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Old 03-06-2014, 06:16 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Any multi instrumentalists out there? - I need your input :)

Hey everyone.
I've been thinking lately about the effects that playing/learning one instrument has on the way I think about other instrument/s I play, and the way they affect how I think about music in general. I'm curious to know if others have had a similar experience with this, and if anyone feels that particular instruments go together more easily than others? To ask my question properly, I have to tell you a bit of my story... and it's going to be a long one so I apologise in advance

I learned classical piano from about age 6-22 or so. From around 15-19 I also played trumpet in my school concert bands. From around 17-18 I started dabbling in electric guitar, but never seriously got my head around it to the point where I started "thinking on guitar" - it was more that I would figure out how to play what I heard in my head or other songs of artists I liked. I found this quite easy to do, I picked it up very naturally without much effort, *BUT* I still mostly visualised music in terms of a piano keyboard (when not sitting with the guitar) and never memorised the notes on the guitar fretboard.

After this, I went through a period of about 5-7 years where I dabbled in electronic music and other audio production/sound design for film, so not much "traditional" music. During this time I stopped practising piano regularly and eventually guitar as well, although still played both intermittently. I took up the drums for a few years, before going through some financial trouble and having to sell my drum kit. Throughout this whole time, I have never stopped THINKING about music - I have always had music running through my head. A lot of original melodies etc. Always thought about in terms of linear pitch structures similar to a piano keyboard, but not exactly a piano keyboard. Something like what I imagine a singer might visualise if they have never learnt an instrument but have still been formally trained to know their scales and intervals etc?

Fast forward to now, I'm 31. I started diligently practising guitar again about a year ago, this time making a real effort to start thinking in terms of guitar, learning the notes on the fretboard, etc. I have found this very very difficult to do. It clashes with the way my brain has been trained to comprehend music. When I'm in the moment playing music on the guitar I don't really have any issues visualising it on the guitar - I know all the common intervals on guitar without really having to think about it too much, but it still feels like it goes through a layer of translation - it's like my brain thinks in terms of piano and then does the conversion before passing the answer to me. Also, whenever I'm away from the guitar and thinking about melodies or chords, it always comes to me in terms of the piano. Well, not strictly a piano keyboard, but a linear arrangement of notes in my mind like on a keyboard, even if i'm thinking of a guitar melody. Guitar strumming chords are visualised as chords on the guitar, but everything else seems to be thought of linearly like on a piano, unless I have already ingrained it in my head in guitar terms by physically playing it on guitar.

This kind've bothers me in a way because it feels like my mind is constantly under stress when thinking about music, or rather when trying to think about music in a particular way at any given time. It also feels like I think in terms of one at the expense of the other, as I find it difficult to swap back and forth between the different modes of thinking, and the worst part is that when I'm in a regular practice routine for guitar, I find it difficult in general to return to my "primary" way of thinking - piano. This bothers me. I never felt this way when I played trumpet - even though I still visualised music linearly like on a piano keyboard, I found it quite easy to just map the trumpet fingerings to that same linear arrangement. Same thing when I played drums, no mental conflict there at all - it just worked.

I do REALLY enjoy playing guitar as I find I can be much more expressive in certain ways than on piano, but in some strange way I also feel that by continuing to mould my brain to be able to "think on guitar" I am actually degrading my ability to think fluidly on the piano keyboard, and that is something that really does bother me. If that makes any sense at all. Once again, this never happened to me when playing other instruments.

So my question is... has anyone had this sort of experience when changing between two instruments? Does anyone else find that a certain combination of instruments does/doesn't work for them? Does this mean that I should accept that I'm just not meant to be a "guitarist" and that I should throw myself wholeheartedly into piano/electronic music/drums? (which I also really enjoyed).

Any words of wisdom or insight into my mental state of anguish?

Last edited by shpongled; 03-06-2014 at 06:27 AM.
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Old 03-06-2014, 09:02 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Ah, I have had this experience when switching between guitar and percussion. I developed a sloppy (but on point) electric guitar style that utilized a lot of noise. When playing with my band mates, I felt very "free" in my movements. However, I had to fill in on the drum kit for a while and had a lot of difficulty. It felt like I had to be much more rigid. I couldn't feel what we were playing like I could on guitar, because I was paranoid about my timing and generally overthinking the whole process.

Finally, it clicked and I just let go and felt the music. Once I was familiar with the layout of the drum kit, the beat just came naturally while we improvised. During this time, I was also trying my best to learn keyboards/piano but couldn't master playing with both hands very well. After my breakthrough with the drums I gave it another shot and found I was much better at playing with both hands, my coordination having been affected positively with my percussion experience.

Overall, learning to play the drums gave me greater control over my hand coordination, better timing, and an improved ability to get lost in the music and not overthink everything I was doing.

Wish you the best of luck man!
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Old 03-07-2014, 12:11 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by FishlessExistence View Post
Ah, I have had this experience when switching between guitar and percussion. I developed a sloppy (but on point) electric guitar style that utilized a lot of noise. When playing with my band mates, I felt very "free" in my movements. However, I had to fill in on the drum kit for a while and had a lot of difficulty. It felt like I had to be much more rigid. I couldn't feel what we were playing like I could on guitar, because I was paranoid about my timing and generally overthinking the whole process.

Finally, it clicked and I just let go and felt the music. Once I was familiar with the layout of the drum kit, the beat just came naturally while we improvised. During this time, I was also trying my best to learn keyboards/piano but couldn't master playing with both hands very well. After my breakthrough with the drums I gave it another shot and found I was much better at playing with both hands, my coordination having been affected positively with my percussion experience.

Overall, learning to play the drums gave me greater control over my hand coordination, better timing, and an improved ability to get lost in the music and not overthink everything I was doing.

Wish you the best of luck man!
I can totally relate to that - the benefits of playing more than one instrument... learning things you can bring back to your other instrument/s

I just wish they didn't sometimes clash with each other!
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:07 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I play piano & guitar as well,
and I love to switch between those two.
With the piano I can compose a lot, it's very easy and versatile for an instrument.
And with the guitar I can express everything I feel to the exact.
Plus, as it's amazingly important, the instrument I use the most often for me is my voice, as it's the hardest to play and you feel so much more related to every note you sing, compared to pressing a key on the piano..

btw: i love that you like shpongle
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:19 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I play piano & guitar as well,
and I love to switch between those two.
With the piano I can compose a lot, it's very easy and versatile for an instrument.
And with the guitar I can express everything I feel to the exact.
Plus, as it's amazingly important, the instrument I use the most often for me is my voice, as it's the hardest to play and you feel so much more related to every note you sing, compared to pressing a key on the piano..

btw: i love that you like shpongle
yeah i love shpongle - one of my all time favourites, especially their first three albums

i love both piano and guitar for those same reasons, i just wish i could easily switch between thinking on each. guitar is so much more expressive in certain ways, as you said.

i agree with you about singing too - i used to love it and be reasonably good at it, but unfortunately i now have a throat issue that no doctor or specialist has been able to correctly diagnose or treat so far. my throat and neck cartilage are very sore and inflamed in one specific place, all the time.

how long have you played guitar and piano? did you ever have an issues switching between them? maybe i just need to stick at it with guitar while keeping up with piano and eventually it will all click? the other problem is finding enough time in the day to practice everything
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:27 AM   #6 (permalink)
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i agree with you about singing too - i used to love it and be reasonably good at it, but unfortunately i now have a throat issue that no doctor or specialist has been able to correctly diagnose or treat so far. my throat and neck cartilage are very sore and inflamed in one specific place, all the time.
Oh my, I'm sorry about that. Singing is such a beautiful thing to do. I usually sing while I cook and compose food-versions of queen songs. ("Oregano! Oregano! Oregano Figaro! Magnifico!")

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Originally Posted by shpongled View Post
how long have you played guitar and piano? did you ever have an issues switching between them? maybe i just need to stick at it with guitar while keeping up with piano and eventually it will all click? the other problem is finding enough time in the day to practice everything
I've played piano since i was 8 and the guitar since i can remember. Well, as you see, the instruments are very different to each other, so the "fusion" might not click that fast in your head. But you should always keep up to your dreams and just take the time to learn, no matter how much time you have. Time always has something to do with how you assign your priorities.
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:33 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Oh my, I'm sorry about that. Singing is such a beautiful thing to do. I usually sing while I cook and compose food-versions of queen songs. ("Oregano! Oregano! Oregano Figaro! Magnifico!")



I've played piano since i was 8 and the guitar since i can remember. Well, as you see, the instruments are very different to each other, so the "fusion" might not click that fast in your head. But you should always keep up to your dreams and just take the time to learn, no matter how much time you have. Time always has something to do with how you assign your priorities.
haha nice.... food queen songs. now i am imagining someone doing that. it actually fits. haha.

yeah they are very different. i've played piano for so long that my musical brain just thinks in those terms now without even breaking a sweat. it's such a central part of how my mind works and how i interpret everything that has anything to do with music. this is why lately i've actually considered just deciding not to fight it anymore, sell my guitar and buy a drum kit again... since that seemed a much more natural fit in terms of working with my mind rather than against it. then i know i would sometimes miss playing guitar though haha (although at the moment i really miss playing drums!)

i'm hopeless
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:24 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I play guitar and drums.

I think you would gain immensely from your piano playing. The joy of playing guitar is the lack of rules compared to other instruments. I learnt all the notes, scales etc but swiftly forgot them after I was old enough to drink however I just "know" what notes to play but I couldn't tell you what they are. Just embrace the randomness

As for drums. I just sat behind them one day and could play. I don't want to sound big headed but I think if you have good rhythm you can play drums to a basic level easily after that you can practise the bits needed to be a proper drummer.
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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As for drums. I just sat behind them one day and could play. I don't want to sound big headed but I think if you have good rhythm you can play drums to a basic level easily after that you can practise the bits needed to be a proper drummer.
You're absolutely right about the drums.
It's very easy to get started, and there's no long learning process, no chords, no notes, just rhythm and a bit coordination. I got the basics instantaneously in music class, back in school. And after you can do the basics, you just practise.
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Old 03-10-2014, 07:31 PM   #10 (permalink)
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You're absolutely right about the drums.
It's very easy to get started, and there's no long learning process, no chords, no notes, just rhythm and a bit coordination. I got the basics instantaneously in music class, back in school. And after you can do the basics, you just practise.
yeah i completely agree - this is why i loved playing drums. i found it so easy - i sat down and could do the basic stuff straight away. from that point it was so much fun practising, working on limb independence etc.


and yeah the guitar is fun but i just feel so... blind? while playing it, because i still think about music (melodies, chords etc) in terms of piano. yes i can play melodies on guitar and i know shapes/intervals jumping across strings (although sometimes have to stop and figure it out), so i'm not completely lost in terms of being able to play on the guitar... it's more the feeling of playing blind and having to translate, as the conceptual layout of piano is so deeply ingrained in my mind. maybe as Particular Crab says I just need to embrace the randomness. or maybe i should just stick to piano and drums! i don't know

just hope i can find the time to actually practice everything across these instruments
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