How to Write Lyrics: Steps to Success for Any Musical Style


Interested in learning how to write lyrics and songs? Here, New Jersey guitar teacher Matthew H. explains an easy 3-step process to follow… 

Songwriting is not easy; just ask any composer or lyricist. While the musical composition is highly important (making sure the melody is catchy without sounding too trite), having a strong, relatable message to go along with a great tune is just as, if not more, important. Here are some tips on how to write lyrics for a good song.

1) What is the story?
Too often, songwriters worry about the rhythmic structure or rhyme of the lyrics when they first should be focused on the whole point of a song: storytelling. It doesn’t matter if you are adding lyrics to existing music, creating music for the lyrics, or doing both simultaneously, you have to have a story to tell. Start small. What do you want the overall point or moral of the song to be? How should a listener feel after hearing it? Common examples include: falling in love, missing someone, feeling liberated, and so on. Once you choose a starting point, expand upon it, but write down the story as if it were prose rather than a song. For example: I miss my brother ever since he moved out of the country. I don’t get to see him as much as I used to and I feel like a part of my life will not be the same as a result. I wish things were the way they used to be when we were younger and living together at home.

2) Make your story musical.
Now that you have an outline of how you want the song’s story to play out, set it to music. Even if you don’t have a solid sense of the entire orchestration or final production elements, play around with different melodic structures and rhythms. Taking our missing brother example from before, figure out which specific words need to be stressed. If you’re working on the hook and you decide that the sensation of “nostalgia” takes precedence over everything else, then be sure to make that clear within the chorus with either a very clever line (avoid clichés like comparing his absence with death) or a sustained syllable within a strategic word (the o in home, for instance). A good rule of thumb is to never marry any idea right off the bat; the best way to write lyrics is to be flexible. In doing so, you’ll avoid any problems you might encounter if you insist on having a specific line a certain way.

3) Don’t be afraid to make some changes!
Test out your song. Does the story make sense? Do the lyrics flow well with the music? Would everything suddenly sound much better if you switch out one word with another? These are the things you need to look for after developing your perspective and making it melodic. If you’ve been working on the song for a long time, take a break. Your ears and mind will need a distraction. After a couple days or a week even, try listening to what you have and make any necessary changes that jump out at you after having taken some time to separate yourself from your creation.

When songwriting, you really are baring your soul for the world to see (and hear) in an extremely vulnerable way. If you follow the advice above on how to write lyrics, you will find the words resonate deeper than the generic pop schlock that typically permeates the radio’s Top 40.

MatthewHMatthew H. provides tutoring in various subjects both online and in New Milford, NJ.  He recently received his MA from NYU with a background in Sociolinguistics and related research. Learn more about Matthew here! 




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All in Order: Tricks for Identifying Key Signatures


What are the “keys” to identifying different key signatures? Read on for some great tips from Tucson, AZ teacher Lourdes C

In reading music, there are a few things that give musicians the biggest headaches. One major migraine-maker is determining keys from the key signature and then remembering the order of sharps and flats. This chart gives musicians a quick way to help with identifying key signatures.

Key Signatures at a Glance

Major sharps: the name of the key can be found at 1 semitone above the last sharp.

Minor sharps: the name of the key can be found at 2 semitones below the last sharp.

C has no accidentals

A has no accidentals

G: F# + 1 semitone = G…

E: F# – 2 semitones = E…

D: F#, C#

B: F#, C#

A: F#, C#, G#

F#: F#, C#, G#

E: F#, C#, G#, D#

C#: F#, C#, G#, D#

B: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#

G#:  F#, C#, G#, D#, A#

F#: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#

D#: F#, C#, G#, D# A#, E#

C#: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#

A#: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#

Major flats: the name of the key can be found at 7 semitones above the last flat.

Minor flats: the name of the key can be found at 4 semitones above the last flat.

F: Bb + 7 semitones = F…

D: Bb + 4 semitones = D…

Bb: Bb, Eb

G: Bb, Eb

Eb: Bb, Eb, Ab

C: Bb, Eb, Ab

Ab: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db

F: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db

Db: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb

Bb: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb

Gb: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb

Eb: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb

Cb: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb

Ab: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb

Written Order of Accidentals and Example Key Signatures

Figure 1Let’s work on identifying key signatures by looking at the image above. The last flat in this case is F (Fb is E, in enharmonic spelling). From Fb, count up 7 semitones (half-steps) and keep the enharmonic spellings for E and B (Fb and Cb, respectively): Fb -F-Gb-G-Ab-A-Bb-Cb (B) – key of Cb major. Count four semitones up and you get Ab minor, the relative minor of Cb. Even if you don’t know the mode, either major or minor, by using this key signature method, you will always be able to find the major and relative minor for any signature you encounter.

Figure 2

This next key signature has one accidental. Avoid assuming that this is Bb major or minor. This is actually Fb major. Fb minor is actually E minor, which is a sharp key. This method will help you work through the Circle of Fifths and understand the relationship between tonal arrangements in keys.

Other Problems to Avoid

Accidentals (sharps and flats symbols) are written in descending order from top right to bottom left on the staff. So, knowing the last flat or sharp requires that you remember the order of sharps and flats, because on the staff, the last accidental may appear higher than the first, which can trick you into thinking it’s the first accidental. This is Bb major, as an example:

Figure 3

Mnemonic for the Order of Sharp and Flats

The order of flats is BEADGCF (“bead” – gcf). A good mnemonic is “bead the G clef from middle C to the F clef”. If you can remember that, just know that for sharps, it will be backwards: FCGDAEB. If you remember only that mnemonic and the counts in the chart above, you’ll always be in the right order and you can identify keys by their signatures alone with just a little practice. To practice, find any good graphic image for the Circle of Fifths and try this for yourself! Happy music-making!

LourdesLourdes C. teaches various music subjects and tutors in Tucson, AZ. Her doctorate is in Applied Linguistics and American Indian Studies. She has been an instructor and tutor for over 20 years for academics, research methods, languages and literature, and music as well. Book in-person or online lessons with Lourdes here!



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write a song

How To Write a Song Today: 4 Easy Steps

write a song

Learning how to write a song is easier than you think! Greeley, CO teacher Andy W. outlines the steps here… 

Don’t you wish you could write a song that tells your own story – whether it’s about love, hardships, or finding humor in life? There’s no reason that you can’t do that today! To help get you started, here are four easy steps to writing your own song:

1. Play chords or a riff.
2. Sing or hum over the harmony.
3. Repeat steps 1-2 to form a chorus and then a bridge.
4. Place the song sections in this order: Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus

1. Play chords or a riff.

Play chords that you know sound good together. You can use what you know of music theory to help think of possible chords. One of the most common chord progressions is I, IV, V, which would be C, F, G in the key of C.

Another approach is to forget about all that theory and just play chords that sound new and good to your ears. This is a great way to make a song sound like your own.

2. Sing or hum over the harmony.
Start by singing syllables without words. When Paul McCartney originally wrote “Yesterday,” instead of saying “all my troubles seem so far away,” he sang “Scrambled eggs, oh my darling you’ve got lovely legs.” Likewise, when Stevie Wonder first wrote “Superstition,” instead of singing “writing on the wall,” he sang “wash your face and hands.” If they write lyrics this way, so can you! Then once you have a basic melody, it can be much easier to add lyrics.

3. Repeat steps 1-2 to form a chorus and then a bridge.

Here is a general breakdown for what each section of your song should look like:

  • Verse: The verse should tell a story. Use it to describe a scene, an emotion, or something in detail. This section can rhyme but it doesn’t have to.
  • Chorus: The chorus should be very simple and repetitive. Try to make a hook that people can‘t get out of their heads. Here are a few examples of songs with memorable choruses: Beatles – All You Need Is Love; Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe; Eric Clapton – Layla
  • Bridge: The bridge is a common addition to a song that keeps the listener engaged by going into new territory. It‘s often used as an instrumental section where solos can occur. Changes in the chords, key, tempo, dynamics, or instrumentation are common.

Here are two additional song sections that are commonly used:

  • Pre-Chorus: The pre-chorus is typically a transition between the verse and chorus. Another approach can be to use the pre-chorus in place of a chorus for the first half of a song. This allows you to save the chorus for a big climax toward the end.
  • Intro and Outro: Intros and outros can be instrumentals or feature lyrics that introduce or develop the main idea of the song.

4. Place the song sections in this order: Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus

This is a very common structure for pop songs. Examples of songs that use this structure are: Otis Redding – Dock of the Bay; Incubus – Drive; John C. Mellencamp – Jack and Diane

By playing chords, singing over them, making multiple sections, and finally ordering these sections, you can quickly and easily write a song today! Congratulations! As you continue to write, avoid writer’s block by doing these steps without judging yourself and your abilities. You can do it. Happy songwriting!

AndyWAndy W. teaches guitar, singing, piano, and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!



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saxophone lesson

Tips for Parents: 4 Ways to Help Your Child in Music

saxophone lesson

Not sure how to encourage your child in between his or her music lessons? Show your support with the following strategies from Nashville teacher Dave L.:

So your child has begged you for music lessons, chosen an instrument, and is about to begin this new and exciting journey in music… what now? You’ve just paid a bunch of money for an instrument, instruction books, accessories… you’re considering the time and money it’s all going to take in order for them to do this… what ELSE can you as their parent or guardian possibly do for your child to help them succeed in their musical journey that the teacher CANNOT provide? This article will give you a checklist of options. The main assumption is only that your child is important to you (obviously!) and you already provide them with a living space some or all of the time. The final assumption is that we as the teacher/parent team want your child to be successful their endeavors.

So what’s first?

1. Help your child create a special music area. This could be an extra room or their own room. Include items such as a music stand, metronome, perhaps an instrument stand, a place to keep their instruction books, and also an audio source such as an iPod or CD player. This space should be a place where they can play uninterrupted away from outside distractions like their cell phone, pets, friends, and siblings. It should also be an area that is kept clean (by the student) – once kids see the value in maintaining this type of area as their own, they’ll take pride in ownership, which will spill over into their learning.

2. Understand that interest = practice, and not necessarily the other way around. You obviously want your child to practice as much as his or her teacher does. But neither the teacher nor you as the parent can truly force the student to do this while also expecting them to find enjoyment in playing music. The student must develop an intrinsic motivation to do this. Help your child create a practice schedule that fits with their daily activities – if they’re a beginner, 15 minutes a day is a great start. While they’re practicing, peek in once or twice as more of a “fan” or audience member. Show interest and ask open-ended questions about what they’re doing, like “Wow, that sounded really cool – how are you making that sound?” or “Can you show ME how to hold the instrument?”  - then all of a sudden the student gets to “play teacher” for a minute and show you what they’re learning, which only strengthens the learning process for them.

3. Help your child create a fun music library that incorporates the instrument they’re playing. Ask your child’s teacher for recommendations if you aren’t sure. Also, bringing them to live concert events that feature a soloist or group playing the instrument of study is a great way to motivate your child. This may also be a nice way to introduce them to music that is exciting to you, as well!

4. Encourage discovery. Allow your child to make his or her own discoveries in music as often as possible. This encourages independence, confidence, and motivation. So many times I see parents come down hard on their kids for not practicing, or smothering the child with criticism, many times with all good intentions (impress the teacher, progress faster, etc.). But it’s my opinion that this approach isn’t best. We want to help them reach their OWN goals. The discovery in this case may be that music just isn’t what interests them – which is OK! Other students will discover a brand new love for life through music and along the way continue to learn about the world, themselves, and humanity. I believe it’s our job as educators and parents to help our youth find exactly what they’re looking for. Music is just one of MANY vehicles we can use.

Thanks for reading!

DavidJDave L. teaches clarinet, flute, music performance, music theory, piano, and saxophone lessons in Nashville, TN. Dave holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from The University of Central Florida, and is currently the touring keyboardist/saxophonist for Platinum-selling band Sister Hazel. Previously he toured with artists such as 80s pop icon Tiffany and Grammy-nominated vocalist John Berry. Learn more about Dave here!


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piano practice

Making Practice FUN – 2 Ways to Spice Things Up

piano practice

Is practicing your instrument becoming more of a chore than an enjoyable pastime? Check out these tips from Hayward, CA and online teacher Molly R. for making practice fun and getting out of the rut:


Sometimes as students and teachers, we lose sight of some pretty important things in music making: personality… and plain FUN!

Sure, there may be a handful of musicians out there that wow with their impeccable technique. But is that really enough? Think of yourself as an audience member for a moment and ask yourself which performances are the ones you really remember: the ones that appeared flawless, or those that touched you in some way?

We should ask ourselves the same thing as a musician in our day-to-day lives. Do you want to be perfect, or do you want to be interesting? It all starts in the studio or practice room.

Here are some ways to get out of your head and to start bringing the fun back into making music:

  • Are you a singer? Well, if you’re learning a “serious” aria, why not sing it in the style of Katy Perry or Beyonce? Why not rap it? Instrumentalists… the same applies to you! Say you’re doing a jazz or classical piece that’s pretty difficult . Stand up and rock it Jerry Lee Lewis style and really use your body and attitude (no one’s looking! Go, Killer, go!).
  • How about our basic warm ups? Those don’t have to be boring, either. Sing your scales using nonsense words. Swing the rhythms! Dance or sway or stomp and clap. Make funny faces. Use your imagination – the options are limitless!

Now after you have done some of these “crazy” (but hopefully fun!) things, sing or play as “you.” Record yourself. Are you amazed at the difference? You should be. Something magical just happened. By allowing yourself to cut loose , you will do wonders for your singing and playing. When the mind relaxes, so does the body!

As I tell my students, practicing should NEVER be a chore. There are plenty of ways for making practice fun by mixing it up and simply playing. My rule is “first, make it fun.”  After all, isn’t that why you got into music in the first place?

mollyrMolly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

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Music is a universal language

Music is a Universal Language: The Truth About Learning It

Music is a universal language

You’ve likely heard the saying “Music is a universal language.” If that’s the case, then how should we be teaching it? How can you effectively learn the language? Read on as Aurora, CO teacher Zach S. explores the idea… 

I recently was able to go to a master class taught by Victor Wooten, and he brought up something that is not talked about nearly as much as it should be in music. Music is a language. Now what does that mean? It means that music has rules (music theory) just as languages do (grammar), and that music can be used to communicate with others.

I will go more in depth into those two aspects of music as a language, but if you read one thing from this post, this should be it: You do not learn a language by studying grammar all day, you learn a language by talking and by listening. The same approach should be taken to music – learn to talk (play) but also learn how to listen.

Communicating with Music
I love music theory. I have studied it for seven years and it is my favorite class in college right now. With that being said, there are a lot of problems with the way music is being taught. When handed an instrument the first thing I am told to do is learn to play scales. Why? There is nothing musical about scales. I am not able to communicate with a scale, just as I am not able to communicate by saying the ABCs.

The first thing we teach a child when they are learning how to speak is a word, but in music the first thing we teach a student is a scale. Why not teach the student how to communicate? Why not teach them how to express themselves first and then teach them how it works second? What I do with students in their first lesson is have them play. I don’t care what, I don’t care how, I just want to see what they have to say. Then I play back, and by the end of our lesson we are able to communicate and my student has learned how to say something with his instrument. That is why they came to me in the first place, to learn how to talk with their instrument. Why not teach the student that first?

Learning How Communicating With Music Works
Now this is where music theory comes in. After a little bit of communicating with music, we start to learn why it works. Just as toddlers start to learn grammar in grade school. It is not the FIRST thing that is taught, but it is still taught. One can communicate without any knowledge of grammar, but the ideas one can get across are simple. As one learns more grammar they are able to get more and more complex ideas across to the listener.

This is why one should learn scales – not to be able to play through them at rapid fire, but to be able to use the scale to get a more complex idea across. Let’s take my main instrument, for example, which is bass guitar. I can hang out on the root of a chord and I will sound good. I then can add in some different rhythms to give it my own little flair. That is with one note, but if I learn the scale that goes with the chord, then six more notes open up. I am able to get a more complex idea across just because I have studied the grammar behind music. This is why music theory is important to allow musicians to better express themselves.

Music is a universal language. Everyone feels something from music, so that should be the first thing taught to students – how to communicate using your instrument, how to be in a band, and how to contribute to the sound. That should be the first thing taught by a teacher. Then it is the teacher’s responsibility to open up the vocabulary of the student, to allow the student to be able to say more, and say something complex. Music is taught backwards currently; we teach students the grammar and then hope they stay with it long enough to the point were they are allowed to say something. Let’s teach student how to say something first, then worry about the grammar behind music.

Thank you for reading!

Zach S.Zach S. teaches music theory and bass guitar in Aurora, CO. He is currently a Music Major at CU Denver, and has played bass guitar and studied music theory for seven years. Learn more about Zach here!



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5 Easy Ukulele Songs For Summer

5 Easy Ukulele Songs to Play This Summer

5 Easy Ukulele Songs For Summer

Nothing says Summer quite like the sound of a ukulele! With the days getting longer and the mercury rising, now is a great time to pick up a uke and make a splash at this season’s barbeques, bonfires, and pool parties.

Even if you’ve never picked up an instrument before, getting started on the ukulele is fun, easy, and inexpensive. You can find a decent starter ukulele at your local music shop for around $40, plus there are tons of resources available online to help you strum your first chord.

For starters, check out these great YouTube tutorials. We picked out five of our favorite easy ukulele songs to get you strumming this Summer:

1. “I’m Yours” – Jason Mraz

This mellow favorite has just 4 easy chords: C, G, Am, and F. Get familiar with this chord progression now, because you will be it to play tons of songs in the future! The strumming pattern might take  you some time to master, so feel free to pause the video and go as slow as you need to.

2. “You Are My Sunshine” – Jimmy Davis 

Using just three chords, C, F, and G, you can play this instantly recognizable classic tune. With a little luck, you might even get a sing-along going!

3. “Stand By Me” – Ben E. King

Who doesn’t love singing along to “Stand By Me”? Once you master the strum pattern, this song is a piece of cake.

4. “Ho Hey” – The Lumineers

Remember the chords from “I’m Yours”? Play with them in a different order and you’ll be strumming “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers. I told you that chord progression would come in handy!

5. “Twist and Shout” – Bert Russell and “La Bamba” – Mexican Folk Song

This is technically song five and six on our list, because with one chord progression you can play two easy ukulele songs!

For more help with your new uke, private lessons with a great ukulele teacher can’t be beat! Your teacher can help you learn good technique, show you how to tune your instrument, and give you live feedback on how you’re doing. Getting started with lessons is easy, and your teacher will be able to tailor your lessons so you learn what you really want to play. To get started, search for your perfect teacher now!

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cruise ship musician jobs

Cruise Ship Musician Jobs: How I Got The Gig & What To Expect

cruise ship musician jobsAs a musician, there are tons of different paths you can take, places you can perform, and ways you can do what you love. Here, Las Vegas and online teacher Nick B. shares his story of his experience auditioning to be a cruise ship musician…

Everyone wants to tour the world, play their guitar, and just rock out in front of a fun-­loving crowd, especially if they’re getting paid to do it! A few months ago, I found an ad which offered just that! It basically read, “We’ll fly you to Europe for free, and put you on a cruise ship in the tropics for six months to a year, where you’ll do nothing but play your guitar all day, eat, and drink for free, and have no bills.” I was sold!

I knew there had to be a catch. Certainly just my resume wouldn’t be enough. And it wasn’t. I had to perform an audition via Skype within 24 hours of receiving the audition material. Feeling confident, I had them send over the material and set­ up an audition time for early the next afternoon. That’s fine. I was determined.

They sent over a few MP3s of popular rock and jazz tunes, and their charts. I got to work. I knew that if I wanted to get this gig I had to absolutely nail the audition; they are looking for the best players they can find across the whole planet, and I only got one shot. I listened closely to the songs, reading along with the charts, and after I felt confident in what was expected to be recreated from the chart, I began to play along, making notes on charts as I went. I practiced until I was blue in the face, took a break, grabbed some food, and got ready for my Skype call.

The call started with friendly introductions, a short interview, and a brief description of what we would actually do during the “audition” part of the call. He said, “Go ahead,” and I was off and running. I played through all the tunes and felt good about them, because of the way I prepared myself. After a short pause, he told me that they could offer me the job right then, on the spot. This got me on their roster. They didn’t have a contract for me right away, but they assured me that they would be calling soon with an offer. And that they did. Within a week I had been offered three different contracts! There was a lot to consider and a lot of information to take in! I told them that I needed to talk the details over with my wife, and they understood and gave me a day to get back to them. After weighing all my options, I decided to decline their generous offers. It turned out to just not be the right fit for my life at that time. However, the experience of the audition was a lot of fun and learning about cruise ship musician jobs was very interesting!

Although I put in a lot of work and even landed the gig, I had to think long and hard about what I actually wanted for myself. It turns out that what I really want is to be here in Las Vegas to rock out with my band! And, I want to be here to teach you how to play guitar and bass! You know what you want, now go for it!

NickBNick B. teaches music theory, songwriting and guitar lessons in Las Vegas, NV, as well as online. He has transcribed over 12 books for Hal Leonard Publishing. His specialties include rock, pop, blues, technique, music theory, and ear training. Nick joined the TakeLessons team in April 2014. Learn more about Nick here!



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Music Lyrics

How to Find the Lyrics and Chords for Your Favorite Songs

Best Places To Look for Lyrics and ChordsWhen you’re learning to play an instrument, sometimes it’s tough to get motivated to practice – especially if you’re playing songs and exercises that don’t really excite you. When you start playing your favorite songs, though, you might find yourself able to get into your music a bit more. There are many ways to find the lyrics and chords to your favorite songs, but not all of them are simple, and sometimes you might end up more frustrated trying to track down lyrics or chords than you would be practicing music that you’re not listening to on your stereo regularly.

There are two main options for finding song lyrics and chords. One option is to go to your local music store and ask if they have the sheet music for the song you’re looking for. This is fairly easy, as the salesperson can point you in the right direction. The other option is to go online and try to find it. While you might be able to find more obscure songs this way, you also run the risk of finding music that has been transcribed improperly and won’t sound like your favorite song regardless of how well you practice. That’s never fun! Here’s how to make your search easier:

Consult Your Private Instructor

When you’re trying to find the lyrics and chords for a specific song, make sure to ask your music teacher for advice. He or she may know of a website or a local music shop that can provide you with just what you’re looking for. And if you stumble upon the music for that elusive song but it doesn’t quite sound the way you want it to, your teacher can definitely help you determine what needs to change in order to make it sound like the original recording.

If you’re playing guitar, for instance, you might come across a song that is actually played with a capo on the third fret, but the chords you’ve found do not call for a capo and instead show a fair number of inverted chords. While the general structure of the song will be the same, you’ll likely find that you can never completely duplicate the same guitar sound as in the recording. Your teacher can help you discern these differences and help you transpose the chords so you can use a capo and sound just the way you want it to.

On the other hand, if you’re playing piano, you might find that the music you’ve found is missing a few parts of the chords that make the difference between sounding close and sounding exactly like the recording. Again, your private teacher will be able to hear which notes each chord is missing and help you fill in the gaps. Often music that is transcribed will be slightly simpler to play than what the original arrangement was, to make it easier for a wider range of piano players to practice it. While this is a good idea to start learning songs, if you’ve practiced the same melody for months and it still doesn’t sound the way it does coming through your stereo, the frustration will be back in spades. Working with a good private instructor to help you find the differences between your arrangement and the original recording is key.

Tips for Finding Music Online

There are many sites out there that offer guitar chords and tablature, as well as sheet music and lyrics for piano. You may find that the more lyrics and chords you search for online, you’ll keep coming back to the same few sites and settling in on a couple that have the proper arrangements and selection of songs that you want. Here are a few guitar sites that have a great selection of lyrics and chords to get you started:

  • Ultimate Guitar: This website has over 800,000 songs of chords and tabs. If it’s a hit song from a major recording artist, chances are you can find it here!

  • Guitar eTab: With around 200,000 listings, this site is another great resource.

  • Chordie: This site is even more expansive than the other two combined. The only drawback is that most of the songs on here are not completely accurate, so use this as your last resort.

If you’re trying to find lyrics and chords for a specific song online, make sure to be as precise with your search as possible. Use the name of the artist and the name of the song when you are searching. If the artist has multiple recordings of the song, such as a studio version and a live version, also use the name of the album for the specific recording you’re looking for. Click through the first few results of your search, and browse around the website a bit before deciding which arrangement to start practicing. A good site will have a huge selection of lyrics and chords available, as well as possibly a key to deciphering any specific nomenclature of the music they have. This is always good to have in case there’s a notation that you aren’t familiar with. Of course, your private instructor can help you decipher these things as well. Good luck, and have fun!


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So You Want to Be a Drum Major? Tips & Advice for Students

So You Want to Be a Drum Major? Tips & Advice for StudentsPlaying in your high school band is a commitment that will give you many fond memories to look back on for the rest of your life. High school is a time to socialize and discover yourself, so if music is something you are passionate about, what better way to express that than by joining the band? Nothing is more rewarding than working hard with your fellow friends and bandmates to perfect your performance and finally getting a chance to perform it at a competition, football game, or other band-related event.

However, no group effort can reach its full potential without some kind of leadership, and marching band is no exception. This is where the role of the drum major comes into play; the drum major is, among many other things, responsible for leading the band, whether it be during practice or a performance. Being drum major is a huge honor, but it does not come without hard work, dedication, and practice. If you are considering becoming a drum major in your high school band, below are some drum major tips that will help you reach your goal.

What Does it Take to Be a Drum Major?

  • Above all else, being musically proficient is the best of all drum major tips. This does not simply mean knowing how to read music and being able to play your instrument; it means understanding how music is created and structured (music theory), being skilled enough at your instrument that playing it becomes second nature, and also knowing how to march with precise timing and accuracy. While some people may feel like they don’t have what it takes to become skilled in these areas, you can certainly improve with practice. Some people may be born with natural musical talent, but anyone with the right mindset can learn any skill they set their mind to! Working with a private instructor will also help immensely.

  • Leadership skills are also essential to become a drum major. Good leadership can mean different things to different people, but a few universal traits of an exceptional leader include being firm in your decisions, knowing how to gain and hold the attention of a group, and having good problem-solving skills. If you’re uncomfortable holding a leadership position and do not like having responsibility, then maybe being a drum major isn’t for you; this does not mean, however, that a quiet or shy person cannot be a drum major. Leadership is all about figuring out the best way to lead a group toward a goal, which can be done by anyone with ambition.

  • Another drum major tip to master the ability to conduct. Without anyone conducting the band, the music can get sloppy. Conducting is a skill that takes time and patience to master, so consider learning from a qualified teacher to receive the best learning experience.

How Do I Become a Drum Major? Tips for Students

While the requirements and processes involved in becoming drum major can vary from school to school, there are typically five general areas that candidates will be tested on to prove their worth as a drum major. Keep in mind that these divisions are not set in stone, but the skills involved in each are helpful to master:

  1. Parade: The purpose of this section is primarily to test the candidate’s physical proficiency. Typically, all candidates are given a recording of a march prior to the trial, and your job is to create a routine to accompany it. You are judged on the ability to march in a concise manner and on your creativity and originality as a drum major and musician.

  2. Field: This section is meant to test your conducting ability. You may be placed in a situation similar to a field performance, and asked to conduct the band in a mock performance. Clarity, precision, and confidence are important for this section, because it’s meant to test your ability to lead and conduct the band in a performance setting.

  3. Teaching: This is another section of your audition that requires superb leadership skills. You might be given a small group of band members to teach a simple routine or command to, and you’ll then be judged on how well you can communicate with the group and how quickly you can teach them.

  4. Interview: The purpose of this section should be fairly clear. You’ll likely be interviewed by your superiors, which may include your band director and possibly a drum major selection committee. Each candidate will usually be asked the same questions, all meant to measure your particular skillset: leadership, musical proficiency, ability to conduct, and anything else relevant to the position.

  5. Vote: In some schools, the rest of the band might vote for who they think is the best choice for drum major. The purpose of the vote is to allow everyone in the band to give their input, because since the drum major will lead the band, it is only fitting that their opinion on who the leader should be is considered.

There are plenty of other drum major tips you can utilize if you wish to become a drum major, but this should provide a good starting point for you. Being the drum major for a band can be a demanding and sometimes difficult task, but it’s a rewarding experience, and something that will look great on your resume!

If you are serious about it, taking private music lessons and practicing regularly is the best way to improve yourself and become the leader that drum majors need to be. Good luck in your musical endeavors, and even if the position of drum major doesn’t seem right for you, remember that there are plenty of other opportunities for musical expression; anyone with passion for music belongs in the band, so find the right position for you and excel at it!


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