Help! Should i learn Guitar or Violin? Pros and Cons of Both?

Hi, i'm a singer and a songwriter, but i want to learn to play an instrument too. I'm twenty years old, but dedicated.
I'm torn between acoustic guitar which everyone tells me is the logical choice (the cliche is my reply), or the violin which i love the sound of.

Could you tell me the pros and cons of learning each?
How long on average can i expect to take to reach proficiency if not pro in either of these?
I can only afford a half hour private lessons a week, but will practice about two hours a day.
Which instrument is the easiest to handle? (especially for a left hander).
Original Post
Hi Rainbowserpant.......

The guitar would be much easier to master than the violin and would seem more logical for a singer, provided it is an instrument that you are interested in. The violin is considered one of the most difficult of the stringed instruments to master. Also depending on the different opinions you hear, there is a disticnt difference between playing violin and fiddle. Two different techniques and sounds involved.

If as you say you are going to practice 2 hours per day as well as take lessons you should do reasonably well in whichever instrument you choose.

Good luck in whichever you select.

How long on average can i expect to take to reach proficiency if not pro in either of these?

A short-time and a life-time ...

I'd pick guitar as well if you want to sing. Also, violin may make you deaf in your left ear over time. It is VERY loud up that close.

You can learn the basics of guitar in a half-year and be proficient within a couple. But I've found that you can grow with the instrument for your entire life. Les Paul, is a famous guitar player and inventor. He's 90 this year and according to him "still learning". how cool is that?

I recall an interview with Chet Atkins ,after he was already a legend, where he said that he was taking guitar lessons. Who could teach Chet?
Making music seems to be a passion that few ever "get over".
Due to limited dexterity I don't get much better, but at 63 I am always learning new stuff about guitar and music.
Col. Andy
Tom’s right on with this one! I tried picking up the Violin many, many years ago after playing the guitar for about 15 years at that time! There is no obvious frets, so if you get lost, It’s much harder to recover from then with a guitar. I too love the sound of a good violin but I recognized right off that I had no talent for it… You should try renting, and trying out both for a while and see which one lands with you….

Oddly enough one of my favorite instruments to play is the harp. Back in the early 70s I thought it was just a back ground instrument until I saw Harpo Marks play take me out to the ball park on one. Well I just had to have one after that. I was surprise on how easy it was to learn to play.

Try not to limit your self to just one instrument… you are young… just imagine how fulfilling life would be if you could master one every ten years!
Good question: violin or guitar? I started the violin at 26, played the violin for 5 years and quit to play classical guitar for 5 years, then back to the violin, which I have been playing as an amatueur for the last 15 years. I'll break my answer into categories:

Musical need: Do you need to play melody or rhythm? You can do both with each instrument, but if melody is your desire, violin it is. A violin sustains a pitch, like the voice, and produces a melody that a plucked string can't.

Cost: guitars are way, way cheaper than violins. You'll need a decent violin to start and a better violin in two or three years. A better violin is critical, because it makes the pitches easier to hear and find.

Left handed: It will be easier for you to learn the fiddle as a lefty, because beginning and intermediate fiddlers struggle with the left hand. It takes years to realize that it's the right hand, the bow hand, that produces the sound, despite the fact that you know this and everybody tells you.

Lessons: critical to violin playing. It is so much easier to learn something new and correctly, than take years to eliminate a bad habit. Because the violin is held the way it is (or should be) there are a lot of long-term bad things you can do to yourself if you don't hold it and play it correctly.

Time to get good: This is of course, subjective, but it took me three or four years to be an intermediate guitarist and six to eight years to be an intermediate violinist. But I've met fiddlers who astonish me that have only been playing five years. The violin was a lot harder than the guitar for me -- I was actually shocked at how much easier the gross finger movement was than the subtle left hand on the violin.

Violin vs fiddle. If your goal is finely played classical violin, you're too late. I've never met a fine classical violinist who didn't play in junior high. You can, on the other hand, be a great fiddler if you are patient. (I gave up on classical violin and became a fiddler five years ago. Never regretted it for an instant.) Fiddling is growing in numbers and importance. Search for "fiddle camps" and explore. I play for contra dances and just love it.

There are lots of opportunities for guitar players too, but I am not familiar with them.

Musical Styles: the violin can play all musical styles, and does. I play with an English Dance band that plays music from 1650 to 1850. I play with a contradance band that plays contemporary music.

The violin/fiddle is a lead instrument -- do you want to be a leader? (Now, however, I'm learning rhythm fiddle and second fiddle, and I love it.) Most string bands have fiddle leads, not guitar. Most rock bands have guitar leads, not fiddles -- but that is because the fiddle is harder to play.

What to choose? I'm patient and I love the ability to move the pitch around of a sustained tone. The fiddle is a lot harder than the guitar, but if you choose it, you'll love it.

I'm curious Col., because I no longer rank as a spring chicken, do you still play out? Have you found any major problems performing as you've aged? Jagger still struts around and Sir Paul is hitting the road.


Originally posted by Col. Andy:
Making music seems to be a passion that few ever "get over".
Due to limited dexterity I don't get much better, but at 63 I am always learning new stuff about guitar and music.
Col. Andy
Well, I can't strut like Jagger (never could), but I do still play bars, parties etc. I used to be a 6 night a week solo/duo player, but I don't want to work that much now, maybe 25 or 30 gigs each year. I do depend more on my notes and lyric sheets these days, but the voice still seems to hold up OK. Setting up my old PA was getting hard on my back, and along comes Bose with the PAS and solved that problem. I don't plan to stop until either my show or my body quits working. Smile
MIDI Control from violin still stinks... but guitar is very useable.

If you break a guitar string, you can find a set in any town with a population greater than 300.

Have you seen how much it costs to re-hair a bow ??

You EVER see someone sing and play the violin at the same time ?
i I am a fiddler player that started at age 24, 30 years ago. I was playing out pretty soon at that time. I entered music scholl at age 27 and studied the violin for 7 years. I l also play mandolin, which is a good double and a good way to add something to a band relatively quickly. I also play a little guitar. These days I play a version of folk/jazz with some blues and celtic music. By all means go for the fiddle with perhaps adding the mandolin at the same time. There are a gazillion guitar players, and very few good fiddlers. In spite of what another post says, the real difficukty in learning the violin/fiddle is the mastery of the bow. Where are you located ? I may be able to help you if you are near Cleveland Ohio. I taught for many years, adults and children and because I started late, I have an intellectual approach rather than instinctive to teaching. Violin playing has a great deal of physics involved with the manipulation of speed, pressure, and location of the bow.

Go for it ! The hard work you put in now will pay off with a unique sound.

John Reynolds
i am not sure why everyone is saying that guitar is easier. to become a virtuoso of the classical guitar takes just as many years as it does to become a virtuoso of any other classical instrument. while unfretted instruments do present the challenge of intonation, the guitar offers the challenge of multi simultaneous voicing. your fretting hand can be doing 3- different tings on 3-4 different fingers while your right hand is doing 4-5 different things, add to this two more strings than the violin and you get start to get the picture. if not, please listen to some of john williams (the guitarist, not film scorer) recordings of j.s. bach. jullian bream, christopher parkening, andres segovia and of course randy pile are guitar virtuosos. pepe romero is another. in the classical style reading notation is a must and getting good tone requires much more than amp and eq settings. i used to play electric all the time as well as steel string acoustic, violin, double bass and piano. the guitar is by no means easier unless you are trying to do easy playing. i imagine the same is for all the other instruments. virtuosity is not about the instrument its about the instrumentalist, as is mastery.
As I see it, in a short time a player can 'get by' on the guitar. In order to 'get by' on the five-string banjo it took me much more work. I shudder to consider the fiddle.

True that mastery on a guitar takes a lifetime of work. But many rock and pop stars learned three or four chords and took off. A little effort goes a long way on guitar IMO. Also ideal for singers I believe. On the other hand, the Atkins fingerstyle tunes I'm trying to learn are taxing me.

I was a percussionist who sang. I wanted to accompany myself as a solo singer and found that drums and vocals really would not back me very well. Neither will Violin alone. I learned guitar and then went on to keyboard. Your a singer and a songwriter........your decision is simple. Learn to play the acoustic guitar and concentrate on chords and progressions. Depending on how much practice time you want to put in you should be up and running and singing around a campfire or doing a solo on stage at some local pub in a reasonable short time. Good Luck!

My wife is an outstanding violinist (though she mostly plays cello these days), and I am passable at it (read: not in public). I have been playing guitar (both classical and fingerstyle) for 15-20 years or so, and I am still working toward mastering the instrument (2-3 hours a day, as well as touring full time). I have some familiarity with both instruments, and while I do have an opinion on which is more challenging to begin (violin), mastery is equally difficult with both instruments.

So here is my advise...

Since both instruments are equally hard to master (just different), pick up whichever one excites you the most. Consider this: studies have shown that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to master almost anything. This means that you are going to put some serious time and effort in so that you can master it.

In light of the work and time involved, you sure don't want to be playing an instrument that you don't enjoy fully. On top of this, the more you enjoy it, the more likely it is that your audience with enjoy it as well. So by all means, take lessons. You won't regret doing the hard work it takes to learn to play well.

On the other hand, if you are simply looking for something to learn and then take gigging in the shortest possible time, go with the guitar. Though at your age this seems short sighted; take the time and effort to learn it well.

Regarding teachers...never stop taking lessons. I have two different teachers (one on the West coast and one on the East), and every lesson is valuable. I have two songs written recently, simply because of some ideas and techniques from my last lesson. Play with others and learn as much as you can from every musician you meet, regardless of their instrument. You will be enriched, and you will enrich others.

Hopefully you will indulge me one last maxim: your music will only be as communicative to the extent that the river of your experience runs deep. So practice thoroughly, and live so that you will be able to give full voice to the richness that surrounds you.
I know this is like 4 years old and you probably already made your decision, but I'll reply for any other people with the same question.

I've tried both instruments and my personal preference is the violin. I had tried learning guitar twice previously in the past and I recently bought a guitar and have been learning that, but the violin still gets more use out of it.

Although the violin doesn't have any frets, I still find it easier to place my fingers on the strings than I do with the guitar. I've heard that violin intonation comes much easier to singers, so that may have something to do with it. Since you're also a singer, I imagine you would find it easier too.

Now from what I know about guitar, is the approach to songs is quite different. With the violin, it takes more of a melodic approach and going through a song is more or less the same approach as when you sing a song. Guitar takes more of a harmonic approach by playing chords that go along with what you sing.

Now one of the pros with a guitar is it a popular instrument and finding music resources is much easier, the cost is somewhat less than for the violin, and it's more popular in mainstream music. Those are some of the reasons I wanted to learn guitar.

I love the sound of the violin and hearing the music I am playing is definitely enjoyable and learning it has come so naturally for me. I was able to get up to an intermediate level in under a year with private lessons, so it may not take as long as some people think.

Anyways that's some of the pros and cons from the point of view of somebody who prefers the violin.
If you want to song write and perform solo playing your stuff, you need to learn guitar or piano. They just lend themselves to songwriter, and provide the chording you need to back yourself up when you sing.

Guitar and keyboard players are a dime a dozen, though. So if you want to join a band, get really good on something that few master, such as violin, sax, zither, or perhaps krumhorn.

No reason you can't master one and play the other.
Hey, I've actually been playing both guitar and Violin for quite some time. And I can tell you that Violin has many rewarding qualities, but for what you describe, I would very much go with guitar.

Reasons: Violin takes much longer to learn. Though equally difficult to master, the guitar comes much easier in the beginning. Especially for someone playing 2 hours a day. Secondly, it's damn near impossible to sing and play violin. And if you do manage, its still awkward. Third, though you say it's cliche, my opinion is that it's only cliche if you make it so. Music has so much possibility. If you sit there strumming "Hey there Delilah" over and over then yes- very cliche. However if you write your own songs and know how to do it right, you can be really original sounding. Dave Matthews is one of my favorite songwriters. He's a perfect example. Acoustic guitar player, but he doesn't sound like every other thing ever written. He's creative.

Hope this helps.
I suggest someday you do take up violin though. It adds a great thing to your recorded music. It has proven to me to be a very valuable skill. But for someone in your position it's not nearly as valuable without first learning guitar.
I play both (as well as 10 other instruments). Is there any reason why you can't learn both? Why limit yourself?

If you absolutely have to pick just one instrument to learn, this is a no-brainer.

Violin Player=nerd, square, not asked to parties often, few women around (or men, depending on what you prefer), usually winds up driving a Pinto, or Pacer, playing in boring orchestras, or worse, a Blugrass Band, and lives a life of quiet desperation.

Guitar Player-Certified Extra-Cool, gets invited everywhere. Lives in Open Mic establishments, drives cool cars with lots of women (or men) around, gets plenty of killer gigs, and gets to hang out with other cool people. Drawbacks: If you lose your girlfriend/boyfriend, you are homeless.......(LOL)

Seriously, I'd start with guitar, then piano, then go to violin, and other instruments. The guitar is the most versatile instrument there is.

I soncerely hope you work hard, cross-over and become one of US....

This Poster will self-destrct in 5 seconds. Good Luc.......

Originally posted by RainebowSerpent:
Hi, i'm a singer and a songwriter, but i want to learn to play an instrument too. I'm twenty years old, but dedicated.
I'm torn between acoustic guitar which everyone tells me is the logical choice (the cliche is my reply), or the violin which i love the sound of.

Could you tell me the pros and cons of learning each?
How long on average can i expect to take to reach proficiency if not pro in either of these?
I can only afford a half hour private lessons a week, but will practice about two hours a day.
Which instrument is the easiest to handle? (especially for a left hander).

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