All instruments: Things to KNOW and DO

There are some things ALL musicians need to know how to do. In the Beginning Orchestra part of Delicious Music, we begin learning these steps in our practice pattern.

Watch (and obey) the conductor.

Watch and listen to how this trumpet player comes in just when the conductor wants him to, and how cool the beginning of the song is because he follows so well!

When you practice each day and learn to follow your teacher and your family helper’s instructions, you are developing this skill. Good job!

Listen carefully.

You have to train your ear to hear pitches, to hear if your instrument is in tune, and whether or not your tone is sounding good.

Then you have to train yourself to listen to any other people who are making music with you! You have to listen to be sure you aren’t playing too loudly so that you will blend well with them.

All of your practicing can help you learn to listen: Tuning your instrument every day helps you develop this skill. Listening to your family helper or teacher give instructions and corrections will help you. Listening to beautiful music helps you develop this skill, whether it’s recorded music or live. Singing in Solfa can help you do this, too! Most importantly, you have to really listen to yourself when you play to see how you sound, and then work on improving that sound!

Here’s a gorgeous piece of music that I could listen to almost all day long:

Read music.

Reading music begins with learning the notes. We do this when we learn Solfa and then learn the notes on the staff. You do this every day that you practice reading and writing music!

Play the notes correctly.

It takes work to figure out how to play a note correctly. Once you learn how to play a note correctly, you can learn to play it beautifully! Playing the notes beautifully comes after quite some work. It’s the harvest of your months and years of work in your musical garden and orchard. This is where you bring all of your skills and your wonderful heart and life experience and put it all together to sing the music that is in your soul!

Getting to know the different qualities of notes helps you learn how to play a note.

We overcome discouragement when it comes to playing correctly when we remember that anyone who ever learned to do something didn’t learn to do it in a day. Grass grows almost under our feet (and we don’t even notice it until it starts to get too long!). Trees take years to grow before they can offer shade on a hot day. You will be able to make a beautiful sound as you keep working to develop all areas of your musicianship.

This leads us to perhaps the MOST important skill:

Be teachable.

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

This means that if you allow someone to teach and correct you, you will be able to make progress. The fastest learners are the ones who fix their mistakes by applying the instruction and corrections their teachers give them!

If you can’t be taught, you can’t progress. Be teachable, so you can make a beautiful sound and love making music more and more and more!

Work hard to do hard things.

Everyone can do hard things! Musicians, like anyone else, learn how to work at something hard until they figure it out and then master it! You can do that, too.

I met Itzhak Perlman when I was a young violin student. I was so impressed that not only could he perform the violin so well, but he had learned to deal with his physical disabilities as well and  not let them stop him from accomplishing his dreams. This little video looks like it was filmed at about that same time in my childhood!

That little girl spent weeks and weeks and weeks getting to the point where she could play that song. Don’t let difficulty discourage you. If you want to accomplish something, set a goal and don’t stop until you get there!

The good news is that once you learn a song, it is always in your heart. The song she played is one I learned also, and I can still play it, decades later. Practicing is a gift you give yourself!