For Musicians From Musicians: Tutors, Mentors and why you need both

Tutors, Mentors and Why You Need Both

by the BDMA Tutors

TUTOR
noun
1. a person employed to instruct another in some branch or branches of learning, especially a private instructor.

MENTOR
noun
1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.

What is the difference between tutor and mentor, and why do we need both as musicians?

From the dictionary definitions, we see that tutors focus on the learning aspect whilst mentors go more towards the side of guidance.

Obviously, when learning an instrument it is a must that a tutor teaches you the ins and outs of what you are playing. They need to cover the technique and the theory, the repertoire and the rules.

Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to play.

But if you talk to the majority of professional musicians and get them to reminisce on their past tutors, yes some might say

“My second teacher really sorted out my technique”

…but what is more likely to stick with them is how a tutor supported them or inspired them.

This is the mentor aspect of music teaching. Mentors are there to guide through difficult decisions, push you to the next level and inspire your creativity.

The combination of tutor and mentor is what pushes students to be the best they can be. With this in mind, we’ve had our tutors share some of their experiences.

 

Jess Tomlinson:

We know that music is so much more than learning the notes. So your teaching experience should represent this – learning the theory is important, but understanding the depth of music, being innovative and creative and finding constant inspiration is when music lessons move to the next level. My favourite teachers have been the ones that have thoroughly taught me the technique of the instrument but spent an equal about of time guiding me as a musician. This might have been telling me anecdotes, giving me life advice or asking how the rest of my studies were going, generally taking an interest in my whole musical life, not just when I had a clarinet in my hands. I want to replicate this with my teaching – music should be an experience that goes past just simply playing and I strive for my students to understand the whole picture, and love it.

 

Bryony Purdue:

I have never been someone to express myself through anger or particularly through silent treatment/sadness. It has always been through music and my first singing teacher, Lesley, made the link between personal and musical inextricable. To be able to do what we do and sing or play in front of people, we have to be so sure of ourselves as people as well as performers, otherwise it is all too easy for nerves and fear to get the better of us. We are all human and having encouragement and FUN when learning and performing is so important (whether it be to family in your living room or in front of lots of people.) Mentors bring out the human in us and give us enough confidence and self-assurance and tutors teach us the skill of our instrument. You need both to be able to fully enjoy the process and reap the limitless benefits of music.

 

Louise Balkwill:

I’ve found throughout my musical journey that it has been invaluable to have both tutors and mentors. For me, my tutors have helped me to develop the foundations; good technique, a comprehensive repertoire, harmonic knowledge and so on. As you develop, you select your tutors based on a problem-and-solution basis. But a mentor is someone who really inspires you and takes you under their wing – a kind of Harry Potter and his wand type, special relationship!

My first mentor was an incredible musician called Liane Carroll; the woman who inspired me to start singing. I found myself at her gig by chance, and was in awe from the moment she opened her mouth – so I followed her EVERYWHERE for a good year before approaching her. I went on one of her summer schools and she took a personal interest in my singing and my musical journey. She has since let me join her on stage at gigs and we make an effort to hang out whenever she is in town and we are both free. The inspiration, advice and support that she has bestowed upon me has become an important part of who I am, and I am very lucky indeed to have her as a mentor and friend.

There is nothing to say that a tutor cannot become a mentor. For example, I developed a great learning relationship with my History of Jazz tutor, Malcolm Earle-Smith, whilst at Trinity Laban. When I reached my final year, I really struggled, both emotionally and creatively. Malcolm went out of his way to support me and gave me all the help that I needed to stay inspired, finding innovative and new ways to teach me things that I was struggling with and encouraging me along the way. He has become an invaluable mentor and dear friend.

Introducing Our New Tutors!

Over the past few months as our academy has grown, we’ve been delighted to welcome seven wonderful new tutors to our happy team, six in London and one in Manchester. 

We can’t wait for you to meet them, so here’s a little online introduction… If this has whetted your appetite, do get in touch with us! 

Why not try a new instrument with our 4 lessons for £99 offer (in London)!

Contact louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire.

Bryony Purdue – BMus Hons – Singing and Piano, London.

Bryony has recently joined us as a singing and piano tutor. She has just graduated from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance with a first class degree in classical singing, but is wonderfully diverse and sings all styles of music, capturing the hearts of audiences everywhere! She is also particularly gifted when it comes to tutoring younger students, with her bubbly personality and love for teaching. She is a big believer in keeping the fun alive when learning music!

“I have never been someone to express myself through anger or particularly through silent treatment/sadness. It has always been through music and my first singing teacher, Lesley, made the link between personal and musical inextricable. To be able to do what we do and sing or play in front of people, we have to be so sure of ourselves as people as well as performers, otherwise it is all too easy for nerves and fear to get the better of us. We are all human and having encouragement and FUN when learning and performing is so important (whether it be to family in your living room or in front of lots of people.)”

Check out her beautiful rendition of this Billie Holiday classic…

Fraser Bowles – BMus Hons, MMus – Cello and Piano, London.

Fraser has recently joined our London team as a cello and piano tutor. He has played with an impressive list of bands and ensembles…

“Although I love to play classical music, I’ve played with some pretty cool bands, too; Matt Emery, VLMV, Ben Laver, Taz Modi, Heather McClelland, and as a member of Parallax Orchesta; Eminem, Alter Bridge, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Bring Me The Horizon, Jennifer Ann, The Irrepressibles, dodie and Ardyn to name a few! I am also a founding member of the contemporary music group, Ret Frem. We are committed to the performance and promotion of music of exquisite craft by living composers – established, emerging or underrepresented.”

But hey, who needs a band when you can clone yourself and play four cellos at once!

Ian Sankey – BMus Hons – All Brass (Trumpet, Flugel, Trombone, Euphonium, French Horn, Tuba), London.

Ian is our newest member of the team, and has joined us with a rather incredible inventory of brass instruments, including a renaissance trombone called the sackbut!

“While at Guildhall I began playing the sackbut, which is the renaissance trombone, something I still enjoy to this day. Playing sackbut has taken me as far Toronto in Canada when a group of us joined forces with Girton College choir from Cambridge to record a CD of the music of Lassus out there.”

They’re very rare (and expensive!), but Ian has said that he’d be more than happy to let any of his new students have a go!

Have a listen to Ian playing Randy Newman’s “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story with Aeris Brass!

Joel Waters – Drums, London.

Meet Joel, our fabulous new drum tutor. He has already racked up an impressive teaching portfolio (he’s been teaching since the age of 15!) and has joined us recently to bring his drum expertise to your living rooms.

“Hi there! I’m Joel and I teach Drums. I have been teaching since I was fifteen and have been playing drums since I was five years old. Currently I am currently studying Jazz, at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. I love all styles of music from heavy metal to classical and have worked with various different bands and artists across the UK. In my spare time I love to play table tennis and go running. My favourite cake has to be a good old Victoria sponge (especially with fondant roll up icing – I could eat that by itself!).”

Joel is incredibly diverse and can play all styles of music (check him out in the last video in this newsletter playing with one of Louise’s students, Tilda Hardy) and is a ninja with brushes!

Megan Thompson – Violin, piano, theory and beginner singing, Manchester

Megan has recently joined our team up in Manchester, teaching violin, piano, theory and beginner singing…

“I have enjoyed many orchestral and chamber music opportunities, playing in projects with the Hallé orchestra and Manchester Camerata. I also enjoy playing chamber music and doing session work, performing with touring groups in venues across the country including, Manchester Palace Theatre, Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre and Kings Theatre in Glasgow.”

Rob Griffin – BMus Hons – Woodwind and Piano, London

Rob has just joined us as a woodwind and piano teacher after achieving the highest mark in his year at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance – He was awarded the Trinity Laban Jazz Achievement Award in 2016!

Despite being rather brilliant, Rob is a fun and friendly chap who loves to teach students of all ages and stages.

Twm Dylan – BMus Hons, MMus – Guitar, Electric Bass, Double Bass, Piano, Singing, London.

Twm has recently finished his Master’s Degree at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and is now an official double bass master. But that’s not all – he is a multifaceted multi instrumentalist too!

Although he has only begun teaching for the Becky Dell Music Academy recently, he’s been a friend of the family for a long time and plays with our other tutors, Louise Balkwill, Llinos Emanuel, Joel Waters and Rob Griffin regularly. He’s also making quite a splash on the UK jazz scene with widely renowned band Maisha.

Check out this video of Twm playing the Billie Holiday heart melter “It’s Like Reaching For The Moon” with one of Louise’s students, Tilda Hardy, alongside two of our other new tutors, Rob (sax) and Joel (drums)!

Give them all a big, warm BDMA welcome!

Fancy learning with one of our amazing new tutors?

Why not try a new instrument with our 4 lessons for £99 offer (in London)!

Contact louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire.

From Becky and the Team x

100 Years of Jazz: Traditional Jazz

Traditional Jazz

Blog by Louise Balkwill

If you have been following this blog series, you have read about ragtime music – a genre of piano-based music played from sheet music for high society. You will have also heard some blues – heavily improvised music, used primarily as a form of expression among black slaves and musicians and frowned upon by the upper class white folk.

Now picture this – a story of the origins of jazz that I was told a couple of weeks ago in the birthplace of jazz by a pianist at the New Orleans Jazz Museum;

“You’re a black musician. It’s 1900, or thereabouts. There’s a gig this evening at one of the hottest clubs in the quarter, but the trumpet player is ill, or has taken another gig, or, for some other reason can’t make it, and has asked you to step in and do the gig instead…

At the time, “rags” were popular and had become more complex, with various written parts for various instruments that the musicians were expected to play. However, if you were offered a gig but your part was missing, you couldn’t afford to turn down the gig – you’d just have to make up the part!

And thus began improvisation in a band setting, using preconceived chord patterns and melodies.”

As time went on, new compositions were written in a way that supported this new improvisational style. To begin with, songs still felt very “arranged” and could have all manner of forms that sounded “rag”-esque. There were written melodies, chord patterns and some harmony parts, but the nature of being a busy musician in this era had changed; You had to understand the role of your instrument and be able to improvise in a band setting.

Roles of Instruments in a Traditional Jazz Band

If you wanted to play in a band in early 1900’s America, you had to understand how your instrument worked in a collective sense. You also had to develop technique and a good understanding of musical harmony.

Voice: Most instrumentalists would double as singers. The vocal chorus would appear in the middle of a performance instead of being the main feature of a song.

Trumpet/Cornet: `Frontline (plays the melody and solos)

Clarinet: Frontline (plays an agile countermelody/obbligato that weaves in and out of the melody. Also plays improvised solos)

Trombone: Frontline (harmonises with higher brass and fills in with scoops and slides)

Piano: Frontline & Rhythm section (plays “stride” but can also solo and play countermelodies)

Banjo/Guitar: Rhythm section (plays on the beat every beat – “chg-chg-chg-chg”)

Bass/Sousaphone/Tuba: Rhythm section (plays generally roots and fifths on the 1st and 3rd beats of each bar

“Dixieland”

The first jazz recording dates back to 1917, and was recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band:

“Dixieland” is, however, a controversial term. It was used by white musicians to describe their generally sped-up, “cleaned-up” version of the slower, more blues influenced traditional jazz music that was being played by black musicians. This term is not well received to this day amidst New Orleans’ traditional musicians.

The “Invention of Jazz”

Jelly Roll Morton was said to be the self-proclaimed “inventor of jazz”, although his actual words were quite different. He wrote;

“All my fellow musicians were much faster in manipulations, I thought than I, and I did not feel as though I was in their class.”

So he would write songs to be played at a slower tempo, leaving more room for flexibility when it came to improvising.

When Jelly Roll Morton started recording his own compositions with his band, he could play to the strengths of his fine comrades. The music became faster (this was popular at the time as it was more fun to dance to) and more virtuosic.

This new style that he had suggested paved the way for a new generation of jazz musicians.

Check out this 1923 recording of “High Society” by King Oliver and his band – just listen to that clarinet go!

The reality is that the invention of jazz music cannot be accredited to any one musician. It is a genre that celebrates collective playing and improvisation and welcomes influences from a wide variety of backgrounds and influences.

A blog about this era is not complete without a glimpse of one of the world’s greatest musical heroes in the formative years of his musical journey. Here’s a treat for you – Louis Armstrong playing “Potato Head Blues” in 1927 with his Hot Seven!

Next time, we’ll be looking at how traditional jazz swung its way into popularity with the swing era – big bands, crooners, endless dancing and pioneers of the 21st century!

 

Inspired?

Why not try your hand at jazz music with one of our creative and inspirational tutors with our 4 lessons for £99 offer?

Send an email to louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire

 

The Double Bass: Big, Bold and Beautiful

By Louise Balkwill

In this blog post, I will be raving about one of the most important, versatile, best loved but least accredited instruments in western music’s modern (and not so modern) history – yes, that’s right, the Double Bass!

The Double Bass (also known as the contrabass, upright bass, standup bass, acoustic bass or just “the bass”) has been an important part of the foundations of the music that we know and love for centuries.

It its the largest, lowest-pitched bow-able string instrument around (apart from the super rare Octobasse – Click here to see what it sounds like!), and as the 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of many new genres of music, the double bass stuck around and proved itself to be one of the most versatile, too!

When many people think of the double bass, they think of it as a big, cumbersome instrument that plods along at the bottom of an orchestra; This could not be further from the truth! It can give the violin a run for its money as a virtuosic sensation.

If you don’t believe me, just watch Dominic Seldis go!

…Amazing, right?

Another great thing about the Double Bass is that if you love singing, you can do both at the same time!

Watch the fabulous Esperanza Spalding play the timeless jazz standard “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” (Girls, take heed – although it’s big, the double bass isn’t a “man’s instrument” as many people seem to think; all of my double bass pupils are actually female!)

If you watched both of these videos, you probably noticed that Dominic and Esperanza play the double bass in very different ways; Dominic sits down, Esperanza stands up, Dominic plays with a bow (this is what string players call “Arco”) and Esperanza plucks the strings (known to us as “pizzicato”)…

The instrument has been an important and inspiring facilitator of change and expression over the past two or more centuries, enabling different cultures and communities of musicians to develop their own styles and techniques of playing while still remaining a cornerstone of the music.

 

Unfortunately, the Double Bass has become an endangered instrument, meaning that there are very few people learning it…

That does, however, mean more gigs for those of us who do!

Inspired?

Give the Double Bass a go with our 4 lessons for £99 offer!

You can try double bass lessons with me (Louise), or if you’d rather try out the sideways version (the bass guitar), why not give lessons with the wonderful Twm or Ronald a spin?

(Email louise@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk to enquire)

Now, it wouldn’t be a blog about the Double Bass without sharing a tune from the revolutionary Charles Mingus…Enjoy!

100 Years of Jazz: Blues

Blues

Blog by Louise Balkwill

Alongside the evolution of the music from Congo Square in the 19th Century, before the abolition of the slave trade in America, another type of slave music grew in the Southern plantations; Blues.

Blues found its origins in the Mississippi Delta, when slaves would sing about their sorrows while picking cotton and working in the fields. It was initially considered a type of folk music and was popular only among African slaves and their descendants, frowned upon by the middle and upper class Americans of European decent.

Early types of blues music included spirituals (religious songs using vocal harmony) and work songs. Work songs were structured in a call and response fashion and lyrics were largely improvised before any transcribed or recorded compositions arose.

Here is a short documentary on “Slave Songs”, possibly the first published book of work songs and spirituals sung by African Americans in the 1800’s. These songs evolved into what we know as blues, and the book most probably contains the first ever compilation of transcriptions of the genre.

 

As blues and jazz have similar origins, the two genres married perfectly when the aural traditions of both were passed from state to state among musicians and travellers. Jazz musicians all over the world still play what we have come to know as “jazz blues” .

 

The “Blues Scale”

Today, the blues is easily recognisable by its form (usually 12 bars, explained later on in this blog) and “blues notes”, otherwise known as “worried notes” – these are flattened 3rds, 7th and sometimes 5ths that give the music its melancholic, implied minor feel. These can be found in what is known as the blues scale, a scale that can be used as a good starting place to practise improvisation on the blues;

 

12 Bar Blues

The basic blues structure is made up of 12 bars (3 groups of 4 bars), like so: A great example of this is W.C. Handy’s 1915 composition, “Joe Turner Blues” – have a listen!

 

Other Blues Forms

Although most blues that we know today is constructed as above, there is also eight bar blues, sixteen bar blues, minor blues and other variations.

Check out Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s rendition of “Trouble In Mind”, an eight bar blues:

 

Give it a go!

Why not have a go at writing your own? Here are some blues lyrics by one of the 20th century’s best loved jazz singers, Billie Holiday. See how the first two lines are the same, and the last line rhymes with them?

My man don’t love me, treats me awful mean
My man don’t love me, treats me awful mean
He’s the lowest man that I’ve ever seen

Let us know what you come up with! If you need more inspiration, check out this blues composition by one of our amazing pupils, Tilda!

100 Years of Jazz: Ragtime

Ragtime

Blog by Louise Balkwill

In our last blog, we looked at Congo Square and the origins of Jazz music. Now we visit the 1890’s, when Ragtime appeared in its earliest form.

Unlike the earlier music of Congo Square that was passed down aurally from generation to generation, Ragtime music gained popularity through being passed around as sheet music, and is thought to be the first written ‘pop’ music – Blues, in contrast, was thought by the higher classes to be a lower class rural music (although very important in the history of jazz – we will have a listen to some blues in the next blog.)

Named ‘Ragtime’ because of its ragged, syncopated rhythms, the music became very popular for dances and was written mainly by middle class African American musicians who had gained influence from minstrelsy and classical music, as well as the improvised and traditional music of Congo Square. The music was accompanied by a dance called the ‘Cakewalk’ – this made way for endless variations that the kids of the time loved to get their feet into. Ragtime music was also a very popular choice to accompany silent films in its later years. You might well have heard of “The Entertainer” (or even played it for one of your grade exams); this is a Ragtime piece written by Scott Joplin, the celebrated “King of Ragtime” in 1902, 115 years ago!

Ragtime started off as a music witten only for solo piano, but in the early 1900’s, orchestral and ensemble arrangements became popular. The violin then became the main leading instrument in these ragtime ensembles with this popular line-up:

  • Melody: First Violin (or Cornet with second Cornet harmonies)
  • Beats 2 and 4: Second Violin (prior to the banjo)
  • Beats 1 and 3: Bass Viol
  • *Obbligato: Piccolo or Clarinet
  • Bassline: Trombone
  • Percussion: Strict time drumming

*Obbligato, (Italian: “obligatory”), in music, essential but subordinate instrumental part. For example, in an 18th-century aria with trumpet obbligato, the trumpet part, although serving as accompaniment to the voice, may be as brilliant in its writing as that of the voice itself.

Fancy having a go at learning some Ragtime Piano?

Check out this video with on-screen sheet music of the first known rag, written by the first published African American composer, Tom Turpin!

(If you liked that, check out YouTube user RagtimeDorianHenry’s other ragtime videos!)

In the next blog, we’ll be looking at early blues and how it has played a massive part in the evolution of the jazz tradition!

100 Years of Jazz: Part 1 – Congo Square

Blog by Louise Balkwill

2017 is a very special year for music – it marks 100 years since the release of the first ever jazz recording, “Livery Stable Blues” by The Original Dixieland Jazz Band! Since then, popular music has foxtrotted, swung, bopped, rocked and rolled its way into the 21st century, but the rich culture of improvised music from New Orleans is still rife today all over the world.

 

Congo Square, the Birthplace of Jazz

Before we look at the journey that jazz music has taken over the past 100 years, we must ask how it came to be in the first place.

Rewind 100 years further to the year of 1817; 198 years after the first Africans were sold into slavery in America. The mayor of New Orleans city council established “Congo Square” (originally known as Beauregard Square and Congo Plains) as an official site for slave music and dance by restricting any kind of gathering of enslaved Africans anywhere else in the city.

Every Sunday, they would gather in Congo Square and sell goods to raise money to buy their freedom. In the glimpse of free time that this weekly ‘day off’ provided, they would also gather together to sing, dance and create music. Original instruments used included long, narrow African drums that had previously been banned in America, triangles, jawbones and early ancestors of the banjo.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s drawing of a bamboula, made at Congo Square on February 16, 1819. (© Maryland Historical Society)

Dances such as “Flat-Footed-Shuffle” and the ”Bamboula” were performed as these rhythms were played. As time went on, the dances and music evolved with new influences and ideas.

Visitors from all over New Orleans began to gather to spectate and dance along to what they then coined “Black music”, and this culture began to spread across America.

African slaves dancing the Bamboula; Illustration by Edward Windsor Kimble at The Historic New Orleans Collection

The square became a mixing pot for a rich diversity of traditional African rhythms passed down through many generations, as well as European music that English-speaking Africans were familiar with.

In 1865, after almost 250 years of slavery in America, the cruel trade was abolished, but the musical traditions that had evolved over the past few decades stuck.

 

In the next post, we’ll be looking at how African American music evolved into the new hip trend of the late 19th century – Ragtime!

The Manchester academy is here!

Hello, Jess here and I’m very excited to announce that the Manchester Becky Dell Music Academy has arrived in 2017!

We’re up and running with two tutors at the moment and have already got our first set of students in the Worsley area.

I chose Worsley as the base for the Manchester academy because it’s where I grew up. Having the personal knowledge of the area has really helped with spreading the news of the academy. Worsley has the same feel to me as Blackheath/Greenwich – both picturesque towns a short distance from the heart of exciting musical cities. It’s an absolutely beautiful place to be based and we’re really lucky to be expanding our musical community up here.

We currently have tutors for piano, violin, woodwind and singing. These tutors are myself (Jess!) and Sophie Simpson.

Sophie is our violin and piano tutor and graduated from her masters at the RNCM in the summer. Since then she has been busy with exciting orchestral concerts and projects up and down the country as well as teaching jobs around the North West. She is a keen Historically Informed Performer – this means she studies how music was played hundreds of years ago to try and replicate it.

I am teaching woodwind, piano and singing alongside managing the academy back in my lovely hometown. Since moving from London in the summer, I have been studying my masters at the RNCM whilst exploring what the Manchester music scene has to offer, playing for musicals and in orchestras and playing music on the wards of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

 

But we’re not stopping at two tutors!

I’m always on the lookout for new teachers to fit with the demand of lessons. Don’t see your instrument on our list? Let me know as I’m always hiring new and adventurous professional musicians to teach and inspire.

So, how can you help us?

Know someone in the Worsley area? Might they want music lessons? Are you part of a group that can help promote this new venture?

We want our current Blackheath/Greenwich community and all our other friends to spread the word so we can expand this new academy, so talk about the academy and share our facebook page. If you want any more information please email me on jess@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk

Here’s to exciting times ahead…

Healthy Musicians

Healthy Musicians

by Jess

As a professional musician, I feel that I was told far too late about the importance of injury prevention and good posture. I was only made aware of it once I’d started my Bachelor degree and, as I went for a sports massage this afternoon to help the tension I’d acquired over years of playing, it occurred to me that we really should make our students and their parents aware of the importance of taking care of your body when you play.

When children start learning an instrument they are still growing. We want to make sure that playing an instrument has no effect on the development of the child but also that the child feels no pain as a result of playing.

If everything is at ease, the music will flow much more naturally!

So with this in mind, I want to share some tips for looking after your child’s posture and physical wellbeing whilst playing an instrument, but hopefully some of these ideas can be used throughout all areas of their life. The tips for sitting at the piano can be transferred to the computer and the heavy cases can also apply to heavy school bags!

Sitting at the piano

Sitting comfortably at the piano is so important, especially as the piano is so huge compared to the size of children. Your child should be sitting at a distance from the piano where their hands can reach comfortably. The chair or stool they sit on needs to be at a height where, similarly, the hands don’t stretch to reach the piano (if it’s too high there will be tension in the arms and if it’s too low the shoulders will start to droop.)

What you can do:

  • Make sure that you have a stool that is the correct height for your child. If you have multiple children learning piano then adjustable stools are fantastic. Otherwise think about improvising with cushions or books to get the right height. This also applies to drum kit players!
  • Every now and then check how they are sitting. Especially after school, tiredness can mean that shoulders will droop and necks will tense up – we want to avoid this! If you are aware of these things then you can just remind your child to sit up. Tell them they will be more comfortable!
  • Make sure your wrists don’t drop onto the piano, there should always be space for a mousie/tennis ball (delete as appropriate) to be underneath the hand.
  • Make sure there is a straight line from wrist to elbow and at a 90 degree angle. The elbow should never be higher or lower than the wrist ad there should not be any “chicken wings” – elbows moving up and down like doing a chicken impression!

Holding instruments

With instruments that we hold up, such as violins, woodwind and brass instruments, the main rule is BRING THE INSTRUMENT TO YOU. This means we don’t want to contort our body to fit the instrument but we want to stand in a comfortable position and the instrument fits into this posture.

What you can do:

  • If your child looks uncomfortable during practice, tell them to put the instrument down and “shake away” all the tension (a bit of silliness helps break up practice time too!) Then get them to stand in a comfortable posture and hand them back the instrument, making sure they don’t droop their shoulders or tilt their neck during this process.
  • Standing with both feet flat on the floor about a shoulder width apart will also really help (it’s impressive some of the one legged gymnastic stances I’ve seen!) This applies for singers as well; a good posture means breathing is a lot easier too.

Instrument sizes

I think we forget that some of the instruments are children our playing, are played by fully grown adults, and they often find them heavy! Some instruments have variable sizes which will help make playing easier and the instruments that are standard sizes often have straps that help smaller people to play them.

What you can do:

  • If your child plays a string instrument (violin, cello, guitar etc.) then you are lucky that the instruments come in smaller sizes. It is so important to ask the tutor for advice on what size your child should be playing on. Too big and fingers and arms will stretch unnaturally and too small we will start to get hunched shoulders.
  • Woodwind instruments are normally all standard sizes, so we have to find other alternatives. For flute players, there are flutes that have a bent round head joint to make the flute short and easier to reach the notes. For clarinets, saxes, oboes and bassoons it is important to get a really supportive neck strap. These are often ones that also go round the waist and shoulders so the weight of the instrument gets distributed evenly.
  • For brass players, there is a series of trombones called P-Bones that are made of plastic (and are brightly coloured!) meaning they are lighter for children to hold. These are also available in trumpets and horns. These are only suitable for young beginners, but there are a good starting point for slighter players, where weight of instrument is a problem.

Heavy cases

Lugging around heavy instrument cases is sometimes more detrimental to a working musician than a playing related injury. We fill our cases with mountains of sheet music, balancing the case on an already weak shoulder with a handbag resting on the other arm.

No wonder we get injured!

What you can do:

  • Make sure the case only contains the music needed for that lesson, don’t keep every piece they’ve ever played buried in the case. The grams gradually add up! So try to keep tabs on what books they are working on, check the notebook the tutor keeps for this information.
  • Try to buy a case with two straps if it needs to be carried on their back and that the straps aren’t too low on the child’s back. Low straps might look cool but they put so much unnecessary strain on the back!
  • If they take instruments to school, see if there is a storeroom they can keep their instruments in during the day. Especially for secondary school pupils, there is rarely much space to store things, so if the music teacher is aware they have an instrument to bring in, normally they will find a space to store it.

Hopefully you can apply some of these tips to your child’s practice routine. As ever, if you want to understand more about the instrument your child is learning then our tutors are always happy to answer your questions. We want a community of healthy and happy musicians so please come to us with any concerns or further questions.

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New Year, New MUSIC

by Jess

It’s the third week of January and we’ve all probably heard the phrase “New Year New Me” a fair few times by now. But at the Becky Dell Academy we’ve been thinking, what’s so good about making everything new? Why don’t we just revisit something, a hobby perhaps, that we have lost along the way?

Life becomes very focused on our daily activities. How many times have you heard the phrase:

“I used to <insert hobby here> but I just don’t have time anymore”?!

Well in 2017, we want to MAKE TIME!

What a crazy new year’s resolution that is.

But what we mean is, let’s take a small portion of our day and go back to a hobby that we sadly lost when life just got too hectic.

 

 

Obviously, our suggestion is MUSIC!

 

 

Whilst scrolling through twitter the other day, I came across an article from the BBC about adults picking up a musical instrument that they used to play when they were younger. And that was the inspiration for this blog:

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140709-never-too-late-to-learn?ocid=ww.social.link.twitter

It may seem a ridiculously scary and daunting prospect sitting down at the piano or picking up your instrument after 20 years of dust has settled. But it’s ok! That’s exactly what the writer of this article talks us through.

I won’t lie and say the technical difficulties have gone when you start learning again as an adult, but a deeper appreciation for the instrument and heightened determination to achieve something means that, actually, adult players learn surprisingly well.  Because you’re starting again out of your own choice, you motivate yourself to practice and push yourself to get to the next piece.

But in 2017, let’s bring back the music you left as a child purely for the JOY it brings! Music is such an emotive language, even if you find 10mins of your week to play, it can express the emotions you have been bottling up. A de-stress if you like!

And we all know that a de-stress once in a while is exactly what we need.

In the BBC article, British actor Samuel  West says,

“As an adult you’re much more knowledgeable about your own moods, so it becomes much more possible to use music as a way to express yourself….If I have a little piece I can play, I can listen to myself better, I can express myself better. That’s entirely a function of being older, and that’s a joy.”

So, the New Year challenge from the Becky Dell Music Academy is to dust down the trumpet, open up the piano lid, and find the sheet music in the bookshelf and PLAY! We are always happy to teach adult students so if you fancy learning as well as your child, or you know a friend who would like to start up playing again, then please contact us.

Happy playing!