Playing any instrument at a professional level is no mean feat. That’s why becoming a pro at more than one instrument is something worth celebrating. The question is, what does it take to become a multi-instrumentalist? The following advice from Willy M will help you get started:


Of course, there has to be real passion driving you in this direction. Passion and interest, as well as determination, will help you on this journey toward success in mastering several instruments.

part of a drum set
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Music Theory

The beauty of music is that its foundations remain the same all over the world, and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. A proper understanding of music theory will help you understand the workings of different instruments. Its unchanging nature gives you a solid ground to build upon.

The basic notes will almost always be the same, no matter what instrument you switch to. (I say almost, because some world instruments do have extra notes, but for our discussion we will stick to well-known Western instruments.) A Major scale will always be A Major scale. A Minor scale will always be A Minor scale. Via TakeLessons

An Understanding of Instrument Classification

Instruments fall into different categories which you need to know so you know how to apply your efforts.

But first, let’s break down the four main types of instruments:

Piano (including keyboards)

Stringed instruments (including guitar, banjo, mandolin, and violin)

Wind instruments (including flute, harmonica, brass instruments, and bagpipes)

Percussion instruments (including drum set, djembe, and cajon) Via TakeLessons

different string instruments from Uzbek
Image Courtesy of Flickr

Readiness to Adjust

For instance, in playing guitar, one hand does the strumming while the other holds the chords, and they work in coordination. If you switch to playing the piano, your hands will need to get accustomed to playing different things. this means you will need to master a new skill, which will be beneficial in your musical journey.

There will be some muscle memory issues that need to be worked out with almost every transition you make. Sometimes you will be switching from predominately using your left hand to predominately using your right, or vice versa. Via TakeLessons

Willingness to Learn Anew

When learning your first instrument, you may not have learned some things that are required to learn another one. Even if you went through music theory classes, there are definitely some things that are completely absent in one instrument but are fundamental in the other.

Depending on the instrument you begin with, some new musical techniques may need to be learned. If you started with an instrument that uses a particular clef, you might need to learn to read another clef. If you never read tablature before, you might need to learn. Via TakeLessons

different trumpets
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Embrace Surprises…

There are things that you will be happy to know are similar when playing two different instruments. Enjoy these pleasant surprises that come along your way.

You may find that your fingers are already trained. For instance, a guitar uses the left-hand fingers for playing chords and lead lines. The Irish tin whistle uses the left hand to finger some of the holes, and the dexterity gained from playing the guitar can easily cross over to the tin whistle. Via TakeLessons

And Discomforts too…

As you switch from playing one instrument to another, you should be prepared to be uncomfortable. Posture and other things necessary in playing the instruments will need to be adjusted accordingly.

You may find that the way you comfortably sit with one instrument is not the way you sit comfortably with another instrument. As an example: when I play the banjo, I sit with my knees tucked in to allow the banjo a place to rest while I play, whereas with the drums, my knees are wider apart to reach the hi-hat and kick pedals. Via TakeLessons

Parting Shot

Once you have prepared yourself as mentioned above, then you can begin your journey into becoming a multi-instrumentalist. Remember to be patient with yourself and take one instrument at a time. Set realistic goals so you don’t end up demoralizing yourself in the process. All the best!

Featured Image: Image Credit

Rory Hoffman, Multi-instrumentalist

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