Bowlerhat

Multi-instrumentalists, where do you guys find the time?

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Heeey,

Right now I'm studying composing and arranging at a conservatory, and in my free time I'm trying to learn how to play a few instruments. It's mostly just to know how to properly write for them, and I don't have to be super virtuosic in everything. But the problem is that I can't seem to work it out timewise. I've been playing the flute ever since I was little, then in my high school years I also picked up piano, and since a year ago I've also been taking trumpet lessons. In my spare time I'm teaching myself a little bit of bass playing and drumming, and it just seems to be getting a bit too much. I think diligence is very important as a mucisian, and I know the importance of having a steady practise rhythm. But in the past few weeks it has just become impossible to everyday practise trumpet, flute, piano, drums and bass while having normal classes 5 days a week plus homework and my composing and arranging main subject.

Am I just trying to do too much at the same time? Am I not determined enough? Has it to do with efficient practising? 

Is there anyone here who has experience trying to learn multiple instruments at the same time? Any tips on combining it with normal life? There seem to be a lot of young multi instruments out there in the world, and while it obviously has to with talent and all that zwish zwash, I just can't believe that you can get good on any instrument without spending a lot of time and practise on it. 

I'm still relatively young and as a student I borrow money from the government to fully focus on my study. This means that right now I don't have any pressing money issues. I also don't have kids, or a family to take care of and all the stuff that comes after I'm done with my studies. So, if there's any time to try new things and practise a lot, then it's now. But I also don't want to overwork myself and end up with nothing. So, if there's anyone with the same (or a similar) problem, or who had the same (or a similar) problem, any advice on the topic is very much appreciated. 

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I'm not really a multi-instrumentalist but I do a variety of things in general. Currently taking ballet lessons and working out so I can stop being fat. I have a kid and a full-time job, so I'll tell you how I find time to do stuff.

1. I don't do the stuff I already know how to do so I can "stay in practice." I learned how to play guitar and now I almost never play guitar. Hahaha.
2. I wake up at 4am. Yes, it sucks.
3. I didn't bother learning to play all the other instruments. I know it sounds like the lazy man's answer BUT, you may be interested to know that I have composed for a variety of orchestral instruments for a concert and I don't know how to play any of them. All you NEED to know is what clef to use and what the highest and lowest notes they can play are. And with just that info, I managed to compose a concert for a piano, cello, violin, timpani, drumset, clarinet, and some other stuff that I don't remember. Don't I sound awesome!

I hope that helps a bit. Of course, if you WANT to be able to play all the instruments you compose for, you should do it and just accept that it takes time. The only other piece of advice I have is...

4. Give up video games. But there's no god-damn way THAT'S gonna happen, right? ;)

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I'm not a hugely diverse instrumentalist but I have picked up a number of mostly string instruments over the years.  Each week I work on bass, double bass, guitar, keyboard and shakuhachi 

Prioritize your practice time and keep a weekly log of time spent on each of them.  Your main instrument should be given the most time each week and don't worry too much if you can only get 15-30 minutes at a time on some of the instruments you are learning. Figure out how much time you can spend practicing each day and divide from there.  If you wind up with something nuts like 10 minutes per instrument once a week then yea you are probably over doing it.

If you're your own teacher for the instrument then take one idea, piece, melody, scale, mode etc. each week  and play something from it across all of the instruments you know.  This is a lot more fun and useful than practicing individual repertoire for each instrument.   For example, this week i want to improve on improvising in Locrian so I improvise on Locrian across everything I can.    If i'm working on a remix, I play the source tune, or pieces of it, across everything I can before I actually rearrange it. 

Before you do anything crazy like give up on videogames try managing your productivity with a free app called Habitica.  It turns your accomplishments into an RPG where you can get gold and exp by working towards the goals you set then allows you to set your own rewards and who says an hour of gaming can't be one of them?  However, if there's no gold, no gaming. 

 

.  

 

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11 hours ago, The Legendary Zoltan said:

I'm not really a multi-instrumentalist but I do a variety of things in general. Currently taking ballet lessons and working out so I can stop being fat. I have a kid and a full-time job, so I'll tell you how I find time to do stuff.

1. I don't do the stuff I already know how to do so I can "stay in practice." I learned how to play guitar and now I almost never play guitar. Hahaha.
2. I wake up at 4am. Yes, it sucks.
3. I didn't bother learning to play all the other instruments. I know it sounds like the lazy man's answer BUT, you may be interested to know that I have composed for a variety of orchestral instruments for a concert and I don't know how to play any of them. All you NEED to know is what clef to use and what the highest and lowest notes they can play are. And with just that info, I managed to compose a concert for a piano, cello, violin, timpani, drumset, clarinet, and some other stuff that I don't remember. Don't I sound awesome!

I hope that helps a bit. Of course, if you WANT to be able to play all the instruments you compose for, you should do it and just accept that it takes time. The only other piece of advice I have is...

4. Give up video games. But there's no god-damn way THAT'S gonna happen, right? ;)

Unfortunately for me, I had to give up video games for the time being to focus on my work: violin(working on Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64),composition, arranging(one of my arrangements went to the idig music festival *psyched*),putting together a non-profit online orchestra(I and the orchestra/ choir will not get paid, only the instrumental Specialists like Erutan/katethegreat19, Jillian Aversa, etc.. and Writing a Manga.

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Welp, thanks for all the input. I already downloaded the app, and it seems to really be something I can use, so thanks for that. I'm also going to try to wake up earlier regularly. Generally everything Garpocalypse said seems like a great idea. I don't actually play video games, but I suppose it's always a good idea to spend more time on music and less time on relaxing and doing stuff for yourself, whatever that is. As long as I don't overdo it of course. Also just a kind reminder that I'm looking for specific feedback for my problem and that this is not the right place to mindlessly advertise your own stuff without any actual relation to the current topic.

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Yo, pro multi-instrumentalist here (keys/trumpet/guitar).

I think part of the problem is that you're trying to tackle a bunch of things that require different skill sets/muscle memory. The best multi-instrumentalists I know spent "seasons" learning different instruments, and if your goal is high proficiency in so many different tools, I think divide and conquer is your best bet. 

If you feel like tackling a bunch of different things at once, then I would try to focus on a set of instruments that are at least in the same family. For example, trumpet and flute, while vastly different, are both wind instruments, so there's some overlap there. Guitar and bass use the same fretboard, so that knowledge transfers from one to the other.

If you're serious about learning drums my advice is to lock yourself in a practice room with a metronome for two years, and make that your main focus. Get a lesson every now and again, just to make sure you're not doing anything that will lead to injury down the road.

Good luck!

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On 01/10/2016 at 7:22 PM, DusK said:

Just be mediocre at all of your instruments. Seems to work for me. :D

Hahaha, I ascribe to this method as well ;)

On 07/10/2016 at 9:54 PM, OA said:

As someone who plays guitar/bass/drums/saxophone/keyboard, it is something you build up over years, and not all at once. 

In all seriousness though, yeah, this. I started off learning guitar when I was young, which naturally led into getting decent at bass, and then after that comes a fairly decent working knowledge of the majority of stringed instruments...and then about 4 years ago I picked up drums out of necessity for a friend's band. Trying to learn piano at the moment, and it's by far the most difficult instrument I've ever tried to learn :|

Pretty much the best advice is to just always be tinkering around with stuff! 

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On 7-10-2016 at 9:44 PM, JJT said:

I think part of the problem is that you're trying to tackle a bunch of things that require different skill sets/muscle memory. The best multi-instrumentalists I know spent "seasons" learning different instruments, and if your goal is high proficiency in so many different tools, I think divide and conquer is your best bet. 

This divide and conquer thingy sounds like it makes a lot of sense. I've decided to cut down a bit on the drum and bass, and focus on trumpet right now. Because of the embouchure this is quite difficult to combine with flute, but I'm managing. This doesn't mean I'm not playing any drum and bass anymore, but it's just not a priority. I've got some experience with learning how to play instruments, so I know I'm not going to become a great drummer in a month. Also not in a year, or two years. I'll probably never become a really good drummer, but that's all relative. Like DusK said, becoming mediocre at everything sounds like a great bet, since it'll be useful for my own recordings and compositions. The same with bass, trumpet and whatever other instruments I might wanna play later. And I just generally always want to keep improving, no matter how good, mediocre or bad I'm at it. I think that kind of mindset is important if I want to make a living out of music.

After downloading the app Garpocalyps recommended to me I've been getting my music making a bit less chaotic and more streamlined. I'm starting really easy, with just practicing bass once a week, drums once a week, trumpet daily, composing daily and flute whenever I've got some time left. But I'm planning on getting things a bit more frequent.  

Carbunkl sums it up pretty well.

13 hours ago, carbunkl said:

Pretty much the best advice is to just always be tinkering around with stuff! 

 

Everyone, thanks for all the advice!! I'm gonna keep all the words that have been said here in mind. 

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My first instrument is piano which I played for many years before progressing into the world of percussion. I still struggle with finding time to practice everything to get it to the level where I'd like it to be. I always find it best to set goals in each area and work towards those as long as they are challenging you. Some people can just play whatever you throw in front of them. I am not one of those people! These days I tend to stick mostly to drums and percussion for intense practice, but I keep my piano up and progressing slowly...

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As a multiple woodwind specialist, I know I can't be amazing at everything unless I practice everything right in a row.  So, I need to be able to play Flute, then Sax, then Clarinet all in a row and IN TUNE dear god help me.  In a recording environment, I just want to go for one at a time if it aint too much trouble, then work out kinks from there.  Also, I tend to write stuff that avoids my secondaries if possible.  I do enjoy playing flute and clarinet, but let me tell you, you can't master everything.

Actually, I can say that my woodwind playing has suffered from my brass playing.  AND my classical playing suffers from playing jazz - the reverse is true as well.  Strange stuff.

What HAS formed a symbiotic relationship is my guitar playing and bass playing combined with my wind instruments.  Playing bass has enhanced everything.  Its amazing.

Let me say, as well, that I think multi-instrumentalist stuff is for the birds, subjectively speaking.  We should write for what is on hand and available.  According to the world at large, it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at anything, and even though I have long passed that 10,000 hour mark, I still do not feel like an expert on my primary instrument.  Sad truth.  I even know my teacher in grad school felt the same way about his playing.  There is always something more to perfect.  Moral of the story is there is someone out there willing to play *expertly* the thing that you write, and they can let you know if its possible or not.

There should be no shame in collaborating with someone.

Edited by HankTheSpankTankJankerson
Shitty-ass explanation.

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I'm not a multi instrumentalist anymore.

I used to play actively Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Clarinet, Saxophone, Flute, some piano, Bass, and guitar, although I have performed on virtually every wind instrument at some point or another.

My process went something like this:

Started horn in 6th grade band, was very bored with it because horn players don't play real music until high school.  Since I was bored, I got a trumpet and started learning that.  Stuck with both trumpet and horn for a few years, then I learned trombones.  I kind of took a shortcut, doing the British thing and learning treble clef Bb trombone.  Trumpet and trombone use mostly the same positions/valves, so the learning curve was nonexistent.  Just had to learn where the slide positions were.  Later that turned to treble clef euphonium and tuba, which all use the same fingerings as trumpet.  This whole time, I also cheated and used the same embouchure for all the brass instruments.  I didn't sound like a professional, but I was in high school and sounded good enough on horn which was my primary instrument.  Total time spent learning all the brass instruments?  Not very long.  I never actually practiced euphonium or tuba, I could just pick them up and play them because of how similar they are to the other brasses.
While this was happening, I got a guitar and a keyboard for different Christmases.  This meant I had two guitars now and an electric keyboard.  One of the guitars I already had, it was a family instrument.  So I used the new guitar to actually learn the instrument, and the old guitar I tuned down an octave and played it like a bass.  I learned both at the same time.  The piano I learned to read chord changes, but not actual piano sheet music.  For what I was doing that was perfectly fine, since I played in a Christian praise team that only read chord changes.  That was the extent of those instruments, and I haven't really ever gone back.  I can read guitar and bass music, but never have any times where I actually need to play them anymore, since nobody asks me (there are real guitar and bass players out there).  Piano I occasionally play in jazz combos and at churches, so it's a viable source of playing experience and income.
The woodwinds I learned over the course of years.  I learned saxophone and flute at the same time because of a long story I won't get into here where I couldn't play brass instruments for 6 months.  I borrowed a flute and alto sax and learned those somewhat proficiently, and the rest of the woodwinds were easy enough to learn because the fingerings are similar.  Except oboe and bassoon.  Those instruments make sense in a very different way.  I haven't played the woodwinds in a performance in years.  Again, there are real players of those instruments everywhere.  I did play them a lot while teaching, and that was to model a good sound and technique for the kids.  But if I had to pick up a flute or clarinet for a performance, I am reasonably certain I can still do it, because I've kept fresh on fingerings while composing and teaching and the sound will come back with a little bit of practice.


The whole time I was in college, the horn professor begged me to stop playing the other instruments.  I was playing both trombones in the jazz bands, as well as trumpet for gigs, bassoon and clarinet in the reading band, and horn everywhere else.  Then one lesson at the start of a semester I played really badly on horn (I had just gotten done playing trumpet in the jazz band, and ran down the hall to my horn lesson).  The lesson was over at that point, and in a very nice way I was told, either you can keep playing all the instruments and sucking at your primary, or you can focus your work and actually be a good horn player.  I was threatened to be kicked out of the studio because I was actually getting worse at horn.  I had my own horn, which was bout $10000, and I didn't want to waste all that since I couldn't afford to do anything else, so I stopped doing everything else after that semester.

Tl;Dr

You can be a multi instrumentalist and be good at it.  Part of it is being efficient and practicing solid fundamentals that carry over to other instruments.  You aren't going to have the same problems for all instruments.  If you practice bass, your drumming isn't going to get worse for any other reason than you're not practicing your drumming.  With brass instruments, like in my case, trumpet playing messes with horn playing because of not practicing horn and because of the difference in embouchure. 
You are right though, now is the best time for you to learn these things, since you have time and don't have to worry about money.
But you also have to pace yourself.  You're trying to do too much.  You can't learn all the instruments to the level you want to learn them to at the same time.  You will exhaust yourself.  If you learn a few of them well, with solid fundamentals, then gradually add more to your arsenal, you'll have a much more pleasant experience.

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