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A multi-instrumentalist is a musician who plays a number of different instrument.

The Bachelor of Music degree usually requires a second instrument to be learned (unless one is studying composition), but people who double on another instrument (e.g., guitar and piano) are not usually seen as multi-instrumentalists.

Classical music

The European Piffari, Stadtpfeifer and Waits were multi-instrumentalists, who played trumpet, sackbut, shawm, cornett, recorder and string-instruments. Musicians with an education of a Stadtpfeifer were Gottfried Reiche, Johann Joachim Quantz, Johann Christof Pezel and Sigmund Theophil Staden. Also many European church musicians of the 17th and 18th centuries were multi-instrumentalists, who played several instruments. Georg Philipp Telemann for example played violin, viola da gamba, recorder, flauto traverso, oboe, shawm, sackbut and double bass. A contemporary multi-instrumentalist is the German kantor Helmut Kickton who performs church music on organ, violin, viola, cello, double bass, recorder, euphonium, guitar and kettledrums.

Jazz, Modern, Contemporary Music

Many professional musicians aim to become multi-instrumentalists. This process comes in lots of different forms, as in, some jazz saxophonists are offered gigs where they are also required to play clarinet for example. So they spend time learning the differences and then continue to develop their ability over the rest of musical careers.Many famous jazz musicians including James Morrison, Don Burrows, Mark Taylor, Lachlan Davidson and many more have become detailed multi-instrumentalists.

Pop music

Often, multi-instrumentalists are solo artists who overdub several tracks themselves, rather than hiring session musicians, but they can also be found within bands or working under various monikers. However, when playing live, most multi-instrumentalists will concentrate on their main instrument and / or vocals, and hire or recruit backing musicians (or use a sequencer) to play the other instruments.

In most cases, a multi-instrumentalist will play several types of keyboard and plucked string instruments, such as piano, synthesizer, organ, guitar, bass and mandolin, and perhaps also percussion and drums. They may also play brass and woodwind instruments, although this is fairly rare within popular music. The voice is sometimes, albeit rarely, listed amongst a multi-instrumentalist's instrumental repertoire.

Some musicians have pushed the limits of human musical skill on different instruments. The Britishmarker entertainer Roy Castle once set a world record by playing the same tune on 43 different instruments in four minutes. Anton Newcombe, frontman for The Brian Jonestown Massacre, claimed in the documentary film Dig! to be able to play 80 different instruments.

Brian Jones, of The Rolling Stones, was one of the first pop musicians to be a prolific multi-instrumentalist, and is still regarded as one of the most famous multi-instrumentalists of all time.

Multi-instrumentalist Yuri Landman not only plays several string instruments, but also creates several new instruments with alternative scalings, constructions and string combinations to reach new playing techniques. His work is mainly based on resonance, string pitching and overtones.

There are a number of artists in pop, rock and electronic music that are known for their proficiency on many instruments.

See also

References

  1. 123 Biographies - Multi-Instrumentalist. Retrieved May 2009.
  2. Riemann Musiklexikon 1967: Art. Stadtpfeifer
  3. Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
  4. Telemann: Singen ist das Fundament zur Music in allen Dingen; Ed. Werner Rackwitz; Reclam


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