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.

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!

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

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.

Learning music is cheaper than you think!

This time of year is a worry for many parents whose children are fired up with the idea of starting to play an instrument. There’s no need to spend a fortune however. Here’s a quick idea of the starting prices for beginner instruments at enjoymuzic this year. And remember, a bit of friendly advice is free so if you have any questions before you buy, just pop in!

Ukulele packages from £16.99
Recorders from £3.50
3/4 Guitars from £34.70
Flute & Clarinet outfits from £120 (or rent for just £36 for 3 months!)
Trumpet outfits from £135 (also available to rent)
Violin outfits from £79.99
Touch Sensitive Electronic Keyboard outfits from £139
Digital Pianos outfits from £324

There’s loads more to see instore and we’re open every day!

Check out our more detailed tips on buying a guitar, choosing a beginner flute or which ukulele to buy!