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Is Guitar So Difficult?
The perceived difficulty of mastering
the guitar playing is applicable to almost anyone who has ever attempted
to play it. However, there are some people who, thanks to their phenomenal
left hand/right hand coordination, do not really experience much difficulty.
This indicates that the key factor in mastering guitar is the coordination
between both hands. Essentially, what we are trying to achieve is to
have both hands working in synch, while each of them doing totally different
things, in order to produce a focused sound. This is kind of the opposite
of what we have to do on piano -- with piano playing, we are striving to
completely isolate the left hand from the right hand, and to make each
hand perform entirely different things.
Another factor contributing to the legendary
difficulty in learning how to play guitar is the non-linear distribution
of notes across the fretboard (this is assuming the standard guitar tuning).
Starting from the lowest string (E or sixth string), each time we reach
the fifth fret we sound the same pitch as the next open string sounds.
For the E string, the fifth fret will sound A, which is the same note as
the open fifth string. And so forth (the fifth fret on the fifth string
sounds D, which is the open fourth string...) But when we reach the third
string (the G string) fourth fret, it sounds the same note as the second
open string (B). This 'anomaly' may not seem like much at first, but it
causes lots of confusion and forces us to apply tons of extra consideration
when practising and performing.
Guitar players are notorious for their
inability to sight read musical material in general. One of the reasons
for this is the additional difficulty tied with guitar playing which is
known as fingering. Given some piece of musical notation, there
is more than one way to play it. This reflects the fact that, on the guitar,
we can find the same note on many different places across the fretboard.
For instance, we can play the note E on the open first string, of the second
string, fifth fret, on the third string ninth fret, on the fourth string
fourteenth fret, and on the fifth string nineteenth fret. The decision
where to play this note will influence the subsequent decision regarding
where to play the notes that follow, and will consequently influence the
entire fingering of the musical piece.
It would require a lightning fast thinking,
backed by the extensive accumulated experience, for a guitarist to make
the most optimal choice with regards to the fingering, upon looking for
the first time at some musical scores. If, due to the lack of preparation
or the lack of insight, we make the wrong choice and decide on fingering
that is not optimal for the given material, we will quickly find ourselves
painted in the corner, and all our efforts to produce a well performed
musical piece will fall apart. This, however, is simply not an issue on
piano -- every note can be played in only one spot on the keyboard; there
is not a trace of confusion.
Lastly, a guitar has frequently been referred
to as "the miniature orchestra". No other instrument merits such exalted
comparison. This is due to the fact that guitar is a harmonic, melodic,
and rhythmic instrument at the same time. This effectively means
that a well rounded guitarist must cover more territory on his/her instrument
than almost any other instrumentalist. To accomplish such a feat would
naturally require gargantuan efforts.