Instrument Tips

by Diana Malkin

As a musician, I am always looking for a way to improve. So, I decided to help anyone out that is starting a new instrument. Here are some tips for playing guitar, ukulele, piano, and violin for beginners or anyone that needs help. Honestly, my best suggestions are discipline and practice. If you do not practice, it is unlikely that you will see improvement.

 

Guitar:

Guitar is difficult to learn, but easy to master. If this is your first time playing, your fingertips and wrists will probably hurt a little. The first few times are the most difficult, so DON’T give up! Having played guitar for a few years, it takes a little while to perfect certain skills.

  • Tuning: use an app! I use “insTuner”. When turning the tuners, rotate them slowly. Usually, turning a tuner to the right will raise the pitch (or add a sharp), and turning them to the left will lower the pitch (or add a flat) of the string.
  • When playing a chord, keep your hand and wrist relaxed. If you are shifting around for bar chords, it is important to have a loose grip. Make sure to press down heavily and covering the correct strings and spots.
  • If you are a beginner, start with the chords: C, G, and D.

1g2g3g

  • Play firmly by pressing down in the middle of the fret. Your fingers should not be flat.
  • For an even strum, use your finger nails instead of fingertips. Play with a consistent downward or upward motion.

 

 

Ukulele:

The Ukulele is so much fun! It’s great to travel with and easy to play. If you play guitar, ukulele will come easily. The best way to succeed is to practice going between chords to create muscle memory and using a simple strum to have a good sound.

  • Tuning: I recommend memorizing the pitches. This makes tuning quicker. Ms. Southard taught me to sing the notes (C, G, E, A) to “my dog has fleas.” It’s a little odd, but it is a great way to remember the notes.
  • Play slowly: repeatedly lift and place your fingers in the chord position. This will get you accustomed to changing chords quickly.
  • When strumming, have a swift downward motion. Usually, your nails should skim over the strings evenly to make a full sound (If you want a soft sound, pluck with your fingers or strum gently with your fingertips).
  • Finger placement: your finger should be in the middle of the fret. You should always press down firmly to have a clear note.
  • If you are a beginner, start with the chords: C, Am, F and G. These are very simple are easy to master.

 u

 

Piano:

These tips are general, but they have honestly helped me improve as a pianist.

  • First, set yourself up well: sit up straight and have a good hand position. Your fingertips should rest on the keyboard without effort (when your arms are bent). Relax your hands.
  • When using pedals, your feet should reach them without stretching.
  • Have a consistent practice time.
  • Practice Sight Reading. This will wake up your brain and challenge you!
  • Slow down. It is important to play correct rhythms and chords.
  • Continue to challenge yourself. I recommend finding your favorite song online. There are free websites like “Musescore” that have sheet music. Here is a link: https://musescore.com/sheetmusic?sort=relevance&instruments=0
  • Play classical pieces. These pieces are amazing training. They help prepare you for different styles.

 

Violin:

Assuming that you have a teacher, begin with scales or any exercises they gave you. I recommend 2 octave G major. Lastly, I recommend having short finger nails for better finger placement. Long nails get in the way of finger position and comfort.

  • Tuning: again, use an app! I use “insTuner”. Usually, turning a peg or the fine tuners to the right will raise the pitch (or add a sharp), and turning them to the left will lower the pitch (or add a flat).  
  • Finger placement: train your fingers by playing simple songs. Play loudly to hear out of tune notes (so you can fix them).  
  • For a strong sound: listen to a recording of your music piece or play a scale. Play confidently by having weight in your arm and not your wrist when bowing. Place the bow closer the bridge, especially when playing higher notes.
  • Shifting: you should know feel strong about finger placement. Your wrist should be relaxed and have a flexible hand position. When shifting, don’t move your elbow a lot. Also, your arm shoulders should not be high. Play the notes confidently to hear and tweak the sound.
  • Listen to recordings of your piece and then play with the recording.
  • Memorization: play chunks instead of memorizing a page. It is best to learn 10+ measures at a time. Also, play at different speeds to improve slow or fast parts.
  • To have consistency: use a metronome. This is incredibly boring, but you will see improvement after one practice. Play your piece at three different speeds: slower than the original speed, the original speed, faster than the last two. This will help you adjust to an accompaniment or playing a duet, trio, orchestra, etc. with someone.  
  • Record yourself: this will help you see what you need to improve. You will hear your sound and see your playing overall.

 

Thank you. I hope these tips help!