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5 Excellent Goals for Kids’ Music Lessons | A Guide for Parents & Teachers

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As teachers, what should you keep in mind as you create music lesson plans for kids? And as parents, how should we be encouraging our children as they’re taking lessons? Here, Brooklyn, NY teacher Julie P. shares her ideas…

 

Music lessons are a great opportunity for any child, no matter what their musical goals are. In fact, goals for music lessons don’t have to be entirely musical. Most children who take music lessons will not grow up to be professional musicians, so it’s great to focus on some of the big picture skills when investing time and money into lessons. When it comes to music lesson plans for kids, here are five great goals for parents and teachers alike to keep in mind:

1. Enjoy Playing and Making Music

This most important goal for any child’s music lessons is for the child to have fun. Yes, there is a fair amount of hard work that goes into creating music lesson plans for kids, but if the student isn’t enjoying the process, then he or she probably won’t continue to play music for very long. Every student is different and not all students will enjoy the same music or teaching styles. Parents, if your child isn’t having fun learning to play music, consider approaching your teacher about it to come up with some ways to engage your child better. This might include the student composing his or her own songs, performing duets with other students, or learning a pop song.

2. Improve Listening Skills

Learning how to play an instrument is a long and challenging process that requires the ability to take directions and follow them accurately. In music there are many rules and parameters governing the skills being acquired, all of which will be new to the student. Teachers help students acquire the necessary skills using appropriate music lesson plans, including exercises and practice techniques that help the student approach the new skills from multiple angles. This is a great opportunity to hone listening skills, as the students will need to listen carefully to the teacher’s directions and examples in order to progress.

3. Develop Perseverance

Kids who take music lessons have an opportunity to develop perseverance. Not only are kids challenged to maintain a consistent practice schedule, but they will also come across skills that are difficult for them to grasp. Children who learn how to keep working on those skills even when it gets difficult will carry those perseverance skills into all other areas of life.

4. Develop Confidence

Studying music is a great way for kids to increase their confidence. Kids are often proud of the new musical skills they develop, especially when they’ve worked hard for a certain skill. They learn that the key to developing confidence is careful and thorough preparation. There are many performance opportunities available, from band and orchestra concerts to recitals and community concerts, such as at nursing homes or places of worship. Kids also have weekly opportunities at lessons to perform for their teacher in a low-stress environment. Some kids who study music are hesitant to perform in front of people, but there are many group performance opportunities than can bolster their confidence, even if they choose to not perform a solo.

5. Develop an Appreciation for Music

Music will continue to be a part of kids’ lives as they grow up, even if they don’t continue with music lessons. If they learn to appreciate different kinds of music they will end up as a supportive member of the musical community. Many adults who took music lessons when they were young find great enjoyment in going to concerts of all genres (classical, folk, rock, blues, etc.). Often I will hear them say that they appreciate the work the musicians put into their craft, having experienced when they were young the kind of hard work it took to learn an instrument. Kids who develop this appreciation through music lessons will open up many doors for enjoying music in the future.

There are many benefits to music lessons, and many different goals to pursue. These are five great goals for kids’ music lessons that will benefit children for the rest of their lives. If you’d like your child to start taking music lessons, find a TakeLessons teacher near you here!

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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Fun Music Activities for Infants, Toddlers, and Beyond

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Any age is right for introducing your child to music! Here, Corona, CA teacher Milton J. share some ideas for music activities for kids of all ages…

 

Have a child who can’t stop singing, tapping, or dancing? Congratulations, your child is musically inclined! There are some wonderful ways of introducing your young one to music that are exciting and fun, while also enriching their development and increasing your own enjoyment as a parent. Whether your child is an infant, toddler, preschooler, or older, there’s something for every child of every age!

Infants

The music infants hear is mostly dependent on their caregivers. Singing simple, short songs to infants in a high, soft voice with a few lines about bathing, dressing, or eating while you do these activities helps them liken melody to the activity, which improves their astuteness, but also helps them resonate joy with those melodies. Additionally, nursery rhymes said with rhythm and repetition is pleasing for older infants. You also can provide rhythmic activities for younger infants by rocking them or clapping and patting their hands together. Babies will respond with excited movements like swaying, waving, and bouncing. Babies’ responses of gurgling, cooing, and happy shouting are their own unique way of making music themselves!

Toddlers

Activities for toddlers from 18 months through three years should incorporate short songs. As their memories are not fully developed, they can remember only a few words at a time. Repeating songs encourages the use of words and memorization. When caring for toddlers, listen when they begin to sing spontaneously. Repeat the songs or nursery rhymes over and over. A fun game to play with them is to create rhythms by clapping or tapping a metal pan with a wooden spoon. Most 3-year-olds will be able to listen and repeat while enjoying using cookware for something other than when mommy or daddy makes dinner (although be sure to monitor them if they decide to search for the pan and spoon themselves!).

For another idea, when music plays on the radio or the stereo at home, call out movements for them to make that involve various parts of their bodies. Ask them to jump and hop, smile and frown, or punch the air with their fists. Then, ask them to sit on the floor or stand on one foot each time you turn the music off. This is a fun activity for toddlers and can be played with all kinds of music.

Preschoolers

Children who are four and five naturally love to sing! My 5-year-old nephew is singing constantly. Preschoolers tend to like songs that repeat words and melodies, rhythms with a definite beat, and words that ask them to do things. Preschool children also enjoy nursery rhymes and songs about familiar things like toys, animals, play activities, and people.

For your preschooler, provide a wide variety of music for them to listen to, like folk songs, symphonies, operas, rock and roll, oldies, jazz standards, and soundtracks from their favorite movies and educational TV shows. For a game, suggest that everyone pretend to be animals or objects like cats, elephants, trucks, or bouncing balls, and then imitate these in response to the music. This will help your child interpret the music with movement and help him or her internalize rhythm and syncopation.

School-Age Children

Like toddlers, the attention span of school-age children is short. Most 6-to 9-year-olds respond best to songs about everyday happenings. Songs that involve counting, spelling, or remembering a sequence of events are popular. Songs and musical activities with other school subjects are also effective during this stage in their development. Words that tell stories about athletic games, other countries, famous men and women, or scientific discoveries are well-liked and easily remembered. Remember to keep these verses fairly short and limited to one thought.

Now, early school-age children are able to establish relationships with their friends and can use their musical experiences to form friendships. They may have a strong interest in taking music lessons or playing in a band. They may also want to listen to music after school with friends or sing in a church or community choir. They are conscientious about practicing and may take a liking to singing or percussion instruments.

As the parent, listen to the music they want to play for you. Suggest that they sing and play their musical instrument for you or together as a group with their other musical friends. If you let the children take turns directing this “jam session” and join in as an enthusiastic member, their interest will surely last much longer.

Enjoy introducing and encouraging your child’s love for music, parents! We hope to see them taking lessons with a great TakeLessons instructor in the near future.

MiltonJMilton K. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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What They Don’t Tell You About Becoming a Musician

how to become a musicianWhen you become a musician — whether you’re playing the guitar, the drums, or another instrument — you’ll notice a pattern when others find out about your skills. Read on to learn what they don’t tell you about becoming a musician, in this guest post by Brookings, SD teacher Carl S…  

 

Every musician has his or her own story. Some people play as a hobby and may play the occasional gig. Others are gigging frequently or perhaps teaching music. No matter what type of musician you are, you should ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Be honest with yourself, and whatever your answer is, well, that is just fine. What don’t they tell you about becoming a musician? At some point, you’ll be a music teacher of some sort.

Surprise! You’ve learned one song on the guitar — now people identify you as a guitarist. If somebody you know decides that they want to learn guitar, they will likely come to you for advice on how to get started. What do you say to them? If you haven’t experienced this scenario to some degree yet, you will.

Early in high school, I decided to be a multi-instrumentalist. Saxophone has always been my “primary” instrument, but I play and teach many instruments. Like many 15-year-olds, I had the desire to try my hand at guitar. Having had solid experience with another instrument, it came to me very quickly, albeit self-taught. One day, I was in our high school music room playing a song I’d figured out on the guitar, and one of my friends heard me playing. “I didn’t know you played guitar!” he said. This was immediately followed by a request to join a garage band, help him with his bass playing, and write songs together.

Whoa! Am I even capable of this? Well, I went for it, but as soon as I said yes, I felt the overwhelming anxiety of not being as virtuosic as I was falsely perceived to be. At this point, I had learned everything that I knew about guitar from a Walmart poster. I’m serious. Poster + guitar = now offering advice?

I needed to learn some things and quick! I immediately started thinking, “Who do I know that plays guitar well?” Seeing a pattern here?

No matter when we decide to give making music a try, someday, you’ll teach somebody something about music. Don’t be afraid of this; rather, rise to the challenge and let this be your inspiration to submerse yourself in thoughts and ideas that will in turn push you to the next level.

For example, I’ve always been sort of a hobbyist in regards to guitar. I teach music for a living at a university, so guitar has always been an outlet instrument for me. I teach big bands, so now I have college-level jazz guitarists coming to me for advice. The best way for me to teach them was for me to pick up my guitar and put myself in their shoes. I’ve had great success teaching them, and they go on and on about how much more things seem to make sense. I’m just having fun playing guitar with them!

Music is an art. This art of how to become a musician is passed down from generation to generation via friends, family, and mentors. On behalf of music teachers everywhere, welcome to the club!

CarlSCarl S. teaches saxophone, music theory, piano, and more in Brookings, SD. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance at the University of Kansas in 2014, and his Master of Music Pedagogy and Performance from Oklahoma State University in 2011. Learn more about Carl here! 

 

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6 Fun and Unique Ways to Learn Music Theory

Orchestra-Performance-23Staring at the Circle of Fifths and memorizing key signatures isn’t the only way to learn music theory! Here, Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T. shares some creative ideas to revive your learning…

 

Music theory is a very important part of your musicianship, whether it be mastering ear training, harmony, or sight reading. No matter what instrument you play or what styles you enjoy, those who learn music theory grow further as musicians. A solid knowledge can help you improve your performance, technique, composition, and analysis of music!

For some, learning music theory can be very dry, or perhaps even overwhelming at first. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be all about sitting down with a theory book and memorizing scales, chords, and key signatures. There are many other interesting ways you can improve your musicianship. Here are some ideas to try that incorporate both learning and having fun!

1. Learn to play other instruments
If you’re a singer, then learning the piano is vital to becoming a well-rounded vocalist. And if you’re a pianist, then being able to sing comfortably will improve your piano skills, believe it or not! The more instruments you know how to play and read the music for, the easier it will be for you! You can also try learning an instrument that plays in bass clef if you play an instrument in treble clef, to work on those transposing skills!

2. Listen to new material
I recommend attending many concerts of vocalists, choirs, orchestras, and big bands, to train your ear on what all the different voices and instruments sound like. The only way to really develop your musical ear, and to start working toward perfect pitch, is by listening to the different instruments.

3. Analyze your favorite songs
If you’re up for the challenge, find the sheet music for one of your favorite songs, and analyze it. For example, what are the tempo markings? What key signature is it in? Are the chords major or minor? Then, I dare you to sing the song only in solfege, not the lyrics, on the correct pitches. This is going to improve your theory and musicianship immensely! Even if you think it’s time consuming, it is very good practice. As a performer, knowing the music you’re singing or playing inside and out is key!

4) Find visuals
If you’re a visual learner like I am, consider placing music theory posters around your music room, or somewhere you can always see them. There are also clocks that represents the Circle of Fifths (like this one); every time you look at it, you will start to memorize the key signatures!

5) Incorporate movement
I encourage dancing and movement when learning music theory, especially with my younger students. This can really help you gain a sense of musicality and feel the rhythm in your body. Freeze dancing, ballet, tap, zumba, and yoga are all great ways to be lyrical with your body. And by dancing regularly, your body will begin to internalize the rhythm automatically, so that when it’s time for sight reading and performing rhythms it’s going to second nature for you!

6) Try composing a song
I also encourage you to try composing music on your instrument! Write your own chord progressions, melody, and rhythms without thinking too much about it, and remember that it’s okay to start simple and to make mistakes. Just write whatever comes to mind. Then start to analyze what you have just written, and you may be surprised with the masterpiece you have created!

I highly recommend trying out these ideas as you learn music theory — they are fun, creative, and much more hands-on than staring at a book!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

 

 

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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

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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.

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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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