Are you just starting a new instrument? Trying to play more fluently and just can’t figure out how? Fixing a mistake or getting a tune right can be tricky and most times just downright frustrating. Fortunately, instructors here at QuaranTunes offer their input on various instruments including piano, strings and more.
Piano is probably one of the most widely played instruments among musicians. It’s not too difficult to learn and it’s a skill that’ll stick for a while. However, that doesn’t mean that piano can’t be tricky. Depending on your level, certain pieces can really be frustrating to learn, such as pieces that require quick and nimble fingers.
For pieces that include a lot of fast notes in quick successions, there is an easier way to play them. When playing repetitive rhythms or notes, it’s important not to have flat fingers. On that note, it’s important to not have flat fingers when you play piano, with a few exceptions. Make sure your hand is curved as if you’re holding a ball or in a crab-like shape.
Once you have the correct hand position, now you can focus on how to play the notes. One must be light and flexible with their fingers. Try not to sound too heavy or press too hard on the keys which is key to bring out all of the notes and their distinctive sounds. You almost want to play the notes in a staccato-like manner because by playing sharp notes, you can easily jump to the next note without lingering too long. Afterwards, it’s just repetitive practice and improving your skill to become fluent in your piece.
Before practicing piano, it is noted to always warm up your fingers, especially if it’s a cold, winter day. Most pianists know to play scales, at least two octaves, before they start practicing their other pieces. Furthermore, be sure to play different scales from time to time instead of sticking to one type. Scales is an incredibly important skill for piano that helps a pianist focus and easily recall different patterns and notes.
Although playing scales or slowly practicing difficult parts of your songs is tedious and downright frustrating, piano is an instrumental experience with endearing benefits to your cognitive abilities and perseverance.
Hailing from Dougherty Valley High School, Ludwig Tang is a sophomore teaching violin at QuaranTunes. Ludwig shares the difficulties he had with the violin as well as some advice for violin players when it comes to playing the violin well.
To Ludwig, he found that the most challenging aspect of the violin was perfecting the intonation. For violin, it’s crucial to place your fingers correctly on the string or else you will end up with a note that is out of tune. Unlike instruments like the flute or the piano, the violin doesn’t have any fixed positions or buttons on its strings so Ludwig informs that muscle memory is essential.
In order to solve this issue, you have “to be patient and…practice the music very slowly,” Ludwig advises, “playing slow helps you stay even, [helps you] become more accurate, and eliminates minor mistakes.” This process can take a long time since it’s advised to take it note by note in order to make sure all your notes are in tune. Students should use tuners and mark their music to remind themselves to play the note sharper or flatter. Additionally, Ludwig adds that this is a great way to improve your ear training.
Another challenge that Ludwig faced was bad posture. Because he learned from his own hardships, Ludwig suggests that beginners should immediately fix their posture and hold their bows correctly to produce the best music possible. By having bad posture or handling the bow wrong, the musician may hinder their ability to play fast or challenging pieces. Ludwig tried to play hard pieces with his bad posture and realized that it was extraordinarily difficult to do so since he struggled with the speed. Since he was a little late in realizing his mistake, it took him quite a while to fix it which is why posture and bow-hold is something that must be perfected as soon as possible.
To maximize your success with the violin, try to stick to specific practice dates. By establishing times to practice in your planner or calendar, you are less likely to miss a practice date. Practicing violin requires a lot of attention to detail and although it is tiring, it will only get better overtime, Ludwig assures. After all, practice does make perfect.
Erin Kim is the Head Voice Teacher at QuaranTunes. She is an avid choral singer and therefore has faced many challenges. Although she faced difficulties with singing, she still enjoyed it and had overcome her difficulties.
One of the challenges that Erin faced as a choral singer is “creating a blend with other singers.” This challenge is not unique to her but something that most singers face. It’s difficult to find cohesion with every other singer because “each piece requires a different stylistic choice, and something [Erin] learned… from choruses to a cappella groups is developing flexibility and preparedness” Erin states.
To overcome that challenge, Erin simply replies that it’s all about listening. It’s important to listen to your own voice and other people’s voices to blend in smoothly. Furthermore, one shouldn’t shy away from criticism or feedback.
Despite the challenges of singing, Erin has always had a passion for singing. She started singing when she was six and took any chance she got to sing. Because of her passion, singing was never a burden or hard to her since new lessons or tips would help her improve her technique and skill.
Finally, Erin ends her interview with an important piece of advice for all singers: stay hydrated! While singing, it’s extremely easy for one’s throat to get dry and if not given water, one could find dry, irritated vocal cords. It’s essential to always drink water when practicing and remember to always “bring [a] water bottle to rehearsals!”
Alan Guo is currently a senior at Gunn High School and teaches ukulele and guitar. Before that, he also used to teach piano at QuaranTunes. Although Alan has a musical background, guitar didn’t come without its challenges.
Alan states that the hardest part of guitar was learning it since he taught himself how to play. Learning without guidance from an instructor or professional can be extremely difficult and frustrating. There would be days where he “would barely progress and struggle to press the right frets and finger chords.” Alan had to learn through hundreds of online resources and classes in order to get past difficulties and hurdles. Furthermore, Alan had to deal with finger pains from the guitar.
In order to combat this problem, Alan persevered through and set practice schedules. He took it little by little, finding joy in small accomplishments such as getting a new chord down. He made sure that he didn’t overwork himself since it could lead to frustration and got plenty of rest for his fingers.
We all feel like we want to give up at some point when practicing our instrument. It’s not easy to persevere through but Alan suggests that when learning a new instrument, try to find songs that you want to play whether it’s classical pieces, pop music or jazz. By doing so, playing music becomes a lot more interesting. I can personally attest to this since there has been a time where piano was incredibly troublesome but after I started playing some of my favorite songs, I regained my interest in it again.
“Part of learning is to utilize what other people have already learnt, and to take advantage of their expertise. The guitar is challenging at first, but eventually it will start to click and you will have a much larger array of skills and techniques which open up millions of songs [that] you can now play,” Alan shares.
QuaranTunes instructor Colin Saltzgaber is a 12th grader at The Nueva School. He’s currently teaching photography for QuaranTunes’ creative art classes and drums. He started learning how to play the drums at a young age and gives his advice on this particular instrument.
One aspect that Colin found challenging was the tempo and keeping up with fast songs. It’s also difficult to use both your hands and feet when playing the drums since some rhythms are much more complex than others.
As for improvement, you need to practice like every other instrument. There is no other way around it. “There are no shortcuts to success or to playing the drums well,” Colin admits as he shares that there have been days where he had little motivation to practice. He needed a combination of persistence and practicing to become a seasoned musician since those two factors will ultimately help you overcome any barrier you face.
Colin has also had his fair share of difficulties when it comes to drums. When he first started out, he wanted to play difficult pieces with fast and complex tempos, rhythms, or beats. However, his teacher reminded him that he had to take it slowly, especially with songs like “Tom Sawyer” by Rush. It’s extremely important to get the basics down for any instrument since it’s fundamental for difficult pieces. Colin advises to “practice and master the basics of drums…you won’t regret spending time on these fundamentals, as they become your foundation for every complex song.
Today, many musicians-in-progress feel a need to rush and learn quickly but music is a process. Success is not an even process but one that comes with patience and perseverance. You don’t learn everything all at once but through steps. Sometimes, you learn it quickly but other times, it may take days or weeks. The point is that success doesn’t come immediately. It takes time. With certain pieces, you may find that you excel in it and progress quickly but that may not be the case for others. If you find that you’ve hit a roadblock in your musical success, don’t lose all hope but keep on practicing in order to climb up to the next level. You will get there eventually, it is only a matter of time.