Why Guitarists Who Don’t Learn Piano Fail & Those That Learn Succeed
Yes, I know, piano isn’t a very “alluring” instrument. No one ever swoons over the keyboardist in the band. You can’t bring it with you wherever you go and serenade the unsuspecting. In fact, you can’t bring it with you anywhere, unless you have a portable keyboard.
The piano has a bit of a stereotype, reserved only for stuffy concert halls or old people trying to play a song from 50 years ago while singing horribly. However, playing piano has a lot of unknown perks for guitarists and here’s a few of them for you to consider:
It'll Help You Write Music Better. Composing on the guitar can be difficult because the range of notes and rhythms that can be played simultaneously is limited so it’s easy to write something that seems like it works, but doesn’t.
On piano you can play 8-10 notes at one time whereas guitar is limited to 6 at the maximum. On the piano, melodies, chords, harmonies and bass lines can all be heard together, which allows you to hear problem areas immediately and waste less time.
Music Theory is Way Easier to Understand. Let’s say you wanted to play middle C on the guitar. You’d have several different options of playing that pitch using various positions and fingerings, right? Though having so many options on the guitar can sometimes be great, it can also be torturous when you’re trying to sight read note to note.
On the piano, middle C is played one way on one key, which takes a lot of the frustration out of working through a piece. All the notes are right there in front of your face where you can clearly see them and how they relate to one another. Learning intervals, chords, and voice leading will be significantly easier.
You’ll Have Access to New and Inspiring Sounds. Guitarists have a long list of effects to work with, but they certainly aren’t the only ones who can create unique sounds.
A cool thing about MIDI keyboards is that the keys can be split into zones and assigned to different sounds. If you wanted your left hand to play marimba and your right an acoustic bass, you can. If you record something and realize you’d
rather an electric bass instead of an acoustic all you need to do is reassign the MIDI track to the desired sound.
It’s a lot of fun playing around with the thousands of sounds available on keyboards and before you know it, you’ve created an entire composition.
You’ll Work More. Singers and instrumentalists are always looking for accompanists; cocktail hours always have live music, and hotel lobbies need music that people can ignore but complain about if it’s not there.
These jobs will go to pianists most of the time so it’s a good skill to have in the back pocket. I know that accompanying an opera or playing jazz standards
for uppity businessmen might not sound as gratifying or exciting as playing at
the local dive bar with fans screaming, but you know what those dive bars won’t give you? A reasonable amount of money for your time and efforts.
If you put in the time to become a good enough player, a lot of high paying jobs can be at your fingertips. Even if you’re just looking to shred with your friends in a garage or play a local gig, spending some time learning basic chords and progressions on the piano will go a long way.
Your Guitar Playing Will Improve. An essential skill you learn when playing piano is hand independence – the ability to play different notes and rhythms with each hand simultaneously.
Taking the knowledge you learn from the piano and applying it to the guitar will allow you some pretty exciting opportunities. Charlie Hunter, Michael Hedges and Stanley Jordan are all prime examples of how hand independence can be used to create mini six-stringed orchestras and
Guitar virtuoso Shawn Lane said in one of his interviews that playing the piano helped increase his speed. In piano, it’s important to learn how to play each note evenly and distinctly with any finger you use to develop speed, accuracy and strength. He is a great example of how hand independence can be used to create a six-stringed orchestra so if you see that your playing is sloppy or muddy, running through some piano exercises focusing on evenness will help.
If you’ve ever heard that piano is one of the hardest instruments to learn, you didn’t hear wrong. You brain has to rewire itself to basically learn a new language, but you don’t have to become a virtuoso to reap the rewards.
Just have fun learning a new instrument because you’re expanding your horizons and giving yourself more opportunities to become a better guitarist and well-rounded musician.