MTYH Viola teacher Carrie D. has been playing viola since age 6, and she’s pretty passionate when it comes to all things having to do with this cool instrument. Here are her thoughts on why viola is a great choice for your musical journey:
Want to play the violin but can’t sing that high? Want to play the cello but don’t feel like lugging it around? Here’s a solution for you: viola!
A violin and viola look pretty much the same, so what exactly is the difference? Kindly referred to as a “larger violin” or “smaller cello,” the viola is the perfect choice for many reasons.
- It’s unique. Not many people start out playing the viola, and so you and your instrument would be one of a kind!
- Because the viola is “in between” a violin and cello, it comes in many sizes and lengths for all types of people, tall or short.
- Violists get to play violin music, cello music, and our own music. Because of this, you will learn how to read many different clefs, giving you the upper hand in future music theory classes.
- Being able to perform a wide variety of instruments’ music also means violists are adept at playing many different genres of music. Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century, rock and roll, Broadway, and much more!
- Composers today love to write for the viola, and the “new music” scene is an ever-growing part of the current musical community. Some of these pieces may even include electric viola.
- Beautiful things are associated with the word “viola:” Viola (the flower), Viola Davis (the actress), Viola Thompson (the baseball player), and even a character named Viola from Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night.
- While lots of musicians are focusing on playing the melody out front, violists get to play the harmony. They are good at supporting and helping other instruments, proving us to be true team players! This also makes the viola a great instrument for people who are shy and like to blend in.
- Music to your Home (MTYH) has viola teachers available and excited to start teaching YOU today!
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
2016 has been quite a tough year for music lovers worldwide since it has witnessed the loss of many top musicians. The year started with the exit of David Bowie, a music maestro in January and much the subsequent deaths of other legends including Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Prince, and others.
Here is a look at the top musicians the music industry lost in 2016 and left us with just beautiful memories.
1. David Bowie
On January 10th, music maestro David Bowie died at age 69 following a long struggle with cancer. Bowie earned fame for such hit songs as Modern Love, China Girl, Under Pressure, Changes, Heroes, Space Oddity, and much more. Bowie was not only a successful musician but also an accomplished actor with roles in movies such as Labyrinth, The Last Temptation of Christ, and The Man Who Fell to Earth.
On April 21st, the Purple Rain hit-maker known as Prince died at his Minneapolis recording studios aged 57. Throughout his distinguished career, Prince won various accolades and awards including 7 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award for Happy Feetís The Song of the Heart as well as an Academy Award for Purple Rain.
3. Frank Sinatra Jr.
On March 16th, Frank Sinatra passed away at age 72. Frank Sinatra Jr. was the son of Frank Sinatra who was yet another legend. Sinatra Jr. also had an accomplished music career of his own and had a decent career run appearing in close to 20 shows including Family Guy.
4. Leonard Cohen
On November 10th, Canadian musician Leonard Cohen departed aged 82. Leonard was a Grammy Award winner and an accomplished poet and songwriter too. He was best known for his song Hallelujah.
5. Sharon Jones
On November 18th, Sharon Jones died in New York aged 60 after struggling with pancreatic cancer. Sharon was an accomplished American soul and funk singer. She was also the lead singer of Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings.
6. Bobby Vee
On October 24th, Bobby Vee also known as Robert Tomas Velline died aged 73. Bobby gained fame in the early 60ís with hits such as Take Good Care of My Baby.
7. Greg Lake
On December 8th, Greg Lake, an accomplished British songwriter, musician, and singer passed away aged 69. Lake died after struggling with cancer. 21st Century Schizoid Man and In the Court of the Crimson King are some of the songs he will be best remembered for.
8. Leon Russell
On November 13th, Leon Russell, an American pop star died aged 74. Leon had earned quite a reputation as a studio pianist back in the 1980ís. As a studio musician, producer, and songwriter, Leon has collaborated with Ike & Tina Turner, The Ronettes, Sir Elton Jon, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and many more.
9. Glenn Frey
On January 17th, Glenn Frey who was a co-founder of Eagles died aged 67 years due to health complications since he was suffering from pneumonia and rheumatoid arthritis at the same time. Glenn was a guitarist and a co-writer of some of the greatest hits of all time including Hotel California and Desperado.
10. Mose Allison
On November 15th, Mose Allison, an accomplished American jazz pianist passed away aged 89. Allison became famous for playing an interesting mix of modern jazz and blues, playing the piano and singing too.
11. Maurice White
Maurice White, the founder of Earth, Wind, & Fire passed away on February 4th aged 74. Maurice has battled with Parkinsonís disease for a long time before his death.
12. Pete Burns
Pete Burns, the Dead or Alive singer died on October 23rd due to a heart attack aged 57. Pete was a controversial pop star that participated in the reality show titled Celebrity Big Brother.
13. Phife Dawg
On March 23rd, rapper Phife Dawg also known as Malik Taylor died at a very young age. Phife was just 45 at the time of his untimely death. He was a co-founder of the legendary hip-hop group known as A Tribe Called Quest.
14. Paul Kantner
On January 28th, Paul Kantner, a rhythm guitarist and vocalist died aged 74 due to multiple organ failures. His hits such as Somebody to Love and White Rabbit deserve a special mention.
15. Merle Haggard
On April 6th, Merle Haggard died aged 79. Haggard was best known for songs such as Workiní Man Blues and The Okie From Muskogee. Haggard has over 35 number 1 country hits in his illustrious music career.
It is quite clear based on the long list of musical artists who have passed away in 2016 that this year has been the most tragic yet, musically speaking. The 15 artists featured on this list were truly astounding and contributed greatly to the world of music, each in their special way. Each of each of these musicians have also inspired us to teach music lessons to an entire new generation of future artists. What is left is for us to cherish their music because if we do that, we can be sure that their spirits live on among us.
With many of our piano students living in NYC, I thought it would be useful to talk about finding the right instrument for your city apartment or home. For many of our clients finding enough space for a full size piano can be a real challenge. Here are our recommendations for pianos that will fit in tight spaces.
- The Williams Allegro Hammer Action Digital Piano: This is a great piano for extremely small spaces. It’s a digital piano so it’s lightweight and easy to move. It can also be put away whenever extra space is needed. I have played this piano and can say that for an entry level keyboard its sounds are very rich and the hammer action of the keys is excellent for an entry level digital piano. Make sure you buy a keyboard stand and have a stool of appropriate height for practice time. The other advantage is that you can plug headphones into it for late night practice sessions.
- Essex EUP-108C: Let’s talk about acoustic pianos… Whether you are a professional pianist or a child taking piano lessons for the first time, there is nothing like playing on a real acoustic piano. This Essex model piano is one of the most compact and well-made instruments I have seen. The piano is affordable, well designed, plays well and sounds excellent. I had the pleasure of playing one recently and for such a small piano the sound is very big. This piano can fit into very small spaces and as far as pianos go, its super lightweight so it’s easy to move around if you have to. The piano also has a very stylish look that will fit well into any Upper East Side or Tribeca apartment. The best part about this piano is that it’s made by Steinway and Sons so it has all the latest engineering enhancements from their amazing development team at a fraction of the cost of an actual Steinway. This is definitely a great instrument for beginner piano lessons.
- Boston UP-118E PE: Here’s another great little piano. This one is slightly larger than the Essex but still small enough to fit into almost any room. The design of this instrument is definitely more traditional but the sound and performance is just as good – if not better than the Essex. Also made by Steinway, you are getting the same standards that has made that company famous for many years. Although this piano has a small footprint it is definitely a little heavier than the Essex so moving it around is slightly trickier. Any beginner student or professional would be very happy to own one of these instruments even if space was not an issue.
- Yamaha M560: This is a really nice piano. It’s definitely compact, so for apartments or small rooms it’s a great instrument. It’s really well made, sounds excellent and in my experience Yamaha pianos are real workhorses and can take a lot of abuse. It has a different sound than the Essex and Boston but all 3 are great when it comes to that experience. The design is very traditional and somewhat ornate. It’s not my favorite piano ascetically but a great instrument nonetheless. The Yamaha is close in size to the Boston but will still fit nicely where space is limited.
- Steinway 4510 Sheraton: This is my personal favorite of the small pianos. It’s actually smaller than the Yamaha but in my opinion has a bigger sound. It’s also super cool looking and will basically match any décor your home or apartment has. You can use this for beginner piano lessons in your home or it can be used professionally in the world’s best recording studios. It’s compact but maintains that authentic Steinway and Sons sound. The action on this piano is super quick for an upright as well. It’s also handcrafted in the same factory that Steinway grand pianos are made using the same process and craftsmanship. When you sit down and play this you can see it’s solid, sturdy and well-built but extremely artistic and visually appeasing at the same time. You can tell something extra went into this design. If I were learning how to play the piano this instrument would definitely keep me motivated to practice and constantly create.
If you’re someone who is looking for a piano in NYC or anywhere else and have limited space these are my top choices. Choosing the right piano can absolutely make a difference in how you play, practice, learn and create music. These are all winners in my opinion.
Image courtesy of Rawich at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Music to Your Home is lucky to be able to work with musicians from around the world, and Alejandro M. comes to us with words of wisdom from Argentina. Currently he’s a professional guitar player and teacher living the dream and gigging all over NYC.
Recently, Music to Your Home interviewed Jim P, one of our saxophone teachers and a current gigging musician all over NYC. Jim indulged our curiosity about his experiences with teaching, playing, learning and inspiring his students. His philosophies on teaching sax lessons in NYC are not to be missed, so read on:
1) What advice would you give to parents who are considering getting saxophone or other woodwind lessons for their children?
Jim: I would say this about any instrument really, but take the plunge! How often does your child get one on one attention from a highly trained professional working in their field?
I also like the idea of mentorship when it comes to learning music. Having somebody to look up to, imitate, and question is really important. I know the student-mentor relationship has been and continues to be integral for me as I master my craft, and I want to share that experience with others, as well.
2) What is the best woodwind instrument to start young students on?
Jim: This is a really good question – For flute and clarinet players, students should start on their instrument of choice, but for saxophone players, there is some discussion. I know my teachers started me on clarinet before switching to saxophone, because the clarinet requires more technique and control. I also understand the argument for starting students on sax right away – if that’s the instrument they want to play and it’s going to keep them interested and involved in music, then maybe it’s right to skip the clarinet and go right to sax. I think it’s okay to start a young student on saxophone, especially if they’re getting a dedicated lesson time once a week.
3) What are some obstacles that saxophone or clarinet students face when learning how to play and how can they be overcome?
Jim: I think a lot of it is just patience – with yourself and with the instrument. When you pick up a woodwind for the first time it can feel very awkward. You’re shoving a hunk of metal and wood and rubber into your face and it has all these buttons and levers and you can’t see what you’re doing with it.
Our modern culture in a lot of ways is centered on ease of use – if we can’t operate a new phone or app within two minutes we give up. Saxophone, and other woodwinds, they’re different. They take patience and perseverance. You have to pace yourself, and give yourself time to grow and learn.
4) How much daily practice time does a beginner need to realize steady progress and become a proficient player?
Jim: The short answer? About 15 minutes. With beginning students, getting acclimated and adjusted to the instrument is essential, and usually about 15 minutes of daily, uninterrupted, focused practice will help with that acclimation and learning the fundamentals of playing. There is also a lot going on with the muscles of your face and hands as you start a new instrument, and you don’t want to over extend yourself.
Depending on the student and their goals on the instrument, 15 minutes can expand into longer periods in the first weeks or months. Personally, I think about my own practice from a more goal-orientated perspective, but for a lot of students, timing their practice is very helpful.
5) What benefits outside of music can come from learning the saxophone?
Jim: Well I was talking about the patience aspect earlier, and I really think that’s huge. When I pick up a horn it can be very meditative for me. Working slowly on difficult passages, while it stresses some people out, really helps me to slow down and think about my problems methodically.
Beyond that, I mean you could go through a ton of benefits that studies attribute to studying music. Improved test scores and all of that. Problem solving skills, motor skills, spatial skills, learning a new language, they all come into play when you’re learning music, and in real time. To me, when people talk about that stuff, what they’re getting at is that studying music (or really any other art) helps you to become a more complete person.
6) What do you love about teaching and being a performer in NYC?
Jim: My favorite part about teaching and playing in New York is the people that I meet and work with, without a doubt. The people I know on Music To Your Home’s teacher list are great examples – Lena H. (woodwinds), Manuel S. (piano), Daan K. (guitar), Tim T. (drums), Owen B. (woodwinds). These men and women aren’t just formidable musicians, but amazing and inspiring people to be around. Honestly, they are the reason I work so hard to be the best musician and person I can be.
7) What was your most memorable teaching experience?
Jim: I was working with a student when I lived in the Midwest. He and I basically started together while he was in middle school, and we had a really good rapport all the way through high school. When I moved to New York we stopped working together, but we kept in touch. When he did his first solo recital as a high school senior he wrote a very heartfelt thank you to me in the program – knowing that I couldn’t be at the performance and that I would probably never read it myself. An old professor of mine actually sent me a picture – I’m not actually sure that the student ever knew I read his thank you. I think about that to this day, and how much of an impact a teacher can have on his or her students, and vice versa, and how cool that can be.
8) When and where was your most memorable performance?
Jim: This is a really difficult question – the “big” performances either featuring my music or at important venues or with important people, they’re memorable in their own way, but the performances I really cherish are the times that the music was really happening. I remember one time specifically, we were playing with this jazz-funk band at this dive – and for whatever reason, the whole band just clicked. We opened up to all these new territories and opportunities; it was like everything was brand new. It was really a beautiful moment. And even though we were on this little stage with only a handful of people in the audience, everyone was laughing and smiling by the end. Those are the moments I really live for as a performer.
9) Who are you musical influences?
Jim: I probably have too many to list. For jazz; Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Warne Marsh, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, and Mark Turner are just a few of my favorites on a long and ever-growing list.
For more rock or funk influenced music (because I end up playing a lot of it) I look to Maceo Parker, Lennie Pickett, John Scofield, and Kenny Garrett for inspiration.
10) Do you have a preferred woodwind method book for beginner students?
Jim: The Standard of Excellence series by Bruce Pearson or the Rubank books are my favorite methods for people just starting out. There are some great jazz methods by Lennie Niehaus and Jim Sniedero I really like once the student has some faculty on the instrument.
I also use a lot of my own material in my teaching – not only do I work on pedagogical material for all my students’ benefit, but I like writing stuff for individuals as well. I think about teaching – especially one on one lessons – as a two way street. There are a lot of ways to solve a problem; why not cultivate an individual’s problem-solving capabilities instead of just telling them what’s “right” and what’s “wrong?” In this way, we’re learning how to be human beings and artists instead of just pushing buttons on a shiny noisemaker. Plus it’s just way more fun.
Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer, and for some, that officially ends their music lessons. Why? We still can’t figure it out!
The warm weather brings us all outdoors, but when it’s time to cool off, we can send our kids in to watch television, or to practice music. The idea right now of spending another minute indoors seems daunting. But let’s all remember that it does in fact rain during those hot months. And with the sun beating those dangerous rays on us, everyone needs a break. And that’s when practicing an instrument is going to keep the cobwebs out of those growing brains.
With summer also comes no homework, no after-school activities, no big projects and no reading logs to sign off on. So playing music is a great way to help your child keep some of the discipline they’ve maintained throughout the school year. With less distractions from other activities, a child can hone in on the skills they’ve been learning all year without feeling like they need to rush through practicing.
Summer is also a great time to introduce your child to an instrument they’ve expressed interest in playing at school. Their band, chorus or orchestra experience will be so much more rewarding when they are able to keep up with their peers.
Sending your child to sleepaway camp? Pack their instrument and some sheet music. Many camps have talent nights or even “house bands” that kids can participate in.
So just because the mercury has risen, don’t throw away all those hours of hard work. Encourage your child to keep at it and I promise you, one day, they will thank you for it.
Unlike the guitar, saxophone or piano, when it comes to singing, your body IS your instrument. And we all know that taking care of our bodies is not only paramount to living a healthy life but also helps you sing to your full potential. So when it comes to the idea of little kids starting voice lessons there’s a bit of confusion so allow me, someone who started formal singing lessons at 5 years old and with not a nodule in sight, to clear up any misconceptions.
Let’s begin by saying that most likely your 6 year old isn’t chomping at the bit to sing Italian Art Songs. If they are? Cool, we’ll cover that so read on. They probably enjoy singing the soundtrack to the latest Disney hit or Taylor Swift song. Either way, professionally trained voice teachers know that working with voices that haven’t matured yet require tapping into a skill-set and repertoire that accommodate an undeveloped body and mind.
Our philosophy is pretty simple, we think kids playing music, any kind of music, is igniting that part of the brain those newspaper articles are always talking about, so we’ll teach any song a kid wants, and we’ll show them how to sing it in such a way that they are laying the groundwork for correct vocal technique while having fun! Yes, it’s possible!
The first song I learned how to sing was the theme to Sesame Street. My teacher knew I loved it, it was simple, familiar, and I enjoyed practicing it every day. I eventually moved on to show tunes, ran through the Les Miz book, the Rogers & Hammerstein classics, discovered the Tapestry record, was introduced to Italian Arias and opera, fell in love with jazz, all the while rock and folk rested closely in my heart. But the point I’m making is that every genre I sang as I grew up, I was always using proper technique because my teachers recognized the right repertoire to suit my age and growing body.
Kids today have shows like The Voice to inspire them- and that’s amazing, but some of those contestants have no formal training and are actually straining their voices pretty badly. You can hear a lot of them “sitting” on their vocal chords, putting all that tension on the throat where it doesn’t belong. That’s the damaging stuff we are avoiding with proper coaching.
So are we looking to have your six-year old work on their belly breathing and tongue position? We’ll get there over time, but for now that child will enjoy singing their favorite songs while the seeds to formal training are planted. And you can rest easy knowing they’ll be no permanent damage in sight for your young musician.
For in-home singing lessons, visit: http://www.musictoyourhome.com/voice-singing-lessons-nyc/
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5 Reasons Why You Should Play The Piano
If you’ve come across this blog you’re probably already a music lover or someone who’s looking for that one reason to finally start learning an instrument. Here are a few great reasons why you should begin taking piano lessons immediately…
- Playing piano is a major stress reducer: One of the things we hear most from our adult clients is that after a long day at the office, playing the piano at home has a real calming effect on their moods. Playing the piano can refocus your energy and help you become a more creative person. Listening to music can be totally soothing – but the act of performing it can take your mind away from that annoying day at work. Our younger students have experienced the exact same reactions to practicing their instruments. After a day of classes, tests and afterschool activities playing the piano or taking a piano lesson can help relieve anxiety and stress in children as well.
- Playing the piano is good for your brain: Studies have shown that children who begin learning piano at a very young age have better general and spatial cognitive development than children of the same age who have not learned piano. Studying piano can also boost math and reading skills. In addition, taking piano lessons helps with concentration and can therefore improve a students’ overall school performance.
- Playing the piano can help you become a great multitasker: Unlike any other instrument, the piano is unique because you are forced to have two totally different things going on with each hand at the same time. Your brain splits two very complex tasks, (reading treble and bass clefs) between the right and left hand. With practice, putting these tasks together at the same time makes for some really nice music and also trains your brain to focus on several things at once.
- Playing the piano builds self- confidence: We’ve seen this many times with our students. After learning a piece from start to finish even the shyest student will have a feeling of accomplishment. It takes patience, hard work, determination and a love of music to learn the piano and finishing a difficult piece or participating in a performance is a real confidence builder for many people. Performing in recitals at a young age can help students become more comfortable speaking in front large groups and can help make them more confident in social situations.
- Playing the piano is cool: Well it is… Discovering that you have a talent for playing piano is a great feeling. Sitting down and entertaining at a party or social event will always grab people’s attention and can possibly make you more interesting to others. If you’re not sold on this theory just ask a Billy Joel or an Elton John fan!
For in-home lessons, visit our Piano Lessons Page
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