5

I've heard many people say this:

"If you can play one instrument, other instruments will be easy to learn"

I just can't help but wonder if this is true. Suppose I'm a professional flute player. Would learning an instrument, suppose guitar (while being the professional flute player) be simpler to learn than if I didn't play the flute?

  • 3
    I suggest clarifying the question. First, you ask whether the second instrument will be easy to learn, but later, whether it will be easier. These are quite different questions. – user48353 Apr 4 at 0:10
  • @replete Oops. I typed faster than I could think. I'll clarify. – Xilpex Apr 4 at 0:12
  • 2
    IMO, no dupe. It's close, but that one asks about a more specific scenario. – user45266 Apr 4 at 4:43
  • With a little editing, this could stop being a dupe. – Tim Apr 4 at 7:58
  • 1
    Not a dupe. The other question regards a particular issue with learning a second instrument. This one is general. It’s also not really opinion-based; all 3 answers are in agreement. – trw Apr 4 at 13:35
13

You wouldn’t need to relearn theory or reading music. You wouldn’t need to learn to establish a practice regimen. You wouldn’t need to relearn to hear intervals or feel a beat.

Going from flute to guitar, you would need to memorize the positions of notes and chords. You would need to develop calluses. You would have to suffer the pain of learning to contort your hand to make barre chords. It would take a lot of practice to develop the muscle memory you need to play proficiently.

If you’re going between similar instruments—organ to piano, for example—you would certainly be influenced by the techniques of your original instrument. It could be an advantage. Chords are fingered the same on both instruments. But you’d have a set of disadvantages to overcome as well. In this example, you’d have to learn dynamic expression in a whole new way. Suddenly, the force you put on the keys matters in a way it never did before!

The answer definitely depends on what instrument you’re coming from and what instrument you’re going to. But, in general, yes, as an experienced musician, you have a considerable advantage that an absolute beginner lacks.

  • 1
    +1, but an extremely minor quibble: "Suddenly, the force you put on the keys matters in a way it never did before!" It matters on the organ too, it is just that the result is different: a change in timbre versus a change in dynamic level. – user48353 Apr 4 at 0:55
  • 1
    Another disadvantage is that you are going from being able to play an instrument fluently to not really being able to speak, if you will. This can be quite frustrating and held me back from learning a second instrument for some time. – b3ko Apr 4 at 1:26
  • 2
    @replete You're saying that on an organ, if you press keys harder you get a change in timbre? I had no idea. Are there any videos out there that demonstrate that? – BobRodes Apr 4 at 4:29
  • 2
    @BobRodes This is true only of proper mechanical action or tracker organs. Many organs have an electric action reducing the keys to mindless on/off operation. Tracker organs are interesting because of a fellow named J. S. Bach who wrote good music for them. Yes my tongue is in my cheek. He did not write for mindless bloated electric action instruments which began to proliferate a century and a half ago. The mechanical action gives a direct connection to the pallet which allows air into the pipe, allowing the player to control the consonant somewhat like the tonguing of a wind player. – user48353 Apr 4 at 4:52
  • @replete Very interesting. Are there many of those organs still around, or are they all also of the type from the pre-electric days where someone had to work the bellows or whatever? – BobRodes Apr 4 at 5:01
4

This is no myth!

  1. It is absolutely obvious that you won’t have to start at zero as you know already the basics and the grammar of music language, (notation system, staffs, chords, clefs and keys).

  2. Many related instruments of the same section have similar systems of construction and technics of playing.

  3. Mind that practicing a second instrument will be for benefit in any other direction of learning something new (look up “super learning” in my answer to the other question:

Problems With Learning a Second Instrument

4

Well, it certainly won't be easy, but I think it'll be easier than starting as a complete beginner.

For starters, you'll know the musical side of things. Everyone who's played an instrument knows music theory to some extent, and even if you just know what notes are in a scale, you'll have an advantage over a complete beginner. Any music theory knowledge will help one understand more what one is learning. It may seem like there's a longer way to go because you know from learning one instrument what it takes to learn another, but you're closer than you think, and closer than beginners.

For some instruments, there is a bit of correlation in the actual playing. I imagine most keyboard instruments share similar technique and ergonomics, and instruments of the same family are similar to play (like saxophones). I wouldn't count on much of it for flute and guitar, though, besides maybe the fingering aspect being similar.

I play a couple instruments (decently), and I think the most important thing to remember is that each instrument is different, and serves a different role. Keyboard instruments, like piano, can certainly be melodic, but flute is nearly always carrying the melody, and guitarists need to be able to create harmony in a way that flautists don't usually need to learn.

Best of luck in this endeavor!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.