From Guitar to Mandolin and More: How Easy is it to Switch Instruments?

mandolinIt’s an awesome feeling when you start making music! And after you’ve mastered a few songs, you might even have the itch to start branching out. Here, Doswell, VA teacher Jesse S. answers the question: Once you learn guitar, how easy is it to switch to bass, mandolin, or other stringed instruments?


This is a question that I hear frequently in guitar lessons.  Most students who start playing guitar will eventually become interested in trying to learn another stringed instrument; but does learning the guitar really make it easier for a student to transition to another instrument?  In my experience, it certainly does.

Once you have learned the guitar you have already gotten use to many key areas that will help you with learning another stringed instrument.  The first area is holding the guitar in the correct playing position.  When you start playing the guitar it may feel very unnatural at first.  Your left hand is bent in an awkward position, your fingers on your left hand have to push down steel strings, your back has to be sitting up straight to prevent the guitar from sliding, and your right hand has to strum or pick up-and-down in a smooth and even rhythm.  It’s a lot of things going on at once, and it takes awhile to get them all working together.  The other big obstacle to overcome when playing a stringed instrument is building up calluses on your fretting fingers.   It just takes time to build them up, but once you have learned the guitar, you will have calluses, so if you want to switch to another stringed instrument you don’t have to worry about building them up again, they are already there.

Now that we’ve got the hands and body ready for playing multiple instruments, it’s time to focus on the getting the mind ready.  One of the big benefits of learning the guitar is learning how to read music.  When you learn how to read music you essentially learn another language that you can use on any instrument, stringed or not.   It also gives you the ability to start understanding music theory, which gives you the ability to start composing your own songs.  You also learn how to read guitar tablature and guitar chord charts that will help you understand how to read other stringed instruments tablature and chord charts.

But, to get good at all these things we first have to learn how to practice.  The only way to go about practicing is to have discipline.  Practicing can be fun, but you first have to make yourself practice everyday, which takes discipline; that is the only way to get good at any instrument.  So once you have learned the guitar, you have already developed a practicing routine that you can apply to learning another instrument.

So to sum it up, when you learn the guitar you learn the correct way to play a stringed instrument, you learn how to read music and music theory, and you learn discipline with practice, all of these traits make it much easier to learn another stringed instrument.


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Doswell music lessons with Jesse S.Jesse S. teaches bass guitar, guitar, piano, singing, mandolin, music recording, music theory, songwriting, ukulele, banjo and harmonica lessons in Doswell, VA. He received his degree in Music Performance from Virginia Commonwealth University, and joined the TakeLessons team in December 2012. Learn more about Jesse, or search for a teacher near you! 


Photo by Waka Jawaka

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