Using different instruments for different tunes

Using different instruments for different tunes

Should I do this? It seems more beneficial and less wasteful of my time. Perhaps I just answered my own question lol.

Also I hate to get meta but for some reason I’m locked out of my account on my computer. Help

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

Some tunes are easier on one instrument than another. Some people switch instruments when someone else arrives with the same instrument.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I find once I really learn a tune on one instrument, I can muddle through it on any of my instruments. Not necessarily up to speed, but I can at least find the melody. I like to swap to an instrument with different playing technique (say banjo vs whistle) to get it to stick in my ear. Then I’m learning the tune, not a set of fingering patterns.

Not sure about your second question — message Jeremy?

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I do. Use different instruments on different tunes. I love to play waltzes on the flute.

If you are locked out of your computer are we to assume that this is not really coming from you?

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I tend to switch around a fair bit between Uilleann pipes and Anglo Concertina.

There are some tunes, particularly those in less common keys like G minor and B-flat major, that just sit so nicely on the concertina compared to the pipes. Also those fiddle tunes that you have to "fold" to put on whistle or pipes are able to use the full range of the concertina without folding.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

No David. Luckily my phone works just fine, but I would prefer typing on my computer lol

I’ve been using my mandolin for hornpipes and slip jigs. I guess it would make it easier to learn because all you need to do is transfer the tune over to another instrument. Any tune I can play on one instrument I can usually muddle through on any, but I’ll make mistakes lol

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

There’s quite a lot of value in learning a tune on an instrument where the notes don’t come easily, forcing yourself to broaden your capability on the instrument.

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Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I love playing waltzes on accordion. Any kind of accordion, diatonic, or CBA.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

Waltzes are the best on accordion IMO

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Trying to play the tunes the same way on different instruments may be a little difficult at first tho

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

"… It seems more beneficial and less wasteful of my time."


It depends how you look at it. As has already been said, some tunes seem to suit one instrument better than another. Playing ‘fiddle tunes’ on the fiddle and ‘flute tunes’ on the flute, for example, will get you better results quicker, for sure. Forcing yourself to play your flute tunes on the fiddle (and vice versa), however, will help develop your technique on each instrument. When you are playing in a session or a gig, you want to play your best, so it makes sense to play a tune on the instrument you are most comfortable on for that tune; when *practising*, however, you need to take yourself out of your comfort zone for practice to be effective, and playing a tune on the ‘wrong’ instrument is a good way you can do this.


I have found that it is not only technique that can be developed in this way. Playing a tune on an instrument other than that which you usually play it on also opens up different interpretational possibilities, giving rise to different variations from those you would normally think of on the ‘home’ instrument. This enriches your palette of melodic variations for that tune, which feeds back into the playing of your other instrument.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I mostly play tunes on mandolin but sometimes take the tenor banjo out instead. There is a particular local night where tunes are led by a melodion player and it sounds better with his instrument than the mandolin. Keeps me on my toes as the technique is slightly different (certainly the way I play it). Good fun though.

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Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

Totally. Harp tunes on harp; fiddle tunes on fiddle; bunch of other genres on accordions and stuff..

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Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

Play on whatever instrument you like, just learn the instrument to a level that won’t hold up anyone else you play with.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

There are some tunes I prefer to play on tenor banjo, and some on which I prefer to play the octave mandolin or mandolin. Or guitar. With that said, I’ll add that lugging three or four instruments around gets old very quickly.

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I too can ‘muddle through’ most tunes on any instrument but I have distinct preferences - strathspeys/pipe marches on the gob iron, slip jigs on mandolin and polkas and slides MUST be on melodeon. Jigs and reels could be on any of those instruments but very much depending on the key or mode.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I guess I’m the odd man out. I can play all of my tunes on fiddle, mandolin or banjo (the GDAE family), But only a handful get ported over to the whistle or flute.

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….And I certainly don’t want to be lugging all of those instruments around, so I’m happy to dance with the one I’ve brought. Besides, I’ve seen people have to change instruments mid set and I think that would be a little awkward for me.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

The same tune can sound remarkably different on different instruments, especially if you’re comparing a melody-only instrument with one capable of doing its own accompaniment, e.g. piano, guitar. No, I wouldn’t take a piano to a session, but in the band setting, there are certain tunes that I think sound so much nicer on it, because of whatever "fill" you are doing, under any long sustained melody notes. However for fast reels, etc, I would leave the melody to the fiddles, flute, concertina, etc, and just play non-melody accompaniment.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

Some tunes are easier on certain instruments. Others are just better suited.
Having said that, most tunes are transferable but you sometimes need to do more work to make them sound interesting.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

Multiple instruments are OK (and often necessary) in performance, but I wouldn’t take more than one to a session. It is true that some tunes are better suited to one instrument than another. But you’re not likely to lead a tune that doesn’t suit your instrument, and if you’re not leading then you are free to take up the challenge of finding a way to make your instrument fit in.

And unless it’s a very civilized session, taking more than one instrument means you’ll spend the whole evening worrying about people stealing/kicking/spilling beer on the instrument you’re not playing, instead of just concentrating on the music.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

Sometimes I’ve learned a tune on a certain instrument but nowadays play it on another. Sometimes a tune is easier on a certain instrument (or indeed, a certain key). Sometimes I have a weaker instrument in my hands for the tunes played.

Not only is all this good for your musicality, but also if you plan a set based on the instruments present.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I’ve been a professional drummer and percussionist for decades, which entails carting multiple instruments. At most of the jams I go to, I take mandolin, banjolin, and guitar. It is a real pleasure to just bring my banjolin to ITM sessions.

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Most of my gigging was on drums; what, 5 or 6 trips to/from the vehicle? Also gigged on upright bass for many years - still cumbersome, especially with an amp.

When I got into ITM I reveled in the smallness - my ideal kit was fiddle/mndln in dbl case; concertina and flute. I called it the perfect triumvirate. Not at all a problem to lug (well, after drums/bass etc anything is better) 🙂

But even when I gigged on guitar I hauled at least 2 or 3 per gig…and an amp. Now I just haul a couple of accordions and a fiddle - no more amps for me!

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Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I love playing my Sobell Octave Mandolin but it does have a couple of downsides; hard to play at warp speed (plus I like how it sounds played a little slower) and it’s on the quieter side so has a problem when the session grows beyond 6-8 players. There is one session that I bring it to.

In other sessions I play tenor banjo and generally leave my octave mandolin at home unless I know that the key guitar players won’t be attending. Even it can be hard to hear when 6 box players and multiple pipers are in full voice. In that session I usually have my fiddle along as I’m learning to play the violin and mainly play it at an earlier learners session. So I bring both to those (fiddle and banjo) to back to back sessions. It’s interesting to learn the differences in style and approach between fiddle and banjo. I’m still not sufficient to play all the tunes I know on fiddle vs playing them on banjo. I do find that I play waltzes, mazurkas, and slides on fiddle or octave mandolin. It should be criminal to play some of these on banjo. Then again - machine gun triplet tunes are wonderful on banjo.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I play flute, and sometimes whistle, on tunes where they sound best, or when I’m a little shaky on the version everyone else is playing and don’t want to muck things up. I play pipes on tunes where pipes give it that something extra. I try not to play any one instrument the entire time. I work consistently to be able to play all the tunes I know on all my instruments comfortably. Some will inevitably just work better at speed on one instrument versus another, though.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

I played for years in a band where we hauled around too many instruments.

I had uilleann pipes, flute, and whistles. One guy had banjo, octave mandolin, mandolin, guitar, and bodhran.

When we started a ceilidh band we said no more of this! One man, one axe. I did flute, and there was fiddle, banjo, and accordion. It was easier to load, easier to mic, easier to set up and break down. We wore ties, and green blazers.

For sessions I prefer to bring one thing. It’s not a stage show! And usually space is tight.

Re: Using different instruments for different tunes

Yup.

I play my whistle for slow tunes. My mandolin for jigs, and my banjo at warp speed for all reels.
Things are better that way.