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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?

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.

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

How to fit a guitar strap

If you play an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar with two strap buttons, fitting your guitar strap is as simple as pushing the leather ends onto the buttons and adjusting the length.

If you have an acoustic or nylon string guitar, it isn’t always obvious what to do – in fact, it’s one of the questions we get asked most often.

Start by pushing one end onto the strap button* on the bottom of your guitar. If there is writing or a picture on your strap, at this point it should be upside down.

You will need a shoe lace or something similar to tackle the other end. (Often, guitar straps will come with one.) Fold it in half and thread the folded end through the hole in the strap then pop the two ends through and pull to form a loop.

guitar strap with lace attached

Now take one of the ends and thread it through the guitar strings at the machine head end. It should be just behind the top nut, not on the main fretboard.

guitar neck showing position for lace to attach

Tie a good knot underneath the headstock – a reef knot is perfect. Check your knot for the first week or so to make sure it’s staying nice and tight and supporting your guitar safely.

If you prefer, you can use a leather strap button like this Martin one which threads through in the same place and offers extra support…Martin Guitar Strap Button CloseupMartin Guitar Strap Button Attached

There’s more info about the Martin Guitar Strap Button here.

* Some guitars, particularly classical ones, don’t have a strap button on the bottom. You can fit one yourself and most good music shops sell them separately or in pairs.

Top 10 tips for choosing a flute

1) If you have a flute teacher already, get some advice.

Your teacher can tell you which brands of flute would best suit your style of playing and also how quickly they expect you to progress. Remember though, your teacher wants the best for you and may be inclined to be idealistic – this often means suggesting flutes which are outside of the price bracket you are ready to commit to if you haven’t been playing long.

2) Try before you buy.

Even if you don’t play at all yet, you can gain something from just holding different flutes and taking into account the different weight and balance. If you already play, the tone quality and the action of the keys will be more pleasing on particular instruments. This is not a very exact science so you need to be prepared to listen to your heart as well as your head to get the right flute for you.

3) Does silver content really matter?

YES! The silver content isn’t there to make it look pretty, it drastically improves the tone of the flute. Any silver is a bonus but look out particularly for a silver-plated head joint in cheaper instruments or a solid silver one in more expensive flutes. The John Packer JP011 student flute is the only one on the market to offer full silver-plating at a beginner price.

4) Consider the pros and cons of second hand flutes.

You may be able to get a better quality flute by buying second hand. However, even if you buy from a shop, pre-owned instruments don’t always come with a warranty. The set-up on a flute is very delicate and the keywork or pads can become worn. Don’t buy second hand in a private sale unless you can take someone with you to try the flute who already plays well and would be able to spot any issues.

5) The technical stuff.

The standard requirements for a beginner flute would normally be:

– Closed hole (solid keys instead of rings with holes in the middle called ‘open hole’).
– Split E Mechanism (or ‘mech’). This just refers to the way of playing some of the notes and is by far the most common set-up on beginner instruments.
– Offset G key. The G key sticks out and is therefore considered easier for beginners to handle. Inline G is not a complete no-no – just make sure it’s comfortable and easy to find.
– C foot joint (rather than a ‘B’ foot).

6) Look out for Rental Schemes.

Many music shops offer instrument rental so you can learn for a while before you commit to buying your own flute. If you rent your flute from enjoymuzic, we deduct the amount you have already paid if you decide to buy at the end of your rental. Ask your local store if they offer any similar incentives.

7) Don’t feel pressured to spend more than you can afford.

Everyone with an interest in music will have an opinion on the flute you choose but as long as you and your teacher are happy with it, all that matters is that it suits your CURRENT needs. A well regarded budget brand flute will take you to around Grade 5 (approx 4-6 years) and will last longer if you don’t plan to take exams.

8) What age can my child start playing the flute?

This depends, in part, on the height of the child and the length of their arms. Around 8 is the minimum age that many flute teachers will consider. However, if your child is petite for their age or you are planning to start younger then you can go for a curved head flute. This will bring the keys closer to them and is normally sold with a straight head to move onto as they grow.

9) Don’t get bogged down by ‘what-ifs’

What if I don’t take to it? What if my child progresses past the quality of the flute I buy? What if…. A well kept flute will always fetch a good second hand price. Whether you sell because you stop playing or to contribute to an upgrade, you will often find your teacher or school know someone who is in the exact position you’re in right now and will be glad to buy from you.

10) Don’t skimp on the accessories.

A flute is a big purchase and it’s understandable not to want to spend loads extra. However, keeping your flute properly on the inside and outside will have plenty of long term benefits. Ideally a flute mop or pull-through to clean the inside after playing and a silver polishing cloth for the outside will get you started. Also, if you don’t already have one at home, a music stand is essential to help achieve the correct posture while playing. On the flip side, don’t let anyone sell you any ‘extras’ you aren’t sure about unless you know exactly what it’s for and can see how you will benefit from using it.

And finally….

If you’re not sure, ask.

In a good music shop, you should feel able to keep asking questions until you feel confident about your choice. If you aren’t sure or you don’t feel your questions are being answered, walk away and try another store or sleep on it to give yourself time to digest all the info.

How to re-string your guitar

I have many customers that bring their guitars in to be restrung and I would like to post a little blog on how to restring your guitar to pass on my knowledge.

There are plenty of tools to help you restring your guitar. I personally use the Planet Waves Pro Winder. It’s a 3 in 1 tool that is able to cut your strings, remove any bridge pins, wind your strings, and is well worth the reasonable price we sell it for. I would also recommend a neck rest (Planet Waves Headstand), which secures the neck of the guitar giving you both hands to work on the guitar.

First things to do is remove the old strings. I loosen the strings first so they cannot cause any injury or damage when cutting them, which is the next thing to do. After that, remove the strings from either end of the guitar. At this point in time you might want to clean the guitar where the strings normally cover. We use Kyser polish to do so, it always cleans up guitars very nicely.

Now take your lowest ‘E’ string and feed it through string hole normally located on or near the bridge of the guitar. Take the guitar string all way up to the correct tuning peg and pull it tight. Then put 3 fingers together and place them above the tuning peg, this is the amount of extra string you will want to keep (but do not cut any string at this point). Now bend the string when it is at the end of the 3 finger measure. Feed the string into the tuning peg with the bend sitting directly under the tuning peg’s hole. Now make bend the rest of the string above the tuning peg in the opposite direction to the first bend. This should now lock the string in place if you gently pull on it. Next take your peg winder and start winding the string making sure it wraps around nice and neatly and the right way, until it is near in tune. Then stop and move onto the next string.

Repeat the process until all 6 strings are in place.

It may take a while to become fast at replacing the strings however patience is key here. Here is a little video we’ve found to show you how.

If you would like any advice on choosing strings or would like us to restring your guitar for you, you’re welcome to bring your guitar along to enjoymuzic. We’re open every day at Royal Quays Shopping Centre, North Shields.

Keep Rockin’, Joe

Our guide to how to restring classical guitar is coming soon!