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.
The human voice is designed much like any handheld instrument that relies on the power of the lungs to produce sound. The larynx acts in a similar fashion to the reed of a clarinet or saxophone, while the cavities of the head and chest work together to amplify the sounds produced by the vocal cords. This makes the voice a powerful and highly personal instrument, capable of producing some of the most emotive sounds in music. Read on to learn all about the use and care of the singing voice.
1. Is a good singing voice a natural talent or a developed ability?
Professionals suggest that with enough time, dedication, and practice, almost anyone can develop the ability to sing decently well. At the same time, some people are born with physical characteristics that make them better equipped to sing, such as an ideally shaped and sized set of vocal cords and larynx. The size of the person’s head also matters. Other factors that may influence a person’s ability to sing well include the age at and frequency with which he or she was exposed to music as a child. Still, most of those with relatively little exposure to music in early life and limited natural talent for singing may employ the help of a vocal teacher to learn techniques that can dramatically improve the quality of their singing voice.
2. What are the different voice types for men and women?
From a functional standpoint, male and female voices are not dramatically different. The tone of a person’s voice is shaped by the length of the vocal cords and the size of the larynx, both of which are influenced by the levels of testosterone in a person’s body. To distinguish between the vocal ranges of women and men, professionals use two sets of terms to describe male and female voices, depending on variables such as range, tessitura (that part of the range at which the singer is most comfortable singing), and vocal register (a term that describes the way a singer physically produces sound).
Among women, the singers capable of reaching the highest notes are sopranos, who have the ability to sing notes between B3 and C6, though certain subgroups within the soprano range can sing even higher. Next, with a range between G3 and A5, are the mezzo-soprano singers, followed by the contraltos. Known more commonly as “altos,” contraltos sing in the E3 to F5 range and are the rarest of the female voice types.
For men, there are four different vocal classifications, with the highest voice being the countertenor at a range of G3 to C6. Countertenors are the rarest voice type among both men and women. The second-highest range, from C3 to B4, is sung by the tenor, followed by the baritone at G2 to G4. The lowest of all voices is the bass. Men with bass voices can sing as high as E4 and as low as D2, rivaling the tone of the notes played on a cello.
3. What is a vocal register?
A vocal register refers to the different ways that sounds are physically produced in the body when a person is singing. Research performed by professionals within the fields of speech pathology and vocal training suggest that there are three basic vocal registers—the head, middle, and chest. Singers with exceptionally high voices may find that they are capable of reaching an additional level called the whistle register, while singers with low voices may also produce sounds that reach a register known as vocal fry.
Among the three basic vocal registers, the voice sounds its deepest, lowest, and most powerful when produced in the chest register. These notes are felt primarily in the chest cavity, and the vocal cords will feel thicker than they do at the middle register. Within the middle register, singers often feel the most vibration within the area of the upper neck and lower face. In the head register, the singing voice resonates primarily within the sinuses, creating a higher sound that can be felt predominantly in the upper half of the face.
4. Why is it important to care for the voice?
Whether a person considers singing to be a hobby or a professional pursuit, he or she must take certain steps to prevent damage to the vocal cords. Becoming a good vocalist is a long process, and those who ignore simple voice care face the possibility of ruining their hard work through neglect and bad habits. Actions that can cause immediate short-term damage to singers’ voices include excessive shouting, throat-clearing, or untreated acid reflux.
Over the long term, lasting damage can be caused by failing to warm up before a practice or performance, frequent dehydration, alcohol or tobacco use, or pushing the voice to reach high registers at loud volumes through unhealthy means. Those who fail to take care of their voices run the risk of developing nodules, polyps, or hemorrhages in their vocal folds, which can completely ruin an individual’s ability to sing at his or her personal best.
The United States is one of the world’s most prolific producers of popular art. The rich cultures and unique backgrounds of all Americans make the country an ideal place for art to flourish, and this diversity has had an obvious influence on music. People in the United States collectively appreciate a huge range of musical styles, but the most popular genres among Americans are the following four.
Rock and roll, or simply “rock,” originated in America in the 1950s, but quickly spread to England afterward. Each of these two countries played an important role in the development of the genre, but both have their own definition of what rock music is. From a general perspective, rock may be best defined as music with a strong beat that uses electric, amplified instruments to play fast-paced songs, though ballads in rock music are also commonplace.
Rock music would not have found the widespread success that it did without the guitar amplifier, then a new invention, as the amplifiers allowed musicians to play their music louder and to larger audiences than ever before. The intense energy and sense of belonging that young rock bands created for the youth of the mid-20th century carried the genre forward through the decades and allowed it to evolve, rather than die out. Some of the most important early musicians to influence the development of rock include Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix, who each contributed to the sound and lyrical content of the genre.
R&B, which stands for “rhythm and blues,” and hip-hop music are two styles that were grouped together in the late 20th century to represent one larger genre. R&B was the first of the two to enter the American music scene, and the term was used to describe a complex, melodic sound that appeared in the 1930s in African American communities. Inspired by jazz and gospel, the genre also incorporated elements of blues music, but relied on upbeat tempos and witty lyrics rather than the emotional, call-and-response style singing of the blues masters. Eventually, thanks to performers like Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Sam Cooke, this genre spawned what is now known as soul.
R&B continued to evolve, inspiring different styles within the genre, and eventually became one of many influences in the creation of hip-hop in the 1970s and 80s. Born in African American communities in the Bronx, New York, hip-hop is known for the incorporation of turntables, rapping, break dancing, and spoken rhyme into its songs. Pioneering artists in the genre include DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, the Cold Crush Brothers, and Kurtis Blow.
Unlike the rest of the genres included on this list, pop (short for “popular”) music is not easily defined by its characteristics, because they continually evolve and change with the times. Pop music is a name for a form of music that is purposely commercial, designed specifically to appeal to a mass audience. It is written by professionals who attach their names to the music, and thus stands in stark comparison to folk music, which was traditionally written by unknown musicians and achieved mass popularity in America through widespread performance and word-of-mouth in the early 20th century.
In the late 1800s in America, popular music was the kind of songs found in vaudeville or music halls. Later, rock and soul music would dominate the pop charts, an occurrence which continues to influence the pop music of today. No matter which genre of music has the greatest influence on pop at any given moment, most pop songs have a memorable melody, catchy lyrics, and a chorus that repeats several times. The subject matter of pop songs often focuses on the highs and lows of romantic relationships. Modern examples of pop music include songs from artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Adele, and Lady Gaga.
The country genre has a long, rural past—one rooted in the folk traditions of the American South, especially of the Appalachian Mountains. In general, country music encompasses songs made from a simple chord progression and simple, memorable lyrics that tend to follow a storyline. Country music incorporates the sounds of traditional instruments, many of which are stringed, including the banjo, the fiddle, the mandolin, and many different variations of acoustic or steel guitars. Vocalists in this genre also often sing in accented American English, with a “twang” to the voice.
Country music evolved in the homes and gatherings of people from mountain towns long before it was brought to the attention of the public. The first country songs were recorded for larger circulation in the 1920s. Once country hit the radio through broadcasts from programs like the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, the genre inspired a generation of performers. Some of the earliest and most influential names in country music include the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Merle Haggard. Though modern iterations of this style have evolved to incorporate more elements of pop, many artists continue to retain core facets of country music in the lyrical content and vocal style of their songs.
Studies have shown that music can have a positive impact on a child’s development as her or she grows, improving skills such as spatial reasoning, literacy, social abilities, and empathy. In addition to encouraging personal development, music also has the potential to create stronger bonds between parent and child. To gain these benefits through musical exploration, consider participating in the following five activities with your child.
Take music lessons together
Learning to play an instrument with your child can be an engaging way to establish a common interest. Your son or daughter’s age and physical dexterity will dictate which instruments he or she is capable of playing in the early years of life. However, once your child reaches the age of 10 or so, he or she will generally be able to take up any instrument.
Because children and adults have different needs when learning to play music, you may not be able to attend the same lessons as your child. However, practicing together at home after separate lessons can create a sense of mutual support, as you’ll both understand the difficulties of working to develop a musical skill. Additionally, playing music together may improve your relationship with your child, as research shows that musicians who play in tandem experience positive feelings toward one another during the performance.
Attend a concert
Bringing your son or daughter to a concert can be an excellent way to foster his or her passion for music while also spending quality time together. There are concerts for literally every genre of music, from classical to R&B and everything in between. It’s your decision when your child is old enough to attend a particular show, but some venues may not allow young kids. Because attending concerts requires a certain level of maturity, taking your child to a performance shows that you trust him or her, and it often creates memories that will last a lifetime.
If you decide to go to a concert as a family, keep in mind that you’ll need to prepare in order to make the experience as safe and enjoyable as possible. Before you go, establish a meeting place in case you and your child are separated in the crowd, go over any rules of behavior, and purchase earplugs to protect your child’s hearing from the loud volume of concert music.
See a musical
If a concert doesn’t interest your child, consider taking him or her to the theater to see a musical production instead. Like concerts, the theater is an adult experience that children can feel excited to be a part of. It’s also an excellent way for you and your child to spend quality time together. As an added benefit, exposure to musicals and live theater in childhood has been shown to improve literary knowledge and increase feelings of empathy and tolerance in children. Classic kid-friendly musicals include Beauty and the Beast, Cats, Annie, The Lion King, and Oliver!, among many others.
It’s important to remember that unlike many concerts, a theater production requires a child to be completely quiet and sit still for a prolonged period of time. To avoid disturbances and complications, be sure to talk to your child ahead of time about what is expected of an audience member. Children should also be well rested and fed before attending a performance.
Toddlers and young kids may be exclusively interested in rhymes and ditties like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or songs they hear on TV shows. However, when your child reaches an age when he or she can appreciate music with more nuance, considering sharing your favorite songs with him or her. According to a study published in 2014, listening to music as a family strengthens bonds, can improve the overall wellbeing of family members, and contributes to the development of a collective identity.
Though your child may not take to your preferred artists or genres, showing them music they have never experienced before encourages musical exploration and allows them to begin developing their own musical tastes. As your child grows older and develops independent musical interests, spend time together listening to his or her favorites. You may not enjoy this music as much as your child does, but showing an interest in his or her preferences can strengthen your relationship. Additionally, listening to your child’s preferred artists can help you keep track of the kinds of messages they’re getting from the music they listen to when you’re not around.
Incorporate music into daily life
The best way to experience music with your children is to make it a standard part of everyday life from an early age. Regular exposure to a wide variety of songs can help your child develop connections in the brain that set him or her up for a lifelong appreciation of music and all the benefits it has to offer.
To incorporate music into your family’s daily schedule, put it on at home any time the circumstances allow. Play music while you cook dinner, while you’re doing chores, and even when it’s time for bed. Create a playlist or CD to listen to when you’re in the car together. In every instance, be open about your own love of music to inspire your child to find joy in it as well.
The standard Western-style orchestra was first assembled in Italy around four centuries ago, but today, orchestras are found all around the world. Listed below are six components of orchestras that allow these large groups of musicians to produce the beautiful, harmonious sound they’re known for.
The average professional orchestra employs 40 to 80 musicians, and each section of instruments in the orchestra has its own hierarchy among the players. Violins are divided into two sections—first violin and second violin. The leader of a section is called the principal and is responsible for demonstrating technique for the rest of the musicians in the section. The principal also plays any solos for his or her specific instrument. Principals act as a motivator, mediator, and teacher, and are the point of communication between the conductor and the section.
At the head of all section principals is the orchestra’s concertmaster, a position that is always held by the principal of the first violin section. The concertmaster not only plays all violin solos within a piece, but also makes sure that all instruments are tuned prior to a performance. He or she also ensures that all members of the strings section observe the correct bowings within a piece. This creates the strings sections’ characteristic cohesiveness, and allows all players to play in unison.
The only person in the orchestra higher than the concertmaster is the conductor. Conductors did not have a role in early orchestras, but today all of the United States’ most accomplished philharmonic and symphonic orchestras rely on them to lead. The conductor uses his or her arms and hands to express directions to the players, allowing musicians to know how loudly and quickly to play, as well as when to cease playing. He or she is responsible for selecting and interpreting music for the orchestra, and balances the sound as the piece progresses. The guidance of the conductor allows musicians to work together as a unit in order to create a flawless, unified sound.
The percussion instruments are typically situated at the very back of the orchestra, furthest from the conductor’s podium. The percussion has the widest variety of instruments of the five sections, and consists of any instrument that can be struck by a stick, beater, or the hand. It also includes instruments that must be shaken or rubbed to produce a sound. Standard instruments in this family include the drums, xylophone, timpani, gongs, and cymbals, among others. The role of the percussion in an orchestra is crucial, as this group sets the rhythm for the rest of the musicians to follow.
While the piano, organ, and harpsichord are often considered members of the percussion section in the orchestra due to their ability to provide rhythm to the music, they are more accurately identified as keyboard instruments. While this section is not present in all orchestras, it has become more common to see them onstage with the more traditional instruments in recent years. They are also positioned toward the back, near the percussion section.
Musicians who play brass instruments are usually seated in front of the percussion section. The brass section contains the loudest instruments in the orchestra, including trumpets, horns, tubas, trombones, and bass trombones. The instruments in the brass section may vary depending on the style of music and the interpretation of the conductor. As the name suggests, these instruments are fashioned from brass pipes formed into shapes that produce different sounds when the musician blows into them through a mouthpiece. Because of their capacity for volume and the bright quality of their sound, brass instruments often make ideal solo instruments in upbeat, exultant moments within a composition. It is important that a conductor takes care to correctly lead the brass section within a piece so that its commanding sound does not overpower the others.
The woodwinds section is a diverse body of instruments played by musicians sitting in the middle of the orchestra, in front of the brass section. Flutes, piccolos, oboes, clarinets, bass clarinets, and bassoons are all common woodwind instruments. All produce a pleasant, consistent sound when played together, though each instrument differs in range and pitch. The musicians’ use of breath to play these instruments allows them to create diverse sound effects, including vibrato, staccato, and legato phrasing. Woodwind instruments with a higher pitch, like the flute, most often follow the melody of a piece while the lower-toned woodwinds, like the bassoon, more often play supportive parts that contribute to the harmonies in a song.
The strings section makes up the largest portion of the orchestra, with two or three times more musicians than the other four. However, the strings section generally features just four types of instruments. The strings section sits at the front of the orchestra, with the violins to the conductor’s left, the violas in front, and the cellos and double basses to the right. The violin and the viola produce higher musical tones, while the cello and double bass produce low ones. The members of this section are often responsible for taking on the bulk of the melody within a song. The violin group within the strings section is arguably the most prominent and renowned of all the orchestral instruments, and is featured prominently in orchestral compositions. Apart from the standard four instruments, the strings section on occasion may also feature a harp or guitar.
No matter what sparks your initial interest in playing music, making the decision to take up an instrument can be a rewarding experience that comes with many personal benefits. To take advantage of everything that musicianship has to offer, you must make sure to persevere through the more difficult aspects of practice. Listed below are four common reasons that can cause you to give up on learning before you’ve truly developed a musical talent, as well as tricks to help you avoid these pitfalls.
1. Choosing the wrong instrument
Choosing the wrong instrument is one of the most surefire ways to diminish the likelihood that you will follow through on your musical goals. It is unwise to select an instrument simply because it is accessible, seems simple, or is one that a friend plays. These reasons are not likely to encourage long-term pursuit of the goal.
Instead, choose an instrument used by players in the genres of music you enjoy. With an appreciation for a musical style at the root of your decision, it’s also important to keep other factors in mind, such as whether you want to play with other people or whether you want to sing while you play. If you’re social and would like to eventually be able to play in a group, consider accompaniment instruments like the bass, mandolin, or violin. If you prefer to play solo, consider an instrument that can carry a song independently such as acoustic guitar or piano. These two instruments will also serve you well if you want to sing along with your playing, as they work as standalone and supportive instruments to accompany a voice.
2. Setting your expectations too high
Setting goals is an important part of learning to play an instrument. However, setting your goals and expectations too high may result in disappointment, and may ultimately lead you to give up the practice. Assuming that you will be able to play an instrument well, quickly, and without ample practice will frustrate you when the reality of the process sets in, and it can lessen the enthusiasm you feel for playing your instrument.
To prevent this kind of dissatisfaction, set smaller, achievable goals, such as learning a scale over the course of a few weeks instead of expecting to master it in a day. Understand that developing an ability to play music takes time and dedication, and that your work in learning to practice may not immediately seem as though it is paying off. You need plenty of patience and regular, efficient practice if you want to become adept at playing an instrument; talent can’t be developed otherwise. Work toward small goals and appreciate each achievement you make along the way, focusing on the long-term payoff of diligent practice.
3. Studying with the wrong music teacher
Though many people attempt to teach themselves through books or online videos, having a music teacher comes with advantages that other instructional resources do not offer. If you do choose to attend lessons with a music teacher, keep in mind that no two instructors are alike, and he or she should be the right fit for your learning style. Studying with the wrong teacher can lead to discontentment with your lessons and less desire to practice, which may threaten your commitment to mastering an instrument.
Online resources like www.takelessons.com will allow you to browse piano teachers near you and read more about their experience. Recommendations for piano teachers can also often be found at your local music store. If you begin lessons with one teacher and find that he or she does not provide enough encouragement or support to meet your personal needs, consider looking for a new teacher. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way toward helping a new music student make progress, and having a positive experience during your lessons will make you more inclined to enjoy learning and persevering through the difficult parts of practicing music.
4. Selecting an instrument in poor condition
If the instrument that you buy or rent to practice on is not of a reasonable caliber and condition, you will not enjoy learning to play. Cheaply made instruments do not produce a high-quality sound and are often much more difficult to play than well-made ones. Likewise, a well-made instrument that has not been taken care of or has suffered extensive wear may not function the way it was meant to, thus hindering your ability to learn on it.
If you are serious about learning to play, consider making an investment in an instrument of good quality. Doing so will spare you the frustrations that accompany the purchase of an inexpensive one, which often discourages players from wanting to practice and may lead to abandonment of the art. Practicing an instrument for the first time is already a challenging process, and beginners don’t need the extra burden of learning to play on a subpar instrument to further complicate the routine.
Children who study music from a young age are poised to gain many benefits from the experience, including better language development, improved spatial-temporal skills, and higher test scores. If your child expresses an interest in music, you can help him or her develop a stronger curiosity and love for the subject using these helpful tips:
1. Expose your child to music from a young age.
By making music part of daily life, parents can significantly influence their child’s ability to appreciate all that music has to offer. Playing music for children in the car, singing with them, and giving them the opportunity to watch musical television shows are all excellent ways to introduce music in a fun and stimulating way. Parents can also make early music discovery an adventure by working with their children to create musical instruments from ordinary household items like pots, pans, pans, and spoons, or by going to the library to check out CDs with kid-friendly songs.
2. Make instruments readily available at home.
Kids may also become excited about pursuing music if they are free to explore a variety of instruments in their home. Therefore, parents should leave an instrument, like a guitar or drum, on display where their child can easily pick it up. A piano can be especially beneficial for early music exposure at home, as children can generally begin to experiment with the instrument once they are physically big enough to reach the keys and develop the hand dexterity to push them down.
3. Look into private music lessons.
If a child shows a specific interest in music, his or her parents should consider enlisting the help of a professional to foster that passion. While a teacher’s qualifications are important, his or her ability to interact positively with a child on a personal level is vital. To find a music teacher who specializes in instructing kids, parents should consider soliciting recommendations, holding interviews, and attending recitals held by prospective teachers to determine whether or not the instructor will be a good fit for their son or daughter.
4. Give your child a special practice space.
Children who commit to an instrument may be more motivated to practice if they have a designated space in which to do so. Ideally, the practice space should be situated in a quiet, organized area where siblings, television, and other distractions cannot intrude. It is also a good idea to equip the practice space with pencils, music stands, paper, and other tools that young music students might need.
5. Incorporate practice into your child’s daily routine.
To encourage musical development, parents should make practice part of their child’s daily schedule. Parents can make this time more appealing by scheduling pleasurable activities around the practice session. For example, kids could enjoy snack time before practice and play time afterwards.
6. Be supportive under all circumstances.
Parents should always visibly support their child’s efforts regardless of his or her level of musical ability. For example, if a child wants to showcase a newly developed talent or practice a song, parents need to devote their attention to the performance and make honest, encouraging remarks. It can also be helpful for parents to regularly ask about how their children’s lessons are progressing and check in with them at regular intervals about their interest in music.
Additionally, when a young music student reaches a milestone such as memorizing a new song or performing in a recital, parents should find a way to celebrate their child’s accomplishment. Doing so may help children stay motivated to continue their studies when the lessons become challenging.
7. Don’t try to control your child’s musical progress.
Parents who see true musical potential in their children may be tempted to force them to practice longer hours or study an instrument that doesn’t interest them. However, experts suggest that it is better in the long term to let a child’s talents develop naturally, and most recommend that parents support their child’s decision if he or she wishes to switch instruments or focus on an activity outside of music. Creating an understanding environment where a child feels comfortable pursuing his or her own individual interests is ultimately better for the child’s healthy development.
The guitar is among the most widely-played instruments in the Western world. Since it first gained popularity with the advent of rock and roll in the middle of the 20th century, countless aspiring musicians have sought out the guitar as a means of artistic expression.
Those who are ready to make a serious commitment to this six-string instrument may consider buying a guitar of their own for the first time. Listed below are four common mistakes everyone should avoid when buying their first guitar.
Buying a guitar that’s too cheap
If you’re serious about learning to play, you should set aside at least $200 to buy your first guitar. No matter which style of guitar you’re looking to pick up, an investment of at least $200 will generally provide you with an instrument that has a respectable sound and a playability conducive to new learners. Making room in your budget for this minimum expenditure is much more likely to help you obtain a guitar that is fun to practice on, has a good tone, and doesn’t go out of tune too quickly.
On the other hand, as a new player, you should be wary of buying an expensive guitar until you’re truly committed to learning how to play. At a certain point, a guitar’s quality will not make you sound any better, unless you have achieved a certain level of skill. Spending an exorbitant amount of money on a first guitar is therefore usually unnecessary.
Buying a guitar with the wrong sound
Though some music professionals argue that new players should hone their early skills on an acoustic guitar, others suggest that this can be demotivating for some people. The first guitar that you buy should be one that’s suited to playing the style of music you’re most interested in. Those who want to play old school country or folk music may find that the acoustic guitar works out best. If you’re particularly interested in learning to play rock, pop, or heavy metal, an electric guitar might be the better choice. And if you’re more committed to learning jazz or the blues, you may get more enjoyment out of a hollow body or semi-hollow body guitar.
No matter what version of the instrument you settle on as a new guitarist, you should make the decision based on your own interests. If the sound coming from the instrument doesn’t move you, you likely be less motivated to continue practicing.
Buying your first guitar secondhand
As stated before, making a minimum investment to obtain a quality guitar makes a big difference when it comes to playability, and therefore can have a significant impact on whether you’ll continue to practice the instrument over the long term. One of the best ways to get more value for your money is to purchase a guitar secondhand, but some professionals advise inexperienced players to avoid this. Used guitars can be damaged in subtle ways that are difficult to detect and make the instrument unpleasant for novice musicians to play. Worn-down frets, buzzing strings, high action, cracks, and bent necks can all go unnoticed by the untrained eye, and all have the potential to make the instrument challenging to practice on and therefore less enjoyable.
If you feel compelled to purchase your first guitar secondhand, make sure to bring along an experienced guitarist who can assess the quality of the instrument before you purchase it.
Buying a guitar without the necessary equipment
There is a list of supplies that you’ll need to buy along with the instrument. First, plan to buy a physical tuner, rather than relying on a smartphone app to help you tune your guitar. While apps are helpful in a pinch, physical tuners are more accurate and will make a guitar sound much better. Buying several guitar picks can also be useful for new musicians during practice.
Another non-negotiable item that all new players need to buy is a case for their instrument. A good case offers protection that will help keep your guitar in good condition when you’re transporting it from location to location. A case also provides a safe place to store the guitar at home when you’re not using it.
When you’re shopping for your first guitar, ask for professional advice from the salespersons at the store. Many associates at guitar and music shops are trained to help customers find the instrument that best suits their level of ability, and they’re usually happy to give advice on the right equipment to purchase along with a new guitar.
The question of why music was first invented has yet to be answered, but its effect on the development of human culture cannot be denied. Music helps us communicate, provides an opportunity for creative expression, and has the ability to bring large groups of people together, regardless of their differences. Listed below are six inventions that changed music throughout history and shaped the art form that we know today.
1. The prehistoric flute
First on the list are the prehistoric flutes discovered only five years ago in a cave located in southern Germany. These instruments, carved from mammoth ivory and bird bone, are estimated to be over 40,000 years old, making them the oldest instruments ever found. Open at both ends, the flutes feature finger holes that would have allowed an early human to produce musical notes.
This instrument is important for its likely use as an early form of recreation and entertainment, or as a part of religious ceremonies, as well as the possibility that it helped advance the social bonds of early humans. Thousands of years later, yet still far in our past, humankind would develop primitive instruments such as rattles, scrapers, and bull-roarers before creating the more refined and complicated instruments we know today.
2. The octave scale and notation
Though many ancient civilizations developed their own musical scales, the ancient Greek thinker Pythagoras was the first to develop a near-perfect, mathematically-based scale that consisted of tones and “hemitones”—what we know today as an octave scale. Though it isn’t clear who first added to this early musical theory to develop an initial form of musical notation, this achievement is also often credited to the Greeks. They would influence 6th century philosopher Boethius to develop the letter system of notation using the letters A through G that we are familiar with today. Together, these inventions enabled humans to record and distribute compositions, allowing original compositions and musicianship to spread farther than it ever had before.
3. The piano
The invention of the piano was a vital development in the history of music, as it gave composers of the time the ability to work within a range of notes much more vast and complex than those provided by the harpsichord, the piano’s predecessor. This keyed instrument allowed musicians to play in accompaniment with other instruments or to perform solo pieces, and became a central part of entertainment both in the home and the public sphere in the Western world in the 18th and 19th centuries. Though it is not the primary form of entertainment that it once was, the piano and keyboard continue to be some of the most popular instruments for people to learn to play.
4. The metronome
Though small in size, the metronome has a significant impact on a musician’s ability to play in time with a song. Musical performances require a musician to interpret notes, play with emotional focus, and keep time all at once. A metronome allows individual players as well as composers directing a group to stay on beat and thus deliver a measured, impactful performance. Early experiments with metronomes were first conducted in the late 17th century, but the tool was not employed by any of the iconic classical composers until Beethoven. The metronome is still used today by amateur musicians as well as in major recording studios to help music professionals create the perfect sound.
5. The microphone
Humans had been working toward voice amplification since the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but a workable version of the microphone did not appear until the late 19th century. Its effect on the history of music was significant because it allowed people to hear music not only louder, but with a greater degree of detail than ever before. Its central use in musical recording had a direct effect on the eventual ability of people to listen to music anytime, anywhere.
Prior to the invention of the microphone, people needed to see music performed live in order to enjoy it. Additionally, the use of the microphone in concert venues allowed small groups of musicians to put on a show of a size and volume that before was only attainable by large orchestras on naturally amplified stages. In modern music, microphones allow musicians to create complex works of art full of nuance to deliver a more powerful performance to their listeners.
6. The electric guitar
The most recent invention to make this list is the electric guitar, which changed the direction that modern music took by providing players with an energetic, exciting new sound. The electric guitar was invented in 1931 and came accompanied by an external speaker that received the vibrational input from a pickup inside the guitar, turning the vibrations from the strings into the characteristic sound we all know today. Jazz and blues players of the mid-20th century first adopted the instrument, ushering in a new era for both genres.
In the 1950s, the fledgling rock and roll scene would adopt the electric models developed by Gibson and Fender to create a new genre of music that set the stage for popular music today. It became the trademark instrument for a long list of guitar legends, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. The electric guitar continues to be a favorite among youth in Western culture and remains central to the creation of popular music.
While the full impact of music on the human brain is not fully understood, recent research indicates that children who study music experience substantial benefits in mental, cognitive, social, and academic capacity, as compared with students who do not receive musical instruction. If you have children who want to become involved in extracurricular activities, here are five important reasons why you should encourage them to study music and play an instrument.
1. Playing an instrument may reduce stress levels
Although stress is often considered to be an adult’s domain, research suggests that children today are experiencing more stress at an earlier age. Common sources of stress include a high degree of pressure to perform well academically, a need to adapt to new social situations among peers, and overly packed schedules that do not allow children time to play, express creativity, or relax. Overly stressed children can experience immediate physical symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, and an upset stomach, along with more long-lasting effects such as changes in brain development that impact reasoning, emotional control, and problem-solving abilities.
For some children, playing an instrument can lead to reduced stress levels. Studies show that playing music lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and the level of cortisol in the brains of musicians. Researchers note that playing an instrument contributes to stress relief only if it is played for recreational purposes, rather than with an intense focus on the mastery of a new piece. To achieve optimal relaxation, students should focus on playing by ear for fun and do so for at least an hour each week.
2. Exposure to a variety of music can broaden a child’s cultural understanding
Teaching children about the value of diversity among people from different countries and cultural backgrounds can enable them to positively interact with others as they explore the world. Learning about the values and cultures of those who are different from oneself also helps children to connect and develop social behaviors rooted in feelings of curiosity rather than fear, which can broaden a child’s mind and lead to a well-rounded view of the world and a healthy respect for others.
Studying music is a fun and efficient way to teach children about diversity because it is a universal language. Exposure to music from other cultures teaches children that no matter how different people seem to be from one another, they can both create and celebrate with their own types of music. While songs may differ or be characterized by different languages, studying music from other cultures helps children to understand that we all have the ability to listen to, appreciate, and dance to music in any form.
3. Learning to play an instrument can build confidence
Self-confidence is loosely defined as the knowledge of one’s true value, a feeling which generates positivity, determination, and resilience in the face of life’s challenges. Building confidence in children often leads to better social experiences, an enhanced ability to handle peer pressure, and a more controlled approach to dealing with positive and negative emotions.
Encouraging the study of music is an enjoyable and beneficial way for parents to help children develop a healthy degree of self-confidence. A young musician who learns to play an instrument may start out slowly, but recognizing incremental progress can foster personal satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment that helps children to develop a belief in their abilities. The act of first setting and then achieving musical goals, such as mastering a song, allows young musicians to recognize that hard work and discipline lead to improved performance, even for those who are inexperienced or unsure of themselves.
4. Musicianship helps young students develop socially
Child development and psychology professionals are quick to point out the importance of friendship in a child’s life. Building camaraderie and positive interaction with peers teach valuable life skills that are important into adulthood, such as fairness, compromise, cooperation, sharing, and conflict management. A child who possesses these skills may display higher levels of social competence and ultimately receive peer support, which plays an important role in the healthy development of children and adolescents.
Moreover, children who play with music as part of a group have many opportunities to develop socially and to form lasting friendships. Playing an instrument or singing in an ensemble teaches young students how to work together as a unit in order to create music and to develop valuable personal skills such as patience, cooperation, and leadership. Playing an instrument as part of a group also offers children with at least one shared interest. Research suggests that one of the strongest bonds between friends is shared interests. Thus, a child who plays an instrument in an ensemble will be more likely to find likeminded friends.
5. Playing an instrument sets children up for a brighter future
Overall, practicing a musical instrument yields mental, social, and cognitive benefits that set children up for success in the future. The study of music has been shown to boost academic scores in areas such as math and literacy, to improve language development, and to foster strong creative abilities. Young musicians have more refined motor skills at a younger age and learn to positively express themselves in a way that leads to better mental health.
More than anything else, children who learn to play instruments gain these wonderful benefits while having fun at the same time. Playing music is a useful skill that can inspire in children a level of passion and a joy for the arts that lasts a lifetime.