There are many advantages to being a multi-instrumentalist. I personally don't have the time or money to buy, learn and play 1500 new instruments (even though that would be awesome and I will certainly try), but at least having a clear understanding of a few should aid you when producing and performing. I thought I'd discuss a few that have helped me as a musician and composer. So here they are:
- More tools & sounds to draw from: The more instruments you can play or at least understand, the more soundscapes you can create. In the modern world of virtual sound libraries and synthesis it is still important to understand the virtual instrument you may be manipulating in your digital audio workstation (DAW) such as Pro Tools, Cubase etc. Side note: sometimes using virtual instruments unconventionally can create an interesting composition, however, for more traditional forms such as orchestration, there are tried and tested theoretical practices to study and be aware of.
- Improves theoretical & practical knowledge: As guitar is my primary forté, I have found that listening to and understanding other instruments has inspired my playing. Sure, I still listen to the classic guitar players and there is plenty of inspiration to draw from, but expanding my musical palette has inspired me to draw from unexpected sources such as horn players or synthesizers.
- Helps you think like a producer or musical director: It gives you perspective and helps you to be mindful of the whole arrangement of a song and not just your individual parts. This helps you understand what the performance may sound like if you changed instrumental parts or sections of the arrangement.
- Helps your communication with instrumentalists: You become more aware of what each instrument may prefer when reading a score you have written. It may also aid you in understanding the challenges that some instrumentalists may face when performing, such as a guitar player having feedback or a drummer making sure his skins are tuned.
If you have the time and money to learn a new instrument other than your own, it comes highly recommend. For example, I took up keyboards after guitar and found it to be extremely helpful in production, arrangement and theoretical understanding (I also didn't need to take any keyboard understanding classes aka 'the dreaded key tech' in college, which was great).
Resources: For further research and resources in understanding a wide range of orchestral instruments check out the orchestration manual called The Study of Orchestration by Samuel Adler. A highly recommended sound library for a wide variety of virtual instruments may be Native Instruments Komplete or those from IK Multimedia if you're on a smaller budget.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it informative, especially as there is a vast amount of knowledge on the web to draw from. I'm also interested in hearing your thoughts, so please do post any comments or links to help with this topic below. Please subscribe if you enjoyed this post as I plan to keep blogging on all things music related on a regular basis.
Until next time,
Happy music making!