Top 10 Most Difficult Instruments To Play

Beethoven’s fifth symphony is regarded by many as the height of human imagination and what it can produce out of its brilliant intellect. This fifth symphony wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the instruments that were there to give voice to what he created in his head. It is these instruments that help actualize what our mind produces and help us to express our creativity in the best manner. But do they do it on their own? Certainly not, in fact, to have these instruments play what we create, we need to master them as well. From reeds to strings, from pedals to sticks, music instruments are not just about the rock and roll or the soothing music they produce. Some of them require mental dexterity while others require extreme physical coordination, between hands and legs or hands and mouth. While some instruments in this regard can be mastered in a matter of months through practicing, others demand a lot more, as they are complex in structure and require years of practice before accepting their players as their masters and creating the music they are made to. It is a list of such instruments that we bring to you here.

Read and see which of them you can try your hands on.

10. Tabla


This instrument is a difficult one by the sheer lack of teachers available for it. The playing technique for these drum like instruments from India involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different types of sounds which are reflected in the mnemonic syllables. The knowledge of playing tabla was a secret preserve for only a few higher status individuals and its secret was closely guarded. Thus, being born into a family of tabla players was often the only way to gain access to this knowledge. While the scenario has changed today a lot, what still remains is the lack of professionals who actually are well versed with the art of playing a tabla.

9. Drums

Probably the most popular instrument after Guitar, Drums are also quite pleasing, aesthetically. Consisting of a membrane which is stretched all over the instrument, a Drum makes sound when it is hit by a stick. But this is not as easy as it sounds. Playing the sticks with both hands in a coordinated manner requires years of practice and as the drums are not that melodious in themselves, error in coordination can ruin the whole orchestra. Add to that, the fact that the modern day drums come with a pedal which is used to alter the pitch. Thus playing the drums then requires a perfect synchronization between two hands and a foot.

8. Flute

One of the best classical instruments out there, flute is a must have in any melodist’s symphony. However for all that its worth, flute requires way more hard-work than many other instruments in spite of being so simple in its appearance. To begin with, very flute has a different embouchure, because of the size of the head joint and the opening to the head joint so the trouble starts even before you start playing. Also, the movement of the fingers while playing has to be perfect and even a slightest error in their placement can ruin the game. This becomes even harder as the holes in a flute are just centimeters apart. The flute demands the best of all aspects of musicality. You must be extremely determined and work hard every day to really stand out as an accomplished musician.

7. Accordions

An instrument made popular by Bollywood in olden times, Accordion can produce different styles of music at the same time. But with all the pleasure, comes the pain. First of all, it requires the player to coordinate his both hands while playing and that too, independently. Then, comes the bellow which is the hardest part. They are meant to control the supply of air that enters or leaves the accordion thereby directly affecting the pitch.

6. Cello


With one of the largest fingerboards across all the instruments out there, Cello easily made it to our list as you need to have extreme coordination and muscle memory to find the perfect note while playing it. If played wrongly, the strings of a cello can even cause bleeding. The large size that it comes in only makes the job tougher as it requires the player to balance the instruments between his thighs while placing the strings on the opposite side making them invisible to him, unlike in guitar. Also, every time you place your fingers down in a cello, you can get a different pitch than when you first played that note.

5. Harp

The first time I saw Harp was while watching Amy play it in The Big Bang Theory and I remember getting baffled by the sheer size of it. A multi string instrument, Harp consists of a neck, resonator and strings that are placed perpendicular to the board which produces sound. Made popular by legends like Casper Reardon, Harp requires complex finger techniques that are to be coordinated with the pedals. A proficient harp player has extraordinary muscle memory which is developed after years of practice.

4. Organ

Mozart called Organ the “King of instruments”. Organ is a unique instrument in the way it can produce sound which can range from the slightest sound to the most powerful and that too, quite distinctly. A variant of organ named pipe organ has two or at times, three keyboards for the hands, one keyboard for the feet, volume and swell pedals, and an array of hundreds of stops to alter tone and all these have to be controlled at the same time. Another thing that makes playing this instrument difficult is the fact that, it requires you to use your hands instead of legs to control the pitch. So, the absence of pedals makes it quite difficult as even the slightest slip of hands can ruin the rhythm.

3. Bagpipe

This one here is a classic. Tracing its origins to early 1000BC, Bagpipes in the modern day have become signature of Scottish traditions. There are several aspects about this instrument that make it quite difficult to master. It takes a fair amount of wind to play a bagpipe and absence of proper knowledge about blowing into the reed will produced no sound at all. Hence, right breathing is the need, and probably the most difficult element in learning the bagpipe. Also, the notes should be played at a constant pressure as the chanter is quite light and keeps falling out of tune if not managed properly.

2. French Horn

french horn

For those of you How I Met Your Mother fans, French horn needs no introduction. Yes, this is what Ted stole for Robin, got it? Good, now try to remember how big it was in size. Add to it the fact that it has to be played with left hand, so if you’re right handed, it gets even tougher to handle it. Once you’re done mastering your hold over it, next comes actually blowing it. Since the tube is quite long, breath has to be channeled through the significant length of the tube. Even if you don’t know how to play a guitar or a piano, there’s no way you can wreck them really bad, i.e. even if you just strum them, you’ll still be able to get a pleasing sound. But this is not the case with French horn, as it makes quite unpleasant sounds if played incorrectly. Hence, this instrument gets a spot on our list for being one of the least user friendly musical instruments.

1. Oboe

Oboe is popularly known as the ‘woodwind instrument’. Usually made up of a wooden tube, it contains metal keys and a bell. Sound is produced by blowing into the reed along with vibrating a column of air at a time. And this is where it gets tricky, reeds have to be controlled very delicately as there are times where you have to exhale before inhaling to catch your breath because you don’t let enough air out through just playing. Basically, any instrument with a reed is very difficult to master. Reeds are completely different from strings because it’s not like that for the next note you just add another finger, you could add a random amount of fingers that are in a random order that can only be figured out through pure knowledge of each note, including new fingerings for each sharp/flat.

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