When starting a new instrument, it is easy to focus solely on learning the music and playing proficiently as the musician’s main goal. However, building the foundation of good habits in the first few weeks and months is much more important. While “practice” will be a huge emphasis of every lesson, there are two things that should take priority when a student is learning a new instrument.
The first priority is to become familiar with the instrument itself.
The student should understand how to assemble and disassemble the instrument, how to adjust reeds and mouthpieces, as well as how to properly clean the instrument. Remember, the instrument is the musician’s “tool.” When an instrument is properly cared for, it will work properly. If a student wants to play at peak performance, he must make sure his instrument is in peak condition.
The second priority is to learn proper technique.
The embouchure or “mouth position” is essential for producing a good sound on a brass or woodwind instrument and can take time to master. It is also important to practice fingering patterns regularly in order to gain music memory and maximize dexterity. Additionally, learning articulation techniques such as slurs, tonguing, and vibrato will help bring life and expressiveness into playing. Proper technique also includes having the correct posture while playing and practicing. A properly practiced technique in a properly practiced posture will translate into a properly performed piece in the future. (Say that five times fast!)
These two important tips must be given constant attention in the beginning stages of learning a new instrument in order to create good habits for the future. When given adequate emphasis, these will become second nature to the musician quite quickly. Good habits built early will ease the way as the musician advances his skills, all built on the solid foundation of knowledge of the instrument and properly practiced techniques!
A native of Florida, Cindy grew up with a rich family history of music. Starting with piano at age 9, she added flute and other instruments to her repertoire in junior high. She made all-county band and played piano for her school’s jazz band and show choirs. Throughout her teen years, she also had opportunities to perform in her local community in churches, assisted living facilities, plays, and productions. While pursuing her college degree in education, she traveled as the pianist for a college-sponsored singing group in 48 states over five summers. She has now been teaching music, including instruments and voice, since 1995. She has instructed students of all ages and skill levels, and many of her students from decades past now are teaching their own music students.