"Music for Everyone, All Ages "
1515 WARREN STREET, (NORTHSHORE) PITTSBURGH, PA 15212-3332
(412) 322-0520                                             info@KikuchiMusic.com
                                                                     Founder: Lee W. Kikuchi

HANDBOOK SECTION
TUTORIAL
 

BEGINNING OF TUTORIAL

 

CHOOSING AN INSTRUMENT

Below is provided a brief description of each instrument taught at KMI to help you make an appropriate choice with your child. Almost all parents and children choose to study piano first just to get started before branching out to other instruments. For those wishing to start with an instrument other than piano, important considerations are provided under each instrument. Clicking on the instrument name will take you to the web page for the appropriate KMI department. [You must click the RETURN ARROW in your browser to get back to the TUTORIAL, or if you continue browsing away from this location until you are lost, simply go to the HOME page to get back to the TUTORIAL.]

(Once you have choosen an instrument, see GETTING AN INSTRUMENT for information about renting or buying.)

NOTE: PIANO IS THE ONLY INSTRUMENT AVAILABLE AS PRIVATE STUDY FOR CHILDREN AGES 4, 5 and 6. Special Music Together Classes are the only option available for students under age 4. (See PRE-SCHOOL and MUSIC TOGETHER).

(Note: Voice is an instrument. See the bottom of the page. )

WHY PIANO FIRST? The study of music is a long, difficult and complex process which includes several important cognitive skills: reading, spacial relationship, temporal relationships, numerical analysis, finger dexterity, left-right hand cooordination, eye-hand coordination, sensativity to sound, tactile sensativity and ability to communicate. Because so many skills are involved, when a student is not performing correctly, it is often not clear which cognitive area needs improvement. On the piano, these distinctions are far more easy to identify and address because the piano keys have a clear visual and tactile representation and there are no issues of pitch or timbre to address. The visually and physically accessible nature of the keyboard makes learning musical concepts much easier (intervals and chords can be seen and understood easily). The direct response of the keys gives quicker gratification to the student, who can play songs within a few lessons. (No playing out of tune or making scratchy noises!) On many other instruments, the student must be concerned with pitch, timbre and a variety of complex motor and spacial skills that are more abstract and difficult to picture. The difficulty of initial sound production can require weeks to overcome, and the ability to produce a decent sounding "Mary Had a Little Lamb" can take months. By studying the basics of music on the piano first, many of the skills are established and as a result, when studying the new instrument the teacher is able to focus specifically on the new skills required for the instrument. Issues of rhythm and reading are no longer a factor. Likewise, students will have learned and performed music several times and as a result have a clear understanding of what music will often sound like. Although the new instrument may be very different, they will naturally know what sounds should be coming out of the instrument, and will intuitively make the adjustments needed to get those sounds (correct pitch, avoid unpleasant timbres, steady rhythms, sense of dynamics, etc.). Without the initial piano background, the student can practice things incorrectly for weeks before they finally understand what it should sound like. Two years of piano gives the student a solid grounding and makes the transition to another instrument so much easier.

ISSUES REGARDING SIBLINGS: Students who have an older sibling that is already studying a string instrument should be very strongly encouraged to study a different string instrument so that they are not competing on the same instrument. The same is true for students studying wood winds or brass instruments. Siblings playing instruments of the same family (type) will usually participate in the same ensembles (orchestra or band) with the same rehearsal times, same concert dates and same commutes. (See STRING ENSEMBLES, CHORAL ENSEMBLES and WIND ENSEMBLES.) Siblings playing instruments from different families (string, wind and brass) will often be in different ensembles, which complicates the time management factor. Outside of the orchestras and bands, the potential for siblings to play together as duets and trios is much greater on instruments of the same family (that is how music is written), and even if they are competitive - it is not direct competition. All students should study some piano, regardless of siblings or other instruments, because it gives such a good musical foundation. Competition among piano students does exist, but when there is a secondary instrument many siblings put aside the piano competitiveness in favor of the other instrument - which becomes "their" instrument. In any family, usually only one child chooses the piano as his/her primary instrument.

PIANO: If the student is interested primarily in piano, GREAT! The piano is the best beginning instrument for all music students (see above). Any student under age 9 should start with piano lessons first, even if they are primarily interested in another instrument. Even older students would certainly benefit from a piano foundation (concurrently or prior to study of the preferred instrument). Students who study piano as a primary instrument are strongly encouraged to start a secondary instrument that allows them to participate in an orchestra or band. The student and parent can plan for both instruments from the beginning (even if only one is started), or can select the secondary instrument at a later time. (For an understanding of a student's pathways to other musical activities such as orchestra, band or choir, see ELEMENTARY DEVELOPMENT.)

GUITAR: The guitar is a wonderfully portable instrument that has the same accompanying capability for singing as the piano does. Usually students should not be younger than 6 to begin guitar, because the instrument only comes in full and half sizes. Frets placed on the neck give the student recognizable places to put the fingers (similar to piano) in order to produce the correct notes. Piano study before the guitar is not as important as for other instruments, but is still encouraged. Like the piano, the guitar is an instrument that generally does not participate in orchestra or band, so secondary study on another instrument that allows them to participate in an orchestra or band is strongly enouraged. (For an understanding of a student's pathways to other musical activities such as orchestra, band or choir, see ELEMENTARY DEVELOPMENT.)

STRING INSTRUMENTS
The Kikuchi Music Institute offers private music instruction on all orchestral string instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass) starting at age 7. Any student younger than age 7 should begin music study on the piano, and will be able to transition to the string instrument after 1-2 years. [Ex. A student studies piano starting at 4, and switches to violin at age 6.] The KMI faculty have found this to be a far more effective approach, both in keeping the student interested in music and having meaningful progress on the string instrument. KMI does NOT offer Suzuki method, but Mr. Kikuchi has developed his OWN approach that is very effective for young string students.

Below are listed the string instruments which are part of the standard symphonic orchestra. All these instruments are also capable of performing as featured solists, but the added ability of participating in a large group performance creates many opportunities and substantial fulfillment for the student during the Middle School and High School years. In addition, there are infinite possible combinations for these instruments as chamber music (smaller groups), such as trios, quartets, quintets, octets, chamber strings, etc. (For an understanding of a student's pathways to other musical activities such as orchestra, band or choir, see ELEMENTARY DEVELOPMENT. See STRING ENSEMBLES descriptions of available orchestras.)

VIOLIN: Of all the string instruments, nearly every one thinks of the violin first. The result is that there are more violinists than players of other string instruments and the competition is usually much more difficult for getting into local orchestras. For this reason, at KMI we strongly encourage students to consider other string instruments before settling on the violin. If you or your child have your heart set on the violin, you will first need to obtain (rent or buy) an instrument of appropriate size. The instrument will be traded in as the student grows and a new size is needed. Any student age 7 or older can begin violin lessons, but we strongly encourage the study of piano prior to or concurrently with violin, to give a good music foundation (see "Why Piano First?" above).

VIOLA: Most violists actually begin by studying violin, and this is probably the best idea for all young and beginning violists (reading Treble clef is important for viola). If you or your child are not sure about viola, starting with violin is fine and the student can switch to viola at any time, and many of the violin skills will transfer directly. If your child is a sibling of another student who is studying violin, we strongly encourage starting directly with viola, cello or bass so that the sibling is playing a different instrument, but within the same family (see above). Whether your child is starting viola directly or violin first, you will need to obtain (rent or buy) an instrument of appropriate size. The instrument will be traded in as the student grows and a new size is needed. Any student age 7 or older can begin viola lessons, but we strongly encourage the study of piano prior to or concurrently with viola, to give a good music foundation (see "Why Piano First?" above).

CELLO: Many people shy away from the cello because it is a large instrument. The fact that it is made of light weight wood usually does not figure in. The need for good cellists is so much greater than for the other string instruments (see above) so we strongly encouarge beginning string students to consider the cello as an option to violin. Unfortunatly, unlike viola starting, on the violin does not help the beginning cello student because the hand shape, fingering, and clef are all different. Cello students should begin with piano, but starting on violin is of no advantage. Before starting cello lessons you will first need to obtain (rent or buy) an instrument of appropriate size. The instrument will be traded in as the student grows and a new size is needed. Any student age 7 or older can begin cello lessons, but we strongly encourage the study of piano first to give a good foundation (see "Why Piano First?" above).

BASS: If many people shy away from the cello because it is a large instrument, even more shy away from the string bass for the same reason. Good bassists are in the same demand as good cellists, and often cello students who gain admission to an orchestra are invited to switch to bass when there is a need for more basses. Many cello skills transfer to the bass directly, and if the student decides she/he likes it better the student may stay with the bass. Although physical stature is not really important, sometimes particularly larger persons are encouraged to switch from cello to bass (the same thing happens with violin to viola), just becomes playing a larger instrument might be more comfortable. (This only happens at adolescence.) We strongly encouarge beginning string students to consider either the cello or the bass as an option to violin, especially if an older sibling plays violin or viola. Bass students should begin with piano and/or cello, but starting on violin or viola is of no advantage because the hand shape, fingering, and clef are all different. Before starting bass lessons you will first need to obtain (rent or buy) an instrument of appropriate size. The instrument will be traded in as the student grows and a new size is needed. Any student age 7 or older can begin bass lessons, but we strongly encourage the study of piano first to give a good foundation (see "Why Piano First?" above).

(Once you have choosen an instrument, see GETTING AN INSTRUMENT for information about renting or buying.)

WIND INSTRUMENTS
Below are listed the wind instruments KMI offers for private study. Wind instruments are divided into two categories: wood winds and brass. Both groups have the added advantage of being part of either a symphonic orchestra or a band, but usually in smaller numbers for the orchestra. As the KMI faculty grow, we will be able to offer more wind instruments. In High School, the marching band is often the most prestigious performing ensemble. All these instruments are also capable of performing as featured solists, but the added ability of participating in a large group performance creates many opportunities and substantial fulfillment for the student during the Middle School and High School years. In addition, there are infinite possible combinations for these instruments as chamber music (smaller groups), such as trios, quartets, wind quintet (wood winds plus french horn), etc. (For an understanding of a student's pathways to other musical activities such as orchestra, band or choir, see ELEMENTARY DEVELOPMENT. See STRING ENSEMBLES descriptions of available prestigious orchestras wind players may also join.)

[If you are a wood wind or brass instrument teacher, see RECRUITMENT for information on becoming a faculty member at KMI.]

FLUTE: Before learning to finger the flute, the beginning flute student must first produce a viable sound using just the mouthpiece. This can take MANY weeks. Then the student must have finger dexterity and strength to hold down the keys hard enough to produce viable pitches. Depending on the size of the child, usually any student age 9 or older can begin flute lessons, but we strongly encourage the study of piano first to give a good foundation (see "Why Piano First?" above).

SAXOPHONE: The saxophone comes in several sizes which represent different ranges of notes (high, middle, low). Most students begin their study with Alto Saxophone, to learn fingering and technique, and then can switch or branch out to other saxophones with minimal difficulty. The fingerings are the same, and the average decent saxophonist can play all three interchangeably: Soprano, Alto and Tenor. Due to its size, the Bass Saxophone requires more practice to learn. The saxophone is an important instrument in the stage and marching band, but is rarely used in the standard orchestra. Depending on the size of the child, usually any student age 9 or older can begin saxophone lessons, but we strongly encourage the study of piano first to give a good foundation (see "Why Piano First?" above).

(Once you have choosen an instrument, see GETTING AN INSTRUMENT for information about renting or buying.)

SINGING
The simple musical skill of singing can open many opportunities for a young music student especially in chorus and musical theater. Almost all music students can learn to sing adequately for a large choral ensemble with minimal effort, but for solo work the student must study voice in order to develop important technique and diction skills. Voice lessons require as much practice and as many years of study as instrument lessons. (For an understanding of a student's pathways to other musical activities such as orchestra, band or choir, see ELEMENTARY DEVELOPMENT.)

CHOIR/CHORUS: Many musicians will participate in a chorus or choir at some point in life, even without any prior vocal instruction. The foundation provided by a good music education (5 or more years) is usually sufficient for a musician to participate in some church or community choir. All choirs will have auditions to screen out applicants who have difficulty carrying a tune, but usually voice quality is not considered except for solo singing because as part of the group individual voices will not stand out. Choirs with a higher reputation or which are professional will have much higher audition standards, and will usually require singers with vocal training, experience in choral singing and basic knowledge of foreign languages.

VOICE: Learning how to sing can be taught specifically or learned as part of music lessons on another instrument. Any music student can usually join a church choir, the shcool chorus or other community chorus, and through that ensemble develop basic singing skills. The actual study of voice as an instrument is far more involved as the student focuses on vocal sound production and issues of language and diction. All voice students must study piano as part of their musical training, because the piano is the backbone instrument for singing (we need it to get our pitches and it accompanies us in recitals). Acquiring the basic theoretical musical knowledge by study of the piano gives the singer the tools needed to sing. KMI does not accept any vocal students under age 10, and and students under 18 must study piano as well as voice until they have completed the Core Curriculum Piano requirement. Exceptions to this rule are made for students ages 12-18 who are currently studying another musical instrument. Owning a keyboard or piano is also required, and all voice students will develop proficiency in playing their melodies and chords at the keyboard. Voice students become prepared for solo roles in High School musicals, as well as solo and group singing in choruses.

(Now that you have choosen an instrument, see GETTING AN INSTRUMENT for information about renting or buying.)

 

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