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The Fundamentals of Playing an Instrument

Becoming a Musician: Fundamentals

Whether you are just a beginner or a player who has seen a plateau in your playing, there are a series of basic, fundamental steps for you to take in order to learn how to play any instrument well.

By taking a systematic approach to mastering the fundamentals, you’ll be assured you have not cut any corners. In part 2 of our “Becoming a Musician” video series, we delve into the importance of fundamental building blocks to help you get started on the right foot and set the stage for musical success.


Fundamentals of Your Instrument


Valuable insight comes with understanding the importance of the fundamentals in order to optimize your progress as a musician. Your posture, how you're holding the instrument, sound quality, and right/left hand technique, if applicable, are key elements in your musical foundation that you will rely on your entire musical journey. Whether you are playing a trumpet, jamming on the guitar, or sitting at a piano, honing these skills will help improve your playing technique and will serve you well for long term success. If your goal is to play the music you love, examine and improve these fundamentals when you incorporate them into your practice so that you can become the player that you’ve always wanted to be.


Fundamentals of Your Playing


The fundamentals often refer to the basics of playing your instrument. Flat picking virtuoso, Bryan Sutton mentioned that he commonly sees his students compromising fundamental posture guidelines while playing. It might be ideal to play fast and at a high BPM, but one should never compromise the fundamentals when trying to execute technique and tone. When you play fast on guitar, it is common to find yourself hunching over and really digging into the instrument which compromises posture as well as strumming technique. It is physically impossible to play fast and clear with unaligned posture. Bryan strongly believes it is necessary to have a light grip on the pick, with your shoulders back, and to be as loose as possible so that you can play fast and clean. He believes that having the right physical scaffolding allows musicians to musically enter the height of creativity and playing he refers to as “flow.” This is just an example of the importance of  fundamentals. If these skills are not not mastered correctly, making meaningful progress toward playing the music you love will be difficult.


Fundamentals of Success


We hand-selected our master musicians at ArtistWorks because of their deep knowledge and devotion to teaching the fundamentals to their students. Our master banjo player, Tony Trischka, feels as though it is his purpose as an instructor to help students “unlearn” bad habits and help them take the next steps to attain musical success. There are students who have had lessons in the past, or are self taught, and have unknowingly picked up bad habits. It is very difficult to try and break a bad playing habits, as you have established muscle memory and dexterity surrounding an improper foundation, but it is not impossible, especially if you have help! Mastery of the fundamentals is truly key if you are looking to make your playing indestructible and take your musicianship to new heights.


Reverting to Fundamental Technique


No matter where you are in your musical journey, the fundamentals will always support you.. Jazz improv guitarist, the late Chuck Loeb, recalled a particular performance that always stood out in his mind as a learning moment. It was Chuck’s turn to solo and for some reason he froze. The spotlight was on him and he had to be quick on his feet to  improvise. With nothing creative or musical coming to mind, he decided to refer back to the fundamental techniques of jazz guitar. Chuck used the arpeggios, chord changes, phrases and basic scales that he had practiced every day for countless years to help support him in this moment of uncertainty. Because Chuck had a solid foundation, and well-established infrastructure in his playing, he was able to get his musical bearings and finish a great solo without skipping a beat.


Wrapping Up


Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, allowing yourself time to master the fundamentals will serve you well and garner long term success. Practicing patience and diligence will help you avoid skipping any fundamental steps and will set the foundation for your future in music. To learn more, check out our “Becoming a Musician” video tutorial series as we offer basic tools needed to get a strong start while establishing a firm and reliable playing foundation. Gain valuable insight to help set the stage for your future. By investing in our "Becoming a Musician" video tutorial series, you gain access to the fundamental building blocks that will help establish ideal habits and define the path forward in your musical journey.


Get access to “Becoming a Musician” video series by clicking HERE and see if we can help you develop a strong musical infrastructure by revisiting the fundamentals.



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