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Beginner Flute Lessons: How to Make the Most of Your Lessons

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As you learn to play the flute, attending regular private lessons are integral to your success. Here, Chicago, IL flute teacher Jillian D. shares her tips for making the most of those lessons…

 

Growing up, flute lessons were, and still are, an important part of my life. They instilled me with discipline, integrity, and pride, while also allowing me to grow and mature artistically. The moments you spend with your teacher are filled with helpful information and wise insight. The hard part is getting it all to stick. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your beginner flute lessons:

Before your lesson:

  1. Eat. Nothing is more distracting than a growling stomach. Eat a good meal before your lesson, so you’ll be fueled and ready to play.
  2. Be prepared. Show up to each lesson prepared and ready to learn. Working hard in the days leading up to your lesson will allow you to make progress each week.
  3. Review your lesson material without your flute. Going over fingerings, pieces, and other lesson material away from your flute is a good way to warm up your brain before a lesson. You’ll be surprised at how much you remember when you come back to your flute.

During your lesson:

  1. Be engaged and stay focused. It’s easy to let your mind wander when your teacher rattles on about alternate fingerings, harmonic overtones, and melodic minor scales. But stay focused! Be as attentive as possible, and try to absorb everything your teacher says like a sponge.
  2. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, do not be afraid to say so. Your teacher only wants to help you get better, so if something is unclear, ask!
  3. Record it. Recording your lessons is a great way to easily review your teacher’s feedback later. However, it’s always important to ask for permission before you hit record.

After your lesson:

  1. Take notes in your flute journal. You’ll be given a LOT of useful information during your lessons. Write them down in a notebook or journal as you go along. That way, you won’t forget when you’re practicing during the week.
  2. Review. Keep your lesson notes organized and detailed. Even something as simple as reviewing your notes on the car ride home will help your flute playing immensely.
  3. Practice as soon as you get home. Practicing after your lesson is a great way to make sure everything sticks. Go over what your teacher helped you with during the lesson. Take what he or she said a step further, and see what kind of progress you can make on your own.

Concentration, hard work, and preparation are the keys to getting the most from your beginner flute lessons. Have fun, stay focused, and discover something new while playing your flute every day.

JillianDJillian D. teaches flute in Chicago, IL. She is currently working on her degree in Flute Performance at DePaul University School of Music. Learn more about Jillian here!

 

 

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6 Websites for Finding Free Flute Sheet Music

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Looking for some new tunes to practice? Check out these recommendations for finding flute sheet music from Brooklyn, NY teacher Julie P...

 

If you’re a flute player looking for more music to learn, you’re in luck! There are many places to find free flute sheet music on the web. There’s more music out there than you’ll ever have time to explore, ranging from solos to duets to etudes and scales. You can find music in genres from Classical to Pop/Rock, Folk, and Holiday. Whether you’re looking for your next solo to study or want to practice your sight reading, the sites below have great options to check out.

International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)

The IMSLP database is one of the best places to go for free flute sheet music. If you look at the page of scores featuring the flute, you’ll find thousands of scores available for free. These are classical, public domain works with varying instrumentation. Go to this site for flute solos, duets, trios, sonatas, concertos, and etudes, as well as small and large ensembles including the flute. This site can be overwhelming since there are so many pieces available. Try out some etudes, including popular ones by Anderson or Gariboldi, or play some duets, including ones by Quantz and Kuhlau. If you’re really into Bach, try out some of the Sonatas, Partitas, and Concertos.

FluteTunes.com

FluteTunes.com posts free flute sheet music for a new song every day. Each piece is labeled by difficulty level from “easy” through “advanced.” The genres represented are mostly classical and folk music from a wide variety of cultures. Instrumentations represented include flute solos, flute duets, flute with piano, flute with organ, flute with strings, and flute with guitar. MP3 and MIDI tracks allow you to play along with the accompaniment while you learn the song. The site also has pages of flute scales and fingerings.

8notes.com

8notes.com has over 450 pieces from various genres, including Classical, Rock & Pop, Jazz, Traditional, World, and Film. Songs are labeled by difficulty level from “beginning” through “hard.” Play-along tracks and sheet music accompaniments are available as well.

Fluters Music

Fluters Music is a blog run by a high school flute player who writes out the notes for the melodies of pop songs you hear on the radio. The notes are written as letter names above the lyrics so there’s no need to know how to read music! This is a great site if you’re a beginning flutist and you want to play the pop songs you already know and enjoy.

Herbert Lindholm

Herbert Lindholm has made many of his flute compositions available for free. These include technique studies, flute solos, duets and trios, flute ensembles, and flute with piano or guitar. Most pieces are labeled by difficulty level (1-9) and also include the approximate duration of the piece.

Lark In the Morning

Lark In The Morning has a number of large collections of folk songs from all around the world. Collections of free flute sheet music include folk dance melodies from a variety of countries, including Armenia, Austria, Bolivia, Bosnia, Germany, Greece, and Yugoslavia!

Now that you’ve seen how much variety is out there in terms of free flute sheet music, go ahead and pick some pieces you’d like to learn. There are a lot of pieces you can probably learn on your own, but some will require the help of a teacher. If you live in the NYC area I’d love to help you learn the music you’re excited about. Otherwise, search on TakeLessons.com for a teacher in your area. Enjoy!

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

 

 

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tips for writing a song

Tips for Writing a Song | Starting Songs And Ending Writer’s Block

tips for writing a song

Feeling stuck? Get back on track with these helpful tips for writing a song, courtesy of Perth Amboy, NJ teacher Jeff S...

 

One of the most frequent problems that songwriting students encounter is pushing past writer’s block and generating ideas for new songs. So here are several tips for writing a song that will help you overcome a creative dry spell and get you back to creative productivity.

Start With A Title
Think of some interesting subjects that you think would make good songs. Then come up with a list of catchy song titles for those subjects. Try to come up with titles that tie into your subjects, so that you can clue your listener into the storyline. Example: Your subject is a girl who is madly in love with a guy, but the guy can’t commit himself to her exclusively. Here are some titles based upon this scenario: “I’m Gonna Turn You Around”, “You Don’t Have To Look For Love”, “Won’t Find A Better Love”, “What More Do You Need?”, “I’ll Keep You Happy”, “I Need To Know”. Go ahead and try to add to the list, but a much better idea is to come up with a storyline and then compile a list of titles based on it.

Develop Your Title Or Song Idea And Come Up With One Song Section
Once you get a title that you like, start searching for a good opening line for the first verse. In your brainstorming process, try to do two things: first, offer your listener a clue as to what the song will be about. Second, zero in on the conflict or problem that your storyline presents. Let’s go back to our concept for the song and start developing opening lines, based on the female perspective of the protagonist. Here are some that I came up with: “I wish I knew what I didn’t give you”, “I wish I was the one who was wrapped around your heart”, “It hurts me so bad that my love’s not good enough”. Do you see how these lines set the story up and entice the listener to want to know more and be brought into the reality of the singer? Now, try your hand at some opening lines for Verse 1.

Look for Inspiration In Books, Magazines, or on TV
If you’re having trouble coming up with song titles, go to the library or bookstore or glance through the TV listings (as TV shows frequently title episodes), newspaper, or a magazine. You can’t copyright a title, so don’t think this idea is tantamount to stealing. You can also look through a book of clichés and plug in a new story to an old cliché, or create a new twist on an old cliché by substituting a word. (Example: “Better Love Next Time” is an improvement over the time-worn cliché, “Better Luck Next Time” — but that one has been done already, so try coming up with your own.)

When In Doubt, Brainstorm
If you’re at a standstill with this part of the development process, pull out your thesaurus and your rhyming dictionary. First, however, do a 10-minute brainstorming session to come up with words and phrases that will serve as connectives (i.e. words that relate to your topic). Do not edit yourself, just generate as many as possible, WITHOUT opening up either book. When you’re exhausted or when the 10 minutes end, take a look at your list and start finding rhyming words and synonyms for those words. Remember — select ONLY the words you really like and the ones that you think will fit into your story. Use them to develop verse or chorus lines.

Hopefully some of these tips for writing a song will get your creative juices flowing again!

JeffSJeff S. teaches guitar, ukulele, speaking voice, songwriting, and more in Perth Amboy, NJ, as well as online. Jeff has created and taught songwriting and music business classes at colleges, universities, and music schools throughout the country for many years. Learn more about Jeff here! 

 

 

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Buying Your First Ukulele: 3 Things to Consider

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Thinking about buying a ukulele? Learn the ins and outs of finding the best ukulele for you in this guest post by Casselberry, FL teacher Laurie K...

 

So you are ready to buy your first ukulele! Awesome, step one is complete… “Decide to play the uke!”

I am going to go over three basics when considering this new and fun instrument, in order to find the best ukulele for you:

  • Size
  • Prices
  • Styles

Size

There are four sizes for ukuleles: Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. Most likely you are reading this article with an image of the soprano in your mind. Soprano ukuleles are the more popular size and come in more variety. The concert and tenor sizes are also tuned like a soprano ukulele, but are slightly bigger in their bodies, with longer necks and more frets. This makes them popular among professional players. The baritone ukulele is actually tuned to the the lower strings of a guitar (D, G, B, E). So, you’ll have a one-up if you are already a guitar player! The baritone ukulele is fun but is much bigger in size and has a lower tone overall… which goes against the two main reasons people are attracted to ukuleles: size and sound. So — my guess? You’re looking for a soprano.

Prices

Ok, yes, you can buy a ukulele for $12. But I caution you to only buy these for your toddler children… they do not stay in tune! The cheapest ukuleles are going to be around $20-30 and they will be a much different sound and material than ukuleles priced at $50 and up. My recommendation is to go for the $50-up price range. You’re going to get a nicer material and most come with Nylgut strings. If you buy cheaper, you’ll most likely end up spending on new strings, which can definitely upgrade a plastic uke. So to save you that trouble, go a little higher. If you’re on the fence about being able to play, it’s fine to go with a cheaper uke too; you can always upgrade later!

Styles

The cheaper styles are Mahalo and Makala ukuleles. These brands are mostly made of colorful plastics and can sound alright if re-strung with “Aquila” strings. I personally bought a Makala Dolphin bridged uke that was a light blue color. It was super fun to play but was a challenge to keep in tune. You can watch my YouTube review of it below:

My first ukulele was actually a gift. It is an Ovation-style uke — the “Applause by Ovation UAE20 Soprano Ukulele” — and it’s an acoustic/electric, meaning I can play it unplugged and also plugged into any amplifier. I own a small Vox amp and it sounds amazing both ways. I was a lucky girl to start with this uke and I have to say it’s probably in the range of $120-160, but very worth it! I have performed many shows and it barely ever needs to be tuned, the material keeps it from being affected by humidity, and it’s beautiful! (To watch my Ovation Applause ukulele in action, check out my video here!)

For the best beginner ukuleles, I suggest the following brands: Lanikai LU-21C, Kala KA-C, Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele. I have not tried them all, so I do suggest going to a local music store like Guitar Center to try some different brands. You can also search for online and YouTube reviews.

Have an awesome time finding the perfect ukulele for you! Mine has been with me from the beginning and I’ve continued to add on to my collection. Let me know if you find something new and exciting! I’d love to hear from you.

Happy uke-ing!

LaurieLaurie K. teaches ukulele, songwriting, painting, and more in Casselberry, FL. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts along with a minor in Music, and her experience includes leading Music Together classes with families and children aged from 1-5. Learn more about Laurie here! 

 

 

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5 Ways Microphones Have Changed the Music Industry

If you’ve ever stepped on stage to perform, you may not have thought much about the microphone you’re about to use. But its history is actually pretty interesting, as music recording equipment has developed drastically since the first condenser microphone came on the market. These changes have made a big impact on the music industry as a whole, and, for better or worse, are here to stay.

Power Requirement

Dr. Zaza, Mr. Zura & Muki M. im Gleis 1 in Waldenburg

Without outside amplification, the loudest musician wins every time. But when you introduce microphones into the mix, every individual instrument can be heard as the composer intended. So you can have brass instruments playing at fortissimo, and woodwinds and strings playing mezzopiano, but the final decision as to the volume is up to the sound engineer running the music recording equipment.

Likewise, in a live setting, a quiet singer or instrumentalist can still be heard in the back row with proper amplification. Microphones can be strategically placed around a stage to pick up any whisper or important sounds, so the audience can hear them regardless of where they are seated.

Live Performances

While microphones have definitely become a powerful tool in the arsenal of music recording equipment, they are equally as important in live performances. A vocalist or musician does not need to be exceptionally powerful, as detailed above. This allows him or her to be more agile and experimental with the sound. Whereas a non-amplified performance requires the emphasis to be on power to reach the audience, a microphone gives the performer the freedom to deliver the highest quality sound to the audience at whatever output power is manageable, and the amplifier picks up the sound from the microphone and brings it to a proper volume.

Overdubbing and Effects

guitar and microphone

With a live performance, a performer can relax and focus on quality over quantity, so to speak. In addition to the value of amplifying the output, microphones can be used in conjunction with music recording equipment to provide a wide variety of aftereffects.

Overdubbing, for example, can be beneficial for a solo artist who plays multiple instruments or sings different parts on a track. With the right music recording equipment, the artist can set up for the backing vocals, instrumentation, and then focus on lead vocals and one instrument during a live performance — or put it all together for a music video, like this YouTube artist.

Effects also heavily rely on a microphone. A vocalist can change timbre or distortion, and many acoustic instruments can be amplified with different waveform filters to change the sound. Without the microphone, all of these effects are limited, or nonexistent.

Sampling

Sampling requires a microphone for it to be of any sort of use at all. The difference between a cover and a sample lies with who is doing the performing. An artist who wishes to sample another needs the original recording, otherwise he or she will be covering the work instead of just sampling the original artist. With a microphone used in conjunction with the rest of the music recording equipment for the original recording, the sample can be overlaid with the new artist’s and processed through another microphone.

Architecture of Performance Halls and Recording Studios

Walt Disney Performance Hall

Prior to the use of microphones, live performances relied on natural amplification for the audience to experience the sound. This required extensive work on walls and ceiling segments that would reflect the sound in the proper direction. It also required performances to be quite exact, as improper placement or slight variations in tempo would have a drastic effect on audience perception.

While recording studios were few and far between before the microphone was in common use with music recording equipment, they also had to abide by the rules of natural amplification. Nowadays, every vocal and instrument has at least one microphone, and performers can even be isolated into separate recording booths, so that the microphone has no chance of picking up any other sounds. Effects such as echos, reverberations, and delay, which were originally built in to recording spaces (or present unintentionally), are now added after the original recording. 

Whether in studio or on stage, microphones should not be taken for granted. They help both first-time and seasoned artists make the most out of their music. And microphones add a new dimension to the production capabilities of music recording equipment. Who knows what technological advancements will be next for the music industry?

 

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Why Learning Piano Theory is Important for All Musicians

2784995695_22c1d7ba7a_bStruggling to understand music theory? Try heading over to the piano — seeing a visual representation can help a ton! Here, Lowell, IN teacher Blake C. shares how to get started…

 

Many musicians avoid learning music theory altogether because it can feel much like learning a foreign language; as a result, many musicians enlist in the anti-music theory organization. I will admit it – I was a member of the anti-music theory organization in my early years, declaring that music theory corrupts the instinctiveness of musical ability and creativity.

In time, however, I’ve uncovered numerous reasons why music theory is a necessary evil. The three top reasons are: composition, improvisation, and rehearsals. The first two reasons came about because I was fed up with not understanding which notes worked with other notes when I was trying to write a song, and even more frustrated when I tried to improvise on the fly. The third reason I realized when I began to feel like a knucklehead during rehearsals when the keyboardist and bass player were discussing chord progressions, and I had no idea what the heck they were talking about.

Still, it can be difficult for some instrumentalists – especially guitar players – to comprehend music theory. One thing that helped me along the way, though, was putting down my guitar and taking my music theory books to the piano instead. Within minutes, my understanding of music theory began to expand rapidly.

No matter what instrument you play, if you’re struggling with learning music theory, take a step back and head to a piano for a quick lesson.

An Introduction to Piano Theory

To begin, take a look at the keyboard image below and notice the repeating notes in each octave.

figure 1

Music theory is a way to explain harmony, melody, and rhythm. Using the piano keyboard to learn simplifies it because of the instrument’s layout. A piano keyboard is divided up in half steps, octave after repeating octave, which instantly eliminates the guess work. There are no surprises found on a piano keyboard – each octave repeats the exact same format.

Piano Theory and Range

Another factor illustrating the importance of piano theory is the range of the instrument. Think about chord progressions, for example. As you develop your skill on your respective instrument, you’ll eventually be able to identify these chord patterns quickly. However, many instruments do not offer a range as great as the piano. You’ll be able to aurally appreciate chord progressions in a wide range of octaves with the piano.

Those chord progressions also represent harmony. The piano, unlike other instruments, offers you a chance to more completely understand the music theory behind harmony. A flautist, on the other hand, often begins with a more limited understanding of harmony than a pianist does, since the flute is a single-line melody instrument.

Using Piano Theory to Understand Enharmonic Notes

Similar to harmony, using a piano will help you understand how enharmonic notes – two note names with identical pitch – align in music. In the image below, one octave of the keyboard is provided and includes the note names for the white and black keys.

Figure 2

The keyboard notes on the piano are easily understood because they are repeated in the exact same pattern from one octave to the next. Having a visual representation of these enharmonic notes makes it much easier to understand (and then apply to your own instrument).

Using Piano Theory to Understand Key Signatures

The final point I will cover is how the piano simplifies learning the key signatures.  Early on in your music theory studies, you will learn the formulas to create scales. You read correctly – formulas. For instance, the formula for a major scale is whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half. To visualize this, using the image below, begin on the first ‘C” on the left and then move up one whole step to the “D” note. Continue using the formula for a major scale to continue up the keyboard until you end on the next “C” note. If you correctly followed the formula, the only notes you would have landed on were natural notes, without accidentals (sharps or flats). The key of “C” has no sharps or flats in the key or the key signature.

C Major

Next, using this last image below, begin on the first “D” note and follow the same formula. If you followed the formula correctly, you would have landed on two black keys during your progression up the scale – F# and C#. For this reason, the key signature for the key of “D” has two sharps – F# and C#. Simple!

D Major

Taking into consideration the simple layout of the piano keyboard, the wonderfully large range, and the piano’s ability to produce harmony, you’ll see these are three big motives to learn piano theory. Best wishes in your musical endeavors, and remember – a quality TakeLessons.com music instructor can help you reach your musical goals more quickly and correctly.

BlakeCBlake C. teaches songwriting, singing, and guitar lessons in Lowell, IN. He specializes in classical guitar technique as well as modern rock and blues styles. Blake has been teaching for 20 years and he joined the TakeLessons team in July 2013. Learn more about Blake here! 

 

 

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sight reading audition

How to Prepare for Sight Reading at an Audition | 3 Helpful Tips

sight reading audition

Nervous about the sight reading portion of an upcoming audition? Find out how to work sight reading practice into your routine in this guest post by Saddle Brook, NJ teacher Christian D...

 

“Be prepared to sight read.”

That dreaded requirement on all auditions that makes us all nervous. But the fact is, you shouldn’t be! Sight reading is a learned skill, just like everything else in music. Think of it as sight reading a passage from a book in front of an audience. With so many books available on the market today, it makes preparing even easier.

How Do I Prepare? I Have Never Seen the Music Before

First of all, stay calm! If you know you are going to have to sight read for an audition, go online or to your local music store and find a book of etudes or sight reading exercises at your playing level. It doesn’t even have to be for your instrument. Then, just like you practice your scales, you can practice sight reading. It is important to practice it regularly, just like everything else. For myself, I play one page a day, then put a hash mark on the top of the page to mark that I’ve done it. Then the next day, I play the next page. Often the books are long enough that by the time I get to the end of the book I have forgotten the first example, so I start the process over.

That being said, having a direct method of how to practice the sight reading examples is important, too. Practicing them like normal etudes defeats the purpose of sight reading. I treat each day like it’s an audition. I look at the key signature and time signature, identify the hardest sections, then set a reasonable tempo for myself if there is not a tempo indicated. If the tempo indicated is too fast, I choose a slower tempo, but still try to push myself to make it as realistic as possible.

If you do this every day, you will notice a dramatic increase in your ability to sight read. You will realize it is more an issue of relaxing and focusing rather than technical ability. This will also give you additional confidence when you actually have to sight read in an audition.

Selecting Your Sight Reading Material

Choosing sight reading material to practice with is also important. Even though any kind of sight reading practice is beneficial, you want to choose material appropriate for your situation to best prepare. Classical players should choose classically oriented etudes and pieces. Jazz players should choose jazz-oriented etudes and pieces. You don’t have to practice out of sight reading books, either. You can pick up any piece you haven’t studied extensively and treat it as sight reading practice. That means orchestral excerpts, solo repertoire, big band charts (scores are cheap), tunes, and anything else you can get your hands on is fair game.

I myself have multiple orchestral and solo repertoire books to practice from, as well as some big band charts. These are the most applicable for me, since sight reading is a required part of being a musician in the New York City area. I also use “Develop Sight Reading” by Gaston Dufresne, edited by Roger Voisin for classical sight-reading and an older version of “Modern Jazz Licks for Sight Reading” by Eddie Harris for jazz sight reading (both advanced level sight reading).

So, relax, find some sight reading material, practice different material every day, and I guarantee your next sight reading audition will go much better!

Christian DChristian D. teaches saxophone, trombone, tuba, music theory, and more in Saddle Brook, NJ. He just completed his BM in Music Education and Saxophone Performance at SUNY Fredonia, and is now pursuing his Masters in Jazz performance at New Jersey City University. Learn more about Christian here!

 

 

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Logic Pro Tutorial: How To Create An Audio Slow-Down Effect

Want to add a cool slow-down effect to your music? Learn how in this Logic Pro tutorial from Brevard, NC teacher John C

 

If you’ve listened to popular radio in the past several years, and I’m guessing you have, you’ve heard either a vocal melody line or an instrumental part of a song make a particular effect. Listen to the following Fall Out Boy song and pay attention to the music in the background at 00:27 seconds, again at 1:27, and once again at 2:27:

Did you hear it? That’s the effect I will be teaching you how to do in this article.

How to Get the Effect

Before we jump in, let’s get a couple things out of the way.

First, I want you to understand that this is not the only way you can go about making this effect happen, but Apple has made it easy for us Logic Pro users. This effect we are trying to accomplish is a type of “fade” in Logic, and there are two different areas in Logic where you can accomplish it. One way is with Automation. To get to the automation area in Logic Pro 9 or X, simply hit the letter A on your keyboard and the editing area will change to look something like this:

automation

Automation allows you to draw lines and basically tell the computer when, how fast, and from and to which points to turn a particular knob. That knob could be something as simple as the volume knob on a particular track or something more advanced like the frequency knob of the single band EQ plugin on the track pictured above.

But I’m going to stop there because we are NOT going to use automation to do this effect! Thank goodness, right?

Instead, Logic has something called the Region Inspector. So what on earth is a region? Well, it’s quite simple, really. These little boxes all over the place in the picture below… those are regions.

regions

When you select one or more of these regions, the Region Inspector shows the settings applied to those regions.

The Region Inspector is on the left side of the screen and looks like this:

region inspector

IMPORTANT NOTE
There is a distinct difference between some of the regions shown above. The ones with the dashed lines are MIDI regions. The others are audio regions. These are the only types of regions. The effect we are trying to accomplish in this article does NOT work on MIDI regions.

Final Steps

  • Select one of the audio (not MIDI) regions in your project.
  • Then, in the Region Inspector, expand the “More” section and click on “Fade Out” and change it to “Slow Down”.
  • Double click the zero and type 250 into the field next to “Slow Down” and press Return.

Congratulations, you did it! Now listen to your audio and you’ll hear that audio slow-down effect.

Bonus
Now adjust the “Curve” by dragging up and down on the number next to the word “Curve” (below the “Slow Down” area in the Region Inspector) and notice how the curve of the slow-down effect area changes. Listen to the difference, and then try different combinations of the amount of the slow-down fade and the curve. Have fun!

Oh, and what do you think might happen if you click on the word “Fade In” in the Region Inspector? What’s that you say, a “Speed-Up” effect? Oh yea!

You’ve just learned a pro producers trick. Now… use it with caution.

JohnCJohn C. teaches Logic Pro Software in Brevard, NC. He earned his degree in Songwriting from Berklee College Of Music and is also an Apple Certified Master Pro in Logic Pro 9. Learn more about John here!

 

 

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6 Things You Can Do to Support Your Young Composer | Tips for Parents

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Do you catch your son or daughter making up songs during the day? Learn how to encourage your little one in this guest post from New York, New York teacher Natalie L...

 

Imagine if students were taught to read and speak but not write. What if they were taught literature and the alphabet, but never applied this knowledge to formulate original thoughts? As ludicrous as this seems, it is common practice in most music programs where students are instructed in reading, listening, and playing music but not in composing music.

However, composition can be taught to children.

Most young children are creative and musical by nature, which is evident in their love of nursery rhymes, sing-a-longs, musical toys, and vivid make-believe worlds. In addition, composition:

  • Instills deeper music intelligence beyond simply listening to music or playing an instrument.
  • Fosters general life skills, such as problem-solving and decision-making. This includes thinking in and about sound, exploring sounds, and generating, testing, and selecting ideas.
  • Imparts self-esteem. Composing music that students can then listen to, download to their cell phone, and play for their friends is a unique and powerful experience.

Want to help? As a parent, here are six things you can do to support your young composer:

1. Expose them to a lot of music
Providing children with a musical environment at home is very important, as they will most likely start to compose by mimicking the music they hear around them. Play the radio in the car, let them watch cartoons with music, sing children’s songs with them, take them to a musical now and then, and have some Mozart playing in the background while you’re cooking. They will absorb it all.

2. Introduce them to a musical instrument
Composing music is a lot easier when you have an instrument to compose on. The most common instrument for composition is piano, because you can play melody and accompaniment at the same time. Guitar is another popular option.

Playing an instrument also helps children learn musical theory and note-reading, which will ultimately make them better musicians and more confident composers. Even getting a small keyboard and letting them play around on it can be very helpful in encouraging musical exploration.

3. Focus on telling a story
Composing can be very abstract. To make things a little more concrete, focus on telling a story with music.

Ask them what sounds remind them of specific emotions and images. For example, holding down the pedal on the piano will have a “dreamy” effect, while playing staccato notes on very high keys might sounds like a little bird. Going down by half steps might be someone walking down the stairs.

Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is a wonderful example of personifying music, so I would suggest listening to this piece together as a start.

4. Don’t censor them
When your child first sets out to write music, don’t worry about her being the next Mozart. The piece she writes might be completely non-sensical, with no clear structure or hook — and starting out that way is fine. Her first drawings were probably messy blobs, but you still proudly displayed them on the refrigerator. Think of early compositions in the same way.

5. Create a tangible representation of the composition
There is nothing as powerful to students as having a tangible representation of their work. Because musical notation is a relatively advanced skill, don’t worry about having them write their music down yet.

You could record their piece on a CD and display it with the rest of your CD collection. Or they could draw a picture of their piece if it tells a story or make an abstract finger painting. And don’t forget to give it a title! This is one of the most fun parts for them and makes them feel the piece is real.

6. Consider private composition lessons
Once your child shows interest and aptitude for composing music, enrolling him in private composition lessons will help him grow. A teacher trained in music composition can give young composers direction, instruct them on harmony and form, get them to think more abstractly, encourage them, and help them find their unique musical voice. Middle school or even late elementary is not too young to start, depending on their own motivation and interest.

On a personal note, I began making up songs at age four, began piano lessons at age six, and was formally composing music by age nine. I was lucky enough to have a private piano teacher who encouraged me and never made me feel I was too young for composition. No one ever told me I couldn’t do it, so I assumed I could – and I did, eventually earning my Master’s in Music Composition.

Composition isn’t just for prodigies – it’s a form of artistic expression that every child is capable of doing. And who knows? With the right encouragement and guidance, they might surprise you.

NatalieLNatalie L. teaches singing, piano, songwriting, and more in New York, New York. She has a Master of Music in music theory and composition from New York University, a Bachelor of Music in musical theater from the Catholic University of America, and a certificate in vocal performance from the Peabody Prepratory. Learn more about Natalie here! 

 

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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.

Friends don't let friends clap on the 1 and 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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