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: https://www.musictoyourhome.com/voice-singing-lessons-nyc/
Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Today’s technology is playing a huge part in the way we find, hear, and even learn how to play music. iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify are all great ways for music lovers to listen to music and create diverse playlists, but for music teachers and students looking for opportunities to improve their skills and enhance their lessons, music apps have become very popular. Here’s a list of some cool free music apps that we’ve found to be very helpful and fun to use.
Pro Metronome: The name says it all. This is basically a must have for any professional musician, teacher or student. There are many metronome apps to choose from, but the reason I like this one is that it’s extremely user friendly. The beats are loud and can be heard clearly. Changing tempo and time signature is simple and the app also has a mode for subdividing beats. This will help you learn to keep perfect time anywhere you play or practice.
piaScore: This is an amazing app for reading scores. It’s like carrying an entire music library in your pocket or bag. The app comes with over 70,000 free scores alone. The scores are extremely clear and easy to see, especially if used with an iPad. Pages can be turned with a simple swipe or gesture. This app comes with several great tools already built in such as a metronome, tuner and a recorder. These are just a few of the neat things this app can do.
Music Tutor: Here’s a nifty app for improving your note reading in both treble and bass clefs. Identifying notes is made into a timed game. Playing with this app a few times a week will definitely get you memorizing notes on and off the staff and improving your overall reading in a fun way. By incorporating this app into a lesson, teachers are adding technology in a fun way that adds a new dimension to students’ learning and helps keep the lesson fresh and exciting.
Ear Trainer Lite: This app is an educational tool designed for musicians, music students and anyone interested in improving their musical ear. It has exercises covering intervals, chords and scales. The Lite version comes with 32 exercises while the full version has over 200. Ear training is an essential skill all musicians need to work on and this app will surely help.
Multi Track Song Recorder: This is a premier 4 track recording app. According to its description, MTSR Pro allows you to record up to 4 tracks with a simple and easy to use interface. It’s designed with a simple tape recording style and includes many features for creative and more advanced music recording. This app allows you to write and record music from anywhere and also lets you export songs via Dropbox, Email, SMS, and iTunes. So basically many of the capabilities of Garage Band except it’s free to all users.
Epic Tune: I’ve probably used this app a thousand times. Its just another handy tool every musician should have. There are plenty of options for tuners out there, but this one is simple to use, accurate and extremely versatile. The tuner is chromatic and can help tune all types of instruments including guitars, woodwinds, violins and pianos. “If it can sustain a tune the epic tuner can tune it”.
These are just a few of the amazing tools being offered for musicians out there today. The best part is they are all free!
Have you ever listened to an amazing violin piece by Paganini, Beethoven or Mozart and wondered how the violinists got so good that they were able to perform these pieces flawlessly? Well, I can guarantee you that every member in the world’s greatest orchestras has spent thousands of hours taking lessons and practicing their craft. With bands today like Coldplay, Lana Del Rey and Adele using more and more string arrangements in their music, the violin has become a very popular instrument to learn.
So regardless of what style of music you’re interested in playing, all good violinists need to learn the basics like holding the bow and correct posture. These are great beginning points to get you moving onto more advanced techniques like vibrato, double stops and playing in different positions.
1) A little goes a long way: Every student should feel that it’s ok to practice only for a few minutes at a time, if that’s what gets them to take out their instrument every day. If you’re terribly busy, several minutes every day will keep building your muscles and help you build up stamina for longer practice sessions. Just playing the open strings or playing a very in tune scale is great practice for a beginner and will help them progress in the future.
2) Love what you’re doing: Love your violin – it’s a beautiful instrument and an amazing work of art to look at and admire. Also, students should constantly be listening to music they love, and learning how to play music they enjoy. Violinists can play both classical and pop melodies, so changing up styles is a good way to keep things interesting.
3) Bowing Technique: Long and full bows on the open strings for 5 or 10 minutes every time you practice. This exercise is for beginner and advanced students and works wonders for both. Always keep your eye on the bow and make sure that it’s staying straight. Keep the bow moving slow and steady the entire time. This can be done on one or two strings. Try to enjoy the vibration of the wood and the ringing of the strings.
4) Practice your pizz: See if you can play your scales or whatever piece you are working on using pizzicato the entire time. By dropping the bow every once in a while, playing pizzicato will help you focus on intonation and other aspects of the music like dynamics and rhythm.
5) Play with a buddy: There’s a new invention called a Bow Buddy, which is available on Amazon and several other music stores. It comes with two pieces, but I prefer the pinky piece. It’s the smaller of the two pieces and goes on the end of the bow and helps students learn to hold the bow correctly while they begin to build the needed hand muscles. It’s a fabulous tool and helps people learn so much quicker in the beginning if they have a “Bow Buddy”.
Hopefully you enjoyed these great tips for beginner students. Keep a look out for our advanced violin tips coming soon!
For lessons, visit our Violin Lessons Page
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
Image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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
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
If you’re searching for songs to learn that can make your professional piano lessons more fun, you’ve come to the right place. Here are five more songs that are easy and awesome to play.
1. “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan/Guns ’n’ Roses
I didn’t even know Bob Dylan wrote this song until I was in college, that’s how familiar the GNR version was to me. Needless to say, it’s a classic, and with just four chords, it’s not too hard to learn at your next piano lesson.
2. “Piano Man” by Billy Joel
What piano player doesn’t want to learn this classic piano tune? Just think—once you learn this, you’ll be able to conjure smoky barrooms and sad old people in the ‘70s. Maybe one day you’ll be a piano (wo)man just like Billy Joel, able to give hardworking people hope.
3. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” by Elton John
When I was a kid, this song was the jam. Lion King had just come out, and everyone knew it was destined to be remembered for decades. Elton John on the soundtrack drove the point home. This song isn’t quite as easy as some of the others we’ve talked about, but if you stick with it, or you’re already a little more advanced, it’s a great one to learn.
4. “Mother” by John Lennon
This guy sounds kind of dorky singing it, but if you listen to the original, you’ll know how cool it sounds to sing it like John. Plus if you learn this in the next six months, you’ll be right in time for Mother’s Day, which if your mom is a fan of The Beatles, will get you serious brownie points.
5. “Silver Bells” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
It’s December, and it sure would be great to learn a song in time for your family Christmas party. Sit down at the piano and break out this song and everyone will be impressed. Should really help you get in the mood for the season.
When choosing the right teacher for lessons in NYC, it’s important to choose right the first time. You don’t want to waste time building a relationship you’ll outgrow, or worse, find yourself dissatisfied with your teachers’ methods. But if you follow these three tips you’ll be able to know that you’re getting a piano teacher worth your time and money.
Classical piano training
First of all, make sure that your piano teacher has been classically trained. Many of the teachers at this piano instruction company, have studied at elite institutions such as Juilliard, Columbia University, and the Manhattan School of Music. Some of our piano teachers have played around the world and performed with internationally recognized musical groups. The bottom line is that they’ve spent decades refining their craft, so that teaching it comes naturally to them.
Teachers with musical passion
It makes a big difference when you have a piano teacher who loves music as their passion, who has spent their entire life cultivating an understanding and love for piano. Other piano teachers who have a side gig teaching English or doing something else, and continue teaching piano just to make an extra buck are definitely worth avoiding, since they won’t be able to take your progress seriously.
It goes without saying that when your piano teachers are classically trained and love what they do, they can also read music fluently. This is crucial for helping you to play more advanced pieces, for teaching you how music works and helping you gain greater proficiency during your piano lessons overall. Being able to sight read allows you to understand musical theory, which is crucial to becoming an advanced musician. If you don’t know how to read music, or if you eventually stop piano lessons and forget how to read music, it’s easy to plateau as a musician, so that all of the hard work and practice you put in over the years falls away, taking you to the point of where you were a few months after you first started piano lessons.
A piano teacher who meets the above three criteria is the kind of piano teacher to keep working with for years. You won’t outgrow your relationship despite how good you become. When you choose piano lessons with Music to Your Home, you can expect some of the best teachers in NYC.
Practicing is the hardest part about playing piano. But if you don’t practice, it’s pretty obvious, and your music lessons just don’t go as well when your teacher can tell that you don’t care. In my experience, I’m most excited to practice when I can get excited about what I’m playing. Beethoven’s Fifth, for example, is probably one of the most awesome pieces of music in the history of the world. In fact, the seventy-five minutes it takes to play the Fifth were what inspired the length of CDs. If you were working to play that during your piano lessons, how could you not be excited about practicing?
Watch how this guy does it:
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
When the Fifth was originally performed in 1808, it was not a critical success. The orchestra played so poorly that Beethoven apparently had to stop the performance! Granted, the orchestra had only had one rehearsal, but the cold auditorium and the length of the performance, a four hour long concert during which the Sixth Symphony was played first and the Fifth during the second half, made the audience even less responsive. A year and a half later, a review of the published Fifth appeared in which it called the piece one of the most important works of music of the time. The time being during Napoleon’s occupation of Vienna. Supposedly, the famous first four notes represent Fate knocking on a door. How cool is that?
The Fifth Symphony’s Impact
Needless to say, Beethoven has been revered through all stages of rock ‘n’ roll, from “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry, to “A Fifth of Beethoven,” the classic disco tune from “Saturday Night Fever.” To really get excited about your piano classes, it’s best to play something you recognize, and when you choose to play Beethoven’s Fifth, you’re choosing one of the most recognizable pieces of music the world has ever known.
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?