Whether you major in music in college or not, it can be helpful to play piano. Music majors need to learn the instrument as part of their degree, but playing piano can help amateur flutists and musicians, too.
If you want to play piano, either as a first or second instrument, you should. And unless you major in music, you don’t have to play piano if you don’t want to. Even music majors can get away with playing piano enough to pass their piano requirements.
Still it can be helpful to learn the basics of piano as part of your overall music education. That way, you can understand some of the theory and other musical concepts in a different way than if you just played, say, flute.
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What Is a Second Instrument?
A second instrument is any instrument you play that you don’t consider your main instrument. As an example, I used to play clarinet, saxophone, and oboe, but flute was always the instrument I put the most focus on.
Those other woodwinds were second instruments for me since I played them regularly. However, I didn’t give them the same time and attention as I did the flute.
Speaking of woodwind players, a lot of flutists, clarinetists, and saxophonists play what are called auxiliary instruments. An auxiliary instrument is a member of the same family as the primary instrument, but there might be a difference in the pitch range or instrument size.
For flutists, the most common auxiliary instrument is the piccolo. It’s a smaller flute that plays an octave above the concert flute.
While many flutists choose to focus equally on flute and piccolo, it’s still a good example to consider. Other auxiliary flutes include the alto flute, which plays a fourth below the flute, and the bass flute, which is an octave below.
Other instrument families
Another common category of second instruments is when you play two instruments from different families. That could mean playing flute and clarinet, flute and violin, or flute and piano.
If you play piano along with an instrument that’s not another keyboard, like organ or harpsichord, you might consider one your primary and the other your secondary instrument. For me, flute is my main instrument, but I also play piano and teach it, though not to the same level as flute.
Why Play Piano
There are many great reasons to play piano, either as a second instrument or as your main instrument. Playing piano can give you access to a ton of repertoire that you wouldn’t be able to play otherwise.
Also, a lot of flute solo works have a piano part. If you teach private lessons and can play a little piano, you can play that part with your students so they get practice playing with the piano part.
Even if you don’t teach private lessons and don’t intend on pursuing a music career, playing piano can still help. You can learn a lot more about music by looking at and analyzing the piano.
Keyboard instruments like the piano, show all of the notes at once. They also use different colors to differentiate all of the natural notes to the sharps and flats.
Seeing the notes laid out in a line can help you visualize what different scales look like. As you play C major, you’ll only use white keys, but you can look at where the black keys are in relation to the white keys.
Then, when you play a scale like G major, you can compare those intervals. That could help you remember that you need to play F# instead of F natural.
Easy to get a sound
One of the most common issues beginners have when playing flute is getting a sound. The flute can be difficult when you start because you have to blow against an edge with little guide for where your air needs to go.
While there are tools and tricks flute teachers can use to get their students to make a sound, it’s still not easy. On the other hand, all you have to do to get a sound on the piano is press a key.
That can be especially useful for younger students who need the satisfaction of making a sound. It can also help older beginners who are perfectionists and want to get things right the first time.
Such a common instrument
Another great reason to play piano is that it’s a common instrument. You can explore a ton of the piano repertoire, and you can even play with other people. Even if you stick with flute as your main instrument, having piano as a secondary instrument can help shape your love of music.
Pianos are also pretty easy to come by, and some electronic keyboards are super affordable. When you’re just starting, you can get a smaller, more compact keyboard.
If you need the full range of the piano, you can also get an affordable full-sized keyboard. While an electronic keyboard isn’t the same as an acoustic piano, it can be a great way to get started, especially if you’re on a budget.
Being able to play piano has afforded me the opportunity to teach it, which has helped me start my teaching career. Have you ever played piano? Would you play it?
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