What is your second-most favorite instrument?

February 14, 2013 at 03:42 AM · What non-violin type instrument motivates you to play better? For me, it's harpsichord, with each instrument having a unique tone color (gee, just like the violin!) and its mezmorizing twangyness that reminds me of a vintage archtop blues guitar. The expressive capabilities matters most-- just listen to the old Wanda Landowska recordings, and try to capture some of her magic across instruments.

Replies (55)

February 14, 2013 at 04:24 AM · The (nylon string) classical guitar. I love the combination of violin and guitar with the blending of bowed and plucked strings. It is like peaches and cream.

February 14, 2013 at 07:03 AM · I love the bassoon, and a "well played" oboe.

February 14, 2013 at 11:16 AM · My first instrument at the age of five, the piano, although I don't get to play it as much now as I would like.

February 14, 2013 at 11:41 AM · My vote is for the mandolin. I have always been fascinated by their sound.

February 14, 2013 at 12:44 PM · I really love so many other instruments. When I play in a good orchestra, I'm full of admiration for my colleagues. The flute is high up on my list. But when all is said and done, it's the piano for its expressive and dynamic range, the bell-like sound some pianos have in the right hands and its huge repertoire. I have a beautiful 1896, fully-restored Knabe grand, with a quarter-sawn, deep honey color oak case, many Victorian features, and a sound to match.

Among non-Western instruments, I love (and oddly enough also have) the Indian sitar and the Tibetan trumpet. Those can lift you to another world!

I also like some Renaissance instruments, such as the lute. And such instruments as the hurdy-gurdy and sackbutt deserve honorable mention for their names, alone!

February 14, 2013 at 12:54 PM · Sax

February 14, 2013 at 01:06 PM · The american wood thrush. OK, so I'm cheating but I was thinking of what sounds gives me the greatest pleaseure - and this (but best of course when you are in the woods) must be it...


sadly its now in decline ..

EDIT: wait this is a legit instrument; its in that recent symphony: http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/window/media/page/0,,1752759-5857326,00.html

February 14, 2013 at 01:17 PM · The piano, definitely. Some day, when I'm retired, I'm going to take piano lessons. I've been able to teach myself a little here and there so that I can play simple tunes and church hymns, but I'd love to be able to really play at the level of chamber music and accompaniment.

February 14, 2013 at 01:37 PM · Baroque organ

February 14, 2013 at 05:04 PM · My first love, the Mandolin.

February 14, 2013 at 05:47 PM · It's hard to just pick one because each has a different mood that it can evoke: romantic, bellicose, patriotic, soothing, etc. I think my favorite, though, is the french horn.

February 14, 2013 at 06:08 PM · The English horn. I had the good fortune to play oboe & English horn when I was younger, and I still carry a torch for the EH.

February 14, 2013 at 06:31 PM · Piano. Without a doubt.

February 14, 2013 at 07:36 PM · Piano that so many violinists treat like lesser instruments...

Piano is just as cool and challenging as violin come on...

I agree that students usually sound better at the piano than violin but at a master's level... I think that piano is as hard as violin (they have so many keys and notes to read at once and they do not even play on their own piano!)

My deepest admiration, pianists!

I love you :)


February 14, 2013 at 07:50 PM · Good question. Mine is the piano, but the trumpet comes close. I think I gravitate more to the piano since I kind of know how to hit the keys. But nothing beats the pure sound of a trumpet. If I play the violin correctly I think it can sound just like a trumpet. well to me at least.

February 14, 2013 at 08:05 PM · That's a hard one, since there are so many I like. My son is not on this forum, so it's safe to pass on the trumpet as #1.

I would say, all in all, the pipe organ. I have heard many good ones (live and recorded). Nothing else seems to command the lower frequencies like a good pedal tone!

Plus, there's all that stuff that JSB wrote for it.

February 14, 2013 at 10:58 PM · don't know why, but i don't like that many string instruments besides the violin.

on-topic: pan-flute. will start studding it in 2 years most probably.

February 15, 2013 at 12:27 AM · OBOE!

February 15, 2013 at 02:15 AM · Electric bass. I love the low end. I've thought about viola or cello, but I love my violin (not that it's all that spectacular) and I've played violin off and on (mostly off) since I was a kid. Need to get an instructor and get back to it.

February 15, 2013 at 02:39 AM · My second favorite instrument would be the flute. :)

February 15, 2013 at 12:33 PM · This is tough! I think my second favorite would be clarinet...tied with piano and flute close behind. A well played clarinet is gorgeous, and flute reminds me of the violin, and is also amazing. But piano is the start of a lot if not most of the piece we know and has such a broad range!

February 15, 2013 at 12:34 PM · Elise when you go hiking around my area in SW Virginia you will hear the thrushes and the towhees, but I also noticed lately there are fewer thrushes. Certain seasons and times of day are better of course.

The piano is my secondary instrument and the group that I play with, The Highlands Jazz Quintet, has just completed its first CD album.

February 15, 2013 at 12:50 PM · Someone mentioned the english horn. Back in 8th grade music apprecitiation class, the teacher was explaining the instruments of the orchestra. When he got to the english horn he said "who knows why this is a very misleading name for this instrument?" I was the only one who knew that he was looking for an answer along the lines of that it's neither English, nor a horn, but a close relative of the oboe. But being in a smart a** mood I piped up "because it's made in Japan!" All the kids laughed, but the teacher, not noted for his sense of humor, threw me out.

BTW, "horn" has sometimes been used as a general term for any instrument that you blow through. And in the original French term, "cor anglais" means not English, but angled, as it was originally curved to more easily fit with a rider on horseback on a hunt.

Yes, I read this all in The Musical Quarterly. (Or was it on a box of CoaCoa Puffs?)

February 15, 2013 at 02:37 PM · Cor anglais; Oboe d'Amore, Basset Horn,Bass Clarinet, Alto Flute. They all share that Viola like tone.

February 15, 2013 at 03:51 PM · The flute is absolutely beautiful for me.

February 15, 2013 at 05:05 PM ·

February 15, 2013 at 06:23 PM · So far no takers for the Mini-Moog?

February 15, 2013 at 07:28 PM · Any glass harmonica fans? Theremin, anyone?

February 15, 2013 at 08:08 PM · I like these responses. I did get to play with a Mini Moog back in about 1972.

I have played both folk and classical guitar, as well as electric. I have also played recorders and wooden flutes (no key, one key, and four key also thought of as Renaissance, Baroque / Classic and Victorian flutes, or in my case add Celtic). And we won't dwell on the lovely baritone / euphonium horns of my school days.

At each phase of my life I loved each one, but if I had to choose a second to the violin it would have to be the one key flute, though my best performances were on the baroque recorder.

February 15, 2013 at 09:04 PM · my other violin 8-))

no, seriously, it is cello - more natural to play and closer to human voice.

then, the oboe. If played really, really well - the sound is out of this world.

February 16, 2013 at 02:21 PM · The harpsichord - played twiddly, fast & furious...

What a pity they take up so much space - otherwise my pianist husband would definitely have one in the lounge. I suppose sooner or later we'll be getting a clever electric keyboard instead.

February 16, 2013 at 03:03 PM · I am a sucker for a horn section, whether its a mariachi band, Earth Wind and Fire or those ska bands that came out of Boston in the late eighties. Especially trombones. And in a fit of emotion about having to leave Hawaii, I bought not one, but two ukuleles. They are fun to play.

Elise, have you heard the song by Laurie Lewis, the Wood Thrush's Song? You might like it!

February 19, 2013 at 04:12 AM · While the violin has become my all time favorite instrument since starting 5 years ago, the guitar has been with me 30 years now. At this point in my life, the sound I like most from a guitar is that warm tube tone from a Gibson electric played through an old tube amp. Whether it's a smooth clean jazz tone or a natural overdriven tube tone, that's what I like now.

My rig is a Gibson SG Special and a mid 70's MusicMan 65-112 tube amp with nothing between but cables and a simple a/b switch.

February 19, 2013 at 05:11 AM · My favorite instruments (in order of preference):






February 19, 2013 at 07:19 AM · My other instrument is the guitar.

Kevin, those old tube amps had the best sound. I used to get a good sound out of a Stratocaster and a Peavey LA 400 amp. No more, all acoustic now.

February 19, 2013 at 08:55 AM · Rachel: "Elise, have you heard the song by Laurie Lewis, the Wood Thrush's Song? You might like it!"

I have not - I'll look for it :) Though its a brave person that tries to emulate a bird song with all its nuiances ;) I guess 'the (sky)lark ascending' is one of the true (few) successes (although I still prefer the original):

Song of the skylark

which you can hear on a warm early summer's day while you lie on the warm grass and the bird climbs ever higher above your head....

February 19, 2013 at 11:49 AM · Guitar, bassoon, cornet

February 20, 2013 at 05:03 PM · Can we include the human voice as a musical instrument?


French Horn


African Drums

February 20, 2013 at 11:20 PM · I probably would have started with the cello, if I had not had my great-grandfathers violin passed down to me, back in the day...

February 25, 2013 at 03:15 AM · piano or harp- it's hard to pick just one.

March 30, 2013 at 03:16 PM · Don't think anyone mentioned any brass instruments as their favorites (surprisingly). Mine would be the trombone, since I can't choose the cello or viola. I love its various qualities: mellow, brooding, powerful. A good trombone melody -- e.g., in the first movement of Mahler's Third Symphony -- can be as effective and as expressive as a cello, in its own brassy way.

March 30, 2013 at 04:46 PM · Dean, I sort of mentioned baritones / euphoniums as a past love. I heard a really great Euphonium solo recently on our local Classical Station (KMFA) but forgot to look it up until too late.

Similar range as the trombone but more mellow. I would love one but a viola or an Irish Bouzouki is next on my list. Of course if I ran into a mandocello at a decent price it would be mine.

I always get looks from the kids on the playground when I wear my Euphonium shirt. Though I get the weirdest questions from cashiers when I wear my Out of Tune shirt.

Heavy Metal or Weighty Brass, I pick the latter.



March 30, 2013 at 06:31 PM · ...I recently got a bassoon. I think it's going to be my new 2nd favourite...

March 30, 2013 at 09:35 PM · So much easier to think of the instruments I can live without, like the piano, the flute. Blahhhh Blah Blah Blah Blah. and the harp.

I love brass, especially lots of brass together. Think the movie Brassed Off.

But if I were to play another instrument, it would be the piano accordion. And in fact, I have an opportunity to learn with a great player, and another friend who also plays and used to play professionally (and who plays bagpipes in high level competition). So now I just need $400 or so, and I'm in for it!

And piano accordion + violin is a really cool combo, much much better than piano and violin which is not so.

March 30, 2013 at 09:48 PM · Piano is the King of instruments and violin the Queen.

March 30, 2013 at 10:40 PM · I thought Guillaume de Machaut said the Organ was the king of instruments.

Hee Hee

Oh about the piano accordion. I was going through my drawers this week. I knew I had a concertina somewhere. Well better get with it, the mandolin will be back from its tune-up (20 year setup appointment) next week.

March 31, 2013 at 12:08 AM · Well, for he last 25 years I've been playing English Concertina, which is so unfashionable it almost comes out the other side as cool...

March 31, 2013 at 12:25 AM · Geoff, laughing out loud

March 31, 2013 at 01:54 AM · French Horn.

March 31, 2013 at 06:41 AM · mandolin .. but i'd play anything by dinah shore:

March 31, 2013 at 02:51 PM · Sharelle

Militant concertina partiality - a treat for you:

April 1, 2013 at 04:55 AM · Piano... Expressing myself on the piano is the best way of expressing myself in all kinds of art I'm keen into.

April 1, 2013 at 09:24 AM · Probably the oboe .

April 1, 2013 at 10:28 AM · a guzheng, harp and a lute.

April 5, 2013 at 01:21 PM · The Piano used to be my choice instrument and my frustrations with it and the beauty of the violin put together brought be very enthusiastically over to the world of strings. I had played guitar throughout my younger days (im only 26 now), but never got much out of it. Then again i hadn't put much into that particular instrument.

Since I have to choose something other than Violin, I would have to say either the Piano as mentioned above or the Harpsichord. In terms of beauty the harp hands down, but in playability and considering practicality Im gonig to have to settle on the Harpsichord. The Piano branch of instruments just give you so many possibilities. With the ability to play more then 10 notes at the same exact time there is just so much to work with.

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