Q: At what age can my child start flute or clarinet lessons?
A: That depends very much on the individual's physical and mental development. Some children are big enough and strong enough to hold a flute or clarinet comfortably at the age of seven, while others would struggle. Some eight year olds can cope with learning about all the different elements of playing while others find it very difficult to remember everything. Eight or nine is generally a good age to start, but there is no hard and fast rule. Remember: if a child starts too early the struggle will probably put him or her off. If a young child is desperate to play it is better to start on something like the recorder or ocarina until they are ready for the flute or clarinet.
Q: My child is set on learning the saxophone, but she is really too small to manage it. What can I do?
A: The alto saxophone, which most beginners start on, is bigger and heavier than the other instruments and therefore it is usually better not to start lessons before the age of ten. If a child is impatient to learn the saxophone it's a good idea to start on the clarinet, as it is very easy to transfer the skills learned directly to the saxophone.
Q: Is the flute or clarinet easier to learn?
A: That's a question I'm often asked and it's impossible to answer! Some people find the clarinet easier and others find the flute easier. The level of skill and musical ability required for both instruments is the same, but the embouchure (mouth position) for the two instruments is very different, so most people find one much easier to get a sound out of than the other. If you are not sure which instrument to choose, come along and have a go on both to see which suits you better.
Q: Will I have to take exams?
A: Not unless you want to. A lot of students like to take exams as it gives them a goal to aim for, it gives them a chance to be assessed by someone other than their teacher, and it's a good way of monitoring their own progress. Other students feel that exams take away from the pleasure of playing and don't want to do them - and that's fine. You will be taught just as carefully whether or not you want to take exams!
Q: What exams do you enter people for?
A: Generally I use the Associated Board or the Trinity Guldhall graded exams (see www.abrsm.org and www.trinitycolleg.co.uk.) It is not necessary to take all the grades as you progress: for example a student might start at grade 2, then take 3, 5 and 6, using the the grades to help at particular stages in his development. After grade 8 there are various options depending on what the student wishes to do and these will be discussed thoroughly with him or her at this stage