Multi-Instrumentalism

Why should I learn more than one instrument? In the real world, how will it help me?

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Why You Should Learn More Than One Instrument

Why is it that some people can barely play one instrument well, yet others are masters at many? Why should I learn more than one instrument? In the real world, how will it help me?

Both Eddie and Alex Van Halen were trained in classical piano at a young age. This can be heard in Eddie's synthesizer playing on tracks like Jump and Dreams. Buckethead, the 'mysterious' electric guitar master also plays banjo and piano. Less notably, Sheryl Crowe can play the harmonica.

What is the point of this article? Learning more than one instrument can help you in many ways

Provide A Change

Just like working a steady 9 to 5 job everyday gets boring, there will be times when your instrument gets boring. Some days I wake up and try and play guitar. My fingers struggle, my notes are out of tune, and nothing I play sounds interesting. On those days I go and beat the crap out of my drumset.

Getting away from your instrument for a while can be a welcome change. Give it up for a couple days, play some other instrument and come back. You will feel refreshed.

Help You Musically

Playing Drums will help you co-ordinate your body. Playing sax will help strengthen your fingers. Playing trombone is just fun. Any instrument you decide to pick up will help you in some way shape or form.

If you go from playing rhythm guitar in your death metal band, and learn trumpet as well, you can learn valuable scales and solo techniques that will help you with your guitar. Even if it doesn't mean you can suddenly shred like a master, it may at least help you with understanding chord construction better.

I think one of the best things that learning another instrument can do for you is teach you to read music. I'm not bashing on people who can't read music, but tab does have it's limitations. Being able to read sheet music opens up a whole world of new music and new influences for you.

Open Up Work Options

Many people complain about how they live in some hick town with only one bassist. That bassist is already involved in some band that plays jazz fusion covers. Now since you don't particularly enjoy jazz fusion, you find yourself left out of the music scene. There are 2 options available. Work with that bassist who lives 2 hours drive away, or pick it up yourself and go start a band of your own. I've heard that guitarists tend to grow on trees. If you look around, chances are you can find a guitarist willing to put some practice in and join your band. If you're struggling trying to find a drummer, then maybe you need to buckle down and learn it yourself.

Even if you live in some major city absolutely swamped with musical talent, you might have struggles finding a band who want just another guitarist. Learn another instrument. Have your main band, where you play guitar, but have a side venture, where you play drums. Then you get more musical exposure. You get better known in your musical community. People will come to you, because they know you play more than one instrument, and you will find you get asked to be a session player.

If you know more than one instrument, you will gain opportunities to become a teacher. Yeah, guitarists can find a wealth of articles and advice on the internet to aid their learning. Not so with bassoon players, not so with bari sax players. Don't be afraid to go out there and offer lessons.

Learning another instrument can also assist with writing songs. If you can write the rhythm part for a song, and also the lead part, while writing an optional marimba solo over top, how could anyone refuse to be in your band?

When you find that your drummer is struggling nailing a particular beat, you can help him out. When your bassist gets bored with only playing root notes, you can show him some sweet riffs that would work.

One of the most important things about being a Multi-instrumentalist is practice. Don't let yourself settle for less than intermediate. The world is littered with bass players and guitarists who learn to a certain extent and are content with it. Don't ever stop learning. If you choose to embark upon this musical journey, push hard so that the skills you learn are actually applicable. Why learn something, just to never use it?

Feel free to critique, give suggestions... this is kind of a rough draft, so i'm open to suggestions...

Anyway... cheers.

~Jazkel24~

162 comments sorted by best / new / date

    smb
    Agreed - playing more instruments makes you a much better musician.
    [Creative Name]
    I play guitar and harmonica and a little sax (suck at sax) but mainly I try to focus on guitar but I do agree that a few different instruments is better. Although I would rather have a guitar master in my band than someone who is just ok at guitar and plays 3 other things ok.
    ShadowFox3735
    I totally agree with this. I've been playing classical piano since I was 3. I picked up a bass last weekend and had already learned 3 songs before my first lesson (Crazy Train, Holiday, and Bark at the Moon I believe). 4 days afterwards, I was already in a band. It really does help, being able to play a different instrument, especially of such a different genre of music. Although, there are some classical pieces that would put to shame some of the fastest Death Metal songs I've heard. It helps to be able to play some of 'em.
    Tantalus
    I play the piano, flute, bassoon, bass guitar, and learning to play the accoustic guitar, and every single new instrument I learn helps me in all the others. For example, playing the piano helps me better understand the chords which to play on the guitar, which help me better understand how to harmonize.
    ndp
    A helpful article. I'm a person who loves to push myself so I'll be curious about every single instrument, and I agree with what you said.. more knowledge in this case, helps, instead of hinders. Um.. one thing I wanted to add was that, though it's great to explore other stuff.. I HATE people who play one instrument okay and then they get cocky and start learning other stuff and claim that they are a bassist, guitarist, pianist, violinist.. rrr.. My point is that though it's great to have a broad range of knowledge over many instruments.. dnt forget to go past learning just the basics for your 'main' instrument (if you have one... cuz it depends.. too). Alright, I hope that wasn't too much rambling. xo
    rockergurl09
    Agreed. Like EVH, I started playing piano first. When I picked up guitar, it was fairly easy to learn the basics because my fingers are fairly nimble and I'm good about having my hands do 2 things at once, and having it stay in sync. I can read music more easily because of piano (both notes and tabs). Playing any instrument is easier because my mom forced me to play piano (though I've only recently come to appreciate it when I started guitar 3 years ago). Because of that, I think learning bass will be easier for me (especially if I get a 6 string bass). Yeah, can't find anyone in my area with my same music tastes that plays bass or drums.
    samboy
    LOL.. I Agree On What Is Being Said Here, I started of With Piano.. Then Drums.. and Now Guitar..
    Dan Steinman
    suicidalmoose wrote: just because tonnes of people can play the guitar doesn't mean guitarists grow on tree's. Playing the guitar isn't about hitting the frets, bending the strings and strumming a long, a good guitarist is one that makes their own songs and uses their guitar as an expression of themselves, and they are hard to find.
    True, but I imagine a lot of band starters are guitarists themselves and either don't want to share the spotlight or simply don't need the extra guitar in their music. I have definitely heard plenty of bands in which the second guitarist just muddies up the mix.
    Super Llama
    i'm on my 3rd with guitar. all those scales and stuff from the previous instruments has carried over and made it all a lot easier. also, our drummer is our best guitarist and awesome at drums so he can make those two fit together really well. multiple instruments defenitely helps.
    cap'nkirk
    i totally agree, I've been playing guitar for almost 8 years, but my playing and writing has been improved 10 fold since i've picked up drums, piano, harmonica and trumpet. Now, I'm in the process of singing lessons to improve my ear for harmonies and melody. Great article.
    mr.lame
    true... learning more than one helps you alot. I've been playing guitar, piano and bass and it helped me alot cuz it made me more flexible and more appreciative of different music styles. even if you don't play them well, continuosly playing them will make you improve.
    Tortiss
    I play Keyboard and bass and occasionally gutair. Knowing some key board stuff help for gutiar and bass. After playing on bass , it feels like the gutair is smaller and easy to play.
    guitar-pro_92
    great article, I play guitar, bass, piano those I am ok at and recently have gotten a mandolin and a dulcimer neither have and super skills at and am thinking about getting a violin. But scales and stuff like you said are really helpful and learning different instruments is a great way to improve your skills. Talk later
    MetallicaNRoses
    I play guitar and tuba, and they both really helped me figure music theory out really well. I'm trying to teach myself piano, but that's a little hard when I don't have any kind of book or anything...
    TheMrDoug
    Anyone see the theme here? Man it's all about the music! It is really amazing to see how many of the replies state that guitar was not the first thing people started to play. Not surprising based on the music education in the US, it's not an option for most of us in band in school. We get directed to drums, brass, woodwinds, we learn to read and play music but in the end migrate to guitar. For you young kids, know that the effort is totally worth it in the long run! I believe it has a direct impact on whether or not you stick with it as well. The fist time is a bitch but the next instrument is easier as you have the concepts of music down. Great to hear this type of encouragement!
    NotOld
    I've been playing guitar now for 5 months and I've gotten pretty good. Is it time that I started playing 2 instruments?
    Luccio
    I play drums, bass, guitar, limited amounts of keyboards and harmonica. Actually, I picked up guitar first, yet I suck at it, and I'm a incredible drummer, according to people.
    Havenspear
    In 5th grade, I played the flute, and I really wish I had bought one and could maybe get back to it. I played drums the next year, then got my guitar, and dropped band class. I've played nothing but guitar for 3 years, and I'm trying to teach myself piano. I'd like to take lessons, then maybe buy a bass and learn to play that too. And for all those guys listed up there with their multi-instrumentalism, you'd think someone would've given Elliott Smith a holler. R.I.P.
    bassmonkey16
    i think itd be really cool to buy some of those awesome african instruments that you can get for like under $100. some of those things have really neat sounds and can be a good challenge to play.
    a friend of mine has so many instrumetns in his house, and has a lot of african tribal art and instruments. he has this one african thumb piano. it is sweeeeet. outta curiousity, for those who disagree with multi instrumentism. would you be more impressed with a shred master, or someone who changes to a different instrument between every song at a show? likewise, would a shred master be as successful as a session musician than one who could play 5 or 6 instruments well? dont judge too quickly on this subject....
    RRRone
    i always loved the sounds of a piano. but not when i was playing it. yet i would love to be able to play it.
    GuitarGod610
    I completely agree with this article. I've been a multi-instrumentalist for awhile now. I started on guitar, and bass came naturally. I learned the drums (and man did that help my playing). I also picked up trombone and mandolin, both of which are incredibly fun to play. I even dabble a little bit with trumpet, and I'm also learning piano at the moment. But guitar is, and always will be, my primary instrument. I've jammed with one of my buds who plays ukelele and we have a great time. Playing several instruments is definitely a good idea.
    johnm2k6
    suicidalmoose wrote: just because tonnes of people can play the guitar doesn't mean guitarists grow on tree's. Playing the guitar isn't about hitting the frets, bending the strings and strumming a long, a good guitarist is one that makes their own songs and uses their guitar as an expression of themselves, and they are hard to find.
    I agree. I have only been playin for about 8 months but I have made my own songs. they are really easy but all mine.
    dav3011
    i rather stick to guitar as i am dedicated , and i cant afford 2 buy any other instruments
    westo
    i think itd be really cool to buy some of those awesome african instruments that you can get for like under $100. some of those things have really neat sounds and can be a good challenge to play. i also would like to get a decent bass just to improve my rhythm and "fluidity" on guitar. mandolin's cool (look at mr. page!) and a lot of other stuff is cool. i'd also like a piano. but nobody else really cares about what i want so i wont continue.
    robidoux
    i think learning piano is a good way to learn theory, if not anything else. scaled and such on any other instrument are simple if you know them on a piano. this is just personal experience, but i'm pretty sure anyone who learned piano then another instrument would agree.
    Moe the Snake
    i been playing piano for 4 years and guitar for 10 months. I have also been playing trumpet for 2 years. multi-instrumentalism is awesome! learning the piano was a struggle. in 6th grade i picked up trumpet and in a year was one of the best players. guitar was simple. by 7 months i was playing led zeppelin solos. Everyone should play more than one instrument, it doesnt matter if you think you're dedicated to guitar
    a0kalittlema0n
    i play the piano and it definately helps with Music theory stuff because its more of a visual learning thing than guitar is i recommend it to all
    steady666
    its even just good switching between guitar and bass (like i do). i find it helps alot on both instruments.
    forevergonzo
    plus it impresses the hell out of people (especially girls) when you go down a list of instruments you can play
    buckethead101
    I play drums in an alternative-punk rock band. Play bass in a alternative metal band and play lead guitar in a extreme metal band. hell yeah!!!!!
    marko'd
    this is such a useful article,i'm even thinking of taking up piano(obviously not as much as guitar but just to learn and have fun)SO THANK YOU MY FRIEND!!!!!
    buckethead101
    GuitarGod610 wrote: I completely agree with this article. I've been a multi-instrumentalist for awhile now. I started on guitar, and bass came naturally. I learned the drums (and man did that help my playing). I also picked up trombone and mandolin, both of which are incredibly fun to play. I even dabble a little bit with trumpet, and I'm also learning piano at the moment. But guitar is, and always will be, my primary instrument. I've jammed with one of my buds who plays ukelele and we have a great time. Playing several instruments is definitely a good idea.
    I totally agree with you.
    Felkara
    I've taught myself how to play the piano, keyboard, bass and acoustic guitar. They've all helped me get better at everything else. Not bad for someone who's only ever had drum lessons for a year and was then told to stop because I was really really bad.
    mattk_3000
    ...does anybody know anyone who is a virtuoso of more than one instrument, because none come to my mind?
    Dirge07
    as a singer, pianist, trumpeteer, and guitarist, I agree. I'm thinking about picking up drums again now...
    CodyJuice
    vary true...i played flute and trumpet for like 4 years before i played guitar (i started playing at age 12) and i find that now (im 15) im wayyyyy ahead of my friends who started before me, and i play bass decently also
    SoulsofStrings
    One of the most important things about being a Multi-instrumentalist is practice. Don?t let yourself settle for less than intermediate. The world is littered with bass players and guitarists who learn to a certain extent and are content with it. Don?t ever stop learning. If you choose to embark upon this musical journey, push hard so that the skills you learn are actually applicable. Why learn something, just to never use it?
    This part moved me. The rest of it held me to read. I feel 100 percent in agreement. Playing more than one instrument not only increases your ability to play that instrument better but all the others you play will increase more as you become more familiar with different grooves in music. Without feeling there is no music. ~Peace~ and nice coloumn - Billy Beck www.myspace.com/billybeck leave some feedback if you like my music.
    matttt
    i probably should add that brian may is a grade four keyboardist rather than grade 6 for that person who asked is anyone a virtuoso at more than one instrument. unless my source is wrong
    zeppelfloyd
    i play the sax and im getting really good compared to other 16 year old players. and i also picked up guitar. im still working on that one but its coming along. and 2 days ago i bought a harmonica. pretty much for me all that i did was start loving one instrument, the sax and moving on to play guitar and deciding that the harmonica would be cool too. i think playing more than one instrument is fun. but that dosen't mean that everyone will. it can increase your understanding of music though
    Ampeg J
    I started as a Bassist, and have played 4 and 5 string basses for a number of years. As a songwriter, it is possible to write decent material using the Bass guitar as your main instrument, but i found myself ( at times ) "overplaying" the Bass to the point that the music didn't breathe the way i would like for it too. NOw i do know some guitar after having worked with a number of very talented Guitarists over the years, but i broke down and bought myself some guitar gear to seriously study melody based writing. It has helped tremendously.
    C.C. Deville
    lol i remember when i did this, i now play bass piano and guitar, i first played bass then i picked up my guitar and i got hooke i havnt played my bass since though and i cant rly remember anything on it =(