Splitting time between instruments…

Splitting time between instruments…

Unless you’re retired, independently wealthy, or an insomniac, there’s going to be some limit to the amount of time you can spend playing the music.

I’ve played the whistle for a few years, but recently got a flute. Now I have to struggle with how to balance my time between the two. How do other multiple instrument owners out there face the challenge? Do you balance them evenly? Work on different tunes for different instruments? Do you find that one becomes your dominant instrument and the other just an afterthought or side project?

I used to play guitar somewhat regularly, and that thing hasn’t been out of it’s case since I started getting into ITM a few years back. I think the whistle and flute combo has better potential for one instrument to complement the other, but there are enough differences that I’m interested to see how the relationship will shake out.

Interested in your thoughts.

Re: Splitting time between instruments…

I usually just play whatever takes my fancy. Admittedly its 90% fiddle.
I used to play the guitar for ages every day but now maybe 10 min a week. I suck on guitar now. But I dont mind.

I can be easily distracted though. For example yesterday I got a piece of classical music stuck in my head so I spent a hour on the piano and only played the fiddle for 45min.
It varys with my humour.

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I find that my flute playing ("playing" is debatable) actually improves my whistle playing, more so than the other way round, so I try to spend more time on the flute.

I also play the mandolin. The mandolin - whistle/flute balance is dictated by my wife’s patience (and headache) as she can’t stand wind instruments.

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I agree with farmer barleymow.
My flute playing improves my whistle playing and vice versa. Playing one instrument often helps with familiarity of the tune, which in turn helps with the other instrument. I’ve found that the tunes I’ve learnt on the fiddle have helped with the flute because, as you become more familiar with the tune it becomes more comfortable and interesting to play…. right??

I, personally, dont play for a set time each night … some nights i may play for half an hour to keep refreshed, other nights i could spend an hour on the fiddle and 4 hours on the flute or vice versa!

I do find that the flute is more dominant though…. however, that’s probably because (for me) its easier to play!!

Danielle

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I’m sure I could be a lot better on one chosen instrument if I concentrated on that solely.

But that would take most of the fun out of it for me!

I have played electric guitar for years. I play in different styles as well so I have to think - should I concentrate on one style or another?
Not to mention acoustic guitar which I play in a different style to electric.

Then there’s my mandolin.

A few years ago I cut out the instruments I would never be very good on - tin whistle, mouth organ, piano…

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Re: Splitting time between instruments…

Dividing my time between guitar and mandolin has definitely slowed me down with both. I’m also practicing less as well. Mostly due to frustration I think. Other stresses are contributing as well.
I think if I had private instruction for both I’d be progressing much faster. And certainly focusing on one would help too.

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I’ve played guitar for years, but little in trad. Learning mandolin and pipes now. Find the mando much easier so I’m spending more time on it (but I should really be doin the opposite - it’s stealing time I could be playing pipes!). It’s quieter and less prone to screeches than the pipes though, so there is more time when I can play it for neighbours tolerance when I get home at night. I know the pipes need more time than I’m giving at the minute, so hopefully I will be able to put more time there, try to get home from work earlier. I find learning the tunes on the mando is helping me to get them in my head better though before I try the tunes on the pipes.

Interesting thread!

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Took up box couple of years ago. I have virtually stopped practicing/playing the piano-I am a church musician. I suppose the technique has suffered, but with the tripe we play it is barely noticable.

Sadly, I have cut back on whistle which I have played on and off for a number of years. When needed, I scramble and practice for a few weeks to get into presentable shape. But really have lost any quaity ‘speed’ playing ability. But since what I am usually asked to play more is airs and melancholy stuff ( with an occasional throw in of Roddy McCorley and County Down) It is less of an issue.

Tried to get back into guitar with my wife’s choir. However, I never was very good with it anyway and the church music giv es me very little motivation to improve so I quit that a few weeks ago.

In sum. Prioritize and practise what makes you happy. Unless you don’t sleep or are married to rich kid, you have to move on and not look back because of enough time to play everything you want.

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For me, it’s not just splitting time between guitar and bouzouki — it’s also a matter of what I work on when I practice with either one.
I use the guitar not only for backing tunes, but also to accompany my singing. For the former, I try to explore different chord inversions in addition to practicing progressions, staying in rhythm and time, and so on. With the latter, I find I need to allocate a certain amount of time to focus just on songs where I use thumb-picking.
(Of course, I also need to be able to practice my actual singing, i.e., the voice. For that, there’s always the shower, or driving on the open road.)
Since I use the zouk primarily for melody, I practice tunes, obviously. But in the past few years, I’ve been playing more rhythm on it as well, so once again that necessitates working on chords (not as experienced with them on the zouk as on guitar).

All of which I means I scarcely practice on the bodhran at home — but then again, I find I do better when there are other instruments around anyway, instead of playing to recordings. Also don’t pick up the mandolin much anymore, nor the concertina (which I use primarily for morris dancing rather than Irish stuff).

No doubt about it, it takes discipline. There have been days when I feel like getting out the guitar and go over those songs I learned in the past few months, but then I realize I haven’t been giving as much attention to going over my tune repertoire.

I suppose, inevitably, you prioritize according to your true nature. I’ve been most of all a singer in my musical life, and that’s what seems to draw the majority of my time and energy. But I do try to satisfy my other personas, as much as possible.

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I learnt the basics of whistle before getting on to melodeon.

I do most of my learning and practising in sessions, which is the sort of thing one is not supposed to say on here in case it corrupts the youth.

But for winging it and learning new tunes as they are being played, the nimble flageolet wins any time. For chord noodling though, for obvious reasons, the melodeon is better.

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I try to play each instrument at least once a week with the amount of time on each being determined by which is newest to me. I’ve played sax and guitar (jazz and blues for both) most of my life, so I only spend a few minutes with each a couple times a week. Its enough to keep current, but not enough to detract from the others. Whistle comes next in the amount of time, followed by mandolin, then fiddle with the most time spent (newest to me). I work full time, and am finishing a doctoral dissertation, so I don’t always have as much time as I would like, but I try to manage about 45 min a day for music.

What happens works something like this. One day I will play the sax for 15 to 20 minutes, then guitar for about the same. If I have time, a little mandolin. The next day will be 10 - 15 min. with the whistle, the fiddle for 30 min or so. One the third day I might play the mandolin for a while, then fiddle. What I do is a little different each day and is very much impromptu.

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Re: Splitting time between instruments…

a sheamuis - I have a similar situation with my guitar playing, except that I have never really played it on a "regular" basis, as it never leaves the house.
I have been going to a local weekly session with my banjo over a period of 20+ years now; within that time, I have taken months and even years out, not playing any ITM at all. It is only really during these "dry" periods that I get back into my fingerstyle compositions and guitar playing.
Note: My banjo now still only comes out of it’s case once a week, so it’s not as if I am dedicating any significant amount of time to it (I know; I *should* be).

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How much time I spend playing which instrument usually, but not always, depends on which jam session I am planning to participate in that week.
For example, on the first Monday of every month, I play acoustic bass with the old-time folk music group.
Then, on the second Monday, I take my electronic keyboard with me to the Irish session and play it as a piano.
Almost every week, though, I play my acoustic bass with a guitar and mandolin group.

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I played whistle as a kid and guitar from around 12 yrs. Took up banjo around 19 and played the feck out of it until I got the right arm tendonitis about ten years later….. The doc said the only cure was to not play anywhere near as much so plan B came into operation….LEARN THE FLUTE!

Playing the flute uses a whole different set of muscles so changing from banjo to flute gives you a right to left stretch which keeps you out of being stuck in one position for 9 hours at a fleadh!

Today I still play both at sessions (no, not at the same time) and enjoy playing them equally, probably 50/50, plus a bit of whistle and would know most tunes on both.

The bottom line is….Enjoy your music!…….

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Good question! For me, it’s not only which instrument I need or want to practice, but also which kind of music needs the most attention at any given time - because I belong to three bands.

I play flute and a bit of guitar in a Swedish Traditional folk music orchestra. But, since I’m low man on the totem pole in that gang with no hope (or interest) for higher status, I practice that the least. I’m in that band just for the fun of immersing myself in another style of traditional music, and to enjoy the comraderie of yet another music circle.

I also belong to a bluegrass band. In that one I play hammered dulcimer and sometimes the penny whistle (a bit of traditional Irish music thrown in now and then for a change of pace). I also plus guitar and sing most of the lead vocals in that band. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HkfUh-pWIU


Thirdly, I’ve recently been invited into an Irish band, in which I will play primarily penny whistle, but also the flute, vocals and bodhran (in that order of importance). So, for the past 3 weeks I’ve been practicing the penny whistle like a crazy person in order to learn 20 of the new band’s tunes before our first official practice sometime in the middle of November.

This, on top of working full-time and trying to fit in quality time with my best friend and husband (one in the same), plus a bit of time for maintaining an online photo album that I enjoy messing with, as well as writing e-mail to my nearest and dearest back in the states. Too many fun things to do, and way too little time!

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is it just a law of nature that once pandora’s box of being a musician is opened, you then have no chance of being satisfied playing one style of music on one instrument?

there must be someone here who only touches a fiddle, and only plays jigs and reels, and only drinks guinness…

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After focusing solely on the fiddle for the last 20 years or so this summer I finally purchased a guitar and started practicing on that rather than the fiddle. My aim is to accompany my kids, and having sessions at home are now more fun (We are a family of four fiddlers!)

Afterwards I ve actually received comments on improvements on the fiddle from people who do not know I practice the guitar. I thorougly enjoy relearning my repertoire in a new setting and with a new angle and approach towards the music. I would recommend it to anywone.

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I have played with a guitar for a number of years. But recently I was told that if I really want to become part of a session and play TIM tunes was to buy a mandolin, learn how to play it and read music. Forget the guitar and learn to play melodies/tunes on a mandolin was the advice given.

I am heading south for a few months and decided to give it a try. I bought a new oval sound hole A style mandolin and that is the only instrument I’m taking with me.

I’ll let you know how it went come next April

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Yes, playing more than one instrument does give you a different perspective or viewpoint on the music which you like to play no matter what type of music it is.
I think it is similar to learning another language other than your native language. Trying to learn French gave me an interesting and different perspective on English.
When I was younger, I thought of myself as just a piano player and never thought of learning to play another instrument. Then, to my surprise, I discovered that I had an unsuspected talent as a bass player.

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I play 90min-2hr a day on fiddle and play whistle in 10 min.
bursts here and there during the week.
I never touch clarinet, sax or flute any more; I guess I’m over it.

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I personally like to have my whistle, irish flute and silver flute all sitting there. When I practice a tune I like to run through it with either whistle/silver flute or irish flute/silver flute — just to try and get the different fingerings to become more second nature. Sometimes frustrating, but in the long run it works.

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Justwhistle I play the same trio. What bothers me is that if I learn a tune on one instrument I have to re-learn it on another even though they are quite similar - there’s only a few tunes I can play on any instrument I happen to pick up. This makes me think I’m playing by finger memory rather than true ear (especially as I read the dots first then ditch them asap). The Fnat on the silver flute being a Fsharp on the wooden doesn’t help this, or the many ways of playing Cnatural.

As for practicing them - I play whatever feels right or whatever I need to for something coming up, which does mean that the low whistle sometimes gets a big rest until I get guilty about not playing it for awhile, then I drag it out and re-stretch the fingers on it.

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I dabbled in different instruments for years, and just as I thought I was going to start focusing my attention, my role in the band I am in keeps me pulled to all four of the instruments. I practice harmonica very infrequently and in the car, so that doesn’t count against other practice time. I practice accordion 60% of the time, constantly working to get better. I practice whistle 30% of the time, which includes new tune learning (they come easier on whistle, for some reason). And 10% on guitar, with a little singing along thrown in.
My main problem is that I want to practice more overall, but lack the time.
There is a lot of fun involved in each instrument, though, so this is not a terrible problem…..

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In my distant youth, I made a substantial part (and sometimes all) of my income as a musician, so it was natural to spend lots of time playing instruments. I love getting acquainted with a new instrument, so I eventually developed delusions of adequacy on eight or more different instruments. In retrospect, it appears that my wrists suffered from so much, and so many types, of stress. Now I have to ration not only my playing time, but also my wrist involvement. So I would warn anybody to be aware of the total amount of time and stress you might be spending on multiple instruments. The damage can be slowly cumulative. I played for thirty years before my first episode of disability.