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Thread: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

  1. #51
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Fyi, many beginners (writing on the harp forum) are older adults - many are older than you. Harp seems to be an instrument that many folks aspire to play, but don't undertake until at a later point in life, if at all - when they're finally ready to do something wholly irrational.
    Maybe it's cuz they realize they might not have much more time and want to invest it in something that might be useful later?
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  3. #52
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by mtm View Post
    I have s slew of pedals to try to make those psych sounds. Is there a wrong way to play it? why do I want one?
    Truth be told, I would love to borrow that contraption for a day and play around with it. Whether its "music" or not is debatable, but it certainly looks fun to play

  4. #53
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    I think the hardest instrument is the larynx followed by the pucker. I mean, think of the 10,000 hrs we invested between the ages of birth and 4 to learn how to operate the larynx. Not everybody takes the time to learn to whistle; however. . .

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  6. #54
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    Mandolin a piece of cake? No way... well, what sort of cake?
    Tiramisu, maybe? Something Italian, at any rate.

    The mandolin, with its equal tuning intervals -- allowing chord patterns to be moved around the fingerboard, and "rationalizing" scale patterns -- compact size, lively voice, and versatility as a chord-and-melody instrument, is pretty accessible and friendly, IMHO. Not saying that it's easy to achieve virtuosity on it, but it never seemed forbidding and frustrating, as some other instruments do -- see my post on the English-system concertina...
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  7. #55
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    When I was younger I wanted to play everything. I still own instruments I barely can play any more including button and piano accordion(s), flute, recorders, musical saw, harmonicas, melodica, bowed psaltery and dobro. I even borrowed a nyckelharpa for a few years. As I grow older though I realize the most sensible thing to do is to stick with the ones I can play, mostly those with frets and fiddle and viola.

    It is not that any are so much more difficult. It is really that it would take me lots more time to get pleasure from playing them and the ones I have been playing for decades I still enjoy learning new things about: trying out new tunes, new genres, new techniques and improving the sounds and rhythms I can produce from what I am used to.

    For instance, I just watched this video by these two characters, both excellent classical violinists and the laughs they have trying to play cello. Each of them can play circles around me on violin with their virtuosic technique (they are friends with Hilary Hahn) but when confronted with an instrument requiring different technique, they are like beginners.

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  9. #56

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    With 150 million views, you guys have almost certainly seen this vid.
    THAT is how you hold a cello. With a waist strap too.


  10. #57

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    -- see my post on the English-system concertina...
    Alright, Ive gotta give EC love here - yes its layout is different from most instruments we play with its alternating-hand scalar system. But it's really an elegant and logical design. It has user-friendly buttons after all. We were all perhaps more fluid of tool adaptation and even-handed at some early point (right, concertina-playing cave people!). They have their own logic and advantages.

    I guess I'm kind of a free reed charlatan - we did this on the last comparative instrument thread. I haven't played mine in 4 or so years (I play accrdns instead) .. But EC are also accessible! (and the grandkids love them )


    And BTW, thank you! ...for inspiring me to get one out and play. https://youtu.be/H3xvLN8nP2s

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  12. #58
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Alright, Ive gotta give EC love here - yes its layout is different from most instruments we play with its alternating-hand scalar system. But it's really an elegant and logical design. It has user-friendly buttons after all. We were all perhaps more fluid of tool adaptation and even-handed at some early point (right, concertina-playing cave people!). They have their own logic and advantages.

    I guess I'm kind of a free reed charlatan - we did this on the last comparative instrument thread. I haven't played mine in 4 or so years (I play accrdns instead) .. But EC are also accessible! (and the grandkids love them )

    And BTW, thank you! ...for inspiring me to get one out and play.
    Hah! When you said EC I thought you meant Eric Clapton and I thought the video of him trying to play a concertina.

    Alternate hand scalar arrangement is used for modernized kalimba (thumb piano) and (I believe) kora.
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  13. #59

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Right. I think of these things (concertina) as simply just idiophones of a nature - just striking the buttons is not appreciably different than a 'mbira tang or harp string or...

    Like, my point above is just to show that merely drumming the fingers in rhythmic fashion - after actually more like 5 or 6 years abstinence - renders some musical efficacy (and that Caughtenman's Rambles or Saddle the Pony or whatever the tune is - is easier on the EC than AC )

  14. #60
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    As with everything else, it is what you get used to. One friend of mine excels on the Anglo Concertina. Gets great rhythms for playing for dances.
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  16. #61

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    As with everything else, it is what you get used to. One friend of mine excels on the Anglo Concertina. Gets great rhythms for playing for dances.

    Well, yes, I played anglo mostly - generally prefer it for ITM - as is customary. But playing the tunes on EC provides yet a different lilt. Playing these tunes on AC or DBA (dia button accrdn) requires a bit of bellows work ... That's one big reason I like EC - I'm lazy - I dont have to work the bellows...i got into boxes in the first place to avoid the work of fiddle playing for dances. Squeezing is just so easy... )

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  18. #62
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    I played around on DBA for accompanying singing in OT and a little norteño polkas. In my old mandolin orchestra they used the concertinas to play the wind parts. We did Handel's Water Music one year with a full quartet of EC's two violin-tuned ones, a viola- and a cello-tuned EC. I guess they had whole orchestras of these playing classical repertoire.
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  19. #63

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    I play out on accordions once a week. Upon seeing the box, it never fails that someone yells out, "polka!" Now, this would have bothered me some years ago, for I grew up loathing the words polka and accrdn...not really the words, but the very idea and image of it. For I was into zeppelin, not Welk..

    Well, now I play chamame and cumbia and other cool things that Latinos have done with the polka rhythm and accrdns. Not to mention some straight up quebecois or std "North American' style polka - folks actually enjoy hearing this stuff

    *Oh, btw - it's generally held that bandoneon is the "hardest" of the free reeds.
    Last edited by catmandu2; Oct-08-2019 at 9:28pm.

  20. #64

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    And I dont mean to bag on Lawrence W and N American stuff. Sorry if it sounded that way. But it's surprising how often people ask for it. People often mention old Myron et al.. that's part of music too. I just havent gotten into much of that oom-pa or light classical or whatever kind of stuff.

  21. #65

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    What instrument is the hardest?
    For me, one of the hardest beasts I've ever tried to tame was the Uilleann pipes, as far as trying to achieve (and maintain!) a good setup so the darned things play right. Seven reeds (comprising both double and single reeds) in a full set of pipes. It's hard to know, for beginners especially, if funky sound is because of defective technique or out-of-adjustment/defective equipment. It's in the player's best interest to have some knowledge of the basics of how the instrument is supposed to function:



    Worth the effort though, when everything's working right. There are some good and inspiring players these days. Some random YouTube links - here's Louise Mulcahy on Uilleann pipes, skip ahead to 0:43 for hauntingly wonderful dance music:


    (or direct link)


    Below, Uilleann pipes played by Pamela Schweblin (Argentina), with fiddle played by Carolina Arango (Colombia).


    (or direct link)
    Last edited by JL277z; Oct-09-2019 at 1:35am. Reason: Correction

  22. #66
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    So are the Uilleann pipes harder than the Great Highland Bagpipes?
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    I used to think fiddle was hardest, and it would have been harder if I hadn't already been playing mandolin for 20-odd years. Then I tried flute. Ow. My lips just won't bend that way, and my lung capacity isn't what it used to be either. As far as wind instruments are concerned I'll stick with clarinet, which was also the first real instrument of any kind that I studied.

    Guitar is deceptive. Learning enough open-position chords to strum along with casual vocals is dead easy. Mastering the guitar, as either a solo instrument or the backbone of a rhythm section, is a lot harder and takes a lot longer.

    Piano and organ are comparatively easy. Name a note; there's one way to make it happen.

    On a drum kit I can bang out the simplest rhythms imaginable, but attempting anything really interesting will tie me in knots. Cheap jokes aside, I have a lot of respect for good drummers and in my experience they're the hardest member of a band to find. Really good bass players are almost as rare. When you do find them they usually have two or more steady gigs already.

    Pedal steel looks terrifying. I'd love to try it, but most of my real effort right now is going into the mandolin and violin families. I'm trying to work alto fiddle into the mix anywhere I can get away with it.
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  24. #68
    Registered User Miltown's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    My experience, for the little it's worth:

    I started on mandolin about four years ago, and then picked up an acoustic guitar, an electric bass, and, most recently, a fiddle.

    The mandolin was hardest, but only because...wait for it...it was my first instrument! I remember first trying to tune it, and trying to use an electric tuner, and assuming the tuner clipped onto the fretboard somewhere over the strings. Yeah, that didn't work so well. (I also quickly discovered YouTube lessons after that, and realized there's no excuse for wallowing in ignorance these days.)

    Also, counting, and keeping the beat--something that my brain wasn't used to, and that I had to devote a fair amount of time drilling into it--took some real discipline.

    When I picked up the guitar, I already had some of the basics of a fretted instrument down, and so things moved pretty quickly, though getting the barre chords under my fingers did take a while.

    Electric bass was easiest, at least to play in a very basic way. I watched a couple of YouTube videos, and afterwards I could play some simple accompaniments to folk-type songs (all that counting and metronome-work with the mandolin paid off).

    And fiddle? I just recently got my fiddle, and yeah, it's going to be a project, but I was also surprised by how much I could do with it right out of the gate...thanks entirely to mandolin. I can play very mediocre versions of most fiddle tunes I can play on the mandolin, and while my bowing is poor, my left hand and intonation are actually fairly decent...decent enough to encourage me to continue with it. I'm going to seek out some lessons to address bow issues, but overall I've been surprised with my fiddle chops.

    In other words, no step is harder than the first. I didn't start playing an instrument until middle age, for all sorts of reasons, but certainly one of them was self-doubt. I only wish I had started earlier.

    And if anyone has been contemplating getting a fiddle, I say take the plunge!

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  26. #69

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    So are the Uilleann pipes harder than the Great Highland Bagpipes?
    The form of trad music played on each is quite different. The diddley music of ITM is generally more complex than the Scots piping tradition.

  27. #70
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    The form of trad music played on each is quite different. The diddley music of ITM is generally more complex than the Scots piping tradition.
    That makes sense. I really want to learn both, but there's a few other (cheaper) instruments in line before them
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  28. #71
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    So are the Uilleann pipes harder than the Great Highland Bagpipes?
    The Uilleann pipes are a little more complex with the partial harmony regulators in a full set, and a technique of stopping the note. But both types of pipes involve a huge range of ornamentation that has to be mastered. The Scottish repertoire can be difficult because it involves so many of those blasted 4 and 5 piece tunes with theme and variations, difficult to memorize (for me anyway, playing it on mandolin and flute).

    In my non-piper opinion (although I have piper friends who I play with), both the Scottish and Uilleann pipes require similar amounts of dedication and effort. I don't think it's something you just pick up as a side instrument. All the good pipers I know in my area have either played them all their lives, or picked it up somewhat later as a sole instrument focus. You don't see many multi-instrument pipers, unless it's something like flute or low whistle that has some similarities in fingering.

  29. #72

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Ya the pibroch style ("theme and variations") is called an ornamental style - as opposed to the melodic style of most of our folk forms. It's unknown which came first - the pipes or (wire) harp; they share much the same ornamental style, repertoire, etc in the Scots tradition.

    I was too old for the pipes, so it was the clarsach for me. I really enjoy the ornamental style of playing.

    Here's piper Brendan Ring:


  30. #73
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Let me state clearly that I love the English-system concertina. If I didn't, I would have discarded mine long ago (I have two trebles and a baritone), and stuck to the stringed instruments I mostly play.

    However, the alternate side/alternate finger layout of the buttons is unusual, whether "logical" or not, and I sadly miss the visual cues. Not that I stare fixedly at the stringed-instrument fingerboard when playing lead or rhythm, but the opportunity does exist to check whether I'm at the 8th or 9th fret. With concertina, you can be one button off (and they're very close together), laterally or longitudinally, and you've got an obvious "clam."

    So. I take the Morse treble to many a sing-around or Celtic jam, and persistently add it to the mix when suitable. But -- to me, anyway -- still the hardest instrument I've "mastered" over my 50+ years of playing.
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  31. #74
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    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    So are the Uilleann pipes harder than the Great Highland Bagpipes?
    Absolutely. Two octaves over one. You have to keep constant pressure on the bag, and that pressure varies depending on what octave you are playing! You also have to pump the billows with your opposite arm, and that pumping is based on air in the bag, not the beat of the tune, so your pumping is 99% of the time off beat! Further, a full set will not just have drones, but regulators, as well, causing you to pump even more, AND be playing notes on them with the side of your fingering arm, all while fingering the chanter, pumping the billows, and maintaining pressure with the other arm! Oy!


    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    For me, one of the hardest beasts I've ever tried to tame was the Uilleann pipes, as far as trying to achieve (and maintain!) a good setup so the darned things play right. Seven reeds (comprising both double and single reeds) in a full set of pipes. It's hard to know, for beginners especially, if funky sound is because of defective technique or out-of-adjustment/defective equipment. It's in the player's best interest to have some knowledge of the basics of how the instrument is supposed to function:

    Completely agree on the pipes... I took lessons and tried for 2 years, and finally gave up. I never got past a half set, either... I still have my pipes (made by Kirk Lynch), and still play them from time to time, but my repertoire has srunk to just a couple of songs, so I tend to simply noodle.

    I found irish whistle difficult, as well. I just think I am a string player, and anything else is more difficult for me.

    Guitar and ukulele were pretty easy (though been playing guitar for 46 years, so, dont remember what it was like to first learn!). Banjo I gave up on pretty quick. Upright bass has been a challenge, but enjoying it quite a bit (just started playing in Jan)! And picking up on Mando pretty quick as well...

    But the Uilliann pipes? Fer-get-about-it!
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  33. #75

    Default Re: What instrument is the hardest? My experience

    But for an aspirer - one can start off with a chanter without drones and regulators; don't need to start off with a full set, but build up incrementally. Some pros make little use of regulators anyway..

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