Professional songwriters are the backbone of the music industry, creating original content for musicians and singers to perform. If you’ve ever dreamed of writing songs for the world’s most popular musical acts, these tips can help you get started:
1. Take up a musical instrument.
You don’t need to know how to play an instrument to write lyrics, but you will have to be able to play one to compose a melody. Learning to play an instrument is a rewarding hobby that can make the songwriting process much easier, and options like the piano, guitar, and keyboard are common choices for aspiring songwriters. If your primary motivation for learning to play an instrument is so you gain the ability to write songs, it may be helpful to focus on learning to play chords on your instrument rather than practicing scales. Mastering the major and minor chords on an instrument can provide you with a solid foundation for building catchy song melodies.
2. Listen to a lot of music.
One habit that many accomplished songwriters have in common is listening to a lot of music written by other artists. Routinely exposing yourself to new music can help inspire new ideas and help you develop a writing style that is uniquely your own. Listening to others’ music can also help you identify new chords to play on your instrument, which broadens the tools you have to work with when writing. If you’re not sure how to find new music, try using an online music streaming service like Spotify to explore the work of bands and artists from many different genres.
3. Become familiar with basic music theory.
Though it’s not mandatory to study music theory in order to write a song, being familiar with some of the basics can make a big difference. For example, studying the roles of chords, scales, and keys in a song can help you learn how to determine which notes naturally go together and allow you to create the most pleasing chord progressions. Reading up on the different types of chord progressions can also help you better understand the way that song melodies are typically structured.
4. Know the parts of a song’s lyrical structure.
In addition to understanding the structure of a song’s melody, an aspiring songwriting should also understand the different parts of a song’s lyrical structure. Knowing the difference between a verse, a refrain, a chorus, a pre-chorus, and a bridge—and how these components all fit together—can create a blueprint for your own songs and help you write them in a way that makes sense to your listeners.
5. Practice writing on a regular basis.
As with any hobby, you need to practice songwriting in order to improve. Therefore, you should regularly set aside time that you can exclusively dedicate to songwriting and stay on task, even if you can only manage to find half an hour in your daily schedule to do so. On days when you’re not feeling particularly creative, you can explore the many online songwriting blogs, which are full of suggestions for songwriting exercises that will help you get the most out of your writing session.
6. Get feedback.
Although songwriting is mostly about satisfying your own need for self-expression and creativity, it’s always a good idea to get feedback from others. Asking for the opinions of fellow musicians or well-intentioned listeners can help you understand the parts of your songs that people enjoy while allowing you to gain perspective on aspects of your songwriting that could use improvement.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking for feedback from friends or family, you can find musicians willing to provide honest opinions of your work at a number of websites, such as Frettie.com, which are dedicated to the songwriting community. Wherever you choose to solicit constructive criticism from, remember not to take any judgments too personally. It’s better to view critiques as an opportunity to grow in your craft.
7. Write with others.
Sometimes, songwriters produce their best work when they partner with another musician. Choosing to write with others can help you learn new methods that change the way you approach the songwriting process and improve your technique. While some attempts at co-writing may not result in a completed song, every writing session will give you more experience and make you a little bit better at songwriting.
8. Don’t give up.
Learning how to write great songs is a process that requires a lot of time and dedication. No matter what your songwriting goals are, it’s important to not become discouraged if you can’t immediately produce songs of the quality you were hoping for. Try not to judge yourself too harshly as you navigate through the learning process. You can even take a break from songwriting on days when you feel too frustrated or creatively “stuck” to produce anything that is meaningful to you. It’s okay to step back from your work when you need to, as long as you don’t give up entirely.
While the electric bass may not be culturally celebrated on the level of its cousin the electric guitar, the instrument plays an essential role in the creation of fluid, measured music that is pleasing to the ear. Read on for an overview of everything one needs to know about the electric bass.
The role of the bass in music
The Fender company first developed the electric bass guitar for mass consumption in the 1950s. Known as the Precision Bass, this electric, easily-transportable alternative to the stand-up bass had a fundamental influence on the evolution of popular music. The Precision Bass could not only be amplified to better blend in with other loud, electric instruments, but its physical design was also familiar enough that guitar players could learn to play it more easily than the quieter, acoustic stand-up bass.
Today, bass guitar is a core component of most modern music styles, including rock, pop, swing, funk, world beat, jazz, metal, and blues. While all instruments play significant roles in the creation of a band’s sound, the bass is arguably the most important. This is because the bass guitarist is responsible for creating a connection between the harmony of a song and its rhythm. Alongside a drummer, a bassist must keep time within a song, playing in a rhythmic pattern that establishes the pulse, or beat, of the music for the rest of the band to follow.
At the same time, the bassist must play notes that establish a harmonic foundation for the rest of the musicians. In this respect, the bass is also extremely important, because the human ear tends to hear harmonies created by multiple notes in relation to the lowest possible pitch. If a bassist plays the wrong foundational notes, it throws the harmony off and disrupts the music. This makes it much easier to notice when a bass player makes a mistake than when someone playing a lead instrument, such as guitar or saxophone, missteps.
Ways to play the bass
The bass guitar’s traditional four strings are tuned to the notes E, A, D, and G—one octave below the electric guitar’s four lowest-toned strings. The similarity between the notes and body styles of the two instruments sometimes leads guitar players to assume that learning to play the bass will be an easy task, but the transition is not usually so smooth. This is due, in part, to the fact that playing the bass requires a markedly different technique and technical skillset than people use to play the electric guitar.
Accomplished bass players may use a variety of styles to create the right sound for the genre of music they are playing. Popular playing techniques on the bass include palm muting, picking, fretting, and slap and pop. While many bassists choose to use only their fingers on the strings of the instrument, some prefer to use a pick. Famous bassists like Geddy Lee, Flea, and Duck Dunn are all notable for their abilities as finger-style bassists, while Paul McCartney, Chris Squire, and Mike Dirnt made notable accomplishments playing with a pick. Either choice is appropriate and depends solely on the preference of the bassist.
Useful bass equipment
Musicians who are interested in becoming bass guitarists need several pieces of gear to get started. Second in importance to the instrument itself is an amplifier. A bass guitar that is not plugged into an amp will not emit any notable sound. Beginner musicians can learn to play using a small, 100-watt amp, but more experienced bassists who are looking to perform shows should only purchase amps with a wattage of 200 or more. To connect a bass to an amp, all new musicians must also purchase an instrument cable with quarter-inch jacks on both ends.
Additional gear that is helpful for new bass players to have includes a guitar strap, which will allow a musician to learn how to stand while playing. Learning to play a bass while standing is more comfortable than sitting down with the bass propped on one knee, and will also be a useful technique for those who want to eventually join a band. New musicians should also consider purchasing a case for the instrument to protect it from damage, as well as an electronic tuner to make sure that they are playing in key.
Musicians, whether they are amateur players or professionals, occasionally have to bring their instruments on a plane trip. However, while air travel is an extremely safe method of transportation for people, it can often lead to lost or damaged instruments. Musicians who wish to make sure their instruments arrive safely should keep the following helpful tips in mind when planning their next flight:
Follow any Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules
Before taking their instrument on a plane, musicians need to be aware of the relevant guidelines set by the TSA. According to the organization’s website, all instruments must undergo a security screening. Musicians who bring an instrument as a carry-on item must present it for a physical inspection at the airport’s security checkpoint. At this time, owners should communicate to TSA agents any special guidelines for handling their fragile instrument. If checking their instrument as baggage, individuals should be sure to label it with written instructions describing how TSA agents should handle the instrument while examining it and then restoring it to its case.
Arrive early if you plan to bring your instrument as a carry-on
In 2012, the US Congress passed a law requiring airlines to allow instruments as carry-on items without imposing extra fees, as long as the instrument can safely fit underneath a seat or in an overhead bin. However, the law does not state that airlines must give musicians priority space in overhead bins, and in the event that there is no room for an instrument in the cabin’s stowage area, owners will need to check the item at the gate. For this reason, it is a good idea for musicians to purchase priority boarding tickets to make sure that they are among the first passengers to board the aircraft. This ensures that there will be plenty of room to store an instrument in the overhead compartment.
Buy a seat for your instrument
Musicians with larger instruments like cellos and upright basses also have the option to purchase a seat for their instrument provided that it meets the weight and height guidelines established by the airline. The major US airline carriers all maintain different policies on instruments as cabin seat baggage, which travelers can find here. Even after establishing that a large instrument qualifies as cabin seat baggage, musicians should still contact the airline 24 hours ahead of time to confirm the viability of the special travel arrangement. In addition, any person traveling with a large instrument should arrive at the airport a half hour earlier than normal to make sure that he or she has enough time to transport the instrument through the airport and secure it safely in its seat before takeoff.
Take necessary precautions for instruments stored in the cargo bay
Musicians who check their instruments need to make sure their instruments are well protected while stored in the cargo bay. One way to do this is to purchase a quality hard case equipped with protective padding on the inside. It’s also a good idea to fill any empty spaces within the instrument’s case with newspaper, bubble wrap, foam, or soft fabric to prevent the instrument from moving around during transit. Musicians should label their case with an ID tag that clearly lists their full name and contact information to help prevent the instrument from becoming lost.
Additionally, whether an instrument is traveling in the cargo bay or the cabin, owners should make sure to tune down stringed instruments and drums before takeoff. The pressure changes that occur during air travel may cause increased string tension on instruments like violins, guitars, and cellos, which could cause the necks of the instruments to bend or even break entirely. Tightened drumheads may also be at risk for this type of damage.
Buy a cheap version of an instrument to take on trips instead
To avoid the stress of traveling with an expensive instrument, musicians should consider purchasing a lower-quality version specifically for use during travel. Owners should take steps to protect these cheaper versions the same way that they would for their standard instruments, but in the event of accidental damage, loss, or theft, the cost of replacement is much less. If obtaining a cheaper version of the instrument is not feasible, individuals can purchase travel insurance to protect them against the significant costs associated with replacing a lost instrument or repairing a damaged one.
Despite its relative youth in relation to many other countries, the United States has a rich musical history. From the folksy mountain sound of Appalachian music to the energetic beat of rock and roll, American music has set trends that other cultures around the world have followed.
The importance of music in American culture is evident in the establishment of some of the most exciting museums commemorating music across the country. Listed below are some music museums located in the United States that everyone should take the chance to visit.
The Country Music Hall of Fame
Located in Nashville, Tennessee (also known by its nickname “Music City, USA”), the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a beautifully-designed, 350,000-square-foot building only a block away from the famous Broadway honkytonk bars where many classic country stars got their start.
The museum is home to more than 2 million artifacts collected since the earliest years of country music, including stage costumes, instruments, and early recordings of classic stars. It also features rotating exhibits on both early and modern musicians in the genre and offers numerous educational programs and instrument demonstrations to students and visitors who have a passion for country music.
The American Jazz Museum
Through performance, education, and research, the Kansas City, Missouri-based American Jazz Museum aims to help the public understand the value of jazz as an indigenous American art form, preserve its history, and drive the development of the genre forward.
The museum helps to tell the story of jazz music through art, film, performance, and exhibitions that shed light on the lives of legends like Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. Guests to the museum also have the chance to take in a professional performance from talented musicians at both the local and national level at the establishment’s Blue Room jazz club.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was founded more than three decades ago in Cleveland, Ohio, by executives from Rolling Stone Magazine and Atlantic Records. It seeks to commemorate the significant impact of rock and roll music on American Culture.
The recognizable architecture of the museum includes a double-pyramid made of glass and a tower that is 162 feet tall, containing over 50,000 square feet of exhibition space dedicated to the music and histories of its members. Visitors to the museum are able to view items such as early drafts of iconic songs, original album artwork, and the personal instruments of some of the world’s most famous rock and roll musicians.
Each year since 1986, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has awarded membership to a collection of new musicians voted on by a group of 900 music industry veterans, historians, and existing Hall of Fame Members. The first class included Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Fats Domino, while the most recently inducted class of 2017 included Joan Baez, Journey, Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, Yes, and ELO.
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
The Musical Instrument Museum is notable for being the only global musical instrument museum in existence. Located in the desert of Scottsdale, Arizona, MIM’s collection includes over 6,500 different musical instruments from early history to modern day that belong to a wide range of cultures from around the world.
Guests tour the museum wearing headsets and interact with video screens placed throughout the premises in order to understand what different instruments sound like and to learn more about their origin and use. On the building’s second floor, instruments are separated into five different galleries based on the continent from which they hail. On the first floor, guests can view items and memorabilia from the tours of American music legends in the Artists Gallery or experiment and play with an array of unique instruments in MIM’s Experience Gallery.
Graceland is a Memphis, Tennessee-based museum located on rock and roll icon Elvis Presley’s former 14-acre estate. Visitors begin by taking an interactive iPad tour of the eponymous mansion, where the Presley lived from 1957 until his death 20 years later.
In addition to a glimpse into his home, Graceland guests also tour other buildings on the estate, including the star’s trophy and racquetball buildings. Tours end at the meditation garden, where Presley is buried.
Afterward, visitors with upgraded tickets are taken onward to Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a 200,000-square-foot complex that encompasses several other museums, including the Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum, Presley Motors Automobile Museum, and the Elvis Discovery Exhibits. Shopping, restaurants, and a themed hotel are also available onsite for those who are interested in a fuller experience.
The Motown Museum is a testament to the legacy of Motown Records, an independent label that produced over 180 hit songs and changed the trajectory of American pop music with its distinct sound. Located in several buildings on West Grand Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, the museum’s collection contains rare photos, apparel, and items owned by major Motown stars.
Guests also can take tours of the famous Studio A, where many of the label’s greatest hits were recorded. Famous groups which contributed to the Motown sound and which are featured in the museum’s collection include Gladys Knight & the Pips, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross & the Supremes.
The violin is among the most popular instruments for young music students around the world. Played by both high society virtuosos and working-class musicians since it was first introduced in the 16th century, this stringed instrument plays such an important role in classical music that the lead violinist in an orchestra or symphonic band maintains a position of significance in the group second only to the conductor.
While challenging to master, it remains a classic instrument that is beloved by people from varied musical backgrounds. Listed below are six surprising facts that everyone should know about the violin.
1. Violins come in different sizes to suit a player’s physical stature.
Though it varies based on individual characteristics, professionals suggest that children can begin to take violin lessons between the ages of 3 to 6. To accommodate the physical statures of players at all ages, luthiers create violins in eight standard sizes, measured by the length of the instrument’s body.
The smallest of these is the 1/16 size, measuring 9 inches long, and the largest, or full size, measures 14 inches in length. For the most part, adults and children 10 years of age and older will play a full-size violin. Choosing a correctly-sized violin is important, as it allows the musician to comfortably reach the notes on the instrument’s neck.
2. Violins are assembled from about 70 different wooden pieces.
To assemble a violin, a luthier uses around 70 individual pieces of wood from many different kinds of trees. The violin’s top is made from a strong, resonant wood that is capable of withstanding the tension caused by the strings, like spruce. The sides, scroll, neck, back, and bridge are often made from an even stronger wood, like maple. The maple pieces provide structural support and stability to the instrument.
The dark wood used for the fingerboard of a standard violin is almost exclusively made from ebony. However, more expensive models may be formed using rosewood, boxwood, or mahogany pieces which are stained black.
3. There are three main types of strings used on violins.
Strings have a significant impact on the sound and playability of a violin. A musician can choose from three main types of strings: gut, steel core, and synthetic. Gut strings are the oldest type of strings, used by the first violinists nearly 500 years ago. Made from the intestines of sheep, they are typically wrapped in copper or silver wire and give music a warm, full-bodied tone. While gut strings create a beautiful sound, they need to be replaced and tuned more often than the other two types.
The most common kind of strings, steel core, create crisp, vivid notes once they have been broken in, and last much longer than traditional gut strings. However, many beginners prefer to use synthetic strings, often made from nylon. They also produce notes with a warm tone, but are much easier to maintain than gut strings and can be purchased at a significantly lower cost.
4. There are major differences between student and professional quality violins.
Like most instruments, the level of craftsmanship that goes into creating a violin has a major effect on the kind of sound it produces. The notes produced by the handmade violins favored by professionals far surpass the quality of those created by the manufactured violin models often purchased by new students.
Though a budding violinist can practice effectively on any model, certain music brands are noted for their fair balance between affordability and sound quality. These brands include Yamaha, Hofner, and Cecilio.
5. Some of the greatest composers in history were noted for their abilities as violinists.
History is full of composers who gained notoriety in music as the result of their ability to pay the violin. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart demonstrated a remarkable talent for the violin at the age of 5, and he later went on to compose famous pieces like Eine kleine Nachtmusik and operas like The Magic Flute. Johann Sebastian Bach first explored music on the harpsichord and in the choir before he was widely recognized for his skills on the violin in a German royal court. Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi was a composer who exclusively played the violin and was responsible for the creation of the three-movement concerto.
6. Violinists aren’t restricted to playing classical music.
Though the violin has a central and enduring importance in classical music, it is not the only genre for which musicians can play the instrument. Many modern music groups from a wide range of genres employ violinists to bring nuance to their work, including classic rock groups such as Queen and alternative pop bands like Mumford and Sons.
The violin is also almost as crucial to the folk and country genres as it is to classical music. However, when played with a folk or country group, many musicians call the instrument a fiddle. This term is used to distinguish between the more structured, technically complex violin-playing style used in classical music, and the rhythmic, spontaneous nature of the fiddle played in a folk, country, or bluegrass band.
Apart from listening to an album, one of the most enjoyable ways to appreciate music is to learn about it through inspiring documentaries. In the last two decades, the film industry has produced a collection of unforgettable documentaries centered on musical evolution and individual musicians alike. Try watching any of the eight works listed below.
1. 20 Feet from Stardom
This Academy Award-winning film, directed by music documentarian Morgan Neville, focuses on the careers of the backup singers who loaned their voices to some of the most beloved songs of the 20th century. Featuring interviews with stars like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, and Sting, 20 Feet from Stardom explores the professional triumphs and disappointments of the many backup singers who helped shape the sound of American pop music. From successful stars like Darlene Love, to lesser-known artists like Lisa Fisher and Merry Clayton, music fans of all generations will appreciate the power behind these women’s stories.
2. Searching for Sugar Man
Another Oscar winner, Searching for Sugar Man tells the tale of singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez. The film details his brief professional ties to a Motown record label in the 1960s before he gave up his music career in the subsequent decade to perform manual labor and provide for his family.
What makes this story worthy of a documentary is the surprising revelation that Rodriguez’s music rose to iconic status a world away in the country of South Africa, unbeknownst to him, more than four decades later. Directed by Malik Bendjelloul, Searching for Sugar Man is an incredible true story that incorporates elements of music, dreams, and mystery, all wrapped up with a modern-day fairytale ending.
3. Sound City
Sound City was directed by Foo Fighters front man and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. The title of the documentary pays homage to the name of a now-shuttered recording studio in Los Angeles, California, where some of the most iconic albums of the last 50 years were recorded.
Broken down into what can loosely be described as three acts, the film tells the soulful story of Sound City’s rise and fall, supplemented with stories and interviews from many of the classic artists who recorded there. Musicians who make an appearance in Sound City include Stevie Knicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and Mick Fleetwood of the band Fleetwood Mac as well as Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Neil Young, and Paul McCartney.
4. Muscle Shoals
Muscle Shoals is a film about the way that a distinct style of 1960s and 70s music evolved in a small town in the Deep South. Over the course of an hour and 51 minutes, first-time director Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier gives viewers an insight into the creative atmosphere of Muscle Shoals, Alabama that inspired the creation of such classic hits as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Freebird,” and “Mustang Sally.” The story is supported by interviews from music legends like Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Percy Sledge, and Bono.
5. What Happened, Miss Simone?
Released in 2015, What Happened, Miss Simone? details the life and musical career of jazz, blues, and soul musician Nina Simone, whose talent and passion for music was rivaled in scope only by her commitment to the Civil Rights Movement. Director Liz Garbus takes the audience from Simone’s earliest years as a classically trained pianist through her eventual voluntary retirement from the entertainment industry. Throughout the film, friends and family of the “high priestess of soul” give interviews to help viewers understand Simone as both an artist and an activist.
Yet another music documentary that earned an Academy Award, Amy is a film directed by Asif Kapadia. It follows the musical growth of renowned singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 27. Through interviews with friends and home video footage of the artist herself, Amy focuses on the story of a musician with larger-than-life talent who struggled under the pressures of worldwide fame.
7. Runnin’ Down a Dream
Since he first formed the band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the mid-1970s, Tom Petty has consistently written and performed music that continues to inspire new generations. Runnin’ Down a Dream paints a picture of the successes, troubles, and times of one of America’s great classic rock and roll bands.
The film, directed by Peter Bogandovich, premiered during the closing weekend of the New York Film Festival in 2007. It received high reviews across the board from major sources such as the New York Times, Rotten Tomatoes, and Variety Magazine.
8. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, directed by visionary filmmaker Ron Howard, focuses on the story of one of the most influential rock and roll bands of all time. Instead of building a story solely on the major events that occurred during the Beatles’ unprecedented rise to stardom, Howard chooses to fill the documentary with the more nuanced details of the band’s touring life between 1962 and 1966.
The film’s narrative is buoyed by footage and archival interviews with the members of the band. Additionally, it never loses sight of the joy that all four musicians found in making music amid the cultural frenzy that took them farther than any band had gone before.
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.
While new musicians often learn to play instruments through lessons and independent practice time, one of the most exciting ways for a musician to improve his or her abilities is by practicing alongside other players during a jam session. These informal gatherings allow a group of people to gather together and create music in a relaxed setting, where improvisation is encouraged, creativity is developed, and new skills can be learned.
To put together a jam session that is enjoyable, low key, and productive for everyone involved, musicians should avoid making the following mistakes during the process.
1. Playing with musicians who don’t share your goals.
When it comes to playing with other musicians, the benefit for beginners is that jam sessions can only improve their skills, even if they are among people with far more experience in practicing an instrument. A beginner does not lose out by working with people who are far more advanced in the practice than he or she is, and it’s almost never too early for a new musician to participate in a jam session.
The most important thing that musicians need to remember when choosing people to jam with is that everyone involved should be upfront about their level of skill and their goals for the session before getting together. A relatively inexperienced player who is looking for someone to casually play with for practice and recreation should not agree to pair up with an experienced player who wants to form a band with someone at the same level of ability.
Prior to setting up a session, all musicians should be clear about their experience and what they wish to gain from jamming with others. Direct communication allows musicians to find a group of people with whom they have musical goals in common and keeps group members from getting frustrated while practicing together.
2. Committing to something you can’t follow through on.
Musicians who agree to take part in a jam session need to be prepared to follow through on the commitment. Reliability is important when practicing with others. This is because jam sessions require everyone involved to coordinate schedules and decide on mutually convenient block of time to get together.
Apart from committing to showing up, all musicians should arrive at the session prepared and ready to give the practice full effort. Being prepared means bringing any necessary gear and having all instruments tuned and ready to go. This prevents delays that cut into practice time.
In addition to arriving on time and ready to play, all musicians should focus on paying close attention to what is going on during the session, even when it isn’t their turn to solo. A player who gives the meeting all of his or her focus will have a more enriching experience. Additionally, this also shows respect and consideration for other members of the group.
3. Being unwilling to play unfamiliar songs.
Another important way to show consideration for other musicians during a jam session is to be amenable to playing songs that one has not played before. Every player in the group should arrive at the session with songs in mind that he or she would like to practice. However, everyone must also be prepared to play along to songs that other group members choose.
Inexperienced musicians may feel averse to playing unfamiliar songs out of fear that they lack the ability to improvise, but those who find themselves in this mindset should instead elect to see the situation as a learning opportunity. Less experienced players should follow along with unfamiliar tunes as best they can. They may also choose to play along quietly until they become accustomed to the structure of the song. Musicians should also be comfortable asking for guidance from other group members as needed.
4. Not taking cues from other musicians.
As stated previously, being considerate and respectful to the other musicians is crucial to having a productive jam session. Taking cues from other members of the group is a key part of that process. Those who are jamming with other musicians should avoid becoming so focused on their own playing that they lose sight of what everyone else is doing during a song.
One of the most common mistakes that inexperienced players make during jam sessions is playing solos for too long, or having an instrument’s volume turned up so high that it drowns out everyone else. These things can be avoided if a player recognizes that a jam session is a collaborative effort meant to give everyone a chance to play, and is not a place where one person is meant to shine above the rest.
A player should take cues from other musicians during a song to determine when to play and for how long. This can be achieved through regular eye contact during the performance, and by paying attention to other players’ body language. The musician who knows how to take cues from others is always a welcome addition to a jam session because he or she helps create free-flowing music that allows for everyone to take part equally.
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.