Hardest Instruments to Play


The Top Ten

1 Violin Violin The violin is a wooden string instrument in the violin family. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family in regular use.

I've been playing violin since I was 5 maybe 6 and I am now 13 so yeah it's hard from my standpoint of view but I also played or still play piano which is also hard having the small hands I do and leading from the beginning from the beginning as any instruments is. I also play the French horn with I have to admit is hard but it's getting to the extreme high or low notes that makes I that getting a legit note is relatively easy compared to the flute which I'm trying (in vain) to learn. I think the violin is really hard at all levels because when you tart off its hard because of learning how to hold it or where to place your fibers or just endurance. How long can you hold a violin up. I started in 1st grade and I was (and still am) pretty weak. You also have to learn to grow calluses on your finger tips. Yes I know that with all instruments it is constantly getting harder the longer you stay with it but with violin there's constantly a new thing to be learned. (Higher positions, ...more

I have been playing the wonderful and amazing violin since I was six. I am seventeen now. And I am nearly not as good as some amazing people out there like my favorite artist of all time. Lindsey Stirling, a girl who is just AMAZING at violin, she plays all of classical, fiddle if you please, and... Dubstep. What more could you ask of an instrument that cool? I love to play the violin, and it is for SURE the most difficult instrument to play. You have to keep the bow strait, tune to the exact, you have to keep your fingers in the right places our you sound like a dying cat that is being attacked by a bear. You have to keep rhythm, you have to sit striate, feet in front of you. To make the notes sound even more extravagant, you have to vibrato, and then shift into positions that are very high. Drones, and fast fingering and bowing and double stops and trillings and playing soft as a butterfly's wings then BAM! Louder than a drum in just seconds. You have to be very talented to play the ...more

Part of that you have to do exactly on horn, and most comply with the horn in the same way. You have to make sure it is the right note because you can easily spot if the sound is wrong or right on the violin, but with the French horn it is different. It takes a very skilled person to know the notes because all the notes are so close together. Also, playing songs with the valves is very complex and takes a very long time to master before you can play off-hand.

It is obvious that this survey is completely biased towards the guitar and piano since it is a common instrument to play and people want to protect their dignity. It is very clear that the violin is the hardest instrument to play and I am not biased because I used to practice with the guitar and the piano. For the piano, every note you press is "correct" while the violin can be slightly sharp or flat. Is there a lot more technical difficulty on the violin? Definitely yes (staccato, harmonics, plucking, greater difficulty playing chords, shifting positions to reach insane notes. ) Yes, the piano can be hard to play, but it does not measure up to the violin. As for the guitar, it is quite difficult to play upon a MASTER level, but most people play it to play mainstream stupid stuff like some jack johnson song. Definitely not hard. However, there are two things that make the violin much harder than the guitar: the position the violin is held and the bow. You would be surprised ...more

You're rather uneducated in the field of brass instruments to believe that the trumpet doesn't deserve a high place. Though I agree that the violin and piano are very difficult instruments, I can confirm to you that pitching and tone quality on the trumpet are very hard. I tell you this from experience having played, some of which I am still playing, the violin, piano, French horn as well as tenor horn, and attempted the trumpet. I can not comment on the cello however, but do not be an ignoramus as to speak down on the trumpet.

It is the most hardest instrument to learn the C scale took me about 3 weeks to learn

V 364 Comments
2 French Horn

French Horn is definitely the hardest instrument to play. You can play practically every note without any keys down. The Partials are extremely close together. A high F and a high G, notes right next to each other, are the same fingering which means you have to use your mouth to move between them. Which brings in the lip trill, which is awful. My student teacher said it best when he said horn players have to have an ego, if you are the least bit unconfident, you will crack on about every single note. If you have the confidence, you won't crack. You also have to hear the note before you play it or it will be the wrong note/partial. Plus Horn has the tiniest mouth piece ever which are smaller than a bottle's opening. Then horn plays a lot of the wood wind stuff, like trills and running sixteenth notes and thirty second notes, which most of the time has to be tongued by double or triple tonguing. Also, the fingerings for notes in different octaves aren't the same, and we have about seven ...more

I have not played the horn for very long. The thing with this instrument is that it plays in both treble and bass clef. Another thing is splits where you get the option to play low or high. I always play low because the lower register is really cool. And I have to use just as much air as the high notes

Having played the french horn for four years, I know it's hard. The combination of forming your hand right and putting it in the proper place, making your lips exactly right (if its even a fraction wrong your note is flat or sharp or even a different note), remembering the different fingerings for every octave, and using enough air to push through all of that horn is so hard. It took me hours and weeks of practicing to get the smooth sound the french horn is known for, and some people in my grade and above still haven't gotten that sound. I mean, I can't make a sound out of a clarinet but that's because different mouth types are required for different instruments. But anyone who thinks that finding the right note when they are so close together with such a small mouthpiece and then using enough air to make a warm tone and make it loud is easy are so wrong. There is also slurring, which if you're not careful will come out bumpy and with cracked notes, stacatto can be tongued too hard ...more

I am a French horn player. I have played most of the instruments out there, and by far the French horn was the most difficult to me! However, my mom said I always had a natural thing with French horns, not to mention, all of my family has played the French horn; so I was kinda born into it! I have worked with a handful of major league conductors, and they all claimed that the French horn is the hardest instrument to play! And this is why. French horns have a tendency of close notes, now everyone is probably questioning it. Close notes on a French horn is probably the most hardest, because there are three keys. That's not it, because you have to use your lips to adjust the sound on a small mouth piece, however, on a violin there are strings and they don't have to use your mouth nor a mouth piece! Not everyone has the lips to play a French horn. Most techniques such as, articulation, pitch, rhythm, skill, and much more is probably other difficult and most hardest parts of the French ...more

French Horn is extremely difficult to play. If you even manage to make a sound out of it, there are many wrong notes you can hit. If you're switching octaves and are even the slightest bit off, you could end up playing a completely different note. For some notes involving no keys, the amount of force that you blow with could change the note in an instant. For example, G,C, and E are all played open. D,F#, and B flat are all played with the first key.

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3 Piano Piano The piano is a musical instrument played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands.

"The piano is the easiest instrument to play in the beginning, and the hardest to master in the end."

-Vladimir Horowitz

Indeed, playing the piano seems very simple, especially at a beginner level. You take a finger, press a note and it plays, perfectly in-key (well, usually). You release it, and the note stops. You just press the right keys at the right time and you have a song, right? Well, the further you get in your piano career, the more you realize it's not quite that simple.

The first part of what makes the piano the most difficult instrument is the technical aspect. You are playing with both hands at once, and almost never with the same rhythm. You'll find that even playing something technically simple like Minuet in G can be a lot harder than it sounds for an inexperienced player. And all your left hand is doing is playing single quarter notes most of the time! Rhythm is a big challenge when you're a pianist advancing your skills. Polyrhythms, ...more

The pianoforte is indeed the master of all instruments.

At more advanced levels, many factors must be attended to ensure the most precise and eloquent sounding pieces to sound as grand as their orchestral origin, to be able to imitate every instrument played in an ensemble to recreate the piece on one piano is quite a feat. The treble and bass clefs require the pianist to play both hands in conjunction to each other, each individual finger must be controlled and thus playing each key requires a great deal of concentration. The entire body is used to play the piano, not just the hands. The arms, shoulders, torso, legs and feet all control the movement of the piece due to the posture of the pianist, the pedals used to sustain and soften the keys, and the wide range of the piano itself. Learning notes is only the beginning to perfecting a piece on the piano, not only does it require quick thinking on the pianist's part, but the sound of each note being played must be perfected ...more

I have played piano for 11 years, and it took a tremendous amount of time and effort to get to level where I am now. These are the two main reasons why:

1. There is so much competition on the piano, simply because everyone plays it and that there are many talented pianists. You can almost never find a musician who does not play the piano, and many people who are not musicians also play piano. If you tell people that you play piano, they will not be impressed until you sit down and play. Even so, it's extremely hard to stand out in competitions and eventually when applying for college. For college, you are competing against hundreds, or thousands of prospective students who are at the same level as you or higher.

2. Mastering difficult pieces by Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, and Mozart requires all of your concentration. Your tone, interpretation, dynamics, phrasing, tempo, posture, personality, and even the way you carry yourself are things that judges look for. In advanced ...more

I am a drummer, vocalist, and play some guitar. I have had piano lessons and admire those who master it. As a drummer, using different parts of your body seemingly in separate beats is difficult. But the piano, using again different hands, feet etc to bring about harmony and tone is truly a joy to hear but an arduous skill.

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4 Oboe

I've been playing the oboe for almost 5 years and I can say from experience that it is an EXTREMELY difficult instrument to play and especially to master, which I myself have not even done yet. First off, the reed is a constant challenge. It is difficult to go from high to low notes or vice versa because the reed needs to be reed needs to be either more open (low) or closed/pinched (high) to have anything close to the right tone. Also after playing for a while the reed will simply close completely and not make any noise except for some pathetic squeaks. Then there's also a hassle in just keeping the reed moist enough that it produces sound, yet not like slippery from spit, haha. Also because the reed's air hole is so small, there are times where you have to even exhale before inhaling to catch your breath because you don't let enough air out through just playing. Then another reason the oboe should be listed high in the difficulty scale is because the fingerings are completely random, ...more

I totally agree! I have been playing for 2 years and I can not seem to get enough air. I constantly have to take more breaths than the rest of the band earning me glares from my band director for "breaking the frame" Still LOVE the oboe and would not trade it for any other instrument. 😘

I feel like this vote is off and too biased. Not everyone has played all of the instruments listed here and wouldn't know what to judge, they would only pick their own instrument, believing it is the most difficult because it might've been the only instrument they play. I've played, oboe, flute, clarinet, as well as piano. I have been playing oboe for the longest and still currently play it. I have to agree that oboe has been the hardest instrument, and especially the hardest instrument to start out with.

Even after playing for 5 years and practicing daily, it is still very difficult. Reeds are always an issue, and the $12 reeds you buy at your music store don't do justice. Most beginning players don't know and will continue to buy those disgusting reeds at their music store. A few go out, venture online and take a look at the custom made reeds online which was what I did. I tried a few online reed makers, ranging from $15 to $25 usually per reed. I never found any of them to ...more

Again as many people said here, the votes here are generally biased as people tend to vote for their own instrument and never had any experience with others. I've played piano before and sure I can play at a intermediate level and all I had to worry about were my fingers. With the oboe, I was constantly worrying about my fingers, the tone, how much air and support I'm using. On top of that, I have to worry about if I worked on reeds the previous night and if they play well in the playing environment, which leads me to having to pay attention to the temperature and humidity of the playing environment. And if you have wooden oboe, stress levels just increase. You're then constantly worrying about the humidity and temperature of where you store the oboe or else it will crack and it'll be a costly repair. Then prior to playing a wooden oboe, you have to literally put the joints of the oboe in your jacket or under your arms so that you can warm them up before playing, otherwise, you are ...more

As a twelve year oboe player, a player of the piano and more recently the french horn I have to admit that I am still mastering the oboe which although looks and seems easy to play will always be a nuisance when switching between E flat and C sharp. However, the French horn is equally as hard however I have only been playing that for a year.

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5 Flute

I have been playing flute since the fifth grade, going on ten years now, and in the time since then, have gone through patches where I've seriously doubted my ability to play the flute, considered switching to piano or clarinet to rid myself of the still-have-to-verify-what-they-are high notes. Being one of the only flutes in the section to refuse lessons, (I strongly believe in self-reliance when it comes to music) I am the only original fifth grade flutist who has stuck with the instrument. Most of my flutist peers switched to clarinet, French horn, some to trumpet, and yes, even percussion. So much is demanded from the flute; perfect embouchure, 'stomach strength', strict breath control. If it was not mentioned before, this is the most difficult instrument to begin with, especially at a young age. Having volunteered to teach fifth graders in a summer band, only two of the fourteen students could even get a sound out, let alone a single note by the end of the session, after losing ...more

I have been playing flute since the fifth grade, going on ten years now, and in the time since then, have gone through patches where I've seriously doubted my ability to play the flute, considered switching to piano or clarinet to rid myself of the still-have-to-verify-what-they-are high notes. Being one of the only flutes in the section to refuse lessons, (I strongly believe in self-reliance when it comes to music) I am the only original fifth grade flutist who has stuck with the instrument. Most of my flutist peers switched to clarinet, French horn, some to trumpet, and yes, even percussion. So much is demanded from the flute; perfect embouchure, 'stomach strength', strict breath control. If it was not mentioned before, this is the most difficult instrument to begin with, especially at a young age. Having volunteered to teach fifth graders in a summer band, only two of the fourteen students could even get a sound out, let alone a single note by the end of the session, after losing ...more

The flute is by far the hardest instrument to play. Don't say it's easy, it's not. I'm in grade 6 and played the flute for almost two years now. I am in first chair and considered extremely gifted, however you have to work your butt off to play it well. The trumpet section in band say "oh, it must be so easy" but they're wrong. I bet the trumpets would pass out after playing one song, that is if they can even get a sound out of it. You have to deal with a dizzy feeling. It requires a lot of talent, hard work, practice, and determination. I stay after school for an hour and a half every Tuesday so I can practice. Then when I get home I practice for two hours. Every day I practice for two hours at home. I get finished with lunch early, then spend 15 minutes in the band room practicing. Believe me, it's very hard. But I love playing it because it's an escape from reality. It feels good, even if you are dizzy. You feel tired yet energized. I want to be a flutist someday. And if you do, ...more

Playing Flute CORRECTLY and IN TUNE is truly hardest thing - Reaper

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6 Bagpipes

I think it's telling what obscure instruments, such as the bagpipes an oboe end up on this list.

I wouldn't say the pipes are the hardest. With good instruction and a the obligatory practice, it is possible to become a very competent piper in a few years. The pipes only have nine notes, and there are not dynamics or rests, so in a way they are a very simple instrument to play.

But the pipes are incredibly hard to break into. They're not like a trumpet, clarinet or a piano where you can play simple beginner tunes full of minims and crotchets. You're straight onto quavers and semi quavers. Even slow tunes like Amazing grace have short notes. This is made worse because pipes don't handle crossed notes well at all. So fingering has to be perfect from the start. Because there are only nine notes, pipe music is decorated with embellishments - groups of up to six grace notes played very rapidly after each other. They require skill and precision to play properly.

Then ...more

This is very disgraceful that bagpipes are only number 6. As my instructor said a long time ago they are either 1 or 2 for the most difficult instrument. I've been playing the pipes for 12 years now and I still wouldn't say I've mastered it. In so many of the other instruments above this 12 years is a really long time to master something. I'm basing this off of getting to top end level. There are so many embellishments involved with learning the bagpipes and these are some of the hardest out there. Those are also unique to the bagpipe itself. Yes it has only 9 notes but add embellishments to it and it becomes a lot harder. If you add the drones that actually covers the whole entire scale of a piano cause the drones are each an octave lower than each other and the chanter. The pipes take a lot of air and maintenance. It is definitely a very delicate instrument and very difficult. Any change in blowing can make it go out of tune and you sometimes have to play for 20+ minutes non-stop. ...more

Bagpipes are definitely one of the hardest, for reasons stated. I'll say as someone who has only been playing for 2 years on the pipes (3 on practice chanter) that I'm amazed at great pipers-YouTube "gordon duncan" or "stuart liddel" and you will see what I mean. No doubt that any instrument takes years to master it (meaning play it very well); my partner used to play the French horn and yeah-that is very hard instrument to play. For pipes, I'll say that you first have to learn how to play the tune on the practice chanter, then jump and play it on the bagpipes (whole nother instrument) then if you play in a band, have to memorize it again with the band. The goal of a pipe band is to sound like one large bagpipe (sometimes they through harmonies in there too). Put that and have to march in sync and it takes lots of concentration and practice.

Keep in mind that the slightest over blowing or under blowing will put the drones and/or chanter out of tune. Additionally if you don't ...more

You have to use a ton of air to play this instrument. You may even pass out trying to learn it in the beginning. I play piano and trombone and they don't even come close to being as hard as the bagpipes.

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7 Drums

No instrument can be mastered. It is just not possible, but drumming us by far the hardest instrument to play. Drums have been around forever, anybody who hits anything in time could basically call themselves a drummer. People have been hitting things to a pulse forever, from all time periods, and from all parts of the world. This makes drumming not only one of the oldest musical forms, it makes it one of the most widely played the most widely played. You don't see some guy in the streets of Dubai, or a tiny village in Ecuador playing the Bassoon. Drumming ranges from very subtle and complexed brush strokes for jazz, and advanced double bass riffs for heavy metal to playing a marching snare drum in the cadets (one of the most widely acclaimed percussion groups in the world), or playing bells in a concert band. That's right bells, if you play bells you're playing piano except with sticks. ( right now piano is the #3 hardest instrument to play on thus list right now making drums at ...more

As a 50 year old terrible guitarist I started playing drums about a year ago because it has been relatively easy for me to keep time in my head and on the guitar. I quickly found that that I had a knack for the drums and immediately enjoyed playing them. As I have progressed it is clear to me how difficult the drums really are to play well. I agree with everything said here about how difficult it is to play drums. Although I have listened to thousands of songs over and over now that I play drums I can really appreciate the incredible skill of so many "professional" drummers... Even on types of music I hate. That's another thing... On the guitar I would not think about trying to play styles of music I don't care for but that is not the case with drums. I would recommend the drums to anyone with an interest in playing instruments. Yes they are difficult and impossible to master but compared to some other instruments way more fun! Plus it can be a very good workout!

Playing the drums is much hard than you think. There is a lot more to it than hitting things. There's a STYLE to things, if you can believe it. And there's also an actually proven and true way to hold drumsticks! Did you know that, everyone who points with their fingers on the stick? And then again, there are multiple kinds of drums. If you're counting keyboard and auxiliary percussion instruments, you've got at least 400 instruments to learn. If you think drums are easy, please take the test my percussion teacher use to give me. Please explain to me what a snare drum is, how to tune it, how it works, and name every part of the drum in thirty seconds. Go! And if you can do that, then I'm impressed. Now get out your rudiment book and play swiss flamdragadiddle inverted cheesy taps with the eighth note at 180. After you've done that, you can say drums are easy. Thank you.

Drums is easy! Start with simple grooves, and you'll get the hang of it! - TheAwesomeBrosVotes

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8 Organ

I'm a brass player, and some of my experience with the other instruments on this list is minimal at best. All I know is: I play the French horn proficiently, I can make a sound on the flute after a while, I can't make a sound on an oboe, and I'm decent at jazz piano. I also took organ lessons for a year, and for me it's the hardest instrument. Reading piano music is hard enough when you have to coordinate two staves and two clefs with two hands, but now you have to ALSO use both of your feet, and often play a different keyboard with each hand. Even if the music is simpler like a hymn and only has two staves (because the pedals will just be playing the lowest line), the coordination necessary to pull it off is maddening. In addition, while with piano you can let the natural decay connect notes when using the pedal or when they're fast enough, with organ you must hold the keys down for the entire duration you want the note to sound. As a result your key changes have to be very quick and ...more

Having only ever played one instrument beside the organ (piano), I don't know how accurate my opinion is. But I think the organ is pretty dang tough. I've been taking lessons for a year now and feel like I have made very little progress. You are doing all these different things at once: right hand, left hand, pedals with both feet, the volume pedal, switching stops in the middle of it. To put it simply; you have to really coordinate. I really enjoy playing it, but it is so tough. I definitely think it is way harder than piano (which I have been playing for four years now.) In fact, I probably would've given up by now if I wasn't so stubborn. Maybe I just don't have the skill for it, but I know I'm not the only one who thinks it's hard. I know people who have been playing it for years and say they are still learning. The organ is a beautiful instrument, though, and I hope to one day play it well enough to do it justice.

Seperates rhythmical patterns at once, varying not only by hand, but by leg or even fingers. Coordination to where the keys are mastered to pianist level, then adding the feet, then understanding the stops, how to arrange them, the ability to leap out and change them during performance, understand the thumb tabs, and the toe tabs, what the different keyboards do, and how to arrange the different voices. You have several keyboards to manipulate, with both hands and feet, literally dozens to hundreds of voices to order, volumes to maintain. Piano allows for some allowances on hitting keys slightly, try that on an organ and the note will play and ring out through the church, allowing for no error. The keys must be depressed properly or a harsh chopping sound will burst from the pipes. I could go on.

For organ, there is just so much coordination. My teacher of twelve years has been playing organ for 53 years, and he still struggles. He once had to play for 2 hours straight, and singing the whole time too!

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9 Electric Guitar

I agree that violin is tougher than guitar because its fret-less but drums and piano being harder is obsolete. I heard some one say that the electric guitar can be played by anyone without much assistance. Well I too have composed some melodies and arpeggios in piano without any assistance at the first time itself. *BURN*. And its much easier to find the notes of a same key in piano than in an electric guitar. I agree chords are easy in a guitar (although being a guitar teacher for almost 6 months I found out most people have trouble playing them too for a very very long time. I guess I just grasped it fast because of my love for the instrument) but go ahead and start with some crazy legato sessions, big sweep pickings and finger breaking licks and then support your statement. And that's just the easy part. Go way too deep into the theory and you might never come up. Triads, Scales of major, minor and pentatonic and then modes. God help me. Ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian ...more

Widest spread of music to fully master is on a guitar. There are so many different styles of playing which require masterful finger manipulation. These include flamenco, classical, rock solos, progressive metal (arguably solos are as intricate as the most intricate of piano music). Some of the advanced level techniques for electric guitars including pinch harmonics, double picking, as well as just the general ability to pick and press 32nd notes at precisely the same time are quite difficult to master. Anyone who does not see guitar as a difficult instrument to "master" is deluded by the a few reasons: 1, a lot of people pick up guitar as a hobby and can easily sound good at it just by strumming chords in rhythm; 2, A lot of mainstream music that people learn on guitar is very basic, you wouldn't compare the basic music on piano with intricate guitar solos, would you? 3, If you've ever had piano lessons with a classical instrument growing up, you may be scorned by the ...more

While I agree a piano might be one of the hardest, the guitar requires you to manipulate strings to produce notes. A guitar is harder than most strings because it has 6 string where most others have only 4. I don't think hitting notes with precision like on a violin really count as hard to do. Once you get good at any instrument, you should be able to hit a note perfectly without thinking about it. With a guitar it might not be as noticeable when hitting a note slightly off, but anyone that's any good considers this unacceptable. The violin has a small neck making it easier to play faster, so anyone who thinks needing to play fast is a valid argument is wrong. Some of the best guitarist play just as fast and have to move a longer distance across a neck and stretch their fingers farther. Guitars have all the same elements like vibratos. Most of the people who are voting for the violin seem to know nothing about the guitar and just think because it's an instrument they play it should be ...more

Try playing an electric guitar with big fingers! Good luck, especially with chords that give you carpal tunnel.

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10 Viola

I play viola and piano. I started playing piano first, starting in first grade. Piano is played in the very well known clefs of treble and bass clef. When I decided to start playing the viola at the end of fifth grade, I learned that I had to learn that I had to learn a totally new clef-the alto clef. I never even knew there was such thing as the alto clef until that moment! Speaking of that, I didn't even know there was such thing as a viola until I was midway through fifth grade! All I hear about is violins, violins, and more violins! Why doesn't anyone know about violas? I think some people who play the violin chose to play the violin because they have never heard of a viola! People who aren't in orchestra, or don't know anyone in orchestra will not know anything about violas;when those people look at an orchestra they only see the viola section as another part of the violin section. I don't get how violas aren't at the top of this list, really! Violas are really hard because you ...more

I don't find violas hard to play, it's just frustrating to be in the viola section ( Because you're the laughing stock of the whole ensemble ). When we were picking instruments for strings many, many years ago, I remember the teacher giving pros and cons about the instruments, but I'm sure she said something like " There usually aren't many violas. But you have to learn a whole new clef! Moving on the cellos..." Then I started reading the note above the written note on the staff for my treble clef instrument, and I just got so confused. And now someone who I know who is already having a hard time learning Alto clef is going to have to learn treble, and their probably not going to do that well. Basically, Alto Clef is horrible. If you have problems with the finger board, get a violin outfit strung as a viola ( It's what they do in school strings groups)

The viola is definitely harder than the violin, why is it number 9? This is because the steps between notes are slightly larger and harder to reach if you have small hands. I started playing in 4th grade, and now I'm in 11th grade, and I have loved it. The alto clef was the first clef I ever learned, so it wasn't hard for me. I can play Hoffmeister's concerto in D Major just fine, and overall, I can play pretty well. But, the violins always get the fun and challenging parts which I always want, instead of two pages worth of offbeats... I chose the viola in fourth grade because it wasn't the generic, everybody-plays-it instrument. I wanted to go for interesting, and something new. I still love the viola though because each viola section I have joined has been laid back, fun, and usually humble. We are usually the masters of bad puns... Whereas, sometimes I can see some of the violinists' egos from 100 miles away. Also, with all the competitiveness, I would hate the stress of playing ...more

The viola is extremely underrated!

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The Contenders

11 Piccolo

I say piccolo is the HARDEST to play. I play the piccolo (and flute, of course); it has its similarities and differences. Piccolo is the loudest instrument in the band/orchestra. It is the smallest, yet it takes the most air. The fingerings are the same. I highly recommend you use alternate fingerings for extremely high notes, such as the high Ab. High notes are stupid hard on piccolo. Notes on the piccolo are absolutely nothing compared with flute. You need very good lung power to play piccolo well. If you play with not enough air, you will be flat. If you play with too much air, you will have a sharp tone, so it's hard to find that "in-between" stage. This is all thanks to a different embouchure. It is shrill to the ears, so make sure you have your earplugs handy. I cannot compare flute/piccolo to other instruments, considering the fact that those are the only instruments I play well. Fingers are tightly packed, as well. I guess piccolo is recommended for those with smaller hands ...more

I play the flute, however I plan on playing piccolo as well in ninth grade. My mom played piccolo, she told me how difficult it was, I've met people who play piccolo, my best friend from band camp told me how difficult it was, and you know what? I'm not going to tell you that flute is harder, because I got the opportunity once to play it, and it is difficult. To all piccolo players, I appreciate your hard work, I adore the sound of your instrument, I was honored to play piccolo once for 5 minutes last summer, and yes, it should be above flute. You are all amazing and overlooked by many. When I tried out piccolo, the small keys weren't a problem, I actually liked them since I have small hands, I had to use a thinner air stream and like twice as much air as the flute. Kudos to you for staying strong when playing such a difficult instrument!

I play the flute, but I have to play the piccolo in one of my songs in band, because it has a solo. It is so hard because it requires SO MUCH air. It is so hard to play high, and I have to play way up high in the third octave, and it's hard to get the fingerings right because you hands are packed together. It is also so hard to tune. I am constantly out of tune. I have band first period so I put the piccolo together about 10-15 minutes before band and try and tune it. Even if the instrument is in tune how much air you blow affect how sharp or flat it is, so I still am almost never in tune. It also causes you to lose so much air, I almost passed out during band once. So I say piccolo is hardest to play.

You need earplugs to play it! You have to blow air extremely fast through the piccolo, compared to the flute.

V 15 Comments
12 Cello

Yes definitely. I go to a performing arts school double majoring in band and orchestra. I've played viola for seven years, clarinet for six years, flute for four years, tenor sax for two years, and violin last Christmas. I played oboe before clarinet but it didn't suit me. In all honesty, all instruments are hard. No one can just pick up an instrument and play it. They all have their own techniques and tricks to them. I say orchestra instruments (violin, viola, cello, & upright bass) are a greater challenge than that of brass and woodwinds. For those instruments, you have a key/valve to put your fingers down and you can play the note. For orchestra instruments, you have to know where the fingering is on the fingerboard in order to play the desired note. Same with guitar, but it's more difficult having the instrument held horizontally in the air while bowing, or having the instrument held vertical while bowing. For piano, yes that is hard, moving great distances in short time and all ...more

A cello is probably the hardest instrument to play. Mainly because of the increments in the notes are much further apart than other instruments. This requires more shifting, and since the notes are indefinite on a string instrument it is harder to get the correct note. The cello has a very wide range, 5 octaves (approximately, I checked myself a while ago), which gives it a uniqueness to it, which is in fact similar to the male voice. The cello requires you to co-ordinate your bow and fingers together too, and those in themselves need separate co-ordination, like the bow angle, position and speed, as well as a correct bow-hold. You also need to train your fingers to develop a callas on them, so that your fingers are then used to the string and wont develop indents into your finger every time you play. I've played cello for about 6 years now, which have started at primary school learning all the basics. Only a few can use that to progress rapidly and start professionally playing, fewer ...more

Cello, in my humble opinion, is very difficult to play. As someone said before me, the cello has a large fingerboard, and you need to have extreme coordination and muscle memory to find the perfect note. I'm not saying that brass or woodwind instruments aren't hard (they totally are), but they have set places for your fingers to go, and if you place the right amount of pressure while covering the hole, you can make perfect notes (if your instrument is in tune, that is... ) almost every time. For cellos (or any other stringed instrument, for that matter), Every time you place your fingers down, you get a slightly different pitch than when you first played that note. Also, even though we almost never get the melody in a score, that doesn't mean that playing our part is easy. We have to shift every time we want to play a high note that the higher instruments can play with ease, and we have to do a lot of string hopping to get the desired sound. I believe that all instruments are equally ...more

I play the cello and I agree that its not as easy as I hoped it would be but I love it anyway

V 55 Comments
13 Bassoon

I used to play violin (honestly, I don't know how it's considered the hardest to play, I was able to play many songs within the first two months of playing. If violin is the hardest, viola, cello, and bass should be up there as well) and switched from orchestra to band to play bassoon. I wanted something more challenging, and after 2 and a half years of playing the violin just wasn't doing it for me. The bassoon took me forever just to get the first note, F, out of it. It's definitely a test of how much oxygen you can store in your lungs. As compared to most other instruments, the bassoon is heavy and it has keys all over the place. You won't have much luck playing it if your fingers are short- lucky for me, mine are long and feminine. You have to be well aware of what you're playing on the bassoon. One wrong key and you make a very obvious mistake. In class I find myself constantly adjusting my mouth to get the right sound, particularly on the higher notes. This year I was trying out ...more

Bassoons are by far the most difficult instrument to play. Very few people play the bassoon and finding teachers or help at all is almost impossible unless you live near a university or a big city with an orchestra. And unlike other instruments (except oboe and bag pipes) we have to make our own reeds specialized to our instrument! Buying reeds is also expensive ranging from $10-40. The tools to make reeds range to $400! Oh and don't forget that there are many different fingerings for each note! F Sharp has 17 different fingering. You have sensitivity points on the reed depending on whether its a low, middle or high range note. Once you get past second octave G you start using 'Flick Keys" that you play with your left thumb, that's 9 keys for 1 thumb to continually flick for each note. There is no octave key, a bassoonist has to learn specific flick keys, thumb keys and half hole patterns to jump octaves. All bassoons are hand made and there for have different quirks depending on the ...more

To be completely honest I think one of the reasons bassoon is lower down than some other instruments is because it is less popular, so less people have the experience to say how difficult it is compared to something like flute or piano. I think one thing that separates the difficulty of bassoon from some other instruments is that a lot of instruments are difficult to master and become spectacular at, however other instruments are also difficult to begin learning and get to a decent standard. I think bassoon is one of these instruments. I used to play piano and can say that bassoon should definitely be above piano on this list. I understand to master to piano is hard because of co-ordination, however I know it was significantly easier than bassoon. You don't have to constantly worry about tuning and you can do things such as jump 3 octaves quite easily. It is also easier to grasp the basics so that it becomes more interesting and fun to play earlier. Even if I was asked to compare the ...more

I have never play it, but looking at the list, I believe this would be the hardest to play.

V 81 Comments
14 Trombone

Buzz the right pitch with your lips, place the slide at the length that best amplifies that pitch and allows it to resonate, make fine adjustments with the slide hand for tuning purposes, and articulate with the tongue... All simultaneously.

Like the orchestral string instruments, the trombone is not a fixed-pitch instrument and requires constant tuning adjustment on the fly. The trombone takes a great deal of air and playing it is a very athletic endeavor indeed. This instrument is incredibly challenging to play both musically and physiologically.

I LOVE the trombone! When it comes to trombone, I agree it takes air and tuning, especially for those high notes, and I have been cursed with short arms that can't reach slide 7 without the need to dislocate my shoulder to reach it LOL. But thankfully I never found it hard to play for long amounts of time as I am an active person and do not easily become light-headed (also heard that the trumpet and flute take more air than the trombone). But the slides? they can be confusing and it only gets harder because slides aren't like buttons or keys, you must move to them and moving takes time, not fast enough and you've messed up rhythmically which is why I suggest alternate slides. And then you learn to slur, took me months to get the slurring right, because, again, not buttons or keys and if you don't get your tonging right, you can hear every single micro-tone in between! The trombone is a nice challenge and I recommend it to anybody who wants to play a unique and fun instrument (just ...more

People think the trombone isn't hard. Well it is, I've been playing piano my entire life starting at the age of 4 with lessons, because I've gotten so used to piano I was so alienated from the idea of actually having to move your lips a certain way just to make it the proper pitch and tune considering with piano you press one key and boom music happens if you match the right notes. Going into trombone for my band option was actually quite an adjustment, I found it fairly difficult, especially with making the right buzz and even more especially considering the trombone although played in bass clef can go pretty high and pretty low. It was also extremely difficult to me as never before has my body experienced such a lack of air just to complete 4 bars.

At first, I thought trombone was easy, considering how far apart the partials are. then, I realized that you still need to have good tone and play in tune. The slurs are really hard to master. I can't reach 7th position, so I had to get an f-attatchment. When played properly, I love how amazing the trombone sounds!

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15 Trumpet

Wow, I'm stunned. I thought trumpet would be up there with #1 being the hardest. I have played and performed on several instruments in my life: accordion, piano, drums, guitar, bass. None of them has been as hard as the trumpet for me which I recently started about 3 months ago (just to see how far I could go on it). Having my musical background I was able to pick up the mandolin and violin and within three to five months I was able to play something for people and entertain in a pro situation (with fiddle tunes, no classical). However, acquiring a usable range and stamina to play something performance worthy (solo) on the trumpet, as far as I can see at this time, is long way off for me -- perhaps years.

I guess I agree that violin and piano is probably the hardest at a advanced classical level. But, the trumpet is the hardest from the get go -- just to produce a pleasing sound! It's NOT an instrument you can pick up and start jamming on within a few months for sure, at least ...more

What? Trumpet below trombone? We need to fix this! Compared to "physical" instruments that require touch or finger placement, the trumpet is more difficult an instrument to play because it requires correct tongue arch level for different ranges, and change in and control of the airstream in addition to the memorization of valve combinations. There is also the build up of micro muscle that are required of the trumpet that is more extreme than any other western instrument aside from Frenchhorn (which is comparable, but the proximity of partials makes the instrument's range more accessible). The Trombone and other low brass family instruments use larger muscle groups creating better endurance and recovery from playing. It also makes low brass instruments easier comeback instrument. When playing a woodwind instrument, most utilize a fixed embouchure that requires less muscle build up than brass instruments.

Trumpet is by far the hardest instrument to play and master- you ...more

Nope: trumpet is definitely the most difficult. The violin and the piano are both physical instruments; you use your fingers instead of your mouth (something much easier). There is a reason why some people learn trumpet for upwards of 10 years and yet can never get even close to a master's sound and pitch, while you see so many Asians (yes, I'm being a stereotype-labeling person) mastering the piano or the violin in 5 years. Especially in high school; the students in Chamber Orchestra can put out the EXACT same sound, with varying levels of 3 years of experience or 8. Go to the marching band, and the trumpets' sound vary VASTLY. Many adults who have played the trumpet are still limited to the same range that they possessed when they were in college or high school. In addition, one who plays the trumpet gets a lot more tired (and a lot more quickly too) than one who plays the violin or the piano. Those two people (violin/piano) can quite literally play a piece for 10 minutes straight - ...more

What makes the trumpet difficult isn't learning to play it- it's learning to play it well. Instruments like oboe are more finicky and pianists regularly replace entire orchestras, but the trumpet comes with a rather unique challenge that is paralleled only by the French horn: physical endurance. The mouthpiece is tiny and reminds you on a daily basis why jamming things into your face is a bad idea. The instrument is unforgiving. The fine muscle control required to produce a quality tone with any degree of control is so great that putting down the horn for more than a couple days is enough to set you back weeks, possibly months. No musician ever experiences pain like a lead trumpet player squealing out a high A at the end of a difficult, brutal chart or a principal trumpet in a symphony sitting for twenty minutes while the violins fiddle away before having to enter a loud, triumphant fanfare on a high C or D on cold chops with a clear, beautiful tone, perfect intonation, and absolutely ...more

V 106 Comments
16 Harp

The harp has all the complexity of a piano (two staves, multiple notes in both hands), but the additional plucking action really sets it apart from piano - you have to be on the note and prepare before plucking. Then, seven pedals, each with 3 positions to control the accidentals. But you have to time them exactly right so you don't get buzzing, and if you're doing them fast then you have to release them on the spring rather than putting them exactly where you need to. You have to build up your callouses on your fingers by playing a lot. Painful! And controlling the timbre of the strings is really hard too - I can hear how I want it to sound, but its hard to make it happen. There are 47 Strings! Violins have 4! Why is harp number 11 on the list - its only because not many people play it and vote for it! It should be number 1! (I played piano and oboe before starting harp, but now I just play harp because It's SO CHALLENGING! (But good).

I have been playing the celtic harp (no pedals) for the last 4 years and it is very challenging---despite my having played the piano since I was 7 years old and am now retired. I have a degree in music, am a professional singer, and have taught elementary school vocal music. When I began harp, everyone said it would be easy because I play piano. Yes and no! With harp, one has to "place" all 4 fingers down before playing so one is constantly looking ahead--unlike piano. The finger patterns are very different from piano and hand techniques different as well--so sometimes I have to block out my piano hand technique so I don't try to use it on the harp. Like piano, one is playing different patterns on each hand--simultaneously and that's where being a pianist helps a lot. With both piano and harp though, if one plays musically and corrrectly, then even the simplest piece will sound beautiful and that's one's incentive to keep on practicing!

As a professional harpist, id say that the harp is VERY challenging to play. First of all, you have to play a different note pattern on each hand simultaneously which can be an extreme challenge for some people. Next, when you play the harp, finger placement is very picky. You don't ever use your pinkies while playing and you place your four fingers down on strings before you even play them, which can be especially difficult when it comes to playing faster and more advanced songs. Lastly, when you play the harp, you almost have to multitask. In addition to using both hands simultaneously and keeping track of finger placement, you may also have to deal with levers or 7 pedals with 3 settings too. Playing the harp isn't as easy as it looks.

I've been playing the harp since I was seven and found it to be a fun challenge. It also could be considered difficult in terms of lack of music selection-a majority of the music I now play is piano sheet music. Harp probably lacks the vote because it's a rare instrument to play because it never was really updated (with all those lever/pedal changes in between playing grand staff)

V 30 Comments
17 Didgeridoo

I tried the didgeridoo when I was in Australia in 2000. I could get a sound out of it easily, but I couldn't for the life of me do the circular breathing. I also couldn't get it to sound anything as funky as the locals were doing.

The instruments I play to a certain degree:
PIANO: My main instrument. I got to Grade VI standard in less than a year when I was 18. Therefore I consider it a fairly easy instrument to learn.
FLUTE: As I could already play the recorder from when I was a kid, my sister (who's an expert flautist) said the fingering was more or less the same. I could sight-read Grade IV pieces the first time I picked up her flute - including dynamics. Therefore, I consider it a very easy instrument to learn. Embouchure was incredibly easy.
DRUMS: I could sight-read a Grade IV piece within a week of taking up the drums. The main trouble I had were demi-semi-quaver beats and fast triplet groups. Otherwise, it's a fairly easy instrument to pick up. If you can ...more

I learned how to play the didgeridoo last year and can still barely play it. You have to blow out threw your mouth and in threw your nose at the same time. Ah It is so hard but not as yard as the violin or piano which I also know how to play.

You have to learn to circular breathe!

Every thing is very easy except for the circular breathing

V 5 Comments
18 Acoustic Guitar Acoustic Guitar An acoustic guitar is a guitar that produces sound acoustically - by transmitting the vibration of the strings to the air - as opposed to relying on electronic amplification.

Most instruments are roughly equally difficult. See if you agree with my argument.
(I play violin and guitar. I do not play piano. )

Violin making a note in tune and making it sound good is very hard

Piano playing a note is as easy as banging a tambourine... Or is it?

Guitar playing a note is moderately easy and probably somewhere between a violin and a piano.

But now we play 8 notes on a piano 4 on a guitar and usually one on a violin and things start to even out.

The easier it is to play a note on an instrument then, it seems, the more is "expected" from it.

The guitar is probably hardest to "finger", the violin hardest for tone, the piano hardest to read and play multiple parts simultaneously. The guitar requires strength and is a nightmare of gymnastics. The violin is the least forgiving by way of intonation and a musical ear, and the piano has so little variation in tone that it takes great skill to bring this out as is expected of a ...more

Okay, everyone here is saying that "mastering" a guitar means learning some chords and then learning a few riffs. No! Gosh, to learn flamenco or classical or really good bluegrass guitar... That's DIFFICULT. Most people couldn't self-teach that.

I remember when I was twelve or so and I got my first acoustic guitar. I would play for hours and my fingers would bleed sometimes. Building the strength to avoid buzzing/muted/ringing strings was tricky at first, too.

I think that every instrument is equally difficult to learn, depending on how far you're willing to go with it. Acoustic guitar isn't easy, though. So this instrument gets my vote.

First, I think there are instruments not on the list that are harder than the acoustic guitar (harp anyone? ) But based on the instruments in the list, I think the acoustic guitar is harder to fully master and also harder to begin playing (building finger toughness), compared to electric guitar, so acoustic guitar should be higher up in the list.

In some case, acoustic guitar is harder to play than electric guitar. Because it has thicker strings, while electric guitar's strings are lighter. But at the end, electric guitar is much harder than acoustic guitar. because it has more features, more technique. - zxm

V 41 Comments
19 Clarinet

Here's the thing, I've been playing the clarinet for 4 years now, and it's extremely difficult. I can say that I'm pretty good because I am one of the best in my state currently and I'm only 15, since I got into All-State and all that stuff. I cannot explain how hard it is to get a pure sound from a clarinet. There are so many different components that affect the tone. I can say that the fingerings are not the worst, except the upper register and going over the break which I still haven't even mastered yet. Once you get the hang of it, playing it isn't that hard. But once you get into faster music, with lots of scales and arpeggios and 4ths, it's terribly difficult. Most people that play the clarinet have a fuzzy tone, when you can hear the reed. Listen to the professional clarinetists, their tone is so pure and even, it sounds like a drone. Most instruments, tone isn't that difficult. Many people I've played with who are not serious about music have a beautiful tone. Woodwinds and ...more

Most do not agree that a clarinet is hard- in fact, it is known for it's squeakiness and "easiness". However, they may have or may not have tried one in their lives, so because of idiocy, they never know how hard it is on the lip and neck.

Clarinets tend to have a squeaky nature if not played EXACTLY correct. If even a tilt in the angle or slight movement occurs, the clarinet will squeak, leak out air, or just not make any sound. You must also have good posture for good sound (otherwise it'll sound like a bunch of geese in the park or a dinosaur being tortured), articulate and control your tongue, change dynamics and notes fast and smooth (involving knowing all the keys on the clarinet), and blow fast, hard, and quickly.

Unlike most instruments, clarinets take a good solid two minutes to assemble and place a thin reed to play on. Saxophone or flute players may complain about their fingers or neck, but the flute is one third of the clarinets' size and the ...more

Many people say it's really hard to play, but like anything, you need to practice. Don't forget, no one's perfect right off the bat! I've been playing for 5 years and it's not nearly as hard as when I first picked it up. Posture and breath stamina are key. When playing, you need to keep a steady airflow, trying not to puff your cheeks. Posture will help a lot with this, opening up your lungs and help you breath easier. To keep from squeaking, make sure all the pieces are lined up. Having the mouth piece slightly off could cause it not to sit flat on you lips and squeak. Although the clarinet does break into 5 pieces, it doesn't take too long to put it all together. Also remember, this is so its easier for you to carry around. In the end, I highly suggest trying it out, and not just because I personally love it. As you get better, it really has a beautiful sound and an amazing addition to any band or orchestra. Good Luck!

Hard. All I can say. Harder than any other.

V 99 Comments
20 Percussion

Percussion looks easy, but in reality it really is difficult. Take for example the triangle, a seemingly easy instrument to play, this notion is wrong, you have to hit the triangle at a specific angle in a specific place in order for it to have the correct sound, if you get either of those wrong, your triangle will sound horrible. The thing about percussion is that it has so many instruments to learn how to play and each one is so varied and deep, in my percussion class, we spent 2 hours talking about the different ways of how to play a tambourine, different techniques, when to use each technique, what their effect is, etc. Many percussion parts require the player to play multiple percussion instruments. It gets difficult when one song requires you to play 6 mallet marimba, shakere, and bongos. How about those percussion instruments that aren't even instruments, but the composer decided to put them in the song, for example figuring out how to play spoons, chains and washboard. Or a ...more

I am a percussionist in my high school and I just started playing 6 months ago and every time we get a new piece there is always some other instrument we have to master. Most of the instruments are not difficult to learn just hard to master and when you start to do well in a piece, its time to learn a new one.

Everyone underestimates how hard percussion can be. It isn't just hitting a drum or a cymbal once in a while. You need to be able to learn difficult rhythms, and also you need to be a lot more independent. You need to keep your own place most of the time and cannot rely on other people. (go percussionists :P)

Percussion includes, bass drum, drum kit, bells, piano, and glockenspiel

V 4 Comments
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List StatsUpdated 19 Jan 2017

11,000 votes
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6 years, 187 days old

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You can cheat on the violin by sliding into notes
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