Recorder Forum Home Page › Forum › Teaching and Learning › New Player, what lesson frequency would you recommend for me?
- This topic has 9 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated February 20, 2021 at 10:48 pm by Katia J.
January 28, 2021 at 9:01 am #1365
Hello all, I just joined the forum and look forward to learning a lot from all of you — you’ve already been very helpful in my early research as a lurker reading the past conversations.
First, a bit of background. I, like everybody, played the flutophone and recorder in elementary school. I really enjoyed it back then and remember practicing a lot, to the dismay of my parents (I wonder what ever happened to my flutophone). My parents had zero interest in music, but they eventually put me into piano lessons, though we never had a real piano at home, I only had an electronic keyboard with a subset of the full keyboard and no dynamic control at all, not even weighted keys. We did have an old reed organ that my dad’s mom played (those 100 yr old song-books in the cubby behind the music stand w/ extremely complex pieces always amazed me), but she passed away decades before I was even born. I did a lot of my practice on the reed organ, but again, the keys were not weighted, there was no dynamic control via the keys, and they were only ~85% of the size of piano keys, so the spacings were different. It is still to this day the nicest and best condition reed organ that I’ve ever seen, and I did manage to play music on it, and did enjoy playing it (playing with all of the different reed settings, the knee levers, etc), but never got very far — I think I made it through the second Suzuki book. Moreover, my teacher, as wonderful of a person as she was and as wonderful of a personal influence she had on me, didn’t really focus on theory, more rote memorization, so I didn’t really understand what I was doing.
As an adult, my first wife played wonderfully, but didn’t really enjoy it so she never really played. We bought a very old and very tall upright piano that I fell in love with and played daily for years, until we separated — she took the piano, which she never once played after that. For years I was without a piano again. I later decided to try the guitar. After trying a few, I fell in love with the classical guitar, and got rid of my others. I still have and play the classical guitar, but have to admit to cheating and using tablature — but do manage to play enough to be enjoyable. I then bought a digital piano, which is 85% or so as good as a real piano, but not quite — which I really do love, and I made REALLY fast progress on that, using the iPad and MIDI software to really evaluate my playing, to play along with various parts and other instruments, etc… While I’m not great at it, I can convince non-musically inclined people that I’m fairly good at it. 🙂 haha I’ll probably buy a real piano again some day, and probably take lessons, but I’m away from home too much (well, not recently) to really focus on truly getting the most out of lessons, so I’ve decided to wait a bit.
Which brings me back to the recorder. This is another instrument that I’ve always loved. I frequently queue up recorder concertos to listen to, it’s just always been one of my favorite instruments, and the baroque period in general has always appealed to me the most, the pipe organ, harpsichord — these are my favorites, so I think that the recorder is an instrument that I will love to play, and the portability and low cost of the instruments is unsurpassed — a plastic recorder can go places that even my guitar cannot (e.g. when traveling for work, and it has to with me in a backpack rather than stay in a hot car)
A while back I started seeing videos by Sarah Jeffery on YouTube (no idea how I first encountered them), and her videos have an infectious energy to them that got me back to thinking that this is actually possible! So, after some research, lurking on this forum, reading here and there, I decided to go for it.
After much research and debate about C vs F, and the related repertoire, I’ve ordered a Yamaha Ecodear YRA-402B, and I hope that it’ll arrive soon (though the tracking info says that it took a strange detour from very near-by to a town a few hours away… hmmm). I’ve been prepping myself by playing with a cheap “toy” German style Soprano that I found while cleaning out a cabinet, just happened to have it laying around (figuring out what was “wrong” with it was an interesting learning experience, I had no idea that there were two different fingerings), trying to avoid any songs w/ F and accidentals so that I don’t pick up bad habits. 🙂 I quickly found that I played a bunch of songs that stayed in the lower register, all of the way up to D, without any difficulty (high E and up gets harder!), and that I naturally tongued the mouthpiece before even seeing a single video on the subject, and I was able to play fairly quick pieces, even jumping between low C and the higher notes in the first register w/o a problem, adjusting my airflow naturally, so I *think* that I’m off to a decent start.
Geez, I’m being long-winded — maybe that’ll help with the long passages w/o a chance to inhale haha — anyhow, given my past experience w/ other instruments, already knowing how to sight read so-so (and even more so the treble clef and only having to read one note at a time!), and the fact that I was able to pick it up after all of these 35+ years and play a bunch of simple tunes, I wonder:
1) Does it sound like I have a decent foundation to get started on my own?
2) How often should I consider lessons? I’m thinking once per month to check that I’m not forming bad habits, maybe sometimes more, sometimes less.
3) Is there anything that you’d recommend specific to somebody w/ my background, any incorrect assumptions that people who’ve previously played a piano and guitar might make?
4) How do you all feel about online lessons? Looking at the various directories, here and ARS (which I joined today!), I see two teachers in this general area, but one is a dead link, and they’re both > 45 minutes away from here — which might be OK for an in-person lesson every few months, but not on a regular basis.January 29, 2021 at 3:23 am #1368
Well, I got the recorder. Excited to try it out, though waiting for my method books to decontaminate — giving them a day or two to de-COVID. 🙂
Anyhow, playing some scales on the new recorder. I find the new finger spacing to be surprisingly harder, hope that passes quickly. I find myself holding on with a bit of a death-grip, which I initially did w/ the Soprano too, so I hope that I stop doing that quickly. Getting used to the F fingering (mapping the sight-read notes to fingers) is confusing at first after ingrained memories of the C fingering. Surprisingly the new instrument both requires more air overall, yet more fine-tuned control to jump between the low F and higher notes without overtones. I guess it’s all a matter of adapting… can’t wait to get around to playing some actual music, but I think that I should approach it slowly, methodically, and not try to rush through the basics.January 29, 2021 at 4:38 am #1369
Well, about an hour of playing and I can now play everything here that’s in Cmaj and Fmaj that doesn’t go above the high G (A still gets me!), and doesn’t have any accidentals that I haven’t learned yet:
Even the ones that jump between F and F… the breath control took me a bit, but now I can do it…. 90ish percent of the time, except when it starts to get clogged.
So… I guess my issues that I mentioned an hour ago weren’t so bad! haha… OK, off to take a more methodical approach like I promised that I’d do! 😀January 29, 2021 at 8:35 am #1370Ken In DallasParticipant
Well they say that I’m “wordy,” but I think you win. Well done! You’re going to do fine. I think to your surprise you’ll have to do less rather than more, given all the things you’re concerned about. You have the desire, you’ve got the basic concepts within written music, and you’ve had that history as a child on keyboards coordinating finger movement in an structured manner to produce ordered pitches. Lastly, you don’t think that making music is playing a radio.
The Ecodear was an excellent choice. I think they have the best voice of a number of today’s plastics that sound great. Going Alto gives you a ‘mid-voiced’ instrument that’s easy on the ear of player and listener alike and on which all the genres of music sound at home.
Lessons don’t structure the rate of progress in learning. They only organize a student’s exposure to what they contain in an order that doesn’t confuse. Your abilities and level of interest will reveal how fast you progress.
As someone that’s self-taught as well as attended conservatory, I’ll tell you that teachers are the best way to fly with the caveat that you need a good one. On the other hand I’ve found self-teaching can provide a much deeper involvement in what you’re learning. If you go with self-teaching, get a method-book series that has CDs both to set example and accompany. Hugh Orr or Mario Duschenes have F fingering books of good reputation. You can read about them here…
I teach with Sweet Pipes. No CDs but lots of good melodic material to keep things interesting, gathered by an excellent Musicologist teamed with an excellent teacher.
Hey the best of luck and thanks for sharing that you’re diving into the pool. You’ll do fine, I’m sure. — kJanuary 29, 2021 at 2:43 pm #1372Merrill FlintParticipant
I personally think lesson frequency depends on your experience level. If you are already an experienced musician with other instruments or at least comfortable reading music, once a month or so is probably fine as long as you’re disciplined enough to practice regularly. If you also need help with more basic skills like reading music, once a week will be more beneficial. You’ll want someone to help drill you in notes and rhythm, tell you when you are consistently playing a wrong note, rushing or lagging, etc.January 29, 2021 at 7:51 pm #1373
Thanks to both of you for the feedback! As for Ken’s wordiness, I’m good with that as I’ve learned a lot by reading your older posts! 🙂
The book that I have is the Sweet Pipes book. I do like that it has a lot of exercises, and doesn’t spend a lot of time on reading music and timing since I already know that at least as well as the beginner books ever describe it. I’ll definitely look into the books that Ken suggested above, thanks.
>You’ll want someone to help drill you in notes and rhythm, tell you when you are consistently playing a wrong note, rushing or lagging, etc.
Yeah, I think that’s my bigger reason for considering lessons — I do have a tendency to be a bit sloppy with my timing, and did notice last night that I was already messing up one note and had to go back and re-practice it. Using a chromatic tuner and playing really slowly and holding the notes helped me check that I was both doing the right finger pattern as well as blowing the proper amount of air — I tended to be a bit flat a first as I was concerned about pushing it too far.January 30, 2021 at 6:45 am #1374Ken In DallasParticipant
Hey Rex… About your Sweet Pipes book: See if it has “SP2318” either on the lower left of the title page or on the lower left of the outside back cover. There’s a different ‘pipes’ book much like this that teaches music notation at the same time for those that need it. I use 2318 and explain notation if needed as I go along.
Assuming you’ve got 2318, notice how the book starts. Unit 1 covers Alto low notes C, D, and E. With the thumb covered it teaches to cover 1, 2 and then 3 holes using the left hand. It looks too simple. Just quarter notes, quarter rests, and some half notes. Too Simple. A self-teaching beginner might quickly pass over it all thinking they understand. I explain to someone I’m teaching that according to the research we’re ‘programming’ at least three parts of the brain: a kinesthetic memory of the feel and location of the holes, a visual memory of the notes on the staff, and an auditory memory of the pitch each produces in addition to the letter names and other things.
And then I point out that if they don’t spend the needed time on what looks too simple, this teacher guarantees it will come back to bite them on the ass. (Did I mention I don’t teach kids?) Pay your dues. Tedious, but required.
I ask students to ‘think’ the note’s name – the word C, D, or E – as they play each note in an exercise because that single letter is the main title under which all those memory pieces will be filed in the most amazing Central Processing Unit yet known. I also tell my students that every place I cut a corner when I was learning – I bought my first Tenor in 1963 – still bites my 73-year old behind.
The Unit then, in Exercises 25- to 29, explores fingering exchanges from this note to that and such, also to be played while ‘thinking’ the note names. Again, it looks too simple, but it isn’t.
And Rex, if you ‘work’ the lesson as I’ve described, I’ll email you a recording I give to students of my slowly playing the upper voice of Exercise 187 in the back of the book – a 14th Century duet of Edi beo thu Hevene Quene, in which the lower voice consists of only the notes from Unit 1. There are twelve YouTubes posted of different ensemble playing the piece. My favorite is by the famous accapella women’s group, Anonymous 4 that you can hear at:
We good? You put yourself out there by posting what you’re doing. Many adults won’t learn an instrument out of fear – of failure or exposure. You should be proud of yourself. You’ll do fine. — k
January 30, 2021 at 8:07 pm #1376Katia JParticipant
- This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Ken In Dallas. Reason: mp3 exceeded website limits
I think this is a question a teacher may be able to help you answer, especially once you’ve had a lesson or two and they have a feel for your goals and abilities.
I actually think when starting out you’ll want to take lessons with a greater frequency than lesser (to catch any bad habits you may not realize you’re picking up) and then later could scale back when you know your technique is solid and you need a teacher more for fine-tuning but not so much for “that fingering isn’t correct” or “you’re having this tonal issue” or “your posture is off.”
Assuming you’ve got 2318, notice how the book starts. Unit 1 covers Alto low notes C, D, and E. With the thumb covered it teaches to cover 1, 2 and then 3 holes using the left hand. It looks too simple. Just quarter notes, quarter rests, and some half notes. Too Simple. A self-teaching beginner might quickly pass over it all thinking they understand.
In addition– it looks like this is your first *wind* instrument (at least in a long time), so you’ll need time to work on tone and blowing technique as well as fingering and learning which notes go with which fingering, which is another reason to start at the beginning and go slow. I’ve noticed that just because I pick up the notes and fingering doesn’t mean that correct fingering *sounds* good (something that escaped me as a kid– I know the notes, let’s ignore tone!). In this case it’s not that you’d be learning what a quarter note is or what “C” is (which is why it seems easy to skip if you think “but I already know how to read music”), but using quarter notes to make “C” sound optimal.February 2, 2021 at 7:22 am #1380
Thanks again for all of the replies! I saw your comments over the weekend, but was out hiking when I read them and wasn’t in a position to respond at that moment. 🙂
Yes, the book that I have is the SP2318 book. After reading the reviews I was fairly sure that it was a good starting point because of my prior experience with sight-reading and already knowing the basics about clefs, tempo, note durations, ties, trills, etc from other instruments, so I didn’t think that I needed a book that started that far back. As for the beginning units being “too simple”, yeah, I’ve been tempted to skip over that stuff, and the day that I received it I jumped right into simple songs for fun, but immediately took a step back and haven’t played a single song since, instead focusing on just unit one, as painful as that is to listen to. I’ve been playing that unit repeatedly with and without a metronome at various tempos (something that I’ve always hated, but forcing myself to do it this time around!), and with and without a chromatic tuner to ensure that I’m getting the right tone. I find it interesting that I’m having a much harder time getting a clean C than expected — the threshold between too flat and squeaky overtones is surprisingly narrow, at least on my instrument, especially on the C.
I’ve been forcing myself to repeat unit 1 for 3 days in a row now, trying to get to where I can play it without a single squeak, without a single mistake (it’s easy to let your mind wander when it seems too easy, and when the patterns aren’t really a melody), and where every whole note sounds consistent throughout and stays within the +/- 10 cent range that I have my tuner set to (mostly glancing at the tuner on the whole notes, when I have enough time to see it). I’m definitely not ready to set it to 5 cent or less!
One quick question about the unit: the breath indicators are placed at the end of every single measure. I tried for a while to take their advice, but found that I was getting too much air, I couldn’t get rid of as much as I was bringing in. Should I be focusing on smaller starting amounts and replenishing more often, or just go with what’s comfortable? Comfortable for me is enough air to go 4-5 measures, otherwise I don’t feel like I’ve exhaled enough to replenish it!
Anyhow, thanks for the recording offer, would love to hear it, and will definitely take a look at the linked video!
Thanks for the encouragement!
Thanks for your insights and words of encouragement too! I definitely relate to your comments about making it sound good. I feel like the recorder is one of those instruments that is deceptively hard — easy on the surface, as I said in my early post I was able to play all of the easy songs well-enough with less than an hour of toying with the instrument, but to make them sound good — well, that’s something else entirely! 🙂 Posture is one of those things that has always bitten me. I work at a computer all day long, so my posture isn’t the best, and that bites me often. I get sore playing the piano from slouching, it negatively affects my dancing (dance teacher is always getting on me about my posture, especially in Tango/Foxtrot/Waltz, and other formal dances), etc, but I’ve been doing a ton of stretching and exercises lately with a focus on posture, which’ll hopefully help undo years and years of bad habits (more years than my outdated Gravatar belies!).February 20, 2021 at 10:48 pm #1401Katia JParticipant
I think all instruments are deceptively hard… there’s always more to them than meets the eye. Tone is always my difficulty with any instrument, whether that involves bowing (violin), blowing (recorder, pennywhistle), or even picking (guitar/harp). Even when I have the fingering down, I have to work on making it sound nice. Like I said, when I was a kid playing around with recorder, I thought if I had the fingerings correct, then I was playing well. LOL! (I probably would have benefited from recording and listening to myself to figure out that wasn’t the case… as I said in another thread, I think intonation, and perhaps also tone, are something easier heard on a recording than when you’re actually playing.)
I also suffer from bad posture… it is part of the reason I prefer to play standing up for any instrument that permits it– I’m less likely to slouch when standing (partly because it’s impossible for me to slouch as badly standing as I sometimes do sitting– I’d fall over!).
As far as stretching, also don’t neglect your core strength. I found years ago that when I started really getting serious about working out regularly, increased strength in my abs made a noticeable difference in breath control and holding long notes when singing. No doubt the same also applies to playing a wind instrument. (It also helps with holding a good posture…)
I’ve found, as you no doubt have, that good posture is more of a habit than anything else… I have had to get myself used to actually standing up straight, keeping my shoulders back, holding myself up with my core (bonus: abs look flatter when the muscles are actually engaged), and curbing my tendency toward lordosis, etc.
I’ve always been interested in the Alexander Method as it’s supposed to be good for this… never tried it, though.
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