Learning to play a music instrument

According to Wikipedia, "A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. A person who plays a musical instrument is known as an instrumentalist."

Piano is called "The King of Instruments", and Violin is called "The Queen of Instruments". Piano and violin are the most popular choices of music instruments to learn. There are also some other popular music instruments to learn: guitar, drums, saxophone, flute, cello, clarinet, trumpet and harp.

Here we quote the best way to learn music instruments provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Learn to Play an Instrument, How to Learn to Play the Piano, How to Play the Violin. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Section 1: Learning an instrument

  1. Whether you want to join your school's band, have dreams of being a professional musician, or just want a new hobby, learning to play an instrument is a rewarding and stimulating activity. Choose an instrument that you want to play and learn music you enjoy. Your desire to improve your skills will help you overcome any challenges you face.

  2. Choosing an Instrument. Get to know the different families of musical instruments. Musical instruments are categorized in families. Often, learning how to play one instrument in a family makes it easier to learn other instruments in the same family. The strings family includes the violin, viola, cello, double bass, as well as the guitar (both acoustic and electric) and the ukulele. The brass family includes the trumpet, trombone, and tuba. The woodwind family includes the flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. The keyboard family includes the piano, organ, and harpsichord. The percussion family includes all drums, cymbals, and maracas. Decide which genre of music you'd like to play. Many different instruments are associated with a particular genre of music. If you know what type of music you'd like to play, you can better narrow down what instruments you're interested in learning. Connect to your ethnic culture with a traditional instrument. Traditional ethnic music is often played on distinct instruments that aren't used in any other setting. If you're interested in exploring your ethnic roots or learning more about your cultural traditions, you might try a traditional instrument. Evaluate the relative popularity of the instrument. Choosing a more popular instrument may mean you face stiffer competition if you want to try out for a band or orchestra. At the same time, sometimes learning a less popular instrument in the same family will make it easier to learn that other instrument later on. Visit a music store to try instruments you're curious about. Before you make a final decision on which instrument you want to play, take some time to actually pick one up and hold it. Even though you don't know how to play it, you can still get an idea of whether it's right for you. Watch musicians playing the instrument live. Try a small show or an open mic night where you can watch the performance up close and see people play who are at different levels of mastery. Watching skilled musicians perform can give you a better idea of what you can do with the instrument or you could watch YouTube videos of established musicians who play in shows or events. Research maintenance and ownership costs for the instrument. The initial purchase price of an instrument can be a relatively small investment in comparison to how much it costs to keep and maintain it. Take these costs into account before you dedicate yourself to a particular instrument. An employee at a music store or a skilled musician can help you understand the true cost of owning that particular instrument. Find an instrument that is the right size for you. Many instruments come in different sizes to accommodate people of all ages and statures. When choosing the right instrument, consider your finger size, hand span, and the relative strength in your arms (especially if you'll have to hold the instrument while you play it). Purchase your instrument and any necessary accessories. There are many beginner's kits available for different instruments that come with any necessary accessories you might need. Make sure you have everything you'll need to play and maintain the instrument, even if you won't necessarily use all the accessories right away.

  3. Mastering the Fundamentals. Sit or stand with proper posture. If you're sitting to play an instrument, sit on the edge of a chair or bench with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed so that your shoulder blades are tucked along either side of your spine. When standing, retain the same upper body posture as when you're sitting. Hold your instrument correctly. If you're playing an instrument that you hold in your hands or strap to your body, learn the correct way to hold it from the beginning so you don't pick up any bad habits. Check online or talk to a local music instructor to learn how to hold your particular instrument like trumpet, trombone, tuba, flute, violin etc. Make your instrument produce a sound correctly. Before you learn how to play music, you need to learn how to make the instrument produce sound. With some instruments, such as a piano or keyboard, this is relatively easy – you simply press a key. Others, such as woodwinds and brass instruments, may take some time to figure out how to get the sound right. However, remember to keep the flow of the sound, in that you switch intervals in between playing one note correctly and playing two or more notes together correctly. This will boost learning and confidence. Pick up your first notes, chords, or beats. Some instruments, such as the piano and the guitar, can play both individual notes and chords – depending on the style of music you're playing. However, most instruments, including the saxophone or the trombone, can only play one note at a time. Look for a simple melody to start playing your first notes. Hire a teacher to help guide your learning. A teacher can prevent you from developing bad habits and keep you accountable for your practicing and your progress. A good teacher will also help motivate you when you're having difficulty. Use online resources if you can't find a teacher. If there aren't teachers of your instrument near you or you can't fit the expense of a teacher into your budget, you can still learn to play an instrument. There are numerous free resources online, as well as apps you can download on your smartphone or tablet. For example, if you're learning piano, you might try Zebra Keys or Piano Nanny. For budding guitarists, Justin Guitar provides video tutorials, articles, and other resources. Start practicing scales. Scales are the building blocks of music. Whether on a guitar, piano, or other instrument, when you practice scales, you learn how to play notes on your instrument as well as how those notes relate to one another. Although it may seem boring, if you don't master scales you won't have the proper foundation to be a strong musician. Keep your instrument in tune. If your instrument is out of tune, nothing you play will sound right. For the beginner, there are websites you can visit or free apps you can download to your smartphone that will help you tune your instrument. Make a habit of tuning your instrument every time you play it.

  4. Practicing. Set a goal for playing your instrument. A goal gives you something concrete to work toward and can make you more motivated. Find a realistic goal that you can achieve with practice and training within a few months. Designate a specific practice area. Ideally, choose a quiet, private area with few distractions where you can practice. Set up everything you need for practice so all you have to do is enter the space to start practicing your instrument. Schedule 30-minute practice sessions 3 to 5 days a week. Try to practice at the same time each day so practicing your instrument becomes habitual. Ideally, you should practice every day, but you may need to work up to that. Start each practice session with a brief warm-up. Playing a musical instrument can be physically demanding as well as mentally challenging. Do a few stretches or brief exercises to warm up the joints and muscles you'll use while playing. Focus on a single song each week that you want to learn. Plan your practice sessions at the beginning of each week so you can get the most out of your time. When you're just starting out, it may take you a whole week to learn a single song. When you get better, you may find that you can learn a song in a single practice session. Include time for honing fundamental playing skills. After practicing the piece you're working on, spend the next 10 minutes of your practice playing scales or learning new techniques. Even when you start to get comfortable playing music you enjoy, you won't get any better if you neglect the fundamentals. End each practice session with something fun. Spend the last 10 minutes of your practice session doing something you enjoy doing. This will help remind you why you wanted to learn to play the instrument in the first place. Taking some time to have fun can be especially helpful if you've had a challenging or frustrating practice session. Clean and store your instrument correctly after each practice session. Wipe down your instrument after playing and return it to its case. Keep your instrument out of direct sunlight or high levels of humidity.

  5. Building Musical Fluency. Teach yourself how to read music notation. It isn't strictly necessary to know how to read music to play an instrument. There are many famous musicians who never learned how to read music and play by ear. However, if you know how to read music you'll have a much easier time learning new songs. Join a band or start your own. Once you have the basics down and can play a few songs, sharpen your skills by playing with others. If you're in school, you may be able to join a marching band, pep band, or school orchestra. Even if you're not in school, there may be community bands that you could participate in. Play your instrument in public for encouragement and feedback. If a bar or café near you has an open mic night, you can sign up to perform there. If you have stage fright or the thought of performing in front of others causes anxiety, film yourself playing alone at home. You can share the video with friends and family. Study the techniques of skilled musicians who play your instrument. Look for videos online where you can actually see how the musician is playing the instrument. Live sets or videos where the person is performing for a small audience are good for this. Watch for tricks that you can pick up and add to your own playing.

Section 2: Learning Piano

  1. Mastering the piano takes even talented musicians many years of study, but you can learn the basics of playing this instrument in a relatively short period of time. Once you have these under your belt, you'll have to practice for these habits and techniques for them to become second nature. With a little time and effort, before you know it, you'll be playing with proper posture, hand position, and you'll be reading music, too.

  2. Understanding the Keyboard and Finger Position. Learn the keys on the keyboard. The 52 white keys on a piano keyboard are called according to the name of each key's associated note. Notes range from A to G ascendingly, so letters increase moving to the right on the keyboard (as in A → B → C) and decease moving to the left (as in C → B → A). Make sense of finger numbers. In many songs, you'll find small numbers above or below notes. These numbers indicate the recommended finger you should use to play the note. Very basic songs many have finger notation for each note, while more complex songs may have little finger notation. Each number represents a single finger: 1: represents your thumb, 2: represents your index (pointer) finger, 3: represents your middle finger, 4: represents your ring finger, 5: represents your pinky. Practice finger notation so it is automatic. When first beginning, you may find it a little difficult to play a finger when you read its number. This is common, but by learning finger notation thoroughly, so it is automatic, you'll find playing easier. Position your fingers and hands with proper technique. Keep your fingers slightly curved but firm so that when you press a key your finger does not bend backward at all. Your thumb and pinky fingers especially will want to lie flat, but keep these raised as well.

  3. Reading Music and Making Music on a Keyboard. Acquire appropriate music. If you are a true beginner, a beginning level practice book, lesson book series, or primer can provide you with simple songs that help you practice piano basics. These books often include liberal finger notation, which will help you master proper finger position. Look through the music and highlight important features. When first learning a song, accidentals (like sharps (♯), flats (♭), and naturals (♮)) can take you by surprise. Highlight each of these in a different color so you don't miss them. Play new music one hand at a time. First, divide the music into manageable sections. This will be different for each person, though you might want to consider tackling your song 1 measure at a time or in musical phrases, which are 2-4 bars long. Identify and isolate difficult runs and intervals. After your one-handed play through, you may have noticed certain parts of the song give you more difficulty than others. For example, there may be a large interval (like an 8-note jump) or a run of fast notes (like 10 eighth notes in a row), and so on. Isolate and practice these until you can play smoothly and without hesitation. Put both hands together. Much as you did when starting one hand at a time, start putting your left and right hands together slowly. Make it a goal to play left and right hand notes that fall on the beat together. Learn new songs and practice regularly. Learning new songs will challenge your ability to read music, which will help improve your sight reading ability. Beyond that, the more often you play the more familiar the keyboard will be beneath your fingers, which will lead to better playing.

  4. Playing with Proper Posture. Adjust the piano bench to suit your height. Your piano bench should be positioned so that when sitting on the front half of it your elbows are a little in front of your body. Your arms should be level with or slightly sloping down toward the keys. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Sit up straight when playing. Sit tall and with a slight inward lean to the piano when playing. This might seem unimportant, but your posture at the keyboard can greatly affect the sound you produce. A straight spine will allow you greater stability and poise. It also will enable you to more easily involve your upper body weight when playing, which will help you create a more dynamic sound. Check your posture regularly. It can be difficult to notice poor posture in yourself. If you are teaching yourself piano, you might want to ask a friend or family member to check your posture from time to time. Make sure you let them know what to look for when it comes to proper piano posture.

Section 3: Learning Violin

  1. The violin is one of the most rewarding and beautiful instruments to play. The road to learning the violin is a long one, but with patience, discipline, and enthusiasm, these steps will help you start down the road to success with this storied instrument.

  2. Gathering Equipment. Buy or rent a violin. If you're just starting out with the instrument, there's no need to spend an excessive amount of money on a violin, but like most instruments, the quality of the violin generally rises as the price goes up. Expect to spend a few hundred dollars on a decent beginner's violin. Check the accessories. Unless you have purchased the instrument only, your violin outfit should come with a violin with four strings, a bow, and a carrying case and most of the time a chin rest and rosin for your bow. In most cases, the person who sells you the violin will be happy to string it for you, which has the added bonus of double-checking to be sure the tuning pegs (the knobs at the scroll, or top, of the violin) are properly fit to the scroll. A hard case is important because violins are such delicate instruments. Purchase other items. Nearly all violinists use a chin rest, which is a cheap, ergonomic piece of (usually black) plastic that clamps near the base of the violin and allows it to be held securely by your chin. This is usually attached to the violin when the violin is built. Aside from that, be sure you have some rosin (coagulated sap) for your bow, a music stand, and a book of beginner lessons or songs, preferably in a format that will open flat.

  3. Learning the Basic Technique. Tighten the bow. Once you've set up your music stand and sheet music, open the case and remove the bow. The hair of the bow should be limp. Tighten the bow hair by turning the end screw clockwise until the space between the hair and the stick is big enough to pass a pencil through cleanly from tip to tip. Rosin the bow. Rosin comes in two types, dark and light; either is fine to use, and neither is expensive. In warmer climates, light is preferred, dark is recommended in more northern areas. If you live in an unpredictable climate, it is advisable to have both. It's usually a rectangle of hard, translucent material in a paper or cardboard casing that's open on two sides. Grip the rosin by the papered sides and gently but vigorously rub it up and down along the length of the bow hair three or four times. The goal is to transfer some of the rosin "dust" onto the hair, making it stickier. You will need to rosin your bow about every time you practice. Tune the violin. Set the bow aside for a moment and take the violin out of the case. The strings, in order from lowest tone to highest, should be tuned to G, D, A, and E. You can usually purchase an electric tuner from $15 to $20 depending on the quality and brand. Major adjustments can be made with the tuning pegs in the scroll of the violin, but if the tone seems only a little bit off, use the tiny metal dials near the bottom, called fine tuners, to make your adjustments instead. Once you're satisfied, return the violin to the open case for a moment. You probably would like to have a professional tune your violin first. Grip the bow. Use the balance point to learn to hold the bow and even out the weight. When you think you are ready to grip the bow like a professional, start by gently laying the middle part of your index finger on the grip (the slightly padded part of the stick, usually a few inches above the tightening knob). Place the tip of your pinky on the flat part of the stick near the base, keeping it slightly curved. The ring and middle fingers should rest with their middle parts in line with the tip of your pinky, and their tips on the side of the frog (the black piece that connects the tightening knob to the hair). Your thumb should rest underneath the stick, at the front of the frog, near or on the bow hair. Hold the violin. Stand or sit with a straight back. Pick it up by its neck with your left hand and bring the butt of the instrument up to your neck. Rest the lower back of the violin on your collar bone and hold it in place with your jaw. To learn notes, however, you should hold it guitar style and buy a music book. It helps a whole lot. Perfect your hand position. Place your hand under the top part of the neck and support the violin so that the scroll is pointing out away from you. Hold it steady by resting the side of your thumb on the neck, and allow your four fingers to arch over the fingerboard, which is the black plate covering the front of the neck. Play the strings. Place the flat side of the bow hair approximately halfway between the bridge (the flimsy-looking wooden stand 3/4 of the way down the strings that keeps them tented) and the fingerboard, so that it's directly over the belly (front body) of the violin. Pull the bow along the string as straight as you can, parallel to the bridge, applying a small amount of pressure. A sound should emanate from the violin. Also, tilt the bow hair towards bridge at a 45-degree angle. Practice playing open strings (G,D,A and E in order from top to bottom string). Open strings are simply strings played without fingertips on them. Rest the neck of the violin in the space between the left thumb and first finger. Hold the bow with your wrist, elbow, shoulder and contact point on the string within one plane. Change strings by raising or lowering the elbow to bring the bow to the proper height. Try short strokes of 6 inches (15.2 cm) or so in the middle of the bow at first, then try half strokes from the frog to the middle and back again. Work your way up to full-length strokes. Practice playing other notes. It takes a lot of practice to master the pressure and positioning required to get your fingers to produce clear notes on the fingerboard. Start with your strongest finger, the pointer finger. Using the tip only, press down firmly on the highest string (the E string). You don't need to use as much pressure as you do with guitar strings; a modest but firm amount is enough. Draw the bow across the E string to produce a slightly higher note. If you are holding the violin properly, your finger should naturally come down about half an inch below the nut (the top of the fingerboard), producing an F note. Practice scales. A scale is a series of notes that ascend and descend in a pattern of steps (usually 8, sometimes 5) that starts at one note and ends at a higher or lower version of the same note. An easy (and useful) scale for beginners is the D Major scale, which starts on the open D string. From there, place your fingers down in order (as described above) and play each note: D (open), E, F sharp, G (which should be produced by your third, or ring, finger). To complete the scale, play the next highest open string, A, and then repeat the pattern on the A string to play B, C sharp, and finally D with your third finger. Practice every day. Start with a short time (15 or 20 minutes) and work a little longer every day until you reach an hour, or you can't find any more time to play. Serious violinists often practice for 3 or more hours per day; then again, many violinists at that level get money for playing. Practice as much as you reasonably can, and keep at it. Even sounding good enough to play a few simple songs can take months, but eventually, things will begin to come together.

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