Learning to play an instrument can be a great experience, and there are some instruments that will take minimal effort or time to learn. Though, where is the fun in that?
Learning to play a difficult instrument can be a frustratingly long process, with many difficulties, obstacles and pitfalls. However, we can assure you that it is a far more rewarding experience.
Be sure to check out the list of the 10 hardest instruments to play below if you’re looking for a fun challenge!
What Makes An Instrument Hard To Play?
First, let’s discuss what actually makes certain instruments harder to play than others.
Learning how to read music can be one of the most frustrating things about learning an instrument. It is surprisingly theoretical and mathematical, and there are a number of different ways that music can be written.
Though learning how to read music well isn’t a necessity for some instruments, like the guitar or piano, if you plan to play an instrument within an orchestra or other musical group, learning how to read music is integral.
In fact, learning how to understand your own music, and that of those you play with, will often be necessary.
Playing some musical instruments is surprisingly physical. For woodwind and brass instruments, you often need excellent control over your breath, and a good lung capacity. Similarly, percussion instruments, such as the drums, require excellent overall stamina and strength.
Most instruments (perhaps except the triangle), take time and effort to learn. Although, some particularly difficult instruments will take an extra amount of practice time than others.
For instance, consider the French Horn. Though it might appear as if someone is just blowing into a wavy tube and pressing a few buttons, playing it consists of so much more than that.
You need to learn how to use your lips and tongue in the required way. You need to understand how to control your breathing well. There are a wide array of technical skills you need to master, before you can even start sounding good.
Finally, people often go into learning an instrument with particularly unrealistic expectations. This is often because people who can play instruments well make it look incredibly easy and effortless.
Sometimes, they might even act as if playing the instrument that well is nothing (especially if we’re talking about that guy at the party who enjoys picking up a guitar).
Though, however easy someone may make playing an instrument seem, we can assure you, they have practiced extensively, compromised on other commitments, and spent months or years sounding, well, rubbish.
Learning to play an instrument, especially a complex one, is hard. However, it is an incredibly rewarding experience, and we wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a go!
The Top 10 Hardest Instruments To Play
When people play the violin well, it looks incredibly elegant and sounds very moving. However, good violinists are often making a very difficult, technical task look easy. In fact, violinists spend years and years honing their skills.
The violin has to be rested in quite an uncomfortable head position, which is often a source of difficulty for many beginners. To play the violin, you have to position it over your shoulder and just under your chin. It is a very tricky position to hold, but necessary in order to play the violin properly.
Likewise, to play the violin, you need to get to grips with using the bow. In particular, the particular position and pressure are important skills you need to master. To avoid those awful screechy sounds, you need to practice placing the bow in the right position on the strings.
Once you’ve placed the bow on the strings, you need to apply just the right amount of pressure to produce the desired sound. The violin produces V-shaped vibrations, called the Helmholtz motion.
In order to produce this effect, the pressure you put on the bow needs to be just enough to avoid sounding too airy, and not too much as to produce a raucous sound.
Though the violin is a hard instrument to play, if you want to learn it, the outcome is definitely worth the difficulty. Perseverance and practice is all that’s required!
Bagpipes are a particularly interesting instrument, often feeling quite comical. However, they are actually a very difficult instrument to play.
First, to play the bagpipes, you need a very decent lung capacity. To produce the classic bagpipe sound, you blow through the mouthpiece. Then, that air inflates the large bag. However, this bag must be inflated for around 25 seconds to produce the sound, which requires a lot of breath!
The level of air pressure within the bag is also very important. For experienced bagpipe players, this has likely become a rather intuitive task. Although, for beginners, it will be very difficult to gauge the right air pressure. If the air pressure is wrong, the bagpipe will sound out of tune and potentially pitchy.
In order to not disturb the air pressure within the bag, bagpipe players must also use their arms to compress the bag and bellows. Although, it is difficult to coordinate these two movements, especially as you shouldn’t sync these movements to the sound of the music.
Finally, if all that wasn’t enough, playing the bagpipes also includes mastering a tricky fingering technique. As the instrument is always producing sound with no rests, it is necessary to play quick grace notes. Although, these notes are very hard to get right due to a super complicated finger position and tricky timings.
Playing the bagpipes looks like a whole lot of fun, but in reality, it is a very taxing activity. Though, I can imagine that nothing would impress your friends more than if you were able to smash out a song on the bagpipes mid party, and put that guitar guy to shame!
Though you don’t have to worry so much about tuning issues with an organ, and thus, could probably manage to play a few notes without it sounding awful, it is a very difficult instrument to master.
First, organs tend to have multiple keyboards. Generally, they have two to three, although they can have up to twelve! On each keyboard, there can be up to 102 keys. Therefore, there are a lot of factors to consider when you’re playing the organ.
In particular, reaching upwards to reach some of the keys, in addition to moving to the right and left, is a particularly challenging skill to get the hang of.
Each keyboard on an organ produces a different kind of sound. As such, the more keyboards you have, the more tones you have to contend with and control. Therefore, being able to read music incredibly well is necessary when playing the organ.
Organs are incredibly complex instruments which require a very wide variety of different skills to master. It requires years to simply learn the ins and outs of an organ, let alone actually make it sound great, and due to its particular sound and obvious movement restrictions, it takes a special amount of dedication and love to want to put the necessary time in.
Harps are probably the most beautiful, ethereal and simply gorgeous sounding instruments in the world. The people who play them often do so with such grace and elegance that it would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they are fairly easy and enjoyable to play.
However, they happen to be very complex instruments that take years of practice to master.
A harp can have from 22 to around 40 strings, which is roughly six times more than the guitar! In addition to dealing with all of the strings, there are also harps with pedals. These pedals change the sound of the note you play with the strings by sharpening or dampening it. This process requires excellent coordination and can be very tricky to grasp for beginners.
The harp is also difficult to learn due to its inaccessibility. Harps are large, and very expensive instruments, and a knowledgeable teacher is a must when you’re learning to play (and these don’t come cheap either).
As such, learning the harp can be very challenging. However, if you have access to the right things, we suggest you give it a go, as it produces one of the most beautiful sounds ever.
You likely associate the accordion with drunken merry men or occasions like Oktoberfest. Despite their fun appearance and sound, they are actually quite a complex instrument to play.
There are so many features of an accordion. The most important and the most obvious is the bellows. The movement of the bellows is what provides the airy accordion sound that we are all familiar with. If you don’t know how to move this properly, the sound coming out of the accordion will be substandard.
Just mastering the bellows takes a lot of time. Although, you also have to grapple with its other components. Your right and left hands will be playing different instruments, as well as working together to move the bellows.
This is an incredibly complicated process! When the weight of the instrument is also taken into consideration, the accordion just seems down right impossible to master. An accordion can weigh up to 35 pounds!
To be a masterful accordion player, strength, patience and excellent coordination are a must. However, these are skills that can be learnt. You just need to practice… a lot!
The French Horn has to be one of the coolest looking instruments out there. With its iconic golden, twisted pipes, it is definitely hard to miss. Although, the French horn is also one of the most confusing instruments to learn to play.
First of all, the required shape that your lips make around the mouthpiece is very specific, and often takes time to learn. This is because it is quite a difficult skill to teach. However, it is a very important part of playing the instrument, as the French horn needs a continuous flow of air.
In addition, the fingering technique used for the French horn is quite specific. Pressing different combinations of valve keys will generate different notes, which is made harder due to the closeness of some of the notes.
Also, the amount of pressure you use when pressing the valve keys will affect the tone produced by the instrument.
Whilst playing the French horn, being particularly aware of the tempo of the music is necessary, but challenging. Due to the way it is constructed, the sound coming from the French horn can sound a little delayed. As such, French horn players must always be anticipating the next note.
Though an incredibly complicated instrument to learn, the French horn is arguably one of the best and most fun brass instruments. It is unique to all other instruments in its section, and is very diverse in its range. It’s definitely worth giving it a try!
Drummers are often considered to be some of the coolest, most laid-back musicians ever. However, playing the drums isn’t as easy as whacking some sticks against a few hollow barrels. It is actually one of the most physically demanding and tricky instruments to learn.
Drummers always look as if they’re in such good shape – and it’s no surprise why, when you understand the strength required to play the drums. A single drum set can have a lot of components, and you need decent muscle strength to be able to continue hitting the different components for an extended period of time.
Rhythm and coordination are also important skills to learn. Drums set and keep the rhythm for the length of a performance, and thus, being able to keep rhythm as a drummer is completely necessary.
Though, to do so, you also need excellent coordination. Your arms and feet will be working to keep time, but they will all be doing different things. This is especially difficult when playing at faster tempos.
You might also be surprised to hear that drummers do have to follow sheet music. Actually, they have their own specific type of sheet music that they need to learn. The sheet music tells the drummer when to beat the different parts of the drum.
To get used to all of these factors it can take years. Although, there is no question that being a drummer in some kind of musical group looks like one of the most fun things you can do. Just make sure you start learning with realistic expectations… and maybe warn your neighbours!
The bassoon isn’t a particularly popular instrument, so don’t be embarrassed if you haven’t even heard of one. They are woodwind instruments, which produce wonderfully rich sounds. However, they are definitely one of the hardest woodwind instruments to get to grips with.
The appearance of the bassoon may even be enough to put you off trying to learn it. It resembles something similar to a wooden saxophone, is double reeded, and really quite big!
To play the bassoon, you need to understand how to produce reeds, balance them with care, and to give them rest time. The double reeds of a bassoon are different from others, and need to be changed over time. Adapting to this change is not easy, and baffles even bassoonists who have been learning for a while.
There are also physical difficulties when learning to play the bassoon. First, all ten fingers are required, which demands a lot of coordination! Secondly, to play the bassoon, you need to be fairly tall.
Bassoons are large, and extra height will aid in navigating the number of keys. Finally, like other woodwind or brass instruments, the proper use of the lips and tongue is very difficult to learn.
Learning how to play the bassoon as a first instrument might be a little too much. However, there is no reason why you can’t start with an easier woodwind, and move onto the bassoon when you feel ready. It is a very unique instrument, which is perfect if you’re hoping to learn something different.
Now, you might think that playing the piano cant be hard at all. I mean, you’ve probably seen young teens crack out one of the songs from Twilight or something written by Adele, so, how hard can it be?
Playing an acoustic piano is actually far from simple. First of all, mastering the skill of playing one thing with your left hand, and another with your right, is a lot more difficult than it looks.
You have to train your nondominant hand to be just as capable as your dominant hand, and then learn to coordinate both hands. This takes a lot of time and practice.
Also, it’s not just the hands that you have to worry about. There are generally three pedals to use on a piano, which need to be coordinated with the hand movements. These pedals change the sound of the music by either sustaining notes, or dampening them.
Finally, being able to read sheet music well is generally a necessity. Even though you can definitely learn without being able to read it, to truly master the instrument, it’s best to thoroughly understand and follow the notes on the paper.
However, the sheet music for a piano is quite unique, and there is a lot to look at and follow.
With all that being said, the piano has to be one of the most beautiful instruments around, and its versatility makes it such a fun one to learn. If you’re interested in playing Mozart and Bach just as much as you are Elton John or the Beatles, the piano is definitely a good bet!
The guitar has to be one of the most popular instruments today, and it’s easy to see why! With prominent musicians generally using the guitar to construct and perform their songs, it is a great choice if you want to be able to play up-to-date songs. However, it really isn’t as easy as it seems.
Though strumming a simple melody might feel easy, to truly be a good guitar player, the fingering techniques you need to master are super tricky to grasp. Switching quickly between individual notes or even chords requires a lot of practice, and will sound clunky for a long time whilst you do so.
As a side note, when you first start playing, it might feel super painful for your fingers, due to the pressure you have to put on the strings.
Although, unlike some of the other instruments in this list, there are so many resources available to teach yourself guitar. So, even though it will take an extensive amount of time, patience and effort, it is definitely possible to learn how to play the guitar by yourself.
Being able to play a musical instrument is an awesome skill. In addition to being able to produce wonderful music, it will strengthen a lot of your other skills, such as confidence, logic, and quick thinking, just to name a few!
If you chose a harder instrument to learn, though it will be a long process, you will likely feel the benefits even more so!