Why are there more guitar players than piano players?

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rvacountrysinger
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06 Sep 2014, 10:35 pm

I play some guitar, but my main instrument is piano.I took to it when I was about 3 years old and never stopped playing since.
I've been told that piano/keyboards are even more of a "girly instrument,"" and guitars are more masculine

I guess guitars are more portable, but is there a reason why people seem to favor guitars over piano?
I really like acoustic guitar, but I don't care much for electric guitar because its kind of cliche and over done.
But every band you see its always 4 guys with a guitar. Not 4 guys with pianos. Oh, well.
Aren't guitars harder to play?



redrobin62
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06 Sep 2014, 11:08 pm

I taught myself to play guitar after I saw KISS at the Garden. It was relatively easy once I learned how to finger chords from a book. If I'd known I really wasn't going to be a rock star I would've given up music and stayed with this Vietnamese guy who loved me. (I messed up and now I'm paying for it with years and years of loneliness and addictions). Anyway, I can play guitar and piano but they avail me of nothing these days.



Ellingtonia
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07 Sep 2014, 12:16 am

There are two main reasons that guitars are more popular. The first is pretty simple: guitars are cheaper. Lower costs mean more people can get started.

The second is a little more circuitous: guitars are more popular because they are more popular. Lots of people pick up an instrument because they want to play the music they like listening to, or because they want to be like their musical idols. As guitars are so common in popular music while piano/keyboards are less so, more people pick up the guitar.

As for whether it is harder to play, I think it's easier to learn a few chords on guitar and strum your way through a song and have it sound good, or at least familiar, whereas piano takes longer to get to that level. At the more advanced levels of playing I'm not sure which is harder, it's probably a matter of opinion.

You made an interesting comment about guitars being masculine and pianos being feminine, interesting because prior to the 20th century it was the other way around. Guitars and their predecessors, such as the lute, used to be very quiet instruments, strung with gut strings. They were too quiet to be heard in a tavern or a concert hall, they could really only be heard in small rooms and so were mostly played at home to entertain friends and family. This strong association with the home meant they were also associated with women/femininity. While upper and middle class boys might have physical hobbies like sports, girls were expected more to sit still and look pretty (sexist I know). This meant hobbies like crafts (e.g. cross-stitch or knitting) or playing an instrument like a guitar.

This only changed in the early 20th century when changing guitar designs (larger bodies, steel/nylon strings) made guitars louder and factory manufacturing techniques made them much cheaper. In America particularly, people who could previously not afford to buy most instruments, especially a piano, could now afford a guitar and they became quite popular. People could play a guitar as entertainment in a pub or on a street corner and still be heard. They began to be played by professional blues and jazz musicians (who were almost entirely men, professional female musicians were very rare) and began to be seen as more masculine. By the time the 50s/60s came with rock and roll and solid body electric guitars came around guitars were firmly established as the height of masculinity. Electric guitars can be very loud and with distortion be very harsh and aggressive sounding, which is associated with masculinity more than femininity.

I don't think the piano is particularly 'girly', I think it's a fairly gender neutral instrument, but it is definitely seen as less masculine than a guitar.



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07 Sep 2014, 2:23 am

Have you seen how much even a cheap upright piano costs?


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Skurvey
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07 Sep 2014, 5:21 pm

Beethoven would have probably bashed you if you suggested the Piano was a girly instrument!! !

As said guitars are cheap and portable. But also it's a fashion, and the music people play is guitar based. I think there is something to do with the Spanish colonisation of America - they brought guitars with them. And rock and roll comes from America, so guitar based rock is a natural progression. 100 years ago Piano was the fashion and everyone played Piano.

I think once you get beyond the basics no instrument is harder than the next. But knowing how to play one instrument well, it is fairly easy to learn a new one from what you already know.


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RetroGamer87
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07 Sep 2014, 11:06 pm

Could it be because nowadays there's less interest in classical music? I know there's a lot of classical music for guitar and that there's a lot of modern music for piano but people could still associate the piano with classical music.


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modernmax
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07 Sep 2014, 11:29 pm

You can serenade with a guitar, but it's pretty hard to do with a piano. You also can't play for tips.


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Stargazer43
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08 Sep 2014, 5:53 am

rvacountrysinger wrote:
But every band you see its always 4 guys with a guitar. Not 4 guys with pianos. Oh, well.


Really? Hm, I hadn't noticed....

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_pbxdfwi7Y[/youtube]

rvacountrysinger wrote:
I've been told that piano/keyboards are even more of a "girly instrument,"" and guitars are more masculine


Say whaaaattt?! Feminine, I think not!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrmaZGjWg1I



Last edited by Stargazer43 on 09 Sep 2014, 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

rvacountrysinger
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08 Sep 2014, 11:12 am

Ellingtonia wrote:
There are two main reasons that guitars are more popular. The first is pretty simple: guitars are cheaper. Lower costs mean more people can get started.

The second is a little more circuitous: guitars are more popular because they are more popular. Lots of people pick up an instrument because they want to play the music they like listening to, or because they want to be like their musical idols. As guitars are so common in popular music while piano/keyboards are less so, more people pick up the guitar.

As for whether it is harder to play, I think it's easier to learn a few chords on guitar and strum your way through a song and have it sound good, or at least familiar, whereas piano takes longer to get to that level. At the more advanced levels of playing I'm not sure which is harder, it's probably a matter of opinion.

You made an interesting comment about guitars being masculine and pianos being feminine, interesting because prior to the 20th century it was the other way around. Guitars and their predecessors, such as the lute, used to be very quiet instruments, strung with gut strings. They were too quiet to be heard in a tavern or a concert hall, they could really only be heard in small rooms and so were mostly played at home to entertain friends and family. This strong association with the home meant they were also associated with women/femininity. While upper and middle class boys might have physical hobbies like sports, girls were expected more to sit still and look pretty (sexist I know). This meant hobbies like crafts (e.g. cross-stitch or knitting) or playing an instrument like a guitar.

This only changed in the early 20th century when changing guitar designs (larger bodies, steel/nylon strings) made guitars louder and factory manufacturing techniques made them much cheaper. In America particularly, people who could previously not afford to buy most instruments, especially a piano, could now afford a guitar and they became quite popular. People could play a guitar as entertainment in a pub or on a street corner and still be heard. They began to be played by professional blues and jazz musicians (who were almost entirely men, professional female musicians were very rare) and began to be seen as more masculine. By the time the 50s/60s came with rock and roll and solid body electric guitars came around guitars were firmly established as the height of masculinity. Electric guitars can be very loud and with distortion be very harsh and aggressive sounding, which is associated with masculinity more than femininity.

I don't think the piano is particularly 'girly', I think it's a fairly gender neutral instrument, but it is definitely seen as less masculine than a guitar.


That is very interesting! Well I certainly never thought piano was a girly instrument. But I have heard that said. Most piano players I know and have seen are men. I have rarely seen a woman playing piano- especially in genres other than Classical. The only instrument I could see being a "girls" instrument is the Harp, but even there I think its subjective.



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09 Sep 2014, 9:03 am

Neither instrument is easier to play than the other. Both the piano and guitar take time, practice, and a little bit of skill to play proficiently. As for the guitar being more masculine than the piano. Unless this person is confusing the term " refined " with girly, and I say that because classical music which piano is mostly associated with is used in movies to show a certain level of pompous arrogance. That haughty characters tend to have, and guitars * at least electric guitars * are mostly associated with rebellion. i.e. more masculine, even though refined isn't mutually exclusive to girliness. What I mean is that you can be a guy's guy, and still like refined things.

I've to say, there are people who associate the guitar with a certain male anatomy. I don't know if this is true, but it would make sense why guys like to play the guitar.


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09 Sep 2014, 1:30 pm

Guitar is one of the most flexible instruments available. It can be used to fill many roles and play just about any music genre you can think of that relies on instruments(including playing transcribed or transposed pieces originally written for violin, piano, cello... etc.), and because of that flexibility, many people's favorite groups have a guitarist that made it look appealing to those who have chosen to try out their hands at guitar.

I play electric guitar, and the reason has nothing to do with being a fashion statement. It just happens to be the best vehicle with the most available octaves for my preferences in music study... Classical, Jazz, and Technical/Shred. I've found it to also be an instrument, that when your preferences and goals in music change over the years, that you're not left holding the wrong instrument even when there's one that looks more desirably specialized.

As far as difficulty, I imagine each are easier for some, and more difficult for others. Guitar is much like having six separate severed sections of keyboard laid next to each other in parallel. In a "Think fast" type of way, that might initially be overwhelming to some with the pileup of available notes to choose from, but on a technical level, the many available notes leave so many nearby options to quickly get you where you wish to go. Where as piano is laid out in a linear sensible fashion, but can require some inhuman reach in certain classical pieces written by those with large hands... A piece by a guitarist with large hands can be improvised without compromise and sound nearly identical through choosing the note of that octave on a different place on the neck that is personally more accessible.



Last edited by Lace-Bane on 09 Sep 2014, 9:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

peaceloveerin
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09 Sep 2014, 3:42 pm

I never really thought of either instrument as being gender-related. I think an equal number of guys and girls play both piano and guitar. I can definitely see why a lot of people think the harp is a girly instrument. I've rarely seen men play it.

I definitely agree that guitars are more popular because they are cheaper and more portable, whereas pianos aren't.
I started off playing guitar but then switched over to piano about a year later just because I thought the latter was easier for me. Also, because of the fact that I get calluses very easily and don't have a lot of muscle strength in my fingers, playing guitar is harder for me. The problem is I sing mostly country music and piano playing is not very common in that genre. I also have a terrible time with those barre chords! Yep, I've always been better at piano!



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11 Sep 2014, 9:01 pm

I think part of the answer is that guitars are easier for one person to carry than pianos.



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12 Sep 2014, 12:14 am

A piano can be more portable than a guitar if you're brining a keyboard, not like a grand piano or anything like that.


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13 Sep 2014, 6:41 am

E. Guitars are so easy. Just plug and play. Acoustic/Classic guitars are easier. Just play :)

Most professional keyboards however require some sort of amplification in addition to power supply, as if you just want to turn on and play you'll have to settle on a worse keyboard with internal speakers and maybe batteries, and there's a limit to how loud internal speakers can get and how much time batteries can last.

In the circa 40s people tried to play rockn'roll with pianos and saxophones and it didn't sound good. Then came the E. guitars in various shapes and colours and wowed the audience. Plus performers who use guitars with straps can get a better connection on stage with the audience rather than a guy sitting in front of a keyboard/piano.

In the 80s alot of musicians began using synthesizers instead of orchestral instruments, but afterwards with the invention of MIDI and DAW and everything people neglected hardware keyboards to virtual keyboard instruments on the computer. You can't however mimic a guitar with a VST that good.... That's why guitars will never be abandoned IMO. You can't immitate the strum on a keyboard.

I'm a Keyboard as well as Ukulele player So I do understand why it is fun using a stringed instuments, but.... keyboards have SO many sounds and parameters to choose from that I doubt they will ever abandoned as well.

As for the gender thing, Keyboards are associated with kitschy bubblegum pop and pianos with Classical music, which is not so 'manly' (in my personal opinion though, as seeing most pro keyboard players are men, this isn't the thing). However guitars are associated with Rock and Metal, and girls who are influected by this culture are considered tomboys.



rvacountrysinger
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23 Sep 2014, 1:28 pm

Chummy wrote:
E. Guitars are so easy. Just plug and play. Acoustic/Classic guitars are easier. Just play :)

Most professional keyboards however require some sort of amplification in addition to power supply, as if you just want to turn on and play you'll have to settle on a worse keyboard with internal speakers and maybe batteries, and there's a limit to how loud internal speakers can get and how much time batteries can last.

In the circa 40s people tried to play rockn'roll with pianos and saxophones and it didn't sound good. Then came the E. guitars in various shapes and colours and wowed the audience. Plus performers who use guitars with straps can get a better connection on stage with the audience rather than a guy sitting in front of a keyboard/piano.

In the 80s alot of musicians began using synthesizers instead of orchestral instruments, but afterwards with the invention of MIDI and DAW and everything people neglected hardware keyboards to virtual keyboard instruments on the computer. You can't however mimic a guitar with a VST that good.... That's why guitars will never be abandoned IMO. You can't immitate the strum on a keyboard.

I'm a Keyboard as well as Ukulele player So I do understand why it is fun using a stringed instuments, but.... keyboards have SO many sounds and parameters to choose from that I doubt they will ever abandoned as well.

As for the gender thing, Keyboards are associated with kitschy bubblegum pop and pianos with Classical music, which is not so 'manly' (in my personal opinion though, as seeing most pro keyboard players are men, this isn't the thing). However guitars are associated with Rock and Metal, and girls who are influected by this culture are considered tomboys.



I play keyboards in mainly an Alt Country/Folk style music. I do prefer playing the piano over keyboard. I like the acoustic sound. The digital keyboards are getting better at sounding more natural, but for a long time they sounded awful in piano sound. You would prefer to use the more synthesizer sounds or electronic sounds. I feel that on a keyboard I can play solo and get a much fuller sound than I would on a guitar. But I do envy guitar players- especially those that can play melody lines on top of the strokes.