A comparison between the violin and the guitar and which one is easier to learn.
I know that many of my regular readers are currently playing the violin, but are thinking about picking up another instrument besides their main hobby. Next to the piano, the guitar is one of the most popular instruments for violinists to pick up.
Some of you might also still be on the brink of choosing which instrument to learn: the guitar or the violin.
In this article, I will give you a comparison between the violin and the guitar – and which one I think is easier to learn.
As most of you know, I have been playing the violin for almost 20 years at this point. But one of the other instruments that I love to practice is the guitar. 14 years ago, I got an old guitar from my dad and started practicing. Since then, I have enjoyed playing the guitar at jam sessions, campfires, and school bands. I still use my guitar regularly to accompany my violin students.
I hope this post will help you get a better idea of the differences between the guitar and violin – and which instrument is harder to learn.
The 12 Differences Between a Violin and a Guitar
To understand what it is like to learn both violin and guitar, the first thing to understand is the differences between these instruments.
Let’s quickly recap the 12 differences between a guitar and a violin that I have discussed in a previous article:
- A violin has four strings, a guitar has six strings
- Guitars only have pegs, violins also use fine tuners
- Guitars have fretboards, violins have a fingerboard
- Violins are smaller than guitars
- Violins sound louder than guitars
- The range of a violin is bigger than a guitar
- The dynamic differences are larger on a violin
- On a guitar you are using a pick or your fingers, on the violin you are using a bow
- The guitar is a chord instrument, the violin a solo instrument
- The violin is a more social instrument
- The guitar playing position is more comfortable
- Violins are more expensive than guitars
If you want to read about these differences in more detail, check out my article “Differences Between a Violin and a Guitar”.
Is The Violin Harder To Learn Than The Guitar?
Now you understand more about the differences, I want to address the question that so many of my readers, violin students, and acquaintances are curious about!
“Is the violin harder to learn than the guitar?”
The short answer is: Yes, the violin is harder to learn than the guitar. There are several reasons for that. First of all, the violin does not have a fretboard, which means you will have to find every tone by ear. Secondly, creating a beautiful sound with a violin bow is very challenging, which makes many beginners struggle to play even one note beautifully.
However, my full answer is more complicated than that!
Both Violin and Guitar are Endlessly Difficult
If you want to play any instrument at a professional level, it does not matter which instrument you choose in terms of difficulty.
The reason for this is that all instruments are endlessly difficult. You can compare learning an instrument at a professional level to becoming a professional athlete: there is no limit to how well you can perform. You can always jump a little higher, swim a little faster, or do a more impressive trick. A professional athlete would never say, “I am fast and strong enough – I am done practicing now.” Everyone at that level always strives to improve their skills and break new records.
The same is true for musicians. There is always a way to play a passage a little more musically, a little faster, or a little more precisely. That is why even the best players in the world – no matter whether it is the violin or guitar – are usually still practicing many hours a day, decades after they started.
In that sense, you could say that no matter which instrument you choose, each one will take more than a lifetime to learn.
Why I Still Believe Guitar is Easier than Violin for Most
Even though learning both instruments can be endlessly difficult, I still believe the guitar is easier to learn than the violin.
The reason for this is that most people who pick up one of the two instruments do not have the goal to become a professional guitar or violin player. Many would simply like to play their favorite songs, join a local jam session, or play with friends.
On the guitar, I experienced that you can see the results of your practice significantly faster than on a violin. There are a few reasons for that:
1. It is easy to play in tune on a guitar
As the violin has a fingerboard without any frets, finding the correct notes is considerably harder. Thanks to the frets on a guitar, you will play in tune from your first day of playing, which saves you a lot of time and effort.
I explain the process of finding the right notes on the violin and why this is so challenging in more detail in my article “Why Is Playing the Violin so Hard?”.
2. Making a good tone is easier on a guitar
As you are playing the guitar with your hands instead of with a bow, the movement you need to make in order to play the tones is more natural.
Most guitar students will be able to strum a beautiful-sounding chord within one month of practice.
Violinists can sometimes take years to get a beautiful tone, as it is hard to play with a violin bow without scratching and squeaking.
3. Learning chords is easier than learning solos
On a guitar, you can learn both chords and solos. Solos are when you are playing either an improvised or existing melody.
Chords are several notes played at the same time, that sound in beautiful harmony. Chords are often used to accompany people who are singing songs.
There are 12 basic guitar chords, with which you can learn to accompany almost any pop song. It means that if you learn only 12 chords, you can play more than 1000 songs on the guitar!
Even if you learn only four chords, you can already play these 50 songs on the guitar:
On the violin, you will have to study the melody of each piece from scratch each time you start playing.
It is a bit similar to learning how to play solos on a guitar – which is a lot more challenging. Most guitar players only start learning to play solos after reaching an intermediate playing level. Many guitarists enjoy playing chords so much that they never get around to learning how to play solos.
As violinists have no other option besides learning to play solos, they will often take many more years before they build a repertoire of songs.
It would be similar to a guitarist starting to play solos from the very beginning. Although that would be possible, it would also take a lot longer for a guitar player to play anything that sounds decent.
4. Guitar resources and guitars are more readily available
There are a lot more free resources for learning the guitar than the violin. This makes learning the guitar more easily accessible for many people around the world.
I feel like this is quickly changing. I have noticed that more and more violin teachers are creating blogs and YouTube channels. As a fellow violin teacher blogger, I am happy to see this development, as it will encourage a lot more people to start learning!
Also, guitars and guitar accessories tend to be cheaper and more accessible around the world. Many people will easily be able to pick up a second-hand guitar, while finding a violin can be a lot harder.
Fiddle Players Have Less Competition
The reason for violin (or fiddle, in this case) being an easier instrument to earn a living with is that there is currently less competition. There are many guitar players that play folk, pop, and jazz music, but not as many violin players. As a result, there are a lot more gigs available for violinists to play as a fiddle player or improvisational violinist.
Most violin players decide to learn classical music. The classical music industry is extremely competitive. I would say it is close to impossible for any adult starter to make it in classical music without being classically trained from a young age.
However, if you learn to play fiddle music to a pretty high level, you are normally able to find at least some gigs as a violin player.
Making a Living With Music is Possible, Also for Adult Starters
Throughout my life, from visiting various jam sessions and folk festivals, I have met several individuals who are making a living as a fiddle player after learning to play the violin as an adult.
Even though I would consider the violin to be an easier instrument to make a living with, it is also possible to make a living from playing the guitar if you start playing as an adult.
I have also met a few guitarists who were able to make a living from playing guitar, after starting as an adult. Most of them were either accompanists (playing chords, accompanying other solo players) or singer-songwriters. It seems to be easier to make a living as a guitarist if you can also sing well.
Of course, bear in mind that you will have to play at a pretty high standard to make a living with any instrument. All of these individuals have spent many hours and years practicing before they were able to start making a (part-time) living with music.
Violin vs Guitar FAQ
I asked readers what they still wanted to know about the violin, the guitar, and their differences. These were the questions I received, with my answers for each question.
Can you use a violin as a guitar?
Yes, you can use a violin as a guitar. Instead of using the bow, you are able to strum chords on the violin with your right hand.
The sound of playing chords on the violin will be different from the sound of a guitar. Guitars are made for strumming chords and tend to sound a lot more beautiful.
Violinists can use mandolin chord charts to learn where the violin chord fingerings are, as mandolins have exactly the same string tunings (E – A – D – G) as a violin.
Is violin easier than guitar?
Playing the violin is not easier than playing the guitar. The reason for that is that even though you are playing only one note at a time (as opposed to multiple notes on the guitar), finding the notes on a violin is a lot harder. There are no frets on the violin, which makes it hard to play in tune.
Which one is better: violin or guitar?
Both guitar and violin have great qualities and advantages. Playing the guitar is great because you can learn how to play chords and accompany yourself and others when singing or playing songs. The violin is a beautiful instrument that you can use to play both solos and in orchestras. Which instrument is better in your personal situation will depend on your preferences. If you like the sound of a violin and would love to play in an orchestra, playing the violin would be a great option. If you love accompanying yourself and others when singing pop music or writing your own songs, you will probably love the guitar!
How much is a violin?
The least expensive, but still good enough violins I found on second-hand websites (such as eBay) were about 100 euros (120 dollars) for a violin with all required accessories.
What happens if you play a guitar like a violin (with a bow)?
Some bands, such as Sigur Rós, use a bow on a guitar to create a beautiful, mysterious sound.
If you play a guitar with a bow like a violin, you will immediately notice that this is very difficult! The guitar strings are all parallel to each other and lie in one straight line. Violin strings lie over a bridge, which has a curved shape. That results in all the strings lying at a different angle. This angle makes it easy to play only one string at a time. As the guitar does not have a bridge, it is not possible to play only one string at a time with a bow. However, creating atmospheric sounds, chopping sounds, and chords is possible. Here you can see an example of the sound that you hear when you use a bow to play the guitar strings:
Is it hard to play the guitar?
To play any instrument is challenging in the beginning, but can be learned with practice and patience.
In order to start learning the guitar, I recommend you start learning the most common chords. The first two chords I learned when starting to play the guitar were the A Major chord and the E Minor chord.
From these chords, you can continue your learning process to learn as many other chords as you can.