- A multi-instrumentalist is someone who can play more than one musical instrument well.
- Several of the world’s most recognized musicians are multi-instrumental.
- Playing many instruments has many benefits, but there are some hurdles to jump along the way.
Musicians Paul McCartney, Prince, Flea, Dave Grohl, and Trent Reznor have some obvious commonalities, but one they share is pretty rare – a talent for playing (and playing well) many instruments.
Multi-instrumental artists of their caliber are few and far between. Prince was a master of 27 instruments! Many musicians strive to master more than one instrument. It’s challenging, but it’s not impossible. It takes immense dedication, perseverance, and sheer unadulterated talent to accomplish such a musical feat.
Such commitment has many benefits, from a better understanding of music to more effective teaching, but it’s not all wine and roses. This guide explores the world of multi-instrumentalists, some pros and cons, and a few hacks to make learning multiple instruments easier.
What is a multi-instrumentalist?
A multi-instrumentalist is someone who has mastered many instruments. This term does not apply to those who play one or two instruments well and dabble in a few others. It pertains only to people who play many instruments, typically of different types, at a professional level.
Mastering several instruments has a significant impact on your musicianship. The process of learning the knowledge it brings imparts many benefits, such as:
Increasing musical fluency
Think of each instrument as a language – just as knowing a similar language can help you learn a new one, playing one type of instrument can help you learn a similar one. The more instruments you play, the easier it is to pick up another.
Gaining a deeper understanding of bandmates
Playing music in a band is an almost magical experience. It’s fascinating to see several people playing a variety of instruments that blend in such beautiful ways. When one person knows the intricacies of many instruments, they can meld with the other band members better.
Highly talented musicians are always in demand. It doesn’t matter if they’re instructors or play in a band. Multi-instrumentalists consistently garner more student and paying professional gigs than single-instrument players. The more instruments you play, the more opportunities are available.
The most coveted benefit for many multi-instrumentalists is the ability to pick up any instrument and pluck out a tune.
The ability to play multiple instruments has many benefits, including making you a better musician overall. Those benefits don’t come without a few setbacks, however. You may encounter disadvantages like:
Harder to focus
Think of the phrase, “jack of all trades, but master of none.” This isn’t a problem for every multi-instrumentalist, but for some, it’s harder to focus when your attention is diverted to a new musical instrument every few weeks.
It costs more money to play more instruments. Buying new instruments is expensive, but so are repairs, maintenance, replacement parts, and lessons. Multiply that several times and the costs could be astronomical.
More time investment
Learning to play an instrument requires a substantial monetary investment, but that’s not all you need – you must also invest a huge chunk of time. It takes years of practice to learn to master an instrument at a professional level. The time investment is even more dramatic if you have a lot of other responsibilities on your plate.
There aren’t many disadvantages to learning many musical trades – a better way to describe the few shortcomings of the endeavor may be to call them “inconveniences” instead. Very little seems negative when it’s something you really want to achieve.
Anyone with a knack for music can learn to play more than one – as long as you understand the basic tenets of music, the rest is just a matter of practice and perseverance. A few things can make the process a little easier, however, including:
Get an instructor
An instructor will speed up the whole process of learning several instruments at once. It’s much easier to schedule practice time when working with someone else. Instructors also tell you helpful tips and tricks that you’d otherwise have to learn on your own.
Establish a base
Never start a new instrument until you have a firm grasp on the ones you’re already playing. Focus on one set of instructions before moving to the next. A solid understanding of one instrument makes others easier to understand.
Scheduling breaks between practices is a great way to prevent burnout and keep motivation high. Taking a short break to reset is crucial, even if you practice both instruments during one class period or over a short amount of time. Going straight from one instrument to another can be confusing and overwhelming and may even stagnate the process.
Stick with it
Staying committed to the learning process can be very difficult, even when it’s something you really want. There’s no substitute for dedicated practice when learning a new instrument.
Another helpful tip to keep in mind is always to have fun. Keeping things casual and relaxed, no matter how intense the music, relieves the pressure to succeed and allows true talent to bloom in its place.
It’s hard to deny the itch to learn a new instrument once it hits you – it’s a craving that only music people understand. Be patient and give your talent room to grow with your curiosity. You’ve got this.
Your Musical Destiny Is in Your Hands
You can take the first step to learning a new instrument today, and we can help. Check out our blog for information on learning all sorts of instruments and other topics on musical life. Ready for lessons? We’ve got you covered there, too. Explore the private, virtual, and group lesson options, and check out the instrument rentals and sales.
Sloan is a music school that provides lessons in various musical disciplines. We also offer a store with top-of-the-line musical instruments and accessories for sale, plus instrument rental programs for those who do not want to own their own. Check us out today and start playing tomorrow!