guitar lessons in nyc
Music 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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piano lessons
Piano Lessons - Violin Lessons

What’s the Right Age to Start Piano Lessons?

We all know Mozart started playing piano around the age of three, but if we suspect our children aren’t musical geniuses, what’s the ideal age to start them on lessons?

Firstly, bear in mind that Mozart came from a musical family. His father was a composer and taught his older sister how to play the piano, or the 18th century equivalent, the harpsichord. All this music around young Mozart kept him intrigued. It was only natural for him to imitate his big sister by thumping away on the piano when he had the chance.

Your Music Habits

In judging when to start your child’s piano lessons, consider how often you play music in your home. How does your baby respond? By dancing, laughing and raising his arms in glee? If yes, do you or the baby’s other parent play piano or violin, actively practicing? It’s better if you do, since kids love to imitate. It’s a great idea to start your child’s piano lessons around the age of three or four if music is already a large part of your lives.

If it’s not so much, but you want to see it as such, think about taking your kids to group classes while they’re young. For children under the age of three, these usually require parents’ involvement. Often by the age of five, kids are ready to learn an instrument with the violin or piano lessons. By age seven, it’s okay to start guitar lessons.

How to Get Kids to Practice

The hardest part about getting kids to appreciate their violin or piano lessons is to get them to practice on the regular. Try rewarding them with a treat like ice cream or soda for every half hour they practice. Private piano lessons can be a good addition to lessons at school, where kids can’t always get the individual attention they might need.

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NYC Guitar Lessons
Piano Lessons

Music and You, Together, Doing Great Things

Music isn’t rocket science.

That said, it’s not exactly something you can pick up and learn in a few weeks.  It takes studying.  It takes dedication.  It takes lots and lots of practice.

Have you ever wanted to learn an instrument, but keep putting it off because the time isn’t right?  Do you have a son or daughter who you want to teach discipline and self-motivation to?  Do you just want to impress all your coworkers at the next holiday party with your incredible oboe skills? (Maybe not…)

Guitar and Piano Lessons are just the beginning

The first step is getting your hands on an instrument, but learning to play goes beyond that, too.  You need to understand music as a culture.  The different genres, the major players, the major news in the industry, any information you can get your hands on.  The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to become a master of your craft.

That’s what we’re here for.  We want you to learn with us in real life and in virtual life.   Taking piano lessons is a great stepping-stone, but if you want to hear live jazz on a random weeknight, where can you go?

When the music instructor leaves your place, you should have an outlet to continue honing the skills you were taught and learning more about those not yet covered.

The Internet is an absolutely amazing resource, and a great tool if you ever get stuck on a particularly difficult part of a song.  For example, check out this guy who will teach you how to write a melody that goes with a chorus.  This comes with the caveat that watching Youtube videos is NOT a substitute for live, in-person lessons.  Youtube is a great resource to expand your musical knowledge, but you can’t interact with Youtube the way you can with an instructor.

Or this little girl absolutely killing it on the guitar.  If you ever need inspiration to practice, take this girl’s video to heart.

The Internet is a place where you can take what you’ve learned and find the resources for real life application.  Combined with the NYC guitar lessons or piano lessons you’re taking, it’s like having thousands of teachers at your fingertips.

Make music your best friend

Don’t let the learning stop when the lesson ends.

At Music to Your Home, we’re obsessed with music.  We’re so obsessed with it we’ve made it our livelihood, and we want you to get obsessed with it, too.  There’s more than enough blogs out there addressing things like music reviews, or where to catch some great live music.  However, if you want a music outlet you can trust, while still learning the craft, then we’re the place for you.

Check back here a few times a week to see what we’re cooking up, be sure to follow us here on Twitter: https://twitter.com/musictoyourhome, and here on Facebook: www.facebook.com/musictoyourhome, so you’re always up on the latest news.  If you’re looking for inspiration to finally learn the ins and outs of music, this is the place to start.

Just take that first step.

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Guitar Lessons - Violin Lessons

What Happened When I Quit My NYC Violin Lessons

When I was a kid I took lessons in NYC. I learned all the basics and I wasn’t half bad. I would play for my parents, who would watch me move from the songs I was learning to a freestyle, bow-rubbing frenzy. Honestly I didn’t practice enough, but I did get used to my violin for about twenty minutes a day.

I liked violin well enough, and my violin lesson instructor was very skilled. She knew how to get me excited about going home to practice, but something was off. I didn’t love playing violin.

By the end of the year I told her I wanted to switch instruments, to something louder and more vivacious. I wanted a brass or a woodwind instrument. I decided on clarinet. My teacher protested, saying that if I quit now for another instrument I’d never come back. She gave me an old LP that describes the tragedy of a young girl switching instruments for louder better, more interesting instruments. The girl moved through the entire orchestra, only to give up entirely on playing music.

Sure enough, the wet reeds and the honky blow of clarinet disappointed me too. By the end of the following year I had dropped it too. It wasn’t until years later that I picked music back up. I realized that what I had really wanted the entire time was to play guitar. I took guitar lessons and found that because I was able to play songs I recognized that weren’t just nursery rhyme songs like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ I could get excited about practicing every day.

Seven years later I still take guitar lessons in NYC. I only wished I had started playing guitar when I was younger by being honest with myself, and thinking more about what kind of music I liked, rather than the kind of music I was supposed to play.

Violin wasn’t right for me, but that’s not to say that it isn’t right for others. Playing Bach or Vivaldi on violin requires more skill than strumming three chords on guitar, and for that reason, I imagine it to be much more rewarding. The advice I want to give is: Be honest with yourself when deciding what instrument you want to play. You’re going to have to stick with it for a while.

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Music 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)

guitar lessons nyc

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)

guitar lessons nyc

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)

guitar lessons nyc

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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Music Lessons

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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Music Lessons

How to get your child to love music lessons

One of the most asked questions I get from parents is this: “How do I get my child to practice their instrument?”

Well, the answer isn’t always an easy one. Not every child runs to the piano or violin, or even the guitar on their own. Most five-year-old kids don’t really understand the value of music lessons and the benefits they can add to their future development.  So, naturally, parents are often discouraged when young students are not spending time practicing their instruments. This sometimes leads to parents discontinuing the lessons for their child after only a short time.
Here are a few things we suggest that will get children practicing and loving the instruments they are learning!

NYC piano lessons

If your child looks like this when you tell him to practice, then this is for you.

• Spend time practicing with your child every day, especially for the first few months. This will keep young students focused on the assignments their teachers have left for them and help get them into a steady and comfortable practice routine.

• Make sure you have a great music teacher!  If you’re spending the money on piano lessons, you obviously want to ensure that you’re getting the best quality instruction, from professionals who truly love their craft. Your child’s music teacher should make piano, guitar or violin lessons fun and informative for new students. (Music to Your Home can help you with that – after all, we’re the experts!)

NYC piano lessons

• Play a lot of music for your kids. In the car or at home try to expose your children to the music you love. This will help inspire them to make and learn music of their own.

• Take them to live concerts. Seeing a live show is always a great way to get kids exited about music. Music to Your Home instructors are constantly performing in some of NYC’s greatest venues. Check out our “In the News” page to see when they’ll be next!

NYC piano lessons

• Give them positive reinforcement. Sometimes when learning a new instrument, students really need encouragement from their parents even if progress is slow to start. Let them know you are proud of their efforts. They are basically learning a new language, and that’s impressive! This will go a long way.

By following these simple steps you are setting your child on a musical journey that undoubtedly will bring them a lifetime of enjoyment and a feeling of incredible accomplishment.  Getting your child started with piano lessons will encourage them to explore all the music options in this great city when they’re older, and one day, maybe even be part of it.

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Violin Lessons

Why Violin Teachers Matter

violin lessons nyc

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.

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Piano Lessons

Why You Should Learn to Read Music

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!

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Music Lessons

Does Perfect Pitch Help With Piano Lessons?

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?

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