Being a professional vocalist is the dream of many amateur musicians around the world. While many people who are interested in this pursuit have a natural talent for singing, it takes more than a lovely voice to turn this dream into a reality. Listed below are 10 qualities and characteristics that every aspiring vocalist should have to reach the professional level.
Enthusiasm for learning
Aspiring vocalists who aren’t willing to learn and develop their singing abilities are unlikely to find success in the music industry. While a singer may get lucky and earn a job by relying on his or her natural talents, vocalists tend to benefit more from an education in proper vocal technique and music theory. It’s recommended that people who are committed to forging a career as a professional singer take lessons from a vocal coach or study music at an institution of higher education.
A great ear for pitch
You can’t be a great singer if you lack the ability to sing in tune. Accomplished vocalists have an excellent ear for pitch, meaning that they can perfectly match the pitch of a tone that they hear—singing a note that is neither flat nor sharp. Though some singers are naturally gifted with an ear for music, others who wish to be professional vocalists can enlist the help of voice teachers to develop the ability to consistently sing notes in the correct pitch.
Excellent breath control
Singing well requires more than the ability to sing in the right pitch. A professional vocalist must also work to develop excellent breath support to sustain strong, clear notes without faltering. Breath control can be developed when a vocalist trains in breathing techniques and correct singing posture, as well as through extensive practice.
An ambitious attitude
Professional singing is not for those who are afraid to take risks or ask for what they want. Vocalists who find success tend to be “go-getter” types who seek out opportunities to perform, rather than waiting around for gig offers to find them. Most singers will not find success without an ambitious attitude and the courage to ask for chances to sing.
Receptive to new ideas
Even when aspiring vocalists train extensively in their craft, it’s still important that they stay open to learning new things and entertaining new ideas while working in the industry. When performing, singers need to work with other musicians, and having a narrow-minded view of the genres and styles that you will perform can severely limit professional opportunities. Vocalists at the professional level should experiment with different styles of music to be more versatile and have the capacity to work with musicians from all areas of the industry. This will increase their chances of finding success.
Open to criticism
No matter how much natural talent you have, you should always remain open to feedback. The opinions of professionals and other well-intentioned people who take the time to listen to your demos can help you gain new insights on the strengths and weaknesses in your performance. Though not all criticism is warranted or worth paying attention to, professional vocalists must learn to recognize constructive criticism and apply it in order to make themselves even better performers than before.
While the ability to take constructive criticism as a vocalist is important, so too is an innate self-assurance and belief in your singing abilities. Confidence about your talents will not only help you more readily accept criticism, but will also reduce pre-show anxiety and help you project self-assuredness during performances, leading to better reception from audiences. Overall, professional vocalists must learn to love their own voice through self-acceptance and extensive singing practice.
People who become professional singers have self-discipline. A vocalist must be strongly committed to regular practice and maintain a strict voice care regimen to ensure that they keep their vocal cords in good condition. A standard voice care regimen should include warm-ups before every singing practice and performance, keeping the vocal cords hydrated, getting enough sleep, and avoiding harmful substances that irritate the throat tissue, like cigarettes.
The ability to work in a team
Vocalists do not work alone. Being a singer requires collaboration with a wide range of music industry professionals, including instrumentalists, songwriters, technicians, and producers. To function effectively in their role, vocalists must value teamwork and be respectful to the people who help them give great performances.
No matter how much talent vocalists have, they should not expect to find success without hard work and time. Patience is a necessity for anyone who wants to sing professionally, as progress often goes slowly. The important things for all aspiring singers to remember are to keep the vocal cords healthy, continually look for ways to improve, and to enjoy themselves along the path to success.
By the time children reach the age of 10, many of them will be able to learn how to play some of the bigger brass and woodwind instruments that were physically unsuitable for them before. Not only are instruments from the brass and woodwind sections a unique and entertaining choice for children who want to play music, they can also help growing kids develop better hand-eye coordination, learn better breath control, and increase their confidence. Additionally, the band atmosphere in which many students practice at school gives children the opportunity to socialize and make new friends with similar interests. Listed below is a helpful guide to the popular brass and woodwind instruments available to young musicians.
Brass instruments are known for their loud, bright tones. To play a brass instrument, a musician uses his or her lips to create a vibration against the mouthpiece, which is then amplified through the instrument’s metal body. Brass instruments are used in a wide variety of music genres, but are especially notable for their place in jazz, marching bands, and professional orchestras. The following are among the most popular brass instruments for children to learn.
Though there are several different versions of the trumpet, the most commonly played is the B-flat trumpet. The standard range of the trumpet spans the F-sharp note below C4 to the B note two and a half octaves higher. The notes are manipulated by a musician using three piston valves located on the instrument’s top. Trumpets are arguably easier to learn how to play than other brass instruments, and a reasonably good quality trumpet can be purchased for a beginning student at an affordable price.
The French horn is often referred to simply as “the horn” in orchestral settings. It is among the more difficult of the brass instruments for young students to learn. Because of the way that the instrument is designed, horn players are much more likely to play the wrong notes, and performing without cracking or hitting a wrong note requires precision. Despite its difficulty, the French horn is celebrated for its rich, beautiful sound, and plays a distinct and important role in orchestra performances.
The trombone is unique among brass instruments because the player uses a slide to create different pitches rather than valves. The most commonly used version of the instrument is the tenor trombone, which plays in the key of B-flat, though the sounds it produces are one octave below the B-flat notes played by the standard trumpet.
The tuba is by far the largest instrument in the brass family, and accordingly, it plays the lowest notes. The instrument is made from a single long, metal tube that can range in size from nine to 18 feet, with the longest tubes creating the lowest sounds. The standard version of the tuba is played while the musician is sitting down, with the instrument on his or her lap, though specially designed tubas are used in marching bands.
In contrast to the brass section, players create music on a woodwind instrument through one of two ways. For reed instruments in the woodwind family, a player produces notes by blowing through a mouthpiece equipped with a strip of thin material known as a reed. The reed, which may be made from materials like wood, plastic, metal, cane, or synthetic materials, is responsible for creating the vibrations that produce a sound, rather than the musician’s lips. For flute instruments in the woodwind family, sounds are produced when a musician blows air across the edge of the instrument’s mouthpiece. The following woodwind instruments are among the most popular for children to play.
Of all the instruments in the woodwind family, the flute is the highest pitched, and creates a sound similar to that of a whistle when a player blows air across the top of the instrument’s tone hole. It is an extremely popular instrument for young musicians. The most commonly used flute in bands and orchestras is the soprano flute, which often plays the melody part in an orchestral performance. Flutes are a great choice for student musicians because they are widely available and easy to transport to and from classes.
The clarinet family comprises several reed instruments that range from the small, high E-flat clarinet to the large contrabass, which plays deep, low notes. The most commonly played clarinet is the soprano version, which produces notes in B-flat. The clarinet is typically made of wood with metal keys covering holes that span its length, though some clarinets are built from plastic, plexiglass, metal, or other synthetic materials. It is a popular choice for beginner musicians, though it may take young children some time to learn how to cover the instruments’ holes, some of which are not entirely covered by the keys.
Though made of brass, the saxophone is considered a woodwind instrument because it is played through a mouthpiece equipped with a reed. The four most commonly used members of the saxophone family are the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass versions, with the most widely-played being the alto and tenor. Like instruments in the brass family, the saxophone can often be heard in jazz and big band music, though it also has found use as a unique component of rock groups in recent years.
While many people take up an instrument and learn how to play it purely for their own enjoyment, some choose to take their love of music to the next level by performing for others. However, being a great performer requires a level of confidence that playing as a personal hobby does not. If you wish to feel and appear more self-assured when you play for others, these are the best tips for developing greater confidence as a performing musician.
Recognize that confidence is made, not born.
The first step to building confidence as a performer is to make sure that you’re not framing the idea of confidence in your mind as something that you either “have” or “don’t have.” Confidence as a musician is actually something you either choose to create for yourself, or you don’t. Confidence is not an inherent trait that some musicians are blessed with and others are not. Anybody can build more confidence in themselves as a performer if they are committed and put in the necessary work.
Identify your strong points and areas that need improvement.
To build confidence in your performance abilities, you first need to recognize your strengths. What aspects of your abilities as a musician do you already feel good about? Maybe you have a talent for being expressive when you play, or you’re gifted at sight reading. Perhaps you’ve mastered a very difficult strumming or bowing technique on your instrument. Acknowledge that there are some aspects of your performance to be proud of before turning your attention to the areas that need improvement. When evaluating which aspects of your performance could use some work, try not to think of them as flaws, but instead consider them as opportunities for growth. Practice positive self-talk when working on these aspects, avoiding unsupportive thoughts that are critical and self-defeating.
Over-prepare for your gigs.
There’s one element of developing your confidence as a performer that should go without saying: you need to play at public shows. Playing for family and friends is a great start for musicians who are just getting into the practice, but eventually you will need to play a gig in front of strangers. In these instances, if you want to project confidence, it’s important to be more prepared than you think you should be. Practice often and practice effectively. Don’t run mindlessly through entire songs, but rather take your time, going over the more difficult parts of a song repeatedly until you can play every part of the piece seamlessly. Consider splitting your practice time into multiple, smaller blocks of time in order to keep your focus sharp and your interest alive. Confidence as a performer partially comes from knowing that you practiced enough and have the ability to play a song perfectly from beginning to end.
Be aware of your physical appearance.
Apart from being very familiar with the music that you’re playing, another way to be confident as a performing musician is to make sure that you physically appear self-assured. This means dressing for the part and maintaining the right posture. On the day of a performance, make sure you wear clothes that reflect your commitment to your music. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wear something expensive or formal, but remember to dress well, in clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Additionally, make sure that your posture on stage is straight and powerful. Not only will having great posture show the audience that you believe in your own abilities, but it also can have a positive effect on the way you feel mentally.
Spend time around people with similar skill levels.
Many professionals suggest that aspiring performers spend as much time as possible around musicians who are more experienced than themselves. While this is good advice for the purpose of improving your technical skills on an instrument, it can take a toll on your confidence if you constantly find yourself surrounded by people more advanced than you are. Balance time spent with more accomplished musicians by dedicating some of your time to people with abilities similar to your own. Jamming with musicians at a comparable level of accomplishment is not only fun, but it can also take the focus off technical skill-building and help you feel more self-assured when playing with other musicians.
Mentor someone who is just starting out.
Just as there will always be musicians who have more experience than you, there will also always be less experienced people who can benefit from your advice. Acting as a mentor to a budding musician will give you the opportunity to do something positive for another person while also receiving a confidence boost. By helping another person develop his or her talent, you can reflect on the knowledge you have accumulated and reinforce fundamental concepts in your own mind, which may give you more faith in your own abilities.
Keep thorough track of your progress.
If you’re aware of how far you’ve come from the point where you started, you’re more likely to appreciate your current abilities. Keep your practice sheets and make recordings of yourself as you continue to develop your skills as a musician. As time passes, you’ll be able to return to this evidence and use it as a reference to comprehend the extent of your accomplishments. Appreciating your growth as a musician will help you gain confidence and inspire continued progress.
While there has been some debate in recent years about the real-world value of arts education, school music programs undeniably offer children numerous benefits that can help them excel in academics as well as in life. Listed below are eight reasons that music education is an important part of kids’ lives.
1. Music exercises the brain.
Research suggests that the minds of children who study music operate differently than those of kids who don’t. Taking lessons on an instrument requires a young student to exercise the brain in new ways, resulting in a higher degree of neural activity that ultimately strengthens parts of the brain related to fine motor skills and sound discrimination. Further studies suggest that taking music lessons also requires children to exercise parts of the brain related to memory, making predications, and attention span, leading to better function in these areas.
2. Music teaches children about diversity.
Music education is a simple yet effective way to teach children about the value and importance of cultural differences. The unifying nature of music can help children see similarities between themselves and people who look or act differently, leading to greater acceptance of these differences and an understanding of the value of inclusion. Children who learn about the music enjoyed by other cultures are better able to see connections between themselves and others because of the way that people from every corner of the globe all dance, sing to, and play music.
3. Music may help children develop a larger vocabulary.
Music lessons are an excellent way for children to expand their vocabularies. Research shows that the longer a child has trained in music, the more advanced his or her verbal memory is. A child’s vocabulary plays an important role in other scholastic endeavors, such as reading comprehension, communication, and self-expression, and can help boost overall academic performance.
4. Music can help a child learn how to work in teams.
Group music lessons are an excellent opportunity for children to learn how to work together with their peers in order to achieve a common goal. Participation in musical groups like bands or orchestras requires children to develop skills related to cooperation, negotiation, and self-awareness—all of which are lessons they must learn in order to become a successful adult. Altogether, the teamwork skills that children gain through music education can result in a higher degree of social competency, giving them the ability to build positive, healthy relationships with peers.
5. Music can help a child develop higher levels of confidence.
Commitment to music study gives children the opportunity to develop a new skill over time, which can help build confidence. As a child becomes more and more accomplished on an instrument, he or she may feel a sense of pride and satisfaction in his or her ability to cultivate a new skill through hard work. Additionally, children who take music classes in school often have the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. Preparing for and performing in a concert instills a sense of self-confidence in kids, and helps them learn how to present themselves in front of a crowd.
6. Music can teach children the value of perseverance.
Learning to play an instrument is not a quick or easy process, but children who commit to music lessons come to know the value of perseverance in the face of difficulty. These children learn to stick with an activity, even when the process becomes frustrating, and learn the rewards of pushing past challenges. Musicianship is also an excellent way for children to understand the importance of discipline, as they recognize the talents they are able to develop when they routinely set aside time for practice.
7. Music may lower the likelihood that a child will later use drugs or alcohol.
Studies have shown that children who study music are less likely than those who don’t to experiment with substances like alcohol, drugs, and tobacco in their lifetimes. Additionally, statistics indicate that children who have taken music classes have a higher rate of school attendance than those who don’t, and are almost 20 percent more likely to graduate from high school.
8. Music gives children a way to express themselves.
In addition to the more obvious academic and social benefits that can help children develop into healthy, functional adults, music also offers children a platform for self-expression. A child who has taken lessons will be better equipped to express him or herself through music and will have a useful outlet for developing his or her creativity. Music can help children express feelings they may not yet be able to articulate with words, and the creative development involved in self-expression may set children up for success in later life. Creativity is noted as a major indicator for leadership success and professional accomplishment.
Music has been a part of human culture throughout the ages, with some evidence suggesting that mankind has been creating songs for more than 50,000 years. Since then, it has evolved to become a crucial part of numerous societies. To explore the role that music has played in human history, check out the following facts about the songs, instruments, and musicians of the ancient world:
1. The oldest-known piece of music is called “Hurrian Hymn No. 6.”
“Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is the oldest melody to be discovered in its entirety, with an estimated composition date sometime between 1400 and 1300 BC. Etched into a Sumerian clay tablet found in Syria in the 1950s, the melody, written for a 9-string lyre, honors the fruit and fertility goddess Nikkal.
The oldest full musical composition—consisting of a melody with lyrics—is a 2,000-year-old song entitled “Seikilos Epitaph.” This song was engraved on a marble column that served as a gravesite marker in Turkey, and includes the lyrics “While you live, shine / Have no grief at all / Life exists only for a short while / And time demands its toll,” according to an article on History.com.
2. The world’s first instruments include flutes and drums.
In Germany in the early 2010s, archaeologists discovered flutes carved from mammoth ivory and bird bones, which scientists estimate to be more than 40,000 years old. Though researchers cannot say with surety what people used the instruments for, they speculate that the bone flutes were used in either religious rituals or for recreational purposes.
The next-oldest instruments ever found are drums, some of which date back to 6000 BC. Formed by animal skin membranes stretched tight across a shell made from objects like gourds and wood, drums of different designs and sizes have been discovered in the ruins of ancient societies located in places like Egypt, Iraq, and Turkey.
3. Ancient Greeks used music both recreationally and academically.
Music was a cornerstone of life in ancient Greece, and people played it on all kinds of occasions, from the celebratory, to the everyday, to the somber. It served as a way to entertain guests at weddings and social gatherings and to console the grieving at funerals. It was even played on a regular basis for workers undertaking their daily tasks in an effort to make labor more tolerable.
The ancient Greeks’ believed that music had a divine quality that promoted healing and allowed people to relax, but they also saw music as an academic tool. Music was one of four elements of mathematics education in Ancient Greece because of the role that ratios play in the relationship between melody and harmony. Thus, they considered music to be less of an art and more of a quantitative science.
4. Some cultures still play ancient instruments today.
A number of modern musicians still play instruments that originated thousands of years ago in places like China, Australia, and many Middle Eastern countries. In China, people carry on the tradition of playing the guqin, a plucked instrument with seven strings strung across a long, narrow board. Some claim that the Chinese philosopher Confucius played the guqin, because he considered music to be a crucial part of maintaining a clear heart and mind.
In countries like Azerbaijan, Turkey, Greece, and Tajikistan, musicians still play a large frame drum known as a daf. The daf has a hardwood frame covered by a membrane, which is often made of goatskin. Played by the hand, the dafa is sometimes equipped with small metal ringlets around the interior to produce a tambourine-like sound.
In Australia, aboriginal peoples still play a long flute known as a didgeridoo, which is formed from local hardwoods. These instruments tend to be between 3 and 10 feet long, and are played by vibrating one’s lips continuously through a large mouth opening at the top while tapping out patterns along the side.
5. You can hear recreated ancient music on the Internet.
In 2013, a researcher from Oxford University claimed that he was able to accurately reconstruct the sound of the lyrics and melody of the “Seiklos Epitaph” through new findings about ancient Greek vocal notations. To play the song as it was originally meant to be heard, he used an instrument known as a canon, which has eight strings and is similar to a zither. That song can be heard here. Many people have also attempted to recreate “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” using a variety of instruments, including different forms of lyres that may be similar to those used at the time the song that was written. Several different versions of “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” can be found here.
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.
If you’re an adult who wants to learn to play an instrument for the first time, you may be eager to get started, but have a few questions about what the learning process will be like. Before you pick out your first instrument, read through the following FAQs to gain useful information about becoming a musician later in life.
Q: How should I choose which instrument to play?
A: One way to decide which instrument you would like to play is to consider the music genres you most enjoy listening to, and then choose an instrument that fits within that style. For example, if you enjoy rock and roll, electric guitar might be a good choice, whereas if you have an affinity for classical music, you might consider the violin.
It’s also important to consider factors like the availability of practice space. If you live in an apartment, learning to practice the drums can cause problems with neighbors, whereas a keyboard or flute may not. Ultimately, you should choose an instrument that you truly feel excited about learning to play. The enthusiasm will help keep you motivated to move forward with lessons, even when they become difficult.
Q: What are the easiest instruments to play?
A: While all instruments will require you to dedicate time and effort to become proficient, some instruments may be simpler for an adult learner to master than others. The ukulele is an instrument commonly considered to be both fun and relatively simple to learn in comparison with other stringed instruments.
The harmonica is also thought of as a moderately easy, yet versatile instrument for new musicians. These types of instruments can offer you a musical outlet through which you may be able to play well in a much shorter time period than more complicated instruments.
Q: What are the most difficult instruments to play?
A: Many experienced musicians consider instruments in the strings and brass families to be some of the more challenging instruments to learn how to play for adult beginners. Choices like the violin and cello are fretless, giving musicians no visual guidance for the proper placement of the fingers. Brass instruments like the French horn require a musician to exert a high volume of air while correctly positioning his or her lips to play the right notes.
Others consider piano to be a more complicated choice of instrument, as a proficient player must have the ability to read music while moving each hand independently from the other across the keys. Whatever you choose to play, the most important thing to remember is that all instruments present musicians with difficulty during the learning process. Don’t be afraid to take up an instrument that seems intimidating - if you are determined to play it, you will.
Q: Am I too old to learn to play an instrument?
A: It is a common misconception that people can only become proficient on an instrument if they first took lessons as a child. The real answer is no, you are never too old to take up an instrument for the first time. In fact, learning as an adult may have its own set of advantages.
For example, as an adult, you likely have years of experience listening to music, giving you a basic understanding of its structure. Additionally, you may have a more developed sense of self-discipline, which is necessary to keep to a regular practice schedule.
Lastly, unlike many children who are made to take music lessons by well-meaning parents, your decision to learn how to play an instrument is your own. Those who willfully and enthusiastically take up a new instrument are likely to have greater motivation to practice and master the requisite skills.
Q: Can I learn to play an instrument without the help of a teacher?
A: There are many ways for a beginning adult musician to learn to play an instrument, and taking lessons from a qualified teacher is only one of them. If taking lessons from a teacher doesn’t suit your financial situation or lifestyle preferences, you can find many helpful resources online to get you started.
Video tutorials on YouTube are a great place for beginning musicians to learn basic skills, and there are many well-written blogs on the internet that offer instruction for free. The iTunes and Google Play store also have a collection of music education apps for free or for very low prices that can be extremely helpful in learning to develop your abilities on an instrument.
Q: How long will it take before I can play my instrument proficiently?
A: This is a question that cannot be answered, as the factors that influence your development are contingent upon your individual choices. The first factor is identifying what “proficient” means to you. Do you want to play well enough to perform a few songs on your instrument at social gatherings, or do you want to develop talents that near a professional level?
Another factor to consider is how much time you plan to dedicate to practicing the instrument. Dedicated, well-structured practice is the only way for a musician to learn how to play an instrument, and how fast you progress depends on how much time you put in.
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.
While the electric bass may not be culturally celebrated on the level of its cousin the electric guitar, the instrument plays an essential role in the creation of fluid, measured music that is pleasing to the ear. Read on for an overview of everything one needs to know about the electric bass.
The role of the bass in music
The Fender company first developed the electric bass guitar for mass consumption in the 1950s. Known as the Precision Bass, this electric, easily-transportable alternative to the stand-up bass had a fundamental influence on the evolution of popular music. The Precision Bass could not only be amplified to better blend in with other loud, electric instruments, but its physical design was also familiar enough that guitar players could learn to play it more easily than the quieter, acoustic stand-up bass.
Today, bass guitar is a core component of most modern music styles, including rock, pop, swing, funk, world beat, jazz, metal, and blues. While all instruments play significant roles in the creation of a band’s sound, the bass is arguably the most important. This is because the bass guitarist is responsible for creating a connection between the harmony of a song and its rhythm. Alongside a drummer, a bassist must keep time within a song, playing in a rhythmic pattern that establishes the pulse, or beat, of the music for the rest of the band to follow.
At the same time, the bassist must play notes that establish a harmonic foundation for the rest of the musicians. In this respect, the bass is also extremely important, because the human ear tends to hear harmonies created by multiple notes in relation to the lowest possible pitch. If a bassist plays the wrong foundational notes, it throws the harmony off and disrupts the music. This makes it much easier to notice when a bass player makes a mistake than when someone playing a lead instrument, such as guitar or saxophone, missteps.
Ways to play the bass
The bass guitar’s traditional four strings are tuned to the notes E, A, D, and G—one octave below the electric guitar’s four lowest-toned strings. The similarity between the notes and body styles of the two instruments sometimes leads guitar players to assume that learning to play the bass will be an easy task, but the transition is not usually so smooth. This is due, in part, to the fact that playing the bass requires a markedly different technique and technical skillset than people use to play the electric guitar.
Accomplished bass players may use a variety of styles to create the right sound for the genre of music they are playing. Popular playing techniques on the bass include palm muting, picking, fretting, and slap and pop. While many bassists choose to use only their fingers on the strings of the instrument, some prefer to use a pick. Famous bassists like Geddy Lee, Flea, and Duck Dunn are all notable for their abilities as finger-style bassists, while Paul McCartney, Chris Squire, and Mike Dirnt made notable accomplishments playing with a pick. Either choice is appropriate and depends solely on the preference of the bassist.
Useful bass equipment
Musicians who are interested in becoming bass guitarists need several pieces of gear to get started. Second in importance to the instrument itself is an amplifier. A bass guitar that is not plugged into an amp will not emit any notable sound. Beginner musicians can learn to play using a small, 100-watt amp, but more experienced bassists who are looking to perform shows should only purchase amps with a wattage of 200 or more. To connect a bass to an amp, all new musicians must also purchase an instrument cable with quarter-inch jacks on both ends.
Additional gear that is helpful for new bass players to have includes a guitar strap, which will allow a musician to learn how to stand while playing. Learning to play a bass while standing is more comfortable than sitting down with the bass propped on one knee, and will also be a useful technique for those who want to eventually join a band. New musicians should also consider purchasing a case for the instrument to protect it from damage, as well as an electronic tuner to make sure that they are playing in key.
Musicians, whether they are amateur players or professionals, occasionally have to bring their instruments on a plane trip. However, while air travel is an extremely safe method of transportation for people, it can often lead to lost or damaged instruments. Musicians who wish to make sure their instruments arrive safely should keep the following helpful tips in mind when planning their next flight:
Follow any Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules
Before taking their instrument on a plane, musicians need to be aware of the relevant guidelines set by the TSA. According to the organization’s website, all instruments must undergo a security screening. Musicians who bring an instrument as a carry-on item must present it for a physical inspection at the airport’s security checkpoint. At this time, owners should communicate to TSA agents any special guidelines for handling their fragile instrument. If checking their instrument as baggage, individuals should be sure to label it with written instructions describing how TSA agents should handle the instrument while examining it and then restoring it to its case.
Arrive early if you plan to bring your instrument as a carry-on
In 2012, the US Congress passed a law requiring airlines to allow instruments as carry-on items without imposing extra fees, as long as the instrument can safely fit underneath a seat or in an overhead bin. However, the law does not state that airlines must give musicians priority space in overhead bins, and in the event that there is no room for an instrument in the cabin’s stowage area, owners will need to check the item at the gate. For this reason, it is a good idea for musicians to purchase priority boarding tickets to make sure that they are among the first passengers to board the aircraft. This ensures that there will be plenty of room to store an instrument in the overhead compartment.
Buy a seat for your instrument
Musicians with larger instruments like cellos and upright basses also have the option to purchase a seat for their instrument provided that it meets the weight and height guidelines established by the airline. The major US airline carriers all maintain different policies on instruments as cabin seat baggage, which travelers can find here. Even after establishing that a large instrument qualifies as cabin seat baggage, musicians should still contact the airline 24 hours ahead of time to confirm the viability of the special travel arrangement. In addition, any person traveling with a large instrument should arrive at the airport a half hour earlier than normal to make sure that he or she has enough time to transport the instrument through the airport and secure it safely in its seat before takeoff.
Take necessary precautions for instruments stored in the cargo bay
Musicians who check their instruments need to make sure their instruments are well protected while stored in the cargo bay. One way to do this is to purchase a quality hard case equipped with protective padding on the inside. It’s also a good idea to fill any empty spaces within the instrument’s case with newspaper, bubble wrap, foam, or soft fabric to prevent the instrument from moving around during transit. Musicians should label their case with an ID tag that clearly lists their full name and contact information to help prevent the instrument from becoming lost.
Additionally, whether an instrument is traveling in the cargo bay or the cabin, owners should make sure to tune down stringed instruments and drums before takeoff. The pressure changes that occur during air travel may cause increased string tension on instruments like violins, guitars, and cellos, which could cause the necks of the instruments to bend or even break entirely. Tightened drumheads may also be at risk for this type of damage.
Buy a cheap version of an instrument to take on trips instead
To avoid the stress of traveling with an expensive instrument, musicians should consider purchasing a lower-quality version specifically for use during travel. Owners should take steps to protect these cheaper versions the same way that they would for their standard instruments, but in the event of accidental damage, loss, or theft, the cost of replacement is much less. If obtaining a cheaper version of the instrument is not feasible, individuals can purchase travel insurance to protect them against the significant costs associated with replacing a lost instrument or repairing a damaged one.