People may choose to take music lessons later in life for a variety of reasons. Some seek to play an instrument for the many health benefits that studies show music can provide for older adults. Others may learn to play because the hobby has been on a lifelong “bucket list” of things that they want to accomplish. Still another reason that an adult may decide to become a musician later in life is the desire to join a band - an experience that can provide a fun opportunity to engage in a hobby while socializing with likeminded individuals.
Adults who want to learn how to make music with the goal of becoming a member of a musical group should consider taking lessons in any of the following instruments commonly used by people in bands.
While some forget to think of the voice as an instrument, vocals are a key element in a majority of music. The lead vocalist is often the focal point of a band, holding the responsibility of interpreting and delivering a song’s lyrics to the audience. A lead vocalist sings the lead line or melody part of a song, and in some cases, is supported by backing vocalists, who complement the lead with harmony parts.
Those who want to provide vocals in a band should enroll in singing lessons. These allow a beginning musician to strengthen his or her vocal muscles and learn to sing in a way that is best suited to the tone, range, and natural style of that person’s voice. Some people who choose to provide vocals in a band supplement their contribution to the music by learning another instrument that they can play while singing, or learn how to write the songs that the band plays.
The keyboard is an excellent instrument for an adult beginner who is drawn to the sound and graceful nature of the piano, but wants to take his or her talents to the stage. While some bands may choose to incorporate a traditional piano, the keyboard is not only transported more easily between gigs, but also offers a more versatile set of sounds for a musician to work with.
On a keyboard, a musician can produce everything from melodic, classical grand piano sounds to synthesizers and warm, electric tones. The keyboardist in a band typically plays supportive parts that deftly complement the work of the other musicians and set the tone of the song in the background.
To learn to play keyboards in a band, an individual can choose to take traditional piano lessons or may opt for lessons specific to keyboards. Though lessons vary stylistically by teacher, keyboard lessons tend to focus on teaching a student to play melody notes with the right hand while forming block chords with the left. Conversely, piano lessons tend to give students a greater range of ability by training them to play melody and block chords with both hands.
The bass may be the most underappreciated instrument in music. According to an article published on Guitar World Magazine’s website, a recent study found that the bassist may be the most important player in a band. Studies on test subjects’ abilities to detect discrepancies in low and high frequency tones in music indicated that listeners are more likely to notice flaws in the bassline compared to those in the scales played by the lead guitarist. This requires bass players to be extremely competent at providing rhythmic and harmonic foundation to a song.
The standard bass has a body similar to that of a guitar, but is equipped with four much thicker strings that emit low tones. Adult beginners who take bass lessons will learn to play single, root notes that provide the integral support other musicians need to create balanced, well-rounded music.
Like the bass, the drums do not receive the level of recognition that they deserve, but have an indispensable role in the creation of quality music. The drummer is commonly known as the “backbone” of the band, and his or her ability to perfectly time a song by playing a steady beat is what enables other musicians to play together cohesively.
Some beginners will select drums as their instrument of choice because they have natural rhythm and coordination that lends itself to developing a true talent on the instrument. However, many professional instructors within the music industry assert that almost anyone can learn to play the drums well with proper lessons and a dedication to regular practice.
5. Electric guitar
The electric guitar is the instrument that springs to mind first for many people when they think of the instruments in a band. Since it was first invented in the early decades of the 20th century, the electric guitar has changed the course of music, transforming the pop genre specifically through the work of legends like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Chuck Berry. It is an iconic instrument that is one of the most popular among music students in the United States.
Bands often have two electric guitarists - one who plays the rhythm part of a song, and one who plays the lead, or a pair of guitarists who share both roles. The rhythm guitarist is the one who fills out a tune by playing full chords that are on beat with the rest of the musicians. This provides a strong layer of music for the lead guitarist to play over. Accomplished lead guitarists have a significant influence over the music’s overall style, and must develop strong technical and improvisational skills that allow them to blend guitar solos neatly into the tune created by the rest of the band.
Though much has already been written about the effects of music on child development, researchers continue to discover new benefits for babies and children who are exposed to music from an early age. To better understand the ways that music can have a positive, lasting impact on the lives of children, parents should be aware of the following seven facts.
1. Children can distinguish between types of music before their first birthday.
Though most children have only just begun to develop the ability to speak words at 12 months of age, researchers from Brigham Young University have discovered that babies as young as 9 months are able to recognize a difference in music that is upbeat and happy and music that is gloomy and sad.
Another study from Canada’s McGil University showed that babies as young as 8 months are capable of differentiating between types of instruments, noting that they showed an awareness of difference between the sound of a piano recital and that of an orchestral performance. The same research also indicated that babies of this age had the ability to recognize a piece of music two weeks after they were first introduced to it.
2. Music can help children develop stronger literacy and language skills.
Regular exposure to music has been shown to have a significant impact on literacy and language development in children. The human brain takes an approach to processing music similar to the one it uses understanding language. As a result, listening to music from a young age can help children develop the skills necessary to decode and link words - a key factor in learning to read.
Music further contributes to the development of literacy skills by helping children to develop cognitive skills like auditory discrimination and sequencing, and vocabulary expansion.
3. Social and emotional skills can be developed through music.
Along with providing cognitive benefits, music can also positively impact children’s socio-emotional development. A study of preschoolers showed that activities that required children to move and listen to music were likely to promote cooperation, group cohesion, and positive social interaction among the participants.
Preschool-aged children who participated in dancing and singing activities together also showed greater signs of empathy for the children with whom they engaged in the activity. As with adults, music also provides children with a way to bond with peers, and a love for the same songs or type of music can encourage social connections. Overall, music can also help children with emotional development by giving them a tool to use in the process of self-expression and the recognition of new emotions.
4. Children can begin taking music lessons at a very early age.
Though many parents prefer to wait until a child is at least 5 or 6 years old to begin music lessons, some pediatricians suggest that children may begin formal training on an instrument at an age as young as 3. The capacity to take lessons this young primarily depends on a child’s physical size and dexterity. This is because some children at 3 years old are not large enough or have yet to develop the motor skills necessary to manipulate certain instruments, such as the piano.
Research shows that children who participate in formal lessons from a young age have a better capacity for memory and show brain development that is different from children who do not receive musical instruction.
5. Music can benefit children with disabilities.
Children with special needs also benefit from regular exposure to music in many of the same ways as typically-developing children. This includes children living with autism, cerebral palsy, childhood apraxia of speech, and learning disabilities.
Therapists have found that music’s capacity to help people bond, communicate without words, get motivated, and express themselves give it the power to improve quality of life for children with disabilities. It has also been shown that music may improve the emotional state of children who have experienced trauma or have undergone major medical procedures, and may even ward off the effects of anxiety and depression.
6. Children who take music lessons may get into less trouble.
As children grow older, statistics show that those who participate in school-sponsored music programs such as band or orchestra are less likely to use tobacco, drugs, or alcohol than their peers. Children with a history of music instruction also tend to have higher levels of academic achievement, higher SAT scores, and earn more awards and academic honors than their counterparts.
7. Some smartphone apps can help children develop music skills.
While it isn’t the case for all games available on iOS and Android, some smartphone apps can help children develop music skills in a fun, easily accessible way. Groups like Common Sense Media and online periodicals like The Guardian have designated apps like Loopimal, Crayola DJ, ABC Music, Toca Band, and Mini Piano as educational apps. This is because they provide children of all ages with the opportunity to explore their creativity and compose music of their own.
According to data collected by Gallup, over 50 percent of American households have at least one person over the age of four who plays a musical instrument. Of this group of musicians, over three-quarters of people began to play their chosen instrument before they reached age 11. Taking up an instrument in childhood can be a rewarding and developmentally beneficial experience, but in order to make the most out of it, parents should make sure that their kids know these important facts before beginning music lessons.
1. Let children know that they have a say in which instrument they get to practice
Depending on a child’s age, he or she may have already expressed some interest in learning to play a specific instrument. In these instances, parents should consider allowing their children to pursue chosen musical passions freely, no matter how untraditional the instrument may be. If children are forced to study music in a way that does not interest them, the experience may cause them to reject the study of music altogether.
If a child is younger or has never developed a particular interest in one type of instrument, it is important for parents to help the child choose an instrument based on the child’s age and personality. In these cases, it’s important that new music students understand that they are allowed to have input in the decision, and should be allowed to explore as many options as possible before settling on one instrument. Research shows that the students most likely to give up on music lessons are those who are paired with instruments that they don’t enjoy learning to play. Essentially, giving children some autonomy over music lesson choices may help them feel more invested in the activity.
2. Make it clear that learning to play well will not happen immediately
Young music students may become discouraged and disinterested in an instrument if they do not understand that learning to play proficiently requires practice, time, and patience. This is especially true of perfectionist children, who are often frustrated when they make mistakes. Parents must make sure to explain to young musicians that learning to play an instrument requires skills that must be built over time, and failure to master these skills right away is an expected part of the process. It can be useful for parents to stress that there is no reason to feel bad about errors, and pushing through the difficulties they experience makes them better learners in general—and better musicians in particular.
3. Establish that learning an instrument is a long-term commitment
New musicians should know before they take up an instrument that music lessons must be a long-term commitment. Research shows that the mindset young students have when beginning music lessons can have a significant effect on how accomplished they eventually become at playing the instrument. A new musician who agrees to take music for more than a single year can see up to a four-fold success rate in performance compared to students who commit to only one year of lessons. However, a long-term commitment to music lessons does not necessarily mean that they must continue to play an instrument that they are not enthusiastic about. Parents should be open to allowing their children to switch instruments if, after several months of practice, they have lost interest in playing the initial instrument; as long as they continue to take some form of music lessons over the long term, they should be allowed to explore new musical opportunities as desired.
4. Convey that working hard is more important than natural ability
Whether or not a child is inherently musically inclined, parents should make sure to focus on praising the child’s efforts rather than his or her natural abilities. Praising effort and hard work may motivate children to take more risks and learn from the mistakes that they make along the way, whereas focusing on talent alone may cause them to avoid risk in an effort to maintain their appearance as a “natural.” Stressing the importance of dedication and hard work can also drive a child to practice more often and with more focus than those who are told that they have natural talent. Ultimately, the hardworking child who engages in dedicated, thorough practice will become more proficient than a child with natural abilities who practice infrequently and without direction.
5. Share your own feelings on music with your child
In addition to providing children with a platform that allows them to develop a stronger capacity for self-expression, better social skills, and improved cognitive function, music also serves as an excellent way for parents and kids to bond. A parent’s influence on a young child is strong, and those who relay their own positive experiences with music to their children may strengthen the budding musician’s resolve to develop their own musical talents and tastes. Parents should look for opportunities to expose their children to favored songs and instruments before music lessons begin, and allow children to share their own thoughts and preferences on the subject as well.
Counted among the oldest instruments in the history of mankind, drums have long been established as a crucial component of many modern musical genres. From rock music to funk and even some classical compositions, drums have been providing rhythm and influencing the style of bands for centuries. These common questions and answers about drums will inform those who want to learn more about playing the versatile instrument.
Q: What does a standard drum kit setup look like?
A: In general, drum kits are assembled to reflect the personal preferences of individual drummers. However, most standard-size drum sets generally include a snare drum; a high, mid, and low tom; a crash cymbal; a ride cymbal; a hi-hat cymbal; and a bass drum (also known as a kick drum). Both the hi-hat cymbal and the kick drum are played using a foot pedal. An essential, non-musical component of a drum kit is the stool that a drummer sits on, also known as a throne.
Q: Is there more than one kind of drumstick?
A: Yes, there are many different types of drumsticks that players can use to generate different sounds on a kit. Sticks tend to fall into one of three main categories: classic sticks, brushes, and dowels and rutes. Classic drumsticks may be made of oak, maple, or hickory wood, and feature natural, nylon, or plastic tips in different shapes that correspond to the genre of music a drummer is playing.
Brushes, on the other hand, are primarily made with a collection of wire bristles attached to a rubber, plastic, aluminum, or wood handle to create a gentle, swooshing sound commonly used in jazz music. Rutes also create a lighter sound than classic sticks, as they are most often fashioned from a collection of birch dowels bundled together and attached to the handle of a drumstick. Rutes and dowels may be used in acoustic sets to prevent the drums from overpowering the instruments of other musicians.
Q: What can new players do to develop their drumming skills more quickly?
A: The only real way to become proficient at the drums is through practice—but the way that one approaches practice can have a significant impact on the speed at which new drumming skills develop. One of the most common and efficient methods that drummers can use to improve their abilities is to take video of their practice sessions. When they watch the playback, they can see aspects of their playing style that they were not aware of before, giving them the opportunity to correct mistakes before they become bad playing habits. Video helps not only to highlight inaccuracies, but to provide musicians with a steady record of their progress on an instrument.
Q: How do different types of drum shells impact the instrument’s sound?
A: The shell of a drum plays a major role in the instrument’s sound. Shells may be made of various woods, metals, or synthetic materials, and each type of drum shell creates a sound with different high, mid, and low frequencies when struck. The most popular woods used to create shells include maple, birch, beech, oak, mahogany, poplar, and basswood, while the most popular metal materials include steel, brass, aluminum, copper, and bronze.
Q: Are there any personal benefits to learning the drums?
A: Research has shown that playing the drums can actually have a positive impact on mental health. Scientists who have studied the neurological effects of playing drums note that drummers experience a process called “hemispheric synchronization”—a process that causes both the left and right hemispheres of the brain to work simultaneously. The professionals involved in the study compare this kind of neurological activity to the mental state of a person who is in a state of deep meditation, as it allows the drummer to be both relaxed and full of energy at the same time. The study indicated that the positive effects of drumming even had the capacity to lessen the effects of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Q: What should new musicians know when purchasing their first drum kit?
A: The primary factor to consider before choosing a first drum set is the style of music that it will be used for. Musicians who want to focus on playing songs in genres like blues, acoustic, or jazz should look for smaller kits with fewer drums than musicians who have a desire to play heavy metal, rock, and other loud styles.
Those who are unsure of which genre of music they would like to play can easily purchase an affordable beginning drum kit with the basic toms, bass drum, snare, and cymbals. A beginning drum kit is a moderate investment that allows new drummers to explore the instrument and make a decision about the direction they would like to take after they have had the opportunity to develop fundamental skills. For young beginning drummers, it may be prudent to invest in a junior drum set to give the child the opportunity to practice on a kit that is suited specifically to their size.
Bluegrass is one of the United States’ truly original musical genres. Its origins lie in the music of early 17th-century English, Irish, and Scottish settlers, who began to write songs about their daily lives in areas such as the Carolinas, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Previously relegated to live performances in the mountain towns of the American South, this rural, acoustic genre first received widespread exposure after the invention of the phonograph and the growth in popularity of the radio, as well as the influence of African American gospel and blues songs of the 1930s and 40s. Its distinguishing sound is best identified through the presence of the following four traditional bluegrass instruments.
The term “fiddle” actually refers to the instrument that, in genres like jazz or classical, is simply called a violin. Fiddles and violins are built the same way—with the same traditionally wooden body styles equipped with four or five strings. Both are capable of reaching a range of notes between G3 and A7 and are played using a stringed bow. The only physical differences that may be present between a fiddle and violin are based on player preference. Where a violin player may prefer to use strings with cores made of gut or synthetic material, the fiddle player uses steel core strings to make music.
Another small difference can be the shape of the instrument’s bridge, which is typically arched in violins, but may be flattened when the instrument is played as a fiddle. This flatness allows for a fiddle player to use the double and triple-stop bowing techniques characteristic of bluegrass music. The only true and undeniable difference that distinguishes a fiddle from a violin is in the way that a musician plays the instrument. Musicians who play the violin have a style that is precise and technical, lending to structurally complex, traditional music. Comparatively, music played on the fiddle is less structurally complex, but necessitates fast, highly advanced abilities in areas like string-bending and multiple stop-bowing—key elements of creating lively music with rhythm and melodic lift.
The mandolin, a small, stringed instrument with a short neck, is considered to be a modern-day cousin of the Italian lute from the mid-18th century. It features eight strings paired in sets of two, with each set tuned to the same notes as the strings on the fiddle: G, D, A, and E. While the mandolin enjoyed initial success with the American middle class at the turn of the 20th century, it was largely forgotten by the time famed bluegrass player Bill Monroe brought his Gibson F-5 mandolin to the Grand Ole Opry Stage in 1939. Bill Monroe today is known as the “father of bluegrass music,” and his technique of picking leading melodies on the mandolin was almost as influential as his invention of “the chop”—a form of percussion performed by strumming muted strings. Today, these techniques are genre standards, and mandolin players may back up the music by chopping on the offbeat, or may stand in for the voice to fill vocal holes with tremolo or fast picking solos.
Though appearing to be simple in design, the banjo is a highly unique and intricate instrument that originated in West Africa. Its construction is made up of two main parts: the pot assembly and the neck. The pot assembly is essentially a drum, which today is stretched with a membrane made from plastic, but in the past was made from animal skin. Connected to the pot assembly is the neck, made from wood, and strung with five strings, only four of which reach the peghead at the top of the instrument. The fifth string is attached to a tuning peg halfway up the side of the banjo’s neck. This shorter fifth string is one of the elements that gives the banjo its unique sound. While other stringed instruments have strings organized in an order that progresses from low notes to high notes, the fifth string of the banjo plays the highest note on the instrument, but is located above the string that plays the lowest note. Because of this unusual string order, banjo players have developed distinct playing styles that are set completely apart from those played on the mandolin or guitar. In bluegrass, the banjo is typically played using roll patterns, in which a musician plays quickly using the pointer and middle fingers along with the thumb to quickly pick individual strings. This creates a fast-paced sequence of notes that help to drive the tempo of a bluegrass song forward, providing it with a characteristic sound.
The acoustic guitar didn’t become a major part of bluegrass music until later into the genre’s development, around the 1920s. It began as a mere backup instrument, establishing a base rhythm for the lead banjo and fiddle players to follow. As bluegrass guitar playing became more technical and diverse throughout the middle part of the 20th century, it earned recognition as a crucial background element of the bluegrass sound. However, it was still not until the 1960s that musicians like Doc Watson and Clarence White truly brought the guitar into the spotlight as a worthy lead instrument in the genre. Today, lead breaks for guitarists are much more common in bluegrass music, yet the guitarist is still likely to be playing rhythm throughout the majority of the song. The instrument is most often used in a supportive manner wherein the guitarist helps maintain a constant tempo that allows the whole band to play cohesively.
Many parents encourage their children to pursue music lessons, knowing that learning an instrument can have a positive effect on one’s academic ability, social skills, and self-esteem. Most often, young students take lessons to learn how to play popular instruments such as the piano, guitar, or violin. However, there are many less common options that can be equally as exciting. Here are five unique alternative instruments that prospective music students can learn to play.
The harp is one of the world’s oldest instruments. Art from the tombs of ancient Egyptians suggest that it was played as far back as 3,000 BC. Comprised of a triangle-style frame and equipped with 47 strings, the modern concert version of the harp is between 70 and 75 inches tall and can weigh as much as 90 pounds. To play the instrument, harpists sit down and lean the frame against their right shoulder, with one leg on each side of the frame. They then use their fingertips and the thumbs of both hands to strum or individually pluck the strings, which are tuned to the notes of the white keys on a piano. Seven foot pedals located at the base of the instrument allow harpists to alter the pitch of the strings and generate the notes of a piano’s black keys. Harps are often found in professional orchestras and are a key component of Celtic music. They are particularly popular in Ireland.
Although the ukulele is noted as being a popular part of Hawaiian culture today, the instrument actually traces its origins to a Portuguese island called Madeira. Madeirans played a similar instrument called a “machete de bragas,” which they brought to Hawaii when they immigrated to the Hawaiian Islands looking for work. Ukuleles, which are shaped like small guitars, are available in four sizes, ranging from 20 to 30 inches long. They have four nylon stings that are plucked or strummed, and are traditionally made from wood. Common woods used to create ukuleles include mahogany, koa, and spruce. The ukulele is a fun and relatively uncomplicated instrument to learn, and it has experienced a significant increase in popularity in recent years among people of all age groups.
An instrument with an exceptionally distinct sound, the bagpipes can be heard predominantly in Celtic and traditional Scottish music, although some rock bands also incorporate them into songs. To play the bagpipes, musicians use a blowpipe to breathe air into a bag that is typically made from cow or elk hide, but they can also be made from a synthetic material today. The air from the bag is pushed through a pipe called a chanter, which may be equipped with either one or two reeds. The musician plays the chanter with two hands while routinely blowing air into the bag in order to allow the instrument to continuously produce sound. At the same time, air flows into one or more tubes equipped with reeds called drones, which emit a continuous note that serves as the base of the song. The chanter can then play the melody of the song over the top of the drone’s notes. The bagpipes are often played at important events and ceremonies in the United Kingdom and Ireland, such as weddings, military events, and parades.
Invented in Russia as a byproduct of research into proximity sensors, the theremin is unique even among the instruments on this list because it is fully electronic. Composed of parts used to build radio receivers, the theremin features a metal loop on its left side and a metal antenna on its right, between which it produces two high-frequency circuits. When a theremin player moves his or her right hand through the air in front of the antenna, heterodyne frequencies are created and then amplified through a speaker located in the body of the instrument. In order to control the volume of the sound, the musician moves his or her left hand to different heights over the top of the loop. The sound created by the theremin is comparable to that of the human voice, and although it can only produce a single note at a time, it does have a five-octave range. The theremin can be heard in the music of bands such as Led Zeppelin, the Bee Gees, and The Flaming Lips.
While many people associate the harmonica solely with American blues music, it is actually based on the Chinese “Sheng,” a free-reed instrument invented thousands of years ago. The harmonica that the world knows today first gained popularity in early 19th century Germany before it was brought to North America in the mid-1860s. The standard Western harmonica (known as the diatonic harmonica) is small and rectangular, and it has 10 small holes on its side. Inside the instrument are two reeds that vibrate and produce 10 distinct notes when a musician blows air into the holes. When a musician breathes inward, an additional 10 notes can be produced, giving the instrument the ability to produce a total of 20 notes. Apart from the diatonic form of the instrument, the harmonica is also available in chromatic, tremolo, and octave versions, which produce different ranges of notes and sounds. Harmonicas can also be designed to produce notes in particular scales, such as a minor scale.
The piano is one of the most widely played instruments in the world—and for good reason. The versatile instrument, which is capable of producing music with depth, power, and nuance, allows musicians to play either independently or with others. Despite the many benefits that the piano has to offer, a belief in the following seven myths about learning to play the instrument can hold students back from reaching their potential as pianists.
1. The myth: It’s too late in life for me to learn to play the piano.
The reality: Age should not be a factor in determining whether or not someone can learn to play the piano. While there are many developmental benefits to taking lessons as a child, learning to play the piano as an adult can be just as gratifying, and in some cases, perhaps even more so. Children forced to take piano lessons at an early age may become bored and frustrated, making them unwilling to pursue the instrument into adulthood. Conversely, adults who make the choice to pursue the piano later on in life may find more satisfaction in learning to play.
2. The myth: As an adult, I’ll never learn as quickly as a child could.
The reality: The idea that children can intrinsically learn to play the piano more quickly than adults is incorrect. Many experts agree that the age at which people learn to play the piano does not significantly impact their ability to develop this talent. More than anything, the chief factor in how quickly piano students becomes proficient is not the age at which they first receive instruction, but rather the level of commitment to regular practice that they have.
3. The myth: I only have a keyboard to practice on, so I’ll never become a great piano player.
The reality: For a beginning student, practicing at home on a keyboard is an acceptable alternative to investing in a real piano. The fundamentals of the piano can be learned on a keyboard, although students without one may miss out on the opportunity to experiment with the subtleties of tone that weighted keys afford. Students who own a keyboard can also supplement their practice by seeking out a piano available for public use in places like churches, schools, or rented practice rooms.
4. The myth: I could never find the time to make piano practice a regular part of my routine.
The reality: One thing that piano students of all ages need to become proficient at is dedicated practice. No matter how busy they are, piano students can find time to schedule a reasonable amount of practice into their daily routine if they are truly intent on becoming proficient pianists. Practice sessions do not need to be long if they are well-planned. Practicing a few difficult bars of a song or fingering techniques on an instrument in several 5- to 10-minute sessions over the course of a day can be just as instructive as sitting down to practice for 30 minutes, straight through. Shorter practice sessions may actually be more helpful, as they prevent boredom and allow players to notice small, but noticeable improvements.
5. The myth: My hands are too small to play the piano well.
The reality: People with smaller hands who have never practiced an instrument before may rule out playing the piano because they don’t think that the size of their hands will allow them to play some of the wider chords. However, big hands and long fingers are not necessarily indicative of a person’s potential to play well, as they do not necessarily provide a pianist with agility or technical ability. No matter the size of a pianist’s hands or fingers, they will still need to train their hands to attain a level of flexibility that allows for skillful play. While experienced players with larger hands may have an easier time reaching the keys in some songs, pianists with smaller hands are still capable of performing at a high level.
6. The myth: Practicing the piano means playing a piece all the way through, repeatedly.
The reality: There is a common misconception that the best method of practicing the piano is to play a single piece all the way through from beginning to end until it is perfect. However, approaching practice this way can cause new musicians to become bored and abandon the pursuit of the piano before they ever have the opportunity to play well. Instead, music teachers suggest that the best way to practice is to set small, realistic goals for a practice session, focusing on one section at a time. Experts also state that focusing on a song’s more difficult sections first can allow the piece to come together more efficiently while keeping students more engaged in practice. The brain is more likely to absorb new, shorter snippets of musical information when it isn’t overwhelmed by long, repetitive strings of notes.
7. The myth: I should never look at my hands while I play.
The reality: Some piano teachers insist that their pupils not look at their hands while playing in an attempt to teach them to play and sight read simultaneously. However, many other experts within the music sector disagree and argue that new piano students should be allowed to look at their hands while playing in order to help them visualize the music that they are creating. Looking at their hands can help students establish stronger muscle memory and form a deeper connection to the songs that they perform.
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.