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Thread: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

  1. #1
    We're all mad here elbent's Avatar
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    Default Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    I have been playing mando for five days and Iím already itching to learn other instruments. Would it be too difficult to learn guitar and/or ukelele at the same time as learning mandolin? Too confusing, might get the fingering mixed up? Or might it help?

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Approach each instrument as itís own, and youíll be fine. I play mando, guitar, bass, octave mando, banjo, uke, and electric mando and guitar. Iíve also owned a mandocello which I finally decided I just couldnít do justice because of the scale length and the types of music I usually play. Granted, Iím the ďutility manĒ for the praise band I head up, playing what is needed based on who can play on a given Sunday. Iím pretty much a trainable monkey, but my musical ADD (I really do enjoy playing all of these) and lack of focus on one instrument is surely a hindrance in mastering any of them. I recently saw Jason Isbell remarking in an interview that heíll often play electric guitar for 5.5 hours a day with headphones so as not to bother his family and quarantined friends. That focus/obsession/love is what sets guys like him apart from guys like me; I rarely play for more the 1-3 hours a day, and often much less based on my day job requirements. So, if youíre a mere mortal like me, make your choice. If you actually have some talent, well, thatís a different discussion altogether. Combine that talent and obsession, and then you have the ingredients for making a living at this wonderful game...
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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Approach them as different instruments. Because they are. I wouldnít learn more than two at a time - get each one under your fingers. Ukulele is guitar from the fifth fret so once youíve got guitar to a decent level uke is easy but the strumming action is different. Guitar is its own thing. The pick is similar to mandolin but the technique is a bit different.

    Iíd suggest going to guitar first ad itís easier to transition to ukulele.

    2 minutes each day on each to start.

    Also learn music theory - at least chord and scales. That will help you separate things.

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    If you want a paying gig, learn Bass! A good bass player (pre-quarantine) could always find a job, often in multiple bands. If you are a casual player who wants to accompany themselves or friends, learn guitar.

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    I learned several instruments through the late 60's and early 70's and I am still learning those very same instruments. The beauty of music is there is not to it.

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Well ... learn some music theory. How music hangs together, not just melodies. Then moving from one instrument to another will make sense on a different level. Learning to play a melody on different instruments in several keys will give the learning curve a boost. So... yes by all means learn different instruments but learn about music at the same time. The instruments are your chosen tools to produce the product of music ….. enjoy the process and play on! R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  11. #8

    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    I learned mandolin and fiddle pretty much at tthe same time. Tuning is the same, but a bow is not a pick. Fiddle technique is a bit demanding, so it sadly dominated. Banjer and guitar are departures from the 5ths tuning. I learned piano at 50. Most start with piano, as it embodies music theory. Each instrument involves learning another technique in manual dexterity. If you're dexterous you've an advantage.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Get one "solid" before you add the second, third, etc. First one's the hardest; it'll also educate you about different chords and how they work together, and give you experience working with strings and frets.

    I started on 5-string banjo and only played that (badly) for three years. When I added guitar, mandolin, Appalachian dulcimer, bass fiddle etc., I felt I was building on my original self-education, not starting from scratch all over again on an instrument that was tuned differently and had different playing techniques.

    Now nearly every gig I play involves at least three different instruments. As I once said, I've foregone virtuosity for versatility. It's a tradeoff...
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Play two instruments at the same time? Why limit yourself to two?

    -I find it very difficult to play two instruments, my mandolin and my metronome at the same time, though the results can be satisfying.

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    I am a retired band director, having taught for 36 years in the public schools. Trumpet is the instrument that I play professionally but am somewhat proficient on all winds and percussion. Sometimes a different approach to a musical idea helps me overcome a problem that I might have on another. Right now I am finding similarities between my mandolin playing and my cello as well as Mandocello.

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    For a beginner learning multiple instruments at once will be difficult because it will split your time, unless you have a lot of time and energy to be able to practice both as much as you need to in order to progress. I would stick with just one for a little while personally. I would start on the instrument you feel you most want to play.

    That being said, once you learn bit on any stringed and fretted instrument, it is not hard at all to pick up a ukulele and simply strum some chords to some basic songs. It is practically made for that.

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    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    If you're going to do this-- and unless you're a prodigy with stringed instruments I'd advise not-- then choose instruments all tuned in 4ths (guitar and bass guitar) or all tuned in 5ths (mandolin family and tenor guitar or violin family). That way you get the joy of different instruments and different sounds but the advantage of not having to learn different sets of chords and fretboard layouts. I play mandolin family-- mostly mandola now-- but love playing my tenor guitar, and both have made me better with the other.
    belbein

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Sometimes you can find that you are better at something than you expected, but you won't know till you try.

    I'm pretty sure that many of us who mainly play mandolin didn't necessarily start that way. In my case I borrowed a friend's mandolin and found that I liked playing it pretty much straight away.
    David A. Gordon

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    One of those harmonica holders will also hold a Kazoo to wear as you play your double neck guitar-mandolin.. (?)
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    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Wait--Did you mean LEARNING MULTIPLES at once or PLAYING multiples at once (as in one man band) ?
    belbein

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  20. #17
    We're all mad here elbent's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Learning simultaneously, not playing simultaneously!

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    It can be very rewarding and as others have said, if you're thinking of making some income as a musician it can make you more 'marketable'. I'm blessed to either be not that talented or to be well employed otherwise at this point to be able to play for minimal money or free. I played guitar and harmonica for decades prior to picking up bass (somebody in the band had to play it!) and lastly mandolin.

    Each have their own unique rewards. Yes, at times there are brief moments of confusion if I'm not concentrating well. This typically happens when I'm rotating through instruments too quickly when practicing. Playing live I play 6 and 12 string acoustic guitar, mandolin and harmonica-usually one at a time- in the course of a gig and never get confused there. My parts are well established so it's much easier there. On occasion I decide to switch instruments just to make it interesting (what would happen if I played Amie on mandolin tonight?). A long answer to say, yes-go for it!

  22. #19
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Well, of you are elbent on learning other instruments, have fun. Actually you must be amazing after only 5 days if you have mastered mandolin and are ready to move on. Some of us are still learning after decades. Maybe give it 5 weeks and see where you are.

    I say learn the fundamentals of the first fretted one (mandolin) then you will find it somewhat easier to play other fretted instruments.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    I'm pretty ADD... learning another instrument helps me with mandolin, because it gives me something to shift my focus onto while also reinforcing things that help with mandolin.
    Such as:
    - finger strength
    - theory
    - chord progressions
    - callouses
    - listening
    - rhythm
    and a whole host of other things which are essential for mandolin, but not limited to mandolin alone!

  25. #21
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    It's a crazy mixed up world. Play em while we're still here.
    I love catmanduís reply. I canít agree more. If youíve got an itch, then scratch it! (Metaphorically, not medically speaking) Mandolin may or may not end up being your number one instrument, but itís up to you to figure that out. From my personal experience I like to have other instruments around to just dabble in and use as a diversion when I get frustrated with my main instrument.(Yes, I believe a little frustration is normal) And yes, there are occasional moments of confusion when switching instruments, but nothing so horrible that would stop me from doing it. I say follow your desire and have at it!

  26. #22

    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    Well my whimsical view comes by benefit of having enjoyed coming up through classical pedagogy. I couldn't say that this isn't the best way to learn music/playing. After a life of classical/fl guitar, it seemed like everything else, all the folk idioms/instruments, were easy. If you pay close attention to ergonomics, and have a good ear, there's no limit to study -

    I also enjoy the benefit of being crazier (impulsive, curious, obsessed) than probably most..

  27. #23
    Registered User Matt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    A few of the mandolin community here love the deep rumble of the guitar and hence divide time between the two instrument types. Of the thoughts shared thus far, the ones that resonate with me are learn the rules of music, music theory. Another contributor mentioned sticking with instruments with common attributes like tuning in 5ths, I. E. a mandolin and a tenor guitar.

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    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    My biggest heroes were Roy Clark, John McEuen, Rusty Young -- guys who SPECIALIZED in multi-instrumentals. Most players who are known for one instrument can play other instruments, sometimes lots of others, but they tend to specialize in their primary instrument. Personally, my goal has always been to have the highest overall average on the 30 or so instruments I've played on live shows, and recorded with, over my long (and happy) career as a working musician -- and leave the single-instrument virtuosity to the single-instrument virtuosos. As a teenager, I was incredibly privileged to attend a tiny Pentecostal church with what was at the time arguably the world's absolute top country singer, and he gave me some invaluable advice when he said something like, "You don't have to be the best there is to work in the music business. In fact, the best there is usually don't work all that much because, sooner or later, they'll try to outshine the star they work for. You just have to be competent -- but you'd better be competent in all aspects of the job if you want to keep working over the long haul." He was right, too!

    But to cover my bases, I was also a journalism major as well as a music major (Woodwinds) just in case things changed in the music business. Thankfully, I've never needed the journalism to make a living, though I did enjoy doing freelance music journalism on the side for a number of years (I could get "stars" to take or return my phone calls!).

    So learn all the instruments you want! And if you decide to make music for a living, be as competent as you can.

    Most of all, HAVE FUN!

  29. #25

    Default Re: Learn to play multiple instruments at once?

    I'd say you should get one under your fingers pretty good before picking up another. I had been playing guitar for 15 years before I picked up a mandolin so switching back and forth wasn't a big deal. When starting from scratch, I'd stick to one for a bit. Unless you are one of those prodigies. lol

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