Friday, February 24, 2017

5 Tips for Beginning Musicians

So many people in life make it a priority to learn an instrument or harness the true potential of their voice, but many people never pursue their goal very long and quit.  Maybe they just "aren't the musical type"?

I don't know if there are certain people who are geared more toward musical education or have an inclination to a certain instrument, but it seems to me that anyone who truly is willing to put in the effort to get the fantastic reward of being able to create music on their own will get something out of the experience.

Perhaps we can't all be Yo Yo Ma or Andrea Bocelli, but I think everyone has musical potential.

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The following are my tips for people who wish to learn an instrument.  None of these tips on their own will make you a musician.  You have to combine them with a strong will, lots of commitment and dedication in order to reap good results.

But these are a starting place, and they can help existing musicians remember what's important and what you need to focus on.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize


If you find yourself questioning if all the shortness of breath is really worth it to the play the flute, or if all the painful squeaks on the violin are ever going to amount to anything, it's important to remember what your goal is.

The reward from all the practice is really what drove you to invest in your education, right?  Maybe right now you are squeaking, but think of the pay-off!  Beautiful music!

Man Playing Upright Piano Grayscale Photo

Accept Mistakes


All the mistakes made when practicing are really actually helping.  You had to make that mistake at some point, and now it's out of your life.  Think of your mistakes as a cup of water.  Each time you screw up, a drop is poured out of the cup. That's one less mistake you will make in your life because you got it out of way!

Know Your Position


No one started off a virtuoso, and even prodigies make mistakes and have to practice sometimes.  If you've just started an instrument, don't expect to be a professional, and don't be discouraged by this.  Learning something new takes dedication and commitment.

Grayscale Photography of Person Playing Violin

Don't Compare Yourself to Others


If you are learning alongside other musicians, it can be really tough not to compare yourself to others.  My orchestra is seated according to ability more or less as most bands and orchestras are, which makes it almost impossible to not notice "hey, I'm in the front, I must be good!" or "hey, I just got moved back a seat, I must be doing poorly!"

Don't get me wrong, I know that there are people in my orchestra much better than I am, which I suppose is a comparison.  I respect them for their skill, but I don't let it get me down.  I acknowledge it, and then focus on getting better myself.

Don't compare your exam grade with the first chair violinist, compare it with your last exam grade.  As long as you personally are improving, that's what matters.  Use your goal of sitting first chair as inspiration rather than discouragement.

People Playing Violin

Invest in Quality Equipment


For basically any instrument it is paramount to have functional and medium to high quality equipment.  It can be hard to know as a beginner if you should spend a lot of money on an instrument, but if you are willing to put in a lot of time, chances are you are willing to put in the money.  The reverse is also true.

Investing in your learning will a) motivate you to actually practice and work hard because you spent money on the instrument and b) will make you sound a million times better.

Song Book on Brown Classical Guitar on Green Grass during Daytime

Playing on a $50 violin might be nice for the first couple weeks when you're just plucking, but sooner or later you're going to have to jump in and purchase a nice violin.  Particularly with string instruments, quality matters a lot in your sound.

The better your instrument, the easier it will be to sound good.  The easier it is to sound good, the more you'll sound good.  The more you sound good, the more motivated you will be to play.  The more motivated you are to play, the better you will get.  It's a cycle.

Disclaimer: don't go out buying a Stradivari violin in your first week.  Pace yourself, honestly assess yourself, and speak to a teacher or conductor about what level you're at and what instrument you should invest in.

Metal Harp

Those are just a couple quick tips for beginners.  Everyone learns music a little bit differently.  Some focus on music theory, others on playing what sounds right to them, and still others take a more mid-range approach.  Experiment with a few different ideas--playing in an ensemble, hiring a private tutor, taking a class etc.--before you find what works for you.

Having the ability to play a musical instrument opens the door to thousands of organizations, different circles, and experiences.  Some of my closest friends have been made through music.  It has such an enormous power to draw people in and help them work together.

One last bonus tip--don't give up.  Lots of people with tons of potential give up because they don't know how to keep going on learning.  Musicianship is a life long state of being and I promise you that if you put in the time and effort, you will not regret it.

Feel free to ask me any questions you have if you're looking into playing an instrument or otherwise getting involved in something musically (composing/arranging, singing, etc.).  I would love to help and offer any more specific tips I can!

Image result for leo tolstoy life without music would be a mistake

Image Credits: Quotefancy, www.cappellamusicalecostantina.com

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