6 Reasons Why One Instrument Is Never Enough

6 Reasons Why One Instrument Is Never Enough

Part One

We’ve all heard the advice before: stay focused!

How are you going to ever be a great musician if you don’t give your entire life to mastering one instrument?

Well, a quick look at dedicated musicians around the world will show that when it comes to instruments, one is never enough…

Even dabbling in a second, third, or fourth instrument can revolutionize your musical understandings! So when you return to your main instrument, you will express with muchmore depth.

Let’s look at how this works, and some factors to consider when choosing your nextinstrument.

1. It might be easier than you think!

We’ve all seen electronic keyboards where crazy new timbres are only a button push away. Switching instruments can be almost as easy: if you play flute, for example, it’s quite possible to play saxophone right out of the box! But oh what a different sound! Of course, the embouchure will take some development, and you will have a few new fingerings to learn. But a little dedication and study and you will open a whole new world of expression.

A mandolin is basically a fretted violin. Guitar, ukulele, and bass share similar organizing principles and techniques.

Say you’re a trumpet player and want to play upright bass? Even though the instruments are as different as can be, all that you learned from your trumpet practice will not go to waste: the musical principles and your understandings of disciplined practice still apply.

2. Role Play

Trumpet is usually a melody instrument. Bass has a completely different role which encompasses the roots of the harmony and rhythmic drive. By learning instruments with different roles, you will gain a deeper understanding of the whole expression of a musical ensemble. In this case, trumpet-bass doublers will feel more deeply how melody and bass interact which will enhance both aspects of their musicianship.

3. Theory at your Fingertips

Studying a new instrument will enhance your application of music theory.

Want to improve your rhythmic chops? Learn drums!

Stuck on harmony? Piano will help you see it clearly.

When we play a new instrument with a different role, theory becomes a real hands-on tool rather than an abstract academic subject. This adds new dimensions to our musical expression, even on our primary instrument.

4. Genre Identity

A new instrument will stimulate you to explore new musical genres. If you’ve been totally zeroed in on classical music since you were a child, picking up guitar will give you access to worlds of popular music. A penny whistle will lead you to Irish music, a banjo to bluegrass, congas to Afro-Cuban music and so on.

Stay tuned for the next part of this article in which we’ll discuss why even if you stick with a single instrument it can benefit you to buy different models, and how to choose your next musical instrument.

Part Two

In part one of this article we talked about the considerable benefits that being a multi-instrumentalist provides the modern musician and 4 reasons that one instrument can never be enough.

Now as we continue we’ll look at why even a musician who sticks to one instrument might want to buy several, a final sixth benefit which multiple instrument brings you, and how exactly you can decide what next instrument to buy.

5. Same Instrument, New Model

How many people do you know that live in the same house or drive the same car their entire lives? Even if you do stick with the same instrument, there are many reasons to look into new models.

● If you play a beginner or intermediate instrument, you will eventually outgrow it. Higher level models offer new features that enhance tone, playability, and durability. Even if you don’t think you’re ready to upgrade, try playing new instruments from time to time. You may be surprised to find that your old instrument was holding you back!

● Let’s be honest here: new instruments are beautiful to look at! Owning a beautiful instrument is like owning a beautiful car or home: it feels good and will inspire you to practice more.

● Let’s say that your main instrument is a valuable professional model. You’d love to take it on that camping trip. Why not consider buying a less expensive, more portable and durable model for these occasions?

● Not all models are suitable for all purposes. Sometimes you’ll want acoustic guitar, other times only electric will do. Add a new keyboard to your rig and you just doubled your sounds and versatility.

6. Opportunity Knocks

As your musical expression expands to more instruments and styles of music, and more

ways to interact musically with others, you also open the door to new professional

opportunities. Who doesn’t want to make more money doing what they love?

How to choose your next instrument

Given what we’ve discussed in this article, there are several questions to ask yourself when making this choice:

What do I want to learn?

Do you want to understand music theory better? Piano will take your there. Learn more about melody? Try flute or saxophone.

Do I want it to be easy?

The closer your new instrument is to your old one, the easier the switch. You may be moving from acoustic to electric guitar, or violin to viola.

Do I want to explore new genres?

Are you a classical pianist? Guitar will open up worlds of pop music. Looking to explore the sublime beauty of classical music? Pick up a violin.

Do I want to grow my expression in my primary instrument?

Consider upgrading to a more professional model. Conversely, you might want a less expensive model for jam sessions and road trips.

Do I want to increase my professional opportunities?

What is needed in your area? Is there a shortage of drummers or bass players where you wouldn’t have to compete with all the guitarists? Is your roommate’s folk band looking for some accordion sounds?

What does my heart tell me?

Music expresses the innermost parts of ourselves, which doesn’t always seem “practical” to our outer, “rational” minds. If you have a passion or a desire to play a new instrument, go for it and embrace the learning in the process.

Surprise Yourself!

You’ve invested so much time, energy, and love into music making. Why limit your expression? Even if you never “master” your new instrument, the lessons learned will offer a wider perspective on your main instrument. Rather than distracting you from your goals of mastery, your forays into new musical territory will enhance and improve your playing and your understanding of all your musical endeavors.

I hope the suggestions and ideas in this article inspire you to take up a second (and then a third!) instrument. However much you love and enjoy music-making, it will grow even further when you add a new instrument into the mix.

About the author

Christopher Sutton is the founder and Director of Easy Ear Training and Musical U. He is passionate about helping amateur musicians reach their true potential by developing the "inner skills" of musicianship, including playing by ear, improvising and composing music. He lives in London with his wife, daughter and far too many instruments.

Related

JOIN THE DISCUSSION