Percussion instruments are perennial favorites of both children and their teachers within any music education program. The variety of percussion instruments available for purchase by educators and parents is rivaled only by the wide range of such instruments that school groups and families can make from relatively simple materials.
Here is a summary of the fascinating history and educational uses of drums and other percussion instruments.
Why keeping the beat is important
Babies and young children love to shake, rattle, and roll a variety of musical instruments and common household items. The “aha!” instant when a young child discovers the ability to manipulate objects to make sounds can be a joyful and momentous one.
So rhythm instruments solve one perennial classroom problem: Ensuring an orderly environment conducive to learning while at the same time respecting young children’s innate need to make noise and enjoy movement.
While learning the words to a new song can be challenging and involve a great deal of memorization, making music with rhythm and percussion instruments is so simple that it can be enjoyed by children with a wide range of abilities.
For shy children, having a musical instrument in hand can increase their self-confidence as they join musical activities that demand only that they make noise.
One study after another has shown that learning to make music supports the full range of intellectual, artistic, social, and emotional development in young children.
Early education programs that make good use of rhythm and percussion instruments can be particularly helpful in strengthening spatial and kinesthetic awareness, as well as to develop young participants’ coordination.
Some simple examples of percussion in the classroom
You can instruct children to shake their rhythm instruments alternately high, low, to the left, and to the right, in front of themselves and behind their backs. Children can make the big motions that reinforce gross muscle development while shaking their instruments, or small movements that build fine motor skills.
Real-time verbal commentary (“Shake it to the left! Shake it to the right! Over! Under!”) adds another layer of language learning to the mix, while rhythm and music can help to anchor memories of new words in children’s consciousness.
Young musicians can easily learn to adjust their movements, ranging from vigorous shaking to delicate jingling, as they learn more about the concepts of “loud” and “soft.”
The history of drums reverberates to the present day
Civilizations throughout recorded history have made use of drums. Military maneuvers and marches have been accompanied by drum beats. Ancient tribes frequently used drums to broadcast signals and send messages back and forth.
Many students of music history believe that the snare drum arose in medieval Europe, at a time when a wide range of drum types were used, although the ultimate origin of drums was likely in Asia.
The Middle Ages also saw the extensive use of the timbrel, an early type of tambourine with jingling attachments, and of the frame drum or tympanum, whose body was a wooden frame with an open underside. Itinerant performers would often pair a timbrel with a pipe held in one hand.
Medieval Europe also saw a proliferation of various types of drums, with no standard way of referring to them. “Tabor” or “tambour” was another term used to describe a drum, with various linguistic variations. The phrase “trommel” was a 12th century coinage from Germanic languages that linguists believe to be the source of the current English word, “drum.”
In medieval Europe, the bass drum followed the snare drum into wide use, even as drum sticks evolved to the point where they were carved from a range of wood types. Beef wood was a popular drum stick material in the 18th century, while military bands of the following century favored ebony.
The era of European colonization led to the adoption of bongos from African and Afro-Cuban populations into Western cultures in the 1800s, as well.
The early 20th century witnessed the sale of entire sets of drums as a unit, with innovations adding cymbals and other percussion to the standard set. In the 1950s, Joe Calato introduced the nylon-tipped drum stick, and electric drums appeared for the first time in the 1970s.
Homemade rhythm instruments can be all you need
Homemade rhythm and percussion instruments can provide hours of fun. And they can be as simple as a small, sealed container filled with rice, beads, or other items that produce sound when shaken.
Other, more elaborate shakers can be made by using strong packing tape to attach two clear plastic cups together after filling them with percussive material. To add flair, you can attach shower curtain rings to either end of this type of shaker with more packing tape. Then you can attach ribbon to the rings to serve as colorful streamers.
A discarded coffee can might become a drum, or unused window casings or wooden rectangles can be cut to various sizes and assembled as a xylophone. A garbage can is just waiting to become a steel drum, while a series of jars filled with water of varying depths can create cascading, delicate melodies when struck with a light mallet.
For those who would rather purchase their instruments, a wealth of online shopping sites offer inexpensive, child-friendly egg-shaped shakers, rhythm sticks, whistles, small drums, tambourines, and more.
Across the world, dedicated musicians have helped nurture the talents of new generations of young performers in the classical tradition through a variety of youth symphony orchestra experiences. These organizations, regardless of their location, share a set of common goals: to train young men and women in the rigors of musical interpretation while helping them develop vital life skills such as cooperation, self-discipline, goal-setting, and professionalism.
Here are summaries of the histories and work of only a few of the world’s many youth orchestras active today:
1. The Children’s Orchestra Society
In 1962, Dr. Hiao-Tsiun Ma established the Children’s Orchestra Society (COS) as a means of teaching children to appreciate and perform music, and to understand the values of collaboration and teamwork. Since then, the New York-based nonprofit organization has transformed the lives of numerous young people by helping them gain skills in musicianship and performance that have had lasting positive effects on their lives. Thanks to the training COS offers, young musicians can perform at high levels as members of groups dedicated to classical and chamber music, and play alongside established adult performers.
The COS continues to operate under the principles of its founder. Dr. Ma, a musicologist and teacher in his native China and in the West, was the father of world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and of Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma, who currently heads the COS. The society’s child-centered philosophy aims to provide a supportive environment optimized for the unfolding of each student’s own innate musical gifts, with parts written specifically to enhance individual competencies.
2. The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra
The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra was founded in 1999. Originally funded with grant monies from the local Jewish Community Federation, the organization—then known as the Los Angeles Jewish Youth Orchestra—focused on Jewish-themed liturgical and other music. Its mission soon widened to include performance of the full range of music from the world’s musical heritage, both classical and contemporary.
Under the leadership of composer and music director Russell Steinberg, who arranged several symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn and created original compositions specifically for the group, its musicians’ talents blossomed.
As its repertoire grew and diversified, so did the orchestra’s membership. By 2003, its performers included some five dozen students from a variety of backgrounds and representing about 50 Los Angeles-area high schools. In acknowledgement of this broader focus, that year Steinberg renamed the group the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra. In 2008, the group earned official nonprofit status.
Since its debut, the LAYO has hosted West Coast and world premieres of a number of original compositions. Its schedule includes regular public performances, and it has planned a 2019 Argentina Tour, in which its members will perform four concerts in Buenos Aires, including an outreach concert in one of the city’s most poverty-stricken communities.
3. Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras
The Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras has served the community as a nonprofit group providing music and performance education since 1946. Today, CYSO works with hundreds of young people from the primary grades through high school. These youth take part in a variety of ensembles including four full-scale orchestras, several string orchestras, jazz and steel orchestras, and chamber music groups.
Prominent Chicagoland professional musicians serve as teachers and mentors to the youth as they train to present major performances. Former CYSO participants have gone on to distinguished careers in music and other fields. Many today perform in well-known orchestras and other ensembles around the world, while others have used the skills they learned with CYSO to become lawyers, physicians, and community leaders.
Thanks to CYSO’s Community Partnership Programs, more than 8,000 young people have had the opportunity to gain musical training through neighborhood-based groups and through other venues over the course of the 2017-2018 season. These programs focus particularly on serving youth in under-resourced parts of the community, with the goal of making a strong music education a core part of the life of every Chicagoan.
4. The New York Youth Symphony
The New York Youth Symphony was founded in 1963 to highlight the talents of young people ages 12 to 22. Today, after winning numerous awards and earning praise as one of the most prestigious of the world’s youth orchestras, the symphony continues its program of preparing young people for careers in music, and for becoming lifelong students of—and advocates for—the art.
Over the half-century and more of its existence, the New York Youth Symphony has benefited from the guidance of world-renowned music directors. It has also served as the training ground for some of today’s most in-demand composers and performers, and has for almost 35 years actively commissioned new compositions from young musicians themselves.
5. The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura
In Paraguay, young people with few material resources have established themselves as a remarkable orchestra playing exquisite music on instruments made from garbage. The 2016 documentary film Landfill Harmonic takes viewers inside the creation of this extraordinary youth orchestra, founded by renowned maestro Luis Szaran and led by music director Favio Chavez for the benefit of the children living in the slum of Cateura, Paraguay.
The orchestra has thrived thanks to the dedication of Szaran, Chavez, and a local recycler whose family has sustained itself by collecting and recycling trash. Now, the area’s youth have become skilled musicians playing violins, double bass, wind instruments, and more, all made from scrap metal, old barrels, discarded spoons and buttons, and other trash. And Szaran’s organization, Sonidos de la Tierra, or “Sounds of the Earth,” continues as an instrument workshop and worldwide musical touring ensemble supporting the orchestra.
In 1936, shortly after returning to the Soviet Union after living in Europe for 18 years, composer Sergei Prokofiev created one of the world’s most memorable and enduring musical pieces: Peter and the Wolf.
Ever since, Peter and the Wolf has entertained children while educating them about the sounds of key orchestral instruments.
Here are a few notes on Peter, the Wolf, their creator, and how this charming suite continues to be adapted to the needs of today’s music students:
An instrument defines each character
In Prokofiev’s story, every character has a signature instrument and tune that define individual personality. Music teachers can help children learn to identify the four families of instruments the composer used in the piece: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.
Peter is portrayed by a joyous leitmotiv from a string quartet. Peter’s animal friends are the bird, portrayed by a lilting trill on the flute; the duck, depicted through the waddling gait of the oboe; and the cat, who slinks through the story accompanied by the lower registers of the clarinet. The chugging of the bassoon portrays Peter’s stern and scolding grandfather, and the rolling kettledrums bring a group of hunters to life. A series of sinister blasts on three French horns conveys the menace of the wolf.
A rollicking, melody-filled adventure story
In Prokofiev’s original plot, Peter is a Communist Young Pioneer who lives in the forest at the home of his grandfather. When Peter is walking through the forest, he encounters his friend the bird flying through the trees, the duck swimming, and the cat stalking the birds. Peter’s grandfather comes out of the house to warn his grandson about the dangerous wolf that lurks in the forest, but Peter has no fear.
The wolf eventually comes slinking past Peter’s cottage and devours the duck. So Peter avenges his friend and captures the wolf. He struggles with his captive but ends up tying him to a tree. The hunters appear, wanting to kill the wolf, but Peter persuades them to take the wild creature to the zoo, borne along in a celebratory parade.
Peter and the Wolf earned quick success and is still beloved today by children, teachers, and parents. Prokofiev called on his memories of his own childhood for scenes and characters.
A composer’s life in light and shadows
Born in 1891 in what is now Ukraine, Sergei Prokofiev learned to play the piano as a child. When he grew older, his mother moved with him to St. Petersburg so that he might continue his studies with instruction at a higher level. He began his formal studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and became a skilled pianist, composer, and conductor.
As a young man, Prokofiev became a dedicated traveler, intent on soaking up a variety of musical styles on visits throughout Europe and even to the United States. After the devastations of the Russian Revolution and the First World War, he settled in Paris, but he missed his homeland so much that he returned to the Soviet Union in 1936. He composed Peter and the Wolf for the Moscow Central Children’s Theatre that same year.
As his career blossomed, Prokofiev studied artistic influences including Igor Stravinsky, ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, and modernist artists such as Picasso. His oeuvre includes compositions for opera, ballet, and film. His symphonies and his concertos for piano, cello, and violin are notable among his works, as are his ballet Romeo and Juliet and his music for Sergei Eisenstein’s revered film Alexander Nevsky.
As the Cold War began, Soviet authorities targeted the composer for exclusion from cultural life due to his supposed anti-traditionalist point of view. Because the United States feared Soviet aggression, Western audiences also cooled toward him. When he died in 1953—on the same day as dictator Joseph Stalin—few newspaper readers noticed.
Disney works its magic on the story
There have been numerous recordings of Peter and the Wolf since its debut. The most famous film version is undoubtedly the Walt Disney company’s animated short subject in full color. This film was presented as part of the 1946 feature-length compilation Make Mine Music, which included a variety of other cartoon shorts focused on making music education fun.
In the Disney version, the animals have names and distinct personalities: The bird is named Sasha, the duck Sonia, and the cat Ivan, and each character livens things up through comedic routines.
A beloved favorite in schools and theaters
Dozens of lesson plans about Peter and the Wolf have been created for students of all ages. Typical of these is one created for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In this program, students hear the story, then listen to musical excerpts to become familiar with individual characters and their accompanying instruments. This goal is to ensure that students will understand the storyline; be able to pick out each character’s musical motif and signature instrument; anticipate how each theme will sound in the composition; and identify individual instruments, as well as instrument families, by sound and tone color.
Local companies continue to stage imaginative productions of Peter and the Wolf as part of campaigns for music education. For example, Seattle Children’s Theatre put on a local playwright’s adaptation of the story in which an Emmy Award-winning musician recast Prokofiev’s classic musical motifs with contemporary music styles such as the Charleston, the tango, and the two-step shuffle. The creative team enhanced the production with puppetry, movement, and an expanded series of humorous incidents.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support the widely-held idea that exposing infants and children to classical music can lead to an increase in their intelligence. However, research does indicate that listening to classical music can have a positive effect on many other areas of children's development.
Recent studies have suggested that young children who are exposed to classical music find it easier to concentrate, develop a stronger sense of self-discipline, are better listeners, and ultimately have a wider range of interest in music as they grow into young adults.
If you’re interested in introducing your child to classical music, these five popular and powerful pieces written by some of the greatest composers in history are an excellent place to get started.
1. Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
2. The Flight of the Bumblebee, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
3. Fur Elise, Ludwig von Beethoven
4. The Nutcracker Suite Op. 71a, Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky
5. Clair de Lune, Claude Debussy
When parents encourage their children to take music lessons from a young age, the piano is one of the most popular instrument choices. There is no definitive age at which experts suggest children begin music lessons; young musicians only need to be large enough to reach the keys and have enough hand dexterity to manipulate them.
If you are a parent who is thinking about introducing your young child to music through piano lessons for the first time, there are certain things you will need to do in order to prepare your child and your home for the experience before the first class. Listed below are six things to do before your child attends his or her first piano lesson.
1. Invest in a piano for your home.
The first step that you can take to benefit your future music student is to purchase a piano for him or her to use. Ideally, this should be done months or years ahead of time so that your child can grow up around the instrument and develop a familiarity with it prior to learning to play.
At the very least, make sure to invest in a piano right before he or she begins lessons. While there are ways to obtain free access to a piano outside of the home, nothing will be as accessible or as beneficial to your child’s learning experience as having a piano to practice on in his or her immediate environment.
While a new piano can be a significant investment, there are many websites where you can find gently-used pianos for affordable prices. Once you’ve found a piano that suits your budget, make sure to get it tuned by a professional so that the notes your child plays as he or she learns are in key.
2. Create the ideal practice space around the piano.
Where you place the piano in your home will affect how your young music student feels about the act of practicing. Professionals in music education suggest situating your piano in an area of the home that is neither too isolated nor too close to distractions like a television or computer.
The area should be warm and welcoming with adequate lighting. It must also include all the equipment that your child will need for practice sessions, including music sheets, pencils, and a comfortable piano bench. The more positive the physical practice area is, the more likely your child will feel enthusiastic about practicing when the time comes.
3. Listen to music together.
Spending quality time listening to music with your child can help him or her to develop a positive relationship with it as they grow up. While they listen, try to introduce them to basic musical concepts like rhythm by having them clap along to the beat of a song with you.
It can also be helpful to look up exciting videos of piano performances on YouTube, such as those made by the Piano Guys, to give your child a visual of what it’s like to play the instrument. Having this kind of familiarity may help children feel more comfortable with the instrument when they begin their first lessons.
4. Help your child learn the ABCs.
If your child understands the alphabet by the time that he or she takes up piano lessons, that ability will help them to identify and understand the names of notes. The musical alphabet spans notes with names from A to G, and a child who can remember the order and recognize letters when written on a music sheet will be in a better position to learn.
It can also be helpful to teach your child how to distinguish between his or her right and left sides as way to improve his or her ability to interact with a piano’s keyboard. Helping your child become aware that he or she can mirror the action of one hand on a side of their body with the other will facilitate the development of better spatial awareness. Additionally, it will help him or her better understand directions given during lessons.
5. Have a discussion about lessons and expectations.
While your child may be excited about the prospect of learning to play the piano, it’s important that you as the parent communicate your expectations for him or her at the outset. Make sure that your child knows that learning an instrument will be a fun experience, but that it requires practice and dedication. Talk to your child about the importance of daily practice, and make a verbal agreement on how often, when, and for what minimum amount of time your child will dedicate him- or herself to the practice of the piano each day.
6. Have a meet-and-greet with the instructor.
When choosing a music instructor for your child, try to schedule a meeting with prospective teachers before you make a decision. Once you find the right instructor, make sure to discuss the goals that you would like your child to accomplish through lessons and get feedback on the best ways that you can foster your child’s musical development at home.
The guitar has captured the interest of both young aspiring musicians and older learners alike since it first gained popularity in its electric form during the mid-20th century. Arguably one of the most popular instruments in the world, some people choose to take up the guitar as a form of relaxation or creative expression, while others choose it because it allows them to entertain both solo and with other musicians.
Still another reason that people choose to play the guitar over other instruments is because the guitar allows musicians the freedom to play and sing at the same time. There are few better instruments to learn to play for a musician who wants to sing along to music, but doing both at the same time can be difficult for beginners. Listed below are seven useful tips that can help new learners develop the ability to play the guitar and sing along.
1. Focus on your guitar-playing first.
Before you attempt to play and sing at the same time, you must first focus on developing the ability to play basic chords. As a new guitarist, your ability to recall the fingering for standard chord structures without much thought and to change quickly between these chords are the first steps in singing along to a song on the guitar.
2. Work with a metronome.
Keeping rhythm while performing a song is crucial to sounding natural—and it also makes singing along to the guitar easier. One way that guitarists can work on this form of timing during a song is to strum an easy pattern along to a metronome for about 10 minutes each day. If you’re committed to this practice, you’ll see a gradual improvement in your ability to play a song on beat over time—sometimes in as little as a few weeks.
3. Start simple.
If you’re just starting out, don’t choose a song that requires you to play advanced chords or sing complicated lyrics. Instead, you should look for songs with simpler chords and a basic rhythm that is well-suited to the beginning learner. Of course, you can develop the ability to sing and play any song with enough dedication and practice, but choosing a song that is overly complicated from the start can lead to frustration, which may take the enjoyment out of the experience.
4. Memorize the music and lyrics separately.
You should know the chords and the chord changes by heart before you sit down to sing along to a song. You can gauge your familiarity with a song by how well you’re able to play the chords while you’re distracted, such as when you’re carrying on a conversation or watching a TV show. Likewise, you should be able to sing the lyrics and the tune of the song from memory. The more that both elements of a song are second nature to you, the easier it will be to combine them.
5. Take it slow.
The excitement of learning to sing and play at the same time can cause some beginners to try and perform the song as quickly as possible at the start, but this actually does more harm than good. Start out slowly, learning to play and sing the correct parts one measure and lyric at a time—performing with speed will naturally come with time. People who rush through chords, rhythms, and lyrics to try and learn extremely quickly risk developing bad habits that can be difficult to break. It may even be a good idea to start out humming the song along with the chords instead of attempting to sing right away. Humming can help you figure out where the chord changes are in a song, since they don’t always line up with the syllables of the lyrics.
6. Change the key if you need to.
Though you can learn how to play a song in its original form, the notes may not suit the range of your voice. In this case, it’s important to remember that you can always change the key of the song to suit your range. This can be done by transposing the chord structure to a higher or lower octave using a transposition chart. Alternatively, you can use a capo, which allows you to play the original chords further up the neck of the guitar while changing the vocal register. Both ways of altering a song’s key have their advantages, so choose the method that you are most comfortable with on a case-by-case basis.
7. Put in a lot of practice.
As with any musical goal, learning how to sing and play the guitar simultaneously requires practice and patience. Don’t expect to be able to accomplish this feat right away, and try not to feel discouraged if you can’t master this new ability as quickly as you had hoped. It’s important to avoid rushing the process. In addition, recognize that even the most talented guitar-playing singers did not develop their abilities immediately. As a beginner, you should consider this goal a long-term project, and remember to take pride in your accomplishments when you master a song.
Though most music fans have a favorite genre of music, there are many benefits to listening to music styles from cultures unlike your own. Listening to music from different countries, even when performed in a language that you don’t understand, can help expand your perception of the world, bridge gaps between cultures, and even introduce you to a new favorite music style that you may not have otherwise discovered.
For those interested in learning about music outside of the western world, check out the following five international music styles that are widely enjoyed on other continents.
Already massively popular in its home country of South Korea, K-pop music has steadily gained a dedicated international fan base in recent years, including in parts of Europe, the Middle East, South America, and the United States. This upbeat music style is a blend of hip-hop, pop, and electronic music and is characterized by family-friendly lyrics with song hooks written to be blatantly catchy. K-pop music is almost always performed by all-female or all-male-fronted bands who release exciting, big budget music videos featuring extensive choreography and colorful, fashion-forward costumes. One of the first K-pop songs to receive widespread radio play in western countries was the song “Gangnam Style” by the artist PSY, who released the hit tune in 2012.
Calypso music is native to the Caribbean islands and most prominently performed in Trinidad. First developed in the early years of the 20th century, Calypso is influenced by both West African rhythm and European folk music. It relies heavily on stringed instruments like the guitar and banjo combined with steady percussion from instruments such as maracas or tamboo-bamboos. The lyrics of Calypso songs originally served as a way of spreading current events throughout the island of Trinidad in the early 1900s, especially news that was political in nature. However, the political climate at the time that Calypso music was first established required musicians to deliver the divisive subject matter through carefully-constructed lyrics that were typically witty and rooted in satire. This lyrical tradition continues in the genre today. Though not technically a Calypso musician, the singer Harry Belafonte helped popularize the genre through the release of “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” in 1956.
The origins of qawwali date back more than 700 years to India and the south of Pakistan. Usually performed by Sufi Muslim men, the music is a tool through which the musicians, known as qawwals, can inspire congregations. It is a powerful form of music that incorporates poetic lyrics and percussive instruments like the harmonium, tabla, and dholak to move its listeners to a state of heightened spiritual union with God, or Allah. The typical qawwali ensembles includes one singer or pair of lead singers accompanied by a chorus of individuals who sing the song’s refrains and support the percussion with rhythmic hand-clapping. Though it remains predominantly religious in nature, the style has expanded beyond the devout Sufi demographic, in a manner similar to Gospel music in the United States. The late musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is considered to be the individual responsible for expanding the popularity of qawwali outside of its traditional roots.
A style developed in the northern African country of Algeria, raï combines popular western-style music with that of the nomadic desert-dwelling people known as the Bedouins. While early versions of this musical style incorporated flutes and hand drums, the modern iteration of the genre is heavily influenced by pop and dance music and features a wide range of instruments, from saxophones and trumpets to drum synthesizers and electric guitars. One thing that has remained unchanged about raï music from its inception through modern day is the blunt nature of its lyrics, which are sung in Arabic or French. Song lyrics address the ups and downs of everyday life in a direct and occasionally vulgar fashion, and singers sometimes improvise during performances in the way of American blues musicians. The most famous raï singer of today is a performer named Khaled, who is commonly known as “the King of Raï.”
Known alternatively as baile funk, funk carioca is a beat-heavy music style that developed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the 1980s. By bringing American funk music, hip-hop, and freestyle rap music together and combining them with older Brazilian songs, DJs in Rio de Janeiro created a new genre that became ideal for dancing and popular among the country’s youth. Lyrics in funk carioca music are known for addressing taboo subjects, including poverty, social injustice, sex, and the violence occurring within Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, or shantytowns. The melody of funk carioca songs is typically sampled from an older tune, and may be instrumental or feature rapping and/or singing, often in Portuguese. One of the more popular funk carioca-inspired artists to find success outside of the original fan base in Rio is the rapper M.I.A., who is not Brazilian but is heavily influenced by the style, as evidenced by many songs on her 2005 album Arular.
The former president of Dollar Financial Group, Don Gayhardt today is the CEO of CURO Financial Technologies Corp, a company that offers accessible financial solutions to underserved populations through brands like Rapid Cash, Opt+, and Cash Money. In addition, Don Gayhardt serves as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, LLC, an organization that gives children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the opportunity to take music lessons focused on a wide range of areas, including classes on subjects such as playing in a rock band.
When groups of children or adults form a band with friends or other musicians, the first performance can be an exciting yet intimidating prospect. Below are 10 useful tips to help musicians of all ages prepare for their band’s first public performance.
1. Practice more than you think you need to.
If your band earns a spot to give a performance, take the opportunity seriously. Make sure that in the weeks leading up to the gig, your band dedicates enough time to practice so that every member feels completely prepared when the day arrives. If you don’t take time to prepare, it will show in the quality of your performance, and you may not receive another opportunity to play at the venue. Practice until you feel completely comfortable with the show you’re scheduled to put on—then practice some more.
2. Establish a set of pre-show best practices.
Before you take the stage, your band needs to get focused. For this purpose, it can be useful to have a pre-show ritual to help clear the mind of any nervousness and put you in the right mindset to perform to the best of your ability. Your pre-show routine can consist of any activity that makes you feel relaxed and ready to put on a great performance. Whatever you choose to do before your band takes the stage, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. In addition, getting enough sleep before the performance will ensure you’re rested, refreshed, and ready to shine.
3. Look the part.
Every eye in the audience will be trained on you and your band during the performance, so it’s important to go onstage showing that you take your music seriously by dressing for the occasion. The correct attire will differ depending on the genre of music you play, but the important thing is to dress in a way that makes you feel confident and demonstrates that you’re invested in your music and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to share it with the audience. In addition, try to coordinate your outfit with your bandmates. You don’t all have to wear the same thing, but sharing a similar style will make you appear more cohesive and professional.
4. Give yourself enough time for a sound check.
You should arrive at the venue early enough that your group has time to warm up and make sure that all of your equipment is functioning before the show begins. Warming up during a sound check before the show will also give the audio technician at the venue time to set volume levels before the audience arrives, allowing your band to sound balanced when you first take the stage.
5. Have a strong stage presence.
Stage presence is a key part of how the audience perceives your show. If you seem reluctant or low-energy, they are likely to respond less enthusiastically than if you show a strong stage presence. Many musicians even choose to develop an onstage persona in order to feel more confident in front of an audience. Simple actions that can improve your stage presence include standing up straight, moving around the stage instead of staying in place, and interacting with the audience throughout the set.
6. Interact with your bandmates on stage.
Another way that the audience perceives the energy onstage is based on how often and how well you interact with the other members of your band. It may sound strange, but this aspect of your performance is something that should be practiced during rehearsals. Engaging with your bandmates throughout the set shows a connection that the audience will respond to, and will help your performance seem more authentic.
7. Play through your mistakes.
Mistakes are bound to happen, especially during your first gig when nerves are running high. The important thing to remember if someone in your band makes a mistake is to keep playing. Don’t stop in the middle of a song because of a mistake. Push through the stress that you may feel and don’t let it affect the rest of your set. To help your group learn from the mistakes that you make, consider recording the performance so that you can revisit it later and evaluate what needs to be improved. However, if you choose to do this, don’t forget to also notice what the band did well and give yourselves credit.
8. Enjoy yourself.
No matter what the circumstances are surrounding your performance, make sure that you enjoy the experience as you show off your hard work and have a good time on stage with your bandmates. When you have fun doing what you love, it shows. The audience will know you’re enjoying yourselves, and may be more inclined to enjoy listening to your performance in return.
Singing is a musical hobby that can have an incredible impact on your mental and physical health. Vocalists often benefit from advantages like an improved immune system, better posture, sounder sleep, lower stress levels, and increased mental acuity. Singing can be especially beneficial for those who choose to sing as a member of a group. Joining a choir can be an excellent option if you want to improve your vocal abilities in a social atmosphere.
If you’re thinking about joining a choir for the first time, here are six things you’ll need to do in order to prepare for a successful audition that earns you membership into your ideal choral group.
1. Before you begin:
Make sure you’re taking care of your voice.
Voice care needs to be a priority for all committed singers, so if you’re thinking about joining a choir, you should start by taking simple steps to maintain your vocal health. Small actions that have a big impact on the health of your voice include drinking plenty of water, limiting the amount of alcohol and caffeine that you consume, avoiding cigarettes and spicy foods, and setting up a humidifier in your home. Additionally, make sure to always perform warm up exercises before you start singing in order to stretch out your vocal cords and the muscles surrounding the larynx. Doing so is a key part of protecting your voice from injury.
Find a group that suits you.
All choirs are different, so make sure that you research and explore the opportunities available in your area before choosing a group to join. There are choirs open to members based on age, as well as groups open to singers based on gender, while others are co-ed and/or all ages.
If you have an idea of what kind of music you would like to sing, make that the primary focus of your search. If you’re interested in timeless classical music, consider a choral society or symphony chorus. Singers who are drawn to show tunes and pop-influenced numbers may be well-suited to a show choir. For those who seek a more improvisational, energetic experience, a gospel choir may be the best fit. If you’re unsure of what kind of music you’re most interested in singing, consider attending a range of local choir performances to help you decide.
2. Prior to the audition:
Select the right song to perform.
If you choose to join any chorus other than a community choir, you will likely need to audition for a spot in the group. For your audition, you’ll want to prepare a song that highlights the strongest aspects of your voice. For example, if you’re most comfortable using your middle voice as opposed to your chest or head voice, look for songs that allow you to predominantly rely on that aspect of your vocals during the performance.
In addition, make sure that your arrangement isn’t too long. It’s better to demonstrate your abilities powerfully and succinctly than to sing too long and risk an audition host asking you to end your performance. Whichever song you choose to sing, make sure you devote plenty of time to practice so you feel well-prepared on the day of your audition.
Familiarize yourself with sight reading.
Though select choirs still teach songs by rote, many more require members to have a basic ability to read sheet music. In some cases, sight reading will be a required part of the audition process, so make sure you know whether or not it will be expected of you ahead of time. There are many books, websites, and online courses that can help you learn how to sight read. Two resources online are www.sightreadingfactory.com and www.thepracticeroom.net.
3. The day of the audition:
Dress correctly for the occasion.
Once you’ve secured an audition with your chosen choir, make sure that you show up on time and in clothing that demonstrates your professionalism. First impressions are important, and showing up in a professional outfit will help put the focus on your singing rather than on your wardrobe. A good rule of thumb is to show up to an audition dressed as you would for a job interview.
Don’t let a mistake stop you.
During an audition, there are two things that you shouldn’t do. The first thing you need to avoid is apologizing for your performance. Do not enter the audition room with excuses, and don’t verbalize your own critiques of your performance afterward. Telling an audition host that you didn’t give your best performance due to poor warm-up habits or a cold will not bolster his or her opinion of your audition, nor does it project confidence.
The second thing you want to avoid is stopping mid-song if you make a mistake. Mistakes are common during auditions because singers are often nervous, no matter how many times they’ve practiced. If you hit a wrong note or forget the words to the song you’re performing, focus on moving forward and recover confidently to show your ability to bounce back from an error.
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.