Tips for traveling to France

20 Insider Tips For Traveling to France [Infographic]

Tips for traveling to France

From the smell of freshly baked baguettes from the local bakery, to views of the romantic châteaux (castles) in the Loire Valley, to the diverse array of masterpieces displayed in the museums of Paris – France has so much to offer!

If you’re taking a trip to this beautiful country soon, keep reading to learn how to plan the perfect itinerary so you can enjoy France at its best. We’ll share about the weather, what to order when dining out, a few little known sites, and many more helpful tips for traveling to France!

20 Game-Changing Tips for Traveling to France

1. Keep French Fashion in Mind

Pack clothes that are versatile and chic, keeping in mind that the French are simple and effortless when it comes to their style. The saying “less is more” works well for the French.   

One of your goals should be to blend in with the locals – not stand out as a tourist. For the ladies, bring a scarf! In the summertime, light scarves can add a touch of class, or be used as an extra layer at nighttime without the bulk of a jacket.

2. Pack Comfy Shoes

Bring a pair, or two, of comfortable shoes to France. When traveling, you should always expect to be walking quite a bit, whether it’s through the cobbled streets of Le Vieux Carré (the Old Quarter) or through the vineyards in the South.

So leave the stiletto heels at home and opt for a pair of comfortable sandals or sturdy boots. Your feet will thank you later!

3.  Learn the Language

Locals love when visitors attempt to speak the native language. Even if your French is a little rusty and you can only muster up a polite “Je voudrais un café, s’il vous plait” (“I would like a coffee please”), the French will greatly appreciate the effort.

The best way to learn French before your trip is with the help of an experienced tutor. If you’re interested in building up your French vocabulary quickly, try out the online French classes at TakeLessons Live. Classes are completely free for your first month!

4. Check the Weather

Regions along the three coasts of France have a more temperate climate, unlike areas in central France, where you’ll experience more variation between seasons. Paris can also become fairly hot in the summer, so be prepared by packing light-colored clothing made of loose material.

The summer months in the south along the Mediterranean have very little rainfall, but the rest of the country experiences rainy months throughout the year. Paris has quite a bit of rainfall from April through August. Whatever the season, it’s always a good idea to check the forecast prior to your visit to France!

5. Travel in Spring or Fall

If you’re on a budget, the most cost-effective times to travel to France are during the spring and fall months. Keep in mind that if plane tickets are purchased at least three months in advance, you will be able to find some better deals!

6. Try a Bed & Breakfast

Relax in the many charming bed and breakfasts that France has to offer! While there are many options for lodging available to visitors, the more intimate bed and breakfasts are superb. Many of them offer home-cooked meals of the region, and the locals’ take on must-see sites.

7. Eat Like a Local

The French are known for, and proud, of their cuisine. Wherever you are in the country, be sure to try the local delicacies. If you’re traveling to Bordeaux, try the cannelé – a small pastry made of vanilla and rum.

Take in the view of the Mediterranean while dining on a traditional seafood dish of the region. You won’t regret trying the bouillabaisse (seafood stew) in Marseille, or the delicious quenelle in Lyon!

SEE ALSO: 50 Useful French Phrases for Travelers

8. Enjoy an Apéritif or Digestif

In France, sometimes the best drinks come just before or after a delicious meal. An apéritif (pre-meal drink) is usually enjoyed among friends before a plat de fromage (cheese plate) is served.

One common apéritif is the kir, which is a mix of white wine and blackcurrant. A common digestif (post-meal drink) is an espresso. Or you can try the “eau de vie,” literally translated “water of life,” which is a popular fruit brandy.

9. Check the Prix Fixe Menu

When you’re unsure about what to order, the prix fixe (fixed price) menu will be your best friend. Selected by the chef, it includes several dishes from the entrée (appetizer) to the plat principal (main dish) to the dessert.  

10. Shop at Outdoor Markets  

One way to save money without sacrificing the French experience is to shop at the outdoor markets. Most towns have an outdoor market or “marché en plein air.” Here, you can find vendors selling the region’s best at a more affordable price. Just be sure to check the local schedule, as some markets are only open on specific days of the week.

11. Enjoy Local Wines

As with the food in France, it’s usually best to go with the regional wine. While there are many options for wine, opting for the local wine is the best choice if you want to fully experience and appreciate the specialties of the area.

12. Travel by Train

One way to save money on travel expenses while visiting France is to take the train. For the best deals, book three months in advance if you already have an itinerary set. If you’re under 25 and visiting France for a study abroad program or internship, signing up for a “Carte Jeune” offers reduced train fares!

13. Follow the Tour de France

Are you a fan of cycling? If not, would you like to follow a route that takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of France? Follow the cyclists at the Tour de France! This annual event takes place in July with a route through several notable cities and sites.

14. Celebrate La Fête Nationale

Also known as Bastille Day, the French independence day is well-celebrated in this country. If you’ll be in France on July 14th, you’ll get to witness fireworks shows and join in on the festivities. In Paris, go to a ball after the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower! The music and dancing begins around 9 PM.

SEE ALSO: What to Pack for France [Infographic]

15. Check out the Museums

The Louvre is one of the most popular museums in France, but there are so many other inspiring sites to add to your travel list! In Paris alone, there is the lesser-known Musée d’Orsay that boasts of numerous Impressionist paintings by Monet, and the Centre Pompidou that features contemporary and more interactive art. Both have slightly shorter admission lines!

16. Visit Luberon

Don’t forget to bring your camera to the picturesque lavender fields in France. The lavender that blooms in the South of France is a scent that is truly unforgettable. In Luberon these fragrant flowers bloom anytime between late June to early August, with the peak of the season being in early July.

17. Learn About History in Normandy

If you’re interested in historical events, head north for Normandy. Along the coast you’ll find the infamous Normandy and Omaha beaches where you can see remnants of WWII bunkers and memorials to those who fought during the war.

18. Stop by the Castles

France is home to many beautiful and unique châteaux (castles) in the center of the country. Relive the grandeur of the châteaux in the Loire Valley. Villandry is famous for its gardens that are exact replicas of the medieval gardens, while Chambord includes a grand central staircase in the main entrance.

This area of the country is less crowded than Paris or the beaches in the South, so it would make an excellent addition to your itinerary if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle.

19. Make Your Way to Île de Ré

At the mention of French beaches, most people think about the beaches along the Mediterranean Coast. Bask in the sunshine on Île de Ré instead. Located just off the western coast of France, Île de Ré is a unique and lesser-known beach that is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

20. Enjoy the Moment

While planning a trip to France often includes many preparations, it’s important to remember to savor the moment and not get too caught up in your itinerary. Enjoy the food, enjoy the wine, and enjoy the sites. But most importantly – enjoy the journey from one destination to another! Check out the infographic below for a visual reminder of each of these insider tips!

 

20 Insider Tips for Traveling to France

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Keep these tips for traveling to France in mind and you’ll be able to plan the perfect vacation! Enjoying all the food, drinks, and sites that France has to offer will make your visit one that you’ll always remember. Don’t forget to check out TakeLessons Live before you depart to brush up on your French language skills!

 

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL in Jacksonville, Florida. She has her Bachelors in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and over five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!
What is a capo

What is a Capo? Everything You Need to Know Here.

What is a capo

A capo is a helpful device that allows you to easily change the key of a song while using the standard “open position” chords that every guitarist knows. With a capo, you can play those same chords in any fret position along the neck of the guitar. Keep reading to find more answers to all of your capo-related questions!

What is a Capo?

A capo (pronounced “cape-oh”) is a small clamp that you can attach to the neck of the guitar at a specific fret. What does a capo do? It keeps all of the guitar’s strings depressed at that specific fret, all of the time. The parts of the capo that squeeze the strings against the fret board are made of rubber, so they don’t damage the wood on your guitar. 

Let’s say you attach the capo at fret two. It will squeeze down all of the strings at fret two and keep them pressed down. So it’s like you’re playing a note at fret two with your finger, but on all six strings simultaneously.

If you were to lay your index finger across all six strings at fret two and press down hard enough so that all the notes at fret two sounded clearly on each string, that technique would be called a “barre.” This barre technique is used by guitarists all the time, but if you are just beginning you may not have tried it yet and when you do, it will take a few weeks to master.

Attaching a capo is a much easier way to achieve the same result. You could say that the capo produces a permanent barre at a specific fret. Now let’s look at what exactly happens when you have a capo attached to your guitar.

How Does a Capo Work?

Let’s use the capo attached at fret two as an example again, although you can put the capo across any fret. Once the capo is on, when you play your strings open, the notes that sound are not E, A, D, G, B, and E (the notes of open strings six through one). Instead, they are F#, B, E, A, C#, and F#.

We say these notes are “one tone higher” or a “whole step” higher (the distance of two frets) than the normal open string notes. If you think of fret three as if it were fret one, and form a C chord as you normally would (but above the capo), it will sound as a D chord.

If you played a song with Am, G, and C chords (which would be in the key of C major), you will hear Bm, A, and D chords (which would move the song to the key of D major). Every time you move the capo one fret higher, you have raised the music by one key. The most common reason for changing the key of a song is to make it easier to sing in your vocal range.

To hear the sound of a guitar with a capo on, listen to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. The capo is on fret seven and it gives the guitar a bright, mandolin-like quality. The chord progression would be in the key of D major, but with the capo on, it comes out in A major.

Who Should Use a Capo?

For beginners, using a capo means that you can play more songs with a limited knowledge of chords and delay learning those difficult “barre chords” you may have heard about. But capos are not just for beginners.

Many songwriters use capos so they can play chords in the style they’re accustomed to anywhere along the neck of the guitar. By moving the capo, they can easily try singing a song in different keys until they find the one that works best for their voice.

In fact, flamenco guitar players routinely use a capo in the first few frets for two reasons – to play songs in the traditional keys, but also for the way the capo tends to push the strings closer to the neck, making chords and fast melodic runs easier to play. Try this if your guitar is a beginner model that is a bit more difficult to play.

SEE ALSO: 5 Guitar Gadgets That Will Change Your Life

Which Capo is the Best?

There are a few different capo designs. One of the best capos is the Shubb, which retails for about $16 on Amazon. It’s made of rugged steel and clamps on very securely. This is handy because if you accidentally bump the capo while playing, it won’t pop off and ruin your performance.

If you’re on a budget, one of Amazon’s best sellers is the UGY plastic capo which retails for about $7. This capo uses a spring action and can be attached or moved very quickly by squeezing two levers together. There are many manufacturers making capos in this style.

A third option is the Dunlop elastic capo, starting at around $3. It uses a stretchy elastic cloth that attaches to a rubber coated, pole piece. Several holes are provided along the elastic to allow for different tensions, as the neck gets wider the higher you go.

Whatever style you prefer, you need to make sure you order the right one for the type of guitar you have. If you order the wrong one, it won’t squeeze the strings correctly. A “steel string” guitar capo has a slight curvature to the part that lies across the fret board, as the fret board on a steel string guitar is slightly convex. A “nylon string” guitar capo is wider and very flat.

Many beginning guitarists often ask their instructors, “What is a capo?” Now that you know what a capo is and how to use one, you’ll be on your way to playing more songs than you thought you could! You’ll also be able to more easily play and sing along at the same time.

Although the capo can be a very helpful tool, try not to rely on it too much. It’s still very important to expand your knowledge of different chords on the guitar. Need some help mastering some of the more challenging chords? Check out TakeLessons. Our expert guitar instructors can help take your skills to the next level!

Need Private Lessons?

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MikeJ.

Mike J. teaches acoustic guitar, bass guitar, blues guitar, classical guitar, as well as country guitar in Ogden, UT. He received his Applied Music Degree from Mohawk College and has gone on to receive many certifications and awards since then. Mike is a full time music instructor with over 30 years of experience teaching, performing, and writing music. Learn more about Mike J. here!

Health benefits of playing an instrument

17 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing an Instrument

Health benefits of playing an instrument

Playing an instrument has many benefits – learning self-discipline, strengthening mental capacity, and spreading the joy of music, just to name a few. And research shows that these benefits aren’t just for kids. Musicians of any age can take advantage of the physical and emotional health benefits of playing an instrument.

It doesn’t matter what instrument you choose to play, either! Keep reading to discover how the act of playing music can drastically improve your overall health.  

Health Benefits of Playing an Instrument

Physical Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Deep Breathing – Most of the time our breathing is very shallow, but activities like singing or playing a wind instrument require deep breathing from the diaphragm. This strengthens your lungs and respiratory system. Playing the harmonica can even help with pulmonary disease!
  • Immune Response – When we learn to play an instrument, we often become inspired to create our own music. According to an article by Live Science, making music “enhances the immunological response, which enables us to fight viruses.”
  • Stress Relief – Playing music brings your energy and focus into a positive activity, which can help alleviate stress. Those reduced stress levels can help get your blood pressure and heart rate down to a healthy level.
  • Fine Hearing – Learning music refines your hearing skills by training you to isolate sounds as they occur. Studies have even shown that musicians are better at picking out specific voices and sounds in a noisy environment.
  • Exercise – Playing an instrument naturally leads to increased physical activity. Whether you’re playing the piano, guitar, strings, or a wind instrument, you’re using your arm and back muscles to play and/or hold up your instrument. And if you play the drums, you even get to do some cardio!
  • Posture – Any good music teacher will correct your posture during lessons. This can help you get into the habit of sitting up straight and having proper alignment even when you’re not playing. These are all great ways to alleviate neck and back pain.

Mental Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Mental Performance – Playing music is like doing a workout for every part of your brain. It helps improve your mental performance and memory. There’s even evidence that music can help a patient’s brain recover from a stroke, as well as slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Coordination – Using your fingers, hands, and feet in a rhythmic manner for a sustained amount of time, while also being conscious of playing the correct tones, can be a challenge for even the most coordinated people. Over time though, playing music refines your motor skills that go beyond the hand-eye.
  • Time Management – Learning an instrument requires practice, of course! But more specifically, it requires consistency and routine. Figuring out how to fit practice into your busy schedule and really stick to it helps you develop better time management and organization skills.
  • Reading Skills – Reading music helps strengthen your ability to process information by creating new connections between the synapses in your brain. As a result, reading and absorbing information from other sources becomes a lot easier.
  • Listening Skills – Learning music doesn’t just improve your ability to hear details; it also makes you better at listening. Whether you’re practicing on your own or playing with other people, you have to listen for timing, expression, and whether you’re in tune. This can make you a better listener even in everyday conversations as well.
  • Concentration – Focus is a necessary part of learning an instrument. Improving your musical skills forces you to use all the parts of your brain involved in concentration, making you better able to concentrate in other life situations. This is another reason why music is beneficial for those with disorders like ADD.
  • Mathematics – Learning music is all about pattern recognition, which is mathematical in itself. But even more than that, learning about how music is divided into equal measures and beats, and how those beats are in broken up, can help improve your math skills!

SEE ALSO: The 5 Easiest Instruments Perfect for Adult Learners

Emotional Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Self Expression – Whether you’re writing your own piece of music or playing someone else’s, music allows you to express yourself in new ways. You also get to be creative when choosing your own unique style and genre.
  • Therapy – Playing music can help with stress, insomnia, and depression because it acts as an outlet for difficult emotions. It can be a form of self-soothing in tough situations, and a healthy distraction from a stressful day.
  • Achievement – There’s nothing like the feeling of finally mastering one of your favorite songs! Setting a goal, putting in the work, and eventually reaching that goal gives you a strong sense of achievement. It will improve your confidence in other areas of life in the process.
  • New Friends – Whether you use music as an icebreaker when meeting new people, or as a way to actually meet new people – playing in a choir, band, or orchestra, for example – music is a great way to make new friends.

These are just a few of the remarkable health benefits of playing an instrument. To begin reaping the benefits of music in your life, check out the online group music lessons at TakeLessons Live today.

You can access hundreds of live classes on a variety of instruments – completely free for your first month. Start playing that instrument you’ve always wanted to, and your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

JasmineTPost Author: Jasmine T.
Jasmine T. teaches piano, academics, yoga, and more in San Diego, CA. She has her Power Yoga Level 1 200-Hour Certification, as well as a Certificate of Merit for Piano and Theory from the Music Teachers’ Association of California. Learn more about Jasmine here!
Best apps to learn Italian

7 Top-Rated Apps to Learn Italian Like a Pro

 

Best apps to learn Italian

If you’re looking to pick up some basic Italian or advance to the next level of fluency, there are many useful apps that can help you achieve this goal! The flexibility and convenience of downloading an app on the go makes learning fun and affordable.  

It’s important to keep in mind though that apps shouldn’t be your sole method of learning a language. No technology can beat the personalized instruction and guidance of an experienced language teacher. (Apps aren’t a substitute for real-life conversation practice either)!

With that in mind, here are the 7 best Italian apps to supplement your learning.

The 7 Best Apps to Help You Learn Italian

1. Mondly

Best apps to learn Italian

With a 5-star rating, Mondly allows you to study Italian vocabulary and phrases through interactive games and graphics. The app is free for In-App purchases and also available for the Apple Watch!

Mondly allows you to collect points and compete with other users from across the globe. Students who face challenges learning Italian verbs can also benefit from the app’s 3D conjugation tables.

2. Busuu

Apps to learn Italian

Of all the apps to learn Italian, Busuu was the first one to allow users to have verbal conversations with native speakers from all over the world. The app offers students direct communication with new pen pals right from their phone or iPad.

Busuu also teamed up with McGraw-Hill to enable students to obtain an official learning certificate. The app has a  4+ star rating and allows for family sharing!

3. Learn Italian, Speak Italian

Italian apps

This helpful app was rated by Google as the “Must have app for Android.” Lessons are created by a team of language experts and teachers, with over 150 topics and over 3,000 vocabulary words.

If you’re a beginner, tourist, or business traveler, use this app to test your knowledge with fun quizzes. The Android app also allows you to record yourself so you can keep track of your progress!

SEE ALSO: 10 Podcasts for Learning Italian

4. Italian by Nemo

Italian apps

This app allows for hands free interaction, so you can practice your Italian skills while you walk, exercise, cook, or commute! Italian by Nemo is the perfect companion for busy students who only have a minute or two to spare throughout their day.

You can download the app for free in either the Apple store or Google Play. It has a 4.3 star rating from users.

5. Learn Italian by Bravolol

Italian apps

Learn Italian features a friendly, animated cartoon parrot guiding you on your way to mastering Italian. With engaging and interactive flashcards, this app will help you pick up commonly used Italian phrases and words.

An awesome perk of the app is that it can be used without an internet connection! If you are traveling to Italy, make sure to bring this fun app with you on the plane to brush up on your skills. It’s available in the Apple store and Google Play.

6. Easy Talk

Apps to Learn Italian

The Easy Talk app comes with an Italian travel phrasebook, sample dialogues based on real life situations, and multiple search functions to select and keep track of your favorites.

Another perk – there aren’t any drills or boring grammar exercises! The app can also be used as a personal, pocket translator. It’s available for Android phones for a purchase of $3.99.

7. TakeLessons

Apps to Learn Italian - TakeLessons

For easily accessible Italian lessons on the go, the TakeLessons app is the perfect resource no matter your skill level. Find experienced Italian teachers in your area, or connect with one digitally via the app’s video chat feature.

With the TakeLessons app, you can learn Italian from a professional no matter where you are. You can also join in on free, group classes for your first month as a new student. The app is available for both Android and iPhones.

It’s often said that when learning a new language like Italian, practice makes perfect. Any one of these apps to learn Italian would make an excellent tool to help you practice your skills!

Impress your language teacher and your friends with how quickly you’ve learned. Ready to get started with private lessons? Schedule a one-on-one lesson with an Italian teacher today to start speaking, writing, and reading Italian!

Need Private Lessons?

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LizT
Post Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches Italian, ESL, as well as a variety of musical subjects! She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal Performance and she currently performs all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!
Best father daughter songs of all time

Most Popular & Heartwarming Father Daughter Songs of All Time

Best father daughter songs of all time

There’s a special kind of bond between a girl and her father, and dozens of popular songs that honor this strong connection. Whether you’re looking for that perfect song for a father daughter dance, a meaningful Father’s Day tribute, or a special gift for a birthday, keep reading.

In this ultimate list of heartfelt, father daughter songs from every genre, you’re sure to find just the right lyrics to celebrate your relationship with Dad. 

Best Father Daughter Songs From Every Genre

“My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw – Country

“You’re beautiful baby, from the outside in

Chase your dreams but always know

The road that will lead you home again”

This heartwarming song, written from a father’s perspective, is a tear-jerker right from the beginning. It’s an excellent choice for a dance, sweet 16, graduation, or any coming-of-age celebration.

“Daddy’s Little Girl” by Michael Bublé – Classic

“You’re the end of the rainbow, my pot o’ gold, you’re Daddy’s Little Girl to have and hold

A precious gem is what you are, you’re mommy’s bright and shining star

You’re the spirit of Christmas, my star on the tree, you’re the Easter bunny to mommy and me

You’re sugar, you’re spice, you’re everything nice, and you’re Daddy’s Little Girl”

Michael Bublé really shows off his crooner side in this sweet melody about all the wonderful things that a man’s daughter means to him. This song would be a great addition to a wedding or birthday party playlist.

“Your Joy” by Chrisette Michele – Neo Soul

“No one loves me just like you do

No one knows me just like you do

No one can compare to the way my eyes fit in yours”

This soulful tribute from a daughter to her father is perfect for a girl or young woman to sing to her father. Not too comfortable with your singing voice? Write the lyrics in a greeting card to add an extra nice touch.  

“Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle – Christian/Gospel

“Oh, with all that I’ve done wrong, I must have done something right

To deserve a hug every morning, and butterfly kisses at night”

This beautiful tune, written from a father’s perspective, shares special moments throughout different stages of his daughter’s life. It’s a nice option for a wedding, or simply when you want to remind your father that you’ll always be his little girl!

“Daughters” by John Mayer – Acoustic Rock

“Fathers, be good to your daughters

Daughters will love like you do

Girls become lovers who turn into mothers

So mothers, be good to your daughters too”

This acoustic tune from John Mayer shares about the loving bond that exists between family members. It’s meaningful but also light-hearted, and would be a fitting addition to any family gathering.

“Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon – Pop

 

“So you’ll always know, as long as one and one is two

There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you”

Slightly more upbeat but just as sentimental as the rest, this catchy tune goes with any father daughter occasion. The lyrics represent a sweet declaration of love from a father to his daughter.

“I’ll Always Be Your Baby” by Natalie Grant – Contemporary Christian

 

“You are my hero and that will never change

You still can dry my tears with just a smile”

This Natalie Grant song is a heartwarming tribute from a daughter’s perspective. The lyrics mention walking down the aisle, so this would be a great song for a wedding reception or engagement party.

“Daddy” by Beyonce – Contemporary R&B

 

“Because you loved me I overcome, yeah

And I’m so proud of what you’ve become, yeah

You’ve given me such security

No matter what mistakes I make you’re there for me”

In this R&B number, Beyonce reminisces about all the ways her father has been there for her over the years. If you truly admire your father, this is the perfect song as a token of gratitude to him.

“Zoe Jane” by Staind – Alternative Metal

“I wanna hold you, protect you from all of the things I’ve already endured

And I wanna show you, show you all the things that this life has in store for you

And I’ll always love you, the way that a father should love his daughter”

This beautiful song has a very powerful chorus that emphasizes just how much a father desires to protect his daughter. It’s a wonderful song for the dad who loves rock music and soulful lyrics.  

“Dance with my Daughter” by Jason Blaine – Country

“Gonna dance with my daughter

Spin her around under the lights

‘Cause I’m just a father making the most of this moment in time”

This sentimental, country tune emphasizes the importance of enjoying every moment while your daughter is growing up. Since it’s written from a father to his daughter, it would be best for a wedding or father daughter dance.  

“Fathers and Daughters” by Michael Bolton – Pop/Rock Ballad

“When times are hard I know you’ll be strong

I’ll be there in your heart when you’ll carry on

Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky

Fathers and daughters never say goodbye”

This emotional ballad is an appropriate choice for any milestone event, such as a graduation. It would be a guaranteed tear-jerker if sung as a duet, since it commemorates the eternal bond between a father and daughter.

“Cecilia and The Satellite” by Andrew McMahon – Alternative/Indie

“If I could fly, then I would know

What life looks like from up above and down below

I’d keep you safe, I’d keep you dry

Don’t be afraid, Cecilia, I’m the satellite

And you’re the sky”

This uplifting and modern tune is a poetic promise from a father to his daughter. It’s a delightful alternative song just right for a father daughter dance or birthday party playlist.

“I Loved Her First” by Heartland – Country

“From the first breath she breathed, when she first smiled at me

I knew the love of a father runs deep, and I prayed that she’d find you someday

But it’s still hard to give her away, I loved her first”

This truly heartwarming song is a testament to the pride and protectiveness a father feels toward his daughter. It’s a sincere and moving choice for a father daughter dance at a wedding.

Each of these father daughter songs has its own unique way of honoring the love between a daddy and his little girl. Choose one of them for your special event, or combine all of them into one CD to give as a special gift to your father!

Are you musically talented? You can also consider learning to sing or play one of these beautiful songs to guarantee a memory that will last him a lifetime!

 

JasmineTPost Author: Jasmine T.
Jasmine T. teaches piano, academics, yoga, and more in San Diego, CA. She has her Power Yoga Level 1 200-Hour Certification, as well as a Certificate of Merit for Piano and Theory from the Music Teachers’ Association of California. Learn more about Jasmine here!
Video: Learn to sing online

Video: What’s it Like to Take an Online Singing Class?

Is it possible to learn to sing online? With TakeLessons Live, you can attend online group classes to improve your skills, improve your confidence, and get a taste of working with a private voice teacher!

But we get it: the idea can be pretty daunting if you’re a total beginner. What’s it like to take an online singing class, anyway? How should you prepare? We know you might have questions, so we asked singing teacher Reina M. to address some of the most common questions and concerns. Watch the video here, and read the transcription below!

Hi, my name’s Reina and I’m a TakeLessons teacher. I offer a customized, holistic approach to learning the voice during my one-on-one sessions. In addition, I have the privilege of teaching some pretty awesome group classes online using TakeLessons Live.

Online teaching is still relatively new and I get questions every day about how it works. I’d like to run through a few of the more common questions I get, and show you what to expect when you sign up for a class.

So let’s get started with the number one question…

What are the pros and cons to online classes versus in-person?

The pros are that there’s a lot of personal space, so sometimes if you’re a new singer, it can be kind of intimidating to sing in front of your teachers. Having that technological barrier can be super helpful, just making it more comfortable.

Secondly, you’re more likely to show up because you can be in your jammies, it could be raining outside, and all you have to do is turn on your device.

And lastly, you can take lessons anywhere; as long as you have an internet connection and an up-to-date device, you’re good to go.

The cons would be that the teacher can’t give you a hug at the end of class and tell you what a good job you did. You can get an online high five, but it’s not the same. Sometimes there can be technical difficulties so it’s really important to test your internet strength and to use the most up-to-date device that you have.

What are the pros and cons to group classes versus private?

The pros are that you’re not alone. It’s really nice to know that other people can be on this journey with you, and it’s way cheaper [than private lessons].

The cons are that the classes are not customized, so if you’re a level that’s higher or lower than the class is designed for, you may find yourself either wandering off because you get a little bit bored, or you could get frustrated because it’s just a lot of information at one time.

Secondly, you can’t cover as much information just because it is geared towards the general populace of the class and it’s not one-on-one.

What types of students attend online classes?

All types! I get young students, old students, beginner students, advanced students, hobby singers, and professionals. The classes are all-inclusive, they’re open to anyone that wants to learn, and every class is different.

What types of students excel in online group classes?

This answer is really easy: it’s the type of student that practices. Group classes, and all music lessons for that matter, are intended to help you practice on your own. You’re not going to get good in one hour, a week,  or two 30-minute lessons a week. The type of student that excels in group classes is the type of student that can take notes, asks questions, and practices the information and techniques that they’ve learned.

What will I learn by taking online group classes?

Each group class has a different focus. Some of the classes are geared towards beginners and they might focus on basic techniques. Other classes might be more intermediate or advanced, and they’re going to focus on more difficult techniques. So be sure to read the descriptions for each class that’s offered and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Can I actually get better by taking online group classes?

Yes, absolutely! I have noticed no difference in growth or technique retention between my online students versus my in-studio students. If you continue to show up and you practice, you’re going to see growth; easy as that!

Do I need to have anything prepared?

Most of the time, you’re not going to need anything beyond a pen and paper for taking notes, and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated, but be sure to read the descriptions carefully. There are a few classes that may have special requirements.

Will I need to sing in front of the class?

Well, this depends. The teacher is never going to force you to sing if you’re not comfortable, but there are classes, like the audition prep class, where it’s just not going to be as helpful to you if the teacher can’t hear where you’re at and what you’re doing as you’re singing your song.

Some of the more intro classes are more information-based and singing live isn’t even a part of the class. If you have a specific question or concern you can always log onto the class early and speak with the teacher in the little chat box, and just let them know a little bit about yourself.

If I could offer one piece of advice what would it be?

This is the easiest question by far and the answer is it’s that you can sing. Don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise, not even yourself!

The voice instrument takes practice and patience, just like any other instrument, and if you apply yourself and work diligently, you can master your voice.

Group classes are a great way to learn. They awaken your excitement for a new skill, and they can deepen your  appreciation for singing. I definitely recommend signing up for an online group class today through TakeLessons Live. Cheers and congrats on your new journey!

Ready to learn to sing online? Check out our online group classes and sign up today — new students get a 30-day trial for free!

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Why Taking Voice Lessons from Christina Aguilera is a Bad Idea

christina-aguilera

Can you learn to sing through videos, like the ones advertised with Christina Aguilera? Read on for voice teacher Elaina R.‘s thoughts… 

 

Have you seen the online ads offering a voice lesson course taught by Christina Aguilera? Promos for the course have inundated many Facebook feeds, and since I know many professional singers and voice teachers, I’ve been able to watch them react to the ads. Most voice teachers have been amused, terrified, or both by the prospect of people learning how to sing from Ms. Aguilera.

Why are the degree-holding vocalists of the world not on board with Christina Aguilera teaching voice? She is, after all, a six-time Grammy Award winner with an estimated net worth of $130 million. Are we just jealous? The short answer is no! We are truly concerned for voice students who turn to Christina Aguilera for advice, and here’s why.

Talent Does Not a Teacher Make

You are likely an expert chewer. You chew food many times a day, and you have done so for your entire life. One could argue that you are a talented chewer, even. But what if someone who didn’t know how to chew asked you to teach them to chew? You would likely have to think long and hard about your process. In the end, the best answer many people would be able to come up with is, “You just do it.”

Christina Aguilera is a gifted singer. She has a good voice and natural musicality, and her performances often reflect that. However, her innate ability to sing and the fact that she was born with a good singing voice do not mean she knows how to teach singing. As any teacher will tell you, teaching is in and of itself a skill, and it isn’t one that Christina, with her flourishing artistic and television career on top of parental duties, has had any time to curate.

Modern Pop Technique

In addition, Christina Aguilera is a pop singer who specializes in belting (high chest voice). Belting is an extremely taxing form of singing that, when done wrong, can produce disastrous results. Not only does bad belting sound horrible, but it can rapidly destroy your voice.

The vast majority of voice teachers are university trained, which almost always means they have a foundation in classical vocal technique. While classical singing sounds very different than belting, the same rules (breath support, throat relaxation, resonance) apply.

Learning proper vocal technique through classical pieces — or at least less taxing pop pieces — greatly reduces the chance of vocal injury. If learning to sing with low-impact music is like light strength training, trying to skip to belting is like immediately attempting a 300-pound deadlift. It’s just plain unhealthy.

Knowledge is Power

Frankly, the most famous pop singers in the world today usually have no idea what they are doing. Christina Aguilera was blessed with a fair amount of natural ability, but as many of her performances exhibit, she falls prey to many of the same issues that beginning voice students have.

She often suffers from jaw, neck, and tongue tension, resulting in a pressed, flat, raspy sound (and sometimes cracking). Even pop singers who do not have these issues are just vastly talented people who can’t teach anyone how they do what they do.

Professional voice teachers, on the other hand, are a different breed. We may be talented, but we also dedicated ourselves to learning how singing works. We have studied anatomy and vocal technique in an academic setting and can describe exactly why specific faults, such as cracking and straining, occur. A good voice teacher is not just a good singer; she knows the specific details of what she is doing to sing well, and she can describe those details to her students. That’s something that even the most talented singer in the world can’t do.

Can I Learn to Sing With Other Online Videos?

Too busy for lessons, and want to just teach yourself to sing using YouTube videos or other programs? Here’s the thing — absolutely nothing can substitute the help that a private teacher can provide you.

While you can learn to sing songs and basic music theory with online resources, if you want to sing well, working with a vocal teacher is extremely important. Your teacher will be able to notice and correct bad habits that can lead to injuries or those that may be affecting your sound. Plus, the motivation and inspiration you can get from this type of guidance can make a huge difference!

Ready to find a teacher? Browse our teacher profiles here. Want to ease into learning? Check out our online group singing classes — free with your 30-day trial!

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

Photo by D.S.B

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3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Feeling Lost in Conversation? 3 Helpful Tips for Language Learners

3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Whether you’re practicing conversational French, Spanish, or another language, chatting with a native speaker can be daunting. Here, language tutor Jinky B. shares some tips to keep in mind if you’re feeling lost…

 

Congratulations, you have been taking language classes and diligently studying all that you have learned on your own time. Now you’re ready to go out and have a conversation with a native speaker. The conversation is going well and everything is flowing when you suddenly realize that, well, you’re lost! You feel as though you’re hearing a completely foreign language.

First of all, breathe! Here are three things you can do when you are starting to feel like you’re at your first language lesson, unable to understand anything the other person is saying.

1. Listen for context clues.

Think about what you are finding difficult to understand. Is it a single word? Is it a whole phrase?

Some languages are filled with homophones, words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. Once you hone in on that, think about the context of the conversation. If you’re talking about weekend plans to go to a picnic, think through everything else that was said prior to the misunderstanding.

  • In French, la mer (the sea) and la mère (the mother) sound nearly exactly the same. Think about whether the speaker is talking about a trip to the beach or describing his family.

If it’s an entire phrase, it might be an idiom, one that is more common knowledge to the native speaker so it might not make sense to a language learner.

  • In French, the idiomatic expression Il pleut des cordes does not actually mean that it’s raining rope, but that it’s raining a lot.

Regardless of whether it’s a word or an entire phrase, try to determine the meaning based on the conversation.

See also: French learners, take a look at these additional tips for translating French to English.

2. Ask for repetition.

When in doubt about what you have heard, ask the other speaker to repeat the word or phrase in question. Sometimes hearing the specific word might bring an epiphany to the unknown word(s). Below are some phrases in our most popular languages to ask “Repeat, please.”

Spanish: Repita por favor.
French: Répétez, s’il vous plait.
Japanese: もう一度おねがいします。 (Mōichido onegaishimasu)
Korean: 제발 반복합니다. (jebal banboghabnida)
Italian: Ripeti prego.
German. Bitte wiederholen.

repeat_please

See also: Check out additional Spanish phrases to use here

3. Relax and be honest.

Take a deep breath. Politely let the other person know that you are having trouble understanding. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you’ll find it difficult to follow and participate in the conversation.

And if you aren’t honest with your language partner, they will continue the conversation. Below are ways that you can use to indicate to the other person “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

Spanish: Lo siento, no entiendo.
French: Je suis désolé(e), je ne comprends pas.
Japanese: ごめんなさい。わかりません。(Gomen’nasai. Wakarimasen)
Korean: 죄송 해요. 이해가 안되는 데요. (joesong haeyo. ihaega andoeneun deyo)
Italian: Mi dispiace. Non capisco.
German. Es tut mir leid. Ich verstehe nicht.

im_sorry-_i_dont_understand

See also: 11 Tips for Improving Your Conversational Spanish [Infographic]


Language learning is the same across all languages. You build a foundation of vocabulary and grammar. You learn to put those words together to form sentences. You perfect your accent and comprehension skills. Then, you venture out and practice what you have learned.

Don’t stop at your first obstacle. Just relax and remember to listen for context clues, ask for repetition, and be honest with yourself. Most importantly, have fun! The best way to learn is to enjoy the process.

Want more conversational Spanish or conversational French practice? Sign up for one of our online group classes, or check out our other blog tutorials

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and has more than five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

Photo by Brian Roberts

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Singing Too Much? Pro Tips To Stay Vocally Healthy

singing-too-much-vocal-health

Is there such a thing as singing too much? If you’re working on a rigorous singing schedule, check out these tips to stay vocally healthy from voice teacher Elaina R

 

Anyone who’s ever eaten too much at Thanksgiving dinner knows that there is definitely too much of a good thing. This applies to singing as well!

Singing, in my opinion, is one of the most enjoyable activities in the world. But just like eating too much makes you feel sick, singing too much has very real physical repercussions that can prevent you from singing more — sometimes even permanently.

As a full-time professional singer, I sing a lot. I recently had a day where I had to sing for six hours. Even so, I haven’t had any vocal health problems since I was an undergraduate. Here’s why I have to be careful and what I do to keep my cords healthy.

The Dangers of Singing Too Much

Since your vocal cords are a part of your body, singing too much has many of the same effects as overusing any other body part.

Imagine that you’ve been clapping for hours. What would happen to your hands? They would likely be red and swollen. If you kept clapping despite the swelling, your hands would eventually become very painful and develop calluses and blisters. They might even start to bleed (ouch).

This same thing can happen to your vocal cords. The first step is vocal cord swelling. If you continue to sing with swollen or strained vocal cords, you can develop nodules (calluses), polyps (blisters), or hemorrhaging (bloody cords). Treatment for these issues includes vocal rest, vocal therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery. Any of these issues, if not treated, can permanently damage your singing and speaking voice.

Vocal Health as a Singer

Strained vocal cords (and damaging your voice) may sound scary, but it can be avoided. I’m able to sing all day, every day without injury because I am constantly thinking about my vocal health. Staying healthy as a singer is much like staying healthy as an athlete, and following these rules can be the difference between a happy voice and an incapacitated one.

  • Stay Hydrated

I chug a glass of water as soon as I get up in the morning, and I carry a water bottle around with me everywhere. Hydrated vocal cords are nice and plump (and thus less prone to injury).

  • Get Enough Sleep

You don’t need me to tell you that your body functions better when you get enough sleep. Fatigue affects your vocal cords just like it affects the rest of you.

  • Exercise

Good singers have to be very in touch with their bodies, and physical exercise helps you develop kinesthetic awareness. Exercise also helps alleviate tension, especially tension associated with sitting at a desk for long periods of time. This modern tension often centers around the throat, and throat tension is terrible for singing. Shaking your body out of this rigid mode can work wonders for your singing.

  • Address Allergies and Acid Reflux

I have seasonal allergies, so I take medication and use nasal sprays to alleviate post-nasal drip. Post-nasal drip is when mucus drips onto your vocal cords, irritating them and sometimes causing vocal issues. If you have allergies, you need to be aware of this and take appropriate precautions.

I’m lucky enough not to suffer from acid reflux, but many singers do. Acid reflux bathes the vocal cords in stomach acid, which is as horrible for the voice as you would expect. Please see a doctor immediately if you think you have acid reflux.

  • Warm Up

Just like athletes stretch before vigorous exercise, singers must warm up before diving into difficult music. I warm up every morning while puttering around the house — it’s second nature now, and it means my voice is always ready to go.

The Most Important Rule for Singers

I saved the best for last here. If an athlete has poor technique (an improper gait for a runner, a bad swing for a batter), they end up injuring themselves. Same goes for singing.

If you don’t learn good vocal technique, you will probably end up in vocal therapy at some point. But if you work with your voice teacher to improve your technique, you will learn how to sing better overall. Your stamina will build and you will be less likely to hurt yourself. Now doesn’t that sound good?

Photo by Eva Rinaldi

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from 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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Bad at Keeping Time? 6 Rhythm Exercises for All Musicians to Try

how-to-improve-your-rhythm

Do you struggle with keeping the beat? In this post, music teacher Heather L. shares six rhythm exercises that all musicians can try…

 

When’s the last time that you heard a musician perform live, either at a concert or online, and said to yourself, “Wow, her rhythm sounds really off. But she’s a phenomenal musician!”

I can’t remember, either.

That’s because a strong rhythmic sense is essential to being that phenomenal musician we all aspire to be, and we all can be! It’s part of what distinguishes an amateur from a pro.

Bad at Rhythm? You’re Not Alone

The very thing that those pros have is something called an internal sense of rhythm, which you can hone by tapping into your natural sense of a steady pulse. It’s like your own built-in metronome! It removes the need to tap your foot or rely on a drummer, or any other external time-keeper, for that matter.

It’s important to know that “rhythm” and “timing” mean slightly different things. “Rhythm” means the regular succession of strong and weak beats, but “timing” is your ability to keep a beat by yourself, especially within a group.

Lots of musicians struggle with both rhythm and timing, often because we choose pieces that are too complex for us at that current point in our musical journeys.

So remember your three S’s: Simple, slow, steady.

Simple are the pieces that you choose while you work to improve your rhythm, slow is the tempo that you should play the pieces, and steady rhythm is what we aim for!

If you struggle with rhythm and timing, your music teacher can help you with specific exercises and pieces to practice. In the meantime, here are the rhythm exercises that I recommend to my own students.

1. Record Yourself

  • Start simply. Choose a song that you know really well (think “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), and then choose a slow tempo.
  • Record yourself playing (or singing, if your instrument is your voice) it alone, without a metronome or any backup. Recording yourself gives you immediate and valuable feedback.
  • Listen to the recording. Are you confident that a stranger could tap to your beat? Are you speeding up or slowing down?
  • Tap or clap along with the recording. Keep a tally of how many times you got off the beat or hesitated.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not that steady. Just resolve to improve. Remember, this is just another skill to be learned!

2. March to a Pulse

This rhythm exercise might be the most fun — all you need to do is perform something physical to a pulse. If you like to dance, then dance along with the beat… and if you’d rather walk your dog, then go get the leash!

Physical movement matched to a pulse is called eurhythmics. This is the idea that music should be learned through all of the senses, including your kinesthetic (physical) awareness.

It’s best to create the pulse using a metronome. If you don’t own one, install a metronome app on your smartphone. I have one called The Metronome by Soundbrenner, but you can find lots of them in the App Store or in the Google Play Store.

The following video reveals a fascinating class in which eurhythmics is demonstrated. Notice that the students are creating movements that match rhythms. This is the fundamental idea. Keep watching, and you’ll see simple walking-to-a-pulse, dancing-to-a-pulse, and even punching-to-a-pulse!

3. Tap and Count

Find a recording of your favorite song, and clap your hands together with each count as you listen to it. You can also tap your leg, your guitar or piano, or a table. When you feel comfortable, add counting. Count “one, two, three, four,” or “one, two, three” depending on the time signature. Most songs have the feeling of three or four beats in each measure. Try both and see which one fits.

Remember, if it sounds like a waltz, then it probably has three beats per measure, but if it sounds like a march, then it probably has four beats per measure. Check out a video that demonstrates this exercise here.

4. Practice Subdividing

Now that you’ve counted the basic beat of your song, you’re going to subdivide. Learning how to subdivide is the basis of establishing that internal sense of rhythm, and later, just figuring out tough rhythms!

Subdivision is the practice of dividing the beats of a song into shorter beats. For instance, if you have a song that is made up of only quarter notes, to subdivide you might count “one, and, two, and, three, and, four, and…” instead of “one, two, three, four.” By subdividing, you’ve stopped guessing how long each beat is. I call it “naming the little baby notes.”

The following video visually details this rhythm exercise, but Dan also does a great job explaining it aurally.

5. Be an Apprentice

Find a friend, a neighbor, a band, or a great teacher with TakeLessons whose sense of rhythm and timing you really admire, and then find time to play with them. They’ll probably be flattered that you think of them so highly and be happy to help!

Here’s a terrific video of jazz piano great Chick Corea explaining his tips for getting better rhythmically, and this idea of apprenticeship.

6. Play with a Metronome

Now, take that song that you recorded before, set the metronome to a slow, steady beat again, and play along. But first, feel yourself settling in, letting your kinesthetic pulse — that internal sense of rhythm — sync with what you’re hearing.

Watch this video where the metronome is demonstrated on the piano. Even if you don’t play the piano, the instructor explains so simply that it will immediately make sense on your guitar, flute, or violin, or even your voice!

It’s been said that rhythm is not a series of dots, but of circles. As long as you hit the beat really close to the perfect spot, you’re okay. In fact, as humans, we’ll never be as exact as a metronome! And that’s great, because it creates a groove.

Being just a hair behind or ahead of the beat pulls the listener in, and frankly, keeps us from sounding like robots, or some computer program that makes music. It keeps us sounding human. Being human means being imperfect. And that’s just perfect.

Readers, what other rhythm exercises have helped you improve your skills? Leave a comment and let us know!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, 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. Learn more about Heather here!

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