MO - 15 Easy Waysto Practice SpanishThroughout the Day

15 Easy Ways to Practice Spanish Throughout the Day

15 Easy Ways to Practice SpanishThroughout the Day

Learning a new language shouldn’t be limited to textbooks and coursework! Here, tutor Kaitlin W. shares her (easy) ideas for practicing Spanish throughout the day… 

 

I don’t come from a Spanish-speaking family, nor is my family from a country where Spanish is spoken. Yet every time I open my mouth to speak Spanish, I’m asked where I am from.

I have a near-native accent that leaves little trace of my Anglo roots. I often make people guess what country I’m from, and I’ve heard everything from Spain to Cuba! Students always want to know my secret. How did I manage to essentially eradicate my native accent and achieve a level of pronunciation that native speakers themselves envy?

Below are a few of the ways that I created my own self-immersion program. By including these activities in your everyday life, you can learn and practice Spanish without feeling like it’s homework!

Practice Reading in Spanish1

Practice Reading in Spanish

1. Change the language on your devices

Consider changing your phone, computer, tablet, Facebook page, and anything else with a language option to Spanish. This is an easy way to practice Spanish, since you’ll see more of the vocabulary on a daily basis.

For example, every time you look at your phone, you’ll see the date in Spanish, reinforcing the days of the week and months of the year. Facebook will ask you if you would like to agregar amigos, teaching you the verb that means “to add.”

Seeing a few of the same words over and over again will help the language feel more natural to you, and you’ll find it becomes easier to incorporate them into everyday life with very little effort involved!

2. Research in Spanish

How many times a day do you Google something that you’re curious about? I use Wikipedia at least once a day, and I always go for the Spanish version of the website first. Next time you need information about your favorite celebrity, look at their page in Spanish and see how much you can understand before switching the language to English!

3. Pick up a Spanish newspaper

In most cities, these can be found for free on the street. You can also download apps and read the news on your phone. I recommend El País, an international newspaper from Spain. I like to read the articles out loud to practice Spanish pronunciation in addition to my reading skills. This is also a great way to stay informed about what is happening in Spanish-speaking countries.

4. Read a book in Spanish

I recommend beginning with teen literature or popular novels that don’t have a lot of challenging vocabulary. You can also start with poetry, which is challenging but shorter. Pablo Neruda is one of the most famous Spanish-language poets of the 20th century, and he has written beautiful love poems, such as “If You Forget Me” (Si tú me olvidas).

Another great idea is to pick a book in English that you like and read the translation. All of the Harry Potter books are available in Spanish, as well as other popular novels such as “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Life of Pi”, and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. You can find anything on Amazon!

As you build your vocabulary, try some books that were originally written in Spanish. I really enjoyed “La Sombra del Viento” by Carlos Ruíz Zafón. This popular book uses some advanced vocabulary, but mainly tries to use common words in unconventional ways, making it a very satisfying read for a conversational Spanish speaker. Be sure to read with a dictionary and make note of new and interesting words!

5. Take notice of signs and brochures in Spanish

Depending on where you are, you might see signs in Spanish — pay attention to these! If you purchase an item with directions listed in Spanish, try reading those too. You can do this with shampoo bottles while you’re in the shower, as well.

6. Play games in Spanish

Once your phone is in Spanish, many of your games will appear in Spanish, too. Trivia games force you to be quick on your feet as you practice Spanish, as many of them are timed. If that isn’t your speed, WordBrain offers an interesting vocabulary challenge in Spanish!

(Editor’s Note: Check out some other tutor-approved Spanish apps and games here!)

Practice Listening in Spanish

Practice Listening in Spanish

7. Watch Univisión, Telemundo, and Netflix

Don’t knock telenovelas until you try them! Netflix and Hulu now offer shows and movies in Spanish, some of which include English subtitles so you can check how much you understand. You can also watch your favorite movies with Spanish subtitles.

As for telenovelas, I recommend the ones from Mexico. The production value is higher than other Latin American countries and the accent is faint. They speak a pure Spanish. Typically, accents of Colombia, Argentina, and Chile are harder to understand if you’re just getting started.

Don’t have Netflix or Hulu? Try watching Univisión or Telemundo! I love Caso Cerrado, a Spanish-language Judge Judy!

8. Get Spanish language music for your daily commute

Why not practice Spanish during your commute? Singing along to songs will help your pronunciation and helps you begin to think in Spanish. Make an effort to learn the lyrics!

You can get music in any genre in Spanish, just like in English. If you like soft rock, I suggest Maná. For reggaetón, a Spanish rap, try Don Omar. You might recognize “Danza Kuduro”! Juanes is great for pop music, and for salsa, try listening to Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, and Juan Luis Guerra. My favorite artist, however, is a jazzy Mexican rock group called Camila!

9. Listen to podcasts in Spanish

While you’re sitting at your desk, in your car on your way to work, or at home cooking dinner, put on a podcast in Spanish. It could be one aimed at teaching Spanish or a Spanish-language podcast about another topic.

For learning conversational Spanish, I recommend Coffee Break Spanish, which focuses on conversations for traveling abroad, like how to order coffee! If you are a true beginner, SpanishPod101 is another great one. They have all levels of Spanish for any student!

Practice Writing in Spanish

Practice Writing in Spanish

10. Write your shopping list in Spanish

Before you head out to buy something, look up the things you need to purchase and make a list in Spanish! As you find your items in the store and cross it off your list, actively think about the new word and associate it with the item you’ve just picked up. This is how I learned a lot of Spanish vocabulary for food!

11. Write a blog in Spanish

Whether you write a public blog or a more traditional private journal, writing is a great way to practice Spanish. You can write about any topic that you are interested in, which makes your learning experience fun and personalized. You could also make it as simple as writing about your day. Taking a few minutes to practice your Spanish writing is a great way to keep your mind thinking in the language and to pick up on any grammatical issues you may be having.

12. Get a Spanish-speaking pen pal

There are many websites, like iTalki, that connect you to people who are trying to learn English. I have met friends in Colombia and Chile this way, and we are still Facebook friends to this day! You can send emails or texts, or use Skype to practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Practice speaking in Spanish

Practice Speaking in Spanish

13. Visit Hispanic bodegas and supermarkets

If you enjoy cooking, you may have fun shopping at Hispanic supermarkets and buying ingredients to make dishes from Spanish-speaking countries. If you can’t find the item you’re looking for, ask an employee for help in Spanish!

14. Talk in Spanish… even if you’re alone!

Those moments when you don’t have anyone to speak with may be your best opportunity to really speak without inhibitions! Take advantage of alone time to speak out loud, even if no one is there to correct you. As long as you are practicing the sounds of the language, you are making progress! Speak your thoughts, narrate your day, and talk to your dog! We all do weird things when we’re alone… why not make your weird thing productive?

15. Teach someone what you already know

Teaching can be a great way to reinforce the knowledge that you already have without even realizing that you’re doing it. When you have to search for ways to explain something to someone, you’re actually explaining it to yourself all over again! This can be as simple as teaching your friends and family what you’ve learned.

 

I continue many of these rituals daily to keep my Spanish as strong as ever. I also give my students resources to implement their own immersion programs. Everyone has different reasons for learning a language, and it’s important for students to know that they have control over their learning process and can tailor their experience to fit their needs. You control your learning, so make it fun!

Post Author: Kaitlin W.
Kaitlin W. teaches in-home and online Spanish lessons in Medford, NJ. She holds a Bachelors degree in Spanish from The College of New Jersey. Kaitlin aspires to be a professional Spanish teacher and would love to help you succeed in learning Spanish. Learn more about Kaitlin here!

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guitar fingerpicking

Spice Up Your Songs: 3 Fun Guitar Fingerpicking Patterns for Beginners

guitar fingerpicking

Whether you just started guitar lessons or you’ve been playing for a while, guitar fingerpicking patterns can spice up your playing! Here, Denver, CO teacher Kirk R. teaches you three guitar fingerpicking patterns to add to your guitar-playing toolbox…

If you’ve mastered all of the left-hand chord shapes, adding some right-hand flair will help you keep things interesting. If you’re still working on your first couple of chords, or maybe haven’t gotten that far yet, using some guitar fingerpicking patterns is a great way to impress your friends.

There’s an almost unlimited number of ways to pick a chord with your right hand, so covering all the possibilities would take forever! Let’s keep things simple and go over a few of the basic guitar fingerpicking patterns.


“Boom-Chick” Guitar Fingerpicking

Let’s start with what I call a “boom-chick” pattern. You may also see it called “boom-chuck,” or something else entirely, and you may also see slightly different right-hand techniques with the same name.

The pattern starts with a bass note that you play with your thumb, followed by a group of higher notes. Most of the time, this will be a group of three notes, and you will use your index finger, middle finger, and ring finger. This pattern can also vary and have fewer notes, or you can add a fourth note with your thumb, but this makes the pattern a bit more difficult.

This sort of pattern is especially useful in songs with a waltz-like feel, or any other songs in ¾ time. In those cases, the pattern works best with your thumb playing on the first beat of each measure, followed by two chords on the second and third beats. The easiest version of this pattern in 4/4 or another duple meter, is a thumb note on beats one and three while the fingers play the chord on beats two and four.

As an exercise to develop this pattern, start by using your thumb on the open E bass string, and your index, middle, and ring fingers on the G, B, and E strings, respectively. You can use this open picking pattern anywhere that calls for an E minor chord, and give your left hand a break to turn a page, scratch your head, or whatever else it’s been too busy playing chords to do.

Check out the basic patterns here, as well as some of the possible variations.


Travis Picking

Travis picking is one of the most popular categories of guitar fingerpicking. It’s named after the great country guitar player Merle Travis. If you’re not a country fan, don’t let that throw you off; if you don’t know who he is, make sure you check this guy out.

Despite being named after Merle Travis, the term Travis picking has a slightly more narrow definition than the patterns that Merle used in his playing. In general, Merle only used his thumb and the index finger of his right hand, which is the easiest way to approach Travis Picking.

Start by playing with your thumb and index finger at the same time, with at least two strings between the ones that you’re playing (i.e. play the fourth and first strings). After that, play your thumb on a higher string, and then your index finger on the next string.

After that, move back to the outer strings and play with your thumb, followed by your index finger, and finally, another thumb note before repeating the pattern.

————————————-

–2—————–2—————

————–2———————-

———-2—————-2——–

–0————–0——————

————————————-

It may look a little confusing written down, but once you start to feel it under your hand, it makes a lot more sense. When I play patterns like this, I try to remind myself that I wasn’t blessed with athletic hands like Merle Travis. While I can play the whole pattern with just my thumb and index finger, using my middle finger on the highest note makes it more comfortable to play for an extended time. It also opens up a few more options, which I’ve demonstrated in the video below.

 


Arpeggio Guitar Fingerpicking

Arpeggio means playing the notes of a chord, one after another, moving in the same direction. For that reason, I will call these types of guitar fingerpicking patterns the arpeggio patterns.

To start, set your hand up the same way you would for the “boom-chick” pattern, and start playing with just your thumb. Next, rather than playing the three fingers together, as we did before, we’ll play them in ascending order: index first, followed by the middle, and finally the ring finger.

This basic pattern is really useful in the right type of song, and it’s easy to expand to fit different chords or time signatures. In fact, back in 1812, a famous guitarist published a list of 120 different versions of this type of pattern, all using only C and G7. The easiest ways to switch it up is to simply do it backward, starting with the highest note, or start with the thumb, and then play only the fingers in reverse order. Playing the original pattern, followed by the middle and then index fingers also make for a pleasant sound. Try changing the rhythm up in the middle of the arpeggio. Here’s a few options that you can try out yourself:

The easiest way to switch it up is to simply do it backward, starting with the highest note, or start with your thumb, and then play only your fingers in reverse order. Playing the original pattern, followed by the middle and then index fingers also makes for a pleasant sound.

Try changing the rhythm up in the middle of the arpeggio. Here’s a few options that you can try out yourself:

As you can tell from the videos, once you’re comfortable with a few of the patterns, it’s easy to do impressive improvisations without having to think about scales, mode, or anything besides basic chord progressions.

These guitar fingerpicking patterns are great if you’re ready to get more variety out of the chords you’ve been using. Try Add some spice to your songs by trying these patterns with songs you already know.

If you have questions, ask your teacher or let us know in the comments below! Have fun, and get those right-hand fingers moving!


Kirk RPost Author:
 Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical, bass, and acoustic guitar instructor in Denver, CO. He earned a bachelor’s of music in Guitar performance at The College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and he is currently pursuing a masters degree in performance.  Learn more about Kirk here!

Image courtesy Kmeron

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Broadway Belting Songs (3)

6 Broadway Belting Audition Songs to Knock ‘Em Dead

6 Broadway Brlting Songs That Will Knock 'Em DeadHave you been learning how to belt, and feel ready to show off your skills at your next audition? Check out these recommendations for Broadway belting songs from voice teacher Molly R

 

Broadway belting is something audiences have loved to hear since the 1940s, when the Queen-of-All-Belters, Ethel Merman, was a main attraction.

Belting is a style of singing in which we bring the chest voice higher than we normally would, to convey extra power or emotion. While some people (and teachers) shy away from it, it’s an exciting style of singing that, when done correctly, can be very impressive!

Many musicals have killer belting songs. So if you’re looking for some great picks for singing auditions, I’ve pulled together the list below, representing a wide variety of time periods, styles, and personalities!

1. “Johnny One Note” – Babes in Arms

Made popular by the great Judy Garland, this number will have you belting several big B flats… with gusto!

This 1937 showtune is a solid classic to choose if you’re auditioning for an older show. It’s also a great choice for teen belters with a good middle voice; it provides enough of a challenge without too much of a chance to strain the voice, as it doesn’t sit too high. Consider this a nice intro to belting!

2. “Wherever He Ain’t” – Mack and Mabel

What a showstopper! Although Jerry Herman’s “Mack and Mabel” was not a hit, critics agree the music is sublime, and this is no exception! This sassy number requires you to sing some high notes, so it’s best for an advanced adult belter with more secure technique.

3. “City Lights” – The Act

Kander and Ebb wrote “The Act” for another legendary belter: Ms. Liza Minnelli! But don’t worry: you can make this one your own — and you should.

This song sits lower, so range-wise it’s not difficult. But it runs for six minutes, so if you’re singing it for an audition, make sure you perform the cut that shows you off best!

It’s also ideal for a dancer who belts. After all, these ARE the composers of “Chicago”! Not only will you be showing off your belting chops, but you’re expected to bring it as far as showmanship, too!

4. “All Falls Down” – Chaplin

Ooh, this is a GREAT new one —  yes, from another flop musical. What makes this Broadway song so great? It’s completely sassy and has a memorable “cakewalk” style. You get to belt this one full out; it’s probably the most challenging number on this list, as you need to belt pretty high… again and again. So this one is for the advanced belters only!

5. “I’m The Greatest Star” – Funny Girl

It’s been said “People” should be off-limits, as it belongs to Barbra (and I’ll have to agree with that!), but as far as I’m concerned, singers should feel free to use the REST of the great songs in “Funny Girl”!

The big belting doesn’t really come until the end of this song, so I’d say this is more for the intermediate belter. The bulk of the song lies in mid-voice and is meant to be sung with TONS of conviction… and serious comedic chops!

6. “Live Out Loud” – A Little Princess

This is for younger belters! It’s a wonderful, uplifting tune that is sure to wow. It’s also very good for those who have more of a soprano-ish quality to their voice. (Soprano/belt is definitely a voice type! Lucky ladies like the fabulous Sierra Boggess in the video below are proof they exist.) The melody is gorgeous and quick-moving, and it’s just under three minutes.

Choosing Belting Songs for Auditions

Before you choose one of these songs, remember that belting is a specific vocal skill that doesn’t come easily to most of us. It’s super easy to hurt yourself if you do it incorrectly. The last thing you want is to strain your voice!

Some voice teachers specialize in the technique, so make sure you’re working with someone who can help you achieve the sound you’re after! TakeLessons has many talented instructors who can help you achieve your belting goals. Good luck at your audition!

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

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jazz piano

5 Jazz Piano Exercises for Beginners

jazz piano

Do you want to sharpen your jazz piano skills? Below, piano teacher Jason B. shares five jazz piano exercises you can do to bring out your inner jazz pianist…

Jazz is one of the few piano styles that allows total creative freedom. Expert jazz pianists reshape not only the rhythms and melody of a song, but they are also given a solo section that allows them to create new melodies on the spot.

While this creative freedom is liberating, it also can be overwhelming when you’re just starting out as a jazz pianist. Below are five jazz piano exercises to start shaping your skills as a beginning jazz pianist.

Note: These jazz piano exercises assume you have basic music theory knowledge (such as scales and being able to read music) along with some basic piano experience as well.

1. Practice your 2­5­1’s

A 2­5­1 is a short chord progression that happens very often in jazz piano. Some jazz standards, such as Giant Steps by John Coltrane, are entirely 2­5­1 chord progressions changing from key to key during the song.

For example in the key of C Major, a 2­5­1 progression would be Dm7 ­ G7 ­ Cmaj7. This is because D is the second note of the scale, G is the fifth and C is the first, thus 2­5­1.

Building chords off of those scale degrees gives us those chords and chord quality (such a minor 7th, dominant 7th, and major 7th).

While advanced or intermediate jazz pianists might be playing 4 note voicings of the chords, since we are just beginning we are going to learn using 2 note voicings.

We build these chords using the 3rd of the chord, and the 7th of the chord. If you do not know what this means, this lesson might be a little advanced for you. Included below is a link with musical notation showing this concept.

If you follow along on the practice guide sheet, you can see in a Dm7 the 3rd is an F, and the 7th is a C. When you move to the G7 chord the F becomes the 7th of the G chord, but you must change the other note from C to B to become the third.

Finally, the B stays this time becoming the 7th of the Cmaj7 chord, while the F must turn into a E which is the third.

This might sound complicated, but print out the sheet and try to follow along with it. What you’ll find out is that you simply start the chord and then move one finger, and then the other to complete the other two chords.

The other good news is that since we will be using the thumb and the middle finger of the hand to the play the chords, we are setting ourselves up to be easily prepared for 3 note and 4 note voicings in the future.

Your left hand should be playing the root of the chord to give a foundation to the harmony. The hardest part is just knowing where to start, and that is why running this 2­5­1 practice chart will make you a better jazz pianist!

Click here for link to exercise.

2. Scales as part of a 2­5­1 progression

To become a good jazz piano improviser you need to know your scales, as they dictate which notes sound good to a given chord. While you could play a major scale to every major chord, a minor scale to every minor chord, and a mixolydian scale to every dominant chord, this can be very difficult.

Thankfully, there’s a trick to this madness. You can play the major scale of the 1 chord over the entire 2­5­1 progression. That means if you are playing a 2­5­1 in the key of G (Am7, D7, Gmaj7), you can just play G Major the entire time.

The reason this works is because the scales needed for the minor chord (which is called Dorian) and the dominant chord (Mixolydian) are actually called modes. These modes relate to the major scale by containing the same notes, they just start on a different scale degree.

Click here for link to exercise.

3. Practice soloing

Now that you’ve been practicing your scales and chord progressions so vigilantly, you’re ready to start some improvising.

You simply will pick a 2­5­1 progression and play either the root of the chord in the left hand, or the two note voicing you learned earlier if you have a backing track or software (refer to exercise 5).

Explore the different combinations of notes you can make within the scale. Explore leaving the scale through passing tones between two scalar notes.

This is your time to be an explorer and figure out what you personally like. Remember there are no wrong notes in jazz, there are just better choices. Don’t be afraid to experiment and fail, this is where you become better.

4. Real Book

The Real Book plays a vital role to any jazz pianist. It contains the sheet music for songs that we refer to as standards. There are many different versions of the Real Book, however, the one I personally use  is Hal Leonard’s “The Real Book 6th Edition.”

The book has around 400 songs with proper chord changes and melodic lines notated. The format of the songs in notation is what we call a Lead Sheet. A Lead Sheet has the chord structure and melody of the form of the songs. In jazz, we call the first time through a song while playing it’s melody the head.

After you play the head, you still repeat the chord changes of the song but you improvise a new melody of your own over the changes. This is called the solo section.

Finally, you replay the head one more time after you play however many times through the song you felt like soloing. This is the standard format of a jazz song and the Real Book will give you the proper information needed to play these songs.

5. Backing tracks or software

Backing tracks, or backing track software, are two options when nobody else is around to play with. Backing tracks sound great, and are recorded by amazing musicians. For example, Jamey Aebersold sells books with cds included that you can play along with.

The upside is they sound great because of the talented musicians. The downside is they are usually only in one key and tempo. If the song is difficult, you might have to work up to the speed on the track, making it useless.

The other option is backing track software, such as iReal Pro (for phones, tablets, and computers). iReal Pro for is a great piece of software, which you can edit chords, tempo, time signature, and even keys!

You can set the song to be as slow as you need it to be, which is great when you’re first learning a song. You can individually change the volume of every instrument in the backing track it makes.

You don’t even have to manually enter in the standard you’re working on because it connects to a special forum where you can download 2000 jazz songs off the bat. Using this software makes practicing a whole lot more fun, because it is the next best thing to jamming with a band.

It’s your turn!

If you practice these jazz piano exercises for even five minutes each a day, within weeks you will be astounded with how much you have grown.

The secret to good practice is consistency not duration. You might even surprise yourself. There have been many times where I have sat down to practice soloing and had so much fun I noticed hours have passed.

Good luck to you on your journey through this wonderful genre of music we call jazz!

Photo by Geert Schneider

Post Author: Jason B.
Jason B. teaches piano and music theory lessons in Vista, CA. He is currently finishing up his Jazz Performance BA at Mira Costa College and his BA in Music Education at San Diego State University. Learn more about Jason here!

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The Beginner’s Guide to Violin Scales [Video Tutorial]

violin-scales-for-beginners

One of the most important aspects of learning to play violin is understanding the scale. As a beginner violinist, learning scales will give you a foundation as you launch into your craft and begin to explore exercises and pieces of music. With a little bit of practice, and these tips and videos from Austin, TX violin teacher Naomi Cherie S., you can learn to play violin scales…

Violin Scales for Beginners

Simply put, a scale is a series of notes, ordered by frequency or pitch, that span an octave (a consecutive set of eight notes.) For instance, to play a G scale, start by playing the lowest G on your violin (open G string.) Then, ascend up in pitch and play the notes in consecutive order until you reach the next G on your instrument (third finger on the D string.) Next, descend down the scale and play each note again, but move backwards until you return to the lowest G (open G string) on your violin.

Each scale is accompanied by a set of naturals, sharps, and flats which determine what type of scale it is. There are many different types of scales: major, natural minor, harmonic minor, etc, but as a beginner, the first type of scale to focus on and master is the major scale.


What Makes a Scale Major?

There is an easy way to determine which notes go into a major scale, and if you can memorize this rule, you’ll be able to figure out any major scale based on these two principles:

  1. There are half steps between the third and fourth, and seventh and eighth notes in the scale.
  2. There are whole steps between all of the other notes in the scale.

To play whole steps, leave about an inch between your fingers (for instance E and F# on the D string). To play half steps, squeeze your fingers together so they touch each other (B and C natural on the A string.) If you’re not sure about some of the aspects of violin finger placement, check out this article which includes violin fingering charts.

Once you’ve mastered many of the major scales and have advanced into an intermediate level player, you can delve into other types of scales such as the natural minor. Each type of scale has its own set of principles that determine which notes are used in the scale.


How to Play Violin Scales

The G Major Scale is the easiest scale to learn for beginners, so let’s start there.

G Major Scale

violin scales for beginners

 

Follow the principles above and identify your fingers with these numbers:

  1. Index finger
  2. Middle finger
  3. Ring finger
  4. Pinkie

For the G major scale, use the following finger pattern:

G string: 2 and 3 touching (half steps) with all other fingers spaced apart (whole steps).

 

D string: 2 and 3 touching (half step) with all other fingers spaced apart (whole steps)

 

If you want to go into a two-octave scale and make the exercise a little longer and more challenging (highly recommended), allow the scale to span from the lowest G (Open G string) to the next G (3rd finger on the D string), and then expand and play all the notes leading up to the next G (second finger on the E string). This makes the scale twice as long.

Start over with the counting of the third and seventh notes, and continue the following finger pattern:

A string: 1 and 2 touching (half step) with all other fingers spaced apart (whole steps).

E string: 1 and 2 touching (half step) with all other fingers spaced apart (whole steps).

Once you have this fingering pattern memorized, take note of the set of sharps, naturals, and flats that make up this scale. This set is what we call a key. In the case of the G major scale, follow the principles above, which gives you an F#. Leave all of the other notes natural.

The set sharps, naturals, and flats would then change for each scale you play. For instance, the A major scale would contain C#, F#, and G#, and the D major scale would use F# and C#.

The best approach when learning scales is to memorize both the set of sharps, flats, and naturals, and the fingering pattern for each scale.


Violin Scales Warm Up

Here is a helpful warm-up routine that uses  the two-octave G major scale you just learned. Practice this routine to turn on your musical mind, get your fingers moving, and get  your bow arm flowing before each practice session. This warm up will also help you focus on your intonation and form,  and will explore different areas of the bow.

Follow the outline below as you play your two-octave G major scale:

  1. Half notes (long, slow, smooth bows that span from frog to tip)
  2. Quarter notes (quick, strong bows that span most of the bow)
  3. Four per note eight notes (four quick bow strokes on each note)
  4. Two per note eight notes (two quick bow strokes on each note)
  5. One per note eight notes (one quick bow stroke on note)
  6. Four per note 16th notes (four ultra-quick bow strokes on each note)
  7. Two per note 16th (two ultra-quick bow strokes on each note)
  8. One per note 16th notes (four quick bow strokes on each note)

This video will walk you through this violin scale warm up. Once you get comfortable with the warm up, try playing along with me in the video.

Take some time to grasp the section of the warm up leading up to the eighth notes. Depending on how long you’ve been playing violin, you may need to practice it for a few weeks.

Once you’re ready, try playing along with the 16th-note routine outlined in this video:


Now What?

Now that you’ve learned the G scale and have an excellent warm up routine to go with it, take some time to get comfortable: practice and perfect it! For the next few weeks, play through your warm-up exercise each time you practice.

Learn to play this warm-up proficiently (all notes in tune and you can work smoothly and seamlessly from half notes to 16th notes) before you move on to another scale.

Work your way up gradually and play through your eighth notes and 16th notes slowly, until you can add speed without taking away from the overall quality of your sound and intonation. When you first start learning the scale, you may need to work through the warm up multiple times during your practice sessions.

Once you’ve mastered the two-octave G major scale, try moving on to the A major, the D major, and the C major. Using the scales as your cornerstone, you will become familiar with the different keys and will be able to approach songs and pieces of music with confidence and ease.

Need some help with violin scales? Sign up for lessons with a violin teacher!  

Post Author: Naomi Cherie S.
Naomi teaches violin in Austin, TX. She is a classically trained violinist with over 20 years of experience and a diverse musical background. Learn more about Naomi Cherie S. here.

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25 MORE Spanish Writing Prompts for Beginners

25 MORE Spanish Writing Prompts for Beginners

25 MORE Spanish Writing Prompts for Beginners

A while back, Spanish tutor Joan B. shared a list of easy writing prompts for practicing Spanish. Readers loved these, so we’re back with even MORE Spanish writing prompts to try! 

 

Writing in Spanish is not only an essential skill on its own; practicing writing will also improve your vocabulary, increase your understanding of grammar concepts, and enhance your communication skills both in written and spoken forms.

The following are 25 Spanish writing prompts that will stimulate your imagination, stretch your abilities and, most importantly, help you to become a powerful and persuasive writer in Spanish. Tackle a writing prompt regularly (like once a day, or once a week) and you’ll soon find yourself writing persuasively with very little effort!


1. Describe a time when you had an argument with someone, and how you resolved it. This is a chance to describe a sequence of events or statements using the preterite tense (“El dijo…y entonces yo le dije…”), as well as the expressions (“No estar de acuerdo” and “Hacer las paces“).

2. Write a ‘tall tale’. Describe an outlandish event in as much detail as possible. Use this as a chance to practice narrative writing and use a variety of descriptive adjectives and phrases. The more out there, the better!

3. Explain what you do to conserve, recycle, reduce, and reuse. Green living is a hot topic today, and the words associated with it (conservar, reciclar, reducir, reusar) include useful Spanish vocabulary for daily living.

4. What is your favorite Spanish or Latin dish? Is it paella, pollo asado, or tamales? Whatever it is, write out the ingredients and process for making it, in the form of a recipe. You can look up a recipe in English for inspiration if you’re not sure how to make it.

5. In your opinion, what is the worst environmental problem facing us today, and what can be done to improve the issue? Take this opportunity to learn issue-specific vocabulary (for example, for global warming, you could use el calentamiento global) as well the subjunctive when expressing certain views (“Espero que…“).

6. Write a letter to the editor about a local community issue you feel strongly about. This prompt will challenge you to use formal, polite, and print-worthy grammar and syntax, as well as develop your own personal voice in Spanish.

7. You’ve decided to apply for a job where you’ll use your Spanish-speaking skills. Write a paragraph or essay in Spanish detailing your knowledge, experience, and study in the language. This can include descriptions of trips to Spanish-speaking places, formal study, the types of Spanish classes you’ve taken and concepts learned (“Sé explicar bien mis opiniones.“), and how long you’ve studied (“Comencé a estudiar en la escuela secundaria, y después assistí a la universidad.“). Not only is this great practice, it’s good to have on hand just in case you do need to document your Spanish knowledge, in short order!

8. Your roommate or neighbor has a very annoying habit and you’ve finally decided you can’t take it any longer. Instead of telling him or her directly, write a letter using a variety of formal commands and subjunctive structures (“¡Cámbialo!” or “Sugiero que…“).

9. You’ve met someone who’s about to start studying Spanish. What advice would you give him or her to succeed? This is a great opportunity to give advice (dar consejos) and even include a proverb or two (“La práctica hace al maestro.“).

10. You’re planning to travel to a Spanish-speaking country. Describe what you hope your daily routine will be. Practice using sequencing words (antes, después, entonces), reflexive verbs (relajarse, divertirse, etc.) and expressions for activities (ir al concierto, visitar un museo, dar un paseo por la ciudad).

11. If you could have any type of pet, which would you choose, and why? Talk about how you would take care of your pet and what activities you could do together. You can use hypothetical phrases (“Si pudiera tener una mascota, tendría un perro e iría al parque con él“).

12. Describe the members of your household and who is responsible for what duties around the house. The expressions you use are essential phrases for travel and daily life — it’s important to know how to say cambiar las sábanas (change the sheets) and lavar la ropa (wash the clothes)!

13. Prepare a short comedy act. Choose an event that has comedic potential and make light of it in a humorous way. Try to contar un chiste (tell a joke), which is challenging to do in Spanish as a second-language speaker. You can even ask a native Spanish speaker for help with tackling this prompt.

14. Describe your route to work or school. What mode of transportation do you use, which way do you go, and what are the pros and cons of your particular route and way? This is another practical writing prompt to exercise your ability to describe modes of transportations, routes, and transportation directions (“Primero, tomo el autobús número…“; “Evito el tráfico de las 5 por tomar una ruta alternativa…“).

15. Respond to a letter or other communication you’ve received from someone telling you about their news and activities. Even though they probably wrote to you in English, draft a response to them in Spanish, detailing your own news and activities and commenting on theirs. You can also draft a response to an imaginary letter in Spanish if you prefer. Explain what you’ve been habitually doing (“En estos días, estudio mucho…“) and retell specific events that have occurred (“Ayer recibí una buena nota.”). This is a good time to practice choosing between the imperfect tense and preterite tense for past events.

16. Invent a fairy tale in Spanish. You can begin with the words “Había una vez…” (once upon a time…) and let your imagination take it from there. You can write a fairy tale you’re familiar with, or create a new one. This Spanish writing prompt is good practice for perfecting the imperfect and preterite tense, as well as refining your descriptive writing abilities in Spanish, since fairy tales often involve vivid description of interesting characters.

17. Write a letter to a world leader whose policy actions you’re familiar with. Commend him or her on the actions you agree with, and explain why you agree. Offer criticism of those actions you disapprove, along with suggestions for alternative action to be taken. Use the comparative and superlative in your letter (“Esta acción es tan buena como lo que hizo“); you may also find use for the subjunctive (“Es mejor que resuelva el problema de…“).

18. If you could live in any country for an extended period of time, which country would you choose and why? Explain what traditions, customs, cultural practices and daily living styles appeal to you, and what you would do there. This is a chance to use the imperfect subjunctive and the conditional in a common and useful structure (“Si pudiera vivir en algún país, viviría en…“).

19. In your opinion, what was the most important world event of the past year? Describe the event itself, using the appropriate tense (imperfect or preterite). You may also find a use for the past progressive (“Mientras el gobierno estaba estabilizando, el presidente se murió.”). Try to use a mix of objective factual statements, as well as more subjective statements that reflect your opinion about the event.

20. Spanish is fast-becoming the lingua franca (a language that is used among people who speak various different languages) of the United States. What are the benefits and disadvantages of this, from an economic and cultural standpoint? Useful phrases for this prompt include “Por un lado…y por otro lado…” and “Pienso que…“.

21. Why do you study Spanish? What do you hope to gain from the language? Are your reasons primarily linguistic, cultural, economic, or something else? Explain what attracts you to the language, and the level you aim to reach. Also express how you feel using verbs such as “sentirse” and “me parece que…“.

22. You have the opportunity to live with a family in a Spanish-speaking country as part of a study abroad program. Write a letter to the family, introducing yourself. Tell them essential information, as well as some fun and interesting facts about you so they can start to get to know you. Use an informal yet polite tone. You can also include what you hope to gain by living with them by using polite requests (“Me gustaría si pudiéramos hablar en español casi todo el tiempo.“; “¿Sería posible hacer actividades todos juntos?“).

23. What do you like to do in your free time? Describe the activities you do, when you usually do them, and with whom. You can begin with “En mi tiempo libre…“. Use this prompt as a chance to expand and memorize Spanish vocabulary — you might learn new expressions as you describe your activities in Spanish.

24. What is your astrological sign? Do you believe in astrological signs? Why or why not? Do you think you fit the typical profile for someone of your sign? You might want to use expressions like aunque (although) and sin embargo (nevertheless).

25. You’re going to host two Spanish-speaking exchange students. Write them a letter telling them about any customs they should be familiar with, as well as the daily schedule they will follow. You can describe your daily school or work schedule, as well as the times that activities occur. You can also remind them of specific items they might want to bring from home.

 

If you work through (ahem, write through!) these 25 Spanish writing prompts, you’ll be well-versed in a variety of topics, registers of written Spanish, and typical structures and expressions to express your ideas concisely and clearly.

You can also take your completed prompts to your teacher or tutor for further feedback, or simply re-read them and edit them on your own, over time. Enjoy, and continue working toward the level you wish to reach in Spanish!

Joan BPost Author: Joan B.
Joan B. lives in Carmichael, CA and has been teaching high school Spanish for more than 18 years. A lover of language, she’s studied French, Arabic, and Italian and spent time living in Spain. Joan aims to help students improve on tests and increase their conversational ability when traveling to Spanish-speaking countries. Learn more about Joan here!

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50 Best Audition Songs for Musicals

50 Best Audition Songs for Musical Theater

50 Best Audition Songs for MusicalsLooking for recommendations for musical theater audition songs that are sure to impress? Take a look at this list from voice teacher Liz T...

 

So you have a musical theater audition coming up and you’re panicking about what song to sing? Have no fear, the list is here!

In this article, I’ve compiled some of the best musical theater audition songs to sing, broken down by recommendations for each voice type. Check out the list, and then read on for some extra tips for acing your audition.

Audition Songs for Sopranos:

1. “Better” — Legally Blonde

2. “Think of Me”  The Phantom of the Opera
3. “ I Could Have Danced All Night” — The King and I
4. “It’s a Fine, Fine Line” — Avenue Q
5. “Moonfall” — The Mystery of Edwin Drood
6. “Home” — Beauty and the Beast
7. “Somewhere” — West Side Story
8. “The Light in the Piazza” — The Light in the Piazza
9. “How Lovely to be a Woman” — Bye Bye Birdie
10.“Matchmaker” — Fiddler on the Roof

Audition Songs for Altos:

1. “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” — Grease

2. “Holding Out for a Hero” — Footloose
3. “Always True to You in My Fashion” — Kiss Me Kate
4. “Astonishing” — Little Women
5. “Welcome to the ’60s” — Hairspray
6. “Pulled” — The Addams Family
7. “All for You” — Seussical
8. “I’m Not At All in Love” — The Pajama Game
9. “Mama Who Bore Me” — Spring Awakening
10.“Beautiful” — Carole King’s Beautiful

Audition Songs for Tenors:

1. “Maria” — West Side Story

2. “Magic Foot” –The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
3. “I Believe” — Book of Mormon
4. “Almost Like Being in Love” — Brigadoon
5. “Close Every Door” — Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
6. “Santa Fe” — Newsies
7. “Fortune Favors the Brave” — Aida
8.“Some Enchanted Evening” — South Pacific
9.“Dancing Through Life” — Wicked
10. “When the Sun Goes Down” — In the Heights

Audition Songs for Bass Singers:

1. “I Wanna be a Producer” — The Producers

2. “Try to Remember” — The Fantasticks
3. “The Music of the Night” — The Phantom of the Opera
4. “Comedy Tonight” — A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum
5. “Ol’ Man River” — Showboat
6. “Coffee Shop Nights” — Curtains
7. “Mr. Cellophane” — Chicago
8. “My Defenses Are Down” — Annie Get Your Gun
9. “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” — Spamalot
10. “Edelweiss” — The Sound of Music

More Audition Songs for Male and Female:

1. “On Broadway” — All that Jazz

2. “Man of La Mancha” — Man of La Mancha
3. “Take Me for What I Am” — Rent
4. “Heaven On Their Minds” — Jesus Christ Superstar
5. “One” — A Chorus Line
6. “Another Hundred People” — Company
7. “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man (of Mine)” — Showboat
8. “Before the Parade Passes By” — Hello Dolly
9. “It’s De-lovely” — Anything Goes
10. “Who Will Buy” — Oliver!

Tips for Musical Theater Auditions

Once you’ve picked your perfect musical theater audition song, keep the following tips in mind to make a great impression:

  • As you prepare, remember the typical 16-bar and 32-bar cuts, and make sure your song fits appropriately.
  • When you step into the audition, introduce yourself, smile, and be pleasant! Directors sit through many, many auditions, and you want to catch their attention in a positive way.
  • Consider preparing both uptempos and ballads, no matter what show or part you are auditioning for. You never know what the director is looking for!

There are so many wonderful Broadway songs out there, but the list above includes many fresh, new songs that are appropriate to sing for contemporary musical theater auditions today.

If you would like individual attention as you learn to sing any of these songs (or any other songs!), feel free to schedule a lesson with me today through TakeLessons!

Bonus: We’ve teamed up with Musical Theater Songs to offer an exclusive membership discount — use code FBFRIEND and get access to a full library of more than 9,000 audition songs for just $59/year (that’s 25% off the yearly price!). With Musical Theater Songs, you can:

  • Custom-tailor your search for songs, using up to 20 different parameters and 100 descriptive tags
  • Get direct links to sheet music and recordings
  • Connect with your school’s or local library’s music collection through Worldcat

Learn more here!

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

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25 Best Karaoke Songs for Women With a Twist

The 25 Best Karaoke Songs for Women With a Twist

25 Best Karaoke Songs for Women With a TwistWant to be the star of your next karaoke night? We’ve got you covered. In this article, voice teacher Elaina R. shares 25 recommendations for karaoke songs for women — and a twist that makes them work so well…

 

Have you ever noticed that guys like Bruno Mars, Sam Smith, and Adam Levine sing so high that barely any other guys can eke out the same notes? What about the fact that female artists like Sia, Ariana Grande, and Katy Perry leave women in the same painful situation?

You aren’t imagining things; the popular music industry has been overrun by high voices ever since pop was invented. It’s nearly impossible for normal people (without digital enhancement) to sing lots of popular songs. In fact, many of the original singers of these songs can’t reliably belt out those high notes night after night – it just isn’t healthy.

This is why if you’re a female vocalist, instead of attempting to screech out “Chandelier” at your next karaoke session, you might want to consider sticking with Justin Bieber instead.

Why Songs by Guys Make Great Female Karaoke Songs

Hear me out… In my experience, the average woman can belt up to about a G4 or an A4 before things start getting uncomfortable (if I just lost you, check out this article on voice types). I’m a professional singer and I can only comfortably belt up to a C#5 or D5.

In contrast, here are a few of the belted high notes in some popular songs with female singers:

Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” (D5)
Katy Perry’s “Firework” (D#5)
Sia’s “Chandelier” (F5)
Ariana Grande’s “Problem” (G#5)

These notes are a fifth to an octave above what most women are capable of belting. They’re so high, in fact, that a trained singer like me can’t belt most of them! It’s physically impossible for most women to sing these songs without straining their vocal cords or flipping up into head voice.

Now let’s take a look at some of the high belted notes in popular songs by male artists.

OMI’s “Cheerleader” (E4)
Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” (F4)
Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” (G#4)
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” (D5)

Aside from the Bruno Mars song, all of those have belted high notes that most women can comfortably handle. And although you might expect the songs to go too low for women, they usually don’t. The lowest note in the four songs listed above is a momentary C#3 in “Shut Up and Dance”. Some women can sing down there, but if you can’t, it’s easy enough to substitute a higher note that fits in the chord (one safe tactic is to simply stay on the previous note).

Have I convinced you? If so, consider some of these hits next time you go to a karaoke bar.

25 Best Female Karaoke Songs (Originally By Guys)

1. “The Lazy Song” – Bruno Mars
2. “Forget You” – Cee Lo Green
3. “Photograph” – Ed Sheeran
4. “Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap
5. “Kygo” – Firestone ft. Conrad Sewell
6. “Hold Back the River” – James Bay
7. “Let It Go” – James Bay
8. “Want To Want Me” – Jason Derulo
9. “Don’t Stop Believing” – Journey
10. “Love Yourself” – Justin Bieber
11. “Years & Years” – King
12. “Are You With Me” – Lost Frequencies
13. “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
14. “Sugar” – Maroon 5
15. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson
16. “Thriller” – Michael Jackson
17. “Avicii” – The Nights
18. “Cheerleader” – OMI
19. “Hey Ya” – OutKast
20. “Happy” – Pharell Williams
21. “I’m Not The Only One” – Sam Smith
22. “Stay With Me” – Sam Smith
23. “See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth
24. “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd
25. “Earned It” – The Weeknd

 

Are any of these songs your favorites? Comment below with your thoughts and a song recommendation of your own!

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, 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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10 Incredible German Festivals You Can't Miss

10 Incredible German Festivals You Can’t Miss

10 Incredible German Festivals You Can't MissGermany is a fun place to visit because of its fair share of holidays and festivals. In this article, teacher KeriAnne N. J. will tell you about 10 festivals in Germany that’ll make you want to pack your bags and travel there soon…

 

“Life is a festival only to the wise.” Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote.

Germany certainly seems to understand how to throw a fantastic festival! Over 10,000 festivals are hosted in Germany in a single year alone. It’s one of the greatest places to explore some of the world’s largest and strangest festivals.

From the exciting celebrations of Karneval, to the acclaimed Munich Opera Festival, to the spectacular lights of the Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas Market) – there’s always something in Germany’s festivities calendar to suit interests and tastes of all kinds. Let’s take a look at these 10 incredible German festivals…


1) Karneval (Mid-February)

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Karneval begins in the 40 day period before Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Typically, Karneval is a time to party and enjoy music, food, and dance. Costume balls, masks, masquerade balls, parades, and other such festivities take place throughout the country, much like our Mardi Gras festival here in the United States or Carnaval do Brasil in Brazil.

The festivals widely vary, according to each towns’ local traditions. Karneval is one of the oldest celebrations in the world, dating back to the 13th century. Carnevale di Venezia, the original celebration originating in Venice, eventually spread north to European countries, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even France.

Three Parts of Celebration

In Germany, there are three different parts to the celebration; they include: Karneval, Fasching, and Fastnacht. Each are part of the pre-Lenten observance, and each has its own unique tradition that reflects the different regions, customs, and cities of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Generally speaking, Karneval is used to represent the area known as the Rhenish, or Rhineland. It’s the celebration of carnival in the northwest region of Germany. Fasching represents the celebrations in Austria and South Germany.

The biggest festival day is the Rose Monday parade. In northern Germany, Braunschweig holds one of the largest parades out of any other cities in all of Germany. This parade dates back to 1293. Fastnacht represents the festivities in the Swabian and Swiss regions of northern Europe.

*For more information about Karneval, Fasching and Fastnacht, click here.


2) Munich Ballet Festival (Early April)

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Munich Ballet Festival is perhaps one of the busiest times of the year for the Bavarian State Ballet (Bayerische Staatsballett).

This ballet company, along with other international ballet companies, comes together to perform in week-long performances that premiere new works. These works are created by some of the world’s most modern and innovative choreographers, and contemporary works are created for this special ballet festival in mind.

This festival of ballet has recently become one of the most prestigious events in all of Europe, drawing visitors from all across Europe and beyond. Guest performers and highly-skilled dancers grace the stage in new world premieres, which are often choreographed by some of the most elite and famous choreographers from around the globe.

*For more information about the Munich Ballet Festival, click here.


3) Thuringia Bach Festival (April – May)

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Thuringia Bach Festival (Thueringer Bachwochen) specializes in the baroque music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Various concerts are performed at authentic sites around Thuringia. This music festival is not only enticing to music lovers, but to tourists alike. The Bach festival includes a wide variety of concerts during the festival; solo organ concerts, Bach Cantatas sung by professional choruses from all around Germany, professional vocal soloists, chamber ensembles, and solo instrumentalists.

The festival features international Baroque music superstars, such as soprano singers Emma Kirkby and Dorothee Mields. Other Baroque solo instrumentalists, such as violinist Bjarte Eike, violoncellist Harriet Krijgh, and pianist Magda Amara, take the stage in glorious performances of Bach’s greatest works.

Audiences enjoy observing and listening to musical instruments in their original, well-tempered tuning in Bach’s time. Concerts are held at some of the most beautiful and ornate churches in all of Germany, including Thomaskirche and Traukirche.

*For more information about performances and concerts at authentic venues, click here.


4) International Dixieland Festival, Dresden (Mid-May)

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The International Dixieland Festival in Dresden boasts over 350 Dixieland jazz musicians yearly.

Visitors and musicians alike enjoy the open air events held on the Elbe River. Patrons enjoy catching the Dixie Parade and watching street performers. Performers from all around the world perform for sold-out audiences as they enjoy outdoor performance venues, such as German riverboat tours. Their music lineup includes dixieland, jazz, boogie woogie, and bigbands.

This festival offers concert versions of songs played by solo musicians, performances for children, and events specially designed with families in mind. Musicians offer live entertainment in a fun, festive, and laid-back environment. Musicians also like to wear costumes in order to engage the listeners, adding to the festive atmosphere.

*For more information about performances and various events visit, click here.


5. Rhein in Flammen (May – September)

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Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) is a spectacular sight of fireworks illuminating the vineyards and castles along the banks of the Rhine River.

Locations in Germany include Bonn, Koblenz, Oberwesel, St. Goarshausen, and Rüdesheim. Hop aboard a brightly illuminated boat to view the spectacular pyrotechnic show along the Rhine. Up and down the shore are live concerts, outdoor fairgrounds with rides and games for the entire family, drinks, food, and much more entertainment and nourishment. Musical performances include the genres of acoustic rock, country rock, American folk, musical comedy, bossa nova, modern jazz, Deutsch pop, and swing jazz.

*For a list of events, locations, and musical entertainment, click here.


6) Rock am Ring and Rock im Park (June)

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Rock am Ring and Rock im Park (Rock in the Ring and Rock in the Park) are two of the largest rock festivals in the world, with crowds reaching 160,000 people annually.

These festivals take place simultaneously over the course of three days in both Nürberg and Nuremberg. Many of the performing artists appear at both venues, performing to vastly large audiences. International artists camp out in tents at each venue, making for hundreds of campsites at each venue.

Superstar rock musicians, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, Deftones, Black Sabbath, and many others perform to audiences made up of people from around the globe. People visit Germany solely for this event and they enjoy new bands as well as popular favorites.

*Check out the list of artists and performing lineups here and here.


7) Munich Opera Festival (June – July)

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The Munich Opera Festival is held yearly at the Bayerische Staatsoper Haus (Bavarian State Opera House) in Munich.

The Munich Opera Festival was founded almost 140 years ago. It’s one of the oldest and most comprehensive opera festivals in the world today. The Opernfestspiele (Opera Festival) consists of all of the previously-staged operas performed during the past year and always concludes with an opera by Richard Wagner, such as Die Walkure or Gotterdammerung.

Fan favorites, including Die Zauberflote, Il Trovatore, and Don Giovanni, are just some of the operas that have been performed at past festivals. Professional opera singers grace the stage in fully-costumed staged productions with elaborate stage sets. Opera soloists from around the world join the productions to sing some of the grandest music ever written and entertain audiences of all ages.

Here’s a fun fact about Munich: The Weihenstephaner Brewery has been operating since 1040, making it the world’s oldest brewery. For more facts like this, have a look at our article 50+ Fun Facts About Germany You Didn’t Know.

*For performance schedules and ticket information, click here.


8. Festival-Mediaval (September)

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The Festival-Mediaval is a reenactment of the medieval period in living history.

The festival takes place annually in Selb and includes things like performances of medieval music, witches, beggars, theatre troupes, a medieval market with vendors, a fire show, and many people in medieval costumes roaming the fairgrounds. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at archery, now’s your chance.

The festival also offers workshops in metal working, craftsman wares, dancing, and early Renaissance musical instruments. Festivities included at the medieval fair are food, merchandise, jousting, and medieval music and games. Bands and musicians from all around the world play at this festival and delight audiences of all ages with their medieval and Renaissance-inspired music. The festival holds a medieval music concert at the Christuskirche (Christ Church) at the end of the festival.

*For more information on days and times of events daily, click here.


9. Oktoberfest (September – October)

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Oktoberfest is a 15-day-long festival celebrating the harvest of Bavarian beers, wines, and food.

Oktoberfest is one of Germany’s most famous festivities and one of the world’s largest fairs. Over six million people come to celebrate the harvest of beer in order to drink, eat tasty pretzels and German sausages, and engage in general festivities. Music performances by internationally-recognized accordion players delight audiences of all ages.

Concerts, accordion competitions, craft and ware vendors, traditional folk dancing, German music, German foods, and German beers all make for an enormously fun and festive annual event. The German biergartens (beer gardens) make for a colorful and festive atmosphere for people to enjoy celebrating the delicious culture of Germany.

If you want to be prepared for Oktoberfest, including knowing how to order beverages, find a seat, and ask for help, check out our article on 20 Useful German Phrases for Oktoberfest.

*For more information about Oktoberfest festivities, click here.


10. Weihnachtsmarkts/Christmas Markets (December)

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Weihnachtsmarkts are magical Christmas Markets that open during the Advent season all over Germany.

Almost every German village and city has it’s own version of these special Christmas markets. Often, these markets give tourists and locals a reason to brace the chilly weather and come out to enjoy food, fun, and festive vibes. Visitors can shop and browse for the perfect Christmas gift at the local vendors, many of whom sell handcrafted wares, toys, ceramics, and jewelry.

A bright Ferris wheel and some cheery hot mulled wine, called glühwein, are just the things to get you into the holiday spirit. Hot chestnuts and tasty pastries made from local vendors make for an unforgettable and delicious adventure. These Christmas markets have become so popular that other countries have started celebrating their own Christmas markets annually. Some of the biggest markets are in Munich, Berlin, Nuremberg, Munster, Lubeck, Heidelberg and Stuttgart.

Here’s an interesting fact: The tradition of the Christmas tree started in Germany during the Renaissance. It was typically decorated with apples, nuts, and other foods. For more facts like this, check out our article on 15+ Things You Didn’t Know Were Invented in Germany.

*For more information, contact each cities’ website for dates and locations.


Conclusion

Have you started packing your bags yet? If you’re planning on visiting Germany at any time, you have no excuse not to attend one of these German festivals! Just make sure that you’re familiar with the language, at least on a basic level. To start learning travel phrases, you can look at our article 10 Must-Know German Expressions for Traveling Abroad.

If you’re interested in learning more German, scheduling lessons with a private German teacher would be the best option. You can even schedule online German lessons if that’s more convenient for you. There are many ways to learn a new language, but just remember no matter what you choose – consistent practice is key. Study a little German everyday and soon you’ll know more than you did before. Happy learning!

 

Do any of these festivals look interesting to you? Have you been to any of them? Comment below with your thoughts!

KeriAnne NJPost Author: KeriAnne N.J.
KeriAnne teaches classical piano, opera voice, musical theater, and more in Brandon, FL and through online classes. She received a bachelor’s degree in Voice Performance at CSU Fullerton and has been teaching for about 20 years. Learn more about KeriAnne here!

 

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9 Must-Read Tips for Singing High Notes 500x300

9 Must-Read Tips for Singing High Notes

how to sing high notes tips

Looking for the best tips on how to sing high notes? Check out this helpful article by voice teacher Tristan P

 

Do you struggle with singing high notes? You’re not alone! It’s something that most singers need to practice, especially if you’re just starting out.

If you’re ready to take your singing beyond karaoke night, you need to truly understand your instrument. Ever sung a note and felt strained? This can happen if you’re not using the right technique — and doing this regularly can lead to permanent damage!

If learning how to sing high notes (or low notes, for that matter) is one of your goals, it’s best to work with a professional vocal coach. This ensures a safe environment to explore and expand your range.

That being said, the following tips can help you prepare for what you’ll work on with your instructor. These 10 tips are what I teach my own students, as a no-frills approach to belting out high notes.

Preparing to Sing High Notes

1. Warm up properly

We all know the importance of warming up your voice. But you may not have heard of this — I’m a big fan of what are known as “semi-occluded straw phonations.” Basically, this means singing into a straw. It’s a tool that is well-known within the voice science and voice rehabilitation community, but more singers should know about it! Here’s how to do this vocal exercise:

2. Warm up with a song

Next, continue your warm-up with a song that’s realistic for your voice (not too high, not too low). Imitate the singer you want to sing like! If there are particular sections of the song that are difficult for you, isolate those sections and work on them by themselves.

Some song ideas:

  • Tenor: “There Are Giants in the Sky” – “Into The Woods” by Stephen Sondheim
  • Baritone: “That’s Life” – Frank Sinatra
  • Soprano: “Blank Space” – Taylor Swift
  • Mezzo Soprano/Alto: “Stars and the Moon” – “Songs for a New World” by Jason Robert Brown

3. Eliminate strain objectively!

As you work with your voice coach, he or she will observe you as you run through your warm-ups and exercises, and help you recognize when and where you’re straining. If you’re practicing on your own, however, there are some ways to monitor yourself. One option is to record your voice. Listen back to your high notes: do they sound strained or easy?

If you have a mirror, you can also watch yourself as you sing. Or, better yet, use a video camera! Watch for signs of strain, such as grimacing faces and a tense neck.

If you look or sound like you’re straining, STOP! Take a break. Learning how to sing high takes years of diligent practice. Resist the urge to rush!

How to Belt High Notes

4. Make sure your registration is correct

A big mistake beginners make is singing in the wrong voice. Your larynx can actually produce four distinct voices, and understanding them is important. Here are audio examples of what these voices sound like.

  • Vocal Fry Voice

  • Modal/Speaking Voice (some call this chest)

  • Falsetto/Reinforced Falsetto Voice (some call this head voice)

  • Whistle Voice

The most important thing to remember is: Don’t belt in your modal voice when the song is asking you to sing in your falsetto voice! Likewise, don’t sing in falsetto if the song is asking you to belt. Your teacher can help you recognize these voices as you practice.

5. Use singing vowels

(Note: This section is for singing high notes in modal voice only)

As you progress in your singing lessons, you’ll come to know your vowels! A lot of singing exercises focus on these specifically, and practicing them can make a big impact on your projection and enunciation.

As you practice, you’ll notice that different vowel shapes have different effects on your voice. Modifying these vowels can also create a particular sound color. Here are some examples:

  • Uh/Eh = Heavy, range-limiting sounds. Has a dark, powerful quality (loud)
    Listen to: Adele

  • Ooh = Medium, high-range sounds. Has a restrained, speech-like quality (low-medium volume)
    Listen to: Sia, Justin Bieber

  • Aa = Medium, high-range sound. Has a piercing, brassy quality (loud)
    Listen to: Barbra Streisand

I recommend figuring out which vowel sounds works best for each individual phrase in the song you’re working on. For reference, pop uses more “Ooh” type sounds while musical theater uses more “Uh” and “Aa” type sounds. Also, keep in mind you are not limited to these vowels.

6. Consider your larynx position

This is a more advanced concept that your teacher can explain further in your lessons.

The gist is this: your larynx naturally rises with certain vowels and as you increase in pitch. Trying to hold onto a low larynx while attempting a bright, speech-like belty high note is going to cause issues! Likewise, trying to sing a lower-larynx sound with a high larynx will also cause problems.

For reference, opera is a genre that encourages a lower-placed larynx. Contemporary musical theater is a style that generally encourages a higher larynx. Depending on the song you’re singing, you’ll want to work with your teacher to place your larynx correctly and practice the right technique.

Here are some examples to listen to:

  • Relatively low larynx – Dark, rich sound.
    Character example: Yogi Bear

  • Relatively high larynx – Bright, speech-like sound.
    Character example: Nerd

7. Use twang

Twang refers to the amount of “er” present in your sound. The higher you sing, the more twang is necessary.

Trying to sing a high note without enough twang may result in strain. But be careful: trying to sing a high note with too much twang might sound nasal.

There are also shadings between a sound with little twang and a sound with excessive twang. You might think of a Country Western cowboy for an idea of excessive twang. Listen to this example:

8. Check your intensity 

How much intensity (volume) is required for the note you’re trying to sing? Is it a low-intensity low note in the verse? Is it a big, HIGH-intensity modal belt in the bridge? What about a high-intensity falsetto high note? Match your intensity appropriately!

Before increasing intensity, make sure your registration, vowels, twang, and larynx positions are appropriate.

9. Adjust your head position

On high-intensity high notes with a high larynx, lift your head! A very common belting technique is the head lift. You can see it in the greatest belting divas of our time, including Beyonce and Whitney Houston!

The head lift (among other key functions) assists in raising the larynx, which is necessary for powerful belting. For operatic tenors, however, a more neutral/low head position is ideal as it promotes a more neutral/lower larynx in line with the classical sound ideal.

  • High head position – More belty, shouty sound
  • Low head position – Sweeter, more neutral type of a sound

Before altering your head position, make sure your registration, vowels, twang, larynx position, and intensity are functional!

Now, Sing that Perfect High Note!

Once all of the above variables are in place and functioning perfectly, you will have attained mastery over your high notes. As you progress, I recommend altering every piece of the equation (steps 4-9) in every part of your range for great practice!

And remember: if at any point along your journey you come across an obstacle, re-evaluate all of the above variables. (Hint: Often times, your vowel is the root of your problems!)

Good luck!

TristanPPost Author: Tristan P.
Tristan P. teaches singing, guitar, songwriting and more in Olympia, WA, as well as online. His specialties include RnB, pop, musical theatre, and rock styles. Learn more about Tristan here!

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