With fall just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about music lessons again. School is a great environment to get a solid foundation on any instrument. There are qualified teachers that are ready and able to show your child the ropes and bring them to a respectable level. Also, there are many school bands to join and have an amazing learning experience. From the jazz combo and pop ensemble to the full concert band, signing up your kid to one of these is a great gift in itself. To help you get ready, I’ve come up with a few important things to consider and some advice on how to get ready for the upcoming school year.
Picking a first instrument
Depending on the school your child goes to, you might have access to a lot of resources to help your child pick the best instrument for their tastes. Everything is a lot easier if they are already musically inclined in any way. For example, you might’ve noticed them giving particular attention to the rhythmic side of things. In that case, something like the drums or a percussion set might be the way to go. On the other hand, they might be moved by the beauty of chord progressions performed on the piano or guitar. These are little details that are good to pay attention to and might result in a long-term relationship with an instrument.
Discuss it with a teacher
If your school has a concert band or any type of wind ensemble, it’s a good idea to discuss the instrument choice with the teachers involved. Their expertise will help you pick the most appropriate brass or woodwind, depending on many factors such as various physical features and predispositions. Playing in an ensemble is an amazing experience and fosters many qualities such as good listening, teamwork, and discipline.
Consider your child’s personality
The last thing to consider is your child’s personality. Some kids are very extroverted and would probably shine as singers, guitarists, or playing other instruments that are often featured in solos, such as the violin, trumpet, or flute. Others might be more reserved and interested in the road less travelled with uncommon choices or ones that have a supporting role. Instruments in the lower range come to mind such as the bass, cello, or even tuba. More cerebral and contemplative youngsters might get really excited by all of the possibilities of the piano. There are no set rules though, and things aren’t what they appear sometimes. For example, I wasn’t the best at expressing myself when I was growing up, nor that extroverted. The guitar was a nice way of bridging that gap and a nice escape from the things I found difficult.
Stocking up on accessories
Once you’ve picked up the ideal instrument, you’ll need to think about all the accessories you’ll need to ideally last the year. Depending on what you’ve bought, you’ll find yourself in various situations.
If you went with a digital piano, there isn’t a lot of maintenance to keep up with. That being said, you will need a sustain pedal (or a complete triple unit), a bench, and, if it’s a portable model, a case for travel. Sustain pedals are rather simple and come in functional square models, or in heavy, classic styles that stay put on the floor. Benches come in simple, foldable designs, or nice, luxurious and padded seats for long hours of practice. Finally, cases are usually made for most sizes of keyboards, being 49, 61, 76, and 88 keys. Make sure to pick the right size for your keyboard so it doesn’t move around too much when you carry it.
Guitars and basses
Guitars and basses require plenty of accessories to keep in good playing order. First of all, you’ll need extra strings, picks, and cables. These get worn out with time, and you’ll need to replace them to get optimal sound. While cables don’t break very often, it’s still possible, and in general it’s good to have a few so you always have one on hand.
Cases come in soft and hard shells. Soft ones are great for carrying from home to school and even in public transit. They are light and usually have straps to wear on your back. Hard shells are heavier and bulkier, but offer the most protection. They are also great for storage. It’s also nice to have a dedicated stand. You will be able to take short breaks while still having your instrument close at hand.
Other stringed instruments such as violins, altos, cellos, and double bass have the same types of accessories as guitars and basses. The biggest difference is the bow. It’ll need some attention also, and that includes rosin to increase the friction and make it sound as it should. Delicate acoustic designs also benefit from some humidification, especially during the winter months when the heating dries the air inside.
Woodwinds and brass
Woodwinds and brass go through a lot in a school year. It’s a good idea to invest in some cleaning and maintenance products. There are many oils and polishing agents to keep your horn nice and shiny, as well as in perfect working order. It’s a good idea to keep a dedicated rag in your case as well as a cleaning swab, so you can remove all the accumulated moisture. Also, make sure you have a few extra reeds on hand, just in case you break one during band practice.
Supplementing the lessons
Apart from lessons at school, it’s always nice to dive into other types of music and learning. It’s great to have various approaches, and it can be very beneficial to a musician’s development. It’s also nice to learn some of your preferred material that you might not encounter in a formal setting. We are very lucky nowadays to have so many free choices. First of all, YouTube is an amazing place to learn your favourite songs, new techniques, and get a fresh approach to an instrument in general. There are also dedicated websites, such as Fender Play. This particular one specializes in beginners. It includes short, palatable lessons geared towards new and intermediate guitar and bass players. You can read more about it in my full review here.
School is an excellent environment for your child to foster their musicality. They will always have this special skill in their back pocket throughout their life. The experience itself is a beautifully enriching journey.
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