Instrument Preparation is Critical to Success


This happens way too often with beginner reed players. I’ve found that most often the main cause is due to lack of proper instrument preparation. I’d like to pose a quick question: Do you think your students can determine a “Honk” from a “Note?”

If your students can determine this, spend the majority of the time talking to them about how important instrument preparation is. If your student plays a reed instrument, have them play first with a dryish reed to hear what they sound like. Let them see first hand how hard it is to play with a dry reed. Then have them each soak their reeds in warm water for one to two minutes. We want to make sure they can tell the difference. Once they’ve soaked their reeds, have them put the reeds back on and try playing again. Besides getting practice putting those reeds on they’ll also see an immediate difference in how much easier it is to play with a properly soaked reed.

In my experience this initial lesson focused on instrument preparation is critical to a student’s success as it helps them produce quality sounds early on. This frees students to focus more on fingerings, rhythms and dynamics much sooner than they would have otherwise. It also helps them get into a good habit of proper instrument preparation.

Besides all those benefits, just think how much less frustrated everyone will be because of the early success they’ve achieved without learning much other than putting their instrument together properly.

Have you tried this with your students? Do you have any other tips and tricks that are helpful that you’d like to share?

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About the Author:

Noah Keitel, Co-Founder of LessonLogs, has been a musician for over 20 years. Noah has been a music educator and entrepreneur since getting his B.A. in music education from the University of Minnesota Morris. It is time that music educators around the world get state of the art tools to make lesson management easier for teachers and students. Create your free LessonLogs studio today.


  1. Xavier Kane

    Thanks for the article . I myself work in a music instrument repair shop and there are regular complaints from beginners that their instrument doesn’t sound right, but what they don’t know is the problem is not in instrument but the main problem lies in tuning. I suggest them tuning is as much important as learning any new tune. If they don’t know how to set their instrument at right tune then they are just wasting their time.

  2. I agree with you Noah that proper preparation is essential before trying to play an instrument. When I teach beginning instrumentalists, my first few lessons are about singing familiar songs by ear (that they will be learning to play in a few weeks), learning the parts of the instrument, learning how to wet the reed, learning how to produce sound on the mouthpiece (and/or barrel/neck, headjoint), assemble the instrument (I actually test them on this) and hold the instrument. A proper foundation builds respect for playing the instrument.

  3. I totally agree with you Noah. Students have to be patient and understand that playing an instrument requires a huge level of responsibility. Part of that is proper instrument set-up, maintenance, reed assembly, and packing up. Students will respect their instruments more when care is taken in the very first lessons to go over these important steps.

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