instruments

There is an ongoing problem about the way we approach to tools or instruments today, which makes us focus more on how to use them rather than understanding how they work.

Some may say that it’s not necessary to know how an instrument works, or how it was made, however the same could be said about music in general. You could say someone is very good at playing, but doesn’t know a thing about scales, notes, and music reading. The point is that, this can stay this way  but there would be more control and freedom for creativity if there is also the knowledge to support the practice. The same goes to the instruments themselves, wouldn’t it be better if you knew how a guitar was made, or how the piano produces the sound it does, or knowing about the difference between one type of strings or another, it even goes as far as knowing about sound waves and materials.

How is sound produced?

There are a lot of vibrating causes, these include vocal cords and strings with tension, but to make vibration there must be a certain amount of tension in the vibrating body. These different vibrations can also be amplified in very different ways which involve different sizes of bodies, mics and more.

Sound can be quite malleable, and to understand its malleability it’s important to know at least a few of the sources.

Strings, percussion and wind

There are obvious differences between each of the instruments that can be found, but first, it’s important to make a first division in these three main categories: strings, percussion and wind.

Strings

These are instruments that sound due to the tension of strings mostly made of nylon and steel. As the vibration area becomes smaller the pitch gets higher, and more space means lower pitch.

This category is comprised of guitars, basses, violins, violas, cellos, harps, and many more.

Percussion

Percussion is all about “hitting” musical notes, this means that they are simple instruments which sound based on size and in many cases tension of leather.

These instruments range from barrels to drum sets.

Wind

These trigger sound with air, more specifically vibrating columns of air. These instruments are played by blowing which then makes the column of air vibrate, depending on its size the pitch is higher or lower, and it gets amplified by the tube.

Wind instruments are

Tuning an instrument

Tuning an instrument is an essential part of playing, not only is it necessary to maintain the right notes, but it gives more freedom as to the sound that we want to make. For example many guitarists use the drop d tuning, which is mainly used for power chords, hard rock, metal; it gives a heavier deep sound but also more possibilities with easy chords.

One of the most beautiful things for many before an orchestra is about to play is when everyone is tuning their instruments at the same time, for some it may be a disaster, but others hear many different sounds slowly falling into a place where great music can be achieved, it’s as if everyone in the room is synchronizing both in terms of sound and mind to deliver an experience.

Computer

Through experiencing music in the digital age, knowing how to manipulate sound to a certain degree it’s almost a requirement these days, and a computer is part of music composition as an instrument, it’s part of production, and a very integral part of the whole musical process. That’s why knowing at least how sound works digitally could help the overall knowledge in music.

There is just something important about getting to know a little bit more about the instruments we use, something beyond understanding how it works and fix it when it goes bad, it’s about getting the whole experience as a musician and learning every detail there is to learn.

 

 

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It’s very hard to get into music without finding a link, something that attaches you sentimentally and technically as something to improve and use to express yourself. Unless learning how music works, this is reading, writing, and all of the structure of music, is just a hobby, there are always instruments, and or voice, but how do we know which in instrument is the one? Well it’s all about trying out every instrument you can get your hands on. Here are a few tips on how to approach some of the most played instruments in order to make the experience more entertaining and appealing.

Singing

While singing could be seen as something else rather than an instrument, this is the first mistake one can make. The voice is an instrument, and just like any other one has to learn how to use it, a good voice won’t come from a few days of practice, and because we use our voices everyday it’s easier to become insecure, listening to ourselves doing something different than speaking because it doesn’t sound like the usual speaking voice, but that is ok, because it’s not, it’s something else, it’s an instrument, so make sure to switch to instrument mode, and don’t pretend to have your everyday recognizable voice an expert singer so fast, find your instrument voice.

Guitar

One of the most common issues when starting to play guitar, is that the strings don’t sound as well as they should because they are not being pressed correctly. This is a very early stage but it can be quite frustrating because when trying to play chords or go a little faster it doesn’t sound good. The best thing to do is to let your fingers adjust to the pressure that has to be put, and be patient to try and play some scales in between chords as a warm up. But most importantly, experiment and have fun, because it’s one of the easiest instruments to get creative with.

Piano

Playing piano is one of the most precise experiences in music, that’s why it’s one of the “go to” instruments for teaching music. When approaching to a piano it won’t be very hard to pick up a few notes, memorize and play a tune and that is what you should do first, because it’s very welcoming in that way. The complicated part comes when using both hands, where usually one acts as the bass and the other does all the complicated melodies. The easiest way to use both hands at first is to start with one note on the bass in harmony with the melody, and after that play with octaves in the bass to give a real full sound while practicing with both hands.

 Bass

While it’s also a string-based instrument like the guitar, it doesn’t mean that the approach is the same, every string-based instrument has its own set of rules if you will, and a certain feel to it. When it comes to bass it’s less about fast mobility and more about precision, due to the sound and size of its strings. The best thing to do is to know when and where to play a certain note, since the bass gives a lot of what the body and rhythm is in a composition.

Drums/Percussion

Here all the attention goes to rhythm, although of course percussion requires tuning, and precision in its notes, the first approach should be to keep a good rhythm, and as you get more comfortable, add more layers to the overall body of it. Of course, it depends on the type of percussion being played, but the best most complete example are drums, since it’s a package of percussion types all being played by one person, that’s why developing limb independence while keeping track of the rhythm is the most important thing here. So, if planning on playing drums, work on that rhythm with your foot on the kick, and the hi hat, everything else has to fall into place after that.

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summer-music-lessons

Summer lessons…

Do you lose students (and income) over the summer? Are you tired of the same old same old? Would you like to infuse new life into your summer lessons? Would you like to keep your income and promote your studio?

Here are 15 options to consider:

  • Break it up into three-month-long “semesters” and let families choose one, two or three months of summer lessons.
  • Teach piano students to play by chord symbol.
  • Zero in on a specific genre (folk, country, pop, blues, classical…)
  • Immerse the studio in theory. Use games.
  • Teach students a new instrument (guitar and vocal students could learn some piano, while piano students could learn to match pitches vocally, or learn some guitar chords/teach them all to play recorder…).
  • Use a video series, such as Mark Almond’s Piano for Life. or see Reuben Vincent‘s article in Music Teachers Helper blog.
  • Use an online series such as podcasts from James Dering.
  • Show them how to create their own arrangements.
  • Teach composition. Have them put a favorite poem to music.
  • Choose a theme and songs to go with it (oceans, animals, bugs, space, summer fun…).
  • Have a duet summer, and pair up students for lessons. Or just bring them together near the end.
  • Have an ensemble summer and teach them their own parts alone, then bring them together for a few weeks before they perform as a group. Add other instruments.
  • Teach every student one or more songs on several instruments (piano, guitar, recorder, voice,percussion,  bass…).
  • Many churches look for special music in the summer–teach them appropriate songs. Take on an older student as an apprentice—let them teach with your supervision.
  • Put on one-week camps, emphasizing rhythm, technique, note-reading… Ideas from TeachPianoToday.com,

More camp ideas from Sara’sMusicStudio.com

How do you change it up after the school year ends?

Have a stupendous time teaching summer lessons!

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