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We have collated answers to a number of questions typically asked when you first venture forth into the world of Music.
In SchoolsOn, we agree with the adage "the only dumb question is the question you don't ask!"

Select the Instrument you are thinking of learning to find out more.

 • General
 • Instrument
• Accordion • Banjo
• Baritone Horn • Bass Guitar
• Bassoon • Cello
• Clarinet • Cornet
• Didgeridoo • Double Bass
• Euphonium • Fiddle
• Flute • French Horn
• Guitar • Handbells
• Harpsichord • Marimba
• Organ • Organ Electronic
• Piano • Piano Accordian
• Piccolo • Recorder
• Saxophone • Singing
• Sitar • Theory
• Timpani • Trombone
• Trumpet • Tuba
• Ukulele • Viola
• Violin • Voice


 General

Are there any physical attributes required to play instruments?
This can vary depending on the instrument. Please contact the relevant school.

Can my new found skills easily transfer to other instruments?
This is normally the case for instruments in a particular class. For example, a student proficient on violin can easily develop skills on viola, cello and double bass. Similary, a student strong on clarinet can easily develop skills on other single-reed instruments like alto & tenor saxes.

When should a child start to learn music?
Your child can start to learn music at any time, but most say the earlier the better! A good teacher will ensure that the skill level taught is age appropriate.

Research shows that playing music can make significant differences to children’s abilities related to learning, memory and social interactions.

Why should my child learn music?
Because they will enjoy it, and have a treasured skill for life!

Music is a wonderful skill for any child, but new research also is teaching us how learning music can help your child in so many more ways:

Improved reasoning capacity and problem solving skills
Improve maths and language performance
Better memory
Greater social and team skills

Does everyone have some musical ability?
Believe it or not,it’s true. Every child is born with musical ability, but you have to "use it or lose it".
Being ‘unmusical’ is more likely to be an outcome of poor training or lack of opportunity than it is from lack of ability, all of us have the chance to improve our musical ability with the right teacher and endeavour.

Research published in early 2001 indicates that all babies are born with perfect pitch. But if they don’t learn to use their perfect pitch, they then lose it. Early music lessons help a child to retain that fundamental musical skill, which is also so critical in learning a mother tongue as well as foreign languages.

 Instrument

 Accordion

What styles of music is common with the Accordion?
It has been popular in many cultures as the main instrument in several musical genres. These include Cajun Zydaco from America, Polka of Europe and America, Latino polka of Mexico, Tango of Argentina, and classical transcriptions of European composers of the 19th and 20th centuries.

How many keys does an Accordion have?
The keyboard on the right side of the accordion typically contains 41 keys but the smaller models can contain as few as 25. The keyboard on the left side contains anywhere between 5 and 120 keys.

 Banjo

How many strings does a Banjo have?
A banjo can have either 4 or 5 strings depending on the type of banjo.

 Baritone Horn

What is the difference between a Baritone Horn and a Euphonium?
Very little, they are both pitched the same, and both have either 3 or 4 valves. The main difference is that a Euphonium has a conical bore which means the bore (tube) gets wider as it progresses to the bell, making a nice rich warm tone. A Baritone Horn has a cylindrical bore, that means the bore size remains equal all the way through until the stretch of the bell where it widens out considerably. The Baritone Horn has a brighter sound.

Which ensembles utilise the Baritone Horn the most?
A Baritone Horn is most commonly found in Concert Bands, Military Bands and Brass bands.

 Bass Guitar

How many strings does a bass guitar have?
The standard bass guitar has four strings (E,A,D,G). You can also get 5 or 6 string bass guitars. The 5-string bass guitar adds a low B string and the 6-string bass guitar adds a higher C string as well as the low B string.

How does the bass guitar differ from a normal guitar?
The four strings (E,A,D,G) on a bass guitar are exactly one octave lower than the lowest four strings on a normal guitar.

What ensembles is the bass guitar commonly used in?
The bass guitar is the primary bass instrument in most of the ensembles of popular Western culture, Jazz, Rock, Country etc. The bass guitar has also found its way into other, more classically oriented ensembles as well as non-Western ensembles.

What is the difference between an Bass Guitar and a Fretless Bass Guitar.
A standard bass guitar is fretted, steel lines along the neck of the instrument. These frets guide the pitch with accuracy. A fretless bass guitar contains no frets along the neck, these models are much more difficult to play, but once proficient, can add to the sound palette of the instrument.

Do i need an Amplifier with my Bass Guitar?
Yes. Since a bass guitar has no acoustic resonator, the instrument needs to be amplified electronically. This is done by a 'Bass' Amplifier.

 Bassoon

How long is bassoon?
A bassoon is about 2.95 metres long. It is divided up into 4 sections.

Do I have to make my own reeds?
No, you can buy commercially made bassoon reeds. But once you are musically matured (after about 3 or 4 years of playing) you might want to make your own reeds to enhance and further develop your sound.

 Cello

What's the difference between a Cello and a Violoncello?
Nothing, "Cello" is just the modern abbreviation for a Violoncello.

How many strings does a cello have? and what are they tuned to?
A cello has 4 strings and is tuned exactly an octave below a Viola. C (lowest), G, D and A.

 Clarinet

What's a "bridge key"?
The keys on the middle joints that join the keys of the top and lower joints together is called the 'bridge mechanism' or 'bridge key'.

What's the difference between wood and plastic clarinets?
Less expensive clarinets (student models) are often made with plastic (commonly ebonite). These will not crack with changes in humidity and temperature as the wooden models do, but they lack the character of sound of the wooden models.

 Cornet

Cornet FAQ
Please refer to the Trumpet FAQ

 Didgeridoo

How long is an average Didgeridoo?
An Didgeridoo is cut to an average length of 1.3 metres.

Do I have to know how to circular breath to play a Didgeridoo?
Circular breathing is not a requirment to play the Didgeridoo, but it is a technique to further advance the Instrument's capabilities.

What is Circular breathing?
Circular breathing allows a player to be able to continually blow air down the didgeridoo without ever stopping for breath.

 Double Bass

How big is a Double Bass?
With the spike extended, a Double Bass can reach 2m tall.

What do you tune the strings to?
The double bass is different to the rest of the String family in that it is tuned in Fourths, as apposed to Fifths. E (lowest), A, D, G.

Do i need to buy a pickup and amplifier?
It depends what style and ensemble you play in. If you are playing in acoustic ensembles like Orchestra, Concert Bands etc, then you don't need to be amplified. If you are playing in modern ensembles like Jazz, Country and Rock bands, then you will need to get a pickup and bass amplifier.

 Euphonium

What is the difference between a Euphonium and a Baritone Horn?
Very little, they are both pitched the same, and both have either 3 or 4 valves. The main difference is that a Euphonium has a conical bore which means the bore (tube) gets wider as it progresses to the bell, making a nice rich warm tone. A Baritone Horn has a cylindrical bore, that means the bore size remains equal all the way through until the stretch of the bell where it widens out considerably. The Baritone Horn has a brighter sound.

Which ensembles utilise the Euphonium the most?
Like the Baritone Horn, the Euphonium is most commonly found in Concert Bands, Military Bands and Brass bands. It is also occasionly needed Symphony Orchestras.

 Fiddle

Fiddle FAQ
Please refer to the Violin FAQ.

 Flute

What are the other members of the Flute family?
The other common types of Flutes are: Piccolo, Alto and Bass Flutes.

What is the difference between a Student Flute and a Professional Flute?
Flutes which are referred to as student models are generally made out of a nickel alloy, are silver plated, generally have an offset G, usually have plateau keys and will only have a C foot. Many Professional flutes have plateau keys, offset G and a B foot, and are made out of any type of material that you can think of. The most common material being silver, gold, and platinum.

Which is better, open or closed-holed flutes?
Open-hole flute enforces a better hand position. They also give such benefits as more alternate fingerings and "extended" techniques for playing modern music. Most closed-hole flutes are entry-level student models. There are plugs that are available for open-hole flutes to aid a transition to fully open holes. An open-hole flute is made to sound its best with open holes. An open-hole flute with plugged holes will sound differently than a closed-hole flute.

 French Horn

What's the difference between a Single and Double Horns?
Most modern horns are known as "double" horns because they are equipped with a "trigger" valve (usually at the thumb) which changes the pitch of the instrument from F to Bb. The Bb side allows more security in the upper register. The trigger also allows the seven lowest notes, C to F below the bass clef staff to be played.

 Guitar

How many strings does a guitar have? and what are they tuned to?
The guitar has six strings and is tuned to E,A,D,G,B,E (lowest to highest).

 Handbells

Handbells FAQ
Please refer to the Percussion FAQ.

 Harpsichord

Harpsichord FAQ.
Please refer to the Piano FAQ.

 Marimba

Marimba FAQ
Please refer to the Percussion FAQ.

 Organ

Organ FAQ.
Please refer to the Piano FAQ.

 Organ Electronic

Organ Electric FAQ.
Please refer to the Piano FAQ.

 Piano

What types of Pianos are there?
There are three main types of Acoustic Piano. The Upright Piano, Baby Grand Piano & Grand Piano.

What do the pedals do?
Usually, with two pedals, the left one is the Soft pedal. On a baby grand, the soft pedal actually shifts the entire "action" mechanism slightly to one side causing the hammers to only strike two of the three strings which makes the sound softer. On a vertical (upright) piano, the left pedal moves the action closer to the strings. Because they can't travel as far, they don't hit the strings as hard, again making the sound softer. On both types of pianos, the right pedal, called the "sustain pedal" lifts the "dampers" which causes the notes to sustain until either the pedal is released or the sound dies out.

Is the piano a string or percussion instrument?
In spite of the fact that the average piano has about 230 strings, it is considered a percussion instrument. Symphony orchestra's consider it part of the percussion section.

 Piano Accordian

Piano Accordion FAQ.
Please refer to the Accordion FAQ.

 Piccolo

Piccolo FAQ.
Please refer to the Flute FAQ.

 Recorder

What is a recorder?
A recorder is a simple instrument related to the flute. It is sounded by blowing into one end and the pitch is adjusted by covering finger holes. This instrument does not have a reed but is voiced simply by forcing air through a whistle mouthpiece.

What are the different Recorder sizes?
Recorders are made in different sizes. There are four main instruments in use today: the descant, treble, tenor and bass. Sopranino and Great Bass Recorders are also fairly common.

 Saxophone

What are the most common types of Saxophones?
There are 4 common types of Saxophones, from highest to lowest: Bb Soprano, Eb Alto, Bb Tenor & Eb Baritone.

 Singing

Singing FAQ.
Please refer to the Voice FAQ.

 Sitar

What is a Sitar?
The Sitar is a stringed instrument of the Middle East related to the lute. The sitar has a long neck, 20 frets, and originally having three strings, although the modern sitar has many more. The frets are movable to produce a wide variety of modes and tunings.

 Theory

Theory FAQ.
Please refer to the Musicianship FAQ.

 Timpani

Timpani FAQ
Please refer to the Percussion FAQ.

 Trombone

What types of Trombones are there?
The modern trombone family includes the Alto Trombone, Tenor Trombone, Bass Trombone, and Contrabass Trombone. The most common trombone type is the Tenor Trombone.

What are the triggers used for on Tenor and Bass Trombones?
The mechanical trigger mechanism on a Tenor Trombone (typically in F) can extend the chromatic range to low C, and the bass trombone often has a second trigger mechanism to add the low B-natural which extends the chromatic range into the pedal register, down to a pedal F.

 Trumpet

What are the different types of Trumpets?
The Bb trumpet is the most common type of trumpet, it is found in orchestras, concert bands and jazz ensembles. C Trumpets are common in orchestral works, it is pitched a whole tone above the Bb Trumpet. Other trumpets that are used (not extensively) are D, Eb, and Piccolo trumpets (Bb/A).

Should I get a trumpet with a first and third valve triggers?
Yes, the disadvantage of a traditional three-valve system is that the instrument becomes progressively sharper when the valves are used in combination. On modern trumpets the third and often the first valve are usually provided with movable slides (actuated by finger-rings or triggers).

 Tuba

What are the different types of Tubas?
The most common Tubas are the Bb, C, F & Eb Tubas.

What type of Tuba shall i begin learning on?
The most common type of Tuba to start on would be either a Bb or an Eb Tuba.

Being a large instrument, is it hard to play?
Playing the tuba demands an enormous amount of breath, but it does not require high breath-pressure. The lips are normally loose and cushionlike; only in the high register need they be compressed or tense. In the hands of an accomplished performer the tuba can be an agile instrument, but the breath supply must constantly be renewed.

What is an BBb Tuba?
A BBb Tuba is a common term for Bb Tuba. Some makers and players refer to the term BBb as it distinguishes from a Tenor Tuba or Euphonium, which is pitched an octave higher (Bb).

 Ukulele

What is a Ukelele?
A Ukelele is a small guitar from Hawaii. The Ukelele is portable, small, and light, cheap, easily to play and simple to tune. It is popular instrument for accompanying folk songs.

 Viola

How is the Viola different to the Violin?
The Viola is the second highest pitched instrument of the string family. It is similar to the violin in most respects, however it is larger and is a fifth lower in range.

What are the Viola strings tuned to?
The Viola strings are tuned to C, G, D & A.

What is the range of a Viola?
The rang of the viola is from C below middle C to A an octave about the treble clef.

 Violin

Is the Fiddle and a Violin the same?
They are essentially the same instrument. A modern Fiddle is often refered to a Violin in a Folk setting. A traditional Fiddle is a medieval instrument that is related to and somewhat resembles the modern Violin.

How can I determine if this violin is the right size for me?
A reliable method is to stretch your arm straight out under the instrument, and under the scroll, and if the instrument's scroll ends flush with the pulse, it is just right. According to the build of a student, it can be a little shorter or longer. A sturdy student can take a little longer; it will mean less bend at the elbow when they play, which is tiring but can be tolerable, but if the candidate is weak then one chooses a little shorter instrument

 Voice

What is my voice type?
Voice falls into six basic categories defined by pitch, ranging from (highest to lowest) Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Contralto, Mezzo Soprano and Soprano (three male and three female). You need to consult a Voice Teacher to help you determine what your range/voice type is.


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