Looking Back: Our Favorite Blog Posts of 2014

2014 was an incredible year for us here at TakeLessons. Our days were packed with growth and learning, and we hope yours were too! In the past year, we expanded our service from offering just music lessons to including many, many other subjects ranging from academic tutoring and foreign languages to sports, dance, crafts, and so much more.

Through it all, we’ve stayed focused on how wonderful it is to learn new things and made it our mission on the blog to show off the many amazing subjects our teachers can help you learn more about. Of course, we also have fun along the way!

So, in no particular order, here are 10 of our favorite fun and informative blog posts we’ve written in the past year. We hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as we loved writing them, and we look forward to learning even more with you in 2015!

Your Official Road Trip Playlist: 150 Best Songs to Sing Along To

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3 Small Mistakes That Make a Big Impact on Learning Piano

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12 Strategies & Resources to Take You Beyond “Buenos Días”

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10 Simple Ways to Transform Yourself for the Better

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How To Write a Song Today: 4 Easy Steps

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8 Goof-Proof Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

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6 Easiest Tips for Weight Loss

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Arts and Crafts Ideas for Kids: 3 Simple Steps to Get Started

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Audition Tips: 4 Things You Need Besides Talent

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Inside the Mind of a Young Songwriter | TakeLessons Student Spotlight

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What did you learn in 2014? Is there anything you’d like to learn more about in 2015? Let us know in the comments below!

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Video thumbnail for youtube video NASA Makes Best Science-Themed Music Video Ever

NASA Makes Best Science-Themed Music Video Ever

Since the days of Schoolhouse Rock, and even before, educational songs have run the gamut from crazy catchy to super cheesy. This video from NASA, made to show off the exciting work going on in space travel is actually incredibly fun! Set to the tune of Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass”, you’ve got to see “All About That Space”. Who knew science could be such a blast?

What do you think? Is this parody an improvement on the original? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

 

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Video thumbnail for youtube video Can You Name These Hit Songs That Came Out in 2014?

Looking Back at the Biggest Hits of 2014 [Video]

2014 has been flying by and best-of-the-year lists are starting to come out of the woodwork. In the year-end spirit, DJ Earworm has created a mashup showcasing the biggest hits of 2014, featuring big names like Taylor Swift and Pharrell Williams, plus newcomers Meghan Trainor, Iggy Azalea, and many more.

Now you can hear all the songs you’ve had stuck in your head this year at the same time, in a mashup that’s both fun and catchy.

Can you name all these hit songs of 2014? Or is there a song that you think was left out? Tell us all about your favorite music of the year in the comments below!

 

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Video thumbnail for youtube video 10 Rockin' Christmas Songs

7 Rockin’ Christmas Songs You Won’t Get Sick Of

Think you’ve heard every Christmas song on earth a million times since Halloween? Think again! These headbanging Christmas covers and original rock Christmas songs are here to turn your holiday up to eleven.

Twisted Sister – “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”

Bet you won’t believe what year this hair-metal Christmas cover video was made. Though it looks like it’s straight out of the ’80s, this Twisted Sister video was actually made in 2006. Turn it up, marvel at their talent for time travel, and rock your way through Christmas.

El Vez – “Feliz Navidad”

If Elvis were a punk rocker from Mexico, his name would be El Vez. Punk rock energy and fuzzed out guitar riffs make this version of “Feliz Navidad” a rocking holiday treat.

James Brown – “Soulful Christmas”

Though he is widely known as a “Sex Machine,” the Hardest Working Man in Show Business also has three funky, soulful Christmas albums under his belt. Let James Brown’s incredibly contagious energy give you the boost you need to get through the holidays.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”

Sharon Jones’ sound is a blast from the past of soul, with a few modern twists thrown in. Give this tune a spin for a smooth, soulful, retro Christmas vibe that is effortlessly cool.

The Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”

For some, the holidays can be a stressful time, especially if you find yourself in disagreements with loved ones. Luckily, punk pioneers the Ramones created their own rock Christmas classic in 1987 with “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” just for those times. Not even legendary punks want to fight on Christmas.

Weezer – “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”

California pop punks Weezer are serving up the figgy pudding in this cover of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.  In 2008, Weezer recorded six Christmas cover songs, so there is more where this came from.

Sufjan Stevens – “Holly Jolly Christmas”

Indie superstar Sufjan Stevens is a Christmas fanatic. He has recorded 10 Christmas albums so far, and many more could be on the way. Whether you dig twee folk sounds or electronic pop, something from Stevens’ prolific holiday rock catalog is sure to tickle your fancy.

Do you have any favorite rock Christmas songs? Share them with us in the comments below!

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5 Embarrassing Turkey Disasters | Best of the Turkey Talk-Line

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Since 1981, aspiring home cooks have turned to the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line every November for helpful pointers and advice to save their bacon — or should we say, turkey! According to Butterball’s website, the company’s 50+ experts answer more than 100,000 questions every year, ranging from thawing the bird to proper preparation to tips for different cooking styles for Thanksgiving dinner.

Of course, with so many calls to field (and so many newbie cooks in the kitchen), there’s bound to be some… well… interesting inquiries. This round-up from Reader’s Digest had us chuckling — and some of us looking the other way in embarrassment. Hey, we’ve all been there… right?

Here are some of our favorite Butterball turkey hotline fails pulled from the list:

It’s a Wrap

A proud gentleman called to tell the staff how he wrapped his turkey in a towel and stomped on it several times, breaking the bones so it would fit in his pan.

Carving the Turkey

Another gentleman called to tell the operator he cut his turkey in half with a chainsaw and wanted to know if the oil from the chain would adversely affect the turkey.

Frozen Turkey

A lady from Colorado called about “how to thaw” her frozen Butterball. She proudly shared the fact that her turkey was stored in a snow bank outside! It had snowed the night before and it then dawned on her that she didn’t have a clue which snow bank her turkey was in. At that point, the conversation was really over because she was now on a mission to go find her turkey.

Wash Those Suds Right Out of My … Turkey?

A first-time Thanksgiving chef called Marge Klindera, a 20+ year Talk-Line veteran, in tears Thanksgiving morning last year. She was so proud to have thawed the turkey successfully and continued to rinse the turkey – with dish soap! The tears started flowing when the turkey wouldn’t stop sudsing. If only she called before she would have found out you don’t have to rinse the turkey – just pat it dry with paper towels.

State Bird

When a Talk-Line staffer asked a caller what state her turkey was in (meaning how thawed was it) the caller responded with, “Florida.”

Check out the full slideshow of Butterball turkey hotline fails here.

Lucky for you, if you’re in charge of the bird this year, there’s still time to brush up on your cooking skills with one of our culinary teachers! Or, try your hand at dessert or pastries with one of our baking instructors. Cooking isn’t your thing? That’s alright — we’re sure the family will appreciate some beautifully folded napkin art, too.

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Amazing Dad Learns to Sing for Unforgettable Wedding Song

What’s something you always thought you couldn’t do? What would it feel like to have a breakthrough and discover that there’s really nothing holding you back?

John Butcher, age 50, always thought he was tone deaf until he took voice lessons to perform a surprise song at his daughter’s wedding. After six months of private voice lessons, Butcher was able to deliver a touching and tuneful performance. This video, which was featured on the UK’s Daily Mail website, shows this incredible dad’s wedding reception song performance of “You Were Always on My Mind”. 

Is there a specific wedding reception song that you would love to be able to sing? Or if singing’s not quite your cup of tea, is there a piano piece or guitar song you’d like to learn? Find a teacher near you who can help out!

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Video thumbnail for youtube video Stuck on Lyrics? Maybe iOS 8's Autocomplete Feature Can Help

Stuck Writing Lyrics? Maybe iOS 8′s Autocomplete Feature Can Help

Songwriting can be tricky when the perfect word is just out of reach, a sentiment that songwriter Jonathan Mann must know all too well. Mann has been writing a song a day for over five years, which is no small feat.

For one of his most recent compositions, Mann took a backseat as a lyricist and let his iPhone 6 do the talking. Using only the autocomplete feature on his phone, Jonathan Mann managed to write an astonishingly catchy tune!

Of course, the resulting song doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it sure is fun to see how artists use new technology as it comes along. Who knows, maybe one of these random strings of words will inspire Mann or another songwriter to create a beautiful lyric down the road.

What do you think? Does new technology inspire your creativity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

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Video thumbnail for youtube video 10 Essential Songs You Need on Your Halloween Playlist

10 Essential Songs You Need on Your Halloween Playlist

Whether you’re turning your house into a creepy haunted mansion, heading to a rockin’ Halloween party, or getting the kids dressed up for trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, these Halloween party songs are the best way to get into the spirit. No playlist fit for consumption by ghouls and goblins is complete without these 10 essentials. Turn it up, and have a happy and safe Halloween!

1. Thriller

Who doesn’t love the “Thriller” dance?

2. Candy

Because it’s not Halloween without plenty of candy.

3. I Put a Spell on You

For extra bonus Halloween points, check out Bette Midler’s version of this classic tune from the movie Hocus Pocus.

4. This is Halloween

Another great Halloween movie, Nightmare Before Christmas, is full of great songs by Danny Elfman, perfect for this scary season!

5. Dead Man’s Party

Speaking of Danny Elfman, throw a “Dead Man’s Party” with this 80′s favorite.

6. Time Warp

Rocky Horror is always appropriate.

7. Heads Will Roll

Hold on to your heads! This tune is perfect for a Halloween dance-off!

8. Ghost Riders in the Sky

Johnny Cash brings the spooky vibes in this golden oldie.

9. Psycho Killer

Run, run, run!

10. Monster Mash

Because it’s not Halloween until you’re doing the mash!

What’s your favorite Halloween party song? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
 

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learning piano keeping young students excited

13 Things Only Children of Musicians Will Understand

Musical families have a lot of funny quirks in common! Do any of these things sound familiar?

1. Family sing-alongs never stop!

Whether you’re getting together for the holidays or just relaxing after dinner, you can bet your bongos that your family will break into song. Singing harmonies feels as natural as breathing, and certain songs will always make you think of home.

2. In fact, sometimes family sing-alongs can get pretty intense.

Don’t miss your cue! Sometimes your musically talented family might get a little competitive or give you more criticism than you’re prepared for. Just remember, if you have your sights on a singing career or other musical aspirations, your musical family will help you prepare for receiving feedback later in life.

3. You had a house full of instruments.

There might even have been more instruments than people. Growing up in a house full of instruments sparked your passion for music, and helped you learn how to tune out a lot of noise along the way.

4. So naturally, you started learning how to play music before you could read.

Is anything more exciting to a kid than a toy that makes noise? Nope! So it’s no surprise that you were fascinated by musical instruments and couldn’t wait to get your hands on one of your own.

5. You got the good parts in your school plays and talent shows.

You got your singing career started right with the solo in your school’s musical, or you got to play the best parts in band. Your years of practicing music at a young age paid off!

6. You thought it was weird when you found out your friends’ families didn’t communicate mainly in song.

If you said something at home that was the start of a song, your parents would definitely sing the rest. When you found out non-musicians didn’t always act the same way, you couldn’t believe it.

7. You had a house rule against clapping on the 1 and 3.

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Unless you’re polka fans, you just know this is wrong.

8. The junk drawer in your kitchen probably has rosin, some extra strings, a tuning key, or other pieces of musical paraphernalia.

Other people have a tool drawer. In a way, that’s what this odd assortment of music gear is. It’s also not unusual to find random music stuff in your parents’ car, on the kitchen table, or tucked in to a bookshelf.

9. Your family has taken you to sporting events just to see the band at halftime.

What game? We’re here for the band.

10. You put on mini-concerts for your parents.

Your parents were your first audience, and they’re still your biggest fans. As soon as you could play “Twinkle Twinkle”,  you were putting on a show!

11. You’ve always joked about forming a family band.

When you get so many talented musicians together, it’s only natural that you’d want to start a band.

12. Music lessons were absolutely mandatory!

Your family nurtured your musical leanings, and they knew that music lessons are the best way to encourage a young musician. You know the elements of music and music theory as effortlessly as the alphabet.

13. Your parents always encouraged you to follow your dreams.

Your family understands how much music means to you, and they support you in everything you do. Lucky you!!

Does this sound like your musical family? Share your stories in the comments below!

 

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10 Simple Ways to Transform Yourself for the Better

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September is Self-Improvement Month, but why put off working on yourself until next September 1st? You can start your own month of radical self-improvement whenever you want! Here are 10 things you can do to make a positive, lasting change in your life. Try working toward at least one of these things every day for the next 30 days, and get ready to see some incredible changes in your life.

1. Write down your goals.

What are the big things you want to accomplish in your life? If you had the life of your dreams, what would it look like? Write down your top three big goals in your life and keep them somewhere where you can reference them often for motivation. Think about how your daily activities contribute to your ability to reach your goals.

Don’t know what your goals are? All the more reason to think about them and write them down. After all, how can you ever get what you want if you don’t know what it is?

2. Get active.

Getting more exercise is good for your body, plus exercise releases endorphins that make you happier. Whether you opt to learn to dance, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or run for 20 minutes each day, adding more activity into your routine will put you into a positive mindset.

3. Read every day.

Instead of watching TV or looking at gossip on the Internet, take some time every day to read something worthwhile. Subscribe to a blog related to your profession, pick up a classic novel, or dig into a book about self-improvement. Reading can totally shift your perspective and open up doors to new ways of seeing the world.

4. Learn a new language.

Learning a new language has many benefits beyond just helping you to communicate. From looking great on your resume to improving brain function, learning a new language is a great way to improve yourself. There are tons of resources out there that make learning a new language accessible, from software and DVDs to language lessons with a private tutor.

5. Take up a new hobby.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Whether you wish you knew how to play the piano, want to learn coding, or want to learn how to bake a perfect cupcake, digging into a new hobby can help awaken your passion for life. Additionally, you’ll build up your confidence as you learn new things and discover abilities you never knew you had.

6. Sharpen your skills.

What are a few of the things that you do really well? When did you last put time and energy into building more on those skills? You can always keep getting better at something you already have a knack for, and improving on your skills can give you an edge at work or school.

7. Make a to-do list.

Start each day by making a list of the three most important things you must get done today. Don’t worry so much about trying to do everything. As long as you get through the really important things, you’ll feel accomplished and less stressed.

8. Take time to unplug.

Has it been a while since you took a break? We all need time to relax and rest thanks to our super busy always-on culture. Take trip to a new place or plan a mellow staycation. If you can’t afford a getaway, or if you just want to incorporate more relaxation into your routine, try practicing yoga or meditation. Give yourself some time to unplug and you’ll come back to your work and relationships feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

9. Do some soul searching.

Are you holding onto negative emotions? Learning to forgive others and yourself for painful things in the past will make you feel freer and lighter. You might consider talking with a counselor or a life coach to help you break free of anxiety, depression, resentment, and other unhealthy thought patterns.

10. Spend more quality time with your loved ones.

Find ways to get closer to the most important people in your life. Whether you learn to dance with your significant other, help a parent around the house, or read to your kids more often, strengthening your bonds with your loved ones will make you feel happier and more loved in return.

How do you want to improve your life? Share one thing big or small you’d like to change in the comments below!

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