I decided to begin studying and practicing one of the instruments I love, which are guitar, blues harmonica, and violin. Is one of them the easier to play?

Also, my ear is not trained on recognizing every tune. I mean I can, but not very well. So how can I train my ear, and do the keys change from one instrument to another?

  • What type of guitar do you want to (maybe) learn? There are great differences between folk - classical - electric in terms of starting to learn an instrument.
    – mbauwens
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 17:55
  • I am honestly surprised you failed to mention piano. If your goal is to learn the entire musical range, start with that. These other instruments are missing entire clefs. By learning both, you may even find that you really like bass over treble clef and try stand up or electric bass instead. Piano made things easier in that I could focus on intonation instead of the music first as well. As for the violin, there is no room to mess up. Larger hands like mine have to smoosh things in but even I can hit middle of the green on a tuner 90% + of the time. It then becomes quite more creative. Commented May 24, 2016 at 18:35
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    Harmonica = Hard\bGuitar = Harder\bViolin = Hardest Commented May 24, 2016 at 19:06
  • @mbauwens I like folk. But is there a big difference between folk and classic ?
    – mostafax80
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 19:06

4 Answers 4


All of the below assumes whatever you do will involve daily practice (at least half an hour but an hour is better) and study (of resources on how to play). You don't need a teacher to learn harmonica but if guitar is your first instrument then a teacher is highly recommended, and for violin almost everyone needs a good teacher to succeed.

A diatonic harmonica (as opposed to a chromatic one) is definitely objectively the easiest of the three to get started on. You will have to build up lip muscles and learning to bend can be tricky, but you can be an excellent blues harpist in maybe a year. A good book on harmonica could be all you would need to learn. I taught myself blues harp with just this book and careful attention to Robert Plant's (Led Zeppelin) harmonica playing.

Guitar is also objectively easier than violin. Picking technique is almost certainly easier to acquire for most people than bowing technique, and of course violin has no frets, so intonation is a big challenge for the violin. Most people can be good to great guitarists in two to five years.

If your ear is not very developed, violin will be a huge challenge. If you're a teenager or adult and you would like to learn the violin, you can do it - I would recommend learning to sing, first or perhaps at the same time. You will definitely want a teacher for violin. Technique and intonation are much less forgiving on the violin and you'll need to learn correct technique and train your ear to be successful on the violin.

Regarding ear training, if you learn to play harmonica (which doesn't require tuning), or you learn guitar and tune it every day with an electronic tuner, your ear will start to develop naturally. Learning to sing is the best ear training, and if you are starting from a difficult place, you may need a teacher for singing. Mainly, you need to know how to match a note you are singing with a note you are hearing. That's not obvious, but I believe that anyone (or almost anyone) can be taught to do that.

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    "definitely objectively the easiest" - I think that's way overstating it. I personally found guitar much easier than harmonica. I do agree that guitar is easier than violin, but not objectively easier - some people do find violin easier for one reason or another.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 14:47
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    I think that if one knows the "limitation" of a blues harp (single key, with basically 2 extra "modes": C harp can play in C,-ish G-ish and D-ish), this can actually help understand blues soloing when moving on to the guitar.
    – Yorik
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 17:45
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    I totally agree that Harmonica is far easier to learn for most folks. There is no pain, blowing and sucking air is learned first thing out of the womb whereas the weird contortions of hand and fingers to play each different type chord on guitar are completely foreign and un-natural. Everything takes practice to gain higher degrees of proficiency. But I agree with your hierarchy of difficulty having learned both Harmonica and Guitar. No personal experience with violin but without frets it has to require more precision in finger placement to get the correct notes. Commented May 24, 2016 at 18:21
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    I'm of the opinion that the violin is much harder than guitar. But considering just how unbelievably massive the jump in difficulty of every single aspect of the instrument is I've got no problem calling it "objectively harder". I'm certain only people who play violin and not guitar find the violin, obviously, easier. But from scratch or even intermediate... nah, nah. Commented May 24, 2016 at 19:24
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    I would put harmonica at a level that is more difficult than guitar, personally. The beautiful thing about guitar playing is the linear learning curve. Slightly more difficult things are, well, slightly more difficult. Violin is hard to make a decent sound from the VERY beginning, and has a a steep learning curve from there. Guitar has a physical barrier to get past at first, but relatively quickly you are making "music" and after that the sky's the limit. The other thing is that it's a great instrument to visually copy, and you can teach yourself a lot this way.
    – Some_Guy
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 13:35

You should really base your choice of what to learn based on which one you most like rather than which one is easiest. In truth, no instrument is easier than any other when played at the highest level of musicianship, just some instruments are easier to get started on than others.

Violin and guitar are fully chromatic instruments meaning that every note is available to play and can therefore be played in any key, however the tuning makes particular keys easier and therefore more prevalent. There are diatonic and chromatic harmonicas. Diatonic harmonicas are the ones most associated with blues are in a specific key. Often they are played cross-harp, meaning the harmonica has the notes of one key but the player will bend some of those notes to change the key so with two or three inexpensive diatonic harmonicas you should not be too restricted by what key you can play in, particularly if you are playing in a guitar friendly key, which is usually the case for blues harp.

  • Thanks. actually, I like the violin the most, and I started to look for a good teacher that can works with my schedule.
    – mostafax80
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 0:26

The instrument you should learn first is Piano. You don't have to learn it to a high level, i certainly didn't, but just to get to third grade makes almost every instrument so much easier. Even rhythmic instruments like drums are made easier I've found. I'm able to fit in with the band much easier and improvise with the group better thanks too piano. It will help you your ear too. Learning piano will help you to recognize melodies and re-create them.

Of those instruments though Guitar will be the best to learn first. It is easier to learn though harder to master than harmonica unless you have the knack. It is also a more versatile instrument helping you to fit into more situations.

As for your ear, recognizing tunes and playing them by ear, the old phrase 'practice makes perfect' fits perfectly. You've just got to spend time playing and listening and over time you will get better at it.


I play all these instruments. Guitar is the easiest, piano the most useful for learning first to understand how music theory works so making other instruments easier to learn in the future, and the violin is difficult, but great! I would totally disagree that the harmonica is an easy instrument. Unlike the violin it is easy to get the basics quickly and not torment your household for years, but the subtleties involved in playing well are really difficult!! So depends if you just want to jam with your mates or play at a higher level which instrument you pick! Hope this helps.

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    The advanced subtleties of harmonica are so much harder than the advanced subtleties of playing guitar that overall you find guitar to be easier? Things I find easier on a diatonic harmonica than on guitar: vibrato, bending, pentatonic minor (cross harp) improvisation, chords, tuning, maintenance, buying new ones, etc. The only thing easier about guitar is you don't have to learn to purse your lips like that, but it does help for rock face. Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 19:28

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