Brr! If you are reading this from anywhere in the Midwest, I sure hope you are somewhere warm as the outside temperature continues to drop. In saying that, I thought this would be a pertinent time to talk about how to care for your instrument during the cold months. By following just a few simple rules of thumb, you can avoid any winter-related issues with your band (or orchestra) instrument.
“If you’re uncomfortable, your instrument is uncomfortable.” I have heard my colleagues in our Encore Orchestral Strings shop say this many times, and it definitely holds true for band players as well. Just as hot or wet weather can wreak havoc on wood and metal instruments, the same is true for cold weather. As the temperature drops, the tubes of metal instruments contract, then expand when it is warmed up again. This process happening repeatedly can cause alignment and adjustment issues, as well as cause any pads to begin to shrink and leak. Wooden instruments during the winter months are extremely susceptible to cracking. If the instrument is cold and you immediately start to play without warming it slowly, the inside of the instrument will heat faster than the outside causing it to expand and crack. Indoor environments can also be very dry while the heat is running during the winter months. This is especially concerning, again, for wooden instruments. Make sure that you have some sort of humidifier or are at least checking the instrument every few days to be certain that it does not dry out.
So what happens if you do need to play and you are stuck with a cold instrument? First, never leave an instrument in the cold car for long periods of time. Also, if able, put the instrument (in its case) inside your coat to and from the car. Once inside, you can remove the instrument from the case and hold it close to your body giving it gradual body heat to slowly warm to room temperature. Finally, take some extra time blowing long notes in your normal range and dynamic to continue to warm the inside of the instrument slowly.
If your instrument is having problems during the cold winter months, don’t hesitate to bring it in to Paige’s Music, where our full-service repair shop can take a look at it and bring it back to perfect playing condition!
All brass instruments come with slides that move. The largest one is the “main tuning slide”. The others are used to tune individual notes. Some may need to be pulled out to make the instrument flatter, others are pushed in to make the instrument sharper. In the case of trombones, not only is there a “main tuning slide” but each note can be tuned by using the hand slide.
To start with, brass instruments are designed to play sharp. This can be corrected by moving the “main tuning slide” out about ¾ of an inch. When you play using a tuner you should see the instrument playing in tune with the “main tuning slide” pulled out about that far. This isn’t a rule, but a suggestion. You may find that your instrument plays in tune somewhere near to this measurement depending on the player, the brand of instrument and the condition of the instrument.
Some instruments can be adjusted while playing. Trumpets, trombones and horns are found in this category. With the help of rings, hooks, saddles and well-lubricated slides notes can be adjusted while playing.
This brings me to the most important part of tuning. None of this matters if you don’t listen. Your ears are the most important “tuner” available. Listen with your ears and try to play in tune with those around you. Adjust your tuning slides and listen while you play. Watch your tuner and listen to your sound. Make an effort to play in tune. Just because the electronic tuner says that one note is in tune, doesn’t mean that all the notes you play are in tune. Listen and adjust.
Other things that can impact playing in tune are the condition of the mouthpiece and instrument. Are they clean and in good condition? Are their large dents in the mouthpiece, lead pipe and bell? Do the valves work easily? Are the bumpers in the pistons the correct size? Do the water keys leak?
This is only the beginning. As you progress in your musical career you’ll discover more ways to play in tune. It all starts with your ears, and an instrument in good shape. Practice playing in tune and listen, listen, listen.
You have probably at some point heard your student’s teacher, a Paige’s Music sales rep, or even your student mention taking private lessons. There are many factors to consider when deciding upon private lessons and a private lessons teacher. The goal of this article is to help you make an educated decision when it comes to private lessons.
First, you might be wondering, who are private lessons instructors? Private lessons teachers are typically professionally trained musicians who are proficient at one or more instruments. Anyone who is skillful, has a good knowledge of music theory as well as basic teaching methods can become a private instructor. These individuals often teach students ranging from beginner to advanced skill levels.
Next, what do private instructors do? As you can almost certainly assume private instructors provide a one-on-one teaching environment for a student. More specifically, they can focus on playing technique, tonal quality, precise excerpts or music the student might be playing in class or even individual solo pieces for contest. They are able to provide direct and immediate feedback to the student helping them implement the best overall performance standards.
There are a few places where you can inquire about finding a private instructor for your student. Our first recommendation is always to speak to the student’s band or orchestra teacher at school. They may have a preferred list of private instructors they have worked with in the past and would be comfortable referring you. Another place to search is the Paige’s Music website. We do provide a list of private instructors categorized by instrument for your convenience. Private lessons can take place at the student’s school, your home or the private instructor’s home.
Another common question we get asked at Paige’s is when should parents start their students in private lessons? While we would all like to respond with a resounding “NOW”, the answer might not be so simple. It really depends on the student and their needs. For example, if your student is struggling with their new instrument, it might benefit them to get some one-on-one instruction from someone more adept on their instrument. Additionally, many students consider private lessons further into their playing careers as a way of focusing on more specific techniques that sometimes are not covered in general band or orchestra class. Private lessons are often essential for students wanting to participate in solo and ensemble competitions or auditions for outside groups or college. Again, the student’s band or orchestra teacher is your best resource for determining if private lessons would benefit your student.
Finally, why private lessons? The answer is simple, to help your student get better. As discussed before, private lessons provide a professional environment for your student to get focused help with all aspects of playing their band or orchestra instrument. Whether your student is just starting out or is searching for more advanced instruction, there is always something to learn through individual, private lessons.