So after you have read my first article about all the cool benefits of “multi-instrumentalism” and decided that you want to start playing a second (or third, or fourth…) instrument, I am here now to help you decide which instrument will give you the most fun and value. Seriously, if you haven't yet, so have a look at the multi instrumentalist article, it might actually broaden your mind about your vast musical options in this world!
First, try to think which sounds do you like listening to on recordings and what are YOU feeling attracted to. The high energies of trumpets blowing? The peaceful breezes that the flute brings? The folky sounds of Dylan's harmonicas? You can learn anything you set your sights to if only you put in some time!
The instruments on this list will only be instruments that I play myself and have personal experience with, at least to a certain degree. If you have more experience with different instruments as second instruments and you would like to donate some pros and cons – submit it in a comment so the rest of us can see and get wiser. Thank you in advance for doing that!
The pros and cons here are just the tip of the ice so don't take things too heavily. Of course we can go on and on for pages about every instrument, they are all whole worlds for themselves, but here I am trying to simplify and sum it up in a small package to make your decisions easier. Enjoy reading and I hope you will find this article helpful.
Don't be afraid to get a second instrument! Remember that for the most part, I never even use sheet music. I pick up an instrument such as the flute with the goal of being able to successfully jam with other people and make beautiful music together which is really not too complicated! It's mostly about learning note fingerings and then practicing the techniques.
Which Second Instrument Should I Pick? 57 Pros And Cons Of 9 Instruments – Here We Go:
The father of them all…
- A lot of people will say that this is the fullest and most beautiful sounding of them all. The father of all music instruments.
- Piano will broaden your whole view on music and music theory.
- The keyboard is laid out in a simple 2D fashion which makes for easy comprehension of “how this thing works” unlike the 4D approach that the guitar fretboard has (down, up, left, right).
- The piano is surprisingly easy to learn as long as you take the right approach and avoid the traditional one.
- Guitars and pianos both play chords and that makes the transition from the guitar to the piano a very natural one. You can play your same favorite songs in a totally different way.
- Pianos and even electric pianos range on the scale of expensive – ultra mega expensive, unless you go for a piece of shit keyboard. I suggest start with a cheap-decent keyboard at about 200$ and if you like it upgrade to something nicer.
- Defiantly not a “simple” instrument. If you're looking for something easy to play some simple melodies on within an hour – go for a recorder instead…
- NOT portable. Defiantly not portable…
You can check out this article for a lot of pros, but I'll sum it up here:
- Relatively easy to get good on!
- Fits the bill perfectly for just about any folk / acoustic rock / blues song you can play and will add a lot to these songs when you incorporate it.
- Can be played simultaneously with other instruments providing that you have a harmonica holder.
- You can buy the top of the line German harmonicas for 40$. That's amazing!
- Can easily be hauled around in your guitar case.
- For some musical styles, harmonicas just won't work (ever heard a shred metal song with an harmonica intro…?).
- Since harmonicas are diatonic and come in different keys, you will need to buy more than one if you want to be able to jam to most of the songs. Not a big deal though, because just by getting a C and a G harmonicas (which also work for Am and Em keys) you cover almost 60% of the rock and folk music out there.
$$$ – “So Which harmonica Should I Buy” article.
- Mostly cheap and portable.
- Everyone can play them. I always carry an egg shaker in my guitar case and happily hand it out to people in the jam.
- Will massively improve your time-keeping skills for the other instruments that you play.
- Compliments almost every single song in the world.
- Seriously, get at least one of them. They are so accessible that it should be a crime to not own one.
- Some of them can get big and not compact at all, such as the congas and the big djembes.
- Some people are really lacking in the rhythm department and with a percussion instrument at hand, they might throw other people off a little bit… What you can do is show them the drumming pattern, usually people catch on to that very quickly.
$$$ – For an article I wrote with all the cheap (and less cheap) percussion instruments options – head here.
The strings, necks, and frets on these beasts are enormous, you feel like you're playing a giant guitar.
- Learning the bass (or even playing it just once!) will really open your ears this element in music that is so often overlooked.
- The transition from the guitar to the bass guitar is smooth. Although remember that it's still a whole new world and you've got a lot to learn – there's much more to it than just playing the roots of the chords.
- Bass trains your ear in ways that will help you with any other instrument as well – you will naturally start paying much more attention to the overall “flow” of the music and the chord progressions.
- Playing the bass is like taking your fingers to the gym, and gradually you will find that playing the guitar becomes easier!
- If you wanna get serious so you'll need a new amp, even if you already have an electric guitar amp. Unless you get an acoustic bass.
- Not cheap.
- Still not as “cool” as playing lead or rhythm…
Our voice is an instrument and you can learn how to sing well just like you learned to play the guitar. When you look at multi-instrumental artists' repertoire, for those who also sing you actually see “Vocals” listed as an instrument which is something I totally agree with.
Yes, everybody can learn how to sing well. Not everybody can become Elton John, but all of us can develop a voice that is at least pleasant to listen to.
- I have a whole article about stunning and surprising benefits of singing right here. Singing has lots of health benefits as well!
- By singing when you play the guitar (or anything else), you are giving the full “entertainment” package and you are a ton more captivating and fun to listen to.
- I can't really think of cons to developing your singing abilities besides the fact that it does take time that you need to be willing to invest. Still, coming to think about it, the time you need to put in to be singing decently is still less than the time it took you to play the guitar decently.
$$$ – 1-2 months from now you can be way way better and sing comfortably if you choose to work it with a vocal teacher in your area, an effective online course, or even a book can help you a little bit to progress in that direction. I personally recommend the online course, that's what I went for and I am very satisfied. (and still working and improving slowly more and more)
Melodicas are those mini-pianos with a sound that's between a harmonica and an accordion. I have one that I love and despite the minor ridiculousness, it's an awesome and pretty capable instrument. Melodicas are wind instruments and they produce sound through reeds just like harmonicas do.
- Melodicas are compact instruments that you can always take to a jam! Some of them can even fit inside a guitar case.
- They produce cool sounds and they can be loud when it's your time to solo and you need to cut through a bigger jam.
- Melodicas are cheap, you can get a great one by Hohner (german company that's also known for the best harmonicas) for about 40$.
- You can play both chords AND melodies just like a real piano, (see example in the video when you click the melodica picture above) and produce sounds from cool and funky melodic solos, through great chord backups to a whole song, to folky “accordion style” polka rhythms. YouTube that shit for some cool examples of stuff you can do with that baby.
- Can be played “piano style” when laid out on a table (through a straw kind of thing) or just through a mouthpiece like in the picture above.
- You don't have to play piano to play melodica, but it's obviously way more accessible if you have some piano background, but even a very shallow background will do here.
- Melodicas should get a tuning once a year on average. (if you play them a lot) You can do it yourself if you have some technical skills or just give it to a shop.
- They do sound pretty ridioulous. But that's part of the fun… And honestly, I actually find the sound of the upper range of keys really beautiful.
Representing the woodwind family on this list… The flute!
- I don't know about you but I find the sound of the flute to be amongst the most beautiful sounds at human's reach.
- The flute compliments almost any acoustic music you can think of and I think it's an amazing addition to any acoustic jam. People are always commenting to me about the special vibes that it adds when I play it in jams.
- Massive ear training! Unlike the guitar and the piano for example, there are no “fret cheat sheets” in the flute and if you want to produce a note on tune you will have to use your ears to do fine adjustments all the time. (mostly with angle of your mouth and the volume and direction of air you blow into it) Just like with no-frets instruments such as the violin and the cello. This means you are constantly getting huge ear training just by playing it and slowly you will be able to tune the guitar by ear as well.
- Not a very simple instrument to play and requires practice time, however, once you “have it down” (at least the lower and most-used two lower ocatves) it is not very hard at all.
- Flutes are very delicate instruments. You better not drop it, especially considering that they are not cheap at all.
- They aren't cheap. You can get a nice one that will do everything you need, last years and follow you to any jam for 350-400$ for less than that you'll get crap.
- Flutes are pretty feminine instruments, but then again, you really don't give a shit as long as you're having fun…
Note that I still have less than a year of experience on my trumpet. A trombone will probably also have similar pros and cons although I have never played one myself.
- Can add funky brassy energies that no other instrument can give you and spice everything up.
- Can blow amazing solos that catch everyone's ears
- It's a beautiful and shiny piece of golden art that you can just hang in your place and look at.
- You can get a very good entry level trumpet at 200-300$ which isn't all too bad for a brass instrument.
- Tons of ear training. As you noticed, a trumpet only has 3 buttons but can produce more than 20 different notes. A lot of notes share the same fingerings and that means that when you want to PLAY an upper C, just fingering it won't be enough. you have to also THINK of an upper C in your mind and blow the exact amount and strength of air, or else you will get some other random note that will sound terrible.
- Not versatile at all and will not fit many songs.
- The intense volume makes it impossible to practice in most places unless you are using a practice mute that takes away a lot of the fun anyway.
- When you fuck up a note on the trumpet or just play a wrong one, nobody misses it. Nobody. It's too damn loud.
- The trumpet is a “Bb instrument”. That means that when you read “C” it's actually going to play a Bb note, and that's a small chore you have – to always remember to transpose everything a whole step up when you jam with other instruments.
- You can't fake it. If you want to sound anywhere near good so you're going to have to put in time every day or at least a couple of times a week.
$$$ – For a selection of trumpets click here.
* Painting by Susanne Clark.
Yep, almost everybody played a recorder at some point in his life and I know it's considered pretty lame, but I have had some really cool jams with other people when I was playing a recorder. Listen here to me and my friends cover “Something” by The Beatles with a recorder solo on 2:40 and occasional riffs throughout the whole song. I am playing the harmonica and the recorder and friends are playing guitar and bass.
- Relatively easy.
- Some of the recorders actually produce nice sound. Other might annoy people very badly.
- Come on, you already played it in elementary school. You have some experience under your belt…
- Some of them have a terrible sound.
- Only about a two ocatve span. That's pretty limiting for a lot of uses.
- Will make you look like a nerd, but who gives a shit. I still occasionally carry mine and have a blast improvising with it.
$$$ – For a selection of recorders click here. I recommend this one by Hohner that I use myself – it's made out of wood and not plastic, and it has a great sound that resembles a flute more than a squeaker like a lot of the cheap recorders do.
That's it. Hope you enjoyed reading and got some direction for your next instrument. Now pick one and just go at it!
Thank you for reading. Peace and have fun on your musical journeys!
*Originally posted in December 14.