learn to beatbox

How Beatboxing Can Help Your Child Become a Better Musician

learn to beatboxWant to help your child become a better singer or musician? Beatboxing may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but you’d be surprised at how learning this skill can supplement your child’s music lessons. Learn more in this guest post…


Musicianship is a funny thing. Whether trained in jazz, opera, classical, or soul, you can bet your bottom dollar that there are a range of techniques and tricks you would have never expected to be of help in boosting your child’s budding musical skill. One of these techniques is beatboxing.

Yes, beatboxing: an a cappella style of music-making via vocal percussion. Beatboxing not only teaches your child a greater sense of timing and rhythm, it also improves listening skills and can actually work to strengthen and protect his or her vocal cords. What’s more, it will widen your child’s musical scope, which will improve creativity and overall musicianship.

Here’s a quick breakdown of why learning to beatbox can help young musicians get on top of their musical game:

Aural Skills and Improvising

You can’t learn to beatbox from sheet music; you need to be able to listen and repeat in a ‘copycat’ style — training your mind to get used to the way the sounds can work together. Eventually, the goal is to be able to improvise using the sounds you’ve learned to make. Being able to improvise relies almost completely on strong aural skills, and the best way to strengthen them is through the same sort of ‘listen-and-repeat’ style of exercises, precisely what children will learn when they try their hand at beatboxing.

Rhythm and Timing

Beatboxing is essentially a way of creating a sequence of different rhythms, which play off each other to create a complicated, yet logical, sequence of beats. To pull this off, musicians need a pretty firm understanding of musical timing and how different rhythmic and percussive sounds can combine to create a particular effect. Having a strong sense of rhythm and being able to play to complicated time signatures will be a necessity as your child becomes a more developed musician — no matter what style or instrument they’re learning.

For instance, jazz musicians need a strong handle on syncopation, a way of playing unexpected rhythms that are sometimes off-beat. Learning how to create fast, complicated rhythms from sequences of quick, improvised beats will boost your child’s technical prowess and confidence over difficult passages.  Plus, being able to move in time to a steady beat is also linked to stronger language and reading skills.

Breath Control

Being able to breathe properly is essential to beatboxing. For singers and woodwind players, having good breath control is just as important. When you beatbox, you need to know how to command breath to produce different types of sounds, from a higher ‘hi-hat’ sound to a bass drum. There’s also the need to have enough breath to carry on with the performance, which means your child will need to learn how to incorporate breath into the beat itself.

For vocalists, strong breath control is one of the most important factors in controlling your voice. Whether belting out a gospel tune or shattering glass with a powerful aria, they’ll need to know exactly the amount of breath that’s required to create the tone and sound they want. How young musicians learn to exhale will alter the quality of the sound, volume, pitch, and tone of their voice; so learning how to manipulate it as a beatboxer will increase control over their range. It’s the same principle for woodwind players: different types of exhaled breath will resonate differently through the instrument, each bringing out a different sound and tone.

Protecting the Vocal Cords

As well as the benefits for your child’s capabilities as a musician, beatboxing can actually help strengthen and protect the vocal cords. When you sing, you rely almost entirely on your vocal cords to produce sound, which — when overused — can lead to the development of scar tissue. However, beatboxers use their entire vocal tract to create different sounds, which spreads energy across different structures, therefore minimizing strain on one particular area. Muscles used when beatboxing work to elongate the vocal tract, which can also help singers reach higher notes.

Getting Started

The best thing about beatboxing is that you first learn by copying. While it’s always easiest to be led by a tutor who knows what they’re doing, there are plenty of video tutorials online to help your child get his or her head around beatboxing before formally heading in for a lesson.

Your child will typically start to learn to beatbox by learning how to make percussion sounds like a drum kit. For instance, they’ll be able to mimic sounds of hi-hat cymbal, the tom-tom, and bass drum, and learn how to put them together to make basic beats. As they get better, they’ll learn more complex sounds to add to the mix.

learn to beatboxMonica Karpinski is a staff member at Ingenium Academy, a summer music program for talented young musicians around the world, aged 14-18. All students are taught beatboxing, regardless of style, previous training, or instrument they play.



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What Does it Take to Become a Session Musician?


Want to earn money playing and performing music? Set yourself up on the path to success with these career tips from Corona, CA music teacher Milton J.


Many aspiring musicians dream of being discovered and becoming the next best superstar. However, many others must also face the music that there is a certain amount of luck and chance in getting that seven-figure record deal. In lieu of sitting, waiting, and wishing for that big break, creating smaller breaks for yourself could make that eventual discovery much easier for A&R representatives and record executives, not to mention creating a source of income for yourself in the industry you love.

Some of your interests may include songwriting, producing, band leading, or being a creative manager of a music project. These roles often define the dynamics of a band or production, and can help you achieve your eventual goal of sustained financial gains and fame. They also own the most profitable portions of the music industry — copyrighted songs and publishing and performance royalties. Yes, that means the person who writes the lyrics and the melodies can potentially earn just as much or more than the artist who sings and performs it.

If you have an interest in instrumental or supportive work in a band as opposed to or in conjunction with songwriting, session musicianship would be a perfect launching pad for you. Musicians who choose to engage in session musicianship work with lots of different people, which makes for a successful career by sharing technical and musical expertise with many walks of life in the music industry. In order to do this successfully, you need to build yourself a good reputation and network constantly to create as many connections as possible. If this appeals to your twinkling piano or guitar fingers or tickles your vocal cords, here are some helpful tips on readying yourself to be a successful session musician!

Be Technically Proficient

Whether for recordings or live gigs, you need to be able to get it right, and fast! Sight reading or the ability to pick up songs by ear are very useful in this case (that means private music lessons with your local TakeLessons teacher are a must!).

Be Stylistically Versatile

Being able to play in multiple genres of music will increase your possible session gigs, which will lead to more opportunities and financial gains!

Be a Diplomat

Give your opinion if someone asks for it, but don’t overstep your boundaries, as you’re there to help fulfill a vision.

Be Picky

To begin, accepting session gigs from anyone from various genres will help to build your name and enhance your session workshop aptitude, but after a while you should focus on choosing bands that are professional and give you an element of security in terms of work, tours, earnings, and payouts or shares of future royalties.

Be Flexible With Your Time and Money

You have to be prepared to be away for an extended period of time at the drop of a hat if you’re asked to go on tour with an artist. Also, sometimes you may have a downturn in potential session gigs, and you’ll need to be financially prudent. Prepare yourself for these possibilities with your housing, bills, and finances.

Become a Multi-Instrumentalist

Being able to play multiple instruments (I personally play guitar and piano in addition to vocals) gives you more opportunities to help out and fill in with various roles, which can both set you apart from other session musicians and lead to increased pay.

Know Your Gear

Being knowledgable about – as well as owning your own – equipment is important. It makes everything easier if you show up ready to go with all your gear, and you know what to do with it to help provide the sound the lead artist is looking for.

Know Your Rights

Make sure you have clear and written-consented agreements on recordings about any royalty entitlements.

Frequent a Place With a Thriving Music Scene

Although the Internet surely helps to solve this problem to an extent, it’s a good idea to frequent an area where you know and work with the local music scene and/or touring acts, which could lead to more work opportunities and good honest connections.

Identify With Your Music

This will make your career much more fulfilling, and will show the best and most expressive side of your musicality. Isn’t this what it’s all about?

If this sounds like something you would like to pursue, then the world is truly your oyster. Time is of the essence to channel your love for music into your job!

MiltonJMilton J. 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 Does it Take to Become a Music Therapist?

how to become a music therapist

Curious about some of the career options you have that involve playing and performing music — but don’t want to be on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans? Learn how to become a music therapist and what the job entails in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R


The therapeutic effects of music are no secret; just think of how much better your favorite song makes you feel after a bad day. One excellent way to channel music into a career – and to help others along the way – is to become a music therapist. Music therapy capitalizes on the soothing, healing aspects of music to help people in difficult situations.

Music therapists work with all kinds of people, from those with physical or mental disabilities to those dealing with terminal illness. By applying music in a scientific way, these professionals are often able to achieve impressive results. Whether you want to become a music therapist or simply looking to hire one, it helps to understand what it takes to become a music therapist.

What is a Music Therapist?

A music therapist is a therapist who uses music to treat patients. Unlike other therapists, who often work in offices (think of the stereotypical “therapist’s couch”), music therapists often work directly in hospitals, clinics, and other centers where their services are needed. They sing and play guitar and piano during sessions.

What Are the Benefits of Music Therapy?

Music therapists often work with specific demographics of people for whom normal therapy is less effective. This includes people suffering from mental illnesses such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease; drug and alcohol abuse patients; young children; and crisis and trauma patients. Plenty of research has been conducted on the subject, showing that music therapy is effective for treating dementia, anxiety, depression, and numerous other conditions.

How to Become a Music Therapist

There are two steps to becoming a music therapist: getting a degree in Music Therapy and passing the American Musical Therapy Association’s exam to become board certified. There are dozens of universities that offer degrees in Music Therapy across the country.

The Music Therapy Degree

Since music therapy is a combination of musicianship and psychology, music therapy students are required to study both. You are also required to perform internships in clinics, where you’ll get hands-on experience working with patients. Here’s a quick breakdown of what that means.

  • The Music Side: Music therapists take many of the same courses as music majors, including conducting, music history, theory, and composition. You are also required to study voice, piano, and guitar, as well as perform in ensembles (such as choir).
  • The Therapy Side: Expect courses in human development, therapy, and psychopathology. Music therapists also have to study the psychological effects of music, learn how to apply music in therapeutic situations, and practice applying them through internships.
  • The Internship: During internships, you’ll work with patients under the supervision of licensed therapists. It’s a pretty serious commitment involving 1,200 hours – that’s about 150 8-hour days – of working in clinics with patients with a variety of ailments. You will work in at least three different places during these internships, and advanced students perform supervised music therapy sessions.

The Test

Once you get your degree in Music Therapy, you are eligible to take the American Music Therapy Association’s exam. If you pass the exam, you earn a Music Therapist Board Certification that allows you to become professional music therapist.

The Power of Music

If you want to become a music therapist, know that it is arguably even harder than becoming a traditional therapist. Not only will you have to study therapy and psychology, you will have to study music as well (and become adept at three different instruments). But music is a powerful force, and musical therapists get to use that power to help others in an extremely rewarding career.

ElainaElaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!



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3 reasons music lessons make a great christmas gift

3 Reasons Why Music Lessons Make the Perfect Christmas Gift

3 reasons music lessons make a great christmas gift

Looking for the perfect gift for a creative child this holiday season? Musical instruments and equipment are always among popular ideas for Christmas gifts, so why not put a gift certificate for music lessons under the tree too? Music lessons are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Not convinced? Check out these three wonderful reasons why music lessons are the perfect gift to give for the holidays.

Learning Music Helps Kids Build Character

As kids learn new skills, such as playing a musical instrument, they gain a big confidence boost. Additionally, the process of studying, practicing, and performing teaches kids how to set and achieve goals outside of school.

Kids taking music lessons also benefit from gaining a new outlet to express their emotions and explore their creativity. Whether they are learning to play their favorite songs or writing songs of their own, music lessons teach kids a lot more than just the notes in the scale.

Learning Music Makes Kids Smarter

In case you haven’t heard, many studies have shown that taking music lessons can actually make you smarter. Playing a musical instrument activates multiple areas of the brain, increases a child’s ability to focus, and advances coordination. Music education also improves kids’ listening skills and may help them get ahead in subjects ranging from language to math.

Experiences Make Us Happier Than Things

Psychological research has shown time and again that our experiences in life give us more lasting happiness than our possessions do. Though most ideas for Christmas gifts are long lists of things, perhaps giving experiences is a better way to extend the joy of the holidays all year long. Music lessons are a wonderful experience that contribute to personal and academic growth in children, so why not give them to a special kid on your holiday shopping list?

Do you have any ideas for creative Christmas gifts? Tell us all about your ideas in the comments below! 


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6 Resources for Creating Your Own Sheet Music

Tips On Writing Your Own Sheet MusicAs you develop your musical skills, you may become interested in writing your own music. While learning to play an instrument and being able to play others’ music is a wonderful skill, nothing compares to creating sheet music full of your own compositions!

As a budding songwriter, you’ll need to add some additional skills to your repertoire. Writing music can be as simple as putting a pen to paper, or you can take advantage of the many songwriting tools technology offers. Whether you’re sketching out notes for yourself, writing the next pop hit, or creating sheet music of arrangements for a big band, the most important step is to just get started.

First: Where to Find Free Blank Sheet Music

The easiest method is the oldest! Nothing beats a crisp blank piece of staff paper as you pick up your pen and begin your musical journey. There are many free resources online for printing blank staff paper. Here are two of the best:

This website allows you to print any kind of blank sheet music for free. No matter what instrument you’re writing for, you can find pre-designed sheet music for it here. They offer blank pages set up for piano and keyboard (grand staff), blank guitar tab, bass clef, blank mandolin sheet music, and even sheet music set-up for choir.

Music-paper.com is a site that not only offers more than 100 different downloadable and printable PDFs of blank staff paper, it also offers information on how to write music! Whether you’re looking for paper to jot down your next pop song or orchestral opus, you’ll find it here for free.

Next: Apps & Programs for Writing Music

Technology has changed the way we do almost everything, and writing music is no exception. Today, there are hundreds of applications and programs that can get you started composing on your laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone.  They range in price from free to several hundred dollars. Here are some of the best:

MuseScore is a free program that allows you to create, play, and print sheet music. It’s a great alternative to professional notation programs like Sibelius and Finale (see below). Muse Score is available for Mac and Windows along with various open source systems like Linux and Fedora. When you visit the MuseScore website, make sure to take advantage of their online video tutorials to help you get started.

Available for free on the Google Apps store, Music Composer works on your Android smartphone or tablet. It’s an intuitive, easy-to-use application that helps you notate your musical ideas on the go, whenever and wherever inspiration strikes!

It features a notation editor (that supports chords), and easy options to change tempo, clef, key signature, time signature, keys, and instruments. Also, Music Composer comes with 128 instrument sounds built in so you can hear your music played as you write it! When you’re finished composing, you can then export your sheet music as a printable image file or a playable audio file.

Sibelius is the world’s best-selling music notation software used by professional composers, publishers, and advanced music students. It allows you to quickly express and promote your music, allowing you to share both audio and video of your work. It is the fastest, smartest, and easiest way to write music for performance, film, television, or the classroom. It’s a professional tool worth considering if you are serious about composing.

Finale is another professional-level music notation program. Many music programs are drag-and-drop interfaces where you select items from a menu and drop them on the staff, but Finale offers complete freedom and flexibility. It offers extremely realistic playback of your compositions and allows you to print charts and scores.

Finale also offers several lower-priced, upgradable products, including Printmusic (a “lite”version of Finale, at $119.95), which can print up to 24 staves. Another option, Songbook, is a free digital sheet music app for your tablet — great for bringing all of your music to rehearsal on your tablet!

Composing is natural next step as your music skills advances. Whether you take the simplest approach of putting pen to paper, opt for free notation apps, or invest in a professional-level notation program, the key is to just get started! A great way to learn about composition is to work with a qualified teacher. If you already study with one, ask your teacher to help you. He or she can offer insight into the best way to get started and can help you with the learning curve if you choose to use software. Good luck!

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From Toy Pianos to Ukes: Gift Ideas for Musically-Inclined Kids

Music Instruments For KidsWould you love to give your child the gift of music? Introducing music into the life of your child provides an array of benefits, from the sheer joy of music to improved coordination, social and verbal skills, core competency skills, and more. From toy pianos for kids to technological fun, there are a variety of ways to introduce music into the life of a child.

Pass the love of music on to your child with these great gift ideas:

Toy Pianos & Keyboards
From stomping piano dance mats to mini baby grands with microphones, you can’t beat tickling the ivories for having a little musical fun with your kids. What’s more, toy pianos for kids can teach a multitude of skills, from focus and commitment to the confidence that comes from learning notes and playing their first song. Keyboard skills can build coordination and hand strength as well as spatial cognitive skills that help with math later in life.

Drum Sets, Bongos, & More
What kid doesn’t love whacking things? Add a stick and double the pleasure! Beyond the sheer fun factor, percussion instruments have a lot to offer, including increased physical stamina and better coordination. They also aid children academically, improving concentration, increasing the brain’s development, and complimenting core studies. Go pro with a 5-piece drum set with cymbals, or go light on your wallet – and the gear – with Paper Jamz drums. There are also an array of percussion options for babies and toddlers as well, including the fun and saliva-proof Nino by Meinl Fruit Shakers and Melissa & Doug Band in a Box. Special note: Sound-proof room not included!

Guitars, Violins, & Things With Strings
String instruments help with upper body strength, flexibility, coordination, and fine motor skills. Some instruments, such as violins, can also improve posture. Like other musical instruments, string instruments also improve memory, self-discipline, attention span, and focus, in addition to boosting intellectual and creative development. From inexpensive and simple electronic violins and guitars for little tykes, to Paper Jamz guitars, lap harps, ukuleles, and inexpensive “starter” instruments for older children interested in lessons, you and your kids will be happily plucking away in no time.

Wind Instruments
From simple and inexpensive harmonicas and recorders to Bontempi’s array of inexpensive, color-coded wind instruments including saxes, trumpets, clarinets, and more, wind instruments enhance lung and diaphragm function, decrease respiratory ailments, improve hand and eye coordination, and improve finger dexterity. Want something fun and different for younger children? Go for Quercetti’s Saxoflute for a variety of build and play fun from this 16-piece interchangeable set.

Musical Games
Don’t neglect the benefit of musical games and board games for improving memory recognition, pitch recognition, and more! From old favorites like Simon to new additions like Nino Percussion Shake ‘N Play Memory Game and Spontuneous, musical games offer fun for the entire family.

Music Apps

And there’s many more out there… Just search ‘music education apps’!

The Gift of Music Itself

Playing music for your child, whether that means purchasing CDs, downloading individual songs, or simply streaming music, is important for introducing children of any age to the joys of music. Opt for a variety, from classical symphonies to folk, jazz, rock, and more. There are many groups out there that create music specifically for kids, and these can be great stocking stuffers.

Finally, if your child is a bit older, consider signing him or her up for music lessons. Private, one-on-one lessons with a great teacher and the instrument of your child’s choice can help foster a lifelong relationship with music.

Incorporate the joys of music into the life of your child. Making music a part of your daily world with musical toys and gifts will foster a love of music in your child that will last a lifetime. There is no better gift you can give!

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4 Painless Steps to Help You Learn Music Theory

5064195399_9f77ce9349_bSure, music theory is complex — but there’s no need to fear it! Here, Jamaica Plain, MA teacher Noaa R. shares four steps to get you started…


Many students tend to avoid studying music theory and harmony. This can stem from a fear of compromising one’s creativity with rules and numbers, a failure to connect concepts with application, or from feeling overwhelmed by the perceived volume of material to be learned. However, when you approach theory as an exploratory process that helps you grow, navigate your musical world, make creative choices faster, train your ears, and generate new ideas, it’s a total blast. Here are four steps to changing your perspective as you learn music theory.

1) Realize Why You’re Studying Theory

The Circle of Fifths, triads, intervals, modes with Greek names, and complicated sounding chords like C7(b9b13) can seem like a pointless jumble of terms and stock patterns to memorize — but the facts are:

  • Music theory is tools — it evolved as a way to explain, organize, and codify the felt experience of music. All these names correspond to textures or sonic events — which have special relationships to each other and provide you with a set of devices to be recognized in listening and used judiciously in composition and improvisation, just like rhetorical devices in writing or speech. When you understand what they are, what they sound like, and recognize the names for them, they’re at your disposal. You are thus freer to make music as opposed to groping blindly in the dark.
  • Yes, you’re studying patterns and devices that other people have used before. This means nothing – you will find your own voice regardless, using the same means to your own musical end. You didn’t invent a new language when you learned to speak, yet you express yourself fluently and uniquely using the same words, phrases, and syntax as other English speakers.

2) Get Curious

Make music theory a joyful exploration of new sounds. When you learn a new chord, scale, or progression, treat it like a strange and wonderful animal you are encountering for the first time.

This isn’t much of a stretch – say you are learning about minor 7th, major 7th, and dominant 7th chords. Play them on your instrument. What colors do they have? How do they differ? How do they make you feel? What is difference in the structure of these chord qualities that makes them so distinct? Do they remind you of sounds you’ve heard before?

Form a unique relationship with every sound through immersion and play — and I mean literal play. Mess around with these new musical building blocks. Create little grooves and ideas, and maybe you’ll even write a song. The goal is to create an experience connected with the concept — that is the key to retaining information, not rote memorization.

3) Make it Real

Bring concepts out of the intellectual ether into experiential reality immediately. The seven diatonic triads of the major scale should never be left as dots on a page. It’s important to be able to write and spell them, so that you can visualize and understand them. But they aren’t a math problem – they are seven textures relating to a tonal center with distinct relationships and near-infinite possibilities for creative combination. Not only that, the vast majority of popular western music uses just these seven chords.

Learn the triads on your instrument, then find them on another instrument (piano is a great tool for learning in this regard by virtue of its intuitive and linear organization). Sing them as well – often it takes changes of context and approach for something to sink in.

Mix and match different triads, one per measure, to create a four-bar progression. What sounded good? What didn’t? What grabbed your ear? Try writing a melody over it. Ask your teacher to help you analyze a tune you’ve always loved and compare it to your progression – you’ll be thrilled to recognize familiar patterns after a few of these analyses.

4) Stop Worrying

Music is vast. There’s a lot to memorize and keep track of. Understand that you can only process a certain amount at once, so work with bite-size chunks. Patiently trust the process, and you will find concepts become second nature over time. Keep in mind that you need only learn music theory as much as serves the fulfillment of your goals — whether you’re a singer-songwriter just looking to spice up the same old progressions or you’re interested in jazz improvisation. Find what’s relevant to you and don’t worry about the rest.

Theory only exists as an organized way for us to explore what is available, and to understand deeper what we’re already familiar with so that we can use it more intelligently and artistically. It’s there to serve you. So dive in and have fun!


Noaa R. teaches guitar, composition, ear training, and music theory in Jamaica Plain, MA.  He is currently working toward his Diploma in Professional Music from Berklee College of Music. Noaa has been teaching music as a private instructor since 2011. Learn more about Noaa R. here!



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sheet music

Subdivision: The Easy Trick for Reading Rhythms Right

sheet music

As you’re learning to read music, you’ll come across complex rhythms at some point. Here, Saint Augustine, FL music teacher Heather L. offers some helpful tips to help you get through the tricky parts…


Have you ever found yourself sitting in a big concert hall, or in your room, listening to a soloist play a practically perfect rhythm? Almost all of us have, and almost all of us have asked ourselves, “How do they do that?” Their secret is subdivision.

You might be just beginning with learning to read music, or you might have been reading for decades. Either way, chances are that you agree with many musicians that reading pitches is one thing, but reading rhythms is quite another. Rhythm can be what separates some of us from believing in our sight reading abilities.

Learning Your Note Value Family Tree

As you learn to read music, subdivision is the key to understanding what every note means, rhythmically. You could think of subdivision as a sort of X-ray vision for rhythm, allowing you to see the inner structure of each note. You see, every single note is made up of smaller, or shorter notes.

Note Value Family TreeWhat you see here is a simple drawing of the hierarchy of notes, if you will. In a way, it’s kind of a note value family tree. At the top, you see a whole note. A whole note is made up of two half notes. Each half note is made up of two quarter notes. Every quarter note is made up of two eighteenth notes. Each of those eighteenth notes is made up of two sixteenth notes. If you were to count all of the sixteenth notes at the bottom, then you’d find sixteen of them. There are sixteen sixteenth notes in a whole note. Got that?

Writing Counts Into Your Music

Okay, below is first line of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, only underneath each note you’ll see that I’ve written a combination of numbers and plus signs. Each number and each plus sign represents an eighth note. Count out loud, saying, “One and two and three and four and…” If I were to sing this, then I’d sing the same thing on the appropriate pitches.

Ode to JoyBy steadily counting every eighth note as you read the music, you’re instantly more accurate. You’ll no longer be guessing at how long to hold each note. This is especially important when it comes to something like what you see in measure four above. Instead of thinking to yourself, “That dotted quarter note is one and a half beats,” you’ll think to yourself, “That dotted quarter note is three eighth notes.” Instead of thinking to yourself, “That half note is two beats long,” you’ll think to yourself, “That half note is four eighth notes long.”

When I have a really tough song to learn, I’ll write the counts underneath, just like I did in “Ode to Joy” above. What’s really cool about subdivision is that it can be used in music that has even sixteenth and thirty-second notes! Counting sixteenth notes means saying, “ONE-ee-and-uh-TWO-ee-and-uh…” Every note has a specific number of sixteenth notes “inside” it. Just count as many as you need.

Though all this may sound tedious, it actually makes learning to read music so much easier. Instead of a vague feeling or intuition about how long or short notes are, you’ve got a solid understanding of how every single note is constructed. The mystery of rhythm unravels, and suddenly, you’re no longer intimidated by it. You can see right through it.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!



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9 Thoughtful and Affordable Christmas Gifts for Teachers

Christmas Gift Ideas For TeachersWith Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time to give your or your child’s teacher a present as a token of appreciation for the time and energy he or she has invested  – this includes teachers at school as well as private lesson teachers and tutors! To help make your shopping easier, here are nine thoughtful and affordable ideas for Christmas gifts for teachers this holiday season.

1. A Handwritten Card

Sometimes the best things in life really are free, and a card written by a student is one of the most meaningful gifts that a teacher can receive. Teachers cherish these sweet words of admiration and usually keep these letters for many years. A homemade card is appropriate for younger students, while older students can compose a personalized letter of appreciation. You can also leave some kind words in a review for your TakeLessons teacher, which helps him or her attract new students!

2. Christmas Ornaments

Holiday ornaments make wonderful Christmas gifts for teachers because they are small, inexpensive, and easy to find. Steer clear of anything “teacher” related, as any teacher who has been teaching for more than a year or two likely already has more of these themed items than they know what to do with! Instead, select something you feel reflects the teacher’s style or personality.

3. Homemade Treats

Almost everyone loves homemade goodies, so if you are culinarily inclined, baked goods can make a delicious gift that is sure to be appreciated. Cookies, truffles, or fudge are all good options, as they are quick and simple to make, while also being easy to transport. Include the recipe so they can make it for themselves later on!

4. Gift Card or Gift Certificate

Take time to pamper your or your child’s teacher by giving them an indulgent gift card. A $5 gift card to a coffee shop may not seem like much, but getting to splurge on a fancy latte they might not usually purchase for themselves is a welcome treat. And don’t forget, TakeLessons offers gift certificates, too! Whether your teacher wants to improve their cooking skills, work on their fitness, or learn a new language, there’s so much to explore!

5. Cookie Jar

Fill a clear jar with all of the dry ingredients necessary to make your favorite homemade cookies, layering each ingredient. Tie the recipe to the jar with a fancy ribbon and you have a beautiful, simple gift. This idea also works well with homemade hot cocoa powder.

6. Tote Bag

Teachers and tutors who travel to students are always carrying books and supplies around with them. Help your teacher out by giving them a tote bag so they can carry their materials to you in style! You can select a pattern you think the teacher would enjoy or have a plain bag embroidered with their name or initials.

7. Travel Mug or Cup

Because teachers (especially singing teachers!) use their voices constantly throughout the day, many of them always have a drink with them for when their throat gets dry or scratchy. Reusable travel mugs or cups make wonderful Christmas gifts for teachers. You can find them almost anywhere in a wide variety of colors and prints. If you have a young child, you might even pick a customizable cup that they can decorate just for their teacher.

8. Handmade Crafts

Feeling crafty and want to make something unique? Pinterest is filled with creative ideas ranging from extremely simple to fairly complex, so you can pick the idea that fits your level of skill and the amount of time that you have. Your teacher will love your one-of-a-kind gift.

9. Hand Sanitizer

During the winter, children tend to become walking petri dishes for cold and flu germs, depositing them on every surface they touch everywhere they go. In an attempt to keep everyone healthy, teachers and tutors tend to use a lot of hand sanitizer for both themselves and their students during the colder months. While it may not be one of the most exciting Christmas gifts for teachers, hand sanitizer is certainly a practical gift that will be well appreciated.

Have a happy holiday season!


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


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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