Learning a new instrument

| May 9, 2011

For the past two months I have been learning to play the clarinet. Having never played a woodwind instrument, the ideas of putting a mouthpiece and reed in my mouth and having 10 keys were completely foreign concepts. As I am learning this instrument I feel that I can better relate to what my students are experiencing when they are introduced. It has been a long time since I was 10 years old and learning the trumpet fingerings  and how to get a good tone and I feel at times it is difficult for me to relate to that beginning player who can’t remember what the fingering for an Ab is or what the correct embouchure should feel like.

Two months ago I was thrown back into a world of  learning fingerings, correct embouchure and getting used to having a mouthpiece in my mouth. It was a good reminder to me of how difficult it is to be a complete beginner at something and how important it is as a teacher to keep this in mind. It occurred to me that not only are my students learning to play instruments, but they must combine that with learning the language of music. They are learning to read music, understand musical terminology  how to use this knowledge to make music. Although the experience of learning a new instrument is similar to that of my students, when it comes to music literacy I am at a completely different level than they are ; I find that when I’m learning a piece on the clarinet and think  ” oh this isn’t that bad,” I need to remind myself that when my students do this they are seeing rhythms, notes and musical terminology for the first time and then must translate it to their instruments.

Learning a new instrument is something that I believe will benefit my teaching. It reminds me that it is difficult to learn something new and that how I think of musical concepts is not how someone just starting thinks of them; when creating lessons I must think like a student. I also enjoyed sharing with students that I was learning a new instrument; they seemed to enjoy finding out how I was doing and talking with me about what it’s like to learn to play an instrument.