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Why Choose Lessons for Your Child?
By Chris Eck
11/11/2017 11:12:00 AM  

Why Choose Lesson for Your Child?


child private lessonsEvery day we are surrounded by facts about the amazing life benefits of music education. A multitude of studies confirm that children experience extremely positive academic, emotional, and developmental boosts from engaging in musical activities. We embrace the fact that a healthy education not only includes music and the arts, but emphasizes them as a daily necessity. One additional way that parents can show our commitment to building a musical life for children is to work with independent professional teachers in a private, individualized lessons program.

Benefits to Private Lessons

While school music programs are a great starting point for young musicians, they cannot always provide the one-on-one instruction your child needs. Classroom teachers and directors must diversify their energy across a wide range of areas, while a private lessons instructor can work on specific goals with each student on an individualized path.

Private, individaul lessons with a qualified instructor can provide amazing progress, whether kids are preparing for honors groups on an orchestral instrument or building the skills they need to perform a favorite pop song. Also, a private music teacher acts as a role model for young learners. They can show that hard work creates results, and that great things happen when we put our energy and our hearts together!

Finding the Right Instructor

Selecting a private instructor to work with your family is the first step. To get the most out of the lessons, choose a teacher that is a good match in temperament and style with your child. Getting to know the teacher’s expectations and having solid communication in place are also essential. At West Music, we offer one-on-one instruction in our comfortable studios with professional teachers. All teachers have verified professional credentials and go through background checks. Parents can review their biographies, schedules, and policies on our webpage at www.looking4lessons.com. Parents can also learn more about West Music's overall lessons program, including group classes and adult instruction, at www.westmusic.com/lessons.

Keep music an active part of your family routine by investing in private, individual lessons! Not only will your child progress faster, they will reap the many cognitive, social, and emotional benefits that come with learning to play an instrument. Most of all, they will develop a life-long appreciation for music and the arts as they Play now. Play for life!

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About the Author

Chris Eck Lessons DirectorA lifelong teacher and musician, Christopher Eck thrives on sharing creative enrichment with many people.

As the Education Director for West Music, he enjoys connecting students of all ages to meaningful musical experiences every day. As a private guitar and ukulele instructor, he is able to explore his own passion for playing music and to celebrate learning as a way of life. His student-led lessons focus on technical proficiency, applied theory and creative expression.

Chris studied Music Theory and Composition, Classics, Education and Child Development. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Iowa in 2005, with several credentials and certificates along the way.

For many years, Chris worked as an early childhood lead teacher and administrator in the Iowa City area. He has always had an honored place in his work for children and young adults; teaching, mentoring, caregiving and facilitating in schools, libraries, hospitals and homes since 1990. He is a frequent presenter at professional development events for educators in Iowa and the Midwest.




Tags: lessons, beginner musicians, band, orchestra
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Conservatory, Music Education
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Brass Wind Instrument Care Tips
By Alex Beamer
10/25/2017 2:54:00 PM  

Brass Wind Instrument Care Tips

brass care tipsProper maintenance is essential to keeping your brass wind instrument in top condition. While different instruments have their own parts and design, their care is very much the same. All brass instruments require cleaning and careful handling. Here's some tips from our experts to make sure that your instrument stays in the best playing condition possible!

 

Keeping It Clean

Avoid UFO’s

Never eat or drink anything while playing except for water. Doing so will lead to scary UFO’s (Unidentified Food Objects) invading your instrument. In fact, some players brush their teeth or rinse their mouths immediately before playing as an additional preventative measure.

Special Instructions for French Horns

Of course, with the French horn you will not want to remove their rotary valves. Instead, wipe all the slides clean with a rag and reapply a small amount of slide grease. This should be all that’s needed to keep the slides working smoothly between shop visits.  

Pro Tip: Bottles with 
needle applicators really help to get the oil right where you want it.

Avoid Frozen Slides and Valves with a Monthly Flush

To avoid frozen slides and valves, it’s recommended that a soapy water bathtub flush be done once per month. The procedure is easy: Fill your bathtub with warm—not hot—water and a little dish soap. Completely disassemble the instrument, removing all slides, valves, caps, finger buttons, etc., and allow all the parts to soak for a half hour. Drain the soapy water and use a cleaning “snake” to brush the inside of all the tubes.

cleaning snake

Next, scrub the valves. If the valves are still dirty or sticky, soak them in vinegar for an hour. Finally, thoroughly rinse out all parts with warm water and place on a towel to dry. Before re-assembly, all slides should be greased and oiled with the proper oils and lubricants.

Special Instructions for French Horns

Most French horns use something called rotary valves. Unlike standard piston-type valves, the French horn’s rotary valves require special tools and training to be removed and reinstalled correctly. DO NOT attempt to remove them yourself.

You can, however, wash out the mouth pipe portion of your French horn by using a snake and a little warm soapy water. If this first section of tube is brushed out often, then you can generally avoid the difficult task having to snake out the entire horn.

 

Keep Your Instrument Safe!

DO NOT store anything other than the mouthpiece and instrument inside the case. Items such as books, music, mutes, music stands, and metronomes belong in a separate bag.

Related Articles

If you should notice a problem with your instrument, bring it in as soon as possible to be serviced. Repairs to band instruments can take just a few minutes, several hours or sometimes several weeks, so don’t wait until it is too late! Contact your local West Music store to schedule a repair or complete our online Instrument Repair Form.

 




Tags: brass, trumpet, trombone, French horn, beginner, maintenance
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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10 Care Tips for Woodwind Instruments
By Alex Beamer
10/25/2017 2:12:00 PM  

10 Care Tips for Woodwind Instruments

woodwind careProper maintenance is essential to keeping your woodwind instrument in top playing condition. While each instrument in the woodwind family is unique and need their own care kits, some maintenance is universal. All woodwinds need regular cleaning and careful handling.

With that in mind, West Music experts have put together their list of the top 10 care tips for new woodwind players.

  • Never eat or drink anything while playing except for water. Doing so will lead to scary UFO’s (Unidentified Food Objects) invading your instrument. Some players will also brush their teeth or rinse their mouths immediately before playing as an additional preventative measure.

  • After playing, remove moisture from the inside of instrument. For most instruments, use a cleaning rod with a soft moisture swab attached through the slit in the end. Pad Saver rags are not recommended for band instruments because they tend to shed fibers, causing leaks in the key pads. They also tend to trap moisture inside the instrument—the opposite of what we want to do!

  • Never use liquid polish or paste such as Silvo. Polishes can gum up the key mechanism and destroy the key pads. Instead, wipe down the keys and body after playing with a tissue or soft cloth. (For saxophones, we suggest a flannel rag.) Use a Q-Tip to clean between the keys. If the instrument appears tarnished, it is best to take it to a qualified technician and have it professionally polished and adjusted.

  • If the joints fit too tightly clean the tenons and receivers with a solvent and cloth and try again. If the fit is still too tight take your instrument to a qualified technician. Never force the joints together as you may bend the keys.

  • For flutes check the position of the head joint cork periodically using your cleaning rod. The notch in the rod should align with the middle of the aperture of the flute lip plate. Also, check for leaks in your head joint by closing the aperture hole with your thumb and sucking air out of the tenon end.

  • For all other instruments, you will need to clean the mouthpiece regularly! Use a mouthpiece cleaning brush or an old toothbrush in warm (not hot) water. If the water is too hot you can warp the plastic mouthpiece. 

  • Chipped mouthpieces should be replaced with new mouthpieces. Also, many stock or instrument brand mouthpieces that come with the instruments are hard to play and should also be replaced.

  • Never store cleaning cloths or anything else in the case. Your instrument is made to fit snuggly into its case. Storing items other than the instrument can bend the keys.

  • Your last step is to always latch up the case. All instrument cases either have either latches or zippers that need to be fully closed before moving your instrument. It’s important not to forget this step. Otherwise, when you move your case, your instrument might tumble out and hit the ground. 

If you should notice a problem with your instrument, bring it in as soon as possible to be serviced. Repairs to band instruments can take just a few minutes, several hours or sometimes several weeks, so don’t wait until it is too late! Contact your local West Music store to schedule a repair or complete our online Instrument Repair Form.




Tags: woodwinds, beginners, students, maintenance
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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How Much Should Kids Practice Their Instrument?
By West Music Company
10/9/2017 9:21:00 AM  

upset girl practicingHow Much Should Kids Practice Their Instrument?

Everybody knows that musicians improve by practicing. But the question of how much time your kids should spend practicing isn’t as simple as “the more, the better.”

 

Finding the Sweet Spot

The right practice routine is one that ensures enough progress to keep kids motivated while keeping the whole process fun. Practicing too little, and they won’t improve, which will lead to becoming discouraged. Practice too much, and they risk developing physical injuries or mental exhaustion that will keep them from pursuing their musical dreams over the long haul.

 

Practice as Close to Daily as Possible

Many books suggest a certain amount of total practice time per week. The problem with that approach is it suggests that one marathon session at the end of the week is as good as seven brief, daily practice periods. That simply isn’t true. The more daily time on their instrument (or DTOI as some music instructors refer to it), the more progress they’ll see in their playing—and the more their practice sessions will feel like a daily reward instead of a weekly obligation.

daily time on instrument

 

Improve Something New Every Week

Set them up for success by having them pick out one simple thing each week that they’d like to improve about their playing. Maybe it’s remembering to maintain good posture or playing a scale at a steady tempo, with no rushing or hesitation. Have them devote a couple of minutes of daily practice time to that one skill, and every week they will have proof that they’re getting better! Stay as close as you can to a daily routine and never let your practice schedule get so heavy that you feel drained and start losing your sense of excitement and fun.

 

One Goal No Musician Should Set

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” There is no such thing as a perfect musician or even a perfect performance of a piece of music. Our human imperfections are part of the beauty of the music we make. Besides, if your kids ever become perfect, they would have no way to get better, and what fun would that be for them? Always remind them that practice is about becoming better, not becoming flawless.

And of course, practice should always be paired with instruction from an experienced teacher. West Music is here to help guide children to become better musicians and offer more direction outside of class when they need it. Check out our selection of group classes and individual lessons to take their skills to the next level.

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Tags: beginners, music education, practice
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Music Education
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First Time Trumpet Players
By Alex Beamer
8/4/2017 12:01:00 PM  

First Time Trumpet Players

The trumpet (and its very close cousin the cornet horn) add pep to any band. We are very excited that you have chosen it as your instrument! Whether you are a new music student or a parent of a music student, you will want to know these basics soon after receiving your instrument.


Parts of the Trumpet

Below is a diagram of the trumpet. Click on the image to enlarge it.

trumpet diagram


Assembling Your Instrument...CAREFULLY!

Even though it’s made of metal, your trumpet is delicate and should be handled with care. Follow these instructions or the instructions given to you by your music director to prevent damaging the instrument.

1. Place on a flat surface and open right side up.
2. Open the latches and carefully take out the instrument.
3. Carefully place the mouthpiece in the mouth receiver and tighten into place. Be careful not to over tighten.


Putting It All Away

1. Remove the mouthpiece by gently twisting it to the left and place it in the mouthpiece holder in your case.
2. If your mouthpiece gets stuck, seek help from your teacher or from West Music’s repair team. We have a special tool to remove a stuck mouthpiece that will not damage the instrument.
3. Press the water keys and gently blow air through the mouthpiece receiver to remove excess condensation.
4. Wipe off the outside with a soft cloth.
5. Carefully place the instrument in the case and close all the latches.
6. Store only your instrument and its accessories in the case. Sheet music, folders, and other objects may bend the keys and damage the instrument.


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Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school band experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Concert Band 1: Trumpet. 




Tags: band, beginner, trumpet, alex beamer
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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First Time Trombone Players
By Alex Beamer
8/4/2017 10:51:00 AM  

First Time Trombone Players

Congratulations on choosing to play the trombone. Whether you are new to playing music, new to the trombone, or a parent of a new music student, you will want to know these basics soon after receiving your instrument.


Parts of the Trombone

Below is a diagram of the trombone. Click on the image to enlarge it.

trombone diagram


Assembling Your Instrument...CAREFULLY!

Even though it’s made of metal, your trombone is delicate and should be handled with care. Follow these instructions or the instructions given to you by your music director to prevent damaging the instrument.

1. Place on a flat surface and open right side up.
2. Open the latches and carefully open the case.
3. Make sure the slide is locked.
4. Carefully hold the bell-half of the trombone with your left hand and the slide-half with your right.
5. Position the slide at a 90-degree angle in the slide receiver and tighten the bell lock, being careful not to over tighten.
6. Pull the tuning slide out about an inch.
7. Carefully place the mouthpiece in the mouth receiver and tighten. Again, do not over tighten.


Putting It All Away

1. Remove the mouthpiece by gently twisting it to the left and place it in the mouthpiece holder in your case.
2. If your mouthpiece gets stuck, seek help from your teacher or from West Music’s repair team. We have a special tool to remove a stuck mouthpiece that will not damage the instrument.
3. Press the water keys and gently blow air through the mouthpiece receiver to remove excess condensation.
4. Wipe off the outside with a soft cloth.
5. Carefully place the instrument in the case and close all the latches.
6. Store only your instrument and its accessories in the case. Sheet music, folders, and other objects may bend the keys and damage the instrument.


Related Articles


Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school band experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Concert Band 1: Trombone.



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Categories: Band & Orchestra
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First Time Tenor Saxophone Players
By Alex Beamer
8/4/2017 10:38:00 AM  

First Time Tenor Saxophone Players

Congratulations on choosing to play the tenor saxophone. The saxophone, or “sax” as it’s often called, can be seen in all types of music. As a music student, or a parent of a music student, you will want to know these basics.


Alto vs Tenor Saxophones

Both the alto and tenor saxophones are part of the woodwind family, both use wooden reeds to create sound, and both make excellent beginner instruments! The major difference is that the tenor sax is larger than the alto and produces lower tones.


Parts of the Tenor Sax

Below is a diagram of the tenor saxophone. Click on the image to enlarge it.

tenor sax diagram


Assembling Your Saxophone…CAREFULLY!

1. Even though it’s made of metal, your saxophone is delicate and should be handled with care. Follow these instructions or the instructions given to you by your music director to prevent damaging the instrument.

2. Place on a steady surface right side up.

3. Open the case and find your neckstrap. Place the neckstrap over your head so the hook is in front and the pad is resting on the back of your neck.

4. Place the thin end of the reed into your mouth or a container of water to moisten it.

5. Remove the mouthpiece cap and ligature. Gently twist the mouthpiece onto the neck cork so about half the cork is visible. If needed, place a small amount of cork grease onto the neck cork. Be sure the flat part of the mouthpiece is facing down.

6. Add the ligature to the mouthpiece, then slide the thick end of the reed against the mouthpiece with the flat side against the rectangular opening. The reed should be centered and not extend above the top of the mouthpiece. Gently tighten the ligature screws to hold the reed in place.

7. Carefully lift the main body of the saxophone out of the case. Be careful not to hold it by the keys or rod.

8. Place the hook of the neckstrap into the ring on the back of the saxophone.

9. Remove the end cap from the upper opening in the main body and return it to your case. Loosen the neck screw.

10. Gently twist the neck into position. Do not rock the neck into place or try to twist in a full circle, and never hold the saxophone by its neck!

11. Once the connection with the octave key is in its correct position with the key on the neck closed, tighten the neck screw.

 

Putting It All Away

1. Remove the ligature and reed from the mouthpiece.

2. Place the reed in a reed case. This helps it dry properly and last longer.

3. Disassemble in reverse order of assembly. Use the saxophone swab to dry the inside of the instrument. Wipe off the outside with a soft cloth.

4. Carefully place the instrument in the case and close all the latches.

5. Store only your instrument and its accessories in the case. Sheet music, folders, and other objects may bend the keys and damage the instrument.


Related Articles


Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school band experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Concert Band 1: Tenor Sax




Tags: band, beginner, tenor sax, saxophone, alex beamer
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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First Time Percussion Players
By Alex Beamer
8/3/2017 1:01:00 PM  

First Time Percussion Players

Congratulations on choosing to play percussion! Percussionists play some of the most dynamic and exciting pieces of a musical performance. Percussion instruments range from enormous bass drums to tiny finger cymbals, but the three most common percussion instruments in beginning school bands and orchestras are the snare drum, bells, and xylophone.

As a music student, or a parent of a music student, you will want to know some basics about your percussion instrument as soon as you start playing.


Snare Drum


Parts of the Snare Drum, Stand, and Drumsticks

Below is a diagram of the snare drum, stand, and drumsticks. Click on the image to enlarge it.

snare drum diagram


Setting Up the Snare Drum

1. Use the base screw (or wingnut) to loosen and tighten the legs on the stand. Open the stand wide enough to create a stable base for the instrument.
2. Carefully place the drum on top of the stand, referred to as the “cradle.”
3. Once securely in the cradle, tighten the wingnut at the bottom of the cradle until the stand has been tightened around the drum.
4. Adjust the height of the stand to waist-high. 
5. Hold the drum as you adjust the angle of the stand. The drum should be parallel to the floor.


Keyboard (Mallet) Percussion

The keyboard percussion family (also called the mallet percussion family) includes orchestral bells, xylophone, marimba, vibraphone and chimes. Each instrument is arranged chromatically in two rows similar to a piano keyboard. Because of the different materials used, each of these five instrument has its own unique sound. The two most common keyboard percussion instruments are the bells and xylophone.


Bells

Also called the Glockenspiel, orchestral bells are made from metal and produce a bright, charming sound. The instrument is played with hard-rubber mallets, or sometimes brass or plastic mallets.

bell kit
Xylophone

The xylophone is a percussion instrument with wooden bars. Each bar is a different length, so they play different notes when struck. A full-sized xylophone will have resonators to help make each note last longer. However, most students use a desktop xylophone which are smaller and more portable, and therefore much more convenient.  

 desktop xylophone

Related Articles


Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school orchestra experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Concert Band 1: Percussion



Tags: band, beginner, snare drum, drums, percussion, xylophone, bells, alex beamer
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Drums & Percussion
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First Time French Horn Players
By Alex Beamer
8/1/2017 4:30:00 PM  

First Time French Horn Players

Congratulations on choosing to play the French horn. Whether you are new to music, new to the horn, or simply a parent of a new music student, you will want to know these basics soon after receiving your instrument.


Parts of the French Horn

Below is a diagram of the French horn. Click on the image to enlarge it.

french horn diagram

Assembling Your Instrument...CAREFULLY!

Even though it’s made of metal, your instrument is delicate and should be handled with care. Follow these instructions or the instructions given to you by your music director to prevent damaging the instrument.

1. Place the case on its side on a flat surface. Make sure the case is facing up.

2. Open the latches and carefully open the case.

3. Carefully pick up the instrument by its bell and outermost body. Avoid the valves since they can fall out!

4. Place the mouthpiece into the mouthpiece receiver (also called the lead pipe).

5. Gently twist the mouthpiece to the right to lock it into place being careful not to over tighten.

Putting It All Away

1. Remove the mouthpiece by gently twisting it to the left and place it in the mouthpiece holder in your case.

2. If your mouthpiece gets stuck, seek help from your teacher or from West Music’s repair team. We have a special tool to remove a stuck mouthpiece that will not damage the instrument.

3. Carefully rotate your horn to remove excess condensation from the lead pipe.

4. Wipe off the outside with a soft cloth.

5. Carefully place the instrument in the case and close all the latches.

6. Store only your instrument and its accessories in the case. Sheet music, folders, and other objects may bend the keys and damage the instrument.

Related Articles


Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school band experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Concert Band 1: French Horn.



Tags: band, beginner, french horn, alex beamer
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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First Time Flute Players
By Alex Beamer
8/1/2017 3:27:00 PM  

First Time Flute Players

Congratulations on choosing the flute! Flutes and variations of flutes have been played not only all over the world, but all throughout history. Archeologists have even found flutes made from bone and played by cavemen! As a music student, or a parent of a music student, you will want to know these basics soon after purchasing or renting your flute from West Music. 

Parts of the Flute

Below is a diagram of the flute. Click on the image to enlarge it.

flute diagram

Assembling Your Flute…CAREFULLY!

1. Place your case on a steady surface, right side up.
2. Check to be sure the tenons are clean. These are the parts that slide together. Wipe gently with a soft, clean cloth if necessary.
3. Gently twist the head joint on to the main body being careful not to grip the keys to avoid bending them.
4. Gently twist the foot joint on to the main body.
5. Align the embouchure hole with the keys on the main body.
6. Align the rod of the foot joint with the keys on the main body.
7. Align the foot joint key rod so that it lines up with the center of the keys on the main body of the flute.
8. Gently twist the head joint onto the main body.
9. Align the embouchure hole with the keys of the main body.

 

Putting It All Away

1. Disassemble in reverse order of assembly.
2. Use the cleaning rod covered with a soft cleaning cloth to dry the inside of the instrument.
3. Wipe the outside of the instrument with the cleaning cloth.
4. Carefully place the instrument in the case and close all the latches.
5. Store only your instrument and its accessories in the case. Music, folders and other objects may bend keys and damage your flute.


Related Articles

 

Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school band experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Band Book 1: Flute




Tags: band, beginner, flute, alex beamer
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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