Deciding which instrument you want to play is always tricky since there are so many wonderful choices, each with their own unique sound.
For many starting in the field of music, the ease or difficulty learning a particular instrument is a critical contender in their ultimate decision.
The flute, at a beginner’s level, is much easier to learn and to play than the piano because the piano is one of the most challenging instruments to master. The musical range of the flute is far more limited than the piano, and the main elements of flute you will need to master are breath control and finger placement.
Still, there are advantages to learning the piano first. To understand why the flute is easier than the piano, we will examine each instrument and get a better feel of what their advantages and disadvantages are so you can decide where you want to begin.
How to Choose the Right Instrument for You
In an ideal world, people would be able to pick up any instrument they fancy and play; however, the reality of playing an instrument is far from that simple.
Learning to play an instrument well takes time, dedication, and money. As such, we sometimes have to make hard decisions and choose just one or two instruments to play.
The recorder, which is a woodwind instrument like the flute, is one of the most commonly played instruments in schools across the world as an introductory instrument (source).
After the recorder, the flute is considered one of the more straightforward woodwind instruments to learn along with the clarinet and the alto saxophone (source).
What makes these instruments easier is that the player, equipped with large enough hands, can to learn to play notes and songs relatively quickly. These melodies, while lovely, lack the complexities and musical depths offered by instruments, like the piano.
What makes the piano sound so unique is that it has 88 keys and hundreds of strings (source).
The piano is also often learned from a young age, and this is advantageous for several reasons. For one, it can aid with language learning and brain development through the different tones and pitches of the piano.
This is true for all instruments, though. Research has found that learning to play any instrument can be beneficial for both your mental and physical health.
A study done by a Harvard neurologist back in 2003 showed that learning to play a musical instrument actually causes your brain to grow (source).
You can take pleasure in the fact that no matter which instrument you end up choosing, it will be great for both your physical and mental well-being.
Learning to play the flute takes time and patience as well as the ability to master some physical challenges. However, there are many benefits to making it your instrument of choice.
The Advantages of Playing the Flute
While you do still need to know some music theory to play the flute, it is a lot less complicated.
As flutes are not polyphonic, they do not require you to produce more than a single note at a time. This means you don’t need to know how to play chords or read complex sheet music.
At the same time, flutes are known for their ability to be part of a wonderfully wide range of different music styles.
Due to their long and colorful history, they have influenced many music styles from across the world, including in Asian, Native American, and Irish cultures (source).
Flutes are not limited to classical styles; they are also used in rock, blues, jazz, and many other genres.
Not only is the flute versatile in the number of genres that it can fit into, but it is also effortless to pack up and take with you wherever you go.
The Challenges of Playing the Flute
As the flute is a wind instrument, you are required to use your breath to create the sounds yourself. To excel at the flute requires an extra level of discipline.
To get the most out of the flute, you will need to make time for breathing exercises to expand your lungs and strengthen the wall muscles in your chest.
Lip and Tongue Technique
As you will need to master breath control, you will also need to acquire the right lip and tongue placement when playing the flute.
Incorrect placement can mean that not enough air makes it into the instrument, which will significantly diminish the quality of your sound.
Holding and playing the flute means keeping your arms elevated and at an asymmetrical angle for an extended period, which can be very physically demanding. It’s thus important to practice good habits to limit injury potential.
There is a condition known as playing-related musculoskeletal disorder (PRMD), from which flute players can suffer. This disorder can affect areas such as the wrist, arms, and hands, as well as the neck, shoulders, and parts of the back (source).
Make sure that you have a practice routine and don’t let it get interrupted or postponed. The best way to learn the flute is through practice, so you need to make it your priority.
How long it will take to learn the flute will largely depend on how much time you give to practice as well as an individual’s own learning speed. For more information, read our article, “How Long Will it Take to Learn Flute?”
As a more sophisticated instrument, the piano does require more time and commitment than other instruments. However, the sound quality produced by the piano makes it an exceedingly popular choice in the music world.
The Advantages of Playing the Piano
Sound Quality and Depth
Unlike many other instruments, pianos can play more than a single note at a time, thus creating a greater depth of sound. This means other instruments can accompany the piano, but it doesn’t have to be accompanied; it’s great on its own.
You Can Sing-A-Long
If you enjoy singing and are considering a career in music, then the piano is an excellent choice for you because it allows you to sing along while you play. Singing simply isn’t possible if you are playing a wind instrument.
Playing the piano means that you will develop some seriously fast fingers and increased dexterity. It can be your new superpower.
The Challenges of Playing the Piano
The musical theory for a piano can be quite complex. As it is a polyphonic instrument, you need to know how to read music in blocks as opposed to simple lines. There are also various rhythm patterns that one must learn to master (source).
While reading piano sheet music may be more complicated than other instruments, you can master it with time and practice.
Owning Your Own Piano
Unlike other instruments, pianos are not able to be easily moved from one place to another. A such, if you want to practice from home, you will need to consider investing in your own piano.
You can usually pick up a basic, beginner, upright piano for a little less than $10 000, while a grand piano can range anywhere from $40,000 to $150,000. The brand you choose will obviously affect the price, and so will the size, materials, and condition (source).
You also need to consider if you have space in your home for a piano. You will also require time to keep the instrument tuned and maintained.
Time and Patience
Learning to play the piano will take more time than other instruments, and you will require more patience. The Piano Teacher’s Federation recommends that you set your practice schedule based on age, level, and ambition (source).
Younger children should practice for shorter periods; however, teens and adults who have greater patience, stamina, and motivation can practice for more extended periods.
If you are learning piano at an older age, then you may struggle with the required amount of finger movements. Learning the piano from a younger age means that your hands are trained, and muscle memory is formed early on (source).
There is also a certain amount of footwork required with playing the piano, so you have to consider leg strength as well.
The flute and the piano both have their advantages and disadvantages. While flute is easier to play as a beginner, its musical range is limited, and it requires you to learn to master breath control.
The piano has a beautiful depth of sound but is a more sophisticated instrument that requires more time, practice, and dedication to become a successful player.
All of these points are important to consider when choosing between the flute and the piano. It will invariably come down to the amount of time you have to commit, the access you have to the instruments, and the type of music you wish to play.