V.com weekend vote: Do you play more than one musical instrument?

February 20, 2021, 4:57 PM · Last night I was watching a special about the country singer Dolly Parton, and I had not realized that beyond her vocal gifts, she is also fairly adept at playing a whole host of musical instruments: guitar, dulcimer, autoharp, piano, banjo, saxophone - there are even a few pictures of her with a fiddle, though I think that was more her father's instrument.


At any rate, I admired her musical immersion and fearlessness. We violinists tend to be so worried about "being good enough" that it's hard to just pick up an instrument and play it because that's what we want to hear.

Personally, I play one instrument well - the violin. I play the piano at a basic level, and I have dabbled with the mandolin. I can make a sound with a flute, but I did not have the patience (or love, to be honest) to figure out how to play it!

Do you play more than one instrument? Is another instrument besides the violin actually your principal instrument? Do you play several instruments equally well? Please participate in the vote and then tell us about your adventures with other instruments, besides the violin.


February 20, 2021 at 11:44 PM · I play violin, viola and piano all at around the same level and time wise.

February 20, 2021 at 11:58 PM · Violin, viola, banjo, fretless banjo, mandolin.

February 21, 2021 at 02:20 AM · I play violin and piano about equally well, and also guitar and ukulele.

February 21, 2021 at 02:37 AM · Violin is the only instrument I can play well. I completed a performance degree in the instrument, although I decided, toward the end, not to go into the music business.

Piano was my first instrument -- I started at 7 y/o; but the violin muse soon got hold of me, and I made the switch. It's a bit like what happens when you acquire a second language at an early age -- and then the second language takes over. I can still read treble and bass; but I'd find it hard to read two staves fluently together now -- haven't touched a keyboard since late 20th century. Never owned a piano -- the last one I touched was my parents' instrument, and this was before I left my parents' home and went out on my own. No experience at all with viola.

February 21, 2021 at 06:32 AM · I play viola best (top-tier amateur level). I can play violin but am not nearly as comfortable with it (I'd say upper intermediate to early advanced level); there are enough technical differences that I'm actually more agile on the viola than the violin. I also currently play piano passably and ukulele badly, and am thinking about picking up a low brass instrument again at some point after almost two decades away from brass.

Piano was may main instrument from age 5 through college. I earned an ABRSM Diploma in piano performance in high school, I continued playing piano in chamber ensembles through my undergrad years and made an unsuccessful entry into the university's concerto competition in my senior year. But after I graduated I no longer had regular access to a piano for the next 14 years; I bought a piano two years ago and practice a little but am rusty. I also played trombone and euphonium in school bands, and made a brief return to the euphonium for a year in college.

Ironically, my two best instruments are ones I started late and mostly self-taught.

EDIT to more fully answer Francesca's question below:

Viola (my best instrument) is the fifth I started learning, and violin is the fourth. I started piano at 5 (private lessons), euphonium and trombone at 11 and 12 (school music programs), violin and viola at 16 and 18 (self-taught after being rejected by several teachers due to age).

After starting on strings: I took some voice lessons in college (am a competent choral singer), and got some free informal composition lessons from one of my biology professors who had once been a professional musician and a student of Nadia Boulanger. I started to pick up the ukulele in my early 30s after acquiring one that was auctioned for charity, but have only taught myself the basics.

February 21, 2021 at 02:06 PM · I just bought a viola for Christmas, and have had some fun trying it out. I love the rich sound of the C string. I play piano at a basic level, but I really love to sing. But I am most “professional” on violin.

February 21, 2021 at 02:32 PM · cello, viola, piano, celtic harp, alto recorder

February 21, 2021 at 04:49 PM · Violin, Viola, Vocals (yes, your voice is your instrument!), then at a lesser skill level; tenor banjo, guitar, traditional fife and drum corps style snare and bass drum. A long time ago I did Veracruz style harp. I am terrible at piano, which hurt my grades as a music major.

February 21, 2021 at 05:12 PM · Voice, violin, piano... in order of proficiency. I studied viola briefly in college and could never master the clef as an adult. I never had any difficulty learning the treble and bass clefs simultaneously at around age 7. I wish someone had taught me the alto clef as a young child. Trying to learn it as an adult just never worked for me.

February 21, 2021 at 08:25 PM · Violin, viola and classical guitar all about the same. Violin and viola, I cannot afford bow rehair so rather than doing something badly they are resting. Classical guitar a tuning peg has just snapped. I have got one of these plastic keyboard thingies, was surprised that all the piano skills that I had have gone it is back to the beginning.

February 21, 2021 at 10:16 PM · Madly, I have tried something like 20 different instruments (we had at least one of everything growing up).

Aside from viola and violin, flute, cornet and bagpipes were my main instruments in childhood and the teen years. Flute I took to grade 8 and gave up, cornet was to humour my dad and bagpipes were just really really fun! I could do with a set again, but I don't think my neigbours would be very pleased.

February 21, 2021 at 10:55 PM · M Zilpah, there are always kitchen pipes.

February 22, 2021 at 01:20 AM · I'm 64 and don't have professional ambitions, I just enjoy music. Aside from Violin (my primary instrument), in the string family; I have and play a viola and cello; classical guitar, balalaika (tinker only); also have and play some: Bb clarinet, Eb Alto clarinet, Bb Bass clarinet. I recently started trumpet and trombone. Thankfully we live on a homestead in the woods, so no close neighbors to annoy! I also have a flute, but don't play it much.

February 22, 2021 at 02:23 AM · It would be interesting to know how many members are best at the instrument they first learned as a child. I started on piano in first grade and studied until some time in high school. I took up violin and then viola when far into my adult years. I definitely went farther on the piano then I have on a stringed instrument, I studied a hand full of woodwinds in there somewhere, but none of those instruments have impassioned me as has the violin and now, even more strongly, the viola.

February 22, 2021 at 06:11 AM · Starting Piano when 2 & 1/2, 'composing' a first piece, I loved the piano yet asked for a violin for my 3rd Birthday which was gifted to me by my professional violinist Juilliard Grad father &

I can still see our family living room in cozy lighting on the Eve of my 3rd birthday party and the lush green fur inside the violin case after my father carefully took this tiny violin out of its case handing it to me yet mostly holding my baby violin to keep it from any accidents by a just turned 3 year old daughter!!

The violin attracted my attention perhaps because my father played well professionally in three major Hollywood Motion Picture Studios while also under Contract as an Arranger and Composer for TV, Radio and Film scores. Wanting to play, my father began teaching me simply without fuss yet carefully so as to ensure I avoided bad habits. In the meantime, after we moved, my Mother's beautiful piano placed in the lovely living room also attracted my interest so one received 24/7 parental instruction as a sibling instrument, yet from {I didn't know it at the time 'til quite a bit later} Professor Arnold Schoenberg's Pianist for all his advanced classes at UCLA, 'Momma'!!! She did not push me but shared her love of 'pearled notes' on her superb Grand Piano of 6' 2"! She taught me how to practise and play the Sofeggietto, which was difficult for me by then -- all the while having violin lessons at home with my father and becoming sensitive to an 'upside down' left hand needing it to be right side up on the piano keyboard. Thusly, the Sofeggietto seemed 'hard' as a budding little violinist of 5 or 6!!

A turning point came when I was told I had to choose between the piano or violin and which of the two instruments I preferred for the long haul ~ This was a huge decision for a child yet in my heart I chose the violin! In retrospect, perhaps it was based on my developing abilities to play the violin and some lovely pieces plus Etudes and pieces with en exceptional pianist - my

Mother, accompanist to Toscha Seidel ~ {for those unfamiliar with the name, Toscha Seidel was one of the Artist Violinist class-mates of Jascha Heifetz, in Leopold Auer's famed St. Petersburg Class with Heifetz, Mischa Elman, Efrem Zimbalist, Sr., Kubelik, Sascha Lasserson, Kathleen Parlow, Cecelia Hansen and Nathan Milstein!!} Mr. Seidel used to come to our suburban Los Angeles home to rehearse with my father/ also Conductor of a fine suburban LA orchestra, & who needed an artist pianist, Momma, to accompany him in violin concerti of Tchaikovsky, Bruch and his adored Beethoven which he stated often was the only pianist with whom he would play!!! As life progressed & hearing the luscious sounds of Toscha Seidel's great Stradivarius Violin I was 'hooked' & became determined to sound just like Toscha Seidel! Actually with utterly brilliant

teaching from my father and pearled sounds emanating from my Mother's hands on the Piano, I had the best of both world's learning and absorbing glorious music-making at home from a most tender age ~

To answer Laurie's question was both easy & difficult because I actually managed to learn how to perform Bach at the piano with loving phrasing and Bachian style depending on which of

Bach's pieces I was studying or learning myself in secret!! The truth is I play violin when in true concert Olympic shape, most well yet so wish I could have duo studied much piano literature at the same time!! The American public school system and its requirements to excell in important subjects took much time off from practicing so one did the best one could to keep learning & advancing on my violin studies and in so doing, more or less abandoned the Piano which my Mother later lived to regret ... But studying and more importantly, listening to my Mother both practise & perform in public in Schumann's Piano Concerto & also in Recital playing All Brahms - her tour de force, was such

a Gift I've carried throughout my life which has enriched one's musicianship - always on the prowl for the harmony and fusion of both melody/harmony from a counterpoint tonal perspective and not purely theoretical!!! Music was and always remains the Goal which to 'Win', requires Coco Chanel seamless technique fused with comprehensive hearing & knowledge of all in any score of Music which carries one as a soloist to a fully aware of musician-hood instead of the only learning "My Solo Part" syndrome of many violinists & string cousin soloists minus the

opportunities of a Musical Family at Home growing up and far beyond until pained forced separation ...

Thank you for patience in detecting my own Answer to Laurie's Question written out trying to figure out whether my pianistic skills come even near a concertising violinist & chamber music player yet I've been told "you are a natural pianist" despite my lack of digital 2 handed technique but given a Pass due to my evidently 'warmed piano sound'!!! No matter; I love to go to the piano to play some Bach pieces I know/love for connection to the Spiritual elements in this life and possibly for the next ...

Musically from America

~ Elisabeth Matesky ~

Sunday, February 21, 2021 (#15 )

February 22, 2021 at 05:00 PM · Thanks again E.M. for that history.

I have often wondered how many musicians are not playing the ideal instruments for their physical, mental, emotional talents. How do we choose?- Instinct?. The only way to find out is to try.

My story is simpler, and not edifying. In the 5th grade I noticed that some of the kids were getting out of class early to do school music sessions. I wanted to do that too, so my dad took me to our town's small music store. I blew in a trumpet; nothing happened. Blew in a clarinet;-nothing. The violin made a sound right away, so I thought to myself; this one works, I'll do this.

February 22, 2021 at 11:53 PM · I think the Brahms Viola sonatas are inherently more difficult than the violin sonatas, and the arpeggione is inherently more difficult than the Schubert sonatinas, but if I'm wrong, my viola playing is definitely worse than my violin playing. I've performed solos on both.

My piano and organ playing are WAY worse.

February 22, 2021 at 11:58 PM ·

February 23, 2021 at 12:09 AM · Violin, piano, viola, trumpet/flugelforn, guitar, accordion. I've played or recorded all at one time or another. 9 albums featuring violin, plus soloing for Henry Mancini on two of his projects... I played all the keyboard parts on my own albums, as well as utilizing guitar, accordion, and flugelhorn on them. My most recent steady live gig was playing piano evenings at the Bistro Garden in Studio City. Covid shut that down, sadly.

February 23, 2021 at 08:28 PM · I started on cornet at age 8, played for about 9 years, then didn't touch an instrument of any sort for 25 years. At that point I took up guitar, drifted into mandolin, and got involved in the local bluegrass scene. I can play a bass well enough to fill in when the bass player goes to the bathroom. A friend gave me a cheap fiddle, I started in bluegrass then got into classical music with another friend - and now I find myself playing viola in a local community orchestra. Right now I'd say my main instruments are viola, violin, and mandolin, plus guitar (although somewhat rusty).

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