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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
• 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!)
• 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!
• 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Greetings, earthling. So you want to play funk? Well, before we get started on how funk began, you should know that funk is a very serious genre of music. It’s not for everyone because not everyone can access the funk. The funk first came to earth in the work of James Brown in his song “Sex Machine,” and then traveled around with Sly and the Family Stone, as seen in their seminal “Thank You”. However, it was not until George Clinton received the funk that the state of funk music would never be the same again.
Parliament Funkadelic’s strange breed of psychedelic funk, or P-funk, as it came to be known, changed the meaning of funk. Whereas James Brown’s funk displayed a stripped down rhythm, syncopated drum beats, and a switch from emphasizing the upbeat to the downbeat, by the mid-70s the grunts and vocal noises of James Brown had given way to a more choral approach with the multiple members of Parliament. Many other genres of funk, including disco-funk, electro-funk and the funk-rock of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ exploded onto the scene inspiring millions of young funkateers.
Playing funk on guitar
Before you start to play the funk The only real criterion required is to have the funk. How do you know if you have it? You either do or you don’t and if you got it you don’t have to ask. Now let’s look at some videos to get you started so next guitar lesson, you can bust out some E9 riffs and show your guitar teacher that in your spare time you’ve been tearing the roof off that mother funker.
This one ain’t too fancy, should give you enough understanding to know what you’re getting into. If you like what you hear keep scrolling down the page.
Marty got the funk. Do you?
And here’s a little video to keep you inspired now that you got the funky basics.
Picking the right guitar for a beginner student may be the deciding factor that helps a budding musician make it through the first few months of learning. Some guitars are cumbersome to play and others are either too heavy or look horrible. A new student should feel comfortable and love the look of their first instrument. We have found that if a student likes their new instrument they are more motivated to practice and will become better players in a shorter time.
We asked two of our expert teachers what guitars they choose for themselves and their students. Here’s what they had to say:
For a student model, I recommend the Yamaha Pacifica bundle. Its a great guitar and comes with lots of fun accessories and is well priced. Kids need to love their guitar because when they do, it helps encourage them to practice. Electric guitars are the better choice for beginning guitar players because they are easier to play, there are more styles of music that can be applied to them, and they inspire the student to practice.
For other choices or if the student wants more, I’m partial to Les Paul body style instruments. There are many out there and they are more playable, meaning they fit your body better and afford more progress when learning. My Burr Johnson Model guitar (made by Hagstrom) is based on the Les Paul/336 body style and is a dream to play. The Epiphone Les Paul is also good.
For Jazz and Blues, another great choice is the Gibson 335/347/336 models. They are a larger body size and have “F” hole designs. They are semi hollow body guitars and get a very nice round full sound.
1993 USA Epiphone Riviera – This guitar was built in Nashville as part of a limited USA-made edition of 250 Rivieras and 250 Sheratons in 1993. The production was made very carefully, paying much attention to the Epiphone legacy including the original ‘mini-humbucker’ pickups. This guitar was advertised by Lenny Kravitz when it was first released and also regularly played by – me. 😉
Nashguitar T-Model – The T-model is basically Nashguitar’s version of the Fender Telecaster. I don’t know much detail about it but when I compared an original early 1960s Fender Telecaster to this one I was amazed how much better this one sounded. Brilliant manufacturing and amazing, bright, and powerful Telecaster sound!
Fender Jazzmaster – It seems like there is a revival of this guitar going on for a while now and it’s legitimate: it’s a very versatile guitar with its unique, vast combination possibilities of its single coil pickups and its tone knobs. Just listen to Wilco’s Nels Cline!
Gibson SG – This is AC/DC’s signature sound with its thick and dirty sound – but also the sound of early Cream during Eric Clapton’s very creative musical period. Now combine a normal set of strings on one fretboard with a set of 12-strings on another and you’ll have the famous Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page double neck guitar!
At this point I would have to mention the Fender Stratocaster or the Gibson Les Paul, but those need no description as any serious or beginning guitar lover already knows. There are also some rare but possible-to-find great vintage hollow bodies out there from companies like Gretsch, Epiphone, Guild etc. that sound amazing and are also affordable. Keep an open eye to those ones if you enter a guitar shop if you like some beautiful vintage guitar sounds!
All images courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net