Why you should care:
Starting an instrument can be the time a person either falls in love with playing music or walks away forever. For many, this experience happens at a young age - maybe they join their middle school band or their elementary school requires band class. These younger years are a precious time when learning can happen more easily than any other time in their life and making sure that students get off to a strong start can be crucial to their long-term commitment to the practice of music.
For me, I was lucky enough to have several great influencers when I first started out and I wanted to pass on some of my tips to help out any parents or students out there looking for ways to hedge their bets.
1. Pick a great teacher
This may seem obvious, but a surprising number of new students don't shop around when it counts. If you don't click with your teacher, try a few others until you find one that understands your interests and learning style. Some teachers will have new student promotions or even free first lessons (like me - if you're looking for the best trombone teacher in Somerville, check out my site to sign up!) so you can be sure you're with the person you enjoy the most rather than an arbitrary teacher just because they have a few good yelp reviews. Everyone's different - find someone who works for YOU.
2. Practice regularly until it becomes habit
There is no way around it - kids, teens, adults, it doesn't matter - everyone struggles to commit to a consistent practice schedule at the beginning. If you have a child starting out with an instrument, you can help contribute to your kids long-term musical success IMMENSELY just by helping them establish a habit of practicing within their first 3 months of starting to learn their instrument. You can make it fun time that you spend together, or ask them to show you what they learned at the end of their practice, or just give them structural support by providing a consistent practice time every day. For the older students starting out, picking a time you can consistently be available is by far the easiest way to make your practice routine stick.
3. Learn with music you love
Children (or adults for that matter) often start trombone with great intentions and simply can't get past the classic arpeggios and Bach etudes. While those are time-tested exercises that are fantastic for what they teach, make sure to carve out some time to do a little music appreciation too. Find the music that inspires you and always have at least one piece that you work on that falls in that category. Nothing is more fun than seeing that all those etudes and lip-slur exercises paid-off with an awesome Big Bad VooDoo Daddy song!
4. Get the right supplies
While you can probably find a great beginning trombone through a rental program at your local music store, consider doing some cruising on Craigslist for a nice trombone up for sale. You can often find incredible deals on instruments with either very little usage or were owned by professionals who took great care of them. Secondly, don't skimp on getting good quality slide lubricant and a little spray water bottle. Other items to include are a slide pipe cleaner, a sanitizer spray for your mouthpiece, a spit rag (yes, it's as gross as it sounds), along with a polishing rag so you can keep your 'bone extra brassy ;)
5. Don't give up!!
This goes without saying, but it is so important to stay motivated and get over that initial hump starting out. It's easy to want to quit, especially when you can't sound amazing immediately and the realization dawns that there's no way around putting in the time and work to get better. But eventually you'll see improvements, and more importantly, you'll realize that you're playing not because you're so dang impressive but because you love working on your craft. Don't get discouraged and you'll have a lifetime of music!
Starting an instrument is an exciting and challenging time. Summon your stickwithit-ness and create a supportive environment for learning (teacher, practice schedule, supplies) and you'll soon be impressing all your friends with how many doo-wop/jazzy sounds you can make! Parents of little learners, what are your struggles? Older students, are there topics I haven't covered you'd like more information about? I'd love to hear your feedback so be sure to comment.
And for those still shopping for the perfect trombone teacher, be sure to let me know you're interested!
For my friends across the pond in Ireland, check out this great piano teacher!
Congratulations! You've chosen the sassiest of all wind instruments and you're off to a great start!