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
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
Music has an indescribable power. It can evoke emotions within a moment, stir a memory with the strike of one chord and bring countless hours of enjoyment, love, laughter and tears.
That is why many people have a desire to learn a musical instrument, yet hold back because of one simple reason; age!
It is not just the upper age limit that can present presumed problems, many parents are keen for their children to start along their musical path, but wonder whether they are too young to get started.
As an experienced music teacher I am keen to share my knowledge and expertise with you as we focus on our burning question; is there an upper or a lower age limit to learning a musical instrument? Let’s take those age limits one at a time.
Is There A Lower Age Limit To Learning A Musical Instrument?
Absolutely not! Did you know that you can help your child to take its first steps along its musical journey while it is still in the womb? It is strongly believed that playing music to an unborn child can have a positive impact, in fact, classical music is thought to even improve the intellectual ability of a growing baby, quite a thought!
Once your little bundle of fun has arrived, you will be keen to help that musical journey continue. Evidence suggests that until your child reaches nine years of age, there is a promising window for introducing a musical instrument. Many teachers will not take students until they are at least five years of age. However, this does not mean that your child cannot start to learn before that.
The best way you can help your child to start learning music before he or she reaches an age when they can attend professional music lessons is to expose them to as much music as possible. The aim at this age, is not to introduce them to instruments so that they will master them, but rather to help them develop a relationship and love of music. Even a toddler can fall in love with music!
While a traditional music teacher for a specific instrument may not take students that are very young, you may be able to find a general music class for babies and toddlers. The aim will normally be to help your youngster focus on the music being played, perhaps by swaying to the music, dancing with your baby in your arms or singing or playing music.
As the child grows, perhaps by the age of three, they may be able to attend more formal music lessons, again with a focus on music, rather than a specific instrument.
Once your child is five, they will now have developed a sub-conscious understanding of music, as well as a relationship with it. At this point, you will be in the perfect position to decide which specific instrument your child would enjoy learning. Giving music to your child is certainly one of the finest gifts you could bestow as a parent.
Is There An Upper Age Limit To Learning A Musical Instrument?
So we understand that there isn’t a lower age limit to learning music, but what about the upper age limit? I am going to give you the same clear answer as before; absolutely not!
Music is a gift, and anyone who is blessed with the ability to be alive should feel more than welcome to make use of it. That being said, you should be aware of a couple of crucial things you are going to need if you want to start your musical journey later in life.
Patience is a virtue! For youngsters, having youth on their side tends to speed up the learning process. Also, many have a natural musical talent which can be tapped into very well at a young age. Unfortunately, as the years creep up on us, so does the need for extra patience when embarking on a new venture. So long as you are willing to enjoy each step of the journey, you are going to do just fine!
Learning a musical instrument at an older age also requires a commitment to practice. When youngsters learn an instrument, they tend to be already in a learning system. Many are students at school or kindergarten and may also attend other extracurricular lessons. This means their brain is naturally in learning mode. For older music students, it is time to engage the learning part of your brain and give it enough opportunities to practice that progress will become satisfying.
Indeed being able to play a musical instrument is one of the life’s most enchanting pleasures. Remember, age is only a number, and should never be a roadblock in your quest to become a musician, why you can even use it to your advantage!
As one of the owners of Music to Your Home, I answer calls all day from potential clients looking for music lessons in NYC. I have a checklist of information I take from a new student that helps me match them up with the perfect teacher. But most people who call me aren’t really sure what to ask, so here are a few questions to ask to make your phone call with me effective and informative.
How many years has your company been in business?
Music to Your Home was started in 2003 by high school music teacher and private piano instructor Vincent Reina. Read more about Vincent and the Music To Your Home story here.
How do you hire your teachers?
Vincent and I go through stacks of resumes and hand pick each teacher. They all have a degree in music and many have continued their educations to receive Masters and Doctorate degrees. We personally interview each one of them based on our extremely high standards.
How long are the lessons?
Lessons are usually 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 60 minutes. If there’s more than one child, we can tweak the length to make sure each child is getting sufficient time.
How do I pay?
You can mail a check to us or pay via credit card. We don’t ask for payment until after the first lesson.
What’s your registration fee?
Zero. Zilch. Nothing. No up-front fees. Ever.
Do I need to have my own instrument? Can you help me find one?
You definitely need to have your own instrument for the lessons. Our teachers simply can’t lug a keyboard or guitar amp all over the city. We can certainly advise you on the perfect instrument to buy for the young beginner, or for our already accomplished musicians we are educational partners with Steinway and have great incentives for our clients.
What about music? Do you provide?
Our teachers will decide what method books and materials are needed and we can have them shipped right to your door.
How are lessons scheduled?
We are here to accommodate you! Let us know what days and times work best and one of our teachers will contact you to schedule. We also provide weekend lessons.
What if I have to cancel?
We ask for 24 hours advance notice of a cancellation. If you give the teacher enough notice, you won’t be charged for a missed lesson. We do make exceptions if a student gets sick on the day of the lesson. We’d consider that an emergency and would not charge you.
I’m moving, can I continue my lessons?
Let us know where – we have teachers all over! If there’s not a teacher in your area, most of our instructors can do on-line lessons so you can continue studying with our NYC teachers!
Do you have a recital?
Yes! Our recital takes place at the end of the school year and all of our students are welcome to participate.
How are the lessons structured?
We don’t subscribe to one lesson plan. Our students are all unique and have different learning styles, so our instructors teach to the particular student. They will all learn how to read music at their own pace.
What if we want to try a new teacher?
Our teachers are the best in NYC and we’re happy to send a different teacher if you wanted to try out someone else.
Now that you have an idea of some questions to ask, give me a call to set up a private music lesson right in your home! 646-606-2515
So you’ve wisely decided to schedule your first in home music lesson. What took you so long? While your child is accessing a part of their brain they didn’t even know existed, you’ve been given the gift of time, so make good use of it!
Since you’re used to schlepping all over the city for various activities, here are some helpful hints to prepare you for in-home instruction.
Set aside a well-lit place in your house where the lesson can take place without interruption. A ringing phone, a TV, an oven timer, a conversation in the next room, or a barking dog become little distractions that are hard to ignore, especially when students are working on rhythms and counting. I’m not saying you need to replicate Abbey Road Studios, but you do need to create a nice, quiet comfortable space.
Speaking of dogs, if you own Cujo, please warn us ahead of time. Most of us don’t mind your pets but it’s always great to know what we are walking into.
Be ready. I keep a pen, pencil and my kids’ music books on the piano and 5 minutes before the teacher arrives, I ask them to turn on the lights and open their books. Yes, it actually takes my 8-year old twin boys 5 minutes to do that. I also remind them to go the bathroom before the lesson starts!
Have a chair for the teacher, a pen, pencil, metronome, tuner, picks, strings, music stand if needed, extra reeds, extra drum-sticks, and basically any materials required to maintain the particular instrument.
You’re paying for our time and we want to make each and every minute count for you, so make sure as soon as we get there your child is ready to learn and we’ll take care of the rest!
Images courtesy of worradmu & radnatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net