Monday, 16 March 2015

Beginning Guitar

rikter acoustic pink

Which Guitar?

If you are picking up a guitar for the first time, it is important to first decide what kind of guitar you need.  There are two main types of guitar: acoustic and classical.  The difference between them is both construction and the strings they use.
A classical guitar has a shallower body and uses nylon strings, though the bottom three strings are wound with silver.
An acoustic guitar has a deeper body and uses steel strings, in addition it has a plate positioned on the body below the strings to protect the guitar from plectrum damage, as you can see on the pink guitar shown on the left.
Acoustic guitars come in right handed or left handed versions, as the plate has  to be fixed the right way round.  Most players use their dominant hand to pluck or strum the strings and the other hand to place their fingers on the neck of the guitar.
Classical guitars do not have right handed or left handed versions - as they have no plate they are fully reversible and all the player has to do is restring it the other way round.
Young children usually start on classical guitars as they are smaller and the nylon strings are easier for young fingers.  So they can play acoustic style guitar on a classical model.  Classical guitars come in 1/2, 3/4 and full size (4/4) which make them suitable for very young ones, whereas acoustic guitars generally only come in 3/4 or 4/4 sizes.
sierra 34 blue
A classical guitar is shown here - you can see the differences clearly.

Guitar Basics

At the top of the guitar is the head, where the tuning pegs hold the strings.  Tuning is done by turning the pegs.  The strings run down the neck of the guitar and across the fret board, the metal inserts (called frets) are what change the pitch of the string when a finger presses the string down behind them.  The strings run across the sound hole in the body of the guitar and this creates the sound.  They are fixed to a wooden assembly on the body of the guitar.  Classical strings are attached through a knotting process, acoustic strings usually have a metal ball on the end.
The strings are arranged from left to right, lowest (thickest) to highest: E A D G B E . In order to tune the guitar correctly you will need a pitch pipe, electronic tuner or an app on a phone.  New strings tend to go out of tune a lot until they settle in.  Strings can be replaced individually or as a set.  In practice, the upper strings tend to wear out more frequently, so having a spare top E string in the guitar case is a good idea.

Beginning the Bassoon

The bassoon is one of the larger orchestral woodwind instruments, heavy and a little bulky to transport.  For this reason and the amount of physical energy/lung capacity required to play it, most beginners start at an older age.  Usually children would learn a small instrument while small and only start bassoon once they have developed enough physically, around 11-12 years.
However, there is a smaller instrument available called the mini bassoon which is a good option for younger beginners.
The bassoon  is a double reed instrument, the sound is generated by the vibration of two reeds bound together, known simply as a reed.  The player puts the reed in their mouth, forms a seal with their lips and blows through the reed.  Learning to control this process is a key part of the basics of bassoon.  Reeds are notoriously unpredictable, and you should not expect every reed you buy to be as good as the last one as they are a natural product and very variable.
The bassoon is a bass instrument, reading bass clef so if the beginner has learner an instrument such as the flute first, which is in treble clef, they will need to learn the bass clef.
As bassoons are expensive instruments, it is common to buy them on finance.

Beginning the Cello

The cello is a popular string instrument and comes in various sizes for different ages of beginners.  Young children may start on a 1/4 size instrument, progressing through to a full size (4/4)cello at around 12 years depending on their growth rate.  Because children outgrow instruments quickly, it is often better to buy a secondhand instrument but if you do this be careful to have someone with you to check the instrument is in good condition and is fully playable.
Most parts of a cello do not wear out, with the exception of the bridge, strings and sometimes the bit at the top of the instrument where the strings cross the neck.  Bridges are easy and cheap to replace, student strings are also inexpensive.  From time to time a new bow may be needed or, more commonly, it may need the horse hair replacing.
In terms of a case, if a child is carrying a cello on public transport or if the instrument is very valuable, a hard case is best to prevent damage.  If the instrument is only moved in and out of a car, a soft case is possible but care must be taken to avoid knocking the cello at all, especially around the bridge area.
Cello music is written in bass and tenor clef.  There are a lot of cello tutor books which start with teaching the instrument using popular tunes and nursery rhymes for young children.