Jump to content

How good are you at your 2nd or 3rd instrument?


redsaxophone
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm a saxophone player who has been venturing out these past years into other instraments. I picked up trumpet, clarinet and horn. Im fairly good at trumpet (i've got a few preformances under my belt;)). With the horn and clarinet i seem to get nowhere fast.

So I was wondering how to get better at these other instraments without hindering my ability on the others, and if anyone else finds it difficult to play more than two wind instraments.

thanks for the time. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 51
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Well, my first instrument is electric bass so, naturally, I can play some basic, though technically incorrect, guitar and upright (I'd really like to spend more time on double bass, but I can't warrant buying or renting one at the moment). That said, I'd say my second instrument is piano, simply because I actually have a teacher and am learning it, even though I've only been learning for a few months now.

Personally, I find learning instruments are complimentary to each-other. For instance, my reading's improved a lot since I started piano, simply because it's something I wouldn't often practise on bass, since most music I'd have to work out by ear, or from a chord chart. Then, my teacher says that my left hand balance on the piano is very good, which could be a result of playing bass.

Those are extremely loose examples, but you get the idea. I think the only way learning multiple instruments can hinder your ability in others is simply if you don't get enough time to practise each of them. That said, swapping between wind and brass instruments is different than on various string instruments and piano.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't find it difficult at all, in fact, I'm getting another instrument tomorrow just because I want to fill that void of missing bassoons in our school band. I started on piano, then started violin shortly thereafter, then got into percussion (esp. mallets, works well for pianists), then I picked up flute, then somebody handed me a clarinet, I asked my girlfriend at the time for her neglected trumpet (she switched to horn), and when I went to a new school, I pursued my dream of taking up the horn, I just learned trumpet as a step on the ladder to get a good start on horn. Then I decided to help out the tuba section at my new school and learned tuba instead of being a part of a 30-piece overflowing pit/percussion ensemble. Now I have a trombone and an alto sax. Oh, and I picked up the recorder somewhere.

So that's the synopsis of WHY and HOW I got all these instruments. My main is piano (I've won some compo's and stuff on it, never did poorly), I pretty much gave up the violin by now, I hate it. Never liked the sound, never liked the technique. So those two are the only ones I take lessons on. I don't play the trumpet seriously as horn (I play it in jazz band, at least), but to be honest I am better than 95% of the trumpet players at my school - and some don't suck, either. I can outplay the entire flute section, which includes our drummajor, I can also outplay the entire clarinet section. As a freshman, only a few months into learning the clarinet, I auditioned into 3rd chair out of 12 or so clarinets - beating out or ranking among the seniors. Nobody can play horn well, so I teach the others. I placed well in district honour bands, though, so I can play horn pretty well and it has become my secondary, replacing the violin. I can outplay half the good HS school tubists I come across, in fact I placed 4th chair against 6 other tubas in a district band. Dead center of a section of tuba players 4 years more experienced than I - pretty damn good for only playing tuba for not even 3 months.

I know I am, but I don't mean to boast or brag, or make it sound like I'm some musical prodigy, because I'm really not and people will think I'm just trying to show off. I'm not. Just making a point here. Corbin, people can be decent at more than 2 instruments. Some people prefer to specialize, others love to branch out. I feel that if you have a head on your shoulders, learning new instruments will help you with the skills on your other instruments. I find this again and again. I've just started tenor trombone and it completely screwed with my French horn embourchure... but in a good way. I discovered things that allowed me more facility and easier access to almost another octave's worth of useful notes in the middle-low range of the horn. Would have taken me a lot longer to figure that out if I hadn't started trombone. It's also helped with my high register tuba playing, and since I know what CAN happen, I'm careful to not let it affect my low register on the tuba. Also, playing trumpet and horn has really helped strengthen my flute embouchure and I find it much more easy now to control high register notes on the flute.

Learning more instruments is not for everybody, but for those with the ambition, time, and the means, I say go for it. As long as you're careful, it's hard to screw up your skills on instruments you already have down.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Learning more instruments is not for everybody, but for those with the ambition, time, and the means, I say go for it. As long as you're careful, it's hard to screw up your skills on instruments you already have down.
This.

Some people can do it, others can't. I pissed off more than a few people by learning to play 'their' instrument and vastly surpassing their ability quite quickly. It just comes with the territory.

I hate to admit that it's a nice feeling to throw their "jack of all trades, master of none" comment back in their face... I got the rare pleasure of doing that to a professor (whom I despised) when I convinced my college to start the Woodwind Doubling (performance) major back in my junior year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally I wish I had at least dabbled in so many diverse instruments as Enigmus, let alone get them to a decent level. Sure, it might not be the most effective path towards a career as a soloist, but a basic knowledge of a wide variety of instruments is extremely useful for a composer. (As long as you don't just limit yourself to what you know/can do yourself on those instruments and also approach more specialised instrumentalists when it comes to writing for an instrument.)

Sure, you will eventually learn how to write for most major instruments through theoretical knowledge, experience in writing and hearing your music played, and in communication with instrumentalists. But that's not as "direct" as having an actual physical feeling for the instrument.

But then... I play the horn and the piano myself, and my horn and piano writing are often a lot more unidiomatic than my writing for other instruments (e.g. my piano pieces are often quite heavy on monophonic lines, for a single hand and my horn pieces often go to extreme registers). Maybe that's because I know too much horn and piano literature and the "common gestures" bore me quickly. Or because I don't have to worry about writing idiomatically on these instruments, but can just write something that is merely "playable", without overshooting to make it "typically playable" or "comfortably playable" or a show-off piece, in order to please some performer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sure, it might not be the most effective path towards a career as a soloist...

Exactly. I don't plan on being a solo performer as a career. Maybe I'll do it on the side, or work as a freelance musician. I can be good at a tonne of instruments and great at two, possibly three, but then I'm sacrificing time from one for the other, and that's not good if you want to be the next Perlmann. Which I will never be, I don't want to be. Who will? One in a million who spends his time crafting the techniques of one single instrument. That's where the "specialist" view comes in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's funny, because I played the saxophone for 4 years, starting in 6th grade. Then all out of the blue, I thought that giving the flute a try would be fun. I practiced and practiced and well, needless to say that for playing about a year, I am now practicing Concertino, Chaminade, and Flight of the Bumblebee. BTW, I am first chair in my band if that gives you an idea.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I probably shouldn't have deleted that part of my post where I said something about how Perlmann wouldn't benefit much from learning say... the clarinet or the trombone. That's because he's a specialist. Now let me ask you, who would you rather have writing your music or directing your highschool (or college) band, a trombonist who only knows how to play trombone and is crazy good at it? (say... Christian Lindberg) Or somebody who is a pianist by nature and can play all 42 instruments passably (say, well enough for a good seat in a decent calibre youth orchestra, or enter as an undergrad major or minor for each instrument by audition) Naturally we'd go with the person who knows ALL the instruments, he knows the specifics of them all, their limits and strengths, and he could teach kids how to play each one. He could write a viola part better than a composer who only knows how to play the trombone and just reads orchestration textbooks. He could teach you proper bowing technique for a passage in a rehearsal instead of just saying "make it sound like... duhhhh... " There is a use for multi-instrumentalists, quit regarding us as crap musicians that can't learn to choose one noise maker over another from unrelated families. I seem to be getting an attitude from you Corbin, that you have no respect for people who decide to learn more than one family.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, maybe that's in your experience. Everybody has different experience. "I'm sorry that you suck at writing idiomatic clarinet parts even though you know how to play one." If I'm a pianist and I can't write good piano music, what does that make me as a composer? Smart composition then becomes the issue, not whether one can actually play the instrument.

If you can play the clarinet, but you can't write good clarinet parts, that has nothing to do with whether you can play the clarinet. You just suck at applying your knowledge to your scores.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can normally pick up an instrument and be decent at it after a short time but, i would recomend staying with a few instruments. I am a 7 year percussionist. I play all percussion instruments and am section leader of the drumline (marching band)/percussion section (symphonic band). I now also play guitar (4 years) and piano(devoutley for only 3 months). I have dabbled in mandolin, banjo, sax, cello, and violin but i realize that if i spend too much time on any more than those 3, i will get rusty at them. If you must play more instruments, i would recomend those related to your main. For instance, piano, while i am still only learning, is not difficult because it is so closely related to playing any mallet instrument.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I equally divide my time between my other instruments, as to avoid any loss of ground. I am learning more violin with my ensemble. I teach myself the cello, viola, trumpet, flute, oboe, marimba and keyboard instruments for fun. My ensemble director says I am about a late-intermediate in nearly all of them, mainly excluding the marimba, since I just play it for fun. I also play the organ to accompany the choir at my church.

I have dedicated my life to my passion for music, so I spend about twelve hours a day(no kidding) practicing, so I just get the benefits of honest dedication.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It doesn't hurt to learn some stuff on a different instrument. I'm a percussion performance major as well as composition. I'm way into percussion, and I really plan to be quite good. However, this last semester I took brass methods for my ed degree and sax lessons just cause. As a result I learned a lot more about the instruments than I would have by reading a book or even by writing music and hearing it. I learned quite a bit about the tuba, in that it takes so much air. I KNEW that, but now I truly understand what it is like for tuba players. I played a Bach flute partita on sax, and I was horrible at it. But I learned about the instrument, and it was a good segue into wind instruments. I'm not concerned that I didn't perform the Bach well - I shouldn't be expected to after a semester with minimal practice. I am not going to worry about playing the flute because I think I understand the flute. If a flute falls into my lap though, I'll pick it up, maybe take lessons on it.

The point is, I can't see any reason to be derisive of someone who DOES choose to learn a bunch of instruments. Each person has their own path to follow, and no single way works for everyone.

It takes all types.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My first instrument is the piano, and then guitar and clarinet. I can't quite read notation properly on the guitar, I'm mainly self-taught so I'm not very good. I mostly play from notation or by ear, and I mostly play jazz or latin on it, or more rarely I learn pieces such as Biber's 6 Haiku for guitar.

Clarinet, I'm still learning so I haven't gotten through the study book yet, let alone play the instrument properly. But I am planning on getting a new music ensemble together in the school (because there isn't one), and I want to play all three instruments, even if I just play simple pieces.

But, like Gardener, I find I compose differently for the instruments I know than the others. Apart from the clarinet (which I don't know very well yet), I find it very hard to write something for the piano, more so than other instruments. I don't know if that's because piano is my first instrument or because piano is such a different instrument to the others, though. But also, I haven't really written anything for guitar (apart from one piece for Ralph).

I think knowing at least how to play a lot of instruments gives you a good practical idea about writing for that instrument, like Hindemith for example. But I don't think it's a prerequisite for a good orchestrator or a good composer. Schoenberg couldn't play any instruments, and Stravinsky famously tried everything at the piano. And I don't think R. Strauss played any instruments either (but I am not sure on that one). And there are others, of course.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

However, my primary instrument is the glockenspiel.

aherm...

Well, as a percussionist it's essential that I'm well versed on all of the instruments in that category... maybe with a few exceptions (I wish knew more about hand drums, steel drums, etc). In some ways I feel I'm lucky that I've haphazardly fallen into that "instrument", because I've always been good at picking up new things quickly.

So what would my secondary instrument be, then? I guess piano... I took lessons for quite a while. And should I be discerning between jazz and classical? I'm better at jazz piano than classical piano. Or should i be considering jazz a secondary instrument to classical as well? I also dabble with flute, trumpet, and sax, but for no reason other than I play them when at the computer when they're in an arms reach.

I guess if I were to speak within percussion, my "primary" instrument (meaning the one I'm best at) would be marimba/vibraphone, followed by snare drum, followed by timpani. God I need to play more timpani...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love this thread, I started upright bass about 7 years ago and am at about symphony quality on it and about the same with percussion which I have played almost religiously for the past 2 years (I actually got a marimba for christmas and the only reason I'm not playing it now is to rest my palms, blisters and such). I started sax about 4 years ago and am at a upper high school level on it, same with flute which i picked up a year ago. Over the summer I acquired a trombone, cornet and clarinet which im at about a mediocre high school level on and have been playing for about 6 months on and off. Im also going to learn cello, viola, harp and possible violin in the upcoming months because of a recent bond made with the orchestra director at my school.

I think the whole, you can only be good at a couple isn't completely true, even if you only devote like 15 minutes every other day to each instrument you can maintain a pretty high quality performance ability on all of them but obviously if you focus on one then you can be amazing at it but you will still have one or two instruments that shine above the rest because you just like playing it more, thats how I am with marimba.

To the composition things, orchestration books can lend a lot of knowledge but I find its easier to write for an instrument even if you just played it for a month or two one summer because you know what goes into it, you study some of the things written for it and you just know what its like to walk in those shows. With that I will also say that you can get by and write even great parts for instruments you haven't played but you yourself can't enjoy them as much that way.

EDIT: Ive also been playing guitar for about 6 years and I'm pretty impressive at that as well as banjo which I picked up last year to fill out the schools pit orchestra. Piano and organ for about a year as well just so I could start hearing the chords and melodies in my head.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(I actually got a marimba for christmas and the only reason I'm not playing it now is to rest my palms, blisters and such).

are you playing stevens grip? You don't want to get blisters/callouses in your palms, it means you're jamming the stick in too hard. Blisters/callouses in the fingers are okay. If you're getting them on your fingers, some gauze and medical tape can go a long way. I used to have to wrap my index finger daily when i played burton grip.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share


×
×
  • Create New...