How to get kids interested in music Part 3 – Teenagers

If your child already plays but is finding it increasingly hard to stay interested, read our top tips for getting them to practice here.

If you’re still hoping to get a teenager to take up the opportunity to learn an instrument before adult life takes over, some serious inspiration is required! Young people aged 11-16 have many more pre-conceived ideas about music than younger children. Any barriers they create are normally driven by peer pressure and the need to fit in. Playing an instrument is often labelled uncool or swotty and it can be hard to keep up when what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ changes daily.

Live music is probably the biggest inspiration so tickets to a favourite band are a good place to start. This can be very expensive however so if you can’t stretch to it, remember that local bands usually play covers and find someone who is playing music that your teen will enjoy. This often works out well as most musicians you will see playing in coffee houses, shopping areas and pubs/clubs are really approachable and would be very happy to have a chat about what started them off in music and offer some tips. If you’re in the North-East of England, check out On The Case Music’s Gig Guide.

Often, teenagers who take up an instrument are motivated by a desire to learn to play a particular song that they love. You can definitely implant this as a goal if you suggest it casually and/or respond positively if they mention it. Find an online video tutorial if you can which covers the song or artist they’re interested in and offer to rent an instrument or buy a cheap one so they can have a go. Or speak to a teacher about booking a starter block of lessons as a birthday or Christmas gift. If a teenager is going to start taking lessons, it’s really important to find a teacher who is sensitive to their student’s goals and knows how to keep them interested. Your local music shop will be able to help you with this.

If you already have instruments at home, it can seem most economical to try to push your child into learning one of those (especially if you’ve always had a vision of them doing so!). However, teenagers who don’t feel really connected to the instrument they play hardly ever continue long term. If they have a real interest in a particular instrument, try to accommodate it by borrowing or renting initially.

How to get kids interested in music Part 2 – Primary School

Remember that children aged 6-10 tend to have a very narrow view of what ‘music’ is. So far, they have really only experienced classroom singing and whatever artists you enjoy listening to at home. If you would like your child to take more interest in music, take time to explore different styles and different instruments with them and look out for what gets a strong reaction. As well as listening to classical, rock, pop, jazz, film and choral music, watch videos online of people playing instruments and name them together so your child starts to build a picture of how an orchestra, rock band and choir are built and which instruments make the sounds they are most attracted to.

Your primary school child is the perfect age to begin taking weekly lessons on an instrument so once you’ve identified the main candidates, see what opportunities are available through their school. There might be group lessons or a guitar/keyboard club, for example. Schools also increasingly offer ukulele lessons, steel pans and world drumming so listen out for what’s inspiring your kids at school and see if there is a ready made opportunity you can help them to make the most of.

All good music shops will be able to point you in the right direction for private teachers of many different instruments and be able to help you choose someone who is good with children. Often, teachers can offer taster lessons or a meet-up where you and your child can get to know more about them and the instrument they teach to make sure it’s the right one. Also, consider rental schemes through school or your local music shop if you are concerned about buying an instrument straight away. Many children dabble with several instruments before settling on the right one(s) for them.

Playing an instrument isn’t the only route into music. Your child might prefer to sing in a choir or join a stage school to explore their musical potential. Dance is another great creative outlet, and often leads to taking up an instrument later on.

If your children are interested in taking up an instrument and you have any questions or concerns, here at enjoymuzic – your North East Music Shop we’re open 7 days a week and we’re always very happy to have a chat with you.

How to get kids interested in music Part 1 – Preschoolers

Many parents ask us how to bring music into their children’s lives from an early age so they are used to seeing and playing instruments and will be able to progress naturally to learning to play. Here are a few of our top tips for making music with very young children:

1) Buy small percussion instruments. Try to explore different methods of making sound such as shaking and banging. Also, vary the texture of the sounds so you have a mixture of instruments suitable for different types of music making.

2) Play along to a favourite TV theme tune together and choose children’s TV programmes which regularly contain a song and/or dance number to play and sing along to. Instead of just banging away, encourage your child to match the rhythm and dynamics (loud/quiet) of each song and to choose an instrument that fits it best. Or read a story together and use your instruments to make sound effects. Try to be imaginative and explore the different sounds you can get from each instrument!

3) Draw on any experience you have yourself, even if it’s a little while ago! If you can sing or play, make time to do this so your child gets used to seeing it. Your first instinct will probably be to keep small children away from an expensive instrument but instead, teach your child to handle your instruments gently, even if they’re too young to play it.

4) Many people are surprised to find that you can introduce children as young as 2-3 to a simple instrument like the ukulele. Ukes are cheap, very easy to learn and great starter instruments for all the family to learn together :-).  For more info on starting to play the uke read our blog here.

5) Most areas have music groups and classes aimed at very young children and their parents. If you’re in the North East, Sweet Symphony School of Music and Piccolo Music are great places to start making music with your children.

Why not pop into enjoymuzic – your North East Music Shop and see our great selection of percussion and ukuleles?

Can Boys Play Flutes?

Back in 2008, I wrote a blog about how gender stereotypes affect young people before they even play their first note and the influences of parents, peers and the media on choosing an instrument (Read ‘What’s The Right Instrument For Your Child’ here). According to a recent study commissioned by the Royal Albert Hall, nearly a decade later, the steering of boys towards ‘masculine’ instruments such as guitars, trumpets and tubas and girls towards more ‘ladylike’ options such as the flute, is still just as common.

So why, when we have come so far in the last 10 years in our general attitude to sexism (women fighting on the frontline for example) do we still feel uncomfortable when a pink and dainty little girl announces she wants to play the drums?

Read more about the results of the Royal Albert Hall research here.

How can I get my child to do their music practice?

Here are our 5 top tips to achieve regular and effective practice between music lessons…

1) Don’t set unrealistic goals.

10-15 minutes good practice 5 times a week will achieve a much better result than an hour crammed in before a lesson, or no practice at all because you can’t fit in a longer session around other activities. Without the pressure to set aside an enormous amount of time, children will often play for longer by choice (or by accident!) once they get into a routine of little and often.

2) Treat regular instrument practice in the same way that you treat other homework.

You wouldn’t let them off Maths homework would you? By treating music lessons with the same importance yourself, you are setting an example to your child. Even if you don’t play yourself, or them wanting music lessons seems like a bit of an unusual choice, by gently giving the message that you expect it to be taken seriously, you are giving them the best chance of making the most of the opportunity they have.

3) Make sure your child has all the necessary tools to work with.

If playing an instrument is a new venture, it is understandable to make a minimal financial investment until you are sure your child is committed to learning to play, especially if they tend to get bored with things. However, there are two things which are proven to improve the chance of them sticking to music lessons. A stand for their instrument so it is on display instead of hidden away in a case means that if they only have a few minutes to spare, it’s easy to pick up and play. It’s also less likely to be forgotten until just before the next lesson, or damaged accidentally. Also, a music stand will make it easier to practice in the correct position and achieve progress more quickly. It’s impossible to follow all of a teacher’s rules if you’re leaning over the bed or sofa to see your book!

4) Be aware of the reasons why your child might be avoiding playing.

It’s less likely that your child will stop playing because they dislike doing it and far more likely that other factors will play a part. The most common are peer pressure, other activities, reaching a point where it seems hard to progress (a plateau) and issues with the teacher. It’s very easy to get into a battle of wills over music practice but a quick chat to see if any of these are causing a problem is much more productive and less stressful.

Often, it’s simply the style of music being played that causes frustration. Most teachers are very happy to mix in modern pop and rock, jazz or other styles to keep things interesting. Don’t be afraid to approach them and ask.

5) Encourage involvement in group music opportunities.

Students who play in orchestras, jazz groups, rock bands and even sing in choirs have a better track record for continuing to play. Find out what activities are available at school or get in touch with your local Music Hub who will be offering all sorts of music groups for all abilities throughout your area. In North Tyneside, you can visit www.ntmeh.co.uk to see all the fabulous, free activities your child can enjoy.

Choosing a guitar for an adult beginner

Opinion is split as to whether an electric or an acoustic guitar is better to begin with so if you don’t feel strongly about which you prefer, try both before you decide. Don’t buy a classical (nylon string) guitar unless you intend to play classical/folk music. Although the strings are kinder to your fingers, they tend to have a very wide fret board which isn’t ideal for most styles of music and the sound quality is very different from steel strings.

Electric Guitar: The Pros:

The strings are closer to the neck than the average acoustic meaning you don’t need to press as hard. This also makes it easier to change chords at first.

Many amps have headphone sockets so, although one of the main concerns about electric guitar is the noise, in practice, they can be significantly quieter than an acoustic. More practical if you have small children or grumpy neighbours!

You can add effects pedals to recreate the exact sound you are looking for.

A small amount of ability can sound very impressive!

Electric Guitar: The Cons:

Due to the need for amp/lead etc as well as your guitar, the initial spend is significantly higher.

They are much heavier than an acoustic because the body is solid. The weight also varies massively between brands and body shapes so don’t buy one without holding it first.

If you’re going to lessons, bear in mind that, unless you can just take your guitar and use your teacher’s amp, there is a lot of gear to lug around. This also applies to taking your guitar away with you or going to buskers nights etc. (Although, for portable practice, Vox Headphone amps are pretty cool!).

In general, greater accuracy of playing is required as everything is magnified by the amplifier.

What to check before you buy:

What do you get with it? Although many electric guitars, particularly beginner ones, come with everything you need, don’t assume it’s included, or that it’s not! If it’s not included, is there a discount available for accessories?

Does the shop test the amp when it arrives? Most shops test and tweak guitars on arrival but if the amp hasn’t been tested, ask if it can be checked before you leave to avoid any potential issues.

Acoustic Guitar: The Pros

You can pick up a decent quality starter acoustic guitar for less than £60.

Acoustic guitars are far more convenient and portable. This applies both to playing at home and to taking it out and about.

They encourage good technique and start strengthening your fingers straightaway.

There are several different body sizes including Dreadnought, Folk, Cutaway and slimline among others so there’s a good chance of finding one that’s comfortable for you to play.

Acoustic Guitar: The Cons

It’s a bit harder to pull fancy moves in the beginning.

The tone quality is harder to play around with (unless you have an electro-acoustic).

If you do need to play louder, you can use a mic or a clip-on pick-up but the sound is never as good as a built in pick-up. Again, if you think you’re likely to want to do this, consider investing in an electro-acoustic guitar to avoid any inconvenience.

What to check before you buy

The more you spend, the better you can expect the action to be. Make sure that you can press the strings down all the way up the frets and they aren’t too high (too far from the fret board) to play comfortably.

As you go higher up the price scale, the quality of the workmanship and the component parts should be higher too.

If you are spending £150 plus, the guitar should probably have a solid top.

Do you get any accessories or can you get a discount on extras like a gig bag, strap and tuner?

Ready to buy your first guitar? Pop into enjoymuzic – your North East Music Shop to try some and let us help you choose the right guitar for you today!

North Tyneside Music Hub Raffle Results

Thank you sooo much to everyone who bought and sold raffle tickets to support North Tyneside Music Hub. Give yourselves a huge pat on the back because we raised nearly £1000!!!

The winning tickets are:
1st: 1365 (Electric Guitar Package – claimed)
2nd: 0834 (£25 Shopping Vouchers – claimed)
3rd: 1108 (£25 Shopping Vouchers)
Congratulations to all our winners 🙂

North Tyneside Music Education Hub (NTMEH) offer brilliant music opportunities to young people across the county including orchestras, choirs, steel pan bands, training bands and loads more. Most of these activities are free of charge which is why every penny we raised is so important. If your children would like to get involved, you can find out more at http://www.ntmeh.org.uk/.

As the guitar package was donated by enjoymuzic – your North East Music Shop and the shopping vouchers were kindly provided by the management at Royal Quays, the full amount of your donations will go towards supporting music for young people.

Thanks again for your support!

NTMEH Concert

How to use a digital tuner

 

We always encourage you to buy a tuner with any stringed instrument – most often a guitar or a ukulele. Many phones and tablets have a download app you can use and obviously something is better than nothing but there are a few reasons why a clip-on tuner is a better option.

The first is that, because they work by vibration, a clip-on tuner is significantly more accurate than either an app or a desk tuner for stringed instruments. The second positive about a clip-on tuner is that they aren’t disturbed by external noise eg: other people tuning around you or the TV.

So, what’s the best and easiest way to use a clip-on tuner to get the maximum results? Just follow the easy steps below, ideally every time you play, to keep your instrument sounding great:

– Make sure your tuner is set up correctly for the instrument you are tuning. You may have options for mode – eg which instrument and notes you need so make sure you’ve selected an appropriate option first. Also there may be a choice of pitch. In normal circumstances, this should be set to 440, which is standard concert pitch.

– Attach your tuner in a way that gets the best reception. This is the headstock of a guitar, ukulele, banjo or mandolin and the middle of the back of the neck on a violin. Try slightly different angles and positions until you find your perfect positioning where you get a good signal, you can see the display clearly and you can comfortably reach the tuning pegs.

– It sounds obvious, but make sure the peg you are turning relates to the string you are trying to tune! If in doubt, follow the string along to find the peg it’s attached to. Even experienced musicians sometimes snap a string by turning the wrong peg and not stopping to wonder why the pitch of the string isn’t changing :-).

– New strings go further out of tune and a lot more often so don’t worry if you seem to spend a lot of time tuning at first. As long as you store your instrument away from changing heat (not near a radiator or in the loft/conservatory/shed!) then it should settle down so you can tune once or twice a week.

We have a great selection of tuners for all instruments in store at Royal Quays, or you can see them here:

http://www.enjoymuzic.com/acatalog/musical-instrument-tuners.html

TGI 81 Digital Tuner

Which is the right size violin for my child?

Violins are one of the hardest instruments to size correctly. Ideally, we love to see you in store with your young violinist so we can measure them up and give you complete confidence that you’re buying the right size violin. However, if it’s a surprise, we understand that’s not always possible. Here are a few things you can do to give you a great chance of choosing the right size AND keeping a fantastic present secret until the right moment:

1) If your child is renting or borrowing a beginner violin from school already, tell us what size it is when you come in, or bring it with you. There is usually a little tab on the case with the size on and many brands have it inside too.

2) It’s a great idea to ask the violin teacher whether they think the current violin will be the right size for a reasonable length of time. You don’t want to buy one and then find the teacher recommends moving up to a bigger size next term!

3) Come up with a sneaky way of measuring your child’s reach (pretend it’s for their school uniform!). If you do manage to do this, the perfect position is with the arm stretched out ahead, palm upwards, from the crease of the shoulder to the base of the middle finger.

We offer a great selection of student and intermediate Stentor violins in store and also on our website at http://www.enjoymuzic.com/acatalog/buy-violins.html

Girl Playing Violin

What’s the Best Harmonica for a Beginner?

There are only 2 main questions when buying a harmonica for a beginner…

Diatonic or Chromatic?

First off, what the heck do these two words mean? A diatonic harmonica is rooted in a particular key and if you want to play in different keys, you ultimately need a pocketful of them. A chromatic harmonica has all the notes of the different scales on it and a button on the side with which to access the ‘extra’ notes.

Diatonic harmonicas are much easier to play and are the main choice for pros and enthusiasts who play Blues, Folk, Country and Rock music. Most beginner harmonica players use a 10 hole Blues Harp and the majority of harmonica tutor books, videos and other learning aids are geared towards it.

What Key?

The key of C is the most popular choice for beginners and again, it is safe to assume that this will match most learning material you are likely to access. It’s also worth mentioning that the next two most popular keys are G and D since they go well with guitar chords and many of the most famous songs containing harmonica licks are in one of these 3 keys.

Harmonicas make a brilliant Christmas gift and they don’t have to cost a lot! Pop in to enjoymuzic – Your North East Music Shop if you have any questions or find them online here
http://www.enjoymuzic.com/acatalog/buy-harmonicas.html

Harmonica Player & Singing Dog
Harmonica Player & Singing Dog – In Perfect Harmony Greetings Card