I get asked often which instruments I play and which ones I use when composing. When I compose, I almost always start on the piano in order to come up with a strong melody line. Once I get a sense of what genre the piece might fit I then use an instrument more suited to that style. So for rock arrangements I might start tracking with guitar while an orchestral arrangement might begin with the lead violin track. Often time I’ll just use a basic orchestral strings patch first to lay down the basic structure and play over that while sequencing. Here’s a list of which instruments I play and some notes about how I use them.
Violin – I play well enough to track and accompany my sampled versions. I am not good enough to play many of the pieces I write.
Cello – I am a pretty good beginner at best. However, I can track easy legato lines well enough.
Trumpet – I play well enough to track the lead lines so long as the melody doesn’t need screaming high notes. I just don’t practice enough to hit those any longer.
Cornet – I play better than the trumpet as this instrument isn’t really made for super high screeching lines.
Mellophone 2 & 3 valve – I used to march in Drum Corp with this instrument. I play very well and simply love the sound of these!
Euphonium – I am proficient and play well enough to track with it. I no longer own one though so I have resorted to using sampled instruments.
French Horn – I am too out of practice to track with French Horn now. I no longer own one and this instrument really requires you to play often to have a decent tone.
Classical (Nylon) Guitar – I am no virtuoso but I am a good player and use my classical nylon on many tracks.
Acoustic 6 String – I am an extremely smooth and competent professional in both standard and DADGAD tuning. I track often and many of my sequences start with acoustic guitar.
Acoustic 12 String – I still play well on 12 string but the added tension really limits my ability to play more complicated pieces.
Electric Guitar – I am a very capable professional level player but I just don’t focus on this instrument to get to the insane level that some players reach. I’d have to drop everything else to get there and I just don’t want to focus on one instrument.
Dobro – I barely play cleanly enough to track so I often just bring someone in to handle the recording when needed. I do love playing it though!
Acoustic Bass – I am a solid player and can usually track with no problem.
Electric Bass – I play well enough to track and can handle a decent range of styles.
Mandolin – I play fairly well and can track with this provided the chords are not changing too quickly and the melody isn’t too lightning fast.
Ukelele – I play well but don’t track with this often at all. It’s really fun to play but just doesn’t fit my compositions in many cases.
Dulcimer (Strumed Format) – Seagull Merlin – I play very well and use this to track all the time.
Strum Stick – G – I play very well and love the weird tones I can get out of this thing!
Grand Strum Stick – D – I play very well and think the lower key make this version have a more ancient celtic flavor.
Percussion & Drums
Bongo – I play very well and use them in tons of recordings, and to annoy my kids!
Djembe – I play very well and know many styles of beats. I am careful when I track because this instrument can make me really sore for days.
Drums – I play, basic beats with no real flash at all, but I can hold a reliable beat enough to track when I am desperate!
Shakers,Tambourine, Maracas etc. – I play all the little percussive stuff needed when I track.
Hand Drums – I play them pretty well but need to learn some more advanced techniques. I use them to track often.
Digital Controller Pad – Roland Handsonic – I play this well and it’s a really useful tool when tracking. I wish some of the pads were a little bigger though.
Piano – I am a gifted pianist and it’s my primary tracking and composing instrument.
Organ (I first learned keyboard on a Baldwin Fun Machine) I no longer use actual organs but replicate them with digital samples and virtual instruments. I was never an amazing organist but I can play the things.
Roli Seaboard – I use this for tracking now quite frequently but it’s still fairly new to me. It takes quite a concentrated effort to get the feel of these.
Many types of Synthesizers – I have lost count of how many synths I have owned and played.
Keyboard Controllers – Pretty much the same as piano without the sore fingers after a long playing session.