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
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.
Playing the piano is a skill that takes years of practice, dedication, and desire. Our students study every type of music during their piano lessons including classical, jazz and pop music. If you are just getting started with your piano lessons and are looking for some instant gratification, you need to take the time to practice and be patient.
With all of our NYC piano lessons, we aim to focus on small achievable goals, starting with the easiest songs to play on the piano. Other students that are enlisted in online lessons, might have a different set of goals, depending on the lesson schedule.
To get you started, here are some easy rock songs to get you ripping up the keys in no time!
1) “Let It Be” by the Beatles
Everyone knows and loves this one. This song has 4 chords that you can play. Learning this tune is a rite of passage for every budding piano player.
2) “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon
Here’s an easy piece to play and fun to sing along with. There are a few simple chords and once you learn it you’ll be playing one of rock’s most iconic piano licks!
3) “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Well – you’d be wise to avoid this song if you’re hanging out with Neil Young, but do play it if you want to impress your southern friends. It’s another iconic piano riff that’s easy enough to play.
4) “Hey Jude” by the Beatles
Yep, another Beatles song, but are you surprised? It’s easy, it’s awesome, and one of their biggest hits. Play this tune at a party and enjoy your rockstar moment.
5) Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue
This is great piano riff that was written by Crue drummer Tommy Lee. Learn how to play this and you might be able to date Pamela Anderson….
Well, here are five classic and easy songs to get you started on your musical journey, but don’t forget to keep practicing. Rock on!
Are You Ready To Learn The Piano?
Whether you’re in the New York City area or ready to learn by your computer, be sure to contact us to see how we can get you started with the piano.
Practicing is the hardest part about playing piano. But if you don’t practice, it’s pretty obvious, and your music lessons just don’t go as well when your teacher can tell that you don’t care. In my experience, I’m most excited to practice when I can get excited about what I’m playing. Beethoven’s Fifth, for example, is probably one of the most awesome pieces of music in the history of the world. In fact, the seventy-five minutes it takes to play the Fifth were what inspired the length of CDs. If you were working to play that during your piano lessons, how could you not be excited about practicing?
Watch how this guy does it:
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
When the Fifth was originally performed in 1808, it was not a critical success. The orchestra played so poorly that Beethoven apparently had to stop the performance! Granted, the orchestra had only had one rehearsal, but the cold auditorium and the length of the performance, a four hour long concert during which the Sixth Symphony was played first and the Fifth during the second half, made the audience even less responsive. A year and a half later, a review of the published Fifth appeared in which it called the piece one of the most important works of music of the time. The time being during Napoleon’s occupation of Vienna. Supposedly, the famous first four notes represent Fate knocking on a door. How cool is that?
The Fifth Symphony’s Impact
Needless to say, Beethoven has been revered through all stages of rock ‘n’ roll, from “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry, to “A Fifth of Beethoven,” the classic disco tune from “Saturday Night Fever.” To really get excited about your piano classes, it’s best to play something you recognize, and when you choose to play Beethoven’s Fifth, you’re choosing one of the most recognizable pieces of music the world has ever known.
Imagine taking piano lessons and not reading music. While guitar tabs work pretty well for guitar lessons, it’s a little different taking instructional piano tutorials without sheet music. On a stringed instrument, you can name the string and where to pluck it, and this is how the earliest musical notation evolved in Sumer, in 2000 BC. But as musical instruments advanced, so did musical notation. By the time of the Byzantine Empire, notation had improved to the point of using a system based on differential, that is, according to the rise or fall of a pitch. But the lack of an absolute system led to the emergence of the modern staff notation we know today.
Modern musical notation
Guido d’Arezzo lived in the early eleventh century in northern Italy. He was a Benedectine monk who recognized how much difficulty singers had remembering Gregorian chants. Around 1025, he created the “ut-re-me-fo-so-la” mnemonic and the four line staff. This led to the standardization of melody, but it took another few hundred years for rhythm to be accounted for through standardized note lengths, and another nearly three centuries for the use of regular measures to come into play.
Reading music to improve your style
Today’s notation includes many different notes about how to play a piece, from tempo to expression and dynamics. These words above the staff can make for large differences in how the same piece can be played if only the notes and rhythm are followed; they allow for a personal touch on each note. Glenn Gould was very well known for playing Bach in a very individualistic style, so much so, that after Gould, it was hard to play certain Bach pieces in any other way. Indeed, Gould claimed that he often studied piano by reading sheet music instead of playing it. It also helped that Gould could memorize on sight, but hey, if he didn’t know how to read music, he might never have become as good as he was!
The worst violin teacher
When I was a kid, I used to take lessons for the the instrument, the violin, where I went to school. Thing was, my teacher was the worst. Her name was Ms. Ruby and she was this little angry woman who wore her hair in a bun with bristly strands sticking up. She’d spent her whole life teaching violin after she tried to make a career out of playing. It still burned her that Juilliard rejected her application. She was a real stickler for dedication to the instrument, since she’d never had enough to make it. So if we ever forgot our instruments she took it as a personal affront and she made us write out the word ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ throughout the entire period.
One day I forgot my violin and wrote ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ forty-one times. The next time I forgot my violin I thought about the first time I’d done it and I was dead set on writing ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ more than forty-one times. I wrote it forty-four times that day.
The next time I forgot my violin Ms. Ruby was in rare form. While I set out to write ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ forty-five times, Jimmy was acting a fool. Jimmy who was the class clown. He played the flute. He was making obscene gestures with it and Ms. Ruby got so mad, the veins on her neck stood out and we all thought she was going to send Jimmy to the principal to be expelled. Instead she just left the classroom. We didn’t know what to do. It was like we were free, but we weren’t quite sure if we were really free. This girl named Shawna told Jimmy he was really in trouble when she came back. Then Jimmy started to yell at her. And just as pandemonium was set to break out, Ms. Ruby walked back in and it was dead quiet. She said she’d had to leave or else she would’ve strangled Jimmy. She wasn’t joking.
I hated Ms. Ruby, too, of course. By extension I hated taking violin lessons. I didn’t learn anything I wanted to. I always thought of my violin as a burden, as something I had to learn. Until I graduated from fifth grade and I didn’t have to take a musical instrument any more.
Forgiveness after violin lessons
After Ms. Ruby, I could never feel the same way about violin lessons. It wasn’t until recently that I started to play guitar and understood that it wasn’t the violin’s fault; it was Ms. Ruby’s. Having a great teacher makes all the difference in how you practice and get excited about violin lessons.