Things a Guitar Can Do That a Piano Can’t

After many years of playing guitar, I recently started teaching myself piano. It has been a challenge and great for reminding me what it was like to first learn guitar. I'm already seeing how learning piano will help my guitar playing.

The piano is a really powerful instrument. With ten fingers, you can play ten notes at once, or more if you use the sustain pedal or you mash two keys with one finger. It can play both higher and lower than a guitar - at the same time! Unplugged, a piano is louder. And there is tons and tons of music for the piano - a lot of it classical, but going through ragtime, jazz, some blues, and even some rock.

That got me thinking. Why is the guitar the indisputable queen of instruments in today's popular music? Folk, blues, and especially rock and roll? What is so special about the guitar that makes it so perfect for rock? I love Billy Joel's music, and Jerry Lee Lewis kicked ass, but numbers-wise, guitarists leave pianist in the dust. Why is that?

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Can Education Kill Instinct?

Note: This is based on a message I originally posted on the Harmony Central Forums. Revised and extended.

This is a topic that seems to come up quite often, both in online forums and in talking to people. Does learning music theory take away from the ability to simply “play what sounds good?” Can learning proper vocal technique remove the raw emotion from singing? Does learning more about the established techniques in a field (like songwriting) remove true creativity and make us all sound alike?

I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m going to say no. And here’s why.

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My Problem with Jazz

I pride myself in a willingness to listen to different styles and genres of music. I have favorites in rap, heavy metal, Irish folk, country, classical, even opera. So my strong negative impression of jazz may come as a surprise. To be fair, there is a lot of jazz I like, mostly the early stuff and the great singers. Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, basically back when jazz had melodies and was meant to be danced to. Before rock and roll came along, jazz was young people’s music. It’s what people danced to, it was rebellious, it was accessible, it was listenable. Then something happened.

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