Q I'm approaching 60. Is that too old to begin learning an instrument?

A You are never too old to begin. The ability to play an instrument at whatever standard, is life-changing, and in 2/3 years you could be doing just that! That would put you at about 63 when you are ready to play your first gig. Sonny Rollins, for example, is over 80 and still blowing a storm! Lack of years, or a surfeit of years, in music, as long as you have the strength to hold your instrument, these things are irrelevant.

Q My child is 6. Is that too early to start learning an instrument?

AMaybe. I think that 9 or 10 is about ideal. But this opinion this is based on personal experience only. Some countries, Japan in particular, begin teaching music very much earlier than that.

Q Can you take me/my child through the "Grade" system?

ACertainly! I advocate the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

Q What if I just want to learn to play a few tunes for my own pleasure?

AA strange one, this, since any kind of playing should be a pleasure! If it isn't, then it's being done wrong! But I take the point. And, Yes, whatever kind or degree of music you want to learn can be taught and learned. Whether you will be satisfied with just a few tunes under your belt, or not, is another matter entirely.

Q How much time should I devote to practice?

AThere is no short and easy answer to this question. Certainly, the more you practice, the better you become. As you experience real progress, the better you will want to become. Progress feeds upon itself. If you are a serious student you will devote as much time to practice as you possibly can.

It is generally accepted that you should practice no less than an hour a day. You should ask yourself: "How good do I wish to be?"

If you wish to fulfil your ambitions in as short a time as possible, then you could fill each spare moment with practice. This, however, is not such a good idea. Meaningful practice should slot easily into your daily routine. The best idea is to organise a practice regime which allows you to "have a life..." as well.

Q How long before I become a great musician?

AAs above! It should be remembered that most full-time academic music courses are 3 years in length, whilst similar part-time courses run for 5 years. Much depends upon your aptitude for the subject and how much of your lifestyle you are prepared to devote to it. It is entirely possible - for the amateur and semi-professional musician -that within 3 years you could be out "strutting your stuff!" And that is where we all want to be!

Q Should I buy an expensive instrument, or, in case I don't get on with it, a cheap one?

AThere is also no easy answer to this one! Sometimes a cheap instrument can play wonderfully well, whilst an expensive one may not suit at all! Rule of thumb: you can sell an expensive instrument without a huge fall-off in price, whilst a cheap one is halved in price simply by opening its case! An instrument, like real estate, is an investment. Seek advise from a professional before you buy!

Q I want to learn/buy a wind instrument, which mouthpiece should I use?

AThis is the "minefield" question. You could spend £3000-plus on a wind instrument and, with the wrong mouthpiece, be unable to produce so much as a squeak! On the other hand, you could find an instrument for a few pounds - (they are out there!) - and if chance hands you the mouthpiece that perfectly suits your mouth and jaw, you could produce a rich sound straight away.

However, if your chosen instrument is a reed instrument, there is yet another minefield question to contend with - the reed itself. Here, you could get the first two things right - instrument and mouthpiece - and still not produce a sound!

Generally, when you buy a new instrument there will be a mouthpiece and a reed in there ready to blow. These will be generic - standard. The reed, for example, will be the softest possible; calculated to make a sound even if you merely think about blowing it! This does not make it the correct reed for you. Or indeed, for anyone! As in the previous question, you should always seek professional advice.

Q I work shifts...is it possible to have lessons on an ad-hoc basis?

AWhilst a regular pattern aids progress, with prior notice it is entirely possible for me to alter your lessons to suit a changing work schedule.

Q Will you teach me at my home?

ATravelling time is the restricting factor here. That, and the costs involved. I teach mainly in the evenings and those hours are limited. So, unfortunately, the answer is, no, I can't do that. (As much as I'd like to!)

Q Should I/my child have one hour or half hour lessons?

AA lot, here, depends upon current standard. To begin with, lessons should be the full hour, as 30 minutes is just not enough time to pass on the information needed to ensure good progress in this formative period.

Q Is it possible to arrange fortnightly lessons?

AThis is indeed possible. And, for some more-advanced students, advised. However, arranging alternate weeks to suit the individual student's availability, can be something of a logistical mine field. This said, I will try!

Q Is it possible to rent an instrument to start off with?

AYes, it is...though not from myself. One of the leading musical suppliers in Cornwall does offer this facility, with the cost of the rental subtracted from the instrument price should you eventually decide to buy it. Contact me and I will pass on their details.