We know that lots of parents would like their children to play a musical instrument, but don't know where to start in choosing the right one. We have lots of experience in this department, so we can help. Firstly, which instruments do we teach?
The clarinet is our most popular instrument. The main reason is that most pupils find it really easy to play (not that this means that they won't have to do their homework...!). The clarinet is a member of the woodwind family and a reed instrument, which means it needs a small, thin piece of cane in the mouthpiece to make sound. These are very delicate and you will probably find your child needs a plentiful supply, especially when they are starting out! Meaning 'little trumpet', clarinets are found in woodwind groups, concert bands and symphony orchestras, as well as big bands and jazz groups. Famous clarinet players include Benny Goodman and Richard Stoltzman, why not check them out on YouTube?
Even the clarinet is too big for some of our younger and smaller pupils. It is really important to us that we take advantage of the enthusiasm that young children have, so we also offer lessons on the mini clarinet. We can supply a Nuvo clarinet for our younger pupils - a lightweight instrument that is played in exactly the same way as the standard clarinet. The mini clarinet is a great way for our younger pupils to start out and it gives them a good grounding in correct technique until they are ready for a full size instrument. Don't worry though, you will not have to buy a second instrument as your child gets older. Both the purchase and rental options from Normans include a brand new full size clarinet which you can swap up to at any point.
Flutes are really popular too - they make a beautiful sound but are played in quite a different way to other woodwind instruments. There is no reed to attach - the sound is produced by blowing across the hole in the headjoint. For many pupils, producing a sound comes naturally and they are able to play immediately. Sometimes it can be more of a challenge to make a sound at first but, using the same technique as blowing across a bottle, it gets easier with practice. Although a member of the woodwind family, flutes are usually made from a metal such as nickel, silver or even platinum (with a price tag to match!). Flutes are one of the highest pitched orchestra instruments and can be found in a wide variety of settings, including concert bands, symphony orchestras and some jazz groups. Famous flute players include Sir James Galway and Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame!) and you can find lots of examples of their work on YouTube.
Curved Head Flute
Like the clarinet, we are pleased to be able to offer an alternative for the smaller flute player. The curved head flute is an identical instrument, it simply comes with an additional headjoint which literally curves the mouthpiece around so that the pupil does not have to stretch their arms out so far. This enables younger, smaller pupils to start learning the flute and once they are big enough, it is simply a case of swapping the curved headjoint with a standard straight headjoint. The curved head flute is the same price as the flute and comes with both headjoints, meaning there are no additional costs when pupils from one to another. This also enables pupils to swap gradually, switching between the two headjoints while they adjust to the larger instrument.
The alto saxophone is quite a big instrument and pupils need to not only be able to physically manage the weight of the instrument while standing, but also have hands large enough to fit around it. The alto saxophone is a popular instrument for older pupils, and for younger or smaller children it is possible start on another instrument and upgrade when they are older (additional costs will apply). A reed instrument like the clarinet, the alto saxophone is made almost entirely of metal and is probably most commonly asscociated with big band, swing, jazz and blues music. However, saxophones can also be found in classical settings such as concert bands and orchestras. The only woodwind instrument made from brass, saxophones can produce a very loud sound, so you might need to warn your neighbours! There are many famous saxophone players from the jazz world, including John Coltrane and Stan Getz, who famously recorded 'Girl from Ipanema'. In mainstream popular music, one of the most celebrated saxophone solos was played by Gerry Rafferty in 'Baker Street'.
The cornet is the smaller of the two brass instruments that we offer, but certainly should not be considered to be the little brother to the trumpet. There is no requirement to swap from cornet to trumpet when pupils grow, as cornets are played in many types of band including concert bands, military bands and probably most famously brass bands as featured in the film 'Brassed Off'. A more compact instrument than the trumpet, cornet is our most popular brass instrument particularly for younger pupils. Sound is produced by 'buzzing' through a mouthpiece and with only 3 valves, altering the pressure of the lips plays a key role in changing the pitch of the notes. Although not as celebrated as trumpet players, there a number of famous cornet players in the brass world including James Shepherd, who was principle cornet for the celebrated Black Dyke band.
Popular in the jazz genre, the trumpet is suitable for pupils that are slightly bigger as it requires a bigger 'stretch' than the cornet. The main difference between a trumpet and cornet is the trumpet appears longer and more slender. It is this shape which gives the trumpet its distinctive, vibrant sound. The oldest of the brass instruments, trumpets often play the highest notes in the orchestral brass section. Despite being one of the smaller brass instruments, trumpets still contain about 6 and half feet of tubing, which is taller than the average person if you were to unravel it! Trumpets can be found in a wide variety of groups, including concert bands, big bands and orchestras. There are many famous trumpet players, particularly from the world of jazz and blues. Some names you might have heard of include Louis Armstrong and Miles Davies.
People often think that Recorder 'doesn't count' as a proper instrument! We disagree! Younger players find recorders easy to hold and to blow, meaning that we can concentrate on other aspects of giving a great all-round musical education. Recorders are often heard playing music from the Baroque era (roughly the 1600's), and King Henry VIII was a big fan and had several different kinds that he played very well! More modern recorder players include Michala Petri, and Charlotte Barbour-Condini who was the first recorder player to reach the final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition!
What else do i need to know?
Once your child has chosen their instrument (and you have checked with your neighbours!), there are a few other things you might need to know.
To download an information sheet about caring for your chosen instrument, click on the relevant title below:
If you have any further questions about the instruments we offer or are unsure which is best for your child, please call our friendly and knowledgeable team on 0345 375 2466.