AuthorJess D'Silva

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From The Top: Getting into Music, First Steps and Some Ideas on Resilience

Whilst trying to write this blog, I found myself grappling with a few objectives. As this is the first post from me, it had to be something of an introduction. But, with Prelude being a music school, the future blog posts also had to be: informative and educational; engaging and entertaining; short enough that it’s not over the top; long enough that it’s understandable; and preferably somewhat original. This, combined with my desire to make the topics in some way applicable to all levels of ability and my habit of using overly complicated syntax… …grammar [see!?], made for quite the intellectual minefield.

However, I did have one idea that seemed to help. With this being a brand new, monthly(ish), guitar-centred section of the Prelude blog, I wanted to establish a clear timeline for the posts. It felt beneficial to create posts in an almost chronological order and to use my own experiences and education with music/guitar as a vessel through which various tangents of technique, equipment and musicianship can be explored. I felt like this would not only make individual blog posts coherent as stand-alone articles, but also make the guitar-centric posts coherent as a whole from the start. Now that’s out of the way, I mentioned that this was an introduction.

So, I wanted to talk a bit about getting into guitar, but more importantly, that exciting inspiration people often have when getting into an instrument. I wanted to examine this excited inspiration a little and use it to give some thoughts on mind-sets and resilience. However, I was also keen to avoid the oh-so-easy route of romanticising a few hand-picked moments from my adolescence through which the ‘music spoke to me’. I don’t want to devalue this idea, but I wouldn’t say it happens as poetically as everyone thinks and I began questioning the benefit of waxing lyrical about these apparently pivotal moments. To some, it seems as though it would be vague and potentially condescending, merely adding to the to-do list of what can easily seem impossible, whilst to others, it perhaps seems relatable, but ultimately unhelpful.

I could’ve written a tribute to the first few albums that I couldn’t stop listening to; or that one specific gig at which the guitarist captivated me; or the friends, family and teachers that encouraged me and gave me the chance to learn and/or perform. Whilst I do owe thanks to all of those events and people, it’s not very useful on a music school blog. I probably will talk about all these things at some point, but only if it actually serves the point I’m trying to make. Instead, I want to try and use these moments of inspiration to illustrate a point that I remember as a particular watershed moment in my guitar learning: that they cannot do the work for you.

First of all, this inspiration is important, especially if someone is just starting out. It really can, and does, spur people on to learn and improve. That’s why you should seek out, and hold on to, the music that moves you. However, as someone learns a few notes, chords and songs, things can become tricky, mainly because guitar, like almost every other instrument, takes a fair amount of time and effort before any results become apparent. But it is this moment of things becoming apparent that I’m trying to zero in on. Those times when you get that penny-dropping realisation can happen every now and then, and they feel glorious if they do. But, they are not really serendipitous. They are often the first time that months and years of hard work pay off and you finally nail that specific something towards which you’ve been working. I guess it can be applied to any learning process in life, but progress is so often only noticeable when one looks back at where one used to be.

Now I feel like I’m potentially being unnecessarily harsh and obnoxious – which is obviously not the intention. I just wanted to use this post to show that there can be problems with thinking that these moments of inspiration is what makes you improve.

Think of any guitarist you like, it seems like a fairly logical certainty that, despite any natural talent they may have had, there was definitely a point where they didn’t know how to even hold the instrument, let alone play it. Everything they have achieved is because of the work they have put into it. Yes, there are elements of luck involved, the whole ‘right place, right time’ thing, but that’s more to do with commercial acclaim than musical skill. My point is, no single experience can give instant ability. It takes time to build and the majority of that time has to come from the student. Once a week, teachers can inform, guide, advise and correct, but they can’t just give someone the physical ability.

And so, to wrap up with some positivity, we can make a couple of statements:

  1. For people that are starting out in their first few weeks or months, the point is that you should hold on to whatever music transports you; elevates you; moves you. They are powerful ideas and will drive you to practice, but that’s just it – it has to be your practice (I’m definitely going to write more on practice and resilience in the future because they’re important and there’s more to say on those topics.)
  2. Whilst practice has to happen, don’t think of it as a chore. It’s only effective if you want to do it. I would say exactly the same to the more experienced player too.
  3. However, for those that are more experienced, I would also add that whilst it’s great to look back on the past with rose-tinted glasses and think these moments were meant to be, you should also remember just how much work you put in to get where you are. Personally, this is helpful because it reminds me not only of how far I’ve come, but drives me to imagine where I can take things in the future.

In all honesty, I’m struggling to tell if this is stating the obvious, or if it’s uncaringly inflammatory, or if it’s just trying so hard to be profound that it’s just a critique of everything. However, if there is a main point to this post, I’d want it to be this:

The never-ending effort it takes to learn an instrument is completely worth it. It can and does transform lives. Yes, there will definitely be times of struggle and when they strike, try and ride the wave of inspiration until you arrive at the penny-dropping accomplishment. If you can do this, the music will literally transport you in life. It doesn’t have to be moving you from your room to the stage where you’re playing it live for people; it could be to the point of writing and recording your albums; jamming with your idols; landing that music based job, whatever you want. I would wish everyone the best of luck in making that vision a reality.

I now feel like I’ve segued from potentially harsh to cheesy attempts at motivation, and in that spirit, I’ll sign off by saying that these things cannot literally happen for you, they happen because of you.

Your First Woodwind Instrument

Your first starter instrument…


So! You have just decided that you would like to begin learning your first musical instrument but have no idea where to start looking for your perfect starter instrument, how much to spend or what model to go with…

Here, our woodwind specialist Helen shares her top tips in shopping for your first flute, clarinet or saxophone.


Your first instrument does not need to break the bank. You need something that works, is light and is affordable.

Helen recommends the following (all prices are approximate):


Trevor James TJ10X MK IV (£400)


Buffet B12 (£400)



Trevor James Classic Horn (£600)


Where do I buy them?

These instruments can be bought from any local music shop. Liverpool is filled with fantastic music stores such as Curly Woodwind, Dawsons, and Rimmers.  There is also High Notes and Harmonics in Crosby and Waterloo respectively.  You can also buy your instruments online from Ebay, Amazon or Gumtree but I would recommend trying these instruments out before you commit to buy!


I can’t afford the price of the instrument I would like. What should I do?

Most instrumental stores offer a rental system which allows the customer to pay a monthly fee and use the instrument on a monthly basis. These can range from £20 – £30 which is so much more affordable than splashing out hundreds of pounds to realise too late that you don’t enjoy playing the instrument!
In some instances, there is also a ‘rent to buy’ system in which you can rent for 6 – 12 months and if you really love the instrument and enjoy playing, you can settle the remainder price of the instrument and buy it as your own.


Next steps

Once you have decided on your chosen instrument and have booked in for a lesson, you can then explore with your teacher different music you would like to begin learning!

Helping your Child learn at Home.

So your child has decided he/she wants to take up an instrument.  Awesome! Like most parents you want to see your child do well and develop new skills. But what happens if you aren’t “musical” yourself?

Our teachers here often have had parents approach them, concerned that they would be unable to assist their child with music homework, because they don’t understand enough of what’s involved. This is perfectly valid concern, but not one that is impossible to overcome, if you’re willing to do a bit of learning yourself!


Often, when hearing the instrument being played at home, this is enough for most to assume your child is practising. Any good teacher will tell you it’s more than going through the motions that contributes to effective practise, and that, in particular, is a skill that really needs to be encouraged in children and young people – an objective self awareness that does not normally develop until young adulthood, and in some cases beyond.

Because practical performance is such a “present” art (in that, as a performer, you are giving something of yourself that you must be present for throughout, and the finished product is received live without the opportunity to correct mistakes) it is especially nerve racking for the learner. Commonly, children are scared or worried about being “wrong”. This can become consuming in the moment, to the point where mistakes are in fact more likely to be made, which in turn creates stress in the mind, and the whole practising and learning process becomes fraught and cyclically inefficient. One way this can be overcome is by creating a supportive learning environment. Simply by focussing on and encouraging more of the positive, and keeping criticism to the constructive kind can work wonders for the confidence. Most importantly, it is vital to reiterate and reinforce that mistakes are acceptable! Obviously I don’t mean “please learn your repertoire full of holes and inaccuracies”, but you cannot expect to run before you can walk. Part of the learning process is finding out what to avoid, and sometimes the only way to do that is to make the mistakes. Practise is NOT performance. It is the safe space in which you hone your skill. Just because somebody may be around to hear it does not mean you have to present your best work. If you can encourage this as early in the learning process as possible, you will hopefully have a happy and relaxed child who can focus on moving forwards instead of being held back by the idea that their errors are insurmountable.


As for music theory, this is often where most “non-musical” parents feel the most at a loss. If you don’t have any theoretical background, written music looks exactly as you would expect: A bunch of meaningless dots and squiggles on funny lined paper. That’s fair. If you want to get really involved, you could take theory lessons yourself alongside your child (it may even encourage you to take up that instrument!). Alternatively, try to verse yourself with at least the basics. There are a couple of resources you could use that I will link to at the end of this article. Yet another alternative is ask your child’s teacher what the crux of their homework is. Most would be happy to explain it as clearly as possible for you in order for their student to receive a good level of support outside of lesson times.

As already mentioned, the most important thing to do to help your child is foster an environment that is a safe space for them to practise. Speaking from personal experience (both as a child and as a teacher), whilst it might be tempting to poke a little good natured fun at some of those dodgy notes – even if your kid has an awesome sense of humour, I would strongly advise against it, especially at the early stages of learning , as it draws unnecessary attention to errors and reinforces the idea that they must be dwelled upon.

You don’t need to be “musical” in order to provide all of the things mentioned here – support and encouragement are all that’s needed.


The AB Guide to Music Theory (parts I and II), is the ABRSM’s textbook for theory.  If it’s something you’re willing to do, the book can be a little dry, but has all the information, concisely laid out, but is perhaps better for the older learner.

Flash Cards are a great way to get your child’s brain working!  Sometimes we learn best by repetition as well as understanding, so these are a wonderful way to physically have something you can use at home.  Click here for a selection of available flash cards.

This website uses mostly American terms, but is a great free resource you can brush up on either for yourself or with your child.  There are lessons and exercises, in notes, rhythms and chords amongst other things – check it out here:

Singing Lessons with Prelude

Singing LessonsIf you’re thinking about singing lessons, sometimes the idea of standing in front of someone and singing can be daunting.  Here at Prelude we take the time to make sure you’re comfortable and don’t put any unnecessary pressure on you! The easiest thing about learning to sing is you don’t have to spend hours shopping around for a new instrument – you can simply turn up and you’re ready to go.

Of course, there’s more to it than simply opening your mouth and letting sounds come out.  Much like any other instrument, you need to be able to use your voice with ease and without discomfort.  Very often signers in the early stages of their training tend to find extremes of their ranges difficult and sometimes even painful to reach.  With the correct training and regular practise those difficulties can be quickly overcome.

Here at Prelude our teachers will be with you every step of the way, guiding you through your lessons with technical exercises and constructive criticism.  We will also give you easy ways to practise at home, meaning you can take as much as possible away from your lessons allowing you to improve at a steady rate.

Continue reading to see some basic tips for singers.

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