I am often asked which instrument is best for a beginner to learn first. My answer is always the same: The piano is the king of all instruments. And it’s the king in two different ways.
The Piano’s Importance in Performance & Composition
First, the piano holds a central place in the work of many composers and performers. For composers, the keyboard’s range provides an expansive palette with which to create. For performers, the ability to use two hands separately to build complexity and interplay is difficult for most other instruments to match.
The piano’s tonal range also covers virtually all the instruments in the orchestra, and its versatility allows it to stand on its own or accompany any individual instrument in the orchestra, as well as in band settings in genres from pop to rock to jazz and beyond.
The Piano’s Importance in Learning Music
The second way in which the piano is the instrument most central to musical instruction is how well suited it is for students to learn music performance as well as music theory.
For beginning students, pressing a piano key down is much easier to do physically than properly fretting an instrument or learning technique for woodwind or brass instruments. (For more information about age-appropriate instruments, visit our What Age to Start page.) This means they are immediately getting positive feedback and making progress they can feel and hear, which is incredibly powerful in building on their natural enthusiasm and keeping them engaged.
The piano also engages both hands as well as both feet, which can help students improve coordination.
The piano’s linear layout also lends itself to steady progress for beginning students. They can find notes visually in a way that isn’t possible on woodwind or brass instruments, and the arrangement of the keys is much easier to understand than the fretboard of stringed instruments.
This translates to learning music theory, as well, where students start by learning the relationships between the notes that make up keys, scales, and chords.
And because the piano is such a complete instrument – students must learn to read two clefs simultaneously – it makes learning a second instrument much more achievable. Piano is also an excellent instrument for learning composition – bass lines, harmony and melody can all be written and played on the piano.
And while we can’t forget the piano’s size – it is bigger than a tuba, covers 7 octaves, and weighs more than any other instrument – size really is the least important of the ways that the piano is king of all instruments!