September 2, 2012

Eight Benefits of Learning to Play Multiple Instruments. ~ Suzy St. George

Becoming proficient in more than one instrument can open up more opportunities than ever.

When you have a musically inclined child, it can sometimes be a challenge to get them to commit to a single instrument. While most school music education programs are designed around this idea, many students want to explore and can become very proficient in multiple instruments.

In fact, even if your child’s school doesn’t encourage it, you can seek private instruction for one or more additional instruments. There are a number of benefits that playing another instrument can provide, including:

1. A deeper understanding of music theory.

Even a student who only plays one instrument can understand various musical concepts such as bass vs. treble clef, harmony, etc. But playing another instrument can actually put that theory into practice. For example, moving from the cornet to the baritone horn will help a student learn to read music in both bass and treble clef. Moving from one instrument to another can give a greater appreciation of counter-melodies too.

2. The opportunity to build on existing skills and knowledge.

Students moving to similar instruments (from the clarinet to the saxophone, for example) can use many of the basic skills and knowledge they already have. In some ways, applying those skills to a different instrument can help reinforce what the student already understands about their primary instrument and even help improve their skills with that instrument.

3. The opportunity to open up new instrument groups.

The trombone player who learns to play tenor sax is opening up an entirely new group of instruments to his repertoire. This benefits the student in a couple of ways. First of all, if the student aspires to be a music education professional, it helps build some of the skills that will be needed in their profession. For others, it allows the opportunity to explore different instrument groups and perhaps find an instrument that’s better suited to their skills.

4. Diverse options when it comes to filling out an orchestra or band.

If you can play multiple instruments, you become a greater asset to a band or orchestra director than if you play a single instrument. Particularly in high school bands, the lineup changes from one year to the next, leaving holes in some sections. If you have proficiency in a number of different instruments, you can fit yourself in wherever there is a need.

5. More professional options.

If you’re thinking about a career in music—even if that means teaching high school music courses—playing multiple instruments can be very beneficial. This is especially true for teachers, as the ability to understand how an instrument is played can be very different than actually picking up the instrument and playing it. If you’re hoping to get a job with a full-time orchestra, you’ll have a much better chance of getting in if you’re a strings specialist than you would if you only play the violin.

6. You may not have to pay for additional instruments.

If you’re in a high school band class, there may be temporary or loaner equipment available. They might be instruments that are too expensive or too bulky for the school to expect students to buy on their own, or even instruments left over from year to year as the owners abandon band class and their instruments. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to pick up a new instrument and start experimenting.

7. You can bill yourself as a “one man band.”

Let’s face it: we’re all at least a little bit inspired by the image of the street performer who is clashing cymbals with his knees, setting off a big bass drum by lifting his foot, blowing on a harmonica, playing the ukulele and singing a song, all at the same time. If you can master multiple instruments, you can put that kind of creative spirit to work!

8. You become a valuable resource to others.

Maybe you own a music store and have been thinking of starting up lessons. Maybe you’re simply an outstanding senior trumpet player in high school. By expanding your options in terms of instruments, you become a much more valuable commodity to those around you. Your increased knowledge becomes their increased knowledge.

While there’s nothing wrong with simply sticking with what you know, there are many advantages to learning another instrument. With the added expertise, you may find yourself with more opportunities than ever.


Suzy St. George is a blog writer at TakeLessons. Since 2006, TakeLessons has provided affordable, hassle-free music lessons to students of all ages. With certified instructors in cities nationwide, students can learn to play the guitar, the piano, drums and more.




Editor: Malin Bergman

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