You finally got that shiny new instrument you’ve been dreaming of learning. Although you’re dedicated and committed, taking in a lot of new information can be overwhelming. If it feels like you’re hitting a wall, we’re here to help. Here are some common beginner mistakes you must know to avoid. Learning these basics early on will help practice sessions run smoother and will reduce the stress and anxiety beginners sometimes experience.
Common String Instrument Mistakes
Not Tuning Your Guitar, Bass or Ukulele
No matter how good someone is at playing a string instrument, if it’s out of tune it will not sound good. But don’t fret, here’s how to correctly tune your instrument using a digital tuner.
- Turn the tuner on and set it to the appropriate setting; guitar, bass, or ukulele.
- Clip the tuner to the headstock of your instrument and adjust the screen so it’s visible to you.
- Check the standard setting for your instrument in the chart below to see which notes to tune your instrument too.
- Pluck the top string. Using a pick instead of your finger will give a more accurate reading on the tuner.
- Look at the tuner carefully as the note rings. The correct note should be displayed on the screen. If it isn’t, adjust the machine head on the headstock to change the note. It’s best to tune down first before tuning the string up to the desired note, to ensure the string is tightly stretched.
- Keep in mind that each note has a range and should be tuned to the perfect pitch or degree of high or low sound. If it’s slightly lower than that perfect middle pitch, your string is too flat. If it’s slightly higher, it’s too sharp. Adjust the peg slightly until the scale indicator is in the center and the screen lights up green.
- Repeat steps 3-6 for each string.
Not Understanding the Amp Settings for Your Guitar or Bass
You can add more definition to your sound by adjusting your amplifier to the right tone. Most guitar amps include volume, treble, bass, and gain settings. Here’s a quick guide on all these EQ settings so you can understand how to customize your sound.
- The Volume knob controls how loud your amp is. Keep it low during practice, and feel free to crank it up when you preform!
- The Treble knob controls how bright your guitar sounds by adjusting the high frequency your guitar gives off. Turn the knob up for a crisp sound or turn it down for a warm, blues tone.
- The Bass knob controls the amount of low frequency your amplifier produces. If the sound is a bit harsh, turn this knob up for a warmer tone. Or turn it down if the sound is too “muddy”.
- The Gain knob controls the amount of distortion being played through the amp. Distortion is used for an added “crunch” or “fuzz” to your sound. It’s good for rock, punk, and heavy metal. When you keep this control low, your guitar will have very little distortion, which is good for blues and jazz.
The Common Drums Mistake
You might be thinking, “I have to tune my drums?!” The answer is yes! The best drummers in the world are usually precise at tuning drums, because having a drum evoke the right pitch is one piece in making the overall sound pleasant. Here’s how to do it:
- Grab your tuning key and remove both drumheads.
- Take either head, fit it on the drum, and place the hoop on top.
- Screw in each tension rod until it is finger tight. Make sure each rod has even tension, this makes the tuning process easier.
- Using your drum key, tighten each tension rod by 1 turn.
- Work across the drum tightening opposite rods. See the chart below for the right order.
- Tap the drumhead with a drumstick next to each tension rod, about 1 inch from the rim.
- Listen to the pitch. Move around the drum in the order shown in the chart and tighten each tension rod until each gives off the same pitch.
- Continue to tighten and loose all around the drum until the pitch is uniform across the entire surface.
- Repeat these steps for each head, or side on every drum of your kit.
Common Keyboard and Piano Mistakes
Not Playing with Both Hands
Unlike children, first-time adult players grasp a song’s concept intellectually before hands and fingers follow. When you first start playing, one hand will involuntarily mirror what the other is doing. Kind of like when you try to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. It’ll take some work to get both of your hands to follow their own part in the sheet music. Although it might be tempting to only play one hand at a time, challenge yourself to learn how to play simultaneously with both hands. Start with simple pieces that involve both the left and right hand and take it slow, measure by measure. Learning from classical manuals such as Kunz’ Canons can be especially helpful.
Not Understanding How to Change the Sound
A lot of customers get frustrated because they don’t understand how to change the sound or the timbre selection on their new keyboard. It’s quick and easy:
- Check the chart on the keyboard for your desired sound.
- Select the Timbre button on the keypad.
- Press the 3-digit code for the instrument you would like to select.
- Repeat these steps to try different sounds.
Learning an instrument is a very rewarding experience. Now that you know about these common mistakes and how to overcome them, you can begin practicing with confidence. The most important thing to keep in mind is to stay consistent, even when it gets frustrating. Little by little, you will notice improvement, and it will come naturally in no time. Until then, happy playing!