In this day and age it is common to see musicians playing more than one instrument. Common combinations I see most often are Sax-Flute-Clarinet, Bass-Guitar, Piano-Organ-Drums, etc. My question is..."Does it really pay off in the long run?".
Well, Iím one to talk. I play sax, bass, flute, and piano. Now my main instrument is sax, but I shed on the flute, bass, and piano pretty intensely. I have heard several musicans say that in order to make it in the gigging world, you need to be able to play multiple instruments. There are a few out there that hold down multiple gigs on different instruments and are doing well. But is it true that in order to make a living as a musician, you should play more than one instrument? Hmmm...I wouldnít go so far as to say that, but I would say that if you do have the abililty to play more than one instrument well then you are in a good place to take advantage of a multiple of opportunities whether it be the dinner club gig, studio sessions, musicians pit, private lessons, workshops, or other performing gigs.
Is the desire to play multiple instruments driven by earning potential? Well certainly the more talent you have, the more valuable you become. But think about it...someone in the business world completes an undergraduate in business and then goes back after a few years to complete an MBA. Why? To make themselves more valuable. The concept is the same with musicians to an extent. I myself play multiple instruments because I have something to say on them and I can live with the side effect of maybe picking up a gig here or there in the future. I remember reading an interview in JazzIzz magazine several years ago where Phil Woods woods was asked a question of whether he thought it was necessary for saxophone players to double on clarinet. He basically said that you should only really study another instrument if you have a "voice" for it. Having a "voice" for another instrument means that you have a burning desire to express yourself through it.
Playing another instrument just for the sake of playing another instrument could be counter productive to your musicianship in that your soul wonít be in the act of playing and study and therefore there would be little growth or growth at a slower rate. In conjunction, you have those that feel that if you decide to go the route of the multi-instrumentalist, then you end up just spreading yourself too thin and wonít be any good at any of them. Well I think this is a function of how serious the musician is. Now if you are very busy like me with a wife and child, then finding time to practice is hard sometimes. I have resorted to practicing late at night when everyone is asleep (in my soundproof practice room) or early in the morning. Regardless of the time, I always make a point to get my practice time in on ALL of my instruments. It is my belief that if you can make the time to devote to the instruments, why not. And besides having an "intimate relationship" :-) with other instruments gives you deeper understanding of what it takes to make music from the instrument and you have a better appreciation of your band mates.
Ultimately the decision is up to the individual musician. But surely if you have the gift, itís yours to exploit!
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