Violin Lessons

Why Violin Teachers Matter

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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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Music Lessons - Piano Lessons - Technology

Buying a Piano – What You Need to Know

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So you’re ready to get your child started with piano lessons.  Congratulations!  You’ve taken the first step in what is sure to be many joyous years of beautiful music.  We know the value of music lessons for children.  We’ve all read the studies proving that we are great parents for giving our kids the opportunity to study music.
So now that we’ve collectively patted ourselves on the back, it’s time to make that call and get a teacher in the door.  One of the first questions you’ll be asked by a teacher is an obvious one, “Do you have a piano or a keyboard?”
And herein likes a dilema.  You don’t have a piano, but that’s ok. Here are some suggestions to help you get going.
If space is an issue, we reccomend purchasing a keyboard with weighted, or hammer action keys.  That means that when you press down on the keys, it will offer the slight resistance of a real piano. If you’re worried about noise, you can always plug headphones in.
We’ve found the Williams Allegro keyboard to be a solid choice for students of all ages and levels.  They keys are weighted, it’s reasonably priced and even our teachers are buying it to use for practice at home.
There are keyboards with 61 or 88 keys.  61 is sufficient but 88 is the same size as a real piano, but again, if you’re concerned about space, go for the 61 keys.
Keyboards come with all sorts of bells and whistles, so find one that suits your needs.  Into electornic music?  Want to record yourself playing?  Need drum tracks?  There are different models that can accomodate your interests.
If you have a real piano, make sure it’s in tune and all the keys work.  A lot of our clients have inherited pianos and are worried about their age and sound.  A reliable technician  can make sure it’s in good working condition and make any adjustments it may need.
Thinking of purchasing a piano?   There are spinnets, uprights, baby grands, grands, studio grands, even concert grands!  As you can imagine, the prices vary, as do the sizes so if you’re overwhelmed we can help guide you in the right direction.
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In our experience, generally the young student starting out can study for many years on a keyboard with weighted keys, like the one we suggested above. Find a nice quiet spot, a comfortable bench or chair, then call us to get one of the finest piano teachers to show you how to use it!
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Guitar Lessons NYC
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Why Rocksmith Can’t Replace Real, Live Guitar Lessons

Learning guitar is hard work.  That’s no secret.

It takes a special kind of dedication to sit down on your own once your guitar teacher leaves, thunking and clunking your way through a piece you could’ve sworn sounded way better when your instructor was around to help you.

So it begs the question: how do these new fangled Xbox instructors like “Rocksmith 2014” compare to taking traditional guitar lessons?  Does having a virtual instructor at your fingertips really replace someone coming in, sitting down, and walking you through a piece?

Virtual Guitar Teaching

Guitar Lessons NYC

Rocksmith claims to monitor how you are progressing as a student, and dynamically changes its methods as you improve.  It’s literally Guitar Hero for the real thing.  You plug in, follow the tabs, and boom: you’re playing guitar.   Guitar lessons were never so accessible.

It’s undoubtedly fast.  And if you’re trying to impress your lady friend with your beautiful rendition of “Blitzkreig Bopby next Wednesday, Rocksmith just might be the way to do it.

Are you really “learning?”

Guitar Lessons NYC

 

But hold on.  Tabs, or tablatures, which basically tell you what fret to hold on what string, might be easy, but there’s a whole lot more to guitar than just what fret to put your finger on.  Things like the pace of the piece all the way down to the subtle nuances of notes aren’t covered with tabs.  You’re basically given an outline of a song, with the caveat that you’ll figure the rest out on your own.

Learning actual sheet music is an invaluable skill.  It’ll help you transfer over much more easily, should you want to pick up another instrument.  Learning an instrument is no different than learning math.  You need the basic building blocks to get started.

Rocksmith can take you through the motions until you’ve got a song down by muscle memory, but having an instructor makes sure you understand what you are playing.

It’s like memorizing your flashcards versus actually understanding the material.  You might pass the test, but you’ll have trouble applying the knowledge later on down the road if you never learned it to begin with.

It’s the longer, more difficult path to success.  But trust us, your friends will be more impressed with your ability to sit down with any acoustic guitar and sight-read sheet music than if you plugged into Rocksmith and followed along to “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

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Music Lessons

Guitar Lessons Are Worth It

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Private lessons on the guitar are fun because you can play covers of a lot of songs. It makes practice a lot easier when you like the music you’re playing. If you it’s rock ‘n’ roll you want to play, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Elvis have songs that you won’t need many guitar lessons to play.

Early guitar lessons

The guitar has been around for a long time, in different incarnations. From the lute to the electric, there are many different styles of guitar and guitar playing. Our guitar teachers know them all, from finger-picking to flamenco, and they also know, from the first few notes or chords you play, how much you’ve practiced in the week since your last lesson. Half an hour a day is a good start for most beginners.

Guitar lessons begin with the basics of how to hold the instrument and how to strum. Keeping time is one of the most difficult parts of playing guitar, especially when you don’t know how to read music. This is where it really helps to have guitar lessons, because it is difficult and often frustrating to work with a metronome to get your playing to sound really good. It’s kind of like singing and hearing how you sound, which if you want to play rock music, is closely tied to guitar lessons—how you hear yourself is not how everyone else hears you. That’s why it’s nice to have a guitar instructor guide you to play properly, in terms of timing, strumming and fingering, the same way you might be encouraged to sing higher or lower to be more in tune with the song you’re playing.

Playing guitar like Slash

This is a process, as is learning the chords that make up a lot of simple songs. Many famous songs are easier than you thought—”Free Falling,” by Tom Petty, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” either the Guns ‘n’ Roses version or the Bob Dylan version, and “I Should Have Known Better,” by the Beatles. The easy songs are mostly three chords and after a few lessons in your New York City home, you will be able to play them!

All the greatest guitarists in modern history became so good thanks to practicing a huge amount. Slash, from Guns ‘n’ Roses, used to practice 12 hours a day, dropping out of high school to pursue his dream. Rumor has it that Jimi Hendrix used to play until his fingers bled. Not all of us can do that, though, which is why if you live in New York or New Jersey it’s so important to have lessons.

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Guitar Lessons - Music Lessons

The First Step in Becoming a Guitar God

nyc guitar lessons

Getting guitar training is the first step in becoming a guitar god. Well, after you buy a guitar. The next part, the key to getting really good at guitar, is practice. Guitar lessons offer a mentor and way to stay on track. Think of each lesson as a weekly test that will keep you determined to impress your teacher. Your guitar lesson instructor can correct any mistakes you may be making, and challenge you to learn harder songs and techniques. After that hour of guitar lessons, it’s on you to love your instrument and play every day, to prepare for next week.

Guitar Gods of the Past

To give you an idea of how past guitar gods have made reached the pantheon, look at Eddie Van Halen. He used to strap his guitar around his neck and sit on his bed playing for hours at a time. When other kids were going out to party, he was practicing. That’s dedication. Eventually he become one of the world’s greatest.

NYC guitar lessons are super helpful when you have questions about technique, when you think you’re doing something wrong, or when you want to learn a new song or style of playing. Sometimes playing really slowly, making sure you hit all the right notes, or making sure that your strum pattern is perfect and everything else is right is the best way to practice by yourself. Listening to your favorite guitar solos can inspire you to learn them, bringing out your love for music even more and making it easy to practice guitar for half an hour a day. You can find tabs for solos and your favorite songs online. Also try to listen to classical music, to appreciate the foundation for awesome riffs and sick solos. Eddie Van Halen was a student of classical piano before he ever picked up a guitar. Reading music can help too.

Different (Guitar) Strokes

Stevie Ray Vaughan—a blues guitar god—didn’t know how to read sheet music. Then again, he also had cocaine and whiskey for breakfast during his later years—not exactly a role model. Some guitar gods reach their status through a natural amount of talent. Music theory is also important, and because of its difficulty, it’s a great subject to explore with your mentor during guitar lessons.

Another guitar great who played as much as he could was Jimi Hendrix. He couldn’t afford guitar lessons, since he was so poor growing up in Seattle, so he took guitar lessons from blues masters. Jimi is perhaps best known for how he used distortion so originally. He was also famous for doing crazy tricks while performing, like biting and smashing his guitar. Some people say that he was sloppy, that he would take tabs of acid and put them in his headband, so that while he performed his pores opened and he became high. But one night he was challenged to play sober, and he played the same way to a standing ovation. Because his hands were so big, he was able to use his thumb over the fretboard to fret the lower E string, thereby creating melodies that are otherwise difficult or impossible to play. Though this technique existed before Jimi, in the early days of blues guitar, it was probably he who popularized it.

Guitar Lessons are Still Your Best Bet

Keep in mind that a lot of the guitar gods who didn’t take guitar lessons were troubled souls who often died young. Who knows—maybe it was easier for them to follow a path of destruction without a guitar mentor to guide them along the way.

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Guitar Lessons - Music 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.

guitar lessons nyc

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.

guitar lessons nyc

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!

guitar lessons nyc

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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Guitar Lessons

These Benefits of Guitar Lessons Will Inspire You

If you live in New York and want to take guitar lessons, it’s probably to learn how to play your favorite songs. Right? But did you know that there are other benefits to guitar lessons? Learning about tonics, quarter notes, rhythm draw on different parts of the brain. A musical instrument can make you an overall better person, giving you and those around you greater happiness. Don’t believe me? Read on.

Tonics

Like most studies, music has its own specific vocabulary. For example, a scale is made up of individual notes, or degrees. The first degree is the tonic, also known as the tonal resolution. In a C scale for example, the tonic is C. Based on a note’s distance from its tonic, it will sound good or bad. The fifth note is known as a dominant, and is second in importance to the tonic. When you move from any tonic to that tonic’s dominant note, it will always sound good. In a C scale, the dominant note is G. In a D scale, the dominant note is A. On guitar, a C chord is composed of a tonic note, dominant note, and mediant note, the third note in a scale, in this case an E. Therefore, in relation to any tonic, the third and fifth notes will always sound good. Figuring out which notes work for which tonic is an exercise in math.

Quarter Notes

A quarter note is one quarter of a whole note. While some musicians refer to a quarter note as a beat, this isn’t always the case, since a beat depends on the time signature. For example, any time the signature is other than 4/4, a quarter note is not a beat. There are also eighth notes, sixteenth notes, even 32nd notes, if you’re playing a gnarly guitar solo.

Rhythm

Get rhythm, when you get the blues. I.e., dance. According to Wikipedia, rhythm is a “movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions.” In terms of guitar lessons, I think of rhythm when I think of strum pattern. Up down down up, down up down up, up up down, the variations are many.

When I took guitar lessons in NYC, my teacher would tell me to open up every practice session with five minutes on chord changes, five minutes on scales, and five minutes on strum patterns before moving into the meat of my practice. With that in mind, I would try to focus on strum rhythm by playing with a metronome. This can also help the timing of scales and chord changes and will make you feel more comfortable playing in front of people and with others if you want to join a band one day.

Music may not make you smarter, but it definitely doesn’t make you dumber. If you’ve ever felt tears in your eyes or gotten chills while listening to music, you know its power. Feeling down and being able to play your favorite song is a sure-fire way to forget your problems. When it comes down to it, learning how to play an instrument is part of what makes someone well-rounded, no matter if you’re covering music theory or trying to dance to a beat.

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Guitar Lessons - Music Lessons

Buying an Electric Guitar for Lessons

When starting out with guitar lessons, it’s important to have a guitar of one’s own. While you may be reluctant to invest too much in a beautiful instrument, there are good reasons to splurge, especially if you imagine playing guitar for the rest of your life. Guitars are pieces of art which can be hung on a wall, and unlike cars, boats, and motorcycles, fine guitars appreciate in value as time passes, though you shouldn’t buy a guitar with the intention to sell.

Bargain Options

There are lots of guitars for under $500, perfect for beginners just starting in lessons. One of the best options is the Hagstrom Swede, rated so by users on MusicRadar.com. But also at the top of the list are cheaper alternatives made by classic guitar companies such as the Epiphone Les Paul Standard, made by Gibson, and the Squier Classic ’50s Vibe Telecaster, by Fender.

Telecasters vs. Stratocasters

If you know you want to take guitar lessons for many years to come, you’d do well to examine those made by Fender. Long has the debate raged between Telecasters and Stratocasters, but what’s the real difference between these two guitars?

Both have alder bodies and maple necks and are the same size, although the Strat has a headstock a bit heavier. As far as the pickups go, the Strat has a 5-way pickup selector switch, while the Tele has a 3-way, which means that there are more available options for tones on a Strat. And because the Strat has 3 single-coil pickups and the Tele has a Broadcaster pickup at the bridge and a custom one in the neck, the overall sound is different. Telecasters can be classified as twangier, while Strats are what you think of when you think serious shredding. Ultimately it comes down to which sound you prefer when you play them at the guitar store before you buy. You may be more into getting country guitar lessons, but if you like the sound of a Strat, go with it.

No matter what you choose, as you take more guitar lessons you’ll come to love your guitar and appreciate the beautiful music it makes.

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