As guitarists, we certainly love to play things with strings! As someone who wanted to play several guitar-related instruments that I was falling in love with, I rapidly went towards the idea of becoming a “semi” multi-instrumentalist! The reason I say “semi” is because I feel that as long as I have something with strings on it, I see it as “guitar-related!” This includes Dobro, slide guitar (which to me, is a different instrument!), pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, Ukulele and mandolin. Now, I feel pretty proficient at all of them, but some more than others, of course. The main thing for you to think of when playing multiple instruments is the adjustment to how they are tuned differently. Many of the multi-instrument players of the old days, like Tommy Tedesco, for example, would play banjos, mandolins etc., but they’d always make them into something tuned like a guitar, so they’d be able to relate to the tuning, but while getting the authentic sound the producer wanted!
So, in this form of adjustment for example, a mandolin may be tuned E, B, G and D, as opposed to its traditional E, A, D and G. Same sound, different voicings. Most folks who are listening don’t really know the difference, and it’s usually on the player who knows the true story. I prefer to really know the new instrument, but it’s always in relation to what I know already on the guitar, and how this new tuning and instrument relates to what I know on the guitar. This is especially true with the other 6-string instruments such as Dobro and also the slide guitar tunings, as we now must adjust our playing to accommodate the new voicings and structures that are imposed on us by the new tunings! It’s actually a very fun process, and in a kind of “reverse” manner, we end up learning more about the guitar to begin with!
Getting used to the different physical properties of the new axes of choice is really one of the biggest hurdles, as for example, with the mandolin, you have 8 strings that are doubled up, and you certainly now cannot barely bend a string at all…..that’s a HUGE difference for me!! Also, when dealing with open tunings, it’s important to learn to play your chords in all their new positions and voicings. It’s a little daunting, but certainly something worth learning! So good luck in becoming a multi-instrumentalist, and believe me, if it has strings, a guitarist should be able to do it!!!