While many people around the world will take music lessons at some point, far fewer pursue an instrument to the point of becoming highly proficient. Those who do choose to make music a significant part of their lives work hard to the meet their goal. Here are eight habits proficient musicians don’t do.
1. They don’t get discouraged easily
Learning to play a new instrument can leave people feeling frustrated when progress seems slow or a piece of music is particularly complicated. However, people who become proficient musicians always find a way to push through the difficulties that often accompany the process of mastering an instrument. Great musicians recognize that playing well requires determination, and they don’t give up on the art form when they encounter adversity, choosing instead to see it as an opportunity for growth.
2. They aren’t lazy about their approach to learning music
People who become great musicians know that proficiency does not come without hard work, and they don’t expect to find a shortcut to greatness. Proficient musicians recognize that plenty of practice is the only way that they can learn to play an instrument well, and they are purposeful when they go about it. To become a talented musician, great players set realistic, achievable goals for their practice sessions rather than lazily running through scales or idly playing through whole songs.
3. They don’t hate to practice
In addition to practicing often and purposefully, the best musicians also find enjoyment in the process of practice. For great musicians, practice isn’t seen as a chore or merely another task to be completed, but instead as a positive, personal time that they are dedicating to an activity that they like. To be a truly brilliant player, a person must genuinely love the art of music, which makes practice less of a forced task and more of a pleasant, therapeutic one.
4. They don’t forget the importance of humility
No matter how proficient great musicians become, they remember that there are always new things that they can learn from others. The best musicians recognize and respect that other musicians may have something to teach them, and they remain open to gaining new skills from players who are more experienced than they are or who play in a style that is different from their own. Humility is a crucial part of being a great musician, and those who remain humble about their abilities allow themselves to be open to the development of a more diverse set of musical skills.
5. They don’t see high-quality instruments as a wasteful investment
While beginning musicians can start out by practicing with an instrument of generic quality, musicians who become highly proficient recognize the benefits of investing in a high-quality instrument. Instruments that meet high standards hold tune better, are easier to play, and produce better sounds than their cheaper counterparts. Owning a quality instrument also allows a musician to perform to the best of his or her ability. Additionally, great musicians dedicate effort into the care and keeping of their instruments in order to keep them in prime playing condition.
6. They don’t try to replicate what others are doing
Great musicians don’t aspire to play exactly like everyone else. Instead, they develop their abilities well enough to discover their own unique style and aim to set themselves apart from others. Combining skill and creativity can yield the kind of music that people are enthusiastic about, and it allows a musician to take his or her work from uniformly good to outstanding.
7. They don’t take criticism personally
To be a great musician, one must have a thick skin. The best players do not take constructive criticism personally and find value in the opinions and advice of professionals. Musicians who cannot handle criticism are limited to their own subjective view of their abilities, and will never be able to see their music from a well-rounded perspective. Rejecting constructive criticism can prevent musicians from improving their craft, something that the greatest players always strive to do.
8. They don’t take bad advice to heart
Just as important as knowing when to listen to criticism is knowing when to ignore it. While some suggestions will have merit and allow a good musician to become even better, others rooted in personal opinions will do nothing to improve a musician’s abilities. Great musicians are masters of separating the good advice from the bad and ignoring critics who want to tear them down rather than build them up. The world would be missing the music of some of history’s most beloved performers if those who were rejected for their style, like Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga, and the Beatles, had simply given up.
There are few better things parents can do for their children than to spend quality time with them, and a concert is an event perfect for the whole family. For children who have never attended a concert before, the experience of a first live show can create memories that last a lifetime. Parents who want to make their child’s first concert experience a positive one should consider the following helpful tips.
Before the Concert
1. Make sure that the child is well prepared for the concert experience
Many parents and professionals have differing opinions on the “right” age to take a child to his or her first concert, as there are many factors to consider, including a child’s interest level in music, the venue and style of musical show, and the child’s ability to focus for long periods of time. No matter the type of musical performance, parents should determine whether their children have enough of an interest in music to sit through the majority of a show, and whether the child is ready and able to enjoy this particular kind of experience. There is no universally applicable rule to this decision, so parents should use their best judgment in deciding what is right for their children on an individual basis.
2. Explain the structure of the concert
Before the day of the concert, parents should educate their child about what they can expect to see at the event. For example, if the headlining band has an opening act, children should know ahead of time that there may be a waiting period before the headliner comes on stage. It is also important to let them know what the atmosphere of the concert will be like ahead of time, to prepare them for an unfamiliar environment. If the venue will be loud, crowded, and full of energy, a child who expects to encounter that kind of atmosphere may be better equipped to handle it. Additionally, if the child knows only a few of the band’s songs, it can be helpful for parents to play more of the band’s music around the house or in the car in the weeks leading up to the event. Familiarity with a wider range of songs can help keep children from being bored or disappointed at the show.
The Day of the Concert
1. Be prepared
On the day of the concert, parents should arrive at the venue fully prepared for the evening. This means that children should be fed and should have gotten enough sleep the night before so they are as physically comfortable as possible during the show. Parents should also seriously consider bringing a set of ear plugs for their children to wear during loud concerts, as some members of the medical community have expressed concern over hearing damage to children’s ears at music shows. Additionally, parents must be prepared to leave the concert at a moment’s notice in the event that the child becomes overwhelmed, overly tired, or is generally unhappy.
2. Choose an emergency meeting place
Another important thing that parents must do on the day of a child’s first concert is to establish protocol for what to do should they become separated. Parents should choose a meeting place in the venue and show their child how to locate it. It can be helpful for parents to write the meeting place down on a slip of paper and have the child tuck it into his or her pocket as an extra precaution. While accidents happen, the best option is for parents to make sure to keep a close eye on their child during the concert at all times.
After the Concert
1. Ask your child engaging questions about the show
Once the concert is over, parents should make sure to ask their children questions about the experience. Questioning a child about his or her favorite part of the show, favorite songs from the set, and opinion of the overall experience can bring parents and kids closer together. A child’s first concert is an exciting, memorable event, so he or she will likely have plenty of things to say about it afterward.
2. Encourage a child who comes away from a concert with an interest in music
Going to a live concert for the first time can be an experience that inspires children to make music of their own. Parents should help their children explore their own musical interests long after the concert has passed by offering to take them to music lessons or allowing them to try out different instruments at a music store. Playing an instrument is an enriching hobby that can provide many benefits in a young child’s life, and parents should do what they can to cultivate a child’s interest in the subject if given the opportunity.
It’s a feeling that many performers are familiar with: a racing pulse, trembling hands and knees, nausea, and the inability to sing or even speak without a tremor in your voice. Performance anxiety, known more commonly as stage fright, is a common occurrence among musicians of all experience levels and courses of study. Stage fright can be incredibly inconvenient for talented musicians focused on performing to the best of their ability in front of an audience.
Although there is no simple way to reduce the effects of stage fright, the following seven tips may help nervous musicians to regain some of the calm and control that will allow them to give the confident performance that they know they are capable of delivering.
1. Commit to maintaining a positive attitude.
While the suggestion that a musician should maintain a positive attitude before a performance may seem obvious, it can be an easy thing to forget when one is faced with the anxiety and self-doubt that can occur during a bout of stage fright. Musicians should attempt to recognize when they are engaging in negative or unrealistic thought patterns, such as all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, and catastrophizing. Practicing mindfulness may help to diminish the impact of these feelings, as mindfulness can allow a musician to focus and cultivate a self-awareness that creates inner peace and greater confidence.
2. Show up well-prepared.
Putting in sufficient practice time before a performance is crucial in reducing the effects of stage fright. Musicians who dedicate themselves to practicing become familiar and comfortable with the songs that they perform, leading to less anxiety when it comes time to play on stage. Musicians should diligently use the months leading up to a performance to practice and memorize the mechanics of a song. Once the day of the performance arrives, they should ensure that they do not make last-minute changes and have faith in the work that they have put into their songs.
3. Experiment with smaller performances first.
For some musicians, the idea of playing on a stage to a large audience can seem daunting, but nonetheless it is often a necessary component of pursuing music on an advanced level. Some musicians find it to be less stressful to explore the world of performance on a smaller scale before a big show. Performing intimate concerts for friends and family, appearing at open mic nights at restaurants or coffee houses, and serving as a guest player for another band’s show may help musicians to make an easier transition into the world of large-scale musical performance.
4. Record yourself to gain a different perspective.
Experienced musicians often record themselves in order to objectively listen to their work and gain a more well-rounded idea of the areas in which they can better themselves. While performing, musicians’ attention must be focused not only on the technical aspects of their performance, but also on the fluidity of the sound that they are creating. It can be difficult to get a comprehensive idea of your strengths and weaknesses if you do not make a habit of checking in with yourself through recording. Listening to the music that you play from this perspective will allow you to perform better and have a stronger conviction in your abilities, creating less anxiety prior to a performance.
5. Keep yourself healthy and well-rested.
Exercise, adequate nutrition, and healthy sleep habits are an important part of combatting the effects of stage fright. Some studies suggest that a lack of sleep contributes to the development of anticipatory anxiety—the same kind of stress that one feels before an event such as a presentation at work or a musical show. Research has also shown that diet and exercise are linked to one’s ability to fight off stress. Musicians should use this knowledge to create a healthy lifestyle for themselves that is conducive to fighting off anxiety in general, reducing the likelihood that they will suffer from stage fright.
6. Distance yourself from the idea of perfection.
One mistake that some musicians make that can greatly increase the likelihood of developing stage fright is making perfection the main goal of their performance. While aiming for perfection is an acceptable goal during practice, it can place intense, unnecessary pressure on a musician during a public performance. A goal of that magnitude is not only nearly impossible to attain, but it may cause musicians to perform worse than they would have otherwise, leaving them feeling disappointed in the experience and more nervous when faced with future performances. While it’s fine to pursue perfection during practice sessions, once performance day arrives musicians should focus on enjoying themselves and celebrating their accomplishments in order to help mitigate performance anxiety.
7. Remember that stage fright is common among musicians.
While many professional musicians make an effort to keep their feelings of stage fright under wraps during their careers, plenty of high-profile musicians have been affected by stage fright throughout history, a fact that can be helpful for less experienced musicians to know. Big-name artists such as Adele, Eddie Van Halen, Brian Wilson, Cher, and Ozzy Osbourne have all been vocal about their struggles with stage fright. Even classic performers such as Frederic Chopin and Renee Fleming have admitted to experiencing their share of performance anxiety. With this in mind, it’s important for musicians of all levels of experience to remember that just because they experience stage fright does not mean that they cannot still give incredible performances.
The United States is one of the world’s most prolific producers of popular art. The rich cultures and unique backgrounds of all Americans make the country an ideal place for art to flourish, and this diversity has had an obvious influence on music. People in the United States collectively appreciate a huge range of musical styles, but the most popular genres among Americans are the following four.
Rock and roll, or simply “rock,” originated in America in the 1950s, but quickly spread to England afterward. Each of these two countries played an important role in the development of the genre, but both have their own definition of what rock music is. From a general perspective, rock may be best defined as music with a strong beat that uses electric, amplified instruments to play fast-paced songs, though ballads in rock music are also commonplace.
Rock music would not have found the widespread success that it did without the guitar amplifier, then a new invention, as the amplifiers allowed musicians to play their music louder and to larger audiences than ever before. The intense energy and sense of belonging that young rock bands created for the youth of the mid-20th century carried the genre forward through the decades and allowed it to evolve, rather than die out. Some of the most important early musicians to influence the development of rock include Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix, who each contributed to the sound and lyrical content of the genre.
R&B, which stands for “rhythm and blues,” and hip-hop music are two styles that were grouped together in the late 20th century to represent one larger genre. R&B was the first of the two to enter the American music scene, and the term was used to describe a complex, melodic sound that appeared in the 1930s in African American communities. Inspired by jazz and gospel, the genre also incorporated elements of blues music, but relied on upbeat tempos and witty lyrics rather than the emotional, call-and-response style singing of the blues masters. Eventually, thanks to performers like Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Sam Cooke, this genre spawned what is now known as soul.
R&B continued to evolve, inspiring different styles within the genre, and eventually became one of many influences in the creation of hip-hop in the 1970s and 80s. Born in African American communities in the Bronx, New York, hip-hop is known for the incorporation of turntables, rapping, break dancing, and spoken rhyme into its songs. Pioneering artists in the genre include DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, the Cold Crush Brothers, and Kurtis Blow.
Unlike the rest of the genres included on this list, pop (short for “popular”) music is not easily defined by its characteristics, because they continually evolve and change with the times. Pop music is a name for a form of music that is purposely commercial, designed specifically to appeal to a mass audience. It is written by professionals who attach their names to the music, and thus stands in stark comparison to folk music, which was traditionally written by unknown musicians and achieved mass popularity in America through widespread performance and word-of-mouth in the early 20th century.
In the late 1800s in America, popular music was the kind of songs found in vaudeville or music halls. Later, rock and soul music would dominate the pop charts, an occurrence which continues to influence the pop music of today. No matter which genre of music has the greatest influence on pop at any given moment, most pop songs have a memorable melody, catchy lyrics, and a chorus that repeats several times. The subject matter of pop songs often focuses on the highs and lows of romantic relationships. Modern examples of pop music include songs from artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Adele, and Lady Gaga.
The country genre has a long, rural past—one rooted in the folk traditions of the American South, especially of the Appalachian Mountains. In general, country music encompasses songs made from a simple chord progression and simple, memorable lyrics that tend to follow a storyline. Country music incorporates the sounds of traditional instruments, many of which are stringed, including the banjo, the fiddle, the mandolin, and many different variations of acoustic or steel guitars. Vocalists in this genre also often sing in accented American English, with a “twang” to the voice.
Country music evolved in the homes and gatherings of people from mountain towns long before it was brought to the attention of the public. The first country songs were recorded for larger circulation in the 1920s. Once country hit the radio through broadcasts from programs like the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, the genre inspired a generation of performers. Some of the earliest and most influential names in country music include the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Merle Haggard. Though modern iterations of this style have evolved to incorporate more elements of pop, many artists continue to retain core facets of country music in the lyrical content and vocal style of their songs.
As children enter adolescence, they often have the opportunity to join clubs or participate in new activities that will introduce them to interests that can last a lifetime. Of the school activities that a child can join in on once they reach their high school years, marching band is among the most rewarding—and it gives kids the opportunity to learn many invaluable lessons that will help them grow into well-adjusted adults. Listed below are seven skills and lessons that an adolescent can learn by participating in marching band at school.
Joining marching band means holding oneself accountable for perfecting and memorizing music and drills, and showing up to rehearsals prepared and on time. Those who join marching band must develop self-discipline in order to succeed. They learn to make a commitment and take it seriously, as participation mandates that they put in the requisite effort to make performances sound good and to avoid letting down their peers.
2. Time management
Band practice and performances require a significant amount of a student’s time, and much of it occurs outside of regular school hours. To be in marching band means that students must learn how to manage their time effectively. Not only must they make room for the time-consuming demands of marching band, but they must also balance their schedule to accommodate standard responsibilities like homework and chores. A marching band member’s busy schedule can also teach organizational skills, which are an important part of learning how to keep responsibilities from falling through the cracks.
One of the best things about marching band is that the students who join already have a common interest: music. High school can be a difficult time for adolescents, and having friends who share the same interests can make a significant difference in their levels of happiness. Joining band is a catalyst for friendship, as students are together for long hours, continually working to create a unified sound. Spending a significant amount of time around one another in an effort to create music while traveling to other schools to spread team spirit helps students in band build strong relationships. Many former band students look back and realize that they met lifelong friends through these programs.
Being a part of team that works toward a common goal helps band students to feel a degree of confidence that can often be difficult for teenagers to find. Students who are constantly improving their skills as a musician in a setting where their instrument contributes to a larger objective can give them a sense of personal pride. Additionally, learning to be okay with making mistakes in front of peers and participating in large public performances can help teens overcome inhibitions and self-consciousness, leading to self-esteem that can be applied to other parts of their lives.
Participation in marching band requires teenagers to develop a healthy respect for themselves and for others. For example, band members must learn to give and take constructive criticism respectfully, for the good of the group. When the band leader or a peer tells a student that something about his or her playing style must be changed, the student learns to respectfully accept the criticism, understanding that it is an opportunity to learn, and is not a personal attack. Band members also learn how to be respectful during performances, especially at school games. These adolescents must adhere to a level of professionalism that often requires them to show restraint in instances when they would rather cheer and yell. This shows respect for themselves and for the decorum of their role in generating school spirit.
Band students are exposed to a wide range of new musical styles and skills, many of which are more difficult than any music that they have previously encountered. Learning to play these challenging new pieces of music helps band students learn the value of perseverance, and allows them to understand that learning to play music well is a skill developed through commitment and hard work. This aspect of marching band shows them that not giving up when faced with a difficult task can yield positive results.
Students in marching band quickly learn the value of working with others. Though each person’s contribution is important to the whole of a marching band’s sound, no one musician is more important than another. It differs significantly from the teamwork experienced by those who participate in sports, wherein the primary objective is to work together to take down an opponent. In marching band, the only competition is with the self, and everyone works together as a group to improve over time. Marching band also teaches adolescents to trust others in a team. Teens learn to march and move in unison, trusting that the people around them have practiced and that they won’t run into their peers when their faces are turned a different direction than their feet are moving. In this way, marching band teaches a valuable lesson in learning to rely on other people to achieve a common goal.
There are many reasons why a parent might encourage a child to pursue a musical instrument. Practicing music from a young age can lead to better performance in school, encourage the development of social skills, invoke higher levels of self-esteem, and teach children valuable lessons like patience and cultural awareness.
While the benefits to learning an instrument are many and the process can be stimulating, even the most enthusiastic young musicians may find that practice can sometimes seem less like an exciting challenge and more like a frustrating chore. To inject a little more fun into a child’s music routine, consider the following five tips.
1. Start out small
Young musicians may have a difficult time staying focused for 30 minutes on any task, let alone attempting to master an instrument that they are just becoming familiar with. To fight off boredom, parents should start practice sessions off small, with the first few lessons lasting no more than 10 to 15 minutes each day. As the child progresses and becomes more familiar with the instrument, parents can extend practice durations in small increments, allowing the child to work up to daily practices that last the standard 30 minutes. The point of this approach is to make sure that the lesson ends before the child becomes bored, encouraging him or her to associate music practice with the positive feeling of learning something new and having a good time.
2. Always work toward a goal
One of the most common reasons that new musicians of all ages start to feel unmotivated and bored when learning an instrument is that they do not set goals before practice sessions. The tedious nature of attempting to play through a single song can rob musicianship of its appeal, and the task then becomes one that the child dreads.
To make practice more enjoyable, parents should help children choose goals before every session, such as perfecting a specific, difficult measure of music within a song. To help make this approach entertaining, parents can try using the “three penny” trick to allow the child to keep track of his or her progress during practice. Three pennies are first placed on the left side of the music stand. When the child plays through the difficult measure of music perfectly, he or she then moves one of the pennies to the right side of the stand. The child attempts to play the measure perfectly two additional times, but if at any point he or she makes a mistake, all three of the pennies must be moved back to the left side of the stand. The lesson can be complete when all three pennies have been moved to the right side of the stand, indicating that the measure has been played through without error three times.
3. Incorporate prizes
Using rewards as incentive to accomplish a task is an approach used widely in Western culture, from adult workplaces to children’s classrooms. Reward systems may be applied in the case of music practice as well. While some people see rewards as bribing a child to act a certain way, the use of prizes when a child is learning to play an instrument can improve self-esteem, encourage more effort, and instill greater contentment in the overall process of learning to play. This is best achieved if parents set reasonable, specific goals and abide by consistent rules during the process.
Parents who choose to use a rewards system should consider creating a chart used to account for the number of practices completed or specific music goals achieved. This way, the child can monitor his or her own progress, and learn that rewards come with time and hard work. Examples of good choices for prizes include special privileges like skipping a chore, getting extra time playing video games, picking out a small, inexpensive toy, or enjoying a special occasion such as a sporting event or a day out at the zoo.
4. Take it somewhere new
Adherence to the same routine day in and day out can make any task less enjoyable, and music practice is no exception. A simple way to make time with an instrument more fun for children is to occasionally encourage them to practice in a new space. Consider setting up your child’s music stand and any other necessary supplies in a different part of the house than usual, such as the backyard. The novelty of a new practice space can jumpstart a practice routine that has become monotonous and renew a child’s commitment to learning the instrument.
5. Show interest in their progress
Practice is usually a solo activity, but a parent who takes the time to act as an audience during practice and make encouraging remarks can do much for a child’s self-esteem and confidence. Parents can take this effort a step further by asking their child to demonstrate how to play a note or a chord on an instrument, thus allowing the child to have fun teaching the adult. Being asked for a small lesson reminds children that that even though their progress may be slow, they are still developing a special skill that they can share with others.
Studies have shown that music can have a positive impact on a child’s development as her or she grows, improving skills such as spatial reasoning, literacy, social abilities, and empathy. In addition to encouraging personal development, music also has the potential to create stronger bonds between parent and child. To gain these benefits through musical exploration, consider participating in the following five activities with your child.
Take music lessons together
Learning to play an instrument with your child can be an engaging way to establish a common interest. Your son or daughter’s age and physical dexterity will dictate which instruments he or she is capable of playing in the early years of life. However, once your child reaches the age of 10 or so, he or she will generally be able to take up any instrument.
Because children and adults have different needs when learning to play music, you may not be able to attend the same lessons as your child. However, practicing together at home after separate lessons can create a sense of mutual support, as you’ll both understand the difficulties of working to develop a musical skill. Additionally, playing music together may improve your relationship with your child, as research shows that musicians who play in tandem experience positive feelings toward one another during the performance.
Attend a concert
Bringing your son or daughter to a concert can be an excellent way to foster his or her passion for music while also spending quality time together. There are concerts for literally every genre of music, from classical to R&B and everything in between. It’s your decision when your child is old enough to attend a particular show, but some venues may not allow young kids. Because attending concerts requires a certain level of maturity, taking your child to a performance shows that you trust him or her, and it often creates memories that will last a lifetime.
If you decide to go to a concert as a family, keep in mind that you’ll need to prepare in order to make the experience as safe and enjoyable as possible. Before you go, establish a meeting place in case you and your child are separated in the crowd, go over any rules of behavior, and purchase earplugs to protect your child’s hearing from the loud volume of concert music.
See a musical
If a concert doesn’t interest your child, consider taking him or her to the theater to see a musical production instead. Like concerts, the theater is an adult experience that children can feel excited to be a part of. It’s also an excellent way for you and your child to spend quality time together. As an added benefit, exposure to musicals and live theater in childhood has been shown to improve literary knowledge and increase feelings of empathy and tolerance in children. Classic kid-friendly musicals include Beauty and the Beast, Cats, Annie, The Lion King, and Oliver!, among many others.
It’s important to remember that unlike many concerts, a theater production requires a child to be completely quiet and sit still for a prolonged period of time. To avoid disturbances and complications, be sure to talk to your child ahead of time about what is expected of an audience member. Children should also be well rested and fed before attending a performance.
Toddlers and young kids may be exclusively interested in rhymes and ditties like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or songs they hear on TV shows. However, when your child reaches an age when he or she can appreciate music with more nuance, considering sharing your favorite songs with him or her. According to a study published in 2014, listening to music as a family strengthens bonds, can improve the overall wellbeing of family members, and contributes to the development of a collective identity.
Though your child may not take to your preferred artists or genres, showing them music they have never experienced before encourages musical exploration and allows them to begin developing their own musical tastes. As your child grows older and develops independent musical interests, spend time together listening to his or her favorites. You may not enjoy this music as much as your child does, but showing an interest in his or her preferences can strengthen your relationship. Additionally, listening to your child’s preferred artists can help you keep track of the kinds of messages they’re getting from the music they listen to when you’re not around.
Incorporate music into daily life
The best way to experience music with your children is to make it a standard part of everyday life from an early age. Regular exposure to a wide variety of songs can help your child develop connections in the brain that set him or her up for a lifelong appreciation of music and all the benefits it has to offer.
To incorporate music into your family’s daily schedule, put it on at home any time the circumstances allow. Play music while you cook dinner, while you’re doing chores, and even when it’s time for bed. Create a playlist or CD to listen to when you’re in the car together. In every instance, be open about your own love of music to inspire your child to find joy in it as well.
The standard Western-style orchestra was first assembled in Italy around four centuries ago, but today, orchestras are found all around the world. Listed below are six components of orchestras that allow these large groups of musicians to produce the beautiful, harmonious sound they’re known for.
The average professional orchestra employs 40 to 80 musicians, and each section of instruments in the orchestra has its own hierarchy among the players. Violins are divided into two sections—first violin and second violin. The leader of a section is called the principal and is responsible for demonstrating technique for the rest of the musicians in the section. The principal also plays any solos for his or her specific instrument. Principals act as a motivator, mediator, and teacher, and are the point of communication between the conductor and the section.
At the head of all section principals is the orchestra’s concertmaster, a position that is always held by the principal of the first violin section. The concertmaster not only plays all violin solos within a piece, but also makes sure that all instruments are tuned prior to a performance. He or she also ensures that all members of the strings section observe the correct bowings within a piece. This creates the strings sections’ characteristic cohesiveness, and allows all players to play in unison.
The only person in the orchestra higher than the concertmaster is the conductor. Conductors did not have a role in early orchestras, but today all of the United States’ most accomplished philharmonic and symphonic orchestras rely on them to lead. The conductor uses his or her arms and hands to express directions to the players, allowing musicians to know how loudly and quickly to play, as well as when to cease playing. He or she is responsible for selecting and interpreting music for the orchestra, and balances the sound as the piece progresses. The guidance of the conductor allows musicians to work together as a unit in order to create a flawless, unified sound.
The percussion instruments are typically situated at the very back of the orchestra, furthest from the conductor’s podium. The percussion has the widest variety of instruments of the five sections, and consists of any instrument that can be struck by a stick, beater, or the hand. It also includes instruments that must be shaken or rubbed to produce a sound. Standard instruments in this family include the drums, xylophone, timpani, gongs, and cymbals, among others. The role of the percussion in an orchestra is crucial, as this group sets the rhythm for the rest of the musicians to follow.
While the piano, organ, and harpsichord are often considered members of the percussion section in the orchestra due to their ability to provide rhythm to the music, they are more accurately identified as keyboard instruments. While this section is not present in all orchestras, it has become more common to see them onstage with the more traditional instruments in recent years. They are also positioned toward the back, near the percussion section.
Musicians who play brass instruments are usually seated in front of the percussion section. The brass section contains the loudest instruments in the orchestra, including trumpets, horns, tubas, trombones, and bass trombones. The instruments in the brass section may vary depending on the style of music and the interpretation of the conductor. As the name suggests, these instruments are fashioned from brass pipes formed into shapes that produce different sounds when the musician blows into them through a mouthpiece. Because of their capacity for volume and the bright quality of their sound, brass instruments often make ideal solo instruments in upbeat, exultant moments within a composition. It is important that a conductor takes care to correctly lead the brass section within a piece so that its commanding sound does not overpower the others.
The woodwinds section is a diverse body of instruments played by musicians sitting in the middle of the orchestra, in front of the brass section. Flutes, piccolos, oboes, clarinets, bass clarinets, and bassoons are all common woodwind instruments. All produce a pleasant, consistent sound when played together, though each instrument differs in range and pitch. The musicians’ use of breath to play these instruments allows them to create diverse sound effects, including vibrato, staccato, and legato phrasing. Woodwind instruments with a higher pitch, like the flute, most often follow the melody of a piece while the lower-toned woodwinds, like the bassoon, more often play supportive parts that contribute to the harmonies in a song.
The strings section makes up the largest portion of the orchestra, with two or three times more musicians than the other four. However, the strings section generally features just four types of instruments. The strings section sits at the front of the orchestra, with the violins to the conductor’s left, the violas in front, and the cellos and double basses to the right. The violin and the viola produce higher musical tones, while the cello and double bass produce low ones. The members of this section are often responsible for taking on the bulk of the melody within a song. The violin group within the strings section is arguably the most prominent and renowned of all the orchestral instruments, and is featured prominently in orchestral compositions. Apart from the standard four instruments, the strings section on occasion may also feature a harp or guitar.
Music education articles and blogs espouse the benefits of learning to play an instrument at a young age. We know that musicianship aids in brain development, empathy, and the development of social skills, and may set young students up for a lifetime of positive response to music in many forms. What is less publicized is the many ways in which picking up an instrument for the first time later in life can bring joy and excitement to the lives of adults. For those who are thinking about pursuing the dream of learning to play music as an adult, here are seven tips that will help you make the most of the experience.
1. Open your mind and be teachable
After years of developing professional skills and learning life lessons, it can be difficult for some adult beginners to play the role of student again. However, if you want to grow as a musician, you must make sure that you put yourself in a teachable mindset. Seek out an accomplished instructor whose skills are demonstrably better than your own, and allow him or her to guide you through the process of learning to play. Closing your mind to learning from another adult will only hinder your ability to make progress and ultimately, frustrate you further.
2. Know what you enjoy
One advantage that adult beginners have over their younger counterparts is that they have had a much longer period of time to develop personal music tastes. As an adult who wants to learn an instrument, you should go into the hobby knowing what type of music you like, and let that knowledge guide you toward choosing an instrument that really speaks to you. The more that you enjoy an instrument, the more likely you are to follow through with lessons and practice, thus increasing the likelihood you will become proficient. Do yourself a favor and spend more time thoughtfully choosing the type of instrument that you want to play and less time cycling through different options just to find one you think you should play.
3. Apply self-discipline to your practice
Another advantage that adult beginners have over young beginners is that as a whole, adults have a more developed sense of self-discipline, which allows them to persevere independently though difficult periods of instruction. Make sure to remember the value of self-discipline if you reach a point in your lessons where you are struggling to improve and feel tempted to give up. Hold yourself accountable for routine practices and know that, with enough practice, you are capable of success. Self-discipline will also be important in your ability to make time in your schedule for practice alongside the demands of work, family, and social life.
4. Set realistic goals
While certain beginners may have a more natural ability to play than others, it’s important for all adults to pursue a new instrument with a realistic goal in mind. Go into the process of learning an instrument knowing that the goal will take ample time and effort, and even then you should not expect to become a virtuoso. The more flexible you are about your goals, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the progress that you make, and the more enjoyable that learning an instrument will be.
5. Understand the necessity of patience
In conjunction with setting realistic goals, it’s important for adult beginning musicians to never underestimate the role that patience plays in the process of learning music. It’s important to remember that fundamentals are not beneath you as an adult learner. People of all ages need a strong foundation on which to build their musical proficiency. Additionally, recognize that there is no way to speed up the process of learning, and don’t feel defeated if your progress is not moving along as quickly as you would like. Don’t worry about struggling with concepts, and don’t give in to fear of failure. Give yourself time to grow into your abilities, and celebrate every musical milestone of your success along the way.
6. Find likeminded people to practice with
Children often learn instruments in group settings, and the community element of that experience can have a big impact on their enjoyment of the process and the development of new skills. When you’ve practiced enough to feel comfortable with your basic abilities as a musician, consider seeking out other amateur adults in group music workshops or local jam sessions to further your abilities. Playing with others not only teaches you the nuances of working together as a group to produce a sound, but it also can provide a reassuring sense of community and an opportunity to make new friends.
7. Remember that you’re never too old to learn
Never think that you are too old to pick up an instrument for the first time. While music may be easier for a child to learn in some ways, there are many qualities exclusive to the adult set that make pursuit of an instrument much simpler. As an adult, you are much more likely to understand abstract concepts, more likely to stay committed to learning an instrument, and more likely to truly appreciate the skill, because no one is forcing you to learn. Stay focused and enjoy the process without giving your age a second a thought.
No matter what sparks your initial interest in playing music, making the decision to take up an instrument can be a rewarding experience that comes with many personal benefits. To take advantage of everything that musicianship has to offer, you must make sure to persevere through the more difficult aspects of practice. Listed below are four common reasons that can cause you to give up on learning before you’ve truly developed a musical talent, as well as tricks to help you avoid these pitfalls.
1. Choosing the wrong instrument
Choosing the wrong instrument is one of the most surefire ways to diminish the likelihood that you will follow through on your musical goals. It is unwise to select an instrument simply because it is accessible, seems simple, or is one that a friend plays. These reasons are not likely to encourage long-term pursuit of the goal.
Instead, choose an instrument used by players in the genres of music you enjoy. With an appreciation for a musical style at the root of your decision, it’s also important to keep other factors in mind, such as whether you want to play with other people or whether you want to sing while you play. If you’re social and would like to eventually be able to play in a group, consider accompaniment instruments like the bass, mandolin, or violin. If you prefer to play solo, consider an instrument that can carry a song independently such as acoustic guitar or piano. These two instruments will also serve you well if you want to sing along with your playing, as they work as standalone and supportive instruments to accompany a voice.
2. Setting your expectations too high
Setting goals is an important part of learning to play an instrument. However, setting your goals and expectations too high may result in disappointment, and may ultimately lead you to give up the practice. Assuming that you will be able to play an instrument well, quickly, and without ample practice will frustrate you when the reality of the process sets in, and it can lessen the enthusiasm you feel for playing your instrument.
To prevent this kind of dissatisfaction, set smaller, achievable goals, such as learning a scale over the course of a few weeks instead of expecting to master it in a day. Understand that developing an ability to play music takes time and dedication, and that your work in learning to practice may not immediately seem as though it is paying off. You need plenty of patience and regular, efficient practice if you want to become adept at playing an instrument; talent can’t be developed otherwise. Work toward small goals and appreciate each achievement you make along the way, focusing on the long-term payoff of diligent practice.
3. Studying with the wrong music teacher
Though many people attempt to teach themselves through books or online videos, having a music teacher comes with advantages that other instructional resources do not offer. If you do choose to attend lessons with a music teacher, keep in mind that no two instructors are alike, and he or she should be the right fit for your learning style. Studying with the wrong teacher can lead to discontentment with your lessons and less desire to practice, which may threaten your commitment to mastering an instrument.
Online resources like www.takelessons.com will allow you to browse piano teachers near you and read more about their experience. Recommendations for piano teachers can also often be found at your local music store. If you begin lessons with one teacher and find that he or she does not provide enough encouragement or support to meet your personal needs, consider looking for a new teacher. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way toward helping a new music student make progress, and having a positive experience during your lessons will make you more inclined to enjoy learning and persevering through the difficult parts of practicing music.
4. Selecting an instrument in poor condition
If the instrument that you buy or rent to practice on is not of a reasonable caliber and condition, you will not enjoy learning to play. Cheaply made instruments do not produce a high-quality sound and are often much more difficult to play than well-made ones. Likewise, a well-made instrument that has not been taken care of or has suffered extensive wear may not function the way it was meant to, thus hindering your ability to learn on it.
If you are serious about learning to play, consider making an investment in an instrument of good quality. Doing so will spare you the frustrations that accompany the purchase of an inexpensive one, which often discourages players from wanting to practice and may lead to abandonment of the art. Practicing an instrument for the first time is already a challenging process, and beginners don’t need the extra burden of learning to play on a subpar instrument to further complicate the routine.