“So, how many instruments do you play?” I get this a lot.
The way I prefer to answer is this: I play all of the major modern woodwind instruments, plus some folk and ethnic woodwinds.
That answer usually doesn’t cut it.
So, if pressed, I give a slightly more detailed response: I play flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone, plus recorders, whistles, and so forth.
By this point, people with musical background usually get the picture. But some people still demand a precise number, perhaps thinking that my caginess is modesty, and that it will be polite for them to insist upon an answer.
The truth of the matter, though, is that I avoid the question because I don’t exactly know the answer. A former teacher of mine indicates in his bio that he plays “over 45 instruments.” I can’t help but wonder how he came up with that impressive count. Is he including B-flat clarinet, A clarinet, E-flat clarinet, and bass clarinet? C clarinet, alto clarinet, basset horn, contrabasses in E-flat and B-flat…
I suppose I “play” all the members of all five major modern woodwind families. But I don’t own all of them, and some I only play very rarely and on borrowed instruments (contrabassoon, alto flute, oboe d’amore…), and there are even a few I’ve never really played at all (sopranino saxophone, clarinet in C…). Bringing in ethnic instruments, of course, just compounds the confusion.
How many instruments do I play? Don’t ask.