Saturday, September 4, 2010

What do I need to start music lessons?

"What do I need to start lessons?" One of the most frequently asked questions, supplies are needed to begin private and school music lessons. I will address both private and school music program supplies as much overlaps.

Necessary Items

School and private violin and viola lessons need only a few items:
  • Instrument
  • Stand
  • Rosin
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Music
  • Pencil
String instruments need to be appropriately sized. All music store employees and music teachers can evaluate students for size. Violin sizes include 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4 or full size. Violas are sized by inches, 12-14" are common for young students and 15-16.5" for full size violas. Rentals include a monthly fee, case, instrument, and bow.

A traditional folding music stand is perfect for home practice. A music stand allows the student to stand and read music at an appropriate height. Tall students, taller than six feet, may need to purchase an extra tall music stand. Music stands stay home in most circumstances. Schools and studios typically provide a music stand during the lesson.

Rosin is sold in small cakes and range in price from $3-10. Rosin is vital to sound production. Without rosin, you cannot produce a sound on the instrument. Rosin does dry out and should be replaced once or twice a year. A small amount of rosin should be rubbed into the bow hair before practice. Frequency of rosin application is variable dependent upon practice time and amount of rosin applied.

For bowed string instruments, rosin that's applied wears off onto the instrument and must be cleaned off after each use. Rosin is necessary for sound production. However, when left on the instrument and strings it lowers the sound quality, reduces instrument performance, leaves an instrument dirty, and makes for sticky hands. A clean, soft cotton cloth works for a cleaning cloth. Micro-fiber cloths are an excellent choice as well.

Music is part of the lesson as much as the instrument. It is the written language we perform, the legacy of composers, and a page that we color through performance. Teachers require specific books, orchestras program concerts, and students select music of interest to study.

Study techniques are many but a good pencil should be in every student's case. Pens are permanent, pencils allow for future changes in finger selection, bow direction, and reminders.

Additional Items

Do I need to buy the cleaning kit? Do I need to buy the beginner book? Do I need to buy a shoulder rest? Do I need a tuner? Do I need a metronome? You may be confronted by these and many other decisions when renting an instrument.

Beginner kits and cleaning kits often have all the supplies and more to outfit a beginner. Rosin, shoulder rests, finger tapes, strings, micro-fiber cleaning cloths, and polish are common in kits. Each of these items has their value, but are not required to start playing. Use common sense. If the kit is similar in price to a few individual items, it may be worth the investment.

School music programs and private teachers have their own curriculum. Books are a must for all lessons. Please contact your teacher to find out the specific book required for lessons. Music stores carry in stock the books used in local music programs and those required for private lessons.

Shoulder rests help most students. Shoulder rests allow for comfort and support while holding the instrument. Please allow a teacher to recommend a quality shoulder rest that is appropriate shape for the student. A student may not need a shoulder rest. A student may only require a small kitchen sponge. If the student needs a shoulder rest, it should be consistently used. Bring your shoulder rest to all lessons and classes. Please see Shoulder Rests for finding a shoulder rest.

Tuners are beneficial to tune an instrument and metronomes provide a steady beat for practice. Metronomes are a must for students who continue with lessons beyond an introductory period. Metronomes provide a consistent tempo to practice music at incremental speeds. Tuners provide beginners with the ability to accurately tune strings. Tuners provide all students a fixed reference point for intonation and may provide a drone note to tune to during practice.

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