So you went to beginner band night and your student tried out a whole bunch of instruments that you may or may not recognize. You may even remember some of their names, or at least know, “I played the black one” or, “my best friend in middle school used to carry around a trombone and the case was enormous”. If you did play an instrument, you may remember that there were no less than a dozen things that could go wrong at any time, for any reason – and probably, early on, that was very frustrating to you.
A lot of children who get a new instrument are excited to try it out. Who can blame them? They’re shiny and they make all kinds of fun sounds! However, these early fiddlings can do a fair bit of damage without you or your child recognizing it. Here are just a few things that can go wrong (but don’t worry – they can be prevented… we’ll get to that later.)
Putting the instrument together
Clarinets (“the black one”) have five sections, plus the reed (the little piece of wood) and the ligature (the metal ring that holds the reed on the mouthpiece). They have to go together a certain way, and yes, there does happen to be one little key that can be bent or broken very easily at one of the places where the joints come together. As far as instrument assembly, the clarinet is the scariest one, but there are still plenty of things that could go wrong with the others. If you’re renting and you got insurance on the instrument, you can send it off to get it fixed, but a smashed key may not fall under “normal wear and tear”, so you’re looking at spending money on that repair.
Holding the instrument
A classic and very easy mistake to make, especially when your child may be getting conflicting information from friends or TV. It’s important that they learn how to hold the instrument correctly from day one, both to avoid confusion and to avoid any long-term bad habits. Something as simple as the curve of your child’s wrist or fingers can slow their progress when they’re playing more than Mary Had a Little Lamb… and in some cases, it can cause arthritis or other very real physical problems.
(“Om-buh-shure”, it’s a fancy French word for the muscles around your mouth and the shape of your lips – you’re welcome when you win trivia!) This is one of the most crucial aspects of learning to play a musical instrument. Bad habits learned here can make progress very difficult. Starting off with a good embouchure will make your child’s musical career much smoother, and will also eliminate a lot of beginner problems. (Those squeaks and squawks on the saxophone and clarinet are 9 times out of 10 caused by the embouchure, not the reed. Sorry, middle & high schoolers.)
On a related note, how your student sits when they hold their instrument has a big impact on how much air they can use. Learning good posture right away will avoid the stereotypical sagging flute player with their arm over the back of their chair (yes, that’s bad).
Every time your student plays their instrument they are putting warm, moist, germy air into the horn that you’ve probably planned on paying for for a few years. Over time, if they aren’t properly cleaning out all of those tubes and tone holes, all of those germs are accumulating somewhere. There are horror pictures of what can grow inside of trumpets and trombones that aren’t cleaned out, because kids eat food just before playing their instruments and then don’t clean them out, but I’ll spare you. I also won’t recommend Googling it. It’s rough. (I’ve seen green and purple in the mouthpieces of marching band clarinets, we’ll just leave it at that.) This can damage the instrument you’ve been paying for and can also make your child sick. It negatively impacts the sound, too, and it’s just plain gross (green and purple).
Putting the instrument away
All of those pieces that your kid took out and put together? They have to go back in that case. And no, the sections aren’t labeled. You just have to learn where everything fits, and make sure to put it there, or keys will get bent and you’ll be right back in the repair shop. (On that note, do not let your trumpet players store their band books in the case. It will bend things, I promise.)
Bella Musica is offering beginner lessons throughout the summer to help your children with these six new, scary concepts and more. Classes will be taught by a certified music teacher, so it’s sort of like having access to a band director while school is out. It’s a pretty flexible system, too, because we know summer is a time for vacation and relaxation. So, here’s how it works: you purchase a punch card for either three lessons ($60) or six lessons ($100) and then you show up during one of the times listed below and you’ll get an hour-long lesson. We’ll stamp your card, and you can come back again whenever it’s convenient! Since we don’t require RSVPs, it might mean your kid will get a lesson all to themselves, or they may be surrounded by other instruments. Either way, they will get help from someone who knows a bit more than, “I think this is how YouTube said to hold it”.
The dates these Beginner Band lessons are offered are:
Tuesdays from 1:00 to 2:00PM
Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:30PM
Every second and fourth Saturday in June, July, and August from 11AM to 12PM
Please note: students are required to have their own instrument for these lessons. We rent band instruments through Buddy Rodgers and would be happy to help you with that process if needed.