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.
Music is one of the world’s most important, unifying art forms and activities. It brings people together from all cultures, ages, and backgrounds, and has the power to improve the lives of those who engage with it in simple yet significant ways. Listed below are four ways that music can improve everyday life.
1. Stress and anxiety regulation
Recent studies by the American Psychological Association (APA) have shown that stress levels are higher than they have ever been. In addition, stress appears to grow in scale with each passing year. In the United States, the top causes of stress include work pressure, money troubles, health crises, and problems in relationships. Anxiety and stress are noted to be the root cause of up to 60 percent of diseases and illnesses, and are known to increase an individual’s risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.
No matter the source of the stress, professionals in the psychological community suggest that playing or listening to music may help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety by lowering the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone in the brain. Scientific studies have revealed that music is able to reduce feelings of anxiety in pre and post-op surgery patients, decrease feelings of overwhelm in busy nursing students, and also reduce stress and emotional upset in patients living with cancer.
Listening to calming music during stressful times can lead to a more relaxed state of mind, leaving people better equipped to deal with challenges as they arise.
2. Improved memory and productivity at work
Many people look for ways to improve their job performance, whether motivated by a personal desire to excel or through incentives like higher pay. An improvement in job performance may allow people to receive the kind of praise and recognition from their manager that allows them to feel more fulfilled in their careers, and therefore more content, both on the job and at home.
Incorporating music into a work routine has been shown to help employees focus better, improve memory, and learn new tasks faster. Listening to music on headphones can help employees tune out the many distractions of a busy office, make a repetitive task seem more engaging, and even stimulate a release of dopamine that keeps the mind motivated and on task.
People who are looking for a way to improve and increase their professional output should consider making music a regular part of the workday. One study suggests classical music for jobs that require attention to detail, pop music for data entry professionals or people who are on a deadline, ambient music for work that involves solving equations, and dance tunes for tasks that rely heavily on problem-solving or proofreading.
3. Increased sense of empathy
Empathy is the character trait that allows us to relate to one another. It is loosely defined as the capacity to understand and respond to the feelings of other people—in other words, the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. At the most fundamental level, empathy is what connects us as human beings. It’s necessary for establishing the strong, close relationships with family and friends that we humans need to be happy and fulfilled.
Studies of children as young as elementary school age have indicated that participation in music programs with others resulted in an advanced ability to recognize and respond to the emotions of their peers. This effect was determined, in part, to be the result of young students having a shared experience that mandated the participation of all group members. The study also showed that these children had an increased ability to cooperate and practice patience; these abilities contribute to the formation of better social relationships.
Others studies on this subject show that people who listen to music rather than play it may also see empathy gains. In one study, the area of the brain associated with empathy lit up in test subjects when they were told that a piece of music was composed by a human, but did not light up when subjects were told the piece was written by a robot. Professionals believe that our empathy may be heightened when listening to music due to the fact that we are inclined to try and understand the meaning or intent behind a musical composition when we hear it.
4. Better physical health
Few factors are as important as physical health when it comes to maintaining a happy life. Whereas being healthy allows you to focus on all the things that make life worth living, struggling with health problems can make everything seem difficult and less enjoyable.
Professionals suggest that music may be able to help people maintain better physical health in surprising ways. Music that plays at a rate of 60 beats per minute can cause the listener to become more relaxed, with a reduced heart rate as well as a drop in blood pressure. In addition, some studies show that prolonged exposure to upbeat dance music may increase levels of antibodies in the bloodstream, strengthening the immune system.
Music further encourages good health through its ability to motivate people during exercise. Those who listen to their favorite songs during physical activities reportedly feel less fatigue, as they tend to focus more on the songs rather than any exhaustion they feel. Staying motivated and sticking to an exercise regime is a crucial component of a long-term plan to stay healthy.
Learning to play an instrument can have a significant positive impact on the lives of children who play them. Studies show that students who study music have better language processing skills, perform better on math tests, and even have IQs that are several points higher than those students who do not actively pursue musicianship.
To learn to play an instrument well, it’s important that students find a skilled music teacher to guide them through the process. Listed below are seven important characteristics that the best music teachers tend to possess.
They have a genuine love for music.
This characteristic is a must-have for music teachers of all disciplines. The people who make the best music instructors aren’t just passionate about the specific genre of music that they teach, but have a love and appreciation for the subject as an art form. Having a proficiency within music alone will not inspire students.
Children respond to those who show genuine enthusiasm for the subject. The joy that a teacher feels for music should be evident in all lessons that he or she teaches, rather than only in the lessons that are the most exciting. This can be especially helpful in motivating younger students to practice and become more engaged with their lessons.
They show a high degree of patience.
To be an effective music teacher, one must be people-oriented, possess emotional intelligence and have a large capacity for patience. Students will develop their musical abilities at different rates, and not all of them will grasp important concepts right away. Great instructors are able to listen to students as they play and expediently identify any key problems that hold them back from progress.
Not only that, teachers must be capable of providing critiques that help students overcome challenges. An excellent music teacher also remembers that mastery of an instrument or musical concept requires repetition. He or she is also happy to provide support for and belief in students of all levels of ability.
They know the value of fundamentals.
Excellent music teachers never forget the importance of the fundamentals. Both in technique and theory, skilled instructors understand that training in and reinforcement of fundamental elements like breathing, hand positions, and posture must be maintained as a student becomes more and more familiar with his or her instrument.
They also understand the role that fundamental music theory concepts have in the way that children understand, relate to, and personalize music as they become more proficient. Skilled music teachers never forget the relevance of these core lessons and are not afraid to return to them when necessary, no matter how much progress has been made.
They get to know their students.
As all children are different, they will all respond differently to music lessons. A talented music teacher recognizes the need to accommodate their individual needs. Great teachers show personal investment in their students as musicians and as people, and let all students know that they care about their progress.
The best instructors communicate with students about the struggles and successes that accompany learning an instrument. They also help to develop reasonable goals for each child to work toward at a pace that suits him or her based on the student’s personal musical ability.
They’re lifelong learners.
An excellent music teacher knows that practicing music is a lifelong pursuit. They seek out opportunities to improve their own abilities in addition to their students’. They listen to new styles of music and are not afraid to ask questions or take lessons from their peers. Effective instructors are also not afraid to share this insight with their students and promote the idea that people at all levels of proficiency can look for ways to improve their performance.
They communicate well.
Music is full of complex concepts that can be difficult to explain. Great music teachers learn how to teach tough subjects in a way that is concise and leaves plenty of time for students to have actual practice with an instrument during the lesson.
Many of the most effective music instructors give short, clear explanations for difficult subject matter and then rely on the music to speak for itself. At the same time, music teachers must be approachable, talented listeners who students feel comfortable coming to with questions if any part of a lessons seems unclear to them.
They know that if they’re doing the job right, they’ll eventually no longer be needed.
The ultimate mark of a truly excellent music instructor is someone who is working toward the goal of rendering him or herself obsolete in a student’s musical journey. Great teachers do their jobs well, and help students to achieve progress that allows them independence and creative self-expression within their music.
A talented instructor is able to recognize when it’s time for advanced students to move forward, and helps them to develop a solid foundation of skills that will serve them well as they continue their musical journeys.
The human singing voice is arguably the most widely-used method of making music. About 98 percent of the world’s population has the ability to recognize the nuances between musical notes and identify when a note is in or out of tune. Additionally, every cultural group in existence has incorporated the act of singing into their societies in some way.
While early humans often sang to pray, recount history, or celebrate rites of passage, modern-day vocalists sing for artistic expression and the entertainment of others in a diverse array of styles. And although the voice may not be one of the world’s most difficult instruments, it is still important to care for one’s voice in order to give the best performance possible.
From the stylish tones of popular musical artists on the radio to the dramatic arias of opera singers on stages around the world, vocalists must be familiar with the following important voice care tips listed below.
Always Warm up before Singing
To sing, vocalists push air out of the lungs and between the vocal chords, which then contract and vibrate to produce sound. The process is a physical one, and like other physical activities, it requires an individual to warm up prior to practice in order to prevent damage and perform to the best of his or her ability.
A singer who takes the time to warm up his or her voice before a practice or performance will widen vocal range, sing with greater consistency, and have the ability to sing for a longer period of time. Singers who make warm ups a mandatory part of their routines can also help themselves avoid more serious injuries down the line, such as the development of nodules, or polyps in the vocal cords which often require surgery to repair.
Develop Good Lifestyle Habits
Leading a healthy lifestyle is an important part of life for many professional vocalists, and those who want to become accomplished singers should strive for a high standard of self-care. For example, regular physical exercise can help singers develop a healthy posture and better breath control, both of which are crucial to voice projection and manipulation.
Singers should also try to drink six to eight glasses of water every day and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This increases one’s intake of vitamins A, C, and E, and aids in the healthy development of the throat’s mucus membranes. It is also important to limit caffeine, as it can cause both the larynx and the vocal cords to dry out.
Stay Relaxed When You Sing
Along with developing good posture, a vocalist must make sure to keep the muscles in his or her neck, throat, and jaw relaxed while performing. Singers often have the impulse to tighten the neck and raise the chin when singing high notes and lower the chin when singing low notes. Not only does this strain the vocal cords, but it also can limit a singer’s range over time.
Vocalists who sing through a clenched jaw run the risk of diminishing the projection of the voice. This can cause them to overcompensate for the muffled sound by singing louder than necessary, leading to vocal strain.
Avoid Actions That Cause Damage
There are a substantial number of everyday actions that can instantly harm the voice without a singer being aware of it. For example, a bout of yelling can cause damage to the lining of the vocal cords, as can excessive throat clearing and whispering. Too much talking when the throat feels hoarse, tired, or sore can also result in damage to the voice.
Additionally, acid reflux can have a negative impact on the vocal cords. Singers who experience this condition should talk to a medical professional in order to discuss the best course of action for reducing it.
To combat the effects of everyday damage, music professionals suggest giving the voice plenty of rest. Investing in a humidifier can prevent the air within the home from becoming dry, which can be harsh on the vocal cords.
Don't Sing When You're Sick
This should be an obvious tip, but many vocalists need to be reminded that when illness strikes, it is time to rest one's voice. Attempting to sing while sick puts even more strain on the voice than standard singing.
Not only that, singing was sick generally will not produce the quality of sound that a vocalist is capable of producing when healthy. Singers who are ill should take time to rest, drink plenty of water, and avoid talking until the throat and nasal passages return to normal.
Choose a Quality Vocal Coach
Ultimately, vocalists who are serious about their craft should consider enlisting the help of a professional to coach them. As noted above, the voice is an instrument. Like any other instrument, it requires practice and instruction to become truly proficient.
Singers should look for teachers who are experienced in the vocal techniques that the student is interested in, and who have the ability to make their students feel comfortable performing and asking questions. Great vocal coaches are goal-oriented instructors who help students make meaningful progress toward a better, stronger voice after every lesson.
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.
While the most popular musical instrument to play changes each year, certain instruments remain perennial favorites among music students of all ages in the United States. Aspiring music students can learn more about the history and technical aspects of the three most beloved instruments in the following.
The guitar has established itself as one of the most widely played instruments in modern-day America, and its influence can be seen in a diverse range of musical genres. A versatile instrument, the guitar offers many style of play, ranging from rock and roll and country music to classical and jazz.
Historians believe that the earliest ancestor of the guitar first appeared in Spain in the early 1500s, although the modern version familiar to us today did not appear until the late 1800s. The early “guitarra latina,” as it was called, had a waist that was much less pronounced than today’s guitar and a much narrower body with a deeper sound made by plucking four courses of strings tuned to C, F, A, and D. By the end of the 1700s, the guitar had six single strings tuned to E, A, D, B, G, and E, which is today’s standard.
Guitars are made in both acoustic and electric varieties, each with its own set of subtypes. The most common four types of guitars are the nylon string and steel string acoustics, the hollow body, and the solid body electric. The nylon string guitar is almost singularly used to perform classical and flamenco pieces, while the invention of the steel string acoustic gave rise to the less technical, but more nuanced play patterns employed by artists in musical genres such as jazz and the blues. The creation of the hollow body electric had a particularly significant impact on jazz guitarists, who used the instrument’s amplified volume to make themselves better heard among the many other instruments at play in jazz ensembles. When the solid body electric guitar was invented, musicians were able to create the signature sound that characterizes rock music. The solid body electric guitar is the most popular form of the instrument among young musicians today.
The piano is a foundational instrument that professionals say children can begin to learn before the age of 6, provided that they have finger dexterity and their hands are sufficiently large enough. Around 21 million Americans play the piano, and its versatility allows it to assume the lead or fade into the background of songs that span a wide range of musical genres.
Some may be surprised to learn that the piano is a string instrument. The strings are encased within the instrument’s body and resonate when struck by hammers connected to the movement of the keys. As a result, it is also considered a keyboard instrument and was preceded by the invention of the clavichord in the 1300s, followed by the harpsichord in the early 1500s. The first true piano was invented by Italian harpsichord producer Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori in 1698, and it subsequently shaped much of the writing and playing styles of composers in 18th century Europe. Although some adjustments have been made since Cristofori’s early invention, such as increased string tension that significantly improved the instrument’s dynamic range, the modern piano is strikingly similar to those played in the 1700s.
The piano exists in three primary styles: upright and grand, which are acoustic, and digital pianos, which are electric. The upright piano has shorter, vertical strings compared with the grand piano, which has long, horizontal strings. The hammers in an upright piano are reset using spring-based mechanisms, whereas the hammers on a grand piano are reset by gravity, which makes each piano’s keys feel different to the touch when played.
Drums are among the world’s oldest instruments, and they continue to draw the interest of musicians of all ages. The drums play a crucial supporting role in the sound of any band and are even used as a therapeutic tool to foster positive social and emotional development in children with disabilities.
The earliest discovered drums date back thousands of years BC. The drums were fashioned from objects such as tree trunks, gourds, or shells covered with a thin membrane comprised of reptile or fish skin, and were played with the hands. Later versions of the drum contained membranes made from the skin of mammals and were played using sticks. Along with its recreational value, drums also provided early populations in Sri Lanka and some African countries with a means of communicating over a distance as early as 1000 to 500 BC. The first snare drum was developed in the mid-17th century, and by the early 19th century drums were incorporated into orchestral compositions. By the 1930s, the world was familiar with the four-piece drum kit that set the stage for many starter drum sets that new musicians are familiar with today.
While there are numerous types of drums that vary in popularity from one country to another, the one most commonly used in the United States is the drum kit, which in its most basic form consists of a snare drum, bass drum, several tom-toms, and a collection of cymbals. Although cymbals vary based on a drummer’s needs, a kit typically has a single cymbal along with a hi-hat, which is comprised of two cymbals connected by a foot pedal that allows the cymbals to crash together and come apart in time with the beat of a song.
You’re never too old to learn to play an instrument. Playing an instrument can be a joy for anyone, whether you choose to begin with the piano at age 4 or the guitar at age 40. The important thing to remember for those who pursue the study of a musical instrument is that the success of the endeavor ultimately comes down to one thing: practice. No musician can ever become proficient with his or her chosen instrument if he or she neglects to practice.
Listed below are a collection of important tips for student musicians who want to get the most out of their practice sessions.
Choose a Good Practice Place
Practicing an instrument takes dedication and focus. The process will be much easier if you have a quiet, secluded area free from distractions like TV or the conversations of others. It can also be beneficial to designate a specific area of the home for this purpose, and return to it with your instrument whenever you practice.
Whether you make a practice space in the corner of your bedroom or have a whole room dedicated to the purpose, make sure that any supplies you may need for your practice session are nearby before you begin. Getting up to search for needed supplies in the middle of practicing can distract the mind and make it difficult to dedicate the necessary attention to the process.
Give Yourself a Goal for Each Session
Learning an instrument can feel overwhelming and frustrating at times. However, entering into every practice session with a goal in mind can help you stay motivated and on track.
Picking up your instrument to practice without a pre-established goal can leave you feeling unsure of your progress at the end of the session, so choose an objective for the day before you sit down to play, no matter how small. Examples of goals include mastering chord changes, learning a picking pattern, or even familiarizing yourself with the fingering of new chords.
Don't Rush through Pieces
Practicing an instrument is not only about the memorization of pieces. There will be occasions in which you will need to focus on the memorization of whole songs. However, the point of practicing is to develop good technique and generate the muscle memory needed to play a piece correctly.
Rushing through a piece from beginning to end each time you practice leaves you vulnerable to making repeated mistakes that become ingrained into your playing. Such mistakes are much more difficult to undo later. Instead, it is best to learn correctly the first time.
Focus on small parts of a piece at a time. Make it a point to repeat passages in which you miss notes until you have played each passage the correct way multiple times. The tempo of the song and the number of bars that you play can be gradually increased as you become more familiar with the piece.
Find a Practice Schedule That Works for You
If you really want to play well, you should set aside time to practice your instrument every day, but each musician must develop a practice schedule that suits his or her own needs. However often you choose to practice, remember that sessions don’t have to be played at any specific time or manner.
If you have more energy in the morning, consider practicing before school or work. If you are at your best later in the afternoons, practice in the evening when you return home for the day. Also remember that your practice time can be broken up into multiple segments, if it makes the process more enjoyable.
Whether you dedicate 30 minutes or two hours to practicing, taking a break between sessions can make learning an instrument more enjoyable for some. This is especially the case for young musicians, who may find it difficult to focus for prolonged periods of time.
Always Warm Up
Both beginning and experienced music students should make it a point to warm up before practicing a piece. Starting out slowly with a scale that allows your fingers to get proper exercise can help prepare your hands, fingers, and wrists for the workout that they receive each time you pick up your instrument. Those who neglect to warm up may run the risk of developing hand muscle injuries, such as carpal tunnel and tendonitis.
Look for Useful Tools to Help You along the Way
There are many phone apps, websites, YouTube videos, and other technologies that can help improve the way you practice. One of the best ways to gain some perspective about your progress is to record yourself in audio or video format as you play. Then, listen back to the recording to determine whether or not you’re playing the correct notes.
Remember That Playing Proficiently Will Take Time
One of the most difficult aspects of learning an instrument is to demonstrate patience. Though you will likely be eager to see results right away, it’s crucial for new musicians to remember that learning to play an instrument proficiently takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work.
Instead of being frustrated about the time it takes to play music well, focus on small victories along the way. Feel good about mastering the first few bars of a piece and give yourself recognition when you successfully memorize new chord progressions. Musicianship can be a true source of happiness for those who appreciate the process of learning to play, rather than just the idea of proficiency.
Science shows that people of all ages can experience significant benefits from the study of and exposure to music. This is especially true in the case of children, whose development can be positively influenced by the presence of music in their lives throughout each of the following stages of childhood.
Exposing a child to music in his or her infancy is an excellent way to lay the groundwork for musical development and appreciation later in life. Babies develop the ability to hear before they are even born, and the sense fully matures by the time they are one month old. This makes it easy for babies to respond to music from a very early age.
The infant brain has a predisposition toward learning music in a way similar to its inclination toward learning language. Singing to babies or rocking them gently to soft songs can nurture strong musical neural pathways that lead them to engage enthusiastically with songs as they grow. A baby who is familiar with music may also begin to vocally experiment with melodies the way that many babies experiment with speech—through babbling and producing their own sounds. Studies have shown that parents who rhythmically rock babies in time to music may help their children develop stronger cognitive skills, as the ability to recognize and predict rhythmic patterns in music can also affect a baby’s ability to recognize patterns and rhythm in speech.
For toddlers, music is an excellent way to help them learn and boost memory. Songs can help children accomplish learning feats such as remembering the alphabet, and can even be used to help them learn to master new skills, like how to tie their shoes.
Though each child is different, most experts agree it is best to wait until a child is around the age of five to begin taking formal music lessons. Though some children express interest in experimenting with instruments earlier, five-year-olds are generally better equipped to pay attention to a lesson and understand that they will not be able to immediately play music. Waiting until the child is older also reduces the risk that he or she will become bored and frustrated, and therefore turned off to musicianship altogether.
As children reach school age, those who practice music develop a wide range of valuable abilities and skills. Different studies of musicianship in children have noted that practicing an instrument may increase their capacity for creativity, improve spatial intelligence, expand mathematics skills, improve language comprehension, and strengthens various areas of the brain.
One study published by the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that young musicians develop stronger neural connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which ultimately results in these children displaying faster cognitive abilities than those of their peers. Another study conducted by Brown University showed that practicing an instrument increases the production of grey matter in the brain, leading to neural connections that fostered better skills in spelling, reading comprehension, and motor skills. Practicing an instrument in childhood may also improve a child’s ability to organize and problem-solve.
By the time a child reaches the “tween” years (between the ages of eight and 12), they may have the opportunity to participate in a school band. For many children, this age will be the first time they have the chance to practice an instrument, and the positive developmental effects continue to benefit kids at this stage of life. Like younger children, older children who practice music often do better in subjects like math and reading. In addition, making a commitment to play an instrument at this age requires ample practice, which teaches older children about the value of discipline and self-control. A child who practices regularly can apply this self-regulatory strength to other areas of academics, such as completing homework assignments.
There is also a social benefit to playing music as an older child. Playing an instrument in the school band or orchestra can help children understand the importance of patience and teamwork. Learning to work together and take turns during practice sessions can help kids at this age learn about the value of collaboration and what they can accomplish as part of a team. Participation in these groups also gives older children the opportunity to feel as though they are part of a larger community, which can be important in a phase of development when they begin to undergo emotional and social changes.
It’s common knowledge that music plays a significant role in the lives of teenagers, and a study from 2015 showed that children in this age group listen to an average of four hours of music every day. Music not only serves as an emotional outlet for teens and a way to express their personal identities, but it also has a social element as well. Music allows teenagers to bond with friends and form meaningful relationships with others in a way that is important for personal development.
Beyond listening to music, teenagers who practice an instrument continue to reap cognitive benefits that mirror those experienced by younger children. Scientific evidence confirms that practicing a musical instrument during the teenage years continues to boost brain development, leading to positive effects like stronger literacy skills. Positive effects outside of the brain include the fact that students who belong to high school band or orchestra groups are less likely to develop lifelong problems with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Teens who are musicians have also been noted to be less likely to display disciplinary problems and have higher grade point averages than their peers who did not play an instrument.