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I'm a 15-year-old guy with no experience in playing musical instruments or in reading music, although I've wanted to learn one for a long time. I'm really into western classical music, especially piano and violin solo pieces. I'm also a huge metal fan, especially of extreme/neoclassical metal (think Cradle of Filth, or Ne Obliviscaris).

Now, I'm planning to learn an instrument. I'm not sure what would suit me better - a piano/keyboard or a guitar. I'd want to attain at least an intermediate level of proficiency in the instrument I learn in 3.5 to 4 years, with around eight to ten hours of practice a week, and 3 hours a day for all of next month (Christmas holidays!)

I'm OK with focusing on only classical/theory stuff if it would help me achieve my goals - i.e. I don't want to learn every popular song on the charts to impress people.

I believe I do have some compositional ability, and maybe learning piano would help make it easier to explore that. On the other hand, the portability of a guitar is a huge advantage for me.

If you want to know what my 'goals' are, they would be something like being able to play Chopin's Marche Funèbre or the first movement of Moonlight Sonata on the piano, and maybe the lead guitar part of Iron Maiden's Hallowed Be Thy Name on the guitar (although I'm aware that these goals may be a bit unrealistic :D) in three to four years.

What would you recommend?

(Also, another question: roughly how much experience does it take to play the guitar solo starting at 8:28 from this song?

Ne Obliviscaris - And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope

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closed as primarily opinion-based by awe, Dom, Jason W, American Luke, neilfein Dec 17 '13 at 18:00

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

That's not a hard solo to play. You need less than a year of experience if you focus on tremolo picking early on. And like Tim, I think you should learn both instruments. By a cheap keyboard, and a cheap guitar. Later you can spend more money on your favorite instrument. –  Anthony Dec 17 '13 at 10:31
The solo notes could be sorted in 2 or 3 lessons. The tremolo may take a little longer - but with a delay pedal it's simple ! –  Tim Dec 17 '13 at 11:30
And what about the goals I mentioned? –  octatoan Dec 17 '13 at 12:21
You tell me how long a piece of string is, I'll tell you about achieving your goals.In 2-3 yrs they should be achievable, especially with a good teacher. On your own...who knows.Practice by itself will probably not do the job, unless you live long enough.It's not easy predicting next year with a pupil one knows, let alone a complete stranger !! –  Tim Dec 17 '13 at 12:53
True, that! :) /10char –  octatoan Dec 17 '13 at 13:19

4 Answers 4

I started with piano when I was about 7 years old, and took lessons for about five years. At about 14 I picked up the guitar. In between I played trumpet a little, then ukulele. I played guitar in bands for years, and took music theory in college.

Through it all, the piano lessons were incredibly important, because I was able to relate all the theory and scales and chords to what I learned at the keyboard.

The piano is called the "composers instrument" because all the notes are laid out in front of you, making it easy to visualize chords. Guitar and other instruments don't have that advantage.

Though guitar is my favorite, I'd strongly recommend learning piano. From there you can add organ, and synthesizer, and then later add guitar. In a band-setting, being able to double up means more opportunities to play, get your name out there, and make money doing what you want. Plus, I think your odds of actually knowing how the music works will increase simply because you'll have the "composers instrument" knowledge already in your head helping you.

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Thanks, I'll think over what you said. –  octatoan Dec 17 '13 at 6:17

I completely endorse what the Tin Man says. Having played both instruments for 50+ yrs. The keyboard is easier to understand what you are doing on, as it's laid out graphically - there's only one place to play a specific note. On guitar, for example, there are at least 8 places to play the same note as open top E, which can and does confuse - particularly when trying to read music. But - a lot of guitarists can't/won't read music ; I've yet to be convinced that it's essential, and I teach it.

If I had to choose one over the other, it would be virtually impossible, although over the last few years it's become apparent that every man and his dog plays guitar, but keyboard/piano players are as rare as hen's teeth.Maybe the piano is a more versatile instrument, and certainly will be more satisfying to play by yourself - the bass/chord/melody line style is far easier on it compared to a guitar.

There are lots of things that work better on one rather than the other, so my advice would be to learn both, if you can. They complement each other in that you can work things out on either, to give a better understanding.With the propensity to practise for that long each week, you could easily fit both in.In 3-4 yrs time, you should be pretty proficient, if your enthusiasm is as strong as it comes over here.

There are several posts advocating one over the other so I'll leave you to read them.

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Hey, thanks! Could you link me to one or two of the posts that you spoke of in the last line? –  octatoan Dec 17 '13 at 7:49
Look at 'guitar' and 'piano' tags. Sorry I can't link - wish I knew how ! –  Tim Dec 17 '13 at 8:37
As for the guitar reading notes: For classical guitar it is more common to learn notes. For other guitar playing, it is most common to just read chords by name. For solo riffs, it is quite common to read tabulature, or just play by ear. –  awe Dec 17 '13 at 11:49
I keep forgetting about classical players. Sorry.However, OP did tag electric guitar. –  Tim Dec 17 '13 at 12:22
+1. Thoughtful answer. Jazz players, both guitar and piano, are usually good at reading charts, and at my most focused, I could read scores and play them pretty well on the guitar. One thing guitars do really well, is interact sonically with amplification. Playing an electric into a tube amp driven to distortion so it holds a note forever is one-majorly-fun experience. :-) –  the Tin Man Dec 17 '13 at 13:37

Guitar works much better in portable settings and is also better suited in volume for accompanying singing. And it's much easier to drag around when traveling.

The principal reason I stopped playing guitar actively and switched to accordion was that I switched voice to (male) alto, and the fingerpicking style I used on my guitar was not a good match in carrying power. Of course, that can be mended to a certain degree by switching to rather expensive concert guitars and the respective strings.

Accordion tends to be a worse compromise regarding the tradeoffs between carrying power, weight, tone quality, pricing. If you want to do show, there is not much choice but use a rather small but high-quality accordion. Sound quality is quite less differentiated with the small things, and the stock small accordions also tend to use inferior materials.

The size/weight/quality compromise is definitely improved by taking a chromatic button accordion. However, there is less overlap with playing a piano keyboard.

The accordion is basically a portable and unplugged keyboard instrument, but it's a mistake not to consider it as a completely separate instrument: the phrasing and articulation mechanisms are completely different: it's a bit more similar to a harmonium in that respect, but it's bellow response is much much more immediate.

For things like camp fire singing, accordion makes sense mostly with several other musicians. Guitar is basically first choice there, piano not an option.

How is your singing? Voice, tone quality, intonation? If it carries the day, guitar tends to be an excellent choice.

Note that I'm just talking acoustic guitar here: electric guitar tends to make much less sense in a solo setting: it basically wants for a band.

If you pick the band and electric because of mediocre singing, you have to be aware that you'll be second row. The limelight is on the singers.

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My singing is OK at best, although I'm pretty good at growling :-) –  octatoan Dec 17 '13 at 12:12

It will not be anything wrong with doing both, but from a learning perspective, it will probably be easiest to get the music theory by learning piano first.

Don't be afraid to learn guitar at the same time, but there might also be an financial perspective here if you don't already have access to the instruments...

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