Article: Why Learning a Second Musical Instrument is a Great Idea

Have you ever thought about taking up a second (or third or more) musical instrument? I had been a professional oboist and English horn player for over 40 years playing in orchestras and small ensembles. I devoted my life to studying with fine teachers, made more reeds than I wanted to think about, and also composed and arranged music for these difficult instruments. Then about 10 years ago I had a desire to take up the lever (folk) harp just for fun. I had no intention of becoming a "professional" harpist on the same level as my oboe playing but to my surprise, after playing the harp for a while, I realized this was one of the best ideas I had ever had! I enjoyed it so much and realized there were so many benefits to it. My husband, David was also a professional musician on the French horn and he was very good at it. We both played in the same orchestras and small ensembles. He too devoted much of his life to being the best he could be on it. Then last year, he decided to take up the cello. He took it a little more seriously than I did because he found a teacher but he too was seeing so much enjoyment and benefits to his decision. Besides playing harp/cello duets together we often have wonderful conversations about our new challenges and marvel about the journey.

I was curious to see if other musicians felt the same way so I researched a little on the web and found many conversations about this. In most threads, there was always someone warning of the problem that time spent on a second instrument can be time taken away from your primary instrument. That's very true so I think one has to be very disciplined to keep both instruments practiced. Each musician will have a different circumstance. However, if one can balance the time successfully, I believe the enlightenment one receives by taking up a second instrument can be so rewarding, especially if it is an instrument completely different from your primary instrument (woodwind to strings, brass to woodwind, strings to piano, etc.)

Overall, I'm so glad I took up the harp. I never predicted it would actually provide better opportunities for me as I moved from Texas to Colorado and then again to Oregon. I found that it was much easier for me to find regularly paid jobs on the harp than with the oboe. I found providing harp programs for care facilities paid as much if not more and hired more regularly than the occasional oboe job. And after learning how harp music needed to be notated, I have found a great niche for my composing and arranging skills. Apparently there are many people like myself who decided to take up the harp late in life. They often know already how to read music from a previous experience. However, they needed music that was intellectually interesting for the adult learner yet on a skill level appropriate for them. It has been a wonderful experience interacting with this new group of musicians.

I decided to make an infographic showing what I thought the benefits of taking up a second instrument would be. Hopefully this might encourage those of you who have that recurring thought in the back of your mind to take up another instrument and if you already have tried it, see if you might notice these same benefits or perhaps think of some of your own. Please let me know through my Contact Form if you think of more!

If you would like to see a larger version or download a PDF of this infographic, please click on the link below:

PDF of Infographic (size: 11x17)8.8 MB