6 Benefits of Learning a Second Instrument

Nov 22, 2023

Let’s cut straight to the chase: learning to play a second instrument can open up all sorts of opportunities. Some you may not have had otherwise.

Even with a child interested in music, it can be a challenge to get them to commit to even one instrument. But even though most school programs are designed to teach students a single instrument, some want more. Today, it’s easier than ever to learn a new instrument. All the videos and courses available online probably won’t be enough to make you a master of your new instrument, but they are a great place to start – which is usually enough to give you all the benefits of learning a second instrument.

But what, exactly, are those benefits?

Health Benefits

Musicians know all about repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel, tendinitis, bursitis, and others; due to the nature of playing music, musicians tend to be especially prone to these kinds of injuries. Learning to play a second instrument, especially one from a completely different family, can help alleviate the onset of these injuries because it allows you to make music using different movements.

For example, let’s say you play violin. Learning to play the piano or drums will give the muscles and tendons you use for the violin a break. Imagine you happen to fall victim to a repetitive stress injury and must put down your main instrument while you heal. Your new second instrument will give you the ability to continue making music during your recovery.

Deeper Understanding of Music Theory

Most single-instrument students don’t have too much trouble understanding various musical concepts like bass vs. treble clef, harmony, etc. However, learning a second instrument can help put that theory into practice in a way that playing only one instrument can’t.

Think about it like this: bassists and drummers will have a better understanding of rhythm than a saxophonist. That’s not to say that they’re better at keeping rhythm, just that they think about music from the rhythm up. Monophonic instruments (instruments that can only play one note at a time) players, like the flutetrumpet, or saxophone, may have a fantastic knowledge of melody, but less so of harmony.

Learning a second instrument can help to fill in these gaps in your knowledge – especially when you didn’t even know they were there! Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of another instrument, you can apply them to your main instrument.

You’ll Get Better at Your Main Instrument

So, you’re a trumpeter who has chosen to pick up the drums too. Only now you’ve discovered you struggle with rhythm. As you practice and improve those rhythmic skills, you’ll be able to apply those lessons to your trumpet playing. Fantastic. But there’s a lot more you can learn from the drums. You might think about incorporating a more rhythmic style into your trumpet playing. You also will likely have a somewhat better understanding of what life is like as a drummer, as well as how your two instruments work together. This will allow you to make subtle changes to your playing.

Lastly, learning a second instrument that requires your fingers to work in a different way than you’re used to will pay off big when you’re trying to master your main instrument.

Sharpens Your Ears

The trumpet is a monophonic instrument, which means it can only play one note at a time, as opposed to something like a piano or guitar, which can play chords. Generally speaking, trumpet players (as well as players of other monophonic instruments) struggle to hear the harmony.

Learning to play a multi-phonic instrument can help. For example, before learning to play the piano, you might be able to figure out a chord progression with a few tries and some time, but picking out specific voicings might be extremely difficult. However, with the help of some piano instruction, it won’t be long before you develop the ability to hear voicings instead of just chords – even as a novice, it starts to teach you the basics of thinking like a piano player.

This can help you listen to music at a whole new level. As just a trumpet player, you may hear a song and think, “Hey, that’s great.” But after picking up the piano, the guitar, piano, Rhodes and Hammond B3 layers will jump out at you and you’ll be able to hear why it’s a great song. There’s just so much more to listen for!

More Options

If you can play more than one instrument it immediately opens more musical doors for you. For one, you become a greater asset to a band or orchestra, especially in a setting like a high school band where lineup changes happen every year. With proficiency in multiple instruments, you can fit yourself wherever you’re needed.

What’s more, if you’re considering a music career – even if that means teaching – playing more than one instrument can be a great asset. This is especially true of teachers because the ability to pick up an instrument and understand how it’s played can be very different from actually playing it. If you’re hoping to land a job with a full-time orchestra, for example, your resume will look much more appealing if you list yourself as a “string specialist,” rather than if you simply play violin.

You Might Get Really Good

One of the great things about playing an instrument is that if you choose to start a second one, you can learn the basics in a fraction of the time it took to learn your first instrument. And if you choose to stick with it long enough, you can improve quickly and get really good at it.

Basic practice techniques are universal, no matter the instrument. “Break it down into chunks, practice slowly, increase speed, and sew the chunks together” works on every single instrument in the orchestra. At this point in your musical career, you’ve probably already spent a great deal of time practicing how to practice and when you pick up a second instrument you already have the skills needed to progress more quickly than when you first began your musical journey.

If you’re interested in picking up a second instrument, or even a first, check out our classes and programs! We’ve got something for everyone with programs for adults and children of all ages and skill levels.

It’s never too late to start!