Music to Your Home is lucky to be able to work with musicians from around the world, and Alejandro M. comes to us with words of wisdom from Argentina. Currently he’s a professional guitar player and teacher living the dream and gigging all over NYC.
Recently, Music to Your Home interviewed Jim P, one of our saxophone teachers and a current gigging musician all over NYC. Jim indulged our curiosity about his experiences with teaching, playing, learning and inspiring his students. His philosophies on teaching sax lessons in NYC are not to be missed, so read on:
1) What advice would you give to parents who are considering getting saxophone or other woodwind lessons for their children?
Jim: I would say this about any instrument really, but take the plunge! How often does your child get one on one attention from a highly trained professional working in their field?
I also like the idea of mentorship when it comes to learning music. Having somebody to look up to, imitate, and question is really important. I know the student-mentor relationship has been and continues to be integral for me as I master my craft, and I want to share that experience with others, as well.
2) What is the best woodwind instrument to start young students on?
Jim: This is a really good question – For flute and clarinet players, students should start on their instrument of choice, but for saxophone players, there is some discussion. I know my teachers started me on clarinet before switching to saxophone, because the clarinet requires more technique and control. I also understand the argument for starting students on sax right away – if that’s the instrument they want to play and it’s going to keep them interested and involved in music, then maybe it’s right to skip the clarinet and go right to sax. I think it’s okay to start a young student on saxophone, especially if they’re getting a dedicated lesson time once a week.
3) What are some obstacles that saxophone or clarinet students face when learning how to play and how can they be overcome?
Jim: I think a lot of it is just patience – with yourself and with the instrument. When you pick up a woodwind for the first time it can feel very awkward. You’re shoving a hunk of metal and wood and rubber into your face and it has all these buttons and levers and you can’t see what you’re doing with it.
Our modern culture in a lot of ways is centered on ease of use – if we can’t operate a new phone or app within two minutes we give up. Saxophone, and other woodwinds, they’re different. They take patience and perseverance. You have to pace yourself, and give yourself time to grow and learn.
4) How much daily practice time does a beginner need to realize steady progress and become a proficient player?
Jim: The short answer? About 15 minutes. With beginning students, getting acclimated and adjusted to the instrument is essential, and usually about 15 minutes of daily, uninterrupted, focused practice will help with that acclimation and learning the fundamentals of playing. There is also a lot going on with the muscles of your face and hands as you start a new instrument, and you don’t want to over extend yourself.
Depending on the student and their goals on the instrument, 15 minutes can expand into longer periods in the first weeks or months. Personally, I think about my own practice from a more goal-orientated perspective, but for a lot of students, timing their practice is very helpful.
5) What benefits outside of music can come from learning the saxophone?
Jim: Well I was talking about the patience aspect earlier, and I really think that’s huge. When I pick up a horn it can be very meditative for me. Working slowly on difficult passages, while it stresses some people out, really helps me to slow down and think about my problems methodically.
Beyond that, I mean you could go through a ton of benefits that studies attribute to studying music. Improved test scores and all of that. Problem solving skills, motor skills, spatial skills, learning a new language, they all come into play when you’re learning music, and in real time. To me, when people talk about that stuff, what they’re getting at is that studying music (or really any other art) helps you to become a more complete person.
6) What do you love about teaching and being a performer in NYC?
Jim: My favorite part about teaching and playing in New York is the people that I meet and work with, without a doubt. The people I know on Music To Your Home’s teacher list are great examples – Lena H. (woodwinds), Manuel S. (piano), Daan K. (guitar), Tim T. (drums), Owen B. (woodwinds). These men and women aren’t just formidable musicians, but amazing and inspiring people to be around. Honestly, they are the reason I work so hard to be the best musician and person I can be.
7) What was your most memorable teaching experience?
Jim: I was working with a student when I lived in the Midwest. He and I basically started together while he was in middle school, and we had a really good rapport all the way through high school. When I moved to New York we stopped working together, but we kept in touch. When he did his first solo recital as a high school senior he wrote a very heartfelt thank you to me in the program – knowing that I couldn’t be at the performance and that I would probably never read it myself. An old professor of mine actually sent me a picture – I’m not actually sure that the student ever knew I read his thank you. I think about that to this day, and how much of an impact a teacher can have on his or her students, and vice versa, and how cool that can be.
8) When and where was your most memorable performance?
Jim: This is a really difficult question – the “big” performances either featuring my music or at important venues or with important people, they’re memorable in their own way, but the performances I really cherish are the times that the music was really happening. I remember one time specifically, we were playing with this jazz-funk band at this dive – and for whatever reason, the whole band just clicked. We opened up to all these new territories and opportunities; it was like everything was brand new. It was really a beautiful moment. And even though we were on this little stage with only a handful of people in the audience, everyone was laughing and smiling by the end. Those are the moments I really live for as a performer.
9) Who are you musical influences?
Jim: I probably have too many to list. For jazz; Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Warne Marsh, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, and Mark Turner are just a few of my favorites on a long and ever-growing list.
For more rock or funk influenced music (because I end up playing a lot of it) I look to Maceo Parker, Lennie Pickett, John Scofield, and Kenny Garrett for inspiration.
10) Do you have a preferred woodwind method book for beginner students?
Jim: The Standard of Excellence series by Bruce Pearson or the Rubank books are my favorite methods for people just starting out. There are some great jazz methods by Lennie Niehaus and Jim Sniedero I really like once the student has some faculty on the instrument.
I also use a lot of my own material in my teaching – not only do I work on pedagogical material for all my students’ benefit, but I like writing stuff for individuals as well. I think about teaching – especially one on one lessons – as a two way street. There are a lot of ways to solve a problem; why not cultivate an individual’s problem-solving capabilities instead of just telling them what’s “right” and what’s “wrong?” In this way, we’re learning how to be human beings and artists instead of just pushing buttons on a shiny noisemaker. Plus it’s just way more fun.
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: http://www.musictoyourhome.com/voice-singing-lessons-nyc/
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
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We know you’ve been eagerly awaiting the letter from your child’s school with their new teacher for the year, but summer is almost over and you haven’t heard yet. There is another exciting piece of mail headed your way – one that we get particularly thrilled about – instrument selection.
For some of you the choice will come easy, as your child may already be studying an instrument. If that’s you – we think you’re cool! If not, we still think you’re cool simply because you are reading this. Anyway…
If you have no idea where to begin, let us be your guide. Most schools offer four different categories of instruments you can choose from.
Woodwinds: This family of instruments includes flute, clarinet, saxophone, oboe, bassoon and piccolo. These instruments are generally small and easy to transport in a school bus, car or can be carried by kids who walk to school. Playing one of these instruments can also lead to your child being included in the concert band, marching band, jazz band or school orchestra. Some schools offer the recorder the year before introducing woodwind instruments to familiarize students with holding an instrument and using their breath and body to produce sound. The other good thing about woodwind instruments is that they come in many different sizes. So if your child is not physically able to handle a large tenor sax – the flute or clarinet may be more suitable.
Brass: This group includes the trumpet, French horn, trombone, and tuba. These instruments will also lead to being part of concert bands, marching bands, jazz bands and orchestras. I’m not going to lie… these can be loud! But with patience and practice they can be very rewarding to play and listen to. These instruments can also be transported pretty easily with the exception of the tuba. Brass instruments also come in many different sizes giving a variety of students different choices.
Strings: The string family features the violin, viola, cello and double bass. These are my favorites! These instruments are more geared for playing in the school orchestra but can always be used in other ensembles as well. Generally the violin and viola can be transported on a bus but cellos and basses may need to be driven to school or lessons. One of the great things about the string group is that each one comes in different sizes from half size to full size so even the smallest student can learn to play an instrument like the cello or double bass.
Percussion: This family has the snare drum, drum set, timpani, cymbals, and xylophone. Generally, beginners learn how to play using a drum pad, which looks like a snare drum but is muted so it has very little sound. You’re welcome for that tidbit! Most elementary schools only offer the snare and bass drum to start and eventually add in the other percussion instruments as the students get into middle and high school. Most schools have these instruments so transporting is not generally an issue. Drum pads or electric drums can be kept at home for practicing.
Most schools offer lessons on these instruments one time a week in a group setting. Adding in a private lesson with one of our teachers will definitely give any student a real advantage and help them learn and master their instruments much faster.