By Maria Price
Whether or not you celebrate any of the upcoming holidays, the end of the year is a great time to reflect with your student about his or her musical journey so far, and set goals for the year ahead. It may also be a great time to ask if your student is ready and willing to perform for friends and family, to show what pieces they have learned or the progress they have made.
Below is a list of some musical accessories that can greatly enhance your student’s home practice and lesson time. Other items are there just for fun!
I also encourage you to check out local brick-and-mortar music stores like Leonard's, Johnson String, Spencer Brook Strings, and Strike Up the Band. These places have great selections of sheet music and also fun music-themed accessories and gifts. Plus, you’ll be supporting small businesses in your area.
-- ALL INSTRUMENTS --
Lesson Notebook - This is a system that I use with my students. I encourage other students and instructors to give it a try!
I ask all my private lesson students to keep a small notebook like this one in their case. Ideally, it would be small enough to fit in their case or their case pocket. This allows me to write down what we covered in the lesson, and to write down their practice assignment. It is beneficial to me as a teacher, as it allows me to keep track of my students’ progress, and it is beneficial to the students, as they will be able to remember exactly what to work on in the time between lessons. They can also use it to log their own practice time and playing goals. Parents can also check their students’ notebooks to see what they are currently working on. The notebook is also a great place to put stickers, which I use with some of my younger students.
The notebook doesn’t have to be the version in the link above. Any small notebook you have around the house is fine. They can choose one for themselves to make it more personal and fun!
Music Stand - A music stand is extremely important for at-home practice. Many students start with a cheap foldable wire stand, but those can be extremely flimsy and can hardly hold anything more than a few sheets of paper. The stand in the link I’ve given is portable, but also very sturdy. Here is another great option that many of my students use. If you’re looking for a professional-quality music stand, the Manhasset brand will not let you down! (not as portable, although I have brought it in the backseat of my car at times for gigs!)
Electronic Tuner - Great for home practice for all instruments, but especially for strings students who can tune independently, or are learning to tune. This is a solid brand at an inexpensive price. However, if your student has a device he or she regularly uses like a smartphone or tablet, you can download a free tuner app. The one I use is called Tuner Lite by Piascore, but there are many similar ones out there.
Metronome - Essential for all musicians! Playing in time to a steady beat helps with rhythm, temporal awareness, and ensemble skills. While Korg is a very reliable brand, free metronome apps are also widely available for smartphones or tablets. You can also simply Google “Online Metronome.” I use an app called Pro Metronome (Free Edition).
If you like the look of an old-school metronome (which has appeal as a decorative item), you may want to get one like this.
NoteSpeller Books - I highly encourage these books for my private lesson students. They are workbooks that include lots of exercises meant to increase skills of reading music notation. Every week, I assign a few pages from the workbook for the student to fill out. I’ve noticed that it really helps students improve their music reading skills.
NoteSpeller for Violin
NoteSpeller for Viola
NoteSpeller for Trumpet
-- TRUMPET --
Trumpet Stand - This is the best $25 I’ve spent in my 20 years playing trumpet. This fits in the bell of the trumpet and the legs fold out. Students can place their trumpet on the floor during lessons, band rehearsals, or practice time. It avoids students trying to balance the trumpet on its bell (which never stays upright and could lead to a trip to the repair shop to get some dents out!), placing the trumpet on their chair (also a risky move), or on the floor (asking for trouble!)
You can shop around for a better deal if you like, but the brand I recommend is K&M.
This is my #1 recommendation for my trumpet students!
Trumpet Practice Mute - Insert into the bell and the sound is GREATLY reduced. Helpful if your student wants to practice something like scales or fingerings but doesn’t want to disturb anyone.
TRUMPET LESSON BOOKS/SONGBOOKS
(This list is by no means exhaustive. I encourage you and your child to use this as a springboard to find method books or songbooks that work best. I encourage students to have at least one “serious” method book for their lessons and one “fun” book to keep them motivated to play.)
My First Arban’s Book - Best for students in grades 4-8. Great book for scales, exercises, warm-ups, duets, and pieces.
The Arban’s Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet - THE trumpet book for intermediate to advanced high school students.
The B-flat Real Book - Best suited for high school students who are interested in pursuing jazz seriously
The Big Book of Christmas Songs for Trumpet - for fun! Beginner to Intermediate
Easy Duets from Around the World for Trumpets - Beginner to Intermediate
The Big Book of Disney Songs for Trumpet - Beginner to Intermediate
-- VIOLIN/VIOLA --
Microfiber Cleaning Cloth - After a lesson, rehearsal, or practice session, it’s important to wipe off the violin or viola. Wipe off any sweat from your hands, and also wipe off the rosin from the strings. It’s great to have a cloth like this in your case.
Everest Shoulder Rest - This is my favorite brand of shoulder rest. If you are looking for an upgrade, this is a fantastic brand! Just make sure you get the appropriate size (½, ¾, etc.) Many of their shoulder rests are adjustable, so if you currently have a ¾ size violin, it will be able to adjust to accommodate a full size violin as well.
Bow Hold Buddy - For beginners, or older students who may struggle with bow hold. If your child needs or wants a little extra support with the bow hold, this tool is great! It does require loosening the screw and removing the frog of the bow, so I usually put it on for students during lessons. Otherwise I recommend that it be put on carefully by an adult. Comes in a variety of colors!
BowRight - This device fits onto the violin and helps to keep the bow straight and parallel to the bridge. If your student is struggling with keeping the bow straight, this might be a worthwhile purchase for home practice and developing good habits.
BowRight (¼ - ½ size)
BowRight (¾ - full size)
Practice Mute - a very inexpensive practice mute. Place it over the bridge to dull the sound. This helps to cut down the volume and resonance. Great if your student wants to practice without disturbing other people, or if they are a bit self-conscious about their practicing and want to sound quieter. Note that the link is for a full size (4/4) practice mute.
VIOLIN LESSON BOOKS/SONGBOOKS
For private lessons, I use the Suzuki method. These are great books for developing technique through enjoyable repertoire that gets progressively more challenging. As a supplement, here are some suggestions for developing technique, or just to have some fun with practicing.
(This list is by no means exhaustive. I encourage you and your child to use this as a springboard to find method books or songbooks that work best. I usually encourage students to have at least one “serious” method book for their lessons and one “fun” book)
Easy Violin Duets for Beginner to Intermediate Players
101 Christmas Songs for the Violin (Beginner to Intermediate)
101 Disney Songs for the Violin (Beginner to Intermediate)
101 Hit Songs for the Violin (Beginner to Intermediate)
101 Movie Hits for the Violin (Beginner to Intermediate)
Christmas Melodies for Violin Solo (for Intermediate Players)
Easy Songs for Shifting in the First Five Positions - for students who are learning how to shift on the Violin
Solos for Young Violinists, Volume 1 - for intermediate players
Written by Maria Price, Violin/Viola/Trumpet/Ukulele Instructor at Note-Worthy Experiences.