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Lessons & Instruments

Lessons & Instruments

Many parents have asked for instrument suggestions for their rockers. Below is a small list of ideas and a few suggestions with regards to instrument instruction in general. We hope this is helpful to you and please feel free to contact us if you have any other questions.

Lessons and Choosing the Right Instrument

Two of the most common questions we are asked from parents are:
 -What instrument should I start my rocker on?
- When will they be ready for lessons?

There are a million schools of thought on this. In Rock Band Land we believe strongly that a child's direction towards music should be led by their own interest, must be fun, and there must be a context and an outlet for what they are learning. If these criteria are met, we believe a rocker is more likely to stick with their instrument, and music in general. At the very least, they will have fond memories and a positive foundation set for them as they branch out into other forms of artistic expression throughout their childhood and adult lives.

Set your own interests and thoughts aside and let your rocker pick the instrument that they want to start with. They have to be excited about the instrument to play it, and eventually to put in hard work that will require them to be competent on it. 

Drums and piano are initially the easiest for rockers to experience a sense of achievement and success at. Large gross motor movements allow them to work the instrument and create simple, clear rhythmic and melodic ideas. Guitars and other stringed instruments are significantly harder to succeed with at first as the fine motor skills and dexterity required to play them correctly is initially far greater than to play piano and drums. However once a child becomes serious about an instrument and begins taking lessons the learning curve on any instrument will be steep and the proper coordination and technique will have to be developed. This will be challenging and that is again why we believe the lessons and musical experience must be fun. 

We will mostly be discussing the basic rock instruments here, but all instruments are a fine starting point for your rocker whether they are traditional instruments (horns, reed instruments, strings, percussion, etc.) or more experimental or electronic based instruments or tools (samplers, synths, mixers, effects, recording gear, etc.). And definitely don't forget that your rocker's voice is an instrument and choral groups, vocal lessons, home karaoke, and home recording are great ways to further encourage and explore that instrument. 

There is no set age for when lessons will be right for your rocker. Things to be considered are the sincerity of their interest (does your rocker want lessons or do you want them to have lessons?), their willingness to practice on their own, and their ability to focus for forty five minutes to an hour on the lesson. In Brian's own lessons as a group and private drum teacher he finds that 7 seems to be the age when focus, attention, and desire come together and the drummers start to really grow and develop quickly as musicians. This is not a rule and Brian has several younger students who are doing really well, but he has to know that a younger drummer really wants to play before he will take them on as a student. 

My rocker is showing interest in several instruments, which one should we start with?

If your rocker wants to play several instruments, that is great, and if you have instruments at home for them to play on, even better. But, when it comes time for lessons there will have to be a greater focus, for the time being anyway, on one of them. Ask your rocker which one they would like to take lessons on, then give it a month and ask them again. If their answer is consistent start thinking about looking into lessons. If their answer changes, give it some time and then try the exercise again in another month. 

There is no hurry

I know in SF we are trying to cram as much art, cultural, and learning experiences into our kids and their schedules as possible, but there is no ticking clock or check list that is going to keep them from any given life experience if we don't provide the road map for that experience now. We all have the ability to start new, creative projects at any age, so if your rocker is not necessarily drawn to a particular instrument right now that's completely fine and please resist the temptation to push an instrument on them. 

Instruments

Guitars

Kid sized guitars come in two sizes: 1/2 size and 3/4 size. Usually, since these are made for kids, the quality is not great but we use them in Rock Band Land and they are great to learn on. If your rocker is younger, or of a smaller size, go with the 1/2 size. If they are a bit older and starting to think about lessons, go with the 3/4 size. Most of the kids guitars that we have used do not stay in tune for very long - the 3/4 will generally stay in tune longer than the 1/2 size. You may want to consider buying a tuner as well to help discipline your rocker's ear so that they are always starting with a tuned instrument. 

Rock instruments are often an expression of the player's style and sensibilities. Try to find out which model guitar your rocker prefers. Show them pictures of different guitars and show them pictures of bands they like performing and see what they respond to. You can find a Jr. model of most guitars now. 

You should be able to find a kid guitar and amp for about $150 -$175. There are lefty options too.

(Many of the links below link to Guitar Center.  We are by no means trying to promote or endorse GC, but they are a necessary evil. They have most everything you will need for your rocker and usually their prices are the best. It is, however, a breeding ground for noodle happy idiots and a visit there can be a bit of a audio torture chamber.  We do our best in Rock Band Land to instill a bit of taste into our rockers so they will forever resist the egoistic urges to shred on the showroom floor. There is a GC on Van Ness @ California St, and they usually have different gear in the store than they do online.)

Guitars 1 This is from Guitar Center. Look for "Mini"  or "Wee" or "Mikro" sized. 

Guitars 2 This link offers more color options. 

Keyboards / Pianos

Believe it or not pianos are among the easiest and most inexpensive instruments to acquire. There are generally several listed at any given time on Craigslist for free - you just pay for the moving. 

If you can't have a piano in your house, any keyboard with full sized keys can be a great instrument for your rocker to learn on. In class the rockers love that they can change and manipulate the keyboards' sounds. Most of the low-end keyboards come with hundreds of preset sounds. $100 -$150 should get you a decent starter keyboard.

Drums

A decent set of kids drums will cost you about $300 new. Brian has several kids sets and  with new heads (the part you hit) you can get some really nice tones out of them. The heads and the cymbals will be crappy, but can be easily upgraded. Initially the cymbals will not be that important, and as long as they make a distinctive crash, that's all your rocker will need right now.  The most important thing is to by a kit that is sized correctly for your drummer. 

Electric Drums

Unfortunately, there are only a few inexpensive options for electronic kits. We've never used one and can't vouch for them. 

If you have any other questions please feel free to contact us at rockbandland@gmail.com

Happy shopping.

Brian & Marcus