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Thread: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

  1. #26
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Most of my solo gigs involve guitar, 5-string banjo, ukulele and harmonica. I play mandolin in ensembles, along with mandola and octave mandolin. There are particular jobs that call for other instruments, such as concertina, Autoharp, Dobro, etc.

    For example, I'll be at the Genesee Country Village Fiddlers' Fair over the weekend, and except for a couple of intro sets where I'll play guitar, banjo, mandolin etc., I'll spend most of the two days as the on-call main stage bass fiddle player.

    Long ago decided it was versatility rather than virtuosity for me, and I've never regretted it. Lots of pickers around better than me on a particular instrument -- mandolin included -- but I'm a journey-person on all the instruments I play, and I do a lot of work.

    Not recommending this course to anyone else, necessarily, just saying what's worked in my case.
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  3. #27
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    First of all; I've come to HATE that term. Or should I say label? It used to be respectable enough to be someone who 'plays guitar and banjo'. Now they're a "multi-instrumentalist". I know I've used a six syllable example, but then so often when referring to someone as a multi-instrumentalist, the instruments they play is listed anyway.

    I won't go on about the new fad of the SINGER SONG WRITER. It's the latest big thing! Who'da thought you could be both?

    Okay, curmudging out of the way, and on to the thread topic.

    Guitar, mandolin, bass, tenor guitar, ukulele, banjo - 4 & 5 string.... How skilled at any one would I be if I'd never picked up any of the others? Probably still not very, but I'm sure much better than I am now.

  4. #28

    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Really good thread.
    I share many of the views here. I'd add this: I've always felt it was a tremendous advantage to play at least two instruments because they cross pollinate. Something I can't quite grasp on the mandolin is just trivial on the piano. After a day or two of dealing with the ... call it the "intellectual object" ... fluently on the piano, then I can paste what I've learned into my mandolin playing. I'll bet many of you know what I'm talking about. Even when I'm consumed by something like swing era jazz on the mandolin, I force myself to take a few hours a week on the guitar or piano and I'm usually delighted with the transference.

  5. #29
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Agreed pointpergame. When I started playing mandolin, I thought playing in 5ths was amazingly intuitive. This was it for me, forget guitar. Then I found that it opened up some pathways in my brain and guitar became easier.

  6. #30
    Registered User Willem's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    At the time I got my first mandolin 9 months ago I considered myself a competent bass player and a tinkerer on a couple other instruments. In the last 9 months I have barely touched any other instrument and have become obseessed in the pursuit of all things mandolin. I mainly pick up another instrument when one of my kids asks me to show them something or tune a guitar, bass, uke, or fiddle (my daughter) for them. I can definitely see my mandolin playing impacting my approach to those other instruments in a nice way.

  7. #31
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    I´d like to ad that anyone might want to search for threads with mandocrucian's (Niles Hokannen) opinions about playing (like posts by the late John McGann).

    I also think that having/developing a proper sense of rythm helps. That being said, I think that when you are able to play bass (or drums) properly then you will have it a lot easier to play other instruments. Rythm is king.
    Olaf

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    When I first got serious about mandolin a bit over a year ago, I did put the guitar aside for most of the time to concentrate on practicing my new instrument. That has helped with my progression on the mandolin to some extent. But I'm still considered a guitarist to many folks. The past couple of months have played more gigs on guitar than I had since I took up mandolin. Thankfully at a few I could switch instruments.

    Thing is, now that I've gotten back into playing guitar a bit, I feel my mandolin playing has suffered. Been trying to correct that with a lot more practice this past week. Hopefully after a gig tomorrow, I will be able to concentrate on mandolin (and especially my octave) and get things back to where I want them. Then it's time to start getting better again.
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  9. #33
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Everything works together to advance the other...

    ...except the banjo. That sucker will ruin you.
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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  11. #34

    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by pointpergame View Post
    I've always felt it was a tremendous advantage to play at least two instruments because they cross pollinate.
    Excellent explanation . . . I am going to steal that phrase, 'Cross Pollinate'.

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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Playing piano means I can read music as well as TAB, and I have found I can play violin music on mandolin, my guitar playing and mandolin playing are complementary to each other. I play whatever instrument I am in the mood for on a given day, but I think they all help me get better on the others.

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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seter View Post
    I'm sort of a jack of a trades, master of none type in life in general though. I think there is a place for those who focus on one instrument and attain virtuosity, it takes all types to make a world.
    Quote Originally Posted by BluesPreacher View Post
    My own approach is to have fun. That might mean playing mostly mando for a stretch of time, or picking it up for a spin now and then. Just depends. Basically, whatever would give you the most pleasure.
    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    I'll agree that focusing on one instrument will speed up your proficiency on that instrument, but I also find that the cross pollination helps as well.
    For me, these are the key points in this thread. For the past ten years, I’ve had chronic MADD (Musical Attention Deficit Disorder). It’s definitely a first-world problem. I have too much fun playing many different instruments, so in a given week, I could put in three hours playing music, but that could be split among mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar, and/or dulcimer. Sometimes, I even get drawn to the upright piano in the living room because I don’t have to take it out of the case and tune it.

    I don’t punch a clock or use a calendar to track my musical time. If I have time to play some music, I just take out what I feel like playing and play it! In the process, though, I find that playing something on one instrument unlocks something on or from another instrument.
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  14. #37
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    As an aside - when I decided to get serious on mandolin, it was also a choice to not buy a button accordion (or 2) and give that a try. Just felt that was too much of a challenge at this point. Still want to learn to play one. Just need to find the time.
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    There's no doubt I've pretty much devoted most of my time to mandolin to the disadvantage of the other instruments I play -- but I do occasionally pick up my flute or the recorder or the occasional drum stick or do an arpeggio on the piano. Since I learned all those other instruments before the mandolin, though, if I wanted to go back, my catchup time would still be way less than if I were to start from the beginning on any of them. The biggest disadvantage to leaving one instrument for any length of time is having to recover the technique, though. I doubt I could play my flute longer than 10 minutes before I'd have problems catching my breath -- and I used to have pretty good control.
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  16. #39
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    As an aside - when I decided to get serious on mandolin, it was also a choice to not buy a button accordion (or 2) and give that a try. Just felt that was too much of a challenge at this point. Still want to learn to play one. Just need to find the time.
    When I decided I wanted to try a sustaining instrument for Irish trad as a different "angle of attack" from mandolin, it was a decision between button box and flute. Fiddle might have been an obvious choice, but my S.O. is a fiddler and one in the house is enough.


    I was strongly attracted to the box -- partly from watching YouTube vids of Damien Mullane. But flute won out for two reasons. First, a keyless "Irish" flute was considerably less expensive than a well-made button box accordion bought new, and there are no repair techs around here that would make buying a used one a good idea. Those things are expensive! And second, my fiddler S.O. has a good ear for intonation, so I was wary of buying something with fixed pitch reeds. Any mandolin player in a session who has to tune to a concertina or box instead of their clip-on tuner will know what I'm talking about. A 19th Century wooden flute copy can be tuned to A440 with a tuning slide, so the flute won out.

    I still have a soft spot for button box, but it will have to remain something I look at in the rear-view mirror, as a voice in this music I passed up on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    There's no doubt I've pretty much devoted most of my time to mandolin to the disadvantage of the other instruments I play -- but I do occasionally pick up my flute or the recorder or the occasional drum stick or do an arpeggio on the piano. Since I learned all those other instruments before the mandolin, though, if I wanted to go back, my catchup time would still be way less than if I were to start from the beginning on any of them. The biggest disadvantage to leaving one instrument for any length of time is having to recover the technique, though. I doubt I could play my flute longer than 10 minutes before I'd have problems catching my breath -- and I used to have pretty good control.
    Flute is tough if you don't keep at it. Of all the instruments I've ever tackled, it's the one that really punishes not practicing on a continual basis. It's also the most physical, body-intensive instrument I've ever played, aside from kit drums when I was a kid, and those are different muscle groups.

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  18. #40
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    I'd say it depends on what the other instruments are. If your other instrument is, for example, the bassoon or hurdy-gurdy, there are few technical similarities, and almost no chance of confusing yourself.

    On the other hand, when I started learning viola, I put violin down for a few months so I could get solid with the peculiarities of viola—reading the clef, different technique for vibrato, different approach to bowing, wider spacing of the fingers to play in tune. The differences are subtle, but critical. Once viola technique was ingrained, I started playing violin again.

    Playing violin/viola and adding mandolin/mandola, I haven't backed off on anything. Picking and bowing are totally different, and I haven't felt that any one instrument is interfering with another.

    Becoming obsessed with one, to the exclusion of the others—now that's another discussion altogether.

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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    There's a great interview right here with a multi-instrumentalist who has managed to be great on many instruments while maintaining a full-time job outside of music. My take-away is that it's about focusing on clarity and good technique with any instrument you put your hand to. https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/c...ster-Interview

  21. #42
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Usually it's best to gain proficiency one instrument at a time...

    or you could end up like this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2mkYv3JrjU


  22. #43

    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    I instrument-hop. Don't have the attention span to focus on one. Mandos are handiest because they're easy to pick up and play. Squareneck guitars are more work because you sort of have to climb into them and gear up. Electric guitars (and their periferals) are best for out-of-house experiences.

    But mostly it's just a matter of what I'm in the mood for.

    There's no right or wrong. Whatever works for you works for you.

  23. #44

    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    When I was a kid, in the 60's, pretty much everybody played guitar. So I learnt banjer too.
    Then in '03 learnt fiddle & mandolin, and '13 piano.
    I'm of the school of thought, that the more instruments one learns, one finds that the Music is truly between one's ears.
    The human brain shouldn't be the limiting factor. But eventually our vehicle starts to deteriorate. So get after it!

  24. #45
    Registered User Steve Lavelle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Multi-Instrumentalist's Advice?

    Of the 5 instruments I'm willing to play in public (mandolin, banjo, bass, guitar, harmonica), I spend the least time with the guitar and the harmonica. Mostly because there are always too many guitars in bands and jams, and because there are so few songs outside the blues where a harmonica seems like the element that might add the most to the song. I have been getting back to the guitar a little recently, so that I can play songs I wrote at occasional open mics. I find it hard to play the mandolin solo and sing. I don't get much say in the songs I play in the band, the singers get most of the choices and I tend to pick songs audiences don't know.
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