10 Most Difficult Instruments to Learn

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Embarking on the journey to learn a musical instrument is both exciting and demanding. It requires time, effort, passion, and, in some instances, the willingness to conquer steep learning curves. Among the multitude of instruments that populate the musical world, a select few pose unique and formidable challenges to aspiring musicians. These instruments test the dexterity, patience, and musical prowess of those brave enough to take them on.

10 – Trumpet

Fragment Of The Trumpet In The Orchestra Close Up In Gold
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You have limited guidance from the instrument in order to hit notes accurately. You have three valve keys that let you play notes within an octave, but to change octaves or offer a wider range of pitches, trumpeters must master playing with their lips. Even starting to play on the trumpet takes a while. Most beginners blow air while struggling to get any sound out of their trumpet.

9 – Guitar

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A popular instrument in its own right due to its use in alternative, rock, country, and other music, the guitar is a relatively easy instrument to learn, but a hard instrument to master. Many young guitarists pick up the guitar because their favorite musicians in rock bands play guitar.

The frets make it easy to play notes accurately (unlike the violin), but mastering the chords, rhythm, timing, and skilled playing can take years. Chords in particular present a challenge to new players who may be used to playing solo notes on other instruments. There’s a reason most bands start in garages with many hours of practice.

Classics like ‘Hey There Delilah’ or ‘Seven Nation Army’ are very simple melodies and can be played within an hour of practice. However, advanced pieces like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or ‘Enter Sandman’ can take years and decades to be able to play.

8 – Drums

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Drums can be easy or hard to learn depending on what you’re looking to play. If all you want to learn is a simple beat for a garage band, they’re not difficult to master. However, if you want to become a solo drummer. Rock and punk tend to have easier beats (and are thus easier to learn) than jazz, so we recommend beginner drummers begin with rock or punk to master different tempos.

To learn drums, you should be ambidextrous and have good coordination. Hitting notes at the right time in the right place on the drum with your hands while simultaneously keeping different beats with your feet can be quite difficult.

You can spend decades learning drums (and different types including bass drum, snare drum, etc.) and never be an elite drummer. But you will make any band happy!

7 – Oboe

Hands Of A Musician Playing The Oboe In An Orchestra
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Oboe is not a beginner’s instrument. Most people who start playing the oboe start on a different instrument first. The most challenging part about playing the oboe is to have correct embouchure which requires skillful flipping and controlled airflow. Hopefully, this means that if you decide to start playing oboe then you are more likely to keep playing for a while. That way you can invest in a well-made oboe and not feel like you are wasting money. The oboe can be extremely difficult because of its often counterintuitive technique, issues with reeds, and the lack of experienced teachers and materials for the instrument. It requires a lot of restrained breathing, mastery of a double reed, and difficult passages.

6 – Bassoon

Fragment Bassoons In A Symphony Orchestra
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Bassoons are notoriously tricky to play due to their double reed and size. Woodwind instruments are notoriously hard to play, but the bassoon is on another level. It’s hard to find a competent bassoon player who hasn’t given up and started playing the oboe. The height of bassoons usually requires someone with height or extreme dexterity in order to navigate the up to 28 keys. The double reed requires the dexterity of the tongue and lips, something that already requires years of practice. It’s safe to say that the bassoon is not usually someone’s first instrument.

5 – Accordion

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Reminiscent of meandering European streets, the accordion is definitely a fun instrument to play. However, be wary of how difficult it is to learn. Some people compare playing the accordion to playing piano and bagpipes at the same time. Accordion requires coordination of arms and fingers to push and pull the accordion together to fill the bellows while also playing the piano keys on the side and pushing the buttons if necessary.

Accordions may be fun instruments, but they can be quite frustrating for kids due to the many steps needed to produce sound and the clunkiness of the instrument. Since it’s not a very common instrument, it can be hard to find a teacher who can teach you how to play the instrument. YouTube and practice are one of the best ways to master the accordion.

4 – Harp

Hands Playing Wooden Harp On Black Background
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Harps may sound magical, especially when played by accomplished harpists. However, the 47 strings on a standard harp need to be plucked exactly right. That’s a lot of plucking! Harpists need flexibility and endurance to reach and play all of the notes.

Learning which strings to pluck, memorizing melodies, and being able to play at breakneck speed as many orchestral arrangements require from harps requires years of practice. However, once mastered you can impress your friends with heavenly music!

3 – Pipe Organ

Close Up View Of A Organist Playing A Pipe Organ
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Best known for being played during church service, the organ takes playing the piano to a whole new level. Organists have to balance at least five different things at once. From playing several levels of keys, buttons, and foot pedals, the organ can take decades to master. You will need a lot of patience if you want to learn how to play the organ, but it is a worthy undertaking. One challenge with playing the organ, besides the number of keys, is that it doesn’t have a sustain pedal meaning the organist must hold the note for as long as they wish it sound.

2 – French Horn

French Horn During A Classical Concert Music
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Not as popular as many of the instruments on this list, the French horn is an essential part of any band or orchestra. Providing low accompaniment and a surprising number of solos, the French horn takes a long time to master. If you’re looking for an easy brass instrument to play, the French horn is not it.

While you do have a few levers to press to play certain notes, most of the sounds and pitches you make on a French horn require careful movements of the lips which can take years to get right. Even when you do master it, your playing has to be perfect in order to project properly in an orchestral setting.

1 – Violin: Hardest Instrument to Learn and Play

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The violin is the most challenging instrument to play. Don’t believe us? Check out this TwoSetViolin video listing why the violin is so hard. Learning where the notes are to play in tune takes years since there are no frets or keys to guide you. Also, the strings are so close together that beginners often have challenges only playing on one string at a time. Add the right-hand violin bow movements on top of the left-hand fingering and shifting and you have a challenging eye-hand coordination problem. Then there’s the posture you must maintain while playing. It usually takes beginners several years to develop a sound and tone that doesn’t sound like nails on a chalkboard.

Playing the violin may seem easy when you watch professional violinists who play elegantly and perfectly. However, if you’ve ever picked up a violin you will know just how difficult it is.

Violin is the most difficult instrument and this difficulty extends to its cousins the viola, cello, and double bass as well. All of these instruments require years to master and careful coordination between the left hand and right hand.

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