Learning multiple instruments at once?

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turret
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Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby turret » Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:23 pm UTC

I've waited until my late adolescence to learn instruments, and I regret it. Now that I've finlly begun to actually learn, I really really want to learn both the piano and guitar. My question to you, XKCD for is this: Is it a good idea (or even feasible) to learn both of these at once?

Also, general learning instruments.

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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby SirMustapha » Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:42 pm UTC

I don't think it should be too hard to try both; it's not like learning two similar languages, in which case you could confuse one with the other at times. I think it's a fair try.

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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Роберт » Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:47 pm UTC

Depending on if you have *loads* of free time or just some. If you have just some, focus on just one instrument(which one you should pick depends on your situation), trying to get a significant amount of practice every day. If you have LOADS of free time and patience, go for guitar until your fingers hurt (but be very careful not to cause blisters!), then switch to piano. Do this every day until you've built up callouses so your fingers don't get tender very quickly.

The physical mechanics of playing the instruments are different, but the theory and some of the skill is similar, so I think it would be worth learning both because you have a limited amount of time you can play guitar without hurting yourself at the beginning.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby turret » Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:19 pm UTC

Now, when you say *loads* of free time, are you talking two to four hours a day, or more?
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Midnight » Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:36 pm UTC

Yeah they all use the same language. Only difference is bass and treble clef, and that's easy if you start with piano. So I would say, go ahead, learn two instruments. I've known how to play a smidgen of piano and guitar, because my main instrument is bass, but now (asa music major) I'm learning piano, guitar, drums, and digital music.
I don't think you'll have problems confusing piano and guitar, cause they play so differently.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Роберт » Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:45 pm UTC

turret wrote:Now, when you say *loads* of free time, are you talking two to four hours a day, or more?

It kind of depends on your learning style etc - it's just a suggestion/guideline.

If you are capable of spending two to four hours a day practicing, that should certainly be enough to learn multiple instruments. You probably won't want to spend more than two hours straight on a guitar when you're just starting out, because you won't have developed the callouses on your fingertips yet.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby JBJ » Wed Oct 27, 2010 12:31 pm UTC

Keep in mind that when you're learning an instrument, you're learning two different things at the same time.

One is learning how to "operate" the instrument, i.e., getting it to make the sound you want. Fortunately, guitar and piano are pretty forgiving in that respect. You just finger/strum/pick or press the keys. If you are learning a wind or brass instrument, then you've got to have the right embouchure (mouth position) and control how hard you blow, etc... With both guitar and piano, you'll need some basic dexterity to bang out the notes and chords. As Роберт mentioned, the mechanics of each are different enough that they shouldn't interfere.

The other thing you are learning is the music knowledge, like notation, chords, keys, scales, etc... Learning guitar and piano at the same time may actually help. The same concepts apply to both instruments but are often described differently. For instance, guitar players don't need to be able to read sheet music, and many can't. To them it's just a bunch of squiggles on lines. Conversely many piano players don't read chord notation. To them Dsus4 or Gm9 look like rejected Star Wars droid names. But once you've gotten a concept on one instrument, you may find it easier to apply to the other which may help accelerate your learning. At the very minimum to start, you should learn what the notes are and where they are at on each instrument. That way, when you play something interesting on one, you can easily transpose it to the other.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Euphonium » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:47 pm UTC

Technical ability to operate a musical instrument is not the same as the ability make music.

You still have to learn how to use those techniques to make music rather than just play a sequence of pitches in time.

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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby turret » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:50 pm UTC

Indeed, but just as before you can write a novel, you must learn to write; before you can make music, you must learn to play.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Dream » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:03 pm UTC

Euphonium wrote:Technical ability to operate a musical instrument is not the same as the ability make music.

They are one and the same, unless you're going to argue that serialism isn't music. If you can play an instrument you can make music. And that leads neatly to...
turret wrote:Indeed, but just as before you can write a novel, you must learn to write; before you can make music, you must learn to play.

Captain Beefheart might like a word with you. Skill at playing an instrument, even in the most fundamental way possible, isn't necessary to make music. Just some kind of artistic vision you want to realise through making noise with the thing is enough.

I'd much prefer to have a sense of rhythm than skill at making a rhythm. I'd much prefer to have a sense of melody than a knowledge of where and when to put my fingers on a keyboard. And before both of those I'd prefer to have a solid idea of what I wanted to achieve in terms of feeling and meaning, rather than a specific sound and the technique to make it. You know what they say about a man with only a hammer, right?
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Роберт » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:24 pm UTC

Dream wrote:
Euphonium wrote:Technical ability to operate a musical instrument is not the same as the ability make music.

They are one and the same, unless you're going to argue that serialism isn't music. If you can play an instrument you can make music. And that leads neatly to...
turret wrote:Indeed, but just as before you can write a novel, you must learn to write; before you can make music, you must learn to play.

Captain Beefheart might like a word with you. Skill at playing an instrument, even in the most fundamental way possible, isn't necessary to make music. Just some kind of artistic vision you want to realise through making noise with the thing is enough.

I'd much prefer to have a sense of rhythm than skill at making a rhythm. I'd much prefer to have a sense of melody than a knowledge of where and when to put my fingers on a keyboard. And before both of those I'd prefer to have a solid idea of what I wanted to achieve in terms of feeling and meaning, rather than a specific sound and the technique to make it. You know what they say about a man with only a hammer, right?

I agree with Dream here. Learning how to play instruments is certainly valuable, though, and can help with getting a good sense of rhythm etc.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Euphonium » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:47 pm UTC

Dream wrote:
Euphonium wrote:Technical ability to operate a musical instrument is not the same as the ability make music.

They are one and the same, unless you're going to argue that serialism isn't music.

It's not. It's a nihilist, primitivist return to the worst of the Baroque era: mechanical arrangements of sound with zero emotion.

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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby JBJ » Wed Oct 27, 2010 6:16 pm UTC

Dream wrote:I'd much prefer to have a sense of rhythm than skill at making a rhythm. I'd much prefer to have a sense of melody than a knowledge of where and when to put my fingers on a keyboard. And before both of those I'd prefer to have a solid idea of what I wanted to achieve in terms of feeling and meaning, rather than a specific sound and the technique to make it. You know what they say about a man with only a hammer, right?
To be able to express what you are feeling musically you need to have some ability to create it. That requires some technique to be able to manipulate an instrument to bring what's in your head into the world.

It's like poetry. I don't need to know all about iambic pentameter, dactylic hexameter, or ballad stanza to create poetry, but I do need to have enough of a vocabulary to express what I want. I need to know what the words mean, and have the skill to speak or write the words in the order I want.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Dream » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:29 pm UTC

Euphonium wrote:It's not. It's a nihilist, primitivist return to the worst of the Baroque era: mechanical arrangements of sound with zero emotion.
Oh, you're that guy. Let me know when you've sorted all of culture into good and bad art so I can start ignoring everything you don't like. My life will be so much more fulfilled then.
JBJ wrote:It's like poetry. I don't need to know all about iambic pentameter, dactylic hexameter, or ballad stanza to create poetry, but I do need to have enough of a vocabulary to express what I want. I need to know what the words mean, and have the skill to speak or write the words in the order I want.

Which I would liken to the difference between knowing proper snare drum technique and not knowing it. Striking the drum at all is like having basic language skills in poetry. Iambic pentameter is like the unnecessary, but useful in many ways, proper technique.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby JBJ » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:59 pm UTC

Dream wrote:
JBJ wrote:It's like poetry. I don't need to know all about iambic pentameter, dactylic hexameter, or ballad stanza to create poetry, but I do need to have enough of a vocabulary to express what I want. I need to know what the words mean, and have the skill to speak or write the words in the order I want.
Which I would liken to the difference between knowing proper snare drum technique and not knowing it. Striking the drum at all is like having basic language skills in poetry. Iambic pentameter is like the unnecessary, but useful in many ways, proper technique.

I'm confused. Are you saying that you don't need to have any musical theory knowledge to make music? To a point, I agree but it severely limits your potential. Especially if you want to learn a song that someone else has composed. Even with perfect or really good relative pitch, you need to know how many keys or frets difference there are to produce the notes you want.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Dream » Thu Oct 28, 2010 7:40 pm UTC

JBJ wrote:To a point, I agree but it severely limits your potential. Especially if you want to learn a song that someone else has composed. Even with perfect or really good relative pitch, you need to know how many keys or frets difference there are to produce the notes you want.

You're arbitrarily limiting your thinking to western, equally tempered music. Who is to say a person who has never encountered a fretboard, approaching a guitar, shouldn't alter pitch at the machine head? Would the sounds that person makes suddenly not be music because they didn't use the instrument as designed? Should ability to recreate a composition by another composer really be a measure of ability to create music at all?

I haven't used a tuning system of any kind in my music since about January of this year. Nor have I attempted to perform a score by another composer, or played an instrument in a traditional manner, as intended by its designer. In spite of all this, I've still made quite a large amount of music. In a similar way, what if a musician approaches a non-instrument in order to make music? There is no set of knowledge about interaction with the item that the person lacks or doesn't. They can still make music by applying general principles about sound and rhythm that have little or nothing to do with traditional notions of musical skill.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Midnight » Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:44 am UTC

Alright I'm just gonna hit these points as I feel 'em:
-Dream, I find it weird that you say "technical ability is one and the same with making music" and then in the very next thing you quote, you say "You don't need to learn to play before you make music." They seem contradictory.
-Ignoring Euphonium's general bombastic declamations of what is and isn't music, I would say that making music doesn't necessarily require technical ability.
--I find it hilarious that Euphonium has determined himself to be the arbiter of what is music, by the way. It is my belief that in order to be such an arbiter, you must have heard every single work ever created.
-I'd like to note that thoughts on what the definition of 'music' and other such things are totally unrelated to the topic at hand: learning multiple instruments.

-As far as multiple instruments, I say its fine, but guitarists should learn to read music, and pianists should know how to play a Gsus9.
In the end, everyone should just learn how to play jazz. It gives you all you need to know, damn.

-The guy wants to learn guitar and piano and the same time. He doesn't want to learn how to prepare a piano just damn yet, he doesn't want to learn how to play a guitar using just the machine heads and droning on strings (which, by the way, would end in so many broken strings and would fuck up the whole goddamn guitar--unless you already knew what you were doing). If he makes a topic saying "I want to learn all the weird shit you can do with a guitar" then I'm THERE, and ready to dispense wisdom.
I'm making a highly elitist assumption that, as a fluent-English-speaking-poster-on-these-forums/a, he's likely to listen to music of the western (by which I mean equally-tempered) style, ((side note: would be hard to do it any other way, seeing as that's how guitars are intonated and pianos are tuned)) and probably wants to learn how to play (at least initially) in that style.

-Dream, I have mad respect for you and all that, but I'll bet you know how to read music, and probably play a few instruments. It's nice to stand on your high horse and maintain that learning instruments in a classical sense is irrelevant and all that, but Philip Glass, Arnold Schoenberg, John Cage, and Karlheinz Stockhausen all played piano.
I feel that music is a language (and that notation is the written form, the grammar, of that language) and you can't just go "Bleth hard thorough moxy wiffle zeph kyre whale." You have to learn to actually speak the language, the way everyone else does. We've made the poetry argument. I think speaking whatever language and knowing its grammar are those basic skills that you were talking about. Furthermore, it's easy to just write riffs and chord progressions, but only some of them sound good. Knowing music theory explains WHY they sound good, which is a vast help to composers. I can write music without an instrument, cause I know intervals and how to write.
James Joyce and ee cummings both spoke English, just like those guys I mentioned earlier can play piano. I believe one of my favorite quotes in relation to art is one by Bill Watterson (who did Calvin and Hobbes): "You have to know the rules to break them, and you have to know them really well to shatter them."
Which is essentially the philosophy surrounding the idea that it is indeed best to learn an instrument in the most standard way before you try the nonstandard stuff. Plus, it's the most practical and useful, cause if you can only play Smoke on the Water if your guitar is tuned like a zither, or if you can only play Chopsticks on a prepared piano... you'd best insure your instruments and carry 'em with you at all times.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Роберт » Fri Oct 29, 2010 2:16 pm UTC

Midnight wrote: seeing as that's how guitars typically are intonated and pianos are typically tuned)

Fixed that for you. (A Well-Tuned Piano by La Monte Young, Lucy-tuned guitars, etc.)
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Dream » Fri Oct 29, 2010 9:08 pm UTC

Midnight wrote:I find it hilarious that Euphonium has determined himself to be the arbiter of what is music, by the way. It is my belief that in order to be such an arbiter, you must have heard every single work ever created.
But he has heard every single work ever created. You see, the ones he hasn't heard have not moved his soul, and are therefore not music.
Midnight wrote:Dream, I find it weird that you say "technical ability is one and the same with making music" and then in the very next thing you quote, you say "You don't need to learn to play before you make music." They seem contradictory.
Yeah, that needs clarification. I only meant it to hold in one direction. If you have the skill, you can make music. It's a subset of the entire "anyone can make music, with or without skill" thing. I don't really know if "one and the same" implies bidirectional definition, but I didn't mean it to.
Midnight wrote:I believe one of my favorite quotes in relation to art is one by Bill Watterson (who did Calvin and Hobbes): "You have to know the rules to break them, and you have to know them really well to shatter them."

But, if you never knew, nor cared what the rules were, would that really limit your work? I have love Bill Watterson to bits, but I think he was speaking from the perspective of a professional artist working in a particular form and in a particular publishing medium. With that in mind he's 110% correct, because otherwise you're just shooting in the stylistic dark. If you want to not conform, you have to know how and why you don't want to for that to work. But it doesn't follow from that that conformity to a style or set of rules is a natural state for an artist to be in, so that she must understand rules in order to usefully break them. Given tools, a child will make representational drawings before it comprehends what the nature of representation is. Given an instrument they have no knowledge of, a musician will make music, even if they have to turn woodwind into percussion to do it. Saxophones can't play a chords for most individual players, but they can play triads for Rashaan Roland Kirk. Kirk is extending the rules, the musician with the woodwind is breaking them, and the child doesn't even think of them, but they are all creating art, and there is no relationship between their knowledge of rules (or posession of skills) and the ability to disregard them.
Midnight wrote:The guy wants to learn guitar and piano and the same time. He doesn't want to learn how to prepare a piano just damn yet, he doesn't want to learn how to play a guitar using just the machine heads and droning on strings
Yes, but it is critical to point out that if he doesn't gain great (or any) skill on one or other of those, that the experience of playing them without said skills will still be musically useful. The point wouldn't need labouring were it not for turret's post above.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby SiriusBeatz » Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:00 am UTC

So. Back on topic to the OP's question and not getting caught up in likely pointless arguments about what is or isn't music or what is or isn't necessary to make it:

I'd say if you've got two to four hours a day, I'd just stick with one instrument. Maybe it's just my background as a wind player, but I feel like getting started takes a lot more time than one typically expects it would (I spent my first three hours with a trumpet just trying to get a single, coherent pitch out with some consistency). I do play piano and noodle on guitar, and I would say that it would probably be best to just focus on one or the other until you get a bit more comfortable.

There isn't much harm in trying to learn both, but I feel like if you split your time, you'll just wind up learning both half as quickly, and, in my experience, the biggest motivation to keep practicing and learning is the feeling of steady improvement. If I've been trying to learn both for about a month, then at best I could play either like I've been learning one or the other for about two weeks. That's assuming there is absolutely zero overlap in learning the two at once (which isn't entirely true, as you generally get to keep music theory knowledge gained in the process), but it also assumes that your present skill is directly proportional to the amount of time you've spent on the instrument, independent of other factors. That may or may not be true in itself: I personally don't think there will be *much* of an issue with piano technique interfering with guitar technique and vice versa, but the fact of the matter is that they require largely different mentalities to play, and trying to split time between the two will probably hinder your development with both.

My suggestion: start with one and pick the other up in a month or two once you've gotten your bearings with the first.

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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Midnight » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:25 am UTC

SiriusBeatz wrote:
I'd say if you've got two to four hours a day, I'd just stick with one instrument. Maybe it's just my background as a wind player, but I feel like getting started takes a lot more time than one typically expects it would (I spent my first three hours with a trumpet just trying to get a single, coherent pitch out with some consistency).


The cool shit there, though, is that once you can make a tone of out, say, a tenor sax, you can do the same with an alto and a bari. I know it's true with trumpets and flugelhorns, and I assume that includes trombones, french horns, and maybe the baritone/tuba group. Guitar and piano are also a lot easier to get sounds out of than a trumpet. Piano is hit the keys until it sounds good; guitar is hit the strings and press the frets until it sounds good. Trumpet is beyond me.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Euphonium » Sat Oct 30, 2010 1:38 pm UTC

Midnight wrote:The cool shit there, though, is that once you can make a tone of out, say, a tenor sax, you can do the same with an alto and a bari. I know it's true with trumpets and flugelhorns, and I assume that includes trombones, french horns, and maybe the baritone/tuba group.


No, you really can't. Among brass instruments at least, the amount (and type) of wind required, as well as the kind of embouchre control needed, varies so much between the different voices that there is no immediate transition whatsoever.

Between trombone and euphonium, perhaps; between trumpet and flugelhorn, perhaps; but if you try to play a tuba the same way you play a trombone, you won't get any sort of solid tone out whatsoever. If you try to play a trumpet the same way you play a horn, you'll get a thin squeal.

The techniques are the same, certainly; but there's so much variation in degree that they really can't translate without some modification.

I can't speak to saxophones, not being a sax player--but I suspect that at the very least, the amount of air required varies enough among the members of the saxophone family that the same approach to playing a soprano won't work with a bari. And when the air requirements change, I suspect that embouchre requirements change as well.

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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Midnight » Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:38 pm UTC

Yeah but it's a much more moderate change. Switching from trumpet to tuba is bound to be easier than learning trumpet from scratch.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Canadian_F_H » Mon Nov 29, 2010 9:10 pm UTC

piano makes more sense and is laid out nicely so that once you learn theory you can easily apply it...

guitar is 100x cooler than piano...



learn both, so that you can know what you are doing AND look cool doing it!

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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby garren101 » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:18 pm UTC

Canadian_F_H wrote:guitar is 100x cooler than piano...

Have you ever listened to anything that Jordan Rudess has recorded? Listen to him, and then repeat that.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Midnight » Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:01 am UTC

garren101 wrote:
Canadian_F_H wrote:guitar is 100x cooler than piano...

Have you ever listened to anything that Jordan Rudess has recorded? Listen to him, and then repeat that.

they're both cool.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby garren101 » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:24 am UTC

Midnight wrote:
garren101 wrote:
Canadian_F_H wrote:guitar is 100x cooler than piano...

Have you ever listened to anything that Jordan Rudess has recorded? Listen to him, and then repeat that.

they're both cool.

The most legit point yet.
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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby Dirk » Thu Apr 28, 2011 8:34 am UTC

This guy makes the piano look cool imo :D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yRdDnrB5kM

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Re: Learning multiple instruments at once?

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu Apr 28, 2011 4:21 pm UTC

Learning to play multiple instruments is certainly feasible. While I have a slightly odd background (I learned to play piano at 3, promptly stopped and didn't start again until middle school), I did kind of learn to play piano and trombone at the same time. Technically, I had played piano before, but I was essentially relearning it at the same time I was learning trombone.

(Also, with respect to switching between brass instruments, I've found you can go down assuming you have decent breath control, but it's way harder to go up. I've tried to play the trumpet and French horn multiple times, but the mouthpiece is just too dang small! All sorts of air comes out the sides of my mouth. I can play baritone/euphonium as they usually have the exact same size mouthpiece as a trombone and I can play tuba, although I can't sustain notes for very long. My brother who plays French horn and trumpet can easily play my trombone.)


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