Learning A Second Instrument

If you play an instrument, then you’ve felt the joys of getting lost in the music. Playing an instrument can not only be fun, but also calming and therapeutic. It’s an escape from whatever’s going on in the world to relax and either play or listen to your favorite instrument. So naturally, those of us who can play one instrument often end up learning another!

While learning a second instrument might be easier than learning the first because you know how to read music, there are some aspects that might make it harder than you think. As long as you recognize these challenges and avoid discouragement, you’ll find success.

If you want to learn a second instrument, it’s important to think about a these few things beforehand:

Instrument Type and Method of Playing

Consider the instrument you’re playing now, and the one you’d like to switch to. Switching to similar instruments will be easier than completely changing instrument families. For instance, if you play a reed instrument like the clarinet and decide to learn the trumpet, that’s going to be fairly difficult to pick up, considering the differences between with woodwind clarinet and the brass trumpet, like the mouthpiece. Or, if you’re currently playing an instrument with strings like a guitar or violin, and you’re looking at playing an instrument that you blow into, that’ll be completely different. But, it’s not impossible! Just be ready to face the challenges that’ll come with playing an instrument in an entirely different way.

Old Habits Die Hard

Let’s say you currently play the french horn. You’re used to instrument pitches varying primarily through breath control and the tightness of your lips. The french horn requires a lot of breath and blowing to play. If you switch to an instrument that requires a little less variance in blowing to create pitches, such as the flute, you may instinctively blow harder when playing. Since the flute requires a bit less force for higher notes than a french horn, you may end up just playing very loudly in the beginning. Just remember, these habits will be relearned for the new instrument, and you’ll soon have it down with a bit of practice!

Note Reading

Let’s say you’re a trumpet player, and you want to switch to the tuba. The trumpet can play some pretty low notes, but not as low as a tuba. Although the trumpet and tuba are similar in that they are both brass instruments and are played with similar (but different-sized) mouthpieces, you may be surprised to see that tuba music is written in the bass clef, where as trumpet music is in the treble clef. If you haven’t played in the bass clef before, reading the notes will take some getting used to. This is one of the reasons why it’s so handy to learn the piano before many other instruments.

Instant Success is Unlikely

If you’re thinking about learning a second instrument, chances are you’re very good at the one you play now. When learning to play a second instrument, keep in mind that it’ll take a good deal of practice, and it might not just come naturally. “Yeah yeah, I know,” you think. But listen, you’d be surprised how frustrated you can get when learning a second instrument, because playing your first one comes so easily to you now. Focus, practice, and have fun, and you’ll have that second one down with a bit of practice!

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Joli D. writes for Midwest Musical Imports, providing new and used instruments such as oboes, bassoons, clarinets, english horns, and more, as well as instrument repair, reed-making accessories and other instrument accessories to musicians all over the world.