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First blog post

Why I’m here…

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Hello and welcome to Ask a Music Teacher! As a Music teacher I’m always looking for new opportunities to learn and stay ahead of the learning process I go through with students every day, I’ve created this blog as a starting point for all of you out there who may have questions or be stuck on your journey into the music world. I’ll also be running a learning diary of the lastest instrument I’m attempting to learn so you can see the process first hand from a professional!

Happy music making!

Maija

Music as a sport? (Why you “Cant do it?”)

So moving on from those top tips, one of the hardest things to persevere through when learning your new instrument is being asked to do seemingly impossible tasks.

I’m talking about things such as attempting to reach an octave on the piano for the first time, or holding the violin and bow correctly for more than five minutes at a time. This can be a point where many, particularly younger music enthusiasts start to give up altogether on ever being able to play their chosen instrument.

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Peraonally after examining this exact situation on multiple occasions with my own students, and also experiancing this very same frustration with my own endevours to expand my instrumental repertoire, I beleive these issues are exsascerbated by the expectation of learning an instrument as being a skill.

Now don’t get me wrong learning a new instrument is absolutely a new skill. Aurally you’re learning to hear your instrument in much more detail than you would have ever done before. I remember watching the talent shows when I worked as an entertainer and being way overly critical of the participants who chose to sing, the non-singer portion of the audiance however thought they sounded amazing.

Similarly if new to music your probably attempting to read music for the first time, the extra keen of you may even be trying to understand some basic music theory for the first time (no mean feat).

But I often find that the most often ignored or misunderstood aspect of learning an instrument is the physicality. Every different instrument has a unique set of movements and pressures required to create the best tone, and before you can become a pro in your instrument you need to master these.

The good news is you can incorporate this into you rehearsal sessions without having to plan out something focusing purely on this aspect.Think of this as an integral part of you training just as you would in sport and you want go far wrong.

Getting to know your instrument…

So you’ve just open the shiny new package of you’re brand new best friend! But where do you start? Heres the top five things you need to get right before you play a note; even if you’re desperate to get playing!

  1. Getting your posture.

Getting the correct posture for your instrument is the first step to creating the best sound. Not only does it help you pick up on the basics much more quickly and easily; but its also helps your brain to build connections that will help develop your “muscle memory” and help you avoid bad habits in the future!

This goes double for singing, remember when your using your voice you are using your whole body to create the notes rhythm and timbre, so creating the right posture is vital to allow enough air and support in order for your vocal chords to create the right sound!

2. Warming up for your instrument

Whether you’re using an excersize ball to strenghten your grip, or breathing excersizes the expand your lung capacity, just as it is in the excersize world it’s vital to get into the habit of warming up for your instrument! This will strengthen the required muscles for performance, and also allow you to get down to improving much faster in you practise sessions.

3. Making sure you’re instrument is set up and tuned correctly.

This one if not handled correctly can prove to be an expensive lesson depending on you’re instrument! Stringed instruments tend to be the riskiest that I’ve worked with, from making sure theres not too much pressure on any one part of the instrument (Are the strings too tight, is your bow wound too tight) to making sure they are stored correctly to avoid warping and cracks in your instrument. Making sure they are tuned correctly can also save your ears a bit of pain later on!

4. Finding the right finger positions/ hand positions.

Do you remember first learning to type on a smart phone. Chances are that no one taught you. Chances are also that when you first started using one it took an age for you to write a three line message!

The simple fact is we all eventually settle on the easiest methods; I bet you’re holding your phone right now with pinky at the bottom three fingers at the back and typing with your thumb/thumbs.

Equally finger and hand positions were not just invented to make music harder! I can’t count the times I’ve been teaching one of my younger students the guitar or keyboard and they think they’ve found an ingenious new way to play thats “easier”. Flat guitars and one finger playing on the keyboards might help you learn where the notes are but when you want to progress onto scales and chords your going to find it a much bigger hurdle to jump! Do it the right way from the beginning and I promise you you’ll have a much easier time down the road!

5. Getting the right sound out of your instrument.

With some instruments it can be abundantly clear when your not getting the correct timbre (looking at you violin and clarinets) but even if you’re missing the right timbre or “sound” more subtley it means theres something, probably something small, that your just not doing right! With the violin for example not applying the right amount of pressure can result in a squeel, when singing make sure you use scales in warm ups and make sure you’re hitting your notes accurately, without the right sound whatever you’re aiming to play, I’m afraid will sound terrible!

Do you have any other hints and tips for budding musicians? Feel free to comment below.

Maija