Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 6: benefits

May 22, 2011

In this installment, we look at why woodwind doublers do what they do.

Q. What is the greatest benefit of being a woodwind doubler?

Here’s my own breakdown of the most common types of answers. Many answers fit into more than one category.

  • More gigs: Unsurprisingly, this was a factor for over half of the respondents. However, many if not most indicated some non-monetary motivation:
  • Variety
  • Fun/satisfaction
  • Artistic expression: A number of respondents mentioned the ability to access a variety of tone colors as a motivating factor.
  • Cross-training: Several respondents indicated that playing one instrument improves their skills at another.
  • Challenge

Here is the complete list of responses, with only very minor editing, in random order.

  • versatility
  • More gigs!
  • Working
  • Being able to play all the great classical rep for the winds! (and then there’s that whole getting-paid-to-play-shows thing, too :P)
  • Diverse gigs – a chance to do something different on each gig. I’m also more marketable because I can do more things.
  • making more gigs
    more repertoire
    being crazy :-)
  • More opportunities to play, and a greater palette of tone colors available for my own gratification. Each instrument has it’s own character and traditions, and I feel that I am a better player overall for having had some experience with those traditions. Also, I have been able to talk more intelligently with clarinetists who are trying to learn the saxophone about the differences between the two.
  • Mainly economic.
    If playing with any bands ie: bigbands, there is an expectation you will own and be able to play the doubles ie: flute / clarinet.
    Show work certainly requires you to own and be able to play the doubles to a reasonable standard.
    The other benefit for me is I just enjoy the opportunity to play on different instruments and to play their respective repertoire.
  • I am offered more gigs than if I could only perform on one woodwind. All the different teaching styles I’ve encountered from all my lessons helps as well.
  • I can play more types of music and get more gigs.
  • More markettable
  • the literature you try to amass in the study of a specific instrument, can be played on other instruments…
  • More work opportunities
  • A private studio of 55 students, and two adjunct teaching positions in two different instruments at two schools! This simply would not happen on one instrument!
  • Versatility. I can play my clarinet in marching band, my oboe in concert band, my saxophone in jazz band, and all 3 ( plus possible E-flat clarinet & recorders) in pit orchestra. I’m also exposed to a rich solo history (specifically in classical repertoire) on each instrument.
  • The greatest benefit is being hirable in networks where your type is a rarity. As someone who hangs out in jazz/rock/commercial circles, I am asked to play flute and clarinet because, as a sax player, I am the only woodwind player that some people know. I can then capitalize on my abilities in those circles.
  • I have more opportunities to play. Last year when I was 14 I was admitted to [summer camp] on saxophone. Going to camp there helped me with all my instruments. I often get asked to fill in on bassoon in orchestras I don’t normally play in. In All-District competitions, I always audition on both oboe and sax. Sometimes I get first on oboe, other times on sax, but I always get in this way and I get the extra audition experience. Also, when I practice one instrument I improve on the others. Finally, I get asked to play in musicals. The other reed players are the sax players from the top US military bands, so meeting and playing with them is a great opportunity.
  • being able to play whatever gig comes along. Extra money. More fun. A bit more prestige
  • more versatility
  • Not limited to one sound or role. A bassoonist is very different than a flautist. Having the ability to switch between the two affords a greater understanding and respect for the music I’m playing.
  • Versatility. Transferring skills or concepts between instruments.
  • Musical value and expanse of knowledge.
  • The more instruments, the more marketable.
  • More work, more varieties of personal expression
  • We’re in high demand for orchestra pits.
  • The ability to connect with students better, because I’ve been through the same struggles as they have.
  • You mean beyond all the sex, drugs and rock and roll? Or the health benefits of lugging bari/tenor/bass cl/clar to a gig (uphill, both ways)? Beyond the facts that if one wants to play in pits or big bands, then one must double, in which case the benefit is getting the gig, I’m not sure if there are any real benefits. By playing various winds, I suppose one gains a greater appreciation of the tuning and technical issues of the other instruments when playing in an ensemble. Beyond the basic issues of playing an instrument (intonation and technical facility) are the stylistic issues. This presumably makes one a better musician in the sense that they are more attuned to what is happening around them, though I’m not sure that doubling has much to do with this.
  • Additional work additional fun
  • enhanced employment oppurtunities
  • Gives you more opportunities for playing.
  • Having the ability to focus on a different instrument if I get tired of another.
  • Being able to perform many different styles, as well as teach privately the instruments as well.
  • I love the variety and tonal colors.
  • Being valuable in a variety of musical venues. It’s not just advantageous to be a “doubler”,but being able to play well a variety of “styles” of music well.
  • The challenge and feeling of accomplishment (and invincibility!) is the greatest benefit!
  • More work.
  • Varied musical experiences.
  • flexibility for theater productions
  • More opportunity for gigs in pit orchestras or jazz ensembles that others wouldn’t necessarily get with only playing a single instrument, being able to pick up a secondary instrument to read a piece I love it.
  • Flexibility
  • Fun!
  • Other than personal satisfaction (which in my book goes a long way), being a bit more employable for certain kinds of gigs is a plus. If you know how to “work” each of the instruments you bring, you essentially have a huge variety of sounds that you can bring to the table at a gig.
  • The greatest benefit is never being bored. I also love the challenge of doing so many things at a high level.
  • Opportunities to play in different styles – many more classical opportunities on clarinet and more jazz opportunities on sax. If I played only one instrument I would be limiting my opportunities to mainly playing in the style for which that instrument is most widely known.
  • more employment opportunities, obviously. Secondary is an appreciation of the challenges other wind instruments present
  • having the oppurtunity to play in pitts and more opportunities to be accepted in an orchestra
  • Diversity, and the art of being to change the color and mood of a piece in a short amount of time.
  • 1) More gigs
    2) More fun. Playing multiple instruments changes it up :o)
    3) If applicable, doubling fees means more money in your pocket.
  • Get called for shows and gigs that require doubles.
  • Versatility! I have professional relationships with several theatres that know I can cover any woodwind book that doesn’t involve double reeds.
  • the joy
  • Playing musicals!
  • Having an instrument suitable for more modern, small jams and informal atmospheres, but also being able to play in orchestras, period ensembles, and the more typical classical music scene. So it really opens up more opportunities.
  • Filling the niche that no one else in the area can
  • having work
  • I enjoy the challenge of trying to be proficient on all my instruments.
  • Being more marketable and having more work opportunities.
  • In a Jazz setting, adds color changes to the sax section sound. Flute has opened up more challenging parts in Flute choir and concert band.
  • flexibility in gigs and opportunity for gigs
  • The performance opportunities as a doubler have been wonderful. As a classical saxophone major, there were not very many performance opportunities in my undergraduate career. Being the only proficient oboist and one of two proficient bassoonists in my university allowed me to pick up several jobs around school, especially in musical theater.
  • huge variety of playing opportunities.
  • Being able to have musical experience on more than one instrument.
  • More than twice the fun fun and more opportunities to play.
    Playing your secondary instruments can be beneficial in fixing problems in technique with your primary instrument, eg: evenness of runs or clumsy fingering patterns.
  • Being able to fill in where needed. Oboes and clarinets frequently share the parts. That’s why I started playing oboe in the first place after 40 years of playing clarinet.
  • Being able to play a diverse amount of ethnic music styles (although primarily Balkan).
  • Playing in pit orchestras!
  • Hypothetical future employability.
  • More opportunities for work in general.
  • It’s fun!
  • My work is doubled, and I fill a niche that most double-reeders of one side or another wouldn’t dare attempt.
  • Being a woodwind doubler opens up many more musical opportunities (gigs) than sticking to a single instrument.
  • More gigs the more you can cover.
  • Gigs. And more teaching opportunity. It’s a moral thing with teaching; you shouldnt teach a kid clarinet or flute if you can’t play them WELL yourself. But gigs.
  • people pay well for good doublers
  • I get hired/asked to do a lot of different things and participate in many genres. For instance, I can play Baroque music on bassoon because clarinet was not invented during that era. Also, I can teach all of these instruments with confidence, which will help me in the long run.
  • Opportunites to play and the range of sounds for recording and performance
  • Fun, Fun, Fun!
  • flexability of playing different horns in different siutations.
  • Not much out here
  • A higher understanding of greater genres of musical styles – more opportunities to perform and make transfers between instrumental families.
  • Getting musical theatre gigs.
  • What you learn on one instrument often transfers positively to another.
  • More opportunities to play music!
  • The ability to add varying tone colors and sounds to an arrangement or composition, without the need for additional players.
  • got me more teaching jobs
    sometimes it fun breaking up the practice session on the double
  • Skills enforced on one instrument such as the importance of abs support for oboe have a direct and very important impact on playing second instrument.
  • gigs!!!
  • More work
  • jazz clarinetists are not plentiful, and I’m a good one
  • get to play a variety of music
  • flexibilty as to various musical styles/genres
  • The diversity of being able to play all styles of music and the availability to work with multiple ensembles (Orchestral/wind ensemble sub lists to musical pit work).
  • Great daily challenge. Great fellow musician’s acknowledgement of the mastery of many horns. Conductors, orchestrators, composers interest and asking advice on the variour horns.
  • Getting to play all my instruments, switching between them all seems to not make me as tired as the same amount of time on just one instrument does.
  • Fights my musical instrument Attention Deficit Disorder by keeping the mind fresh. Always a challenege
  • More gigs
  • Employability and new perspectives on each instrument from the perspective of each of the others.
  • More work! And getting to play in shows, which is my favourite thing, and having more fun and always learning new things.
  • I get more gigs and get to play a greater variety of musical styles.
  • Having the range to select the specific instrument capable of delivering the ideal tone or feeling for a particular piece or performance.
  • Ability to join in different types of music. If they’re playing jazz, I can play my saxophone. If they’re playing chamber music with strings, I can whip out my flute.
  • learning skills and acquiring knowledge on my non-primary instruments that are applicable to my primary instrument that I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered on the primary instrument.
  • Being versatile. Not having to pick one instrument as my favorite!
  • it gives you a fuller understanding of all instruments and music in general, for i am also a percussionist and it has greatly helped my percussion playing, and playing percussion has helped my sax/clarinet doubling
  • more opportunities to do different types of gigs!
  • Lots of fun sounds to make, more opportunities to play
  • Gigs = $$
  • -more teaching options (in private schools I can teach more hours, because I can teach different instruments)
    -when someone asks me to play in e.g. a church service and the music they give me is not fit for my main instrument, I suggest to play it on another one
    -people tend to ask me if they need a flutist, in stead of a profesional who ask more money
  • Being able to cover whatever is needed when doing a show. More shows are open to me, since I am able to play multiple instruments. Even in symphony, I find the need to double from time to time.
  • The ability to cover a woodwind book in a pit orchestra, maybe not perfectly on every instrument, and maybe transposing a few things (oboe) for another instrument, but having a ton of fun in the process.
  • Having all those varied sounds at my disposal, and there is always at least one that fits the mood i’m in. Great for offering diversity in ensembles etc.
  • I get the moneys doing musicals!! …clarinet is fun!!
  • exposure to the music of all the doubles
  • Flexibility. If you can get the people to acknowledge you on your principal instrument and not just dismiss you as a “doubler”, you will get called to play the “orchestral” shows as well as the “doubling” shows. Also, if you come from a smaller town, you can get them to hire you to help breathe a little life and color into the perfunctory piano and percussion. Adding someone who can pull stuff out of the score and play these lines on flute, these lines on clarinet, this pretty little solo line on oboe, etc makes it a good incentive to hire you.
  • I love doing musical theater. I have many more opportunities to play than I did when I just played flute.
  • Versatility as a freelancer. (A huge bonus is the ability to play test at a high level as a woodwind repair technician)
  • So much more fun!! Many more opportunities are available and there is such a wide variety of skills to master.
  • The greatest benefit of being a woodwind doubler is the opportunity to study a much larger collection of literature than a person would usually be able to play on one instrument. It is also quite nice to be able to play the literature of the baroque, classical, and romantic periods on their original instruments, rather than as a saxophone transcription.
  • Being able to actively teach all of the instruments – I’m getting my PhD in Music Education, and I’ve been doing a lot of work with unergrads, so being able to teach them the basics has been my greatest benefit (especially as I don’t play anything except bassoon in ensembles much anymore).
  • Experience of playing many types of music.
  • Ability to fill in any woodwind section where necessary.
  • Lots of variety
  • More gigs, more fun. If it’s my gig, I can show up with any horn(s) I want, depending on my mood. It keeps everything fun.
  • Being able to perform in many musical theater venues, and having the chance to meet new people with every show.
  • live is never boaring
  • marketability/employment
  • lots of gigs!
  • With out question there are far more gigs available to doublers than single instrument players, particularly in the theater and pop/jazz realms. But even as a competent player on one (or two, or three…) of the horns, you also have the opportunities out there for ‘singler’ (heh, I just made that up) jobs in orchestras or chamber groups or anything really…and potentially on various woodwinds.
  • The fun of painting with more than one color
  • More job opportunities and more opportunities to be able to play
  • Versatility – you get more gigs
  • Having multiple voices to express my inner muse.
  • I believe that there are certain aspects about each instrument that apply to others. In that way, playing many instruments might be able to help you learn things about other instruments and better yourself as an overall musician.
  • Being able to go from a jazz sax lick to an oboe solo into some clarinet runs. Just a joy to going from one instrument to another.
  • Increased employment
  • Work
  • Being able to play a variety of styles!
  • Being versatile and also getting a chance to change what you’re playing.
  • Variety of tonal colors available to me.
  • being able to work more styles of music
  • You get to play some fantastic music with other great players and continue the legacy of the American musical theater.
  • More work
  • Marketability.
  • I think it’s a fantastic asset to be able to play multiple instruments as it opens up possibilities for jobs, and can even offer lessons on multiple instruments. Each one provides its own unique challenges and its just nice to be able to work those out and grow as a musician.
  • There are greatly expanded opportunities to perform and teach.
  • getting called for (low paying) musical theater gigs
  • variety of musical opportunities
  • Versatility and adaptability.
  • I have a great job as a military musician.
  • More gigs!
  • the knowledge that I can competently play several instruments. (I have yet to see the multiplications to pay scale, that will come as I get better at my doubles)
  • More music = Happier me!
  • it’s a lot of fun! I especially enjoy playing a piece of music with an instrument that captures the mood of the piece.
  • I find the variety compliments learning across instruments, rather than hinders
  • Flexibilty
  • Teaching ensembles, being employable as a teacher on more than one instrument (=more time in one place, more likely to get a job), playing in community ensembles and not necessarily being the best player in the room (due to being on a second instrument)
  • Flexibility with music, ability to express oneself so many different ways.
  • Each instrument benefits the others. Playing one will solidify concepts on another.
  • The fun of it.
  • having options
  • I like the variety of music and playing styles of clarinet and saxophone. I also enjoy the challenge of shifting from instrument to instrument- within reason of course. On the other hand, I enjoy it when I don’t have to pack up 4 instruments at the end of a show.
    2 to 3 will do!

Coming up next

Your best woodwind doubling tips!

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