The Benefits of Learning More Than One Instrument

How Learning Multiple Instruments Can Benefit You

If you have become proficient at playing an instrument, you may be considering the option of learning another instrument. Undoubtedly, this will require extra expenditure of time, money, and effort, but there are numerous advantages to mastering extra instruments. This article reviews some of those many reasons.

Greater Understanding of the Musical Whole

In a band environment, all instruments used are important, whether you are playing a lead or support instrument. If you intend to use all of your instruments in one band or genre, you will more fully understand how the instruments integrate into a final whole. If you play guitar, for example, and want to pick up drums, you will understand rhythm even better than you do now. In a way, you become more sympathetic to the drummer, and are much more likely to play more “in sync” with other drummers as a result. Consider it cross-training for your job – it makes you more valuable both as a leader and as a team player.

If you are learning to play different instruments for different genres, the principle still applies. In most Western music, the basic song structure is often the same. Jazz often uses elements of Blues, Rock integrates elements of Country, and elements of classical music have infiltrated almost all other genres to a greater or lesser extent. Learning Jazz drumming will still make you a better Rock guitarist, more “in sync” with the Rock drummer. Classical piano playing will still make you a better Jazz saxophonist, as you will understand melody better, and your ability to work off of a Jazz pianist will improve. These are but a few examples, the list goes on ad infinitum.

Expansion of Playing Style through Emulation

Many multi-instrumentalists have devised creative ways of playing one instrument by emulating another that they were already good at playing. For example, many Jazz guitarists play in a similar style to the horns in the band to give the tune a more integrated feel. In Rock, instruments often mimic others or follow the same note patterns. One example is SMOKE ON THE WATER, where the keyboard and guitar play the same notes at the beginning and end to achieve a more dramatic effect. Another example is Paul McCartney’s great bass line in OLD BROWN SHOE, which finds him tracking George Harrison’s guitar solo.


If you are looking to land a gig with a band or get some session work, it should be obvious that the more instruments you know how to play well, the more likely you will land the gig. Many bands like to have different members play different instruments on different songs. And as long as you show up and leave a good impression playing one instrument at a session gig, you are more likely to get more gigs for each instrument you play.

Noodling or Dabbling is Good, Too!

Even if you just learn the very basics of a second or third instrument, it can still help you understand the musical whole better, to integrate sounds, and to make you a better musician. No matter what level you aspire to, it requires a willingness to learn how to integrate. Give it a try.