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  • Gemma Stacey

Mistakes are necessary when learning to play musical instruments.

No matter what musical instrument you play or how often you practise, you are constantly learning whether you realise it or not. Our ears are one of our best assets we have. The ability refine your listening skills is always working towards your development of becoming the best musician you can be. Learning music is not about perfection, rather gradual and consistent improvement.

Say you're learning to play the guitar, 6 strings, and you want to progress from chord G to chord C. This is a tricky move to master initially. We need to use all 4 fingers on G in the second and third frets. The shape of chord G is vertical. Moving onto chord C is difficult because it has a wide shape. We need to use 3 fingers across 3 frets, one in the first fret, one in the second fret and one in the third fret. Getting to know how they each sound is critical so that our ears know when we are making a mistake. It sounds wrong! We can then move the appropriate finger and correct ourselves quickly. Maintaining enough pressure on the guitar strings is important and it takes time to build up the resistance on our fingertips so that they are not sore are anymore. This is why I recommend starting on a classical acoustic with soft nylon strings instead of a steel string acoustic. It's the same when playing the ukulele however the notes of the strings are different and there are only 4 on the uke. Overall, it's an easier instrument to play compared to the guitar.

It's a similar process when playing the piano. Initially, I teach my students to play chords with the right hand using fingers 1 (thumb), 3 (middle) and 5 (pinky). These are the root notes of any scales. We miss a key in between. Again, if you get it "wrong" and maybe play keys that are next to each other you can hear this mistake and correct yourself. We need to press down just hard enough to get enough impact on the keys. How they feel under our fingertips in synchronicity of really feeling the groove of the music is where it's at.

When learning how to sing being on pitch is what most people are concerned about so our ears are really important here. Breathing and projection are also critical to master because if we don't inhale enough breath, our projection won't last. Again, it's about honing our listening skills in combination with so many other mechanical processes that our bodies are going through.

Playing the drums is the extreme test of what we can put our bodies through musically. There is so much happening. How we grip the sticks, how hard we hit the drums, combining hits with our hands and feet as well as nodding our heads to feel the groove. There's so much activity all at once. I'm not sure why drummers are the butt of many jokes because they really do lead the band in so many ways. I personally know and can feel how much more intelligent I've become from playing the drums. My incredible vintage Pearl kit is now my top choice. I now even write songs when I'm drumming then I either go to my piano or one of my guitars to start adding the melody that I've been singing. It's an awesome process of liberation and keeps me hungry for new and exciting expressions of my musical journey. The possibilities are literally endless.

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