For me, there was a point in my education and career when I decided that I was a woodwind doubler, or at least that I was going to be one. Prior to that decision, I had really identified as a saxophonist, or maybe a saxophonist who doubled a little on the side.
If you are thinking that serious woodwind doubling—committing to playing several instruments at the highest possible level—might be your thing, then I suggest you ask yourself these questions:
- Am I willing to commit major practice time to each instrument?
- Am I willing to accept a slower rate of improvement and/or more extensive practice routine than I would if I remained committed to a single instrument?
- Am I willing to sacrifice or at least postpone some high-level performance goals on my primary instrument in order to devote time to my secondary instruments?
- Do I have the resources and/or financial discipline to accumulate the necessary high-quality instruments and other equipment?
- Do I have the guts to perform on instruments that aren’t my strongest one(s)?
- Am I genuinely interested in and motivated by each of the instruments I intend to play?
If you answered “no” to one or more, then you might be happier and more successful maintaining a single “primary” instrument, and taking a more casual approach to doubling. Or you may not have fully come to terms yet with the realities of woodwind doubling. Playing any one instrument well requires non-trivial investment of time and money, and very little of that can be truly recycled for a second instrument: if it takes you 10,000 practice hours to achieve your goals on your first instrument, expect to take another 10,000 to achieve the same goals on another.
There are of course many advantages to woodwind doubling, which I won’t rehash in depth here other than to list a few: more and/or different employment opportunities, expanded musical experiences, and, for some, great fun. But it’s not for everyone (probably not for most people). If your answer is “yes” to each of the questions above, then carve out some extra practice time, start saving your pennies, and clear your calendar for some new opportunities.