All posts by Music Education Madness

Brass instruments for beginners and pros

 

As one of the broadest categories of musical instruments, there’s a lot to consider when pursuing playing a wind instrument. Brass or woodwind is just one if the many questions a musician must ask themselves, then it’s on to narrowing it down to the instrument itself.

Like with any other category, there are myriad options to choose from. To help narrow down the search, here’s a guide to the some of the most popular brass instruments for all levels of skill. 

 

Trombone 

 

Dating back to the 15th Century, the trombone is one of the oldest brass instruments there is. Its sound is solid and unmistakeable – even in a symphony orchestra, a bold blast from the trombone player is never missed. It’s a little less trendy today than it once was and is considered more of a marching band look than a rock star one with kids and teenagers. That’s not to say it isn’t a valued. In jazz circles, the trombone dominates and its masters, like J.J. Johson and Carl Fontana, are worshipped.

Beginners can’t go wrong with Mendini’s B Flat Tenor Slide Trombone for $129.99. Players love its easy slide and the white gloves that come with it.

 

Mendini B flat Tenor slide trombone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A more experienced trombone player may want to consider a more expensive piece of kit like a King. At $2,249, the King 2166 3B Valve Trombone is a treat for professionals who want the sleek, shiny comfort of a valve section. It’s a beautiful instrument and one which will stand the test of time if cared for properly.

King 2166 3B Valve Trombone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trumpet 

 

The trumpet offers a sharper, brighter sound than the trombone and often adds moments of levity and lightness to darker arrangements. It shines in the middle register between a G3 and G5.  The earliest instruments which resembled the trumpet were used as battle horns and date back to 1500BC. Today, it remains popular in schools and normally takes a dignified backseat to glorified guitarists and vocalists in mainstream bands.

Mendini’s MTT-L Trumpet Bb is a hugely popular trumpet for $89.99. The friendly price point makes it a go-to for kids or other beginners who are eager to take up an instrument.

Mendini's MTT-L Trumpet Bb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pros are may want to look to a more sophisticated model like the Bach Stradavarius Series Bb Its price ($2,829) reflects its heightened quality. The trumpet comes in silver and with an elegant brown leather trunk for transporting it.

 

Bach Stradavarius Series Bb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Horn

 

With its wrapped brass tubing and dramatic flared bell, the French horn certainly grabs the eye. Its the third highest sounding instrument in the brass category beneath the trumpet and the cornet. Its normally reserved for classical music.

Beginners can’t go wrong with Ammoon’s B/BB Flat 3 Key horn for $179.99.

Ammoon’s B/BB Flat 3 Key Horn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a fuller bellied sound and higher quality, Hans Hoyer makes show-stopping pieces with startling price tags including its uble French HornHeritage 6802 Bb/F Do for $5,035.

 

uble French HornHeritage 6802 Bb/F Do

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuba

 

The largest and lowest pitched instrument in the brass family, the tuba is one of the most show-stopping pieces of the band. Next to the cello, there are few instruments which command so much attention because of its size. Its younger than others in the family, finding its origins in 1835.

Because of its size, it’s more expensive than other brass instruments. Again, Mendini makes a great option for beginners with its $399 Brass B Flat model

Mendini Brass B flat tuba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schiller make more advanced models including its rotary 4-valve BBb tube for a reasonable $1,930 and its 4-valve Piston tuba in a nickel finish for $1,292.

Schiller silver 4-valve BBb tube 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a more modern take on the brass look, Cool Wind boasts a collection of coloured finishes on its 4-valve BBb tuba for $1,245.

Cornet 

 

The corner is similar to the trumpet but is smaller and has a conical bore. Its tone is mellower and less piercing than the trumpet and it’s not as well known by non-musicians. Still, it’s a unique instrument which can add vital undertones to any piece of music.

To hear the difference, check out this video comparing the two:

The good news about this lesser known instrument is that, like the trumpet, it’s cheaper than a lot of other members of the brass family. A decent beginner item, such as the Tristar which comes with a case and MP, will set you back just $100.

Tristar cornet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More sophisticated versions are offered by Ravel for $343.

 

Ravel cornet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If a brass instrument isn’t for you, you might want to consider wind or a different family altogether. Check out our guides on the ukulele, drums, bass guitar and violin for inspiration.

10 of the best drum sets for beginners and kids

Choosing the best beginner drumset is no easy feat.  It’s the heart of the band and if you go the wrong route, it can be the source of many household arguments. There’s no shortage of options out there but sometimes this makes the search all the more overwhelming.

The importance of a good set has never been lost on the music world. Buddy Rich, the iconic New York jazz drummer who died in 1987, said famously: ‘Any young drummer should get himself a great teacher and learn all there is to know about the instrument.’

To help you with your search, here’s a list of some of the best five piece sets that are available today for adults and kids alike.

Need inspiration or just curious about the drums? Check out percussionhowto.net for some titillating material.

1. Best Choice Products

Best choice 5 piece adults drum set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This five-piece set is a fail safe beginner drumset for any rookie. It comes with high hats, a throne and dual cymbals, giving the drummer everything they need to get going. The shiny black gloss finish also gives it a versatile look for any band or home. Drummers love how easily the set is to tune and the $199 price tag is hard to beat.  It’s not a forever set and some felt the need to upgrade some elements, namely the cymbals, within a year of practice but if you’ve never owned a percussion set before and don’t yet know your limit or potential, it’s a great starter option for adults.

Get a great deal on yours here 

 

2. Rise by Sawtooth

Rise by Sawtooth five piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This student/beginner drumset is crafted out of Poplar wood and comes in an array of jazzy, sparkly finishes. It’s priced reasonably at $249.95 and drummers seem to appreciate how easy it is to assemble. As for the sound, it’ll do the job without shattering any windows. Some musicians complain that the drum set’s two cymbals are a little tinny and thin so you might want to consider upgrading those once you develop a more sophisticated sound.

Get a great deal on yours here

 

3. Gammon

 

Gammon full size 5 piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gammon is a brand name that’s commonly associated with the beginner drum set and the reason for that is its beloved 5-piece battle drum set.  At $250, it’s hard to beat price wise. Its hardware is light weight which can give off the impression that it’s cheap, but the shells and heads are well received.

Get a great deal on yours here

 

4. Mendini

Mendini 5 piece adult drums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medinini prides itself on being one of the most affordable brands for beginner drumsets and drummers in general. Its five-price set offers the same as the others listed above and comes in a variety of bright colours. It’s particularly popular among kids and in schools.

Adult 5 piece,  $209.99 here.

Junior 16 inch, $139.99 here. 

Kids 13 inch, $79.99 here.

 

5. Pearl Roadshow

Pearl Roadshow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearl is a well respected name in the drum world and for good reason. Its the brand of choice for Tico Torres, Bon Jovi’s revered drummer, and some of the products in its masterworks range are simply spellbinding. For the less experienced, the American drum specialists’ roadshow five-piece set is a stealthy option. It’s more expensive than the more basic alternatives at $432, but what you pay for you get back in the quality and sound that Pearl is famous for.

Get a great deal on yours here

 

6. Alesis Nitro

 

Alesis Nitro 8 piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever considered an electronic drum kit? They’re becoming more and more popular, and the Alesis Nitro is leading the trend. This is an eight-piece set which includes three dynamic tom pads, a dual-zone snare drum, a kick drum pad and three symbols. Its most attractive feature are the headphones which come with it – drummers can practice in peace without anyone else in the house hearing the sound. This makes it a great option for families or for self-conscious beginners who want a little more privacy starting out.

At $375, it’s more expensive than the acoustic options which is to be expected. Whether you opt for acoustic or electric is a matter of taste. Few pro-drummers would side with the latter, preferring a more traditional experience with acoustic sets.

Get a great deal on yours here

 

 

7. Tama Imperialstar

 

Tama Imperialstar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tama is a common fixture in drum kit rankings. Its beginner set comes with a 22” bass drum which musicians love and is finished to a high quality which is reflected in the $699.99 price tag. The Imperial Star is a simplified version of its more expensive products and it is built to last. It’s made from poplar and has a number of durable features including glued-on wraps as opposed to taped on ones which other brands favour. Its HCS brass cymbals from Meini are an added bonus which drummers don’t feel the need to replace so quickly as they do with other sets.

Get a great deal on yours here

 

8. Ddrum D Series

D drum D series five piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ddrum has been making drums in the US since 1983 and is a firm favorite among beginners. Its D-Series 5 piece set sits in the mid-range for beginners at $360. In terms of appearance, it bears little difference to some of the Mendini or Best Product options, but its sound and quality is where the added value lies. Its sound quality is durable and, while the cymbals aren’t the best.

Get a great deal on yours here

 

9. Ludwig Element Evolution

Ludwig Element Evolution

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With subtle added touches of quality, this is a great set for a relatively inexperienced drummer who’s looking to kick it up a notch. It’s more sophisticated sound is brought by double-edged hardware and, importantly, its Zildjian Cymbals. At $799, it’s a very reasonable intermediate option. If you’re already at ease with the drums and want to progress, this is a next step.

Get a great deal on yours here

 

10. Yamaha Gigmaker

Yamaha Gigmaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any instrument which bears the Yamaha name will likely bring comfort to a beginner musician. It may be best known for its grand pianos, but its drum sets measure up too and the Gigmaker 5-piece set is a safe bet.

This set, unlike all of the others above, is a shell pack so it does not include cymbals, stands or hardware. With this in mind, the set is $399 of drums – and good ones at that. If you can get your hands on some decent hardware, the Gigmaker is solid choice for beginners and intermediates alike.

Get a great deal on yours here

 

Not sold on the drums? Read our beginners guides for the bass guitar, violin and ukulele. 

Five of the best Taylor acoustic guitars

They’re the guitar of choice for modern artists like Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz and have a very American history which dates back to the 1970s. So it’s no wonder Taylor guitars are considered the supreme of the string world.

Their inventory is wide-ranging. To help you navigate it, here’s a list of their five most popular instruments.

Best Taylor Guitars

 

GS Mini 

First among the guitars it promotes on its website, the GS Mini is a solid go-to acoustic guitar. Its at the lower end of Taylor’s cost range at $499 and is adored by artists for its playability and portability.

Tayor-GS-Mini

Check out Shoreline Music giving it a whirl in store.

 

Baby Taylor 

The Baby Taylor is a 3/4 size guitar so is perfect for travel and spontaneous practice. It’s cheaper than the GS at $329 but still boasts the same deep bellied sound the brand is famous for.

Baby-Taylor

Here’s a sample of the Baby range from Wildwood Guitars.

 Big Baby Taylor 

The clue’s in the name with the Big Baby Taylor – it’s the Baby, but bigger. Add on another $70, this acoustic guitar comes in at $399. It graduates past being the travel guitar category given its extra size.

Big-Baby-Taylor

Curious about the difference? Watch this Battle of the Babies to find out.

214 CE

The 214ce is a 25 and a half inch beast. It’s more expensive, at $999, but guitarists love its rosewood finish. It’s considered the ‘gateway’ into the brand’s more expensive instruments. The Taylor sound thats common throughout the range is also elevated when plugged in.

Taylor 214 CE

Shoreline brings it life in this video.

 

Grand deluxe auditorium

PS16CE 

At a jaw-dropping $8,000, the PS16CE sits at the top of the Taylor range and is part of its Presentation Series. Its designed for performance and comes under the category of Grand Symphony limited edition.

 

Taylor-PS16CE

Its sides are a dark, Macassar ebony and the body is Spruce. All in all, it’s a show-stopping guitar with a rumbling belly of sound. Its bells and whistles include  Gotoh Gold tuners, a bone nut and saddle, a Florentine cutaway, and Taylor Expression System 2 electronics.

To hear it roar, check out this review from Acoustic Letter.

Guitar not your thing? Try check out there  beginner Drumsets!

 

Five great resources for music teachers

Music teachers are constantly struggling to find new resources and sources of inspiration.

With seemingly endless cuts to funding for teacher programs, many parents are opting to get their kid’s music education outside of school through private lessons. Even if you teach music in a school, there is a good chance that you supplement your income by teaching private lessons outside of the school.

Teaching privately is interesting because there is no set standard for curriculum like there is in the schools. You can teach each student differently based on their individual talents and their overall goals. Every great teacher is looking for new resources to help them better their teaching style and their own skills as a musician. Here are five of the best resources for music teachers to help you.

Virtual education

 

Video chat apps like Skype have made it easier to communicate over long distances. Video chat has made it easier than ever for teachers to reach students. Your student-base is now the entire world instead of just your immediate area. It also gives students the ability as a teacher to seek out specific teachers they want to work with.

Outside of real time interaction, another benefit of online lessons is that you can pre-record lessons and put them online. Once online, they can be downloaded and watched over and over again by students, meaning you can be teaching multiple lessons at the same time. A great way to get started is to upload a couple of simple lessons to YouTube to help create interest.  Tablets like Amazon’s Fire HD make these easily digestible for students and allow you to film from anywhere.

Books

 

Traditionally, books have been the music teacher’s greatest aid. Their education value is the same when consumed in digital form and, if you’re teaching kids, you’re more likely to captivate a tech-savvy student’s attention by pointing them to an online version.

Almost every hard copy book is also available in Kindle format or through another device.

Mobile Apps

 

There is a mobile application for just about everything, including music education. Whether you use an Amazon Kindle, an iOS, or an Android device, there are hundreds of apps available to help you educate you students more effectively. The best part is that many of these application are available at no cost

Among the most popular is iReal book which contains an online catalogue of  thousands of jazz standards. Amazon’s Echo series – which includes the Echo, Dot and Echo Show, also come with built in guitar tuners and metronomes.

There’s more on how to use the Echo as a musician or teacher here.

Speak to other teachers

 

There’s a lot to be said for reaching out to the community of music teachers near you or beyond to find out how they’re aiding their careers. Whether you’re considering teaching a new instrument or if you need advice, there are a number of great forums like the National Association for Music Education where you can turn to for tips.

The Music Teacher Chatboard on teacher.net also provides a safe place for teachers to trade advice or thoughts.

Recording Devices

 

Whether it be a full on recording studio or just an HD camera set up in the corner, it is a good idea to have a way to record the lessons you are teaching.

You can give these recordings to your students and they can review them later. Doing this makes it easier for them to remember everything you went over in the lesson. On top of that, you can review the recordings to see how you can improve as a teacher.  Just as athletes review game tapes, it can sometimes make the difference between a student progressing past a difficult obstacle or staying stuck behind it.  If you don’t want to tape something on camera, recording it on a voice recorder might be a suitable and cheaper alternative. Click on the highlighted words for great options on both.

Have you considered an Amazon Echo? Check out our post on using an Amazon Echo to practice Music.