Meri’s Musical Musings

How learning a second instrument helps piano students (especially if that second instrument is studied privately as well!)

Posted on: August 19, 2012

Piano students studying a second instrument privately often dramatically improve their sense of rhythm, and get exposed to much more challenging rhythms sooner than they would if they were studying piano exclusively. None of the piano teachers I know who have piano students who play a second instrument have to correct rhythmic errors in students who play other instruments, especially not in the simpler rhythms of most elementary and intermediate piano music.

Playing a second instrument will make pianists more expressive. Two of my most expressive piano students several years ago were an 11 year old who played flute to an early intermediate level, and an older teen who played violin to a late intermediate or early advanced level; and a number of piano teachers have expressed how students who play other instruments play more expressively with a wider range of dynamics.

Piano students learning a second instrument will learn to think orchestrally, as in thinking what instruments could play the different lines in their music. One piece I especially hear orchestrally is Debussy’s The Little Shepherd, where there’s one section I hear as a high clarinet solo.

Piano students will learn more about the role of the piano in chamber music, especially if they are interested in doing accompanying work.

Playing a second instrument gives the piano student the possibility of a second instrument to major on just in case they don’t get accepted on piano, especially if the second instrument is a less commonly played one, like bassoon, horn, or viola.

Playing a second instrument could easily help piano students control their nerves better because you can learn to “breathe” with the phrases in the music.

Finally, piano students who do choose to major in music after high school are typically still required to be in a major ensemble, which the options are usually band, choir and orchestra; if the student lacks singing skills or doesn’t like to do it, playing a second instrument, especially with private study, will allow them to comfortably handle the major ensemble’s parts, especially since most music programs after high school play somewhat to much more difficult music than most high school ensembles.

This article may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any way, shape, or form without permission from the author and agreed-upon amount of payment for its use.


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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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