There is a never-ending war that ensues between two titans of music. These great warriors battle for harmonic control of the sonic landscape. Both can wield the power of chordal structure. Both can unleash a storm of melodies and counterpoints. Both can brave the depths of bass and root foundations… and both can do all these things simultaneously. These two Mixed Musical Artists are… the Piano and the Guitar.
The battle is one of legend and has spanned the course of history. While harpsichords and pianoforte’s filled the spaces of academia and religion, it was the lute, and vihuela that sounded for the regular people. It really wasn’t until Jazz that the battle came to a true head, and the fight for supremacy began.
One day while jamming in a jazz club, the band leader tells the sax to take a solo. As the sax player begins, the pianist begins to play some tight closed chord abbreviations in left hand while simultaneously adding some filler single line melodies responding to the soloist. But suddenly, the pianist looks over at the guitar player as he (or she!) hears the sounds of another more open voiced chord sound, slide a bit, and even bend… after which a faint strumming sound is heard…. Thus begins the battle of comping for the soloist.
Time moves on. Guitar remains a small studio in the university and a handy tool for the rural church, while the piano reigns supreme in universities and cathedrals. But while the piano controlled these powerful territories, a new ally rose up for the guitar in the pop cultures of England and America. Elvis, the Beatles, Jimmi Hendrix, Eddie van Halen… Rock n Roll had taken the world by storm. And with it, the guitar reigned supreme as the instrument of choice for the masses.
But the piano was not done yet… From its heritage in the ragtime, the blues, and jazz, the piano entered the fray and, copying the strategery (sic) employed by the guitar, electrified itself as well. Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elton John, Stevie Wonder… they stood firm and said YOU SHALL NOT PASS! The battle raged on.
Today the battle is as sharp as ever.
Should “Hallelujah” be played on guitar or piano? Is strumming better than rolling? Sustain pedals are lazy! Capos are cheating! Here are some pros and cons
- Easily Transportable (no campfires for you piano!)
- Much cheaper (for the most part)
- Easier to learn popular songs (cause they are simple)
- Learn one key and capo!
- Fast repetition of one note (suck it piano hammers)
- Strumming and sliding is cool
- Bending notes is even cooler
- Harmonics are fun to show off
- Enharmonics (look it up)
- You look really cool when you can pick up a guitar and just rock “Smoke on the Water”
- Only 6 strings can sound at once
- Classical music is REALLY hard
- ”Everybody” plays guitar and is better than you
- 3 Chord songs get old quick
- What are those notes above the 5th fret?
- Strings break alot (do I buy a new guitar?)
- I have to use a pick too?
- My figners hurt!
- You look really lame when you say you can play and you can’t
- Much larger tonal range (how low can you go?)
- Easier to play chords and melody at the same time
- Can see sharps and flats easily (turns out it DOES matter if you are black or white)
- You naturally learn music theory cause you have to
- 10 fingers can play 10 notes at once (suck it six-strings!)
- Sustain pedal lets you play even MORE sounds at once
- Don’t need an amp to be loud (By the Hammer of Bosendorfer!)
- Percussion instrument AND a string instrument (booya)
- Easier to play in Flat and Sharp keys (do guitarists even know what that means?)
- You look super classy when you can just sit down and casually play through a Bach Fugue
- ”Hey can you bring your piano camping and play some songs around the fire?”
- I have to read sheet music? (Can’t I just play chopsticks again?)
- Power chords from guitar songs sound lame
- Pay a pro to tune it
- Choosing between buying a house/car/college and buying a piano
- Stuck in one place on the stage (unless you strap on your keytar!)
- ”Jump” is only cool the first time you play it
- Oh the bass player is playing those low notes… :-(
- It gets cold one day and the piano drops a half step… (mo’ money mo’ problems)
- You look really lame when you play your cool key of C improv and a real pianist sits down and plays Moonlight Sonata.
Let the war continue. What say you?