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Inspiration - Musical Thoughts - Piano Lessons

8 Questions About Piano Lessons Answered by One of Our Experts

13873140_1191854087501350_5915102465032288443_nOne of our favorite NYC piano teachers, Rita R. answered some often asked and important questions about piano lessons, her teaching philosohpy and favorite musical moments.
1) What advice would you give to parents who are considering getting piano lessons for their children?
Rita: Piano lessons are a great way to introduce children to music and deeper understandings of history, culture, and expression in a way that is fun and interactive. Their appreciation for music will stay with them for the rest of their lives and they will grow in every way!
2) Why do you think the piano is such a popular instrument for very young students?
Rita: The piano is a very visual and tactile instrument. Very young children can develop their fine motor skills as well as their ear. They can distinguish different sounds, high and low, patterns and string it all together to make music.
3) What are some obstacles that piano students face when learning how to play and how can they be overcome?
Rita: Many students struggle with not understanding right away, or having a harder time multitasking (thinking about finger patterns, hand shape, rhythm and notes all at the same time), but we work on those things all the time by taking each component and working on it separately, and going at the pace of the student. I tailor every lesson to the student’s interests so that they can progress and enjoy musicmaking.
4) How much daily  practice time does a beginner need to realize steady progress and become a proficient player?
Rita: Daily practice is very important, but the amount is less important than the point of practice. Every practice session should have a goal, even if it’s tackling only one tricky measure. If it takes 5 minutes or 30, it’s still an accomplishment. Practice goals are more important than setting a time.
5) What benefits can come from learning the piano?
Rita: Piano gives an understanding of music, history, and art. It helps students in multitasking, working in an intelligent and time-efficient way, and handling projects easily. Music helps in recognizing patterns, fine motor skills, work ethic, and most importantly gives students an outlet for expression.
6) What do you love about teaching piano and being a performer?
Rita: I tailor my lessons to my students, and the more I teach the more I learn about my own approach. I also really enjoy working with students of all ages – every student brings their own interests and personalities, and we end up learning from each other. It is also a privilege to pass on what I have learned from my own teachers and mentors. As a performer, I enjoy sharing my connection to the music with my audience, and it’s an amazing experience.
7) What was your most memorable teaching experience?
Rita: The moment when a student realizes that they can do what the music is asking is always memorable!
8) When and where was your most memorable performance?
Rita: My senior recital and my Masters recital were both big events because they signified a culmination of my own understanding of music and style, helped by my wonderful teachers. They were also jumping off points for my future performances.
To study with Rita, contact Music to Your Home today! 646-606-2515
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Music Lessons - Piano Lessons - Technology

Buying a Piano – What You Need to Know

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So you’re ready to get your child started with piano lessons.  Congratulations!  You’ve taken the first step in what is sure to be many joyous years of beautiful music.  We know the value of music lessons for children.  We’ve all read the studies proving that we are great parents for giving our kids the opportunity to study music.
So now that we’ve collectively patted ourselves on the back, it’s time to make that call and get a teacher in the door.  One of the first questions you’ll be asked by a teacher is an obvious one, “Do you have a piano or a keyboard?”
And herein likes a dilema.  You don’t have a piano, but that’s ok. Here are some suggestions to help you get going.
If space is an issue, we reccomend purchasing a keyboard with weighted, or hammer action keys.  That means that when you press down on the keys, it will offer the slight resistance of a real piano. If you’re worried about noise, you can always plug headphones in.
We’ve found the Williams Allegro keyboard to be a solid choice for students of all ages and levels.  They keys are weighted, it’s reasonably priced and even our teachers are buying it to use for practice at home.
There are keyboards with 61 or 88 keys.  61 is sufficient but 88 is the same size as a real piano, but again, if you’re concerned about space, go for the 61 keys.
Keyboards come with all sorts of bells and whistles, so find one that suits your needs.  Into electornic music?  Want to record yourself playing?  Need drum tracks?  There are different models that can accomodate your interests.
If you have a real piano, make sure it’s in tune and all the keys work.  A lot of our clients have inherited pianos and are worried about their age and sound.  A reliable technician  can make sure it’s in good working condition and make any adjustments it may need.
Thinking of purchasing a piano?   There are spinnets, uprights, baby grands, grands, studio grands, even concert grands!  As you can imagine, the prices vary, as do the sizes so if you’re overwhelmed we can help guide you in the right direction.
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In our experience, generally the young student starting out can study for many years on a keyboard with weighted keys, like the one we suggested above. Find a nice quiet spot, a comfortable bench or chair, then call us to get one of the finest piano teachers in NYC to show you how to use it!
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Music Lessons - Piano Lessons

 Top 3 Piano Exercise Methods That Will Boost Your Playing

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Have you ever listened to or watched a famous pianist like Lang Lang perform and wondered, how does he move his fingers so fast? Well, we often get that question from our own piano students. The answer is technique!  Great pianists acquire their technique from years of  practicing preparatory exercises and etudes. Here are a few of our favorite proven exercises for achieving  great virtuosity on the keyboard. 
Aloys Schmitt is best remembered for his Op. 16 exercises. The collection is divided into three sections. The first helps  students in gaining finger independence through a variety of single and double-note patterns within the range of a fifth. The second section works on passing the thumb under fingers to prepare for scales and arpeggios. The final section provides traditional scales and arpeggios in a notated format with fingering. The exercises in the book help build not only virtuosity, but also extreme steadiness of the fingers. These exercises isolate weak fingers like 4 and 5 in both hands and slowly build up strength over time to help with a balanced and steady sound. The later part of the book focuses on the very important major and minor scales that every pianist must be familiar with.
These exercises are intended to address common problems which slow down the performance abilities of a student.  Much like the Schmitt exercises, Hanon works on “crossing of the thumb”, strengthening of the fourth and fifth fingers, and quadruple- and triple-trills. The exercises are meant to be individually perfected and then played in sequence. Besides increasing technical abilities of the student, when played in groups at higher speeds, the exercises will also help to increase finger strength. These exercises are also divided into three parts: preparatory exercises, scales and arpeggios and virtuoso exercises for mastering great technical difficulties. A must for any budding pianist!
Here is something a little different from the first two. These exercises are more melodic and actually help prepare the student for the more difficult technical studies. The exercises work on maintaining proper technique, dynamics and tempo. They also focus on playing in a variety of different keys. We like to incorporate these exercises into our lessons because they are more fun to play and students have found them to be more satisfying and enjoyable to listen to.
Although all of these methods are proven effective, it is truly up to the student to practice them on a daily basis to achieve the best results. Adding these exercises into your weekly piano lessons as a warm up can also help enhance your current repertoire. Our NYC piano teachers will be happy to introduce these methods at your next lesson.
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Guitar Lessons - Music Lessons - Musical Thoughts

Words of Guitar Wisdom from Andrew B.

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Music To Your Home recently asked one of our favorite guitar teachers,  Andrew B. some common questions we get from our new guitar students. Here’s what he said…
What/if any, are the most popular songs your young students are generally requesting to learn ?
Andrew: Taylor Swift songs are very popular for young students. “You Belong With Me” is a nice one for beginners as is “We are Never Getting Back Together“.  A lot of young guitar students are also surprisingly interested in classic rock. Two often requested songs are “Back in Black” by AC/DC and “Smoke on the Water” from Deep Purple.
What do you think are the most valuable songs for young students to learn and why?
Andrew:  When students are first learning how to read and identify notes on the staff and apply it to the guitar, it is important to learn songs that utilize only a couple of strings at a time. As each region is mastered, the student is able to learn melodies with a wider range.  Here are some examples of melodies that use this method:
Top 2 strings: ” Ode to Joy
Top 3 strings: “Happy Birthday”
Top 4 strings: ” Amazing Grace
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With chord strumming being such an integral part of guitar playing as well, a separate set of songs that utilize basic chord progressions is also important to learn along with melodies and note reading. This compartmentalizes practicing into two straight forward categories 1. Melodies (lead) and 2. Chords ( Rhythm)  Some good examples of beginner chord songs are:
3. “You Belong with Me”
What are the most important lessons or ideas a young/beginner guitar player should know when getting started?
Andrew: Be patient. Don’t expect to master songs in a day.  Consistency is important with practice. It’s better to practice 10 minutes every day than an hour or so before a lesson.  There is no time limit on learning. Everyone learns at different rates. Sticking with it will pay off!
Andrew is currently available for new guitar students in NYC.
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Music Lessons - Piano Lessons

What To Expect At Your First Piano Lesson

music_to_your_home_1809So you’ve finally decided to give yourself or your child the opportunity to learn how to play the piano. Good choice! The amount of benefits that come from taking music lessons is endless, but we can talk about those in another blog. This article will answer some of the common questions we get before someone begins lessons and will also identify the things you need to get the most out of your lessons.

Your first piano lesson should be a very fun and exciting time. You are about to learn how to create music, and most likely this is something you or your child has been expressing interest in. You’re also about to meet your new piano teacher. Hopefully this will be a person you will spend many years learning from and building up a great relationship with.

A few things that you will need before your teacher arrives

If you are taking lessons in your home then the most important thing you will need is a working piano or keyboard. If you have an acoustic piano, its best to have the instrument tuned by a professional piano technician before your teacher arrives. This will make playing on the instrument a lot more enjoyable to listen to. If you are learning on an electronic keyboard, we suggest that the keyboard has at least 61 keys and that all of them are working. Also, the room that the instrument is in should be a quiet place with no interruptions or external noise. This will give you the best chance of keeping your focus on the lesson.

What will I learn at my first lesson?

At your first piano lesson your teacher will assess your current musical skills. Some beginner students have already tried to learn on their own using tutorials or playing by ear, but for the most part, beginner students have no experience whatsoever. Your teacher will go over the very basic techniques about how to play the piano including correct posture, hand position, finger curving and wrist placement. Most teachers will use a method book such as the Alfred or Bastien beginner methods. These books have detailed sequential exercises that help with all of these techniques. An introduction to the keyboard will be given pointing out the patterns that the black and white keys create and of course the introduction of middle C is always an important first lesson staple. After a brief overview of the keyboard, simple rhythms are usually taught. The quarter and half note generally show up during the first lesson and the first few songs learned will be composed of these rhythms. Another important first lesson skill you will learn will be finger numbers. This is so important because it’s something that never changes and will help a lot as you advance in your method book. Depending on the length of your first lesson this is a lot of material to absorb for one week.

What do I do after my first lesson?

When your teacher leaves, you will have an assignment book with detailed notes on exactly what things you need to practice for the week. Generally there is a small amount of writing (theory) that will help you understand musical notation but for the most part you will be getting familiar with the keyboard and setting up your hand and finger positions.

 How long until I can see results?

This is a very common question we get. The answer is very simple. That is up you or your child. Practice is the main factor when making improvements at the piano. If a daily practice schedule is set up, then the skills learned at the lessons will improve consistently and progress will be quick. The same goes for not practicing… results will be slow to none if practice is not consistent.

Hopefully this sheds some light on what to expect in the beginning of your piano journey. Remember to practice and have fun!

For piano lessons in your home, visit: http://www.musictoyourhome.com/piano-lessons-nyc/

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Music Lessons - Musical Thoughts

In the Summertime When the Weather is High…

NYC Guitar Lessons

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer, and for some, that officially ends their music lessons. Why? We still can’t figure it out!

The warm weather brings us all outdoors, but when it’s time to cool off, we can send our kids in to watch television, or to practice music. The idea right now of spending another minute indoors seems daunting. But let’s all remember that it does in fact rain during those hot months. And with the sun beating those dangerous rays on us, everyone needs a break. And that’s when practicing an instrument is going to keep the cobwebs out of those growing brains.

With summer also comes no homework, no after-school activities, no big projects and no reading logs to sign off on. So playing music is a great way to help your child keep some of the discipline they’ve maintained throughout the school year. With less distractions from other activities, a child can hone in on the skills they’ve been learning all year without feeling like they need to rush through practicing.

Summer is also a great time to introduce your child to an instrument they’ve expressed interest in playing at school.   Their band, chorus or orchestra experience will be so much more rewarding when they are able to keep up with their peers.

Sending your child to sleepaway camp? Pack their instrument and some sheet music. Many camps have talent nights or even “house bands” that kids can participate in.

So just because the mercury has risen, don’t throw away all those hours of hard work. Encourage your child to keep at it and I promise you, one day, they will thank you for it.

 

 

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Music Lessons - Musical Thoughts - Voice Lessons

When Should My Child Start Voice Lessons? Now!

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Unlike the guitar, saxophone or piano, when it comes to singing, your body IS your instrument. And we all know that taking care of our bodies is not only paramount to living a healthy life but also helps you sing to your full potential. So when it comes to the idea of little kids starting voice lessons there’s a bit of confusion so allow me, someone who started formal singing lessons at 5 years old and with not a nodule in sight, to clear up any misconceptions.

Let’s begin by saying that most likely your 6 year old isn’t chomping at the bit to sing Italian Art Songs. If they are? Cool, we’ll cover that so read on.   They probably enjoy singing the soundtrack to the latest Disney hit or Taylor Swift song.   Either way, professionally trained voice teachers know that working with voices that haven’t matured yet require tapping into a skill-set and repertoire that accommodate an undeveloped body and mind.

Our philosophy is pretty simple, we think kids playing music, any kind of music, is igniting that part of the brain those newspaper articles are always talking about, so we’ll teach any song a kid wants, and we’ll show them how to sing it in such a way that they are laying the groundwork for correct vocal technique while having fun! Yes, it’s possible!

The first song I learned how to sing was the theme to Sesame Street. My teacher knew I loved it, it was simple, familiar, and I enjoyed practicing it every day. I eventually moved on to show tunes, ran through the Les Miz book, the Rogers & Hammerstein classics, discovered the Tapestry record, was introduced to Italian Arias and opera, fell in love with jazz, all the while rock and folk rested closely in my heart. But the point I’m making is that every genre I sang as I grew up, I was always using proper technique because my teachers recognized the right repertoire to suit my age and growing body.

Kids today have shows like The Voice to inspire them- and that’s amazing, but some of those contestants have no formal training and are actually straining their voices pretty badly. You can hear a lot of them “sitting” on their vocal chords, putting all that tension on the throat where it doesn’t belong.   That’s the damaging stuff we are avoiding with proper coaching.

So are we looking to have your six-year old work on their belly breathing and tongue position? We’ll get there over time, but for now that child will enjoy singing their favorite songs while the seeds to formal training are planted.   And you can rest easy knowing they’ll be no permanent damage in sight for your young musician.

For in-home singing lessons, visit: http://www.musictoyourhome.com/voice-singing-lessons-nyc/

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Music Lessons - Technology

6 Must Have Free Apps for Musicians and Music Students

Today’s technology is playing a huge part in the way we find, hear, and even learn how to play music. iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify are all great ways for music lovers to listen to music and create diverse playlists, but for music teachers and students looking for opportunities to improve their skills and enhance their lessons, music apps have become very popular. Here’s a list of some cool free music apps that we’ve found to be very helpful and fun to use.

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Pro Metronome: The name says it all. This is basically a must have for any professional musician, teacher or student. There are many metronome apps to choose from, but the reason I like this one is that it’s extremely user friendly. The beats are loud and can be heard clearly. Changing tempo and time signature is simple and the app also has a mode for subdividing beats. This will help you learn to keep perfect time anywhere you play or practice.

 

icon175x175piaScore: This is an amazing app for reading scores. It’s like carrying an entire music library in your pocket or bag. The app comes with over 70,000 free scores alone. The scores are extremely clear and easy to see, especially if used with an iPad. Pages can be turned with a simple swipe or gesture. This app comes with several great tools already built in such as a metronome, tuner and a recorder. These are just a few of the neat things this app can do.

 

Unknown-1Music Tutor: Here’s a nifty app for improving your note reading in both treble and bass clefs. Identifying notes is made into a timed game. Playing with this app a few times a week will definitely get you memorizing notes on and off the staff and improving your overall reading in a fun way. By incorporating this app into a lesson, teachers are adding technology in a fun way that adds a new dimension to students’ learning and helps keep the lesson fresh and exciting.

 

icon175x175Ear Trainer Lite: This app is an educational tool designed for musicians, music students and anyone interested in improving their musical ear. It has exercises covering intervals, chords and scales. The Lite version comes with 32 exercises while the full version has over 200. Ear training is an essential skill all musicians need to work on and this app will surely help.

 

Unknown-2Multi Track Song Recorder: This is a premier 4 track recording app. According to its description, MTSR Pro allows you to record up to 4 tracks with a simple and easy to use interface. It’s designed with a simple tape recording style and includes many features for creative and more advanced music recording. This app allows you to write and record music from anywhere and also lets you export songs via Dropbox, Email, SMS, and iTunes. So basically many of the capabilities of Garage Band except it’s free to all users.

 

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Epic Tune: I’ve probably used this app a thousand times. Its just another handy tool every musician should have. There are plenty of options for tuners out there, but this one is simple to use, accurate and extremely versatile. The tuner is chromatic and can help tune all types of instruments including guitars, woodwinds, violins and pianos. “If it can sustain a tune the epic tuner can tune it”.

 

These are just a few of the amazing tools being offered for musicians out there today. The best part is they are all free!

 

 

 

 

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Music Lessons - Violin Lessons

5 Tips for becoming a great violin player from our expert

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Have you ever listened to an amazing violin piece by Paganini, Beethoven or Mozart and wondered how the violinists got so good that they were able to perform these pieces flawlessly? Well, I can guarantee you that every member in the world’s greatest orchestras has spent thousands of hours taking lessons and practicing their craft. With bands today like Coldplay, Lana Del Rey and Adele using more and more string arrangements in their music, the violin has become a very popular instrument to learn.

So regardless of what style of music you’re interested in playing, all good violinists need to learn the basics like holding the bow and correct posture. These are great beginning points to get you moving onto more advanced techniques like vibrato, double stops and playing in different positions.

To get you started we had one of our expert teachers and NYC Ballet Orchestra violinist Laura Oatts give her top 5 tips for becoming a great violinist.

Laura Oatts

Laura Oatts, Violinist for the NYC Ballet and MTYH teacher

1) A little goes a long way: Every student should feel that it’s ok to practice only for a few minutes at a time, if that’s what gets them to take out their instrument every day. If you’re terribly busy, several minutes every day will keep building your muscles and help you build up stamina for longer practice sessions. Just playing the open strings or playing a very in tune scale is great practice for a beginner and will help them progress in the future.

2) Love what you’re doing: Love your violin – it’s a beautiful instrument and an amazing work of art to look at and admire. Also, students should constantly be listening to music they love, and learning how to play music they enjoy. Violinists can play both classical and pop melodies, so changing up styles is a good way to keep things interesting.

3) Bowing Technique: Long and full bows on the open strings for 5 or 10 minutes every time you practice. This exercise is for beginner and advanced students and works wonders for both. Always keep your eye on the bow and make sure that it’s staying straight. Keep the bow moving slow and steady the entire time. This can be done on one or two strings. Try to enjoy the vibration of the wood and the ringing of the strings.

4) Practice your pizz: See if you can play your scales or whatever piece you are working on using pizzicato the entire time. By dropping the bow every once in a while, playing pizzicato will help you focus on intonation and other aspects of the music like dynamics and rhythm.

5) Play with a buddy: There’s a new invention called a Bow Buddy, which is available on Amazon and several other music stores. It comes with two pieces, but I prefer the pinky piece. It’s 
the smaller of the two pieces and goes on the end of the bow and helps students learn to hold the bow correctly while they begin to build the needed hand muscles. It’s a fabulous tool and helps people learn so much quicker in the beginning if they have a “Bow Buddy”.

Hopefully you enjoyed these great tips for beginner students. Keep a look out for our advanced violin tips coming soon!

For lessons, visit our Violin Lessons Page

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Music Lessons - Musical Thoughts - Piano Lessons

5 Reasons Why You Should Play the Piano

ID-100620305 Reasons Why You Should Play The Piano

If you’ve come across this blog you’re probably already a music lover or someone who’s looking for that one reason to finally start learning an instrument. Here are a few great reasons why you should begin taking piano lessons immediately…

  • Playing piano is a major stress reducer: One of the things we hear most from our adult clients is that after a long day at the office, playing the piano at home has a real calming effect on their moods. Playing the piano can refocus your energy and help you become a more creative person. Listening to music can be totally soothing – but the act of performing it can take your mind away from that annoying day at work. Our younger students have experienced the exact same reactions to practicing their instruments. After a day of classes, tests and afterschool activities playing the piano or taking a piano lesson can help relieve anxiety and stress in children as well.
  • Playing the piano is good for your brain: Studies have shown that children who begin learning piano at a very young age have better general and spatial cognitive development than children of the same age who have not learned piano. Studying piano can also boost math and reading skills. In addition, taking piano lessons helps with concentration and can therefore improve a students’ overall school performance.
  • Playing the piano can help you become a great multitasker: Unlike any other instrument, the piano is unique because you are forced to have two totally different things going on with each hand at the same time. Your brain splits two very complex tasks, (reading treble and bass clefs) between the right and left hand. With practice, putting these tasks together at the same time makes for some really nice music and also trains your brain to focus on several things at once.
  • Playing the piano builds self- confidence: We’ve seen this many times with our students. After learning a piece from start to finish even the shyest student will have a feeling of accomplishment. It takes patience, hard work, determination and a love of music to learn the piano and finishing a difficult piece or participating in a performance is a real confidence builder for many people. Performing in recitals at a young age can help students become more comfortable speaking in front large groups and can help make them more confident in social situations.
  • Playing the piano is cool: Well it is… Discovering that you have a talent for playing piano is a great feeling. Sitting down and entertaining at a party or social event will always grab people’s attention and can possibly make you more interesting to others. If you’re not sold on this theory just ask a Billy Joel or an Elton John fan!

 For in-home lessons, visit our Piano Lessons Page

 Image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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