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how many instruments are too many.

(56 Posts)
morethanpotatoprints Tue 23-Apr-13 23:21:52

Ok, so if money, time, school, work, sanity and other restrictions don't apply how many musical instruments would be too many?

My dd wants to play 6, she plays 4 at present. I don't have a reasonable answer as to why she shouldn't but I'm sure there must be one.

Obviously I know about getting good on one etc, but this doesn't seem to be a problem either.
I am not trying to "blow own trumpet" here but she can get to about grade 3 standard in about a month or two.

Can anybody think of a reason why not? Or knows other dc who have been like this, she is 9

Gruntfuttocks Tue 23-Apr-13 23:28:50

What would be the point in playing so many instruments? You can only play one at a time, and ultimately wouldn't she be better off playing one or two to a really high standard, rather than being a 'jack of all trades'? Once you understand how music works, it isn't so hard to pick up another instrument because you already know all that stuff and only have to learn the technicalities of the instrument rather than all the reading and so on. Not unlike learning multiple languages - it gets easier the more you do. I would stick at 4 and make sure she does a decent amount of practice on each of them before adding any more. Which 4 is she playing?

ZZZenagain Tue 23-Apr-13 23:31:09

might depend a bit which 6 instruments. If she wants to compose or conduct, might be to her advantage so long as she gets very advanced in her principal instrument. Where does she want to go with her music?

Gruntfuttocks Tue 23-Apr-13 23:31:57

PS If she is determined to be a multi-instrumentalist, I would insist on piano being one of them - decent keyboard skills are an asset to any musician. Perhaps think about singing as an alternative to buying yet another instrument as well - there are lots of opportunities for music-making in choirs. I would look to broaden her experiences of music - go to concerts, look for holiday courses and so on, join a local band or orchestra, rather than learning more instruments.

flowery Tue 23-Apr-13 23:35:44

Because there are not enough hours in the day to practice sufficiently to get properly good at 6 instruments. Getting to grade 3 quickly is one thing, getting to grade 8 is something else entirely.

flowery Tue 23-Apr-13 23:37:18

Just seen that you are asking on the assumption that time money and other restrictions don't apply, in which case I've got nothing to offer you, but I think those are good enough reasons anyway.

extracrunchy Tue 23-Apr-13 23:42:34

She can't possibly have the time to practise any of them properly! I think even 4 is pushing it. Jack of all trades etc...

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 23-Apr-13 23:44:58

I would say no more than 3 (I have a music degree and dh went to a conservatoire) and that includes singing.

The exception would be flute & piccolo or piano & harpsichord etc. instruments that orchestral players are expected to be able to double in.

ZZZenagain Tue 23-Apr-13 23:54:50

don't think I know anyone having lessons in more than 4. That is violin and viola (same technique), piano and voice (boy 13) violin, piano, harp, voice (girl 10)

Problem I see is at secondary level and with increasing proficiency - more demanding practice pieces and more homework/study time. I f she will have to drop 2-3 in a few years, is it worth embarking on it?

NatashaBee Wed 24-Apr-13 01:48:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 24-Apr-13 09:40:58

DD1 takes 4 seriously, but she also plays guitar/uke well enough to perform and she dabbles in sax, but that's just for a laugh really. DD2 who is slightly younger than your DD takes 3 seriously, and will be starting piano in the autumn. She also additionally plays a variety of ukes , but no guitar, she's just too small physically. I think doing 4 seriously is more than enough to be honest. DD1's piano (4th study and very much the poor relation) would be better if she had more time to spend on it.

mistlethrush Wed 24-Apr-13 09:45:11

I did 3 - grade 8 on all, qualified to teach the strings, music degree.

BiL is a professional composer - he went to Chets - played 2, could pick up more or less anything else and be able to sightread through an orchestral symphony given 30mins.

Piano is essential. If she really wants to push the boat out, do one string, one woodwind and one brass on top of that - that would be a good grounding. You need to do 30mins on each every day - more than 4 is not manageable on top of normal school.

ZZZenagain Wed 24-Apr-13 10:45:20

I think she is HE. Is that right, more than? In which case maybe the time is there.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 24-Apr-13 11:09:19

Thank you for all the responses and food for thought.

zzz Yes she is H.E and she does seem to have time. The instruments so far are violin, singing, saxophone and piano. She wants to add clarinet and flute as sax players are expected to double.

I think her life is pretty normal from the social aspect, she plays with friends from her old school, has HE friends.

She also plays in ensembles, sings in choirs, performs in concerts/gigs and competes in competitions.

Flowery I totally agree that those restrictions are good enough reason. I admit she is very fortunate in that much of the cost of lessons and buying instruments has been mostly provided for her. I don't think she particularly wants to do grades on all of them, I used the gr 3 example to show the level she reaches in a short time. I'm sure it will level off around gr5 standard and she may even decide one or two instruments aren't what she wants to continue with.

I find your post interesting if you don't mind me asking how old are your dc and what age did they start playing? I understand if you don't want to answer.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 24-Apr-13 11:19:42

DD1 is 14, DD2 is 9. smile

Adding clarinet is a no brainer. Adding flute might be more tricky since the ombuchure (I can't spell) is very different, but yes, most players and teachers do often double/triple. This is why DD1 tits about with the sax and, to be fair, the clarinet a bit. But she can, because DS plays clarinet and sax so we have those instruments lying around (we have one genuine decent spare clarinet, they share the sax). Getting to grade 3 level on the flute might be more tricky than you anticipate - but it depends whether she cracks the tone issue speedily or not, there are also 'puff' issues. DD2 is taking grade 3 flute this term, she only started learning flute last February so she has made very quick progress, but she wasn't able to do the two octave scales till recently because of the puff issue (she could play the pieces last term). She also still can't play bottom C or C# because her hands are too little, and this would be a factor going higher than A'' too, at this point, I think. Grade 3 is where the high note stuff kicks in more. There are, IMO, significant technical differences between flute and the other two, but if you start playing all of them young these are less of an issue. For me, playing clarinet and sax is quite difficult (I was diploma level flute in my youth, my first study was recorders though) but that's because I'm old and haven't got the time or inclination to crack the technique differences.

DarkHorse2013 Wed 24-Apr-13 11:43:51

It's the practise time that will probably be the issue, especially when they want to start playing each instrument in different groups and ensembles and all the concerts that go with each instrument, suddenly there are no evenings, weekends or holidays left!
My DD learns violin/viola and sax/clarinet and has the same teacher for each pair of instruments, but they tend to focus on one at a time while just keeping the other ticking along. We generally find that when working for exams one has to give for a while otherwise there just isn't enough time but so far it has worked well. Getting more difficult to manage as she is now working for the higher grades though. She also learns piano when there's not too much else going on (rare!) but is working at much lower level to the other instruments.
Worth all the effort though, she is doing something she really loves.
(Mind you I have just said to no to her asking to learn the trombone which apparently is unfair!)

morethanpotatoprints Wed 24-Apr-13 19:53:58


I'm impressed with your knowledge grin The woodwind instruments inc sax are what dh teaches so the instruments are already here and the teacher is free so she is so lucky. I know exactly what you mean about embouchure differences and ability to reach keys. It all came about last night and it is starting the sax that has made her want to play the others. This was the instrument that she was able to play gr 3 pieces after a month of playing. Dh says she will be ready for gr4 at winter session of exams. I am shock

Darkhorse I hear you loud and clear, it is already becoming very time consuming as she also dances as well. She does concentrate on one thing at once, especially regarding competitions and exams and puts most effort into what is important at that time.

She loves practice though so will keep up with everything as a rule.
Mostly, she does 2/3 hours a day but will probably increase to 3/4 hours with the other 2 instruments.
This is where my doubt creeps in, as to whether this is suitable for her age and if she is missing out on anything? I was hoping somebody may say have you considered xyz

DarkHorse2013 Wed 24-Apr-13 21:39:07

It sounds like your DD is very keen - I wish mine would do that much practise!(she is 13). All the time she is happy with what she is doing I wouldn't worry. I used to worry that my DD might be missing out on other things, but with some discrete time management on my part we seem to manage a healthy balance and she still manages to do a lot of normal teenage stuff, and more than enough TV chill out time. Add to that she has made some great friends through music and at her age at least some of the attraction is the social side.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 24-Apr-13 21:47:25


She is very keen, but I do worry that she isn't normal sometimes. There is hardly a time when she isn't doing something musical. She even hums/sings in her sleep. It is good if you consider how much time, effort, money you contribute as a parent, of course you want them to practice.
However, I would never want that at the expense of her happiness or long term well being.
You have identified one aspect where dd is lacking atm and thank you I will work on TV / chill out time. She does have this but not enough I feel. Saying that though, she is never unhappy or miserable or even working all the time. I think she prefers to be active, but can see she needs more down time. thanks

ZZZenagain Wed 24-Apr-13 22:17:56

she is probably a musician in the making. What is normal anyway? Most dc learning instruments have no ambition to be a musician or hope of making a living as a musician so if she is different, maybe she is spot on and this is the right thing for her.

I would say if you seriously want to be a musician , you are looking at a minimum of 2 hours a day on your instrument definitely from 9. Competition is so stiff these days, less than that would make it close to impossible I reckon. At the conservatoires, she'll be competing for places against dc from Asia and elsewhere for whom 5-6 hours a day throughout childhood is normal.

If she can managed 3-4 hours a day, maybe in two blocks so she is a bit fresh, why not?

Mind you if she put all that effort into 1-2 instruments, she'd go far, wouldn't she?

morethanpotatoprints Wed 24-Apr-13 22:42:36


I am hoping that eventually all her effort will go into 2 or 3 at the most. Whilst she's still young I didn't want to limit her choice and let her try what she likes really.
Obviously if there were the usual limiting factors there would be no choice, but it seems mean if the instruments are there and we tell her she can't play them.
At one time about 2 years ago she was announcing how she was going to a conservatoire but she's not so bothered about the jds now. When people ask what she wants to do when she is older she looks at them rather strangely and says I'm a musician. I think my child is a freak.

It is a strong part of her culture with dh being a musician who also teaches, but she has never really been encouraged much by him as he didn't do exams except grade 6 to gain entrance to music college. Also never played as a child. I played as a child and encourage more than dh, but neither of us have pushed her at all. Neither of her older siblings have played instruments further than beginning, and then given up.

Perhaps I worry unnecessarily, its just you hear so many stories about young people playing music when they are young.

Gruntfuttocks Wed 24-Apr-13 22:51:30

If the impetus is coming from her, then I would relax and let her get on with it. If you have instruments lying around and a teacher on tap then it's not costing you anything, and she is lucky to have those opportunities. Music is one of very few careers where you can get seriously stuck in as a child, and there are some who really do know that's what they want to do at that age. Maybe she's one of them.
DS was obsessed with maths from the age of 7 and ate, slept and breathed maths in every spare moment from then on. He found time to do all the normal stuff too and isn't just a total maths geek with no friends or other interests. He knew that's what he wanted to do and loved doing it - no harm in that.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 25-Apr-13 11:54:39


Thank you for helping me to normalise it all. I was unable to see the wood for the trees for a while there and needed a reality check.
It's difficult at times not to get carried away with it all, especially when those around you are giving meaningful advice and raving about her abilities. I try and keep a happy balance and tell her she's not all that, but then feel guilty for not praising her more grin

RussiansOnTheSpree Thu 25-Apr-13 12:24:44

Morethan, what level is she at on her first study instrument? Which one is her first study, anyway?

mistlethrush Thu 25-Apr-13 12:28:00

morethan - do you have music running through your head at all times? Almost all the time I do. I don't normally let it come to the front, and I quite often have to concentrate on it to work out what is 'playing' but its there. When I've been doing something more full-on musical (eg 12 hrs of orchestral rehearsals over a weekend) it will be much closer to the front of my mind - normally I am to be found singing my part, with the rest of the orchestra playing in my head - most peculiar for those listening because I play viola so rarely have 'the tune'. Its a bit like having an ipod on shuffle all the time - but it is unrestricted by memory space or batteries grin

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