Music to Your Home is proud to work with the best, brightest and coolest musicians in NYC so we’ve been picking their brains about music lessons. The latest interview was with Kiyan T., who took the time out of his busy schedule consisting of teaching, recording and performing to answer these 10 important questions every parent considering singing lessons for their child should know.
1) What advice would you give to parents who are considering getting vocal lessons for their children?
Kiyan: Make sure to speak with the child beforehand to see what they’re into as far as genre, or what they see for themselves musically, in conjunction with your own opinion. This way, you can know what you’re looking for in a teacher.
2) Why do you think vocal lessons have become so popular over the past few years?
Kiyan: Thats a large question! I think there’s a large correlation to singing and the high-glam pop star image that technology permeates into media. Its important to remember that singing is art, technical, and requires an instrument (the human body) to be understood and mastered, with plenty of love and passion!
3) What is the right age for a child to start singing lessons?
Kiyan: I would say no younger than 7. Maybe an unusually intuitive 6 year old?
4) How much daily practice time does it take to become a great singer?
Kiyan: I don’t think a “daily” regiment is the answer. You need to love singing, and feel that natural inclination to express through this medium, in order to have the desire to practice enough to become “great”, however many hours that takes.
5) Are vocal warmups important? If so what are you favorite to do?
Kiyan: Honestly, I talk so much that by the time I have to sing, the voice is already warm. I enjoy warm ups in minor keys that feel like musical lines. This gets the ear going, as well as a sense of carving out a phrase.
6) Do you think having a piano at a vocal lesson is important?
Kiyan: It makes it much easier, yes, but I have done Skype lessons without a piano for many years without a hitch.
7) What do you love about teaching voice lessons?
Kiyan: I love that, in my self-centric life as a recording artist, I get to take all of my musical faculties and apply them to another person. Its a rewarding balance of ego for me in the sense that while on my time, I will ask you to think of music the same way I do (visually, kinesthetically, emotionally), which leads to so much growth. I often find my approach just catches people off guard in how absolutely simple it is.
8) What was your most memorable teaching experience?
Kiyan: I was in college, and I had a student come to me completely unable to match pitch. I’m talking: I play middle C, and he sings the F# two octaves below. After two or three months, I said “listen, I don’t know if this is going to work. I’m starting to feel bad taking money from you when I can’t even get a single note out of you.” He wouldn’t have it, and insisted that we continue. It was only after research on overtones from the piano as opposed to the human voice did I realize that all I had to do was use my voice as reference. I had him doing a major scale, in solfege, up and down, and unaccompanied in two weeks. What a huge triumph this was!
9) When and where was your most memorable performance?
Kiyan: My first solo show in New York was a highlight for me.
10) Who are the singers that have inspired you?
Kiyan: Too many to list, but: Patti LaBelle, Beyoncé, and Edita Gruberova.
Kiyan T. is available in NYC for voice & piano lessons. Contact us today to schedule yours!
So 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!
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 our singing lessons page.
Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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.
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.
piaScore: 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.
Music 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.
Ear 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.
Multi 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.
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!
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.
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
5 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
What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians? A Drummer. OK, it’s no secret among musicians that drummers get a bad rap – but Music to Your Home knows how valuable drumming is within a band and are here to dispel those myths and put to rest any notion that drumming isn’t as much a part of a band than any other instrument. We hope that you will also appreciate the level of talent our top 5 favorite rock drummers possess. So here they are in no particular order.
Ringo Starr makes our list because no matter what, when you are in the world’s greatest rock band you make the list. Yes, we know Paul played drums on many of their studio recordings, but we still highlight his skill because eventually all those studio versions were played live, and he nailed them. Each and every time. We’ve heard the story of how The Beatles stormed America, slayed it at Shea stadium, killed it on Ed Sullivan, etc. and Ringo was there for all of it.
Neil Peart’s drum kit alone should have its own place on our list, but a kit is nothing without an absolute master behind it. Neil’s command of his elaborate drum set is a thing of beauty, and to watch him work out such intricacies within Rush’s complex arrangements for any music fan is a thrill. His fills on Rush’s Clockwork Angels tour are off the charts good. It’s no wonder Rush is known as the musicians’ musicians. With a guy like that in your rhythm section, the musical possibilities are limitless.
Carter Beauford’s father was a jazz trumpeter, and Carter started out studying jazz, and it’s apparent when you hear him play. His fills are often melodic, and we found a cool example of him playing Dave’s guitar melody within the four minute and 30 second, yes, that’s correct, the 4:30 long intro to “Say Goodbye.” See if you can hear it too.
Keith Moon’s showmanship is unparalleled. He used his drum set not only to back up one of the greatest rock band’s ever, but it was also a prop, an extension of him and to watch him play is always entertaining. Beyond that of course, are his bombastic and energetic drum solos. Here’s an interesting listen for you, it’s Keith isolated drum track on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
John Henry Bonham, the thundering powerhouse of Led Zeppelin – often imitated and never duplicated, though many of us have tried. The scope of his influence remains, and we’d be hard pressed to find drummers playing any genre of music who wouldn’t cite Bonham as one of their heroes. The proof is here. Turn up the volume and listen to this guy go for it.
There are so many more unbelievable drummers out there, yes, we’re talking about you Dave Grohl, Mike Portnoy, Charlie Watts, Steve Gadd and Roger Taylor among others. We hear you loud and clear and we think you guys are amazing. I’m sure all our readers have opinions too, and we want to know them. Feel free to attach some of your favorite solos or tell us about your ultimate rock drummer.
Playing the guitar should be fun right? If you’re the type of person we like to call a “strummer” and you’re not looking to rip a technical solo, then this list of songs is perfect for you. Most of these tunes use only 4 or 5 chords and are great for singing along to. This list is sure to impress your guests at your next BBQ.
Wish You Were Here- Pink Floyd
This is one of my favorite songs to play especially on acoustic guitar. It has a very simple intro that can be learned by ear or the tabs can be found here http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/p/pink_floyd/wish_you_were_here_ver5_tab.htm . The rest of song uses C, D Am, G and Em. It’s a great song that everyone will like hearing, or you can just rock out alone in your bedroom…
Free Fallin’- Tom Petty
This is such an iconic rock song. Practically everybody knows it. To play it in the same key as Tom Petty, put a capo on the 3rd fret and play D, A, G and you’ve got it. The entire song is basically just 3 chords! Singing it like Tom is another challenge and we’ll save that tip for another blog.
Redemption Song- Bob Marley
This is an extremely powerful song. It has a short and simple intro that can be found here: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/b/bob_marley/redemption_song_tab.htm The chords are crafted in such a way to create an emotional atmosphere for anyone listening. The best part is any beginner can master this one. It’s also another great song to sing along to without worrying about complicated chord changes.
Strong Enough – Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow is an incredible composer. This song uses a few basic chords. The verse and Chorus is D, G, Bm and A with a bridge using Em, Bm C and A. Not really a lot but another easy and fun song to play. If you’re not a girl, go find one to sing this with and you’ll be in business.
Here is a song that is known internationally. Everyone has their opinions about Oasis but no matter what they are, there is no disputing the popularity of this song. The acoustic guitar strumming the intro is so recognizable but easy to play. Throw a capo on the 2nd fret and play Em, G, D, and A and that’s basically it. The chorus uses C, D and Em. There are some extensions to these chords, but for a beginner the basic forms will work nicely. This is a song that everyone will love to sing along to.