View Poll Results: Which instrument is harder?

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Thread: Organ vs Piano, Which one's harder?

  1. #1
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    Aug 2018
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    Default Organ vs Piano, Which one's harder?

    I remember watching a video from WatchMojo about the top 10 most difficult instruments. At no 9 was the organ and at no 5 was the piano. This didn't seem right to me. I could understand the piano being right in the middle but the organ at no 9 just didn't seem right.

    Why would the organ be easier than the piano? No need for sustain pedal is the only reason I can think of.

    Here is what makes advanced piano difficult:
    • Hand crossing is necessary
    • Written unisons(both hands playing the same note) are impossible to play as 2 of the same note
    • Fingers reach a speed limit of 32nd notes at quarter note = 120 BPM
    • Octave leaps
    • Octaves within triplets
    • Legato octaves

    In principle, everything here except the hand crossing and written unisons would also be true for advanced organ. But here are the reasons the organ seems much more difficult to me than the piano:
    • Multiple keyboards(I once saw an organ with 12 keyboards. It looked like a box full of keyboards)
    • Same octave sounds different on different keyboards
    • Some organs have a lot of knobs right by the keyboards
    • Foot pedals
    • More dynamic control is needed

    But I hear you say "Piano transcriptions of organ pieces are harder than the original pieces." To that, I would say Yes, at least for Baroque pieces. I mean, there is a spot in the Tocatta and Fugue in D minor, where, as a pianist, my hands get intertwined(hand crossing but in such a narrow window instead of several octaves). This wouldn't be a problem on the organ.

    But you could also argue, at least for some pieces, that playing it on the piano would be easier than playing it on the organ, even if it was originally composed for organ. So really, is the organ easier? I don't think so.

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  3. #2
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
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    Tough question ... in some ways the piano, at least for me, is the hardest of the two to learn. I will never master either as even after 57+ years in my career as a professional organist, I still have lots more to learn. The day I stop learning is the day I keel over into my soup bowl during lunch.

    An organist can enlist one or both feet to play the lowest notes that may be a stretch for the pianist. On the other hand, there are the mechanical aspects of the organ, multiple keyboards (largest playing organ in the world only has 7 manuals), stop selection, expression controls, and lots and lots of coordination as both hands and feet are playing notes simultaneously reading from a 3 staff score.

    Fast forward to the present day . . . my present church position requires that I play both instruments equally. We have multiple services and the piano is solely used for one of those, and a balance of the two (organ/piano) in another service, and organ solo in another service leading hymns, accompanying the choirs, etc.

    I love both instruments equally and am able to switch back and forth with great ease and professionalism.

    I do have a piano at home and regularly use it to practice notes for organ repertoire. My present church is a mere 4 minute drive from home so I can go there any time of the day or night to practice in solitude. My best practice sessions are very very late at night, sometimes after 11:00pm.

    There are some who firmly believe that learning piano should come first before the organ. I am one of those people ... I began with 6 years of private study on the piano, then 6 years of private study on the organ, then another 2 years of organ study in college. I started playing the organ in church in 1961 and continue to do so to this day, now serving a large ELCA Lutheran church with 1,400 members, 4 choirs, 2 pastors, and 4 services, 3 of which I play for as paid/salaried staff member.


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  5. #3
    Senior Member Klavierspieler's Avatar
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    Jul 2011
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    The nature of both instruments is such that a composer can compose music of indefinite difficulty; therefore, it's somewhat pointless to ask which is harder...

    However, in my very limited experience, I think you're maybe less likely to damage yourself playing the organ. But my Organ experience is very small compared to piano, so I may very well be wrong on that.
    Last edited by Klavierspieler; Nov-17-2018 at 21:53.

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