What are the easiest and most difficult musical instruments to play?

Is there some kind of generally agreed-upon “degree of difficulty” scale for musical instruments ranging from easiest to learn how to play proficiently to most difficult? For example, is it harder to become good at the clarinet than the piano?

If such a scale is too subjective to cover all classes of instruments, I would think it might be easier to do so within classes of instruments, say brass, woodwinds, and strings. Is the trombone easier than the trumpet, or is the viola easier than the cello?

I’ve heard that the most difficult are the double reeds (Oboe, Basoon, English Horn, etc.) and French Horn.

Easiest? Hmm…Electric Bass is pretty easy, at least starting out.

I think all instruments are very difficult when going to a professional level.

Sorry, I only glanced at your post before replying, and only replied to the title.

My guess would be the easiest must be something like the triangle.

Reeds, in particular double reeds, are often singled out. There’s no escaping the fact that an absolute beginner on a reed instrument makes a helluva racket. On the other hand, it’s hard for a beginner to make the piano sound unbearable.

Does this make the piano easy, or the oboe difficult? Hopefully not. 'Ease of making

When asking about instrument families, you’re further reaching the border of asking the impossible. The violin and cello are, quite simply, are different. The double bass even more so. They make completely different requirements on the player.

If you want to ask questions about specific instruments, then by all means ask. But it’s impossible to give blanket answers for the whole range.

Since this question is ultimately gonna involve informed opinions rather than concrete answers, let’s move it to IMHO.

samclem GQ moderator

Triangle is probably the easiest. Toughest instrument to master and have astounding music pour from it: my vote is for the Chapman Stick.

After Tony Levin demonstrated his absolute mastery of it with King Crimson in 1981, you might have thought there would be a lot more Stick players afterward. But no, it’s a very, very difficult instrument to play anything on, never mind to execute both a bass and an accompaniment simultaneously - whilst tapping and hammering on with both hands and as many free fingers as you can muster.

I vote for uillean pipes. You’ve got one arm squeezing the bag, so you’ve got to maintain a constant air pressure there. You’ve got the other arm pumping a bellows, so that’s another thing to worry about. You have a fairly complex fingering on the chanter, plus all sorts of ornamentation that is so neccessary to Celtic music, and finally you have regulators, which are 3 or 4 drone-like pipes coming out the back that can be turned off and on to play accompanying chords. I’ve read somewhere that it takes seven years to learn to physically play the uillean pipes, seven years to learn the music to play on them, and seven years to put it all together.

Depends on what you’re playing. Copts accompany their chanting with highly complex polyrhythms on cymbals and triangle, and they start their kids learning to play them early; I’ve seen 10-year-olds playing stuff that would leave your head spinning.

Only guessing but I know more self taught guitarists than any self taught players of any other instrument. I have heard from several people who play lots of instruments that if you learn piano first (as they all did) the rest are easy to pick up on your own. Of course this doesn’t mean that piano is necessarily harder to learn.

Here is a neat little guide to the pluses and minusues of learning various instruments. They seem to feel the easiest in each class are saxophone, tuba, double bass and piano or electric guitar.

I have always imagined the gong as being an easy instrument to play.

I played the Euphonium for seven years but quit after I graduated high school and it really is not a difficult instrument to learn. Same fingerings as trumpet and tuba of course but has pretty much the same range as the trombone. I now play electric bass and consider myself pretty damn good. Some instruments are harder than others at least in learning the beginning fundamentals but the more advanced the music the harder it becomes.

Anyone else ever listen to Pat Metheny and his band…those guys are amazing. Does anyone know that weird guitar thing he plays that has two necks one with like regular guitar and I think it has resonator strings under it, and another neck has I think really low tuned strings or like baritone guitar or something and it also has like has something similar to a harp or something. Any Ideas?

Lol yep and then there are those people like Victor Wooten who produce sounds and rhythms on a bass you would never think possible.

Cymbals and triangles are pretty easy to play. I think the trombone is pretty easy to play too.

The thing is that percussion, even auxillary percussion, can be rather difficult to play well. You don’t have all the issues that a string or wind player would have, but the instruments do have their own specific ways of being played (and being played well). Cymbals, especially crash cymbals, are difficult to play well. The triangle is simple enough if all you need is an occasional ding, but start throwing rolls and some wicked rhythms in there and it isn’t that easy, especially since your goal is to make all hits sound exactly the same. Actually, that goes for a lot of the auxillary percussion. It’s not just banging stuff together, especially with modern composers. They throw in all kinds of rhythms and effects and the like, especially in pieces written solely for percussion. Add on my complainants about the way composers and publishers will often write/print the music, and percussion isn’t as easy as you’d think. Also, even though people specialize, at the high school/college/amateur level you often have to be able to play lots of different instruments and know how to play these minor instruments.

According to my high school band teacher:

Woodwinds: Bassoon & Oboe

Brass: French Horn

I think a lot of it has to do with your lips. Someone with poofy lips like me is probably going to have a hard time getting a trumpet or flute/piccolo to do anything. That may not mean that these instruments are “harder” than the bassoon and clarinet (which I do play), it may just mean that certain people are better suited to certain instruments.

Nobody’s mentioned the kazoo yet?!

Most difficult: Holophonor


Don’t forget the Glass Armonica.

And the octraventral heebiephone.