Practicing

Tips for how to practice well, or how to encourage students to practice

There is an idea that some musicians share that the instrument a musician plays is related to the player’s personality and attitude, or can even change it transforming the person just like a superhero changes when they put ther suits on. It changes depending on the person but it can go one way or the other. The fact is that there is a connection between playing an instrument and one’s personality.

From the composer’s point of view, the music that is being made is very different depending on the base instrument for the idea, for example, if you begin to play something from scratch with a violin, it will definitely convey very different feelings than if it was played with a piano.

From Guitar to Piano

Alex Turner playing the piano

Many musicians that begin with one instrument and then learn another one feel this difference. One example in modern rock is with Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys, who has composed his song singing with a guitar, but in their most recent album, he decided to go with a piano as the main instrument to compose the songs. He describes it as

“The guitar had lost its ability to give me ideas. Every time I sat with a guitar I was suspicious of where it was gonna go. I had a pretty good idea of what I might be which is completely contrary to what I felt when I sat at the piano.”

In an interview with Radio X’s John Kennedy Alex Turner talks about how picking up an instrument makes him become a certain character and how the piano is a different “hat” than the guitar, he says: “It is what they describe in dramatics as the mantle of the expert”. He says that he remembers when he first picked up the guitar, he knew what sort of role he would play even before actually playing the instrument, so in a way the instrument determined a lot of what he as a musician was going to be eventually.

Reveal a New You

It may seem like it doesn’t really matter but it actually makes sense. But not as obvious as it may seem. If the general idea of music is to communicate feelings to the people who listen, you need to find an instrument that understands you, what this means is that it is in sync with what you want to say, this doesn’t mean the instrument you play is determined by your personality, what it means is that you choose a type of language that suits your body and mind in a way that you can be who you want to be.

This is actually a rather beautiful idea, not only because it pushes you to do new things, but because an instrument represents the greek notion of “aletheia” which means “uncover” “to reveal” and that is what the instrument does, it doesn’t change you, it reveals a part of you through music.

In an article by Jesse Scheinin, from bayareaparent.com these is an example of this:

A lot of the musicians I know had similar experiences. Theo Meneau, a trumpet player from Marin, says that these programs provided him with a “social outlet that was missing in the school system.”

Theo was initially drawn to the flute, which was appropriate since he is a soft-spoken guy. But playing the loud, bright trumpet has made him more confident and “able to be myself,” he says, even when his surroundings aren’t inherently comfortable.

Aspiring musicians have to take their time and find the instrument that is able to say what they want to say, and be who they want to be, and no teacher can know that, it’s a very personal thing that comes from trial, error, and dedication, but most of all, it’s a very natural thing.

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On one hand, many of us can agree that music is to some extent a universal language, and that there are actually quite a few things that can be said and felt through music even if we can’t understand the lyrics sometimes.

On the other hand, the language still has some direct consecuences to the structure of a composition and the way it ultimately delivers its melodies and rhythm.

This can be obvious when you find yourself at a record store and realize that for example, “Rock in spanish” it’s a section and “Rock” is another.

While it’s not a universal rule, it does happen, and it shows that while music is a universal language, there are some differences that is interesting to take into consideration.

In an article by k-international.com, William Wier Says:

English-only listening habits deprive us of the natural rhythm and melody of other languages—the nasal vowels of French, the alveolar trills of Portuguese, the consonant clusters of Czech. That most of us don’t understand the words only allows us to better appreciate the phonology of a language and concentrate on the human voice as a musical instrument. Those throat-clearing sounds you hear in German? That’s the voiceless velar fricative, and it adds a wonderful percussiveness to “99 Luftbalons.” English speakers don’t have it; it’s one reason the Anglicized version of Nena’s 1984 hit falls flat.

The idea of thinking of the voice as just another musical instrument can be a great help for people trying to get into music in other languages. Of course it’s great to understand what the musicians want to say but it shouldn’t be a barrier between you and new music.

Music Structure and Terminology.

There are also some differences when it comes to music terminology, for example:

In Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, etc.) notes are named with solfège syllables—DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, SI, DO.

The solfège system used in many countries—including the United States—was revised in the 1800’s so that all notes begin with a different letter. The 7th note Si was replaced with Ti.

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Young Woman Writing Musical Note While Playing Keyboard

In American-, and British-English, the solfège syllables are DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, TI, DO. If you listen to the Rodgers and Hammerstein song DO-RE-MI from The Sound of Music, you will notice the lyric for the 7th note is Tea- a drink with jam and bread.

Romance languages and many other countries use a note naming system called Fixed DO. Fixed DO means DO is always equal to the note C. For example:

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Note: C D E F G A B C
Syllable: DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI (or SI) DO

An alternate system, commonly used throughout the world, is called Movable DO. In the Movable DO system, DO is always equal to the root note of the key. For the key of G major, the movable DO syllables would look like this:

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Note: G A B C D E F# G
Syllable: DO RE MI FA SO LA TI DO

This is the system that is more commonly used today, however in many other languages it remains to be Do, Re Mi, Fa, So (Sol), La, Si, Do.

More than changes to the actual music, this only refers to a technical issue with its terminology. It also may be easier for some to learn it in a specific system. A more clear example of this better learning is the rythmic values difference from American english and British english, which is like this:

American-English British-English
Double Whole Note Breve
Whole Semibreve
Half Minim
Quarter Crotchet
Eighth Quaver
Sixteenth Semiquaver

Music itself is a language, but within this musical language there are many different ways to sing and different ways to write, but in a way, music is a tool to help us understand all these differences, making a foreign language a small issue compared to the big picture.

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There are many new young musicians this time of year, probably because their parents got their children a new guitar, they are filled with excitement and wish to be the best right away, if you know someone, or have children that are desperate to be profesional musicians this tips are for you.

Fingers on Strings

It may be a siple thing, but in the beginning, no one can press a string fully without feeling a little bit of pain, this is normal due to the lack of exercise of the fingers, flexibility and endurance. With time the skin on the tips of the fingers become harder, and pressing strings becomes much easier, to practice this, the best thing to do is to start with one string at a time, just getting the feel of it and play whatever comes to mind.

Scales

After some time of getting used to what it feels to have a guitar and playing it, comes something that is not only useful for beginners, it will be useful for the rest of a musician’s life.

Scales are in many ways, part of the bases of music, but it’s important to remember that these tips are about training before music school, so the idea is not to go too deep with music theory, the idea is to find some easy scales to practice such as.

Covers, Interpretations and Inspirations

If a young kid wants to learn how to play guitar, it’s obvious there must be an inspiration, someone that he or she looks up to, and this part is very important, because in art, everything begins with a little imitation.

Learning songs from big artists and trying to get around the difficulties of the performance should be one of the steps towards becoming a musician, not just because it helps you learn how to play, but it also carves your musical map, this is, the influences that will come later in early compositions.

However, learning how to play songs doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is fully learning how to play guitar. One of the biggest issues with children learning an instrument is that they get caught up in learning how to perform and play other people’s music, sometimes because they chose to do so, sometimes because of their parents, or going to early to a music school. The most important thing for children that are interested in music is having fun, this will make them build a connection with the instrument and will make them feel more confortable.

Commitment or Fun?

Guitar

Everyone knows that as a kid, there is no real goal or strong commitments, there is just a big playground and some rules to learn how to live, but many times different disciplines and activities enter the playground as something new and exciting that only lasts for a while. This happens with lots of things, and there are in fact many guitars around the world collecting dust in a bedroom because of this, which is not bad, everyone needs to try different things.

Parents get their children musical instruments in Christmas, mostly guitars, and there is a lot of excitement but sometimes makes them fall in love with music, others it doesn’t work. If it does, the best thing a parent can do is encourage it, because there are many benefits for a very young kid to start playing guitar such as discipline, concentration and even meeting new friends.

If there is love for music, then eventually a music school or a music teacher could be of help, but not before there is a connection with the instrument.

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