce any melodies does not mean you can forego sharpening your listening skills. You will still have to employ your listening skills and perfect timing to coordinate your drum beats with that of the other musical instruments. Your drums should beat harmoniously with other instruments.
When you think about it, playing the drums is not as difficult as learning how to play the violin or the accordion. What is really challenging here is reading the music sheet and transferring that knowledge into coordinated movements of your arms and legs. The plus side? You’ll get a whole-body workout from all that intense beating of the drums.
5. French Horn
The French horn is one of the most perplexing musical instruments on the planet. In the hands of a skilled player, the French horn can produce blaring tones like those we hear from piercing trumpets. It can also be as soft and gentle as the clarinets and flutes as they croon the audience.
Many experts believe that the French horn is the chameleon of brass musical instruments. It can be strong and powerful in one piece and then take on a gentler and milder nature in another musical adventure. I think this is why the French horn is so much fun to play.
Unfortunately, mastering the French horn is not that easy. You already know that this instrument requires more than simply blowing through the mouthpiece and pressing three levers on top. Let’s take a look.
The Correct Embouchure and Airflow
One of the very first things that you have to get right is the correct shape and position of your lips over the French horn’s mouthpiece. You must be able to buzz your lips to produce the right sound.
One problem about this is that many music teachers often find it difficult to demonstrate how exactly to create the perfect shape of the lips. This is understandable since the teacher’s lips will be obscured by the French horn’s mouthpiece. He may show it without the mouthpiece, but this will be a bit different.
So, why is the embouchure – the manner in which your lips touch or covers the mouthpiece – so important?
The French horn is a wind or brass instrument that requires a continuous flow of air through the tubes. I am not only talking about a tube that is several inches long. I have seen French horns that have tubes as long as 30 inches. The shortest I have seen are those with 12-inch long tubes. Of course, the tubes are not straight.
Try imagining yourself blowing through a 30-inch tube with a wide-open mouth. You will not be able to supply air through the tubes very long. Now try pursing your lips so that only a little amount of air escapes. You can now prolong the airflow.
This is important because the sound that you create with the French horn is directly proportional to the length of the tube. The longer the air travels, the lower is the musical note you produce.
A Different Kind of ‘Fingering’ Technique
Pardon the term, but this is actually what musicians use to describe the action of the fingers on the valve keys of the French horn. This is quite tricky because the different combinations of the valve keys can produce different notes.
Here’s a tip. The valve keys shorten the length of the tube. If the valves remain open, then the air will travel throughout the entire length of the tube. This produces a very distinct low note.
Whenever you press on a valve key, you somehow shorten the distance between the mouthpiece and the bell. This produces a note that is higher than the one created by open valve keys.
Tones are Way Closer to One Another
The thing here is that the amount of pressure applied to the valve keys can also have an effect on the tone.
If you compare the notes produced by a French horn and those produced by a tuba, trombone, or trumpet, you will notice that the notes lie close to each other. Sometimes the line between two notes is too fine that you will think you are hearing the same note and not two.
It is easy to crack something if you do not use the correct embouchure and the right volume of air through the mouthpiece. You will miss your notes and create a less-than-stellar performance.
This is one of the most important reasons why it can be very tricky to master the French horn.
Be Mindful of the Bell
Did you notice that the French horn’s bell is facing backward away from the audience? Other brass instruments have their bells facing the crowd. The French horn is a bit shy.
This counterintuitive positioning of the bell can pose a very different kind of challenge. French horn players have to be very mindful of the tempo of the piece they are playing. They have to anticipate when the next note will occur as the French horn will produce a slightly delayed sound.
There is also the issue of the pitch of the French horn. Many composers call on their players to put their right hand right inside the bell. This traps the air to produce a muffled buzz.
What makes the French horn really tricky to master is its complex mechanics. But, once you have mastered how the instrument works, then it should be easy-peasy from then on.
I don’t know about you, but I have always had a fascination for Scots. Some people may find their accent to be funny. I find it unique. And you know what else I find very interesting in the Highlanders?
Of course, bagpipes are not exclusive to Scotland. I just learned that there are many variants of this musical instrument. There is the gajde of Albania, the gayda of Bulgaria and Turkey, and the gaide of Romania and Greece. You can also find variants in the Persian Gulf, northern Africa, and even western Asia.
Now, just because the bagpipe is quite common in these parts of the world does not mean it is already easy to play. If you think playing the French horn is tricky, wait ‘till you get your hands on a Great Highlands bagpipes.
You Need Powerful Lungs
I mean it. It is important to have a large lung capacity to produce sound with the bagpipes. You see, bagpipes are just like any other wind instrument that relies on air for it to produce sound.
When you blow through the blowstick, air goes through the large bag and then to the chanter and drones. Unfortunately, this is the tricky part.
The bag needs to stay inflated for up to 25 seconds. The more important thing is to ensure the bag has the right amount of air pressure. With no pressure gauges to keep you abreast of the pressure inside the bag, you will have to somewhat guess.
Another thing is that the air should be equally distributed to the drones and the chanter. If not, your bagpipe will sing out of tune. Using the wrong air pressure can also have an impact on the pitch.
The only way you can avoid these issues is by inflating the bag to the right pressure for as long as possible. That is why you need to have iron lungs if you decide to play bagpipes.
Mind the Embouchure
Okay, so here is that word again, embouchure. The good news is that bagpipes have undergone a lot of changes through the centuries.
In the past, pipers needed to cover the blowstick’s tip with their own tongue to prevent air from escaping. Modern bagpipes now have a non-return valve.
This doesn’t mean you can position your lips over the blowstick any way you want. You will still need to maintain the right positioning of the lips to deliver air to the bag and through the chanter and drones.
Requires Precise Arm Movements
Ever wonder why bagpipers hold their musical instruments like a teddy bear?
Remember what I said about maintaining the correct air pressure and the need for equal distribution of air through the chanter and drones? Here’s the thing. The arms compress and relax the bag and the bellows.
One arm squeezes the bag, while the other holds the bellows in a relaxed manner. As the arm squeezing the bag slowly relaxes, the other arm slowly compresses the bellows. The transition should be as smooth as possible to maintain the right tone of the bagpipes.
Unfortunately, one has to have a strong will to resist the temptation of synchronizing the arm movements to that of the music’s tempo. Doing so ruins the quality of the sound. People will know you are out of tune. Remember, bagpipes require constant and steady airflow.
Tuning the Bagpipes is Tricky
Very few musical instruments need to be tuned very often. And one of these is the bagpipes. You see, this instrument has reeds as its major components. The reeds are often at the base of the chanter and the drones.
Now, when you blow through the pipe, you also blow a bit of your saliva. This can moisten and change the temperature of the reed. This can affect the overall sound coming from the drones and chanter.
A very crucial skill of a bagpiper is knowing how to tune his instrument. If it is the chanter reed, then you need to flatten or sharpen the notes by adjusting the reed’s seating.
This is just an example of how complicated tuning bagpipes really is
Tricky Fingering Technique
Some people think that fingering bagpipes is easier than fingering a French horn or even a trumpet. What they fail to recognize is that it is very tricky.
It is important to know that the chanter always produces constant sound. There is no silence or pauses in between notes. The only way you can play a single note twice in succession is by playing a short grace note.
Here’s the tricky part. Playing a grace note requires finger positions that are very awkward. You will only need to cover half of the holes. What complicates things is that there is no identifiable time in the chanter reed’s sound where you can insert the grace note.
Yes, bagpipers play their instruments like a fun toy. What many of us don’t realize is that they have been playing the bagpipe almost all their life. Many consider the bagpipes to be the hardest instrument to play.
Harps intrigue me a lot. They produce angelic, almost heavenly melodies that can easily transport you to the side of Zeus or some other Greek god high up on Olympus. The instrument looks relatively easy to play. But as you already know, this is a lie. Let us count the reasons why.
A Lot of Strings
Guitars only have 6 strings. And yet most people already find it difficult to pick or pluck the right string to produce the kind of note that sounds beautiful to the ears.
Now try a harp and you can easily see that this is an instrument that is a nightmare for people with dexterity issues or fine motor problems.
A typical lever harp will have about 22 to 36 strings. It would be like playing 6 different guitars all at the same time. Now, get this. There are also lever harps that can have as many as 40 strings. Pedal harps have more strings, numbering about 47.
There are Pedals, Too
I mentioned above that there are pedal harps. The pedals on a harp provide you with the ability to flatten or sharpen a note. So, while your fingers are busy strumming the strings, your foot should also be in-sync.
There is no question that playing a pedal harp requires absolute precision and coordination between your arms and one of your legs. The foot should be able to strike the right pedal at the right time the correct string gets plucked. Sounds simple, yet tricky to accomplish.
Muscle Memory Needed
The mere fact that there are many strings to pluck, playing the harp requires excellent muscle memory. Your brain should be able to direct the muscles of your fingers where they need to pluck the next string.
The same is true with your foot that operates the pedals. It needs to have excellent muscle memory just when to apply the pressure on those pedals.
The funny thing is that you also need to sharpen your listening skills. And this is true for all musical instruments. It is important to have a very keen attention to the different tones of different notes. You should know if a particular note is spot on or is sharp or a bit flat.
Not Many Resources for Self-Help
Very few people play the harp compared to other string instruments, like the guitar. It is for this reason that you will not find that many resources to help you learn to play the harp on your own.
The only way – and the best possible way – you can learn how to play this instrument is by hiring a harp music teacher or instructor.
Harp instruction is not cheap. Pedal harps are also very large that it would be impossible to bring one to the studio to learn your lessons. Your best bet will be to start with the smallest lever harp you can find.
Learning to play the harp can be very challenging. It needs time. More importantly, it requires your undivided attention, commitment, and dedication. Only then can you start playing heavenly melodies with ease.
I was thinking of including the flute in this list. However, I thought about its larger cousin, the oboe. Not many are familiar with this instrument. In fact, I have heard people calling the oboe the clarinet.
The oboe looks like a large flute, leading some people to believe that it is easy to play. This is far from what is true. This is one of the most insanely difficult woodwind musical instruments to ever master.
An oboist can play a high note but fail miserably in producing a pianissimo. There is also the issue of timing, where the note comes out before or after when it is supposed to. These are just some of the many problems that aspiring oboists have to face.
The joy in playing the oboe comes with the conquering of the different nightmares of a true oboist. It is one of the hardest instruments to learn, but it also very rewarding.
Learn the Correct Embouchure
Expect the oboe to require the correct embouchure. As I already mentioned in the preceding sections, wind instruments require a steady flow of air. You can only deliver this if you know how to position your lips over the mouthpiece.
For example, if you bite too much on the reed, there is a possibility of having a poor low register response. The action can also lead to a shallow tone or an inconsistent clarity and accuracy in the sound produced. The lowest notes will sound like gurgles.
Requires Excellent Control of Breathing
The key to successfully playing the oboe is providing constant airflow through the instrument. This is necessary to sustain the notes. If you have weak lungs or cannot exhale in a prolonged manner, then the oboe is not for you.
Playing the oboe means blowing air through your mouth. At the same time, you have to inhale through your nose. In other words, you will be inhaling and exhaling at the same time.
Beginning oboists will find this difficult to synchronize. Our brain is wired to inhale and exhale in an alternating fashion. Oboe-playing requires you to do both at the same time. Of course, you can always think that you are not actually exhaling through your mouth. But then again, it is not that easy to counter your natural tendency to exhale or force air out after inhaling.
Correct Fingering Techniques
Blowing through the mouthpiece of an oboe does not create music. Activating the different levers on the body of the oboe does. That is why it is critical to learn the correct fingering techniques for oboe playing.
Each press of the keys produces a note. Pressing a combination of keys can produce different notes. Doing different combinations can produce a melody; but, only if you press the correct keys.
One more thing. Even if you did manage to press the right key, applying the wrong air pressure through the mouthpiece will still give you a note that misses its mark.
A Lot of Potential Problems when Playing
It is easy to make a mistake when playing the oboe because of the precision it demands when blowing through the reed and fingering the correct keys. You can have loud dynamics and explosive attacks, yet the low register response is poor.
The notes can squeak, blip, or gurgle. These problems require different solutions that a newbie may have difficulty applying. The oboe is an amazing musical instrument. That is if you can master the intricacies of the oboe.
People think that playing the organ should not be that different from playing the piano. After all, they do look the same. They have keys that you press to produce sound.
What most of us don’t know is that they are different types of musical instruments. A piano is, first and foremost, a percussion instrument. On the other hand, an organ is classified as a woodwind musical instrument.
You read that right. An organ is like the French horn, oboe, flute, and other instruments that rely on airflow to produce sound. That is why the sound produced by an organ is very different from that of a piano.
Try striking a piano key and the note will not last that very long even if you hold the key down. A piano cannot sustain the note unless you press the sostenuto pedal. The alternative will be to strike the key repeatedly.
In an organ, there is no need to press on a sostenuto pedal. There is also no need for repeated pressing of the key to sustain its note. You only need to hold down that key and the note will last until you lift your finger off the key.
So, the organ should be easier to play? Not quite. And here are the reasons why.
A piano has a single keyboard that can have as many as 102 keys. An organ can have at least two keyboards. I have actually seen an organ with a mind-boggling 12 keyboards. Playing on a single keyboard is tricky enough. Having up to 12 keyboards to play within a single instrument is insane.
The multiple keyboard nature of an organ also presents physical challenges. In a piano, it is normal to crisscross hands from the right of the keyboard to the left and vice versa. An organ amplifies this by making you reach for the keyboard above the one you are playing and then reaching for another keyboard to your right or left.
Now you have got to have a super brain to integrate all of the sensory inputs to strike the right notes at different keyboards.
Plenty of Knobs to Manipulate
I only talked about keyboards in an organ. I did not talk about the knobs that are quite common on the side of each keyboard. So, if you have 5 keyboards, you will also have 5 sets of knobs to manipulate.
You will have to be quick enough to strike the keys on the board, switch the knob to produce the right effect to accompany your notes, and then get right back to playing the organ.
Different Keyboards, Different Octave Sounds
You have to remember that an organ produces different kinds of sounds. As such, if you have three keyboards, you can expect to produce three different kinds of sounds. Sounds easy enough; except that each sound will produce different tones.
Each keyboard has an octave that differs from others. While this may not be an apparent issue, it does pose a challenge to those who do not know how to read a music sheet.
Now you see why playing the organ can be more complicated than playing the piano.
Requires More Dynamic Control
Given the complex nature of an organ, you can expect more dynamic control. It is never easy to strike the right keys on a single keyboard, let alone an instrument with multiple keyboards. It has knobs and other elements that also require tweaking on the fly.
It could take years for an ordinary person to learn the ins and outs of playing the organ. And if you clearly do not have the patience for it, an organ is hardly the kind of instrument that you would want to play. When people as what is the hardest instrument to play they shouldn’t be surprised to hear the organ mentioned.
I did not mean for the cello to round up our list of the 10 hardest musical instruments to play. However, I did intend to include this larger cousin of the violin precisely because of its similarities to a violin.
I mean, if learning to play the violin is already difficult, what more can you expect from a violin that is as tall as an average person?
Playing the cello should present the same challenges as playing the violin. I already discussed the different reasons why playing the violin can be difficult. However, I am compelled to reemphasize the following points in terms of playing the cello.
The Correct Position
One of the most important advantages of the cello over the violin is that there is no need to rest the cello on your shoulder and under your chin. This is because the instrument is too large. Playing it will be a lot more comfortable to some extent.
Holding the neck of the cello while playing it can present a different challenge, however. This is not only a large instrument. It is also heavy. And it gets propped by a thin stand that gets planted on the floor.
You will have to have exceptional arm muscle strength to hold the cello in an upright position. At the same time, this hand holding the cello’s neck is also the same hand that will press the strings to produce the notes.
Bow Position and Movement
Like playing a violin, playing the cello requires absolute control of the bow. While you may see some cellists pluck the strings with their fingers, this is not the main way to play the instrument.
The position of the bow will have an effect on the overall quality of the sound. How you move it over the strings can also have an impact on the sound produced. That is why many aspiring cellists spend many months simply practicing the correct positioning and movement of the bow.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Think of the cello as a means of communication. The bow is the method of talking or conversing. The strings are the words you use to communicate.
While positioning and moving the bow at the correct location and instance is important, it is equally critical to press the right section of the string. Unfortunately, like the violin, you will never see any fret on the cello’s neck to help you determine the semitone you want to produce.
Moreover, the notes produced by a cello are far away from each other. It is often necessary to shift finger play more often than you would on a violin. If not, you will produce off-notes.
And oh, did I mention the cello can have as much as 5 octaves?
Playing the cello may not be as difficult as playing the violin. However, it does present a few challenges that can make you question your belief about its ease of mastery.
While these 10 musical instruments are the most difficult to play, it is still possible to learn and master them. It just doesn’t occur overnight, though. You will need patience, commitment, dedication, and focus to train yourself on the fundamentals of any of these musical instruments.
In conclusion, no musical instrument in the world doesn’t have its own attached difficulties, becoming an expert or a master player of any instrument solely depends on the dedication of the learner. A big kudos to all the musical instrument players in the world. You guys are the best, and for beautifying music for us with your various instruments, we say thanks.
My name is Chris and I’ve had a passion for music and guitars for as long as I can remember. I started this website with some of my friends who are musicians, music teachers, gear heads, and music enthusiasts so we could provide high-quality guitar and music-related content.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 years old and am an avid collector. Amps, pedals, guitars, bass, drums, microphones, studio, and recording gear, I love it all.
I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My background is in Electrical Engineering earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. With my engineering experience, I’ve developed as a designer of guitar amplifiers and effects. A true passion of mine, I’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of guitar amps and electronics. Here at the Guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and gear with the rest of the music community.