5 Tips for New Music Students...

Learning a musical instrument can be a really great thing for anybody. Sure, it can be a challenge, but challenging yourself is a good thing. 

We probably don't do it enough on a daily basis... Learning music will not only allow you to step back from your daily grind and do something refreshing music will offer you a new perspective and it will improve your mental abilities in other areas as well.

There are countless studies proving that music training is great for our mind and it will helps us to become more creative in our other ideas of our life. And, if you already play an instrument, learning another new one is also very inspiring too.

Learning a different instrument will give you a totally new perspective that you wouldn't have had on your main instrument. Plus, if you get good at a second instrument, you might even be able to use it to get more gigs!

Of course, learning any instrument can be made a lot easier if you already have a musical background, and becoming a multi-instrumentalist can present its own set of challenges.  The bottom line is that, this is also work and requires a lot of personal discipline.

Listed below are five tips that should help anyone who is developing their skills on an instrument. And, keep in mind that these concepts will not only help people who are trying to learn an instrument for the first time, they will also help people who want to learn how to play on a new and different instrument as well.

1. Start slow, and be patient
Oftentimes, when we pick up a new instrument that we aren't proficient on, it can be frustrating to be unable to execute the ideas you hear in your head. It takes a lot of time to build the pathways in our mind to proficiency. And, this is also true once we know the feeling of proficiency on one instrument, it's difficult to recall what it was like to be a beginner.

In this scenario, the instinctual response is to try and force the ideas out and push to play beyond your limits on the new instrument. This is a very dangerous approach; at best, you'll develop a lot of bad habits, and at worst, you could develop performance injuries that might restrict your ability to develop on your new instrument, and possibly even damage your abilities on your primary instrument.

Take it slow. You're a beginner; relish it! Play your scales at painfully slow tempos and shed on "Mary Had a Little Lamb" until your ears bleed. It'll be worth it.

2. Use your existing technical knowledge
If you're playing an instrument that's in the same family or similar to your primary instrument in any way, there will likely be some crossover as far as technique goes. You can use this technical background to help you develop faster on your new instrument.

Obviously, if you're a clarinet player who's trying to learn the drums or a bassist who's trying to learn the bagpipes, you're out of luck here. Picking a new instrument to double on that has similarities to your primary instrument is going to lead to the fastest learning and even potential gig opportunities. For example, many violin players double on mandolin and/or viola, sax players often double on flute, drummers learn hand percussion, guitarists learn banjo or lap steel… the list goes on. It's the technical stuff that you'll have to build up on your new instrument, so you'll already have a leg up by leveraging some of the skills you already have.

If you have no prior technical knowledge, you are at a very weak disadvantage. You'll need to get used to the fact that everything you approach will be on a very slow bell-curve. Hopefully, you have the personality to accept this snails-pace. If not, things will very likely not go all too well. 

3. Study up on music theory
Anything and everything you know about music theory can and should be applied to any instruments that you choose to pick up. Your knowledge of theory will likely allow you to pick up many concepts on your instrument that might take the average beginner years to understand or master. And, if you know nothing, music theory will start to explain a lot of the basics. Regardless, theory is the key to unlocking music and its application.

Once you get a general idea of how your instrument works, it should be a fairly simple process to use the knowledge you've learned on a different instrument to start figuring out basic scales, chords, or arpeggios on your new instrument. Once you're able to start grasping these, it shouldn't be too hard to start picking out songs or parts of songs that you've learned on your other instrument.

Again, starting slow is essential, but your development on any instrument will be drastically hastened if you've got a music theory background to fall back on.

You'll also find that going through this process will actually strengthen your grasp of theory as well. Since you have no (or limited) technical background on the instrument, you're relying on the theoretical knowledge you've developed. This will show you quickly where your knowledge is weak and will help you to strengthen said knowledge.

4. Get in a group
Playing with other people is one of the fastest ways to get better at your instrument. You probably realized this as soon as you started playing in your first bands, or when you did music class in middle-school. If you're new to music, then get into a group that will support your slow-pace. But, whatever your level, get together with others - it really helps.

If you're learning another instrument, once you've had a little time to develop your secondary instrument, the first thing you should do is try to get involved with a group at your skill level. Different levels exist and if you are with the wrong people, it might do you more harm than good.

It can be a little nerve-wracking to try to join up with a group when you aren't fully developed on your new instrument, but if you find a supportive group of players, it's a lot of fun. You might even be able to rope some of your friends into it!

Try to organize a weekly jam where nobody is allowed to play their primary instrument! I've done this in the past, and it's a total blast, and it helps everybody improve on whatever secondary instruments they are working on.

Alternatively, try looking at some of the local music schools in your area. Oftentimes, in addition to lessons, they'll offer "band"-type performance programs that you can get involved in. These aren't free, of course, but they'll offer you a safe and supportive environment in which you can grow and play with other musicians.

5. Take lessons
This is a bit of a given, but it's still an important reminder. Getting lessons with a good teacher will allow you to learn any instrument faster and more efficiently. Having somebody to guide you and show you how to avoid bad habits early on will save you a lot of backpedaling and relearning down the road.

If you have a friend who plays the instrument you’re trying to learn, you can always ask to trade lessons with him or her; your friend will give you a lesson on your new instrument in exchange for you giving him or her a lesson on your primary instrument. There are ways to make it work – and it is so well worth it.


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