Accordion vs. Guitar

I remember one time my friends Jeremy and Chris were arguing about which is harder to learn how to play, the piano or the guitar. The argument basically went like this:

  • The piano is easier, because someone with no knowledge whatsoever of the piano can sit down and pick out a tune. You can’t do that on guitar.
  • The guitar is easier, because after you learn a few basic chords, you can play the vast majority of most songs.

Now that I am making some meager attempt to learn the accordion, I have discovered that they were both right! They are two totally different instruments, that both have their own advantages as far as ease of learning go. Keep in mind that I am less than a beginner when it comes to the accordion, so take my opinions with a grain of salt!

Advantage Guitar

  • Usually with guitar, you only play the rhythm part. You might learn a couple of little tidbits of picking here or there, particularly intros to songs, but during the song you usually only play the part that is sort of background, and then sing the melody. On accordion, you have to play both, simultaneously.
  • For guitar, any song you can ever think of is available online, for free. I assumed it would be the same for the accordion. Not so! It is very, very difficult to find free music for songs. Usually you have to purchase a book containing sheet music. The other downside to this is that I usually check out 2 or 3 guitar versions of a song and pick and choose what I like about each (there are always many different ways to play any song). I don’t think I will be getting 2 or 3 versions of a song if I have to pay for each one.
  • Guitar has a special, condensed way of designating how to play, called tab (or tablature) which is very easy to learn. For the accordion, you more or less have to learn to read sheet music. I haven’t looked at sheet music since 4th grade band. I am literally starting at square 1.
  • On a guitar, you have two actions to perform: playing the chords with one hand, and strumming with the other hand. On the accordion, you also have to play with two hands, but in addition you need to work the bellows. 2 is easier than 3.

Advantage Accordion

  • Like my friend said, with the piano you can sit down and pick out a song. The first time I picked up the accordion, I could play *something* (even if it was Three Blind Mice). There’s no way you could sit down and figure out a tune on guitar.
  • With the accordion, there are no hurt fingers! To really practice the guitar, you have to expect painful finger tips until you build up your callouses. If you play infrequently, like I do, your callouses go away, and your playing time is usually limited by how much pain you can handle in your fingers. It seems kind of crazy when I say it like that, but it’s true.
  • On the accordion, there are no sour notes. Nobody will believe me on this, but it’s true! The only sounds you can make are coming through tuned reeds. When you hit the G-chord button, you get a G-chord. On the guitar, you get rattling strings, badly formed chords, misplaced fingers. All sorts of hazards.
  • Any piano training is useful. I didn’t happen to have any, but if you already know how to play the piano, you could probably just start playing an accordion. I suppose there are other stringed instruments that you could know which would translate over into guitar, but the knowledge of these instruments is a lot less common than knowledge of piano.
Overall, in my limited experience so far, I believe the accordion is easier to learn how to play than the guitar, even including the extra stuff I have to learn, like how to read sheet music. But maybe I’ll change my mind as time goes along.
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4 thoughts on “Accordion vs. Guitar

  1. Id been toying with the though of learning to play the accordion once in a while so now that this one has magically ended up in my possession I can work on that idea.. I feel like Im on track to enjoy this as an ongoing hobby not winning any races or becoming a viruoso but learning and having fun with it consistently over time.. My mom and I actually went looking for a reasonably priced one and went looking for a teacher and everything because my mom wants to learn too actually .

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  2. When I was a little kid, in the storeroom there was an old accordion bought by my dad when I was not born, so it was far older than me. When I see it at first, it looked huge. But know I took it out and decided to learn. As you mentioned at first, without any knowledge, anyone can handle to play it. Even some basic repeating chords are enough to play the bass part alone, which sounds pretty neat for a newbie. So, I think accordion is much more easier to learn than guitar.

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  3. My main instruments are the guitar and the accordion (I also play [mouth] harmonica and some kinds of fretless zithers). I really felt in love with the accordion at approx. the age of 16 (when I already played the guitar). Now I’m teaching the accordion to my oldest son (5), since he likes it so much (he already mastered the melodica, so we got a quick start with the accordion). Well, I do prefer the guitar to any instrument, even though I really like instruments of the violin family and the wonderful church organs. But the guitar gives you the most overwhelming diversity and dynamic way of handling. Due to it’s simple principles you have the least amount of restrictions.

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  4. I like how you said that the accordion doesn’t have any sour notes when you are first learning to play it. My wife and I want to get some of our sons to play instruments. We’ll have to look into getting them an accordion so they can always be confident in their learning how to play.

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