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
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.
When choosing the right teacher for lessons in NYC, it’s important to choose right the first time. You don’t want to waste time building a relationship you’ll outgrow, or worse, find yourself dissatisfied with your teachers’ methods. But if you follow these three tips you’ll be able to know that you’re getting a piano teacher worth your time and money.
Classical piano training
First of all, make sure that your piano teacher has been classically trained. Many of the teachers at this company have studied at elite institutions such as Juilliard, Columbia University, and the Manhattan School of Music. Some of our piano teachers have played around the world and performed with internationally recognized musical groups. The bottom line is that they’ve spent decades refining their craft, so that teaching it comes naturally to them.
Teachers with a musical passion
It makes a big difference when you have a piano teacher who loves music as their passion, who has spent their entire life cultivating an understanding and love for piano. Other piano teachers who have a side gig teaching English or doing something else, and continue teaching piano just to make an extra buck are definitely worth avoiding, since they won’t be able to take your progress seriously.
It goes without saying that when your piano teachers are classically trained and love what they do, they can also read music fluently. This is crucial for helping you to play more advanced pieces, for teaching you how music works and helping you gain greater proficiency during your piano lessons overall. Being able to sight read allows you to understand musical theory, which is crucial to becoming an advanced musician. If you don’t know how to read music, or if you eventually stop piano lessons and forget how to read music, it’s easy to plateau as a musician, so that all of the hard work and practice you put in over the years falls away, taking you to the point of where you were a few months after you first started piano lessons.
A piano teacher who meets the above three criteria is the kind of piano teacher to keep working with for years. You won’t outgrow your relationship despite how good you become. When you choose piano lessons with Music to Your Home, you can expect some of the best teachers in NYC.
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.
People with perfect, or absolute, pitch are one in 10,000, which is pretty rare considering lefthanded people are about one in ten and you don’t see them everyday. Much like those with lefthandedness, people with absolute pitch are not smarter than those without; however, they do have a propensity to be more gifted in certain areas. Let’s put it this way: perfect pitch is not necessary to be a musical genius or to even excel in the piano, though it can certainly help being able to recreate a note without a tonal reference. Research shows that those with perfect pitch are better at transcribing music than those without, but those without are better at recognizing musical intervals. Mozart had it, which helped him compose, and some experts argue that Beethoven had it too, but it’s hard to know with certainty.
How to improve your pitch
Perfect pitch may be nice to have for those lucky few, but the rest of us have to content ourselves with humming, singing and dancing. When you’re doing any of these three activities, it’s basically impossible to be sad. Granted, if you’re blue, it can be hard to just get up out of your chair and start to dance or start singing pop standards, but if you warm up by humming, you’ll find that not only will your mood improve, you’ll also warm up your singing voice.
Start by humming high, and move lower once you feel like your pitch is right. Most people start humming too low, and wind up causing unnecessary tension in their vocal chords. Once you’ve identified your pitch with a hum, it’s much easier to start doing vocal exercises that help you focus on enunciation and phrasing. Throw in a little do-re-mi-fa-sol-fa-mi-re-do and in a few weeks your pitch may not be perfect, but it will definitely be a lot better than before. Who doesn’t want a beautiful singing voice to pair with their piano or guitar?
Greetings, earthling. So you want to play funk? Well, before we get started on how funk began, you should know that funk is a very serious genre of music. It’s not for everyone because not everyone can access the funk. The funk first came to earth in the work of James Brown in his song “Sex Machine,” and then traveled around with Sly and the Family Stone, as seen in their seminal “Thank You”. However, it was not until George Clinton received the funk that the state of funk music would never be the same again.
Parliament Funkadelic’s strange breed of psychedelic funk, or P-funk, as it came to be known, changed the meaning of funk. Whereas James Brown’s funk displayed a stripped down rhythm, syncopated drum beats, and a switch from emphasizing the upbeat to the downbeat, by the mid-70s the grunts and vocal noises of James Brown had given way to a more choral approach with the multiple members of Parliament. Many other genres of funk, including disco-funk, electro-funk and the funk-rock of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ exploded onto the scene inspiring millions of young funkateers.
Playing funk on guitar
Before you start to play the funk The only real criterion required is to have the funk. How do you know if you have it? You either do or you don’t and if you got it you don’t have to ask. Now let’s look at some videos to get you started so next guitar lesson, you can bust out some E9 riffs and show your guitar teacher that in your spare time you’ve been tearing the roof off that mother funker.
This one ain’t too fancy, should give you enough understanding to know what you’re getting into. If you like what you hear keep scrolling down the page.
Marty got the funk. Do you?
And here’s a little video to keep you inspired now that you got the funky basics.