Hierarchy of Instruments

Is guitar the best instrument?

OK, I readily admit I'm biased, but here are my thoughts on the matter. In popular music of the past 50 years it is no contest, guitar absolutely dominates the field. It is in fact the most popular instrument by a country mile.

However in other fields there are still illusions around about the musical worth of our 6 stringed friend. Let's see how guitar really stacks up in the hierarchy of instruments.

The Hierarchy of instruments goes something like this:

  1. Pipe Organ
  2. Piano
  3. Guitar
  4. ... all the other instruments

Pipe Organ

This is the PIPE organ I'm talking about - not the electronic organ with coloured, glowing keys. It is the most important instrument because:

Sydney Town Hall pipe organ, during the Xmas 2015 performance of Handel's "Messiah".
Sydney Town Hall pipe organ, during the Xmas 2015 performance of Handel's "Messiah". The instrument takes up the entire back wall of this room.

  • It's the biggest instrument!!
  • ... and the loudest instrument
  • it has the most parts (up to 10,000).....
  • ... you play it with two hands AND your feet.
  • ... and --- it has a godzillion number of different sounds, including percussion.
  • it posseses a pretty good solo repertoire:
  • Classical Repertoire - mostly known for Baroque and Romantic pieces - and of course the religious repertoire.
  • Popular repertoire - mmmm..... hasn't been seen there lately... at least not for a century or two. It's smaller electrically powered cousins get the occasional look-in on hard rock (viz. Deep Purple and Uriah Heep) and sometimes in Jazz.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_organ


  • Basically one sound (timbre) - Hey - all you piano players, settle down... please... I mean - in the general sense it has only one colour available, as compared to the pipe organ.
  • 2 hands only (no feet... settle down! I know there are pedals down there, but nobody is quite sure what they do!)
  • Classical Repertoire - at home in anything.
  • Popular Repertoire - Popular in country ballads, as backup during the guitar solos.

Guitar !

  • Works just as well as the 2 above as a solo instrument
  • The performer can bring his/her own instrument to the gig: this point bears repeating: the performer can bring his/her own instrument to the gig.
  • Heaps of different sounds
  • When electrified it is as loud as the organ and with many many sounds.
  • Classical Repertoire - Had a good run in the 18th and early 19th centuries and then got booted as pianos got bigger and louder. Mmmm..... payback time methinks!
  • Popular Repertoire - Guitar is the instrument of today - from the 1950's onward it has totally dominated popular music.

And in last place all the rest of the instruments!

Huh ?! I hear you say. Well let me put it to you this way, when it the last time you sat down and listened to 3 hours of solo violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, bassoon, French Horn etc. etc.?

Or even one hour? ...

Ten minutes? ...

Do you see what I mean? Guitar rules!