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.
One of the few music genres to truly originate in the United States, jazz was first developed in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was influenced by the sounds of the blues, ragtime, and traditional funeral music from the South. Generally a fast-paced genre, it is distinguished by its improvisational nature, syncopation, bent notes, and the “swing” created when musicians accent the beat by adding unexpected rhythm on the offbeat of a song.
To understand the spirit of jazz, one must understand the components that create its style. Listed below are the most common instrumental elements in the jazz genre.
Rhythm section instruments
To play standard jazz, a band needs rhythm instruments to provide percussion, a bass line, and harmony to its songs. The most common rhythm instruments in a jazz ensemble include bass, drums, piano, and guitar.
Though it can’t be heard as distinctly as other instruments, the bass plays a crucial role in jazz songs, laying a rhythmic foundation for the other instruments while simultaneously providing harmonic support. Early jazz bass lines were played on upright bass, though a majority of jazz bassists today prefer to play on electric models. Jazz bass is often played in the pizzicato style, in which a player forcefully plucks the instrument’s strings rather than strumming or tapping them.
As with many forms of contemporary music, the drums in jazz are responsible for pushing the movement of a song by keeping the beat. A jazz drummer, however, has the added responsibility of periodically altering his or her playing style to complement other musicians as they solo during a performance. This can mean that a jazz drummer plays softer in some parts of a song and then returns loudly in others, or may alter a beat mid-song in order to accent the notes of a soloist. Much of a jazz drummer’s performance is improvisational, as he or she must be able to react according to the improvisation of the lead musicians.
Jazz piano can be both a rhythm instrument and a harmony instrument. It can be played in such a way that it provides percussion to a song through a technique called “comping,” or it can be played softly, using single keys to create a melody. Jazz pianists often play rhythm with one hand while playing a melody with the other. The instrument’s 88 keys provide musicians with a wide range of notes to work with, giving it a dynamic role in jazz performance.
Like a pianist, the guitar player in a jazz ensemble can play a single-note melody in a song, or may play percussively, comping full chords to provide rhythmic support to the rest of the band. Some musicians will choose to use a solid body or semi-hollow body electric guitar in a jazz ensemble. However, hollow body archtop guitar has been a popular choice for jazz music since as early as the 1920s.
Horn section instruments
The horn instruments in a jazz ensemble are a collection of brass and woodwind instruments that are responsible for playing the melody of a song. The most common instruments in the horn section are the trumpet, trombone, and saxophone.
The trumpet is an iconic jazz instrument, first popularized by the likes of Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. Made from brass, the sound is controlled by three valves on the top of its body, which manipulate the notes created by a musician as he or she vibrates the lips and pushes air through the mouthpiece. Even with only three valves to work with, trumpet players are able to produce 45 distinct notes on the instrument, which they use to perform the energetic solos characteristic of jazz music.
The trombone is another brass instrument used to play melodies and solos in jazz songs. As with the trumpet, a trombone player vibrates his or her lips against the mouthpiece while blowing air into the instrument. A player uses a slide on the trombone’s body to change the pitch of the sound, producing loud, powerful notes that command attention during jazz songs.
Though it is made out of brass like the trumpet and the trombone, the saxophone is considered a woodwind instrument because of its single-reed mouthpiece. The saxophone’s brass body, combined with its woodwind mouthpiece, produces an intense vibrato in its notes, creating a popular, distinct sound. There are five different kinds of saxophone, including the soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass sax, with tenor and soprano being the most frequently used in jazz bands.
The voice as a jazz instrument
Though ensembles within the genre are frequently instrumental, some of the most popular jazz songs of all time feature vocalists. Singers like Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra all saw great popularity due to their work as jazz singers in the middle of the 20th century.
To perform jazz, vocalists sing at a pitch that is similar to a speaking tone. Professionals suggest that your singing voice in jazz should be a musical extension of the tone you use when talking. A jazz vocalist may also choose to employ an improvisational singing technique known as scat singing. To scat, a vocalist will periodically use emotive nonsense words or syllables to mimic a sound similar to that of a jazz instrument.
Whether you’re a longtime fan of classical music or are just beginning to learn about the genre, one of the best ways to experience it is by attending the symphony. If you plan to attend your first symphonic concert, you should keep the following tips in mind to enjoy the best possible experience.
Show up on time
At a symphonic performance, showing up on time generally means arriving at least a half an hour before the show is scheduled to begin. Arriving 30 minutes early will give you enough time to explore the concert hall, find refreshments, pick up a program, and find your seat before the show begins. Conversely, showing up late to the symphony often means that you will be required to wait in the lobby during the show until an usher can find an appropriate point in the program to lead you to your seat.
Don’t leave your cellphone on
A symphonic performance is an immersive experience, but audience members can easily become distracted and unable to focus on the show when those around them use cell phones and other electronic devices. To avoid the risk of spoiling the performance for yourself and others, turn your cell phone off completely before the show begins, and check for messages during intermission, if needed. If you are a professional who works in emergency medicine or need to have your phone turned on for any reason, many concert halls are happy to have an usher hold your device for you and quietly alert you in the event that you receive any urgent calls or messages.
Do wear comfortable clothes
Traditionally, symphony musicians have been required to wear formal black tie or white tie dress. The audience, however, is free to dress in any manner they choose, in most cases. While the dress code may vary depending on the standards set by individual concert halls, many establishments simply suggest that guests wear clothing that is comfortable. Many people see symphonic performances as a special occasion and an opportunity to dress in more refined clothing than usual, with many opting for business casual or cocktail party-style dress. Always check with the concert hall ahead of time in order to ensure there are no specific clothing requirements. Otherwise, you should dress in clothes that make you feel positive and that will not be uncomfortable to sit in for several hours.
Don’t distract others from the performance
Once a performance begins, it is crucial that audience members refrain from any activities that may cause a disturbance or distract other patrons. The acoustics of most symphony halls are designed to naturally amplify the sounds of the instruments. An unfortunate side effect is that the acoustics may also make even the smallest sounds seem much louder than normal. While the musicians are playing, you should try to avoid coughing, unwrapping candy or cough drops, singing, humming, or frequently shifting in your seat. Above all, it is of vital importance that you refrain from talking during a concert, even at a whisper. Talking is considered to be poor manners and is disrespectful to both the musicians playing the instruments and the audience members around you.
Do clap at the appropriate moments
The first time you attend the symphony, it can be challenging to try to identify the appropriate moments to clap. In general, applause is expected only after the completion of a full piece of music, which can be difficult to discern, as most full pieces are broken down into smaller segments known as “movements.” During a performance, there may be a quick break of 15 to 30 seconds between each movement, and the audience is only expected to clap after the last one, when the piece truly ends. You may be able to identify when to clap by following along with these movements in the symphony program. If you remain unsure of when to applaud, it is best to follow the lead of the other patrons and join in with the rest of the audience after the applause begins.
Don’t take pictures during the performance
While this is not always the case, most concert halls ask guests to leave their cameras and video cameras at home. Using a camera or a recording device during the performance takes you out of the moment and prevents you from enjoying the music the way that the conductor intends. It can also be yet another distraction to those around you.
Do take advantage of intermission
When the concert has an intermission, you should take the opportunity to use the restroom, speak briefly to others, and purchase refreshments. Using these 15 to 20 minutes wisely will reduce the likelihood that you will need to get up from your seat during the second half of the performance. Additionally, it will mentally refresh you so that you are better able to concentrate on the rest of the concert. Be on the lookout for signs that the intermission is nearing its end, such as flashing lobby lights or the doors to the concert hall being reopened. Make sure to head back to your seat as soon as you see these signs out of respect for the performers and the other audience members.
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.
Though much has already been written about the effects of music on child development, researchers continue to discover new benefits for babies and children who are exposed to music from an early age. To better understand the ways that music can have a positive, lasting impact on the lives of children, parents should be aware of the following seven facts.
1. Children can distinguish between types of music before their first birthday.
Though most children have only just begun to develop the ability to speak words at 12 months of age, researchers from Brigham Young University have discovered that babies as young as 9 months are able to recognize a difference in music that is upbeat and happy and music that is gloomy and sad.
Another study from Canada’s McGil University showed that babies as young as 8 months are capable of differentiating between types of instruments, noting that they showed an awareness of difference between the sound of a piano recital and that of an orchestral performance. The same research also indicated that babies of this age had the ability to recognize a piece of music two weeks after they were first introduced to it.
2. Music can help children develop stronger literacy and language skills.
Regular exposure to music has been shown to have a significant impact on literacy and language development in children. The human brain takes an approach to processing music similar to the one it uses understanding language. As a result, listening to music from a young age can help children develop the skills necessary to decode and link words - a key factor in learning to read.
Music further contributes to the development of literacy skills by helping children to develop cognitive skills like auditory discrimination and sequencing, and vocabulary expansion.
3. Social and emotional skills can be developed through music.
Along with providing cognitive benefits, music can also positively impact children’s socio-emotional development. A study of preschoolers showed that activities that required children to move and listen to music were likely to promote cooperation, group cohesion, and positive social interaction among the participants.
Preschool-aged children who participated in dancing and singing activities together also showed greater signs of empathy for the children with whom they engaged in the activity. As with adults, music also provides children with a way to bond with peers, and a love for the same songs or type of music can encourage social connections. Overall, music can also help children with emotional development by giving them a tool to use in the process of self-expression and the recognition of new emotions.
4. Children can begin taking music lessons at a very early age.
Though many parents prefer to wait until a child is at least 5 or 6 years old to begin music lessons, some pediatricians suggest that children may begin formal training on an instrument at an age as young as 3. The capacity to take lessons this young primarily depends on a child’s physical size and dexterity. This is because some children at 3 years old are not large enough or have yet to develop the motor skills necessary to manipulate certain instruments, such as the piano.
Research shows that children who participate in formal lessons from a young age have a better capacity for memory and show brain development that is different from children who do not receive musical instruction.
5. Music can benefit children with disabilities.
Children with special needs also benefit from regular exposure to music in many of the same ways as typically-developing children. This includes children living with autism, cerebral palsy, childhood apraxia of speech, and learning disabilities.
Therapists have found that music’s capacity to help people bond, communicate without words, get motivated, and express themselves give it the power to improve quality of life for children with disabilities. It has also been shown that music may improve the emotional state of children who have experienced trauma or have undergone major medical procedures, and may even ward off the effects of anxiety and depression.
6. Children who take music lessons may get into less trouble.
As children grow older, statistics show that those who participate in school-sponsored music programs such as band or orchestra are less likely to use tobacco, drugs, or alcohol than their peers. Children with a history of music instruction also tend to have higher levels of academic achievement, higher SAT scores, and earn more awards and academic honors than their counterparts.
7. Some smartphone apps can help children develop music skills.
While it isn’t the case for all games available on iOS and Android, some smartphone apps can help children develop music skills in a fun, easily accessible way. Groups like Common Sense Media and online periodicals like The Guardian have designated apps like Loopimal, Crayola DJ, ABC Music, Toca Band, and Mini Piano as educational apps. This is because they provide children of all ages with the opportunity to explore their creativity and compose music of their own.
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.
Opera is a rare form of performance that brings elements of music, drama, and visual art together to create one incredible experience for its audience members. First developed more than four centuries ago, opera today is written and performed in many languages in countries around the world. To better understand and appreciate the art form, one must be familiar with the unique set of opera voice types among men and women, as listed here.
Female voice types
There are typically seven different types of voices among opera singers: three standard female voices and four standard male voices. An opera singer’s voice often influences which role he or she plays in the libretto, or the story, of the opera. For female opera singers, the highest voice is the soprano. Sopranos sing at a range from around middle C to about the C two octaves above, C6. Because of their sweet, high voices, sopranos often play the love interest or heroine of the story. They may also play characters notable for their youth and purity. Famous soprano opera roles include Cio-Cio-San from Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, and Violetta from La Triviata by Giuseppe Verdi.
Mezzo-soprano singers, sometimes referred to as simply “mezzos,” follow the sopranos as the next-highest voice, with a range beginning at A3 below middle C, and extending two octaves above, ending around A5. In some cases, a mezzo-soprano will be asked to portray young men or young boy characters, but when she doesn’t, she is most often the one to play a motherly type, a seductress, or the villain of the story. The most famous lead mezzo roles in the opera include Carmen from the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet, and Rosina from The Barber of Seville by Carlo Rossini, though the latter role can also be sung by a soprano.
The lowest and rarest of all female voice types is the contralto, known more commonly as the alto. Alto singers have a voice range that extends from the F3 below middle C up to F5. Alto voices are rich and have a much darker timbre than the other two types of female opera vocalists, and often play specialty roles such as goddesses or divine characters. Early on in opera’s history, however, altos were relegated to roles portraying grandmothers, older women, and witches. Women in the opera with true contralto voices are difficult to come by, and many times the alto parts are sung by mezzo-sopranos. Some of the better-known contralto parts in famous operas include Hippolyta in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Giunone in George Frideric Handel’s Agrippina.
Male voice types
The highest of the male opera voices, the countertenor, is capable of reaching octaves in the range of female voices, generally singing notes similar to that of the mezzo-soprano, from between G3 and C4 up to either C6 or F6. These voices are the rarest of all singing voices, and for the most part waned in popularity from the 17th century until the singing style saw a renaissance in the mid-1900s. Famous roles for countertenors include the eponymous character in Handel’s Giulio Cesare as well as the role of Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The most common of the high male voices is the tenor, and singers who reach these octaves, between C3 and C5, most often play young men, the love interest, or the hero within an opera. The most popular operatic roles for tenors include Radamés in Aida by Verdi and Rodolfo in La Boheme by Puccini. Tenors sing one step higher than the most common type of male operatic voice, the baritone. Baritone singers have a range of between A2 and A4. Depending on the style of the voice, a baritone may play the hero, the comedic relief, or the villain in an opera. Papageno in The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Count di Luna in Verdi’s Il Trovatore are both traditionally played by baritone singers.
Lastly, the lowest of all standard operatic voices is the bass, which extends from E2 to E4. Some bass singers have voices that reach notes even lower than E2, though operas are seldom written with notes at such a low register. Characters written for bass singers are often characterized as wise and noble, but on occasion may play humorous roles as well. Good examples of this include Sarastro in The Magic Flute and Dr. Bartolo in The Barber of Seville.
Irrespective of vocal range, all opera vocalists engage in certain behaviors to preserve their ability to sing. To begin, no opera singer ever practices or performs without first participating in a rigorous warm-up ritual to prepare the vocal cords for high-intensity use. Vocal warm ups for an opera singer are comparable to stretching for an athlete. Without warm ups, an opera singer risks doing significant damage to his or her voice. Vocal warm ups frequently involve practices such as singing scales, humming, and deep breathing to prepare the muscles for vocal work.
Another way that opera singers practice good voice care is actively avoiding situations in which they will need to raise their voices above speaking level to make themselves heard. Yelling can do significant damage to vocal cords over time, and prevents a singer from performing to his or her best ability. This requires opera singers to avoid places like sports games, loud restaurants, or parties where they cannot easily communicate at an average speaking level.
Lastly, opera singers of all voice types makes sure that they stay hydrated at all times. Well-hydrated vocal chords help singers maintain healthy mucosal membranes, which gives them greater flexibility while singing and prevents the damage that can occur through friction between swollen vocal folds.