Learning different instruments. Is it possible?
It seems that nowadays, following formal education, the general tendency is to specialize in one concrete area rather than learning different disciplines. And the same happens in music education.
At the beginning of our training, we usually choose our main instrument which will accompany us throughout our whole career instead of learning different instruments.
This means that the instrument becomes our focal point. We will have to commit to spend more than 80% of our study time with it. But is this really for everyone? What would you like better?
Specializing or becoming more versatile?
Personally, I can’t find arguments to overturn the idea of specializing. What’s more. I think it’s something very useful that can open many doors for you depending on the goals you have set for yourself. However, I find many situations in which broad learning can help us to achieve a holistic vision of music.
In music education, I consider it fundamental to learn to play and teach different instruments. Even at a basic level, and even if you want to focus on becoming proficient at one of them. Music instruments are the means with which we express what we want to communicate musically.
So, learning different instruments is not going to affect your level of performance on one of them. In fact, it makes you a more complete musician, with a broader vision and more resources.
Examples of successful multi-instrumentalists
Check out these videos:
James Morrison, the great all-round jazz player
Fresh vibe from modern jazz multi-instrumentalist FKJ (French Kiwi Juice)
Pentatonix cellist and beatboxer Kevin Olusola
That’s why we encourage multidisciplinary music education. Learning how to play same-family instruments, for example, is an advantage.
What to take into account?
Of course, there are differences between them but you could end up playing more than 5 instruments perfectly knowing what those differences are. Hence, not having to dedicate several years of your studies to each of them! Check how our teachers Ayla and Alberto play and teach different instruments.
A clear example can be found on the brass instruments. Although they belong to the same family, there are some differences. We can divide the brass family into two big groups, cylindrical and conical instruments. Learn those differences and tricks about playing all these instruments:
Cylindrical instruments’ main feature is that the pipe remains the same size from the mouthpiece receiver till the bell. Their harmonics resonate at higher frequencies, which turns their sound more aggressive.
- Trumpet: you will need little air but focused and with a lot of pressure. The mouthpiece is the smallest one.
- Trombone: blow with pressure and use more air than on the trumpet. The slide technique is important, it requires precision. Medium mouthpiece size.
On the other hand, the conical instruments’ pipe grows bigger from the first moment. The frequencies that resonate are lower, which gives a deeper and more mellow sound.
- Horn: it is the most different of all brass instruments. You have to be very precise with the lip vibration because the harmonics are closer to each other. The size of the mouthpiece is similar to the one of the trumpet, and you will have to blow in a more relaxed way.
- Tuba: the breathing technique must be very relaxed, but the amount of air is huge!
- Euphonium: it is similar to the tuba, but an octave higher. Then it will be more agile and you will need less air.
This is just a short explanation of the differences. However, it has much more to it. Feeling, experience, and self-perception are essential. Also, having a mentor that guides you through this is of major importance.
When you acquire new knowledge, many years may pass, but it will always be there. That’s why learning different instruments make sense even if you stop playing some of them for a while afterward. It will be reasonably easy to pick it up again.
Now more than ever, it is our time to absorb all the information that surrounds us. Even more so in the music sector, where there are countless branches and options. There is always something new to learn, don’t forget it!