~~~ Violin versus Piano ~~~
~~~ Violin versus Piano ~~~
There is an ongoing raging debate about whether:-
a) the violin or the piano is the better starting instrument and
b) it is more difficult to play the violin or the piano.
As a music teacher who teaches both (so I'm not completely whistling in the dark here), I would definitely recommend piano as the starting instrument for the following reasons:-
1) It is much easier to start with the piano. Piano can be played as soon as the child can reach the keys and has enough strength to press them down. You don’t have to worry about intonation/pitch. Violin, on the other hand, offers challenges in producing a tone properly through fingering position and bowing techniques (pressure, speed and sounding points). Also sitting at a desk-like object with your hands in front of you is a little easier than the peculiar contortions a violinist must get accustomed to.
2) It is easier to sound good quickly on a piano too. With violin there is a very small margin for error. A couple of millimeters can mean the difference between a sublime sound and the sound of a strangled cat or fingernails screeching on a blackboard.
3) As piano is polyphonic, one can play pieces with complex and rich harmonies alone without other instruments to be complete. You are the entire band and orchestra with a piano playing melody, harmony and rhythm all at the same time. Therefore the payoff for the child’s beginning efforts is faster for piano!!!
4) The piano is an easier tool for children to learn how to read and understand music that can later be applied to other instruments. All the notes are laid out on the keyboard and the theory-oriented visual layout is a great asset in learning music theory, hence promoting more "correct" music pedagogy and better musical foundation.
Even brilliant violinist like Vanessa Mae learned piano first!!
It's hard to say which instrument is more difficult because they are both very difficult and demanding instruments for different reasons. The violinist has stuff to worry about that pianist doesn't and vice versa.
The violinist has to deal with intonation/pitch i.e. learn to put the fingers in exactly the right place so that the music is “in tune”. The violinist will have to learn vibrato. This changes the intonation of each note slightly by making it a little bit sharper (higher), then a little bit flatter (lower), producing a kind of wobble. (This is important in many styles of music to create mood). Besides plucking (pizzicato), there are many special effects. Some of them are spicatto, glissando, portamento and harmonics. There are also shifting positions, double stopping, chords or using scordatura tuning.
Besides the numerous tasks mentioned in “Why Piano?” page, the pianist also has to deal with coordinating two hands while
navigating 88 keys, reading two staves at a time and reading not only left to right but up and down at the same time, not to mention pedalling and dynamics. The challenge gets even greater at advanced level when both hands are doing different things, different fingers are playing at different strength and when you need to stretch your fingers to play up to 10 different notes at a time. (For violin there are only four fingerings, one stave to read and you play only one note at a time usually).
To conclude, I personally feel that it's easier to achieve a basic level of competency on the piano. With the violin it's just so much more difficult to get to the point where you can play even at an amateur level well enough so that people won't cringe. However high-level piano playing is just as mind-bogglingly complex and difficult as high-level violin playing. It's the learning curve at the beginning level that is different.
Last but not least, different students “take” to different instruments differently and each instrument takes its own talents.