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Avant-Garde Piano Lessons on NYC’s Upper East Side

The rapidly changing Upper East Side

When I’m on the Upper East Side, I’m surrounded by culture. All of the museums, the park, the old brownstones, it’s no wonder I chose from this neighborhood. Though over the past few years, I’ve started to notice a shift in the establishments in the neighborhood, a tendency toward a more avant-garde styling. Maybe it’s because of the 2nd Avenue subway, or maybe it’s because now the Upper East Side is cheaper than many parts of North Brooklyn, but there’s change in the air, especially with regard to art and music.

It makes sense that the Upper East Side is finally getting an influx of artists. New York is the Paris of the 21st century, slightly past its Golden Age, but still a premier place for bohemians; you could draw the analogy that with such an influx of artists, the Upper East Side is like Montmartre of a hundred years ago.

Piano lessons a hundred years ago

In the 1890s, Erik Satie befriended Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, two of the greatest Impressionist composers, soon after Satie composed his famous Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes. As you probably know, Impressionism was already an established painting style so that the paintings of Manet and Monet were quickly giving way to the Post-Impressionism of Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. Music typically follows behind painting and writing in its move toward new movements so it took another twenty years for these composers to incorporate the Impressionistic style into their work.

In the 1910s Satie was enrolled in Vincent d’Indy’s Schola Cantorum de Paris, studying counterpoint in his daily piano lessons. This was not Satie’s last foray into the baroque, either: in 1923, the Beaumont fete, known as the Bal Baroque, used Satie’s music as well as Picasso’s costumes to commemorate the ancien regime and the new restoration of an organ. Satie’s music is also called neoclassicism, for how it draws on order, rhythm and contrapuntal technique. The pared down instrumental forces in this musical style are a reaction against the Romanticism of the 19th century, whose absolute music lacked a musical narrative; while much of the neoclassicists’, such as Stravinsky’s and Satie’s music represented a story.

Although classical music is very different today than it was a hundred years ago, we have not lost our ties to tradition. While certain elements are rejected as stodgy, others are borrowed from older eras for being ahead of their time. The Upper East Side is a great place to feel history as well as the advancement of a new era, and that’s why Upper East Side piano lessons are the best in the city right now.

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Best Places in the Upper East Side To Watch Piano

piano lessons upper east sideThe Upper East Side is typically more associated with art museums than piano lessons. But now that so many young people are moving back uptown to escape the high rents of Brooklyn, the Lower East Side and the East Village, music is springing up all over the place.

Brandy’s Piano Bar

This well-kept secret hosts performers every night of the week after 9:30 pm in what is a lot like an old time saloon. With no cover charge, there’s a 2 drink minimum per set, so it’s more affordable than other live music venues in the neighborhood. Watch how these professionals play piano and incorporate what you learn before your next piano lessons.

The Carlyle

This historic hotel has music nights throughout the year. Front row seats can cost a little more than general admission, but the quality these performers is akin to a private concert at Lincoln Center. Nightly jazz seated at the bar has a $15 cover charge, a pretty good value to see the Chris Gillespie Trio. Bemelmans Bar is named after the illustrator of the famous Madeline books, who also painted the interior.

The Armory on Park Ave.

Most of us think of Lincoln Center across the park when it comes to great classical music, but The Armory has teamed up with that bastion of culture to bring the Berlin Philharmoniker to NYC’s Upper East Side. On October 7th and 8th, they’re going to perform Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for their U.S. premiere. The Armory also plays host to art installations as well as contemporary masters: The xx played a show there a few months ago. The only potential problem is getting tickets! There’s limited availability for the October performance, so if you want to go, call now.

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10 Best Rock Albums 2010-2014

It seems unfair that we have to wait until the decade is over to get a comprehensive review of the best music that has come out over the past ten years. It all seems pretty arbitrary, you know? I mean, let’s say you’re a fifteen-year-old living in NYC’s Upper East Side and you start guitar lessons mid-decade. This year, in fact. Chances are you were probably inspired by some favorites of yore. But after a couple of years of guitar lessons, you may want to play newer music, start your own band, and learn the best of what’s going on in the scene. This could help you draw from the contemporary greats and make your own music. That’s why we decided to create this list, so you don’t have to wait another five years before a comprehensive review of the decade’s best albums. Who knows where you’d find your influences by then. Anyway, this list intends to show you some of the more popular (and hidden) rock gems of the past five years. Perfect for playing at your next guitar lesson.

10. The Black Keys, El Camino

best albums 2010-2014
This band has been around for at least the past decade, though with 2010’s Brothers and 2011’s El Camino they hit their breakthrough, their moment of Late Night shows and Grammy wins. Their influences are bluesy, garage band-y, and pure American rock. Definitely a band worth listening to.

9. The National, Trouble Will Find Me

best albums 2010-2014
Want to learn soft, fingerpicking melodies? The National’s 2013 album is another addition to an already robust discography of somber love songs and reflective rock. If you’re unfamiliar with this band, take a listen and choose your favorite song to play at your next guitar lesson.

8. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

best albums 2010-2014
This band graduated just a little farther uptown than the Upper East Side, from Columbia. Their smart, unexpected lyrics are rich and deep, and their melodies are poppy and fun. Since their debut in 2007, they’ve been critically acclaimed, but last year’s Modern Vampires kept them as one of those bands that has to be mentioned when talking about the best of our era.

7. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream

best albums 2010-2014
Kurt Vile’s (see below) former bandmate, Adam Granduciel has done well with the project the two founded together back in 2008. 2014’s Lost in the Dream will surely be in the top 10 of most critic’s best of lists this year. The long guitar solos are reminiscent of the ’70s rock that produced so many strong singles, but when you listen to the album all the way through, you’ll see it’s so much more.

6. Bon Iver, Bon Iver

best albums 2010-2014
Though the 2011 record is a follow-up to 2007’s debut For Emma, Forever Ago, it won the Grammy for Best New Artist. With good reason. The band’s name, which comes from the French for “good winter,” is reflective of this album, whose soundtrack you would play waking up in midwinter in a wood cabin as you boil water for coffee and enjoy a breakfast, watching the snow fall. Talk about passion, not only can Justin Vernon sing, he’s a helluva musician.

5. Kurt Vile, Waking on a Pretty Daze

best albums 2010-2014
Philly-raised Kurt Vile has been making music on his own since he was 17. Now in his mid-30s with a wife and daughter, 2013’s Waking on a Pretty Daze was his breakthrough. Though it wasn’t as commercial as other albums on this list, it signaled the arrival of an accomplished guitarist, who we can probably expect many more melodic and lyrically simple albums from.

4. Beach House, Teen Dream

best albums 2010-2014
The third album by this female-led duo is a masterpiece. The soaring voice of Victoria Legrand matches the hazy, dreamy melodies her guitarist Alex Scally plays. Somewhere in between the sounds of beachy surf and the ambient waves of an acid trip, this album is a great place to start if you want to explore this band’s discography.

3. LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening

best albums 2010-2014
The final album from James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem joins the immemorial ranks of those produced by bands that ended their careers too soon. Though much of the music on this album is not guitar-based, it’s worth including on this list because of its dance and electronic influence on subsequent records in rock music.

2. Tame Impala, Lonerism

best albums 2010-2014
This Australian band found success in the U.S. with their psychedelic 2012 album, though they’ve been well known for a while down under. Reminiscent of the classic Beatles, the lyrics and melodies on this album are wide-ranging and diverse, including comments on the passage of time and the deceptive nature of perception. A great band to listen to and learn from.

1. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

best albums 2010-2014
The third album by this Quebecois band was a major success in 2010. It won Album of the Year at the Grammys and helped establish them as one of the best bands around. While their self-referential Reflektor album in 2013 was also a critical success, it was The Suburbs that set the bar highest and made it hard to beat.

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Lessons

Kids’ Favorite Music Infographics

guitar lessonsKids love music. It’s a great way to have them learn responsibility (through daily practice), art (by learning about their music) and joy (by actually playing). Our music teaching lessons are perfect for kids because our teachers are professionals who know how to engage kids and make them excited about playing.

To prove our point about how kids love music, we asked a couple of boys who take piano lessons on the Upper East Side, aged 10 and 12, to choose their favorite music infographics and why. Here is what they said.

1. How Guitars Work

I liked how this infographic shows how guitars make music. Before I saw this, I didn’t know how guitars worked.

2. Guitar vs. Violin

I liked this infographic because it shows the details about each part of the violin. It also shows how different guitar and violin are.

3. Electric Guitar Timeline

I like how it shows the evolved electric guitars. They really changed a lot since 1931!

4. Complicated Guitars

I liked how this one because it shows all the parts that go into a guitar. It’s complicated.

5.Piano Teacher Facts

I liked it because it talks about teaching to play the piano and how piano teachers are.

6. Guitar Parts

I liked this one because it shows what each part of a guitar is used for and how different guitars look.

7. The Piano’s Evolution

This historical infographic shows the evolution of the piano, all the way to synthesizers and piano boxes.

8. Violin Sizes

This infographic shows that violins come in different sizes. My little brother would have to use a 3/4 size violin.

9. The World’s Most Expensive Guitars

This infographic guitars are really expensive yet people have bought them. The most expensive ones belonged to musicians like Jimi Hendrix.

10. Air Guitar

I liked this infographic because it shows what musicians do to entertain their audience. It also shows that air guitar is a sport.

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Lessons

What is the Best Beatles Album?

Amazingly, neither John, Paul, George or Ringo ever took drum, guitar or piano lessons. Harrison took sitar lessons when in the mountains of India, McCartney hired a private music teacher as an adult, and Lennon picked up Donovan’s clawhammer technique. But for the most part, these four musicians created some of the world’s best music simply by learning the basics on their own and practicing a lot. For being so famous and so good, it’s amazing that they learned music by teaching themselves.

For most people, however, it’s much more difficult to sustain that kind of determination and practice. And eventually they learned from each other, and from playing together for hours every day in Hamburg, where they used to perform in the Red Light District. It was after this two-year stint that they came to the world’s attention and went on to record some of the best albums in Western music. Out of all of The Beatles records, it’s hard to pinpoint a certain album that’s the absolute best. Let’s take a look at some contenders.

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

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This album features some of the most famous early Beatles’ songs that helped inspire Beatlemania, such as “I Should’ve Known Better,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” The pop-melodies on this record blend elements of folk and rock ‘n’ roll to create an early Beatles classic, defining the best of their teeny-bopper period.

Rubber Soul (1965)

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This is the album I like to think of as firing off the classic Beatles era. With “Norwegian Wood” and “Michelle,” here the Beatles take on different sounds that move away from the pop they were traditionally associated with, and toward the experimental songs of later records. On Rubber Soul, we have a record that shifts through different moods and subject matter to create a complete and total work of art.

Revolver (1966)

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A continuation and further exploration of darker subject matter, this album was named the best album of all time in the hardcover book 1000 All-Time Top Albums. The opening tracks, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Taxman,” set a standard that the rest of the album lives up to musically. More rock-heavy than Rubber Soul and diverse than their previous work, here the Beatles began to explore and define a new genre: psychedelic rock.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

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Typically regarded as the best Beatles album, and the best album of all time, it’s easy to join in with the critics and make the case for this record as the best of the Beatles. With tracks like “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” it’s easy to see why. But what makes this album so esteemed is its use of wide influences, ranging from vaudeville to a self-referential take on the pop of their early music. Altogether, Sgt. Pepper can be construed as the first concept album, and it’s one that’s delightfully easy to listen to.

The Beatles (White Album) (1968)

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Perhaps the most divisive album this band ever made, both according to critical reception and the general attitude within the band at the time, today The White Album has many more fans today than it did in in 1968. At that time world politics were reaching a new pitch. Many critics wrote that the album deliberately avoided seriousness and instead reached for pastiche as an easier way to make a record. But songs such as “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” “Hey Jude,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” strike a melancholy chord that is hard to ignore. It’s as though the Beatles as well as the rest of the world knew that their days of peace were gone, and they were about to define a new era. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that this album helps to write the definition. This is my personal favorite.

Abbey Road (1969)

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The best-selling Beatles album and perhaps the one with the most iconic album art, this record was the last recorded before the band’s dissolution, though Let it Be was released later, the following year. Although critical reception was at first largely negative, considering the use of synthesized tones on the album, today it is the most popular Beatles album. Classics such as “Something” and “You Never Give Me Your Money,” are just a couple of the most recognizable songs on this album, which seems like it is composed entirely of singles when we listen to it today.

All this Beatles talk makes us want to listen to—or play—our favorite songs. Thing is, because the Beatles never took music lessons, their songs aren’t composed of simple chords, but are variations, making them notoriously more difficult to play. That said, you may need some guitar lessons to play your favorite songs. What are they? Which album are they on? Feel free to let us know in the comments. And remember that unless you’ve got the dedication of a Lennon, McCartney, Harrison or Starr, it’s time to learn how to play the guitar.

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Channeling Emotion Into Music

If you’ve ever felt alone, sad, or angry, you probably remember it as a time of silence. On the other hand, think of your best times, when you felt happiest, like you could do anything. Was music playing?

I’m not surprised if you’re nodding. Not only does music make us feel good, I know from experience that when I’m feeling particularly stressed or upset, music can help me channel that negativity into something beautiful. While listening to music can make you feel better, it’s not a total remedy for depression. Playing music is, however, especially when you’re improvising with other musicians. The act of creating is pleasurable in and of itself, and can help create meaning in the life of the depressed.

I’m not saying it’s easy to pick up my guitar and strum a chord or pick the strings when I’m down, but the simple act of creating music leads me to forget what’s been on my mind as my focus moves to my timing and chord progression.

If you want further proof, just watch the video below. Just a few months ago Anna Clendening was bedridden with anxiety and depression. Now she’s playing ‘Hallelujah’ onstage in front of millions! Chances are she used music as an additional therapy to get her out of bed and onto the stage. Check it out below. I bet her performance gives you chills.

Music can be very powerful as a mood enhancer and therapy. If you or anyone you know is depressed, ask them if they’ve been listening to much music lately. Even better, if they play an instrument, ask them if they’ve been playing recently. If your child doesn’t get excited over much or has a tendency toward depression, think about starting them on NYC guitar lessons. Our teachers are pros at getting kids excited about making music. And when you’re excited, it’s hard to stay upset.

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Lessons

How to Play Beethoven Like a Pro

Let’s start out by saying that Ludwig Van Beethoven was one of the world’s most talented pianists and composers. Almost everyone on the planet has heard one of Beethoven’s piano pieces or symphonies at some point in their lives, and if you’re looking to take NYC piano lessons, you probably know him even better. Although Beethoven was considered a musical genius he spent thousands of hours practicing his piano skills as a child and even had many piano teachers including another famous musical genius – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

So how can you learn to play Beethoven the right way?

Step One: Find the right instructor

Besides having a piano and two hands, the first thing you need is a great teacher for your NYC piano lessons. A great instructor will start by teaching you how to read notation on both treble and bass clefs. Next you will need to learn your finger numbers and rhythms. Scales and arpeggios will also help build good finger technique and strength. A little sight reading every day will also help you read all those amazing Beethoven scores a lot faster.

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Step Two: Start small and grow

Once you have completed a good method book like Alfred or Faber, its time to move on to some simple classical pieces. One of the books we use for NYC piano lessons is From Bach to Bartok volume A., which features some really easy pieces by Beethoven.

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By learning a Bagatelle or German Dance by Beethoven you start picking up excellent musical techniques like dynamics and articulation that will eventually lead you to bigger more famous pieces like Fur Elise or the Moonlight Sonata.

Step Three: Practice, Practice, Practice

Keeping to a steady lesson and practice schedule with your piano teacher is always the best way to achieve the most results when trying to learn to play like a pro. At the beginning, a thirty minute practice session will help you play those simple Beethoven pieces nicely, but when trying to learn some of the great piano Sonatas – one hour a day is best.

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Fur Elise

Moonlight Sonata

Hopefully, listening to these masterpieces by Beethoven will inspire you to continue or start with your NYC piano lessons and get you playing like, well, Beethoven!

P.S. the girl playing the Moonlight Sonata is one of our students!

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Lessons

Guitar Lessons For the Best Solos of All Time

When it comes to playing guitar solos, it helps if you know your way up and down the fretboard. But that doesn’t mean a beginner can’t learn these classic solos, through a lot of practice and training.

And even if you can’t play the entire solos, learning the structure of how they work and isolating some of the scales used can be great practice for beginners. If you really like the song, ask your guitar teacher to go over it with you in your next guitar lesson. You may be able to learn the chords, and play it on your own in a more simplified version.

The best solos of all time can be pretty subjective, but there are some that cap any list. Here are our personal favorites. Feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree!

7. Truckin’, Grateful Dead:

Jerry Garcia could shred, and this is living proof. Even if you can’t get the solo down, the opening bass line is a fun lick to learn.

6. November Rain, Guns ‘n’ Roses:

This solo immortalized Slash. It takes the song to another level.

5. Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd:

This Floyd track is classic. It certainly isn’t the most difficult to play on the list, but it’s unforgettable nonetheless.

4. Fade to Black, Metallica:

This solo is super gnarly, and pretty difficult. But if you’re dedicated enough, you can at least pick up the intro. And man, if you learn just one song to make you a bada** guitar player, use your guitar lessons for this.

3. Crossroads, Cream:

Based on the old blues song by Robert Johnson, Clapton’s solo does the original justice and then some. Definitely one of the tougher solos on this list, but overall, an amazing one to learn if you can get the hang of it.

2. Pride and Joy, Stevie Ray Vaughan:

Stevie’s tragic end cemented his legacy as one of the best guitar players of all time. This song isn’t his most difficult to play (you’ll thank me for that), but it is one of his most enduring and popular. Take a stab at it and appreciate Texas-style blues.

1. All Along The Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix

What would a list of the best solos of all time be without homage to the late, great Jimi? The best guitar player of all time, no one has ever played like him since. That said, the difficulty of trying to play like Jimi has its own rewards which will make you a better guitar player in the long run.

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Lessons

What Do Musical Genres Really Mean?

For time immemorial humans have classified music as one style or another. But it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that pop culture led to a proliferation of musical genres. Today, if we look at a genre like Electronic Dance Music, its sub-genres are so extensive that there is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the many different types, from ambient dub to UK funky. Not only do these different sub-genres sound different, but they inspire different kinds of crowds at concerts, with different activities typically associated with their music.

At a certain point, though, we have to wonder. Are these genres really worth of differentiation? Do kids taking guitar lessons really want to grow up to play Nu-gaze? Maybe. But it’s more likely that the media and record labels put adjectives on bands and artists in order to define and sell their music.

Genre as a Rule, and an Exception

That said, there are other bands who take a genre and completely own it, becoming representative of that kind of music. What would Heavy Metal be without Metallica, or Chillwave without Washed Out? Some of the best bands upend a genre by starting out as representing their genre, only to add more to their repertoire as they grow artistically. The result is that these bands expand the boundaries of what kind of music they (and their associated genre) can create and represent.

In this sense, genre can be a starting point, especially for young artists entering their first band, or taking more advanced lessons in NYC. Say, if you want to specialize in playing blues guitar, playing blues scales is a great way to begin. If you’re truly serious about being a blues guitarist and you find yourself in a band, releasing albums, there may come a point where you define your music based on what you perceive as the limits of the genre of blues, which to others may be far outside what they had previously considered representative of a style associated with pentatonic scales. But ultimately that’s what it means to be an artist—to expand boundaries and present different viewpoints. So keep playing, and don’t let genre dictate what kind of music you play, unless, of course, you’re just starting and you need a marker to begin.

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Instruments - Lessons

Guitar Lessons: Some Quick Tips for Big Improvements

So you’ve been taking lessons on the guitar for a few months now, and you’re finally starting to get the hang of things. You practice regularly, you’re careful about your technique, maybe you’ve even convinced your instructor to let you learn a few of your favorite songs.

However, there’s always an aspect to any instrument that nobody tells you about and you have to learn on your own. Here’s a few quick tips that will help you see drastic improvements.

1. Change you guitar strings regularly

Those strings get worn down from all that guitar shredding. Some people swear by changing the strings once a month, but if you manage to change them out once every 3 months or so, you should be fine. Learn how to do it yourself (it’s easier than you think!).

2. Warm up before you play!

Just like runners need to stretch before they hit the pavement, you should be warming up your fingers before you delve into your daily rundown of guitar solos. Go through chord progressions over and over to get your fingers loosened. My guitar teacher used to take the first 20 minutes of class warming up with chord progressions. Sometimes I wanted to hit him over the head with my guitar because of it. Now, I realize the value in it when I can stretch my fingers to hit the high notes.

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3. Get some musical background

How can you expect to ever be an expert at something if you don’t know the basic knowledge behind it? Taking some music theory courses or reading some music history books will transform you from guitarist to musician. It’s going to take a while to get the ins and outs of it, but once you start to truly understand music, you won’t just be playing songs anymore.

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4. Let other people hear you

I get it, playing in front of other people can be scary. Playing WITH other people can be even scarier. However, anyone who plays an instrument knows that everyone is always at different skill levels. Let people know you’re learning and are just looking ot jam, and get feedback from those who are willing to listen to you play. That is why you’re taking guitar lessons in the first place, right? So people can hear your wonderful music? Then get out there and share some tunes with the world!

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5. Record yourself

Sometimes you just need to hear it for yourself. You can’t really know how you’re sounding if you’re focused too much on just trying to get through the song. Record yourself and play it back. It will be very enlightening. You can gauge if you speed up when you play (most of us do), how smooth your transitions are, if you’re playing the song the way you think you are in your head. Nothing helps improvement like personal insight.

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