alternate guitar tunings

Step Up Your Game: 4 Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners

alternate guitar tunings

Whether you just started guitar lessons or you’ve been playing for a while, you may be itching to learn some new songs and take on some new challenges. You might be wondering: where can I go from here? That’s where alternate guitar tunings come in! With this guide from Michael L., you’ll learn how alternate guitar tunings can take your playing to the next level…

One of the amazing things about the guitar is its versatility. Not only can you play rhythm and/or melody in different genres, but you can also change the tuning (or the key) to create different atmospheres.

Here’s the deal:

Not all songs are written to be played in standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning, so if you want to expand your range as a guitarist, you need to learn play some alternate guitar tunings.

Alternate guitar tunings, or open tunings, allow you to play new songs and explore new music styles. Essentially, alternate guitar tunings will expand your range and skill set.

If the only alternate tuning you know is Drop D tuning, then this tutorial will introduce you to some new concepts. We will focus on three open tunings: Open G, DADGAD, and Open D.


Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners

Drop D Tuning

You may already be familiar with drop D tuning: Take your low E string and tune it down a whole step to D. In this tuning, you can play power chords by barring the low three strings.

Drop D tuning is usually associated with metal music, but you can also play other songs like the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong” and “I Might Be Wrong” by Radiohead.

Open G Tuning

Open G tuning requires three strings to change notes. Tune the E strings down a whole step to D, and the A string down a whole step to G.

Now when you strum the guitar, you’ll play a G chord. This tuning makes the guitar resemble a banjo, except with a banjo, the low G string is a high G string and the low D is not there. You can play some banjo songs in this tuning, substituting the high G with the low G offers a new sound on some traditional banjo songs.

I primarily use this tuning for blues, folk, bluegrass, and rock, but I’m sure you can find other genres to play in this tuning. A couple of songs that use this tuning are “Poor Black Mattie” by R.L Burnside and “Death Letter” by Son House (or covered by White Stripes).

The beauty of open G tuning is that you can strum the bottom five strings together and play a melody with any of the strings as long as the note is in the key G. You can also get any major chord you like if you barre the fretboard on the corresponding right fret (the chord is based off the notes on the G strings).

If you want a minor chord, barre the fret but play a half-step lower, on the B string. Alternating between the low G and D strings gives you fun bass lines, too.

If you would like to learn more chord shapes simply look online for “banjo chord chart” and apply those shapes to the guitar in this tuning.

DAGAD Tuning

DADGAD is very similar to open G. For this tuning, just tune the fifth string back up to A and the B string to A. This tuning opens the door for some really neat sounding modal music.

You can play folk music, like Paul Simon’s version of “Scarborough Fair” and “Armistice Day”, some rock music like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir“, or even nu-metal like Slipknot’s “Circle“.

Open D Tuning

Open D tuning requires four strings to change notes. Tune the E strings down to D, the G string to F#, and the B string to A.

Now, when you strum the guitar, you’ll get a D chord. Again, I mostly use this tuning for rural music (blues, country, bluegrass, ragtime, etc.) This tuning is also my favorite to play the slide guitar.

Go ahead and strum steadily on the low D string while playing melody notes on the high D and A strings, and tell me that’s not one of the most sultry sounds you’ve heard! A couple of my favorite songs in open D are “Blind Willie McTell” by Statesboro Blues and Bob Dylan’s “Corina, Corina“.

As with open G, you can find any major chord by barring the corresponding fret (the chord is based off the note on the D strings). If you want a minor chord, play a half-step down on the F# string.

Here are a couple of open D chords, besides barre chords, to get you started.

G7 A7
—3— —2—
—2— —0—
—1— —1—
—0— —2—
—2— —0—
—0— —2—

I hope this gives you some new ideas on how to approach the guitar. Have fun with these alternate guitar tunings. They changed the way I think of guitar and I hope they do the same for you, especially if you’re a fan of delta blues and folk music!

If you need help with any of these alternate guitar tunings, ask your guitar teacher to go over them during your next lesson!

Want to ramp up your guitar skills at home? Try one of our free online group classes

Willy MPost Author: Michael L.
Michael teaches ukulele, guitar, drums, and music theory in Austin, TX. He studied music theory and vocal performance at the Florence University of the Arts in Italy. In addition to private lessons, Michael teaches music to special education students in Austin public schools and foster children with Kids in a New GrooveLearn more about Michael here!

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learn violin

Pinspiration: 13 Fantastic Pinterest Boards to Help You Learn Violin

learn violin

Believe it or not, Pinterest is one of the best online resources for all things violin! From pictures, charts, and tutorials, to infographics, how-to guides, and video lessons, it’s an amazing place to find instruction and inspiration. Here, music instructor Julie P. brings you 13 awesome Pinterest boards to help you learn violin…

Learning violin can be challenging and sometimes, you can use a little inspiration to keep you going. It may seem like you’re making slow progress, but if you keep working, you can learn to play the violin!

If you didn’t already know, Pinterest is a fantastic place to learn violin, if you know who to follow!

From violin inspiration to sheet music and tutorials, here are 13 Pinterest boards to help you learn violin!


Violin

by Allyson

learn violin

This board features helpful articles about specific topics to help you learn violin. There are practice guides and easy-to-follow tutorials.

You will find inspiration and entertainment through beautiful pictures of fine violins, performance videos, and beginner sheet music and tips.


Violinists

By Catherine Blankenship

learn violin
Look through hundreds of beautiful pictures of violinists of all ages.

You can discover new artists and learn about your favorite violinists. Plus, if you picture yourself like the people on this board, you’ll be back in the practice room in no time!


Violin

By Chelsea Hopkins

learn violin
Check out this board for a mix of articles, instructional videos, and infographics.

There are also lots of pictures and helpful tips for both new violinists and intermediate players.


The Violin Player

By Lorene Lash

learn violin
When you’re learning violin, it can be fun to know a little bit about the instrument’s origins.

Learn about the violin through this board by Lorene Lash.

Pins also include artwork featuring famous violinists.


Violin

By Lishno W.

learn violin
If you’re a beginner, follow this board for violin songs and fun activities.

Violin practice should be fun, so use this board to spice up your routine!


Learning the Violin!

By Molly H

learn violin

Learning the Violin by Molly H. is packed with exercises, articles, and tips to learn violin.

It also has a bunch of easy, beginner-friendly sheet music.


Violin

By XxNikki TurleyxX

learn violin

Looking for pop, rock and movie sheet music? Check out these pins to learn some new tunes!


Learn to Play the Violin

By Revelle Strings Violins

learn violin

This board is like an FAQ page for learning the violin.

If you have questions about what kind of violin you should buy, how to get started, the benefits of playing the violin, or how to stay motivated, you will find answers here with this board from Connolly Music.


Violin

By Lauryn Gibbs

learn violin

Lauryn Gibbs put together an awesome smorgasbord of violin inspiration!

There are fun, artsy pictures, videos of violin pop covers, inspirational quotes, and violin humor.


Learning to Play the Violin

By Sissy Bates

learn violin

This board is packed with helpful how-to guides. You can learn how to tune your violin and  read about proper care and maintenance.

There are also tutorials where you can learn different violin techniques like vibrato and shifting, and helpful tips to find the right violin for you.


Violin, Music Learning

By Noell R.

learn violin

Violin, Music Learning has a good mix of tutorials, practice tips, inspiration, and fun.

If you play any other instruments or are interested in other music topics, you will find lots of helpful resources.


Violin Tutorials

By MJStreetTeam

learn violin

If you’re working on your bow hold or want to master important violin techniques, Violin Tutorials is the board for you.

From video tutorials to lessons, you can find an easy-to-follow guide to help you boost your violin skills.


Learning the Violin

By Katelyn Lucas

learn violin

From sheet music to infographics and guides, Learning the Violin is a great Pinterest board for beginners.

You can find charts to help you learn proper finger placement, infographics on the parts of the violin, and sheet music to help you learn new songs.


When you check out these boards, you’ll be itching to get back in the practice room! The more you practice, the more you can do with the violin, so get inspired and then get to work!

Which violin boards do you follow on Pinterest? Let us know in the comments below! 

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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guitar news

The 5 Best Websites for Guitar News and Gear Reviews

guitar news

Part of learning to play guitar is staying up to date on current events, gear, and industry news. To help you stay in the loop, guitar instructor Matt K. has put together a list of his go-to websites for guitar news…

Once you’ve taken a few guitar lessons, you may feel the urge to learn more about the instrument, and the gear that goes with it.

The guitar can become an addiction, and once you’ve mastered the chords, scales, and licks, you’re going to want to learn about all the gear and equipment.

A guitar isn’t just a six-stringed instrument anymore. The addition of an amplifier, pedals, and other fun gear can help produce a number of different sounds.

There are several guitar news websites for up-to-date info on guitars and gear, along with in-depth music news, and sometimes even tablature to learn new songs.

Maybe you want to learn more about the guitar players that play your favorite songs, or learn when they have a new album coming out.

From electric guitar news, acoustic guitar news, and gear reviews, here are my favorite sites to stay  in the loop with all things guitar.


Music Radar

guitar news

I’ll start with my favorite website for any type of gear news, from guitars to DJ equipment, Music Radar.

Any time I’m looking at a new piece of gear or a new instrument, I go to Music Radar and read one of their reviews.

Music Radar also complies lists which make it easier to decide what to buy. For example, before buying a new travel acoustic guitar I checked out their list “32 of the best budget acoustic guitars in the world today“.


Guitar World

guitar news

Guitar World is less “techy,” and instead  features lots of artist news and guitar videos.

You can still learn about the latest gear and even get a quick video tutorial on how to tune the guitar in different keys, but I go to this website to see “Dude Plays Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ on Banjo”.

 


GuitarPlayer

guitar news

I remember being in the grocery store with my mom and picking up the latest issue of Guitar Player Magazine when magazines were still a big thing. Now, the magazine is online and very easy to navigate.

GuitarPlayer always has very informative, interesting articles. For example “U.S. Made PRS vs. Korean Made PRS: What is the difference” (PRS stands for Paul Reed Smith and is an excellent guitar).

GuitarPlayer also has excellent product spotlights that I recommend checking out.


Ultimate Guitar

guitar news

Where Music Radar is all about the gear, Guitar World and Guitar Player are about the news. Ultimate Guitar, however, is all about the TABS.

When I want to learn a new song, this is my go-to website. They have a great ranking system, so you know which guitar tabs are accurate and which ones were created by an internet troll.


Premier Guitar

music news

 

Last, but definitely not least, Premier Guitar keeps you up to date on guitar news, gear, and artists.

There are also some great how-to videos, and my favorite feature, the “Rig Rundown“. This section features a new artist or band every week and shows the guitars and gear they use on a nightly basis.

If you want to see how your favorite bands get their sound, check out Premier Guitar.


Check out these sites and let me know which ones you like. If you have any other go-to sites for gear and guitar news, let us know in the comments below! 

Matthew KPost Author: Matt K.
Matthew K. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music composition at Mercyhurst University, and he has been teaching lessons for four years. Matthew is available to teach in-person lessons as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Matt here!

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1

Play Like the Pros: 6 Techniques You Can Learn From Famous Violinists

famous violinists

Don’t just watch your favorite famous violinists, learn from them! Here, music instructor Julie P. shows you the violin techniques you can learn from watching famous violinists…

You have probably seen videos of famous violinists on YouTube and various violin blogs. In fact, these videos may have inspired you to pick up a violin and take lessons.

Want to know the best part?

While these videos are inspiring and entertaining, they’re also educational. You can learn important violin techniques by watching the masters at work!

So grab your violin and your computer, and get ready to watch and learn. Here’s what you can pick up from six famous violinists.


Jascha Heifetz

Posture, Relaxed Technique, and Musicality

Jascha Heifetz is unquestionably one of the greatest violinists and musicians of all time. In addition to his impeccable technique and natural, relaxed posture, he added incredible nuance to his phrasing.

In this video, pay close attention to his left hand. Notice how he holds it comfortably, without added tension. Reducing tension won’t just help your sound, but help you play comfortably, without pain.

Also, watch how he holds the violin and his body upright and maintains a natural posture.


Lindsay Stirling

Stage Presence

Lindsay Stirling is a talented violinist who enjoys her craft and adds her own style.

The famous female violinist combines playing with acting, dancing, and storytelling. The result is a pop-infused violin party.

Her performances are great examples of stage presence and how to enjoy playing the violin. Lindsey is an inspiration to dance to the beat of your own drum and make you dreams come true!


Mark O’Connor

Fast Bowing

Want to learn how to bow super fast? Mark O’Connor shows you how it’s done in this video of “Orange Blossom Special.”

He plays 16th notes at  breakneck speeds with incredible bow technique. Watch his right arm work as one unit, supporting his bow hand.

Also, notice how his right-hand fingers stay relaxed and don’t tense up. His playing is efficient, with no wasted movements.

Want to improve your finger strength? Try these exercises!


David Oistrakh

Projecting Your Sound

In this video, David Oistrakh plays the Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto,” and has no problem projecting over the orchestra.

Watch how he uses his entire bow and a fast bow speed to create more sound. Even on shorter notes, he uses a lot of the bow length to create his enormous sound. His right hand is sometimes just a blur!

His bowing engages his whole arm, which allows him to bow with speed and power without taxing his bow hand.


Taylor Davis

Creativity / Brand

For you aspiring violinists, the internet is full of potential fans, if you can find the right way to engage them. Another famous female violinist, Taylor Davis, has made her mark with a YouTube channel full of videos of her performing video game and movie music.

The millions of views have allowed her to release multiple albums and go on tour. Taylor loves playing this music, so she used her creativity to build a full brand around it.

In this video, she plays music from Pirates of the Caribbean, you can see how she has crafted a full video experience with costuming, staging, and a dynamic accompaniment.

You can learn even more about Taylor in this Q&A she did for us at TakeLessons!


Jerusalem Quartet

Communication

Watching string quartets, like the Jerusalem Quartet, is great a great way to learn about communication between musicians, which is important if you want to play with other performers or in an orchestra.

In this video, notice how the Jerusalem Quartet moves to the music, look up at each other, and gesture at various points in the music.

Solid communication will help you have a smooth performance!


The more you watch famous violinists, the more you will learn. When you find a video you like, watch it several times; you’ll notice new violin techniques each time.

Besides videos and lessons, there are lots of helpful violin resources available online. Take advantage of these materials and use them to boost your violin skills!

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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violin bow hold

Product Review: Master Your Violin Bow Hold With Bow Hold Buddies

violin bow hold

Are you struggling with your violin bow hold? While it’s one of the most important aspects of your technique, it can be a challenge for new violin players. Here, violin teacher Naomi Cherie S. reviews Bow Hold Buddies, a product designed to improve your violin bow hold..

If you’re a beginner or you’re having trouble with your violin bow hold, I recommend checking out a product I recently heard about called Bow Hold Buddies.

proper violin bow hold is essential to your foundation as a budding player. Holding the bow in a very specific, time-tested way will impact the quality of the tone you produce.

The proper violin bow hold can also be one of the hardest feats for a beginner to accomplish, as it requires a very specific set of muscles and hand positioning.

With practice and exercise, students can usually pick it up within a few months, but some students, especially young children, have a harder time than others.


Bow Hold Buddies

violin bow hold

Image courtesy Things4Strings

Enter Bow Hold Buddies, a unique device that fits on your bow and guides your hand into place for the perfect violin bow hold. Ruth Brons created Bow Hold Buddies to help her beginner violin students.

“My beginners love getting off to a quick start and I  value optimizing lesson time,” Brons says. “Because I do not have to correct the bow hold multiple times in each lesson, which is both time consuming and frustrating, students are able to move through and master those first couple of method books so much more quickly and easily.”

I got the chance to test the Bow Hold Buddies product myself, and I even tried it out with some of my students. Read on to see the results!


The Results

Installation

The Bow Hold Buddies device is fairly easy to install and use.

I was a little unsure at first when reading the pictogram on the instructions, so I definitely recommend watching the short video where the creator explains exactly how to use the product.

Bow Hold Buddies are lightweight, smart, and cute. They come in animal shapes including a frog, a fish, and an elephant, which makes them perfect for kids and adults, and the adjustable design can adapt to any hand size.

How it Works

violin bow hold

While there are several exercises you can do to improve your violin bow hold, this device eliminates confusion and shows you exactly where to place your fingers.

Since it covers most of the areas where your fingers shouldn’t be, your fingers will easily to slip into place in the right spots!

As one of my adult students said, “Now I can see everything I was doing wrong before. It’s almost as if you can’t put your fingers in the wrong spots.”


Conclusion

All in all, I’d recommend this product to anyone who’s just starting out, but like any DIY or commercial violin training device, only as a temporary tool.

Bow Hold Buddies are kind of like training wheels on a bike: they will help you get started, but you shouldn’t use them forever.

Having even the slightest bit of extra weight on the bow can reduce your control and overall tone quality. Therefore, while I highly recommend this product, I suggest you use it until your hand adjusts and you can keep your violin bow hold in place without struggling.

I’d also suggest alternating between playing with the device and playing without it. For instance, try practicing with the Bow Hold Buddies for 20 minutes, then take them off and see how you do.

When you practice on your own, watch closely, and take note of how your muscle memory is working and improving a little bit each time you practice.

For even more ways to improve your violin bow hold, try these exercises!

Props to Things4Strings for their creativity and ingenuity on this product! I definitely haven’t seen anything else like it. Make sure to check out the other useful tools for cello and violin at Things4Strings.

If you’re struggling with your violin bow hold, make sure to ask your violin teacher for help! 

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.

Image courtesy joeannenah

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Video: vocal exercises to increase range

Video: Vocal Exercises to Increase Your Range | Singing Tips

Singers, ready to reach those high (or low!) notes? In this video, teacher Arlys A. demonstrates some easy vocal exercises to use as you work on increasing your range:

Video Recap: Vocal Exercises to Increase Your Range

Try incorporating these exercises into your practice routine:

  1. Lip bubbles or lip trills
  2. The “oooh” slides

From there, work with your voice teacher to find songs at the right level for you — it’s crucial to find the balance of challenging yourself, but not straining your voice!

Here’s an idea of what your voice teacher may work with you on, as described by teacher Emmanuel N:

  • First step: Discovering your current vocal range is our first step. I will play a virtual piano, and you will sing each note I play (if you have mimicry then this will be easy) until we have found your vocal range. If you know your range already then we skip this step.
  • Second step: We then discover your weak spots – where your voice sounds weak, where you have trouble, and where you need help. After this we can then start to increase your vocal range.
  • Third step: I will then teach you and give you tips and suggestions on how to sing lower or higher – depending on what you want. Here is where our lessons will vary completely seeing as each student is different.
  • Fourth step: Every time we discover a new voice I will teach you to bridge your voices together so there is no gap between them. Typically this is our last step with each voice.

Not sure of your current vocal range? We love this video, which you can follow along with to determine your vocal range in one minute:

Make sure to stand up straight and fully support your voice as you’re working on these exercises, too. Posture can make all the difference!

Additional Resources About Increasing Range:

Want to learn more? Check out our live, online singing classes taught by Arlys and other awesome singing teachers!

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MO - 30 Fantastic Musical Theater Audition Songs Just for Kids (6)

30 Fantastic Musical Theater Audition Songs Just for Kids [Videos]

MO - 30 Fantastic Musical Theater Audition Songsfor Kids

Last month we shared our recommendations for age-appropriate audition songs for teens, but if your aspiring star is a bit younger, we’ve got you covered too! In this article, voice teacher Molly R. shares her top picks for musical theater audition songs for kids…

 

There are so many opportunities for kids that love musical theater these days! The popularity of the “junior” editions of big Broadway shows is steadily increasing, for one. There are also several companies across the country that specialize in showcasing kids and only kids, as well as tons of musical theater summer camps.

Needless to say, it’s super exciting to be a young performer. However, one thing that remains tricky is finding suitable repertoire that is both age-appropriate as well as fun. Don’t worry — I’ve got you covered!

But First, a Few Things to Keep in Mind…

Many of these songs that I recommend are NOT from Broadway shows, but are definitely casting director-approved. Generally, there is more flexibility with kids’ repertoire as there aren’t as many roles for them. That means Disney movies, old standards, and novelty songs are some other styles will sometimes work just fine, unless the production team says otherwise.

Most of all, casting directors are looking for performers who can prepare good material and perform confidently, and often won’t be as specific in their audition requirements with kids as they are with adult actors.

While some of these songs in this list are meant to be sung by a specific gender, there are also several songs that work beautifully for either! So let’s dive in — here are 30 great musical theater audition songs for girls, audition songs for boys, and audition songs for kids in general.

Musical Theater Audition Songs for Girls

1. “I Always Knew” — Annie Warbucks

2. “Home” — Wonderland
3. “The Girl I Mean To Be” — The Secret Garden
4. “Born to Entertain” — Ruthless! The Musical
5. “Let Me Entertain You” — Gypsy
6. “Sayonara” — How to Eat Like a Child

7. “Reflection” — Mulan
8. “The World Above” — The Little Mermaid
9. “Gee, I’m Glad I’m Glad I’m No One Else But Me” — Anne of Green Gables

10. “On the Good Ship Lollipop” — Shirley Temple

Musical Theater Audition Songs for Boys

  1. “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun” — A Christmas Story: The Musical

2. “A Round Shouldered Man” — The Secret Garden
3. “My Best Girl” — Mame
4. “Gary, Indiana” — The Music Man
5. “Different” — Honk!
6. “Getting Tall” — Nine

7. “Electricity” — Billy Elliott
8. “Little People” — Les Misérables
9. “The Bare Necessities” — The Jungle Book
10. “A Letter from Charlie Bucket” — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical

Musical Theater Audition Songs for Girls OR Boys

1. “When I Grow Up” — Matilda the Musical

2. “The Tree” — The Me Nobody Knows
3. “Who Will Buy?” — Oliver!
4. “Getting to Know You” — The King and I

5. “The Ugly Duckling” — Hans Christian Anderson
6. “Be Kind To Your Parents” — Fanny
7. “I Love to Laugh” — Mary Poppins
8. “Happiness” — You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

9. “I Won’t Grow Up” — Peter Pan
10. “Put On a Happy Face” — Bye Bye Birdie

Final Tips for Aspiring Broadway Stars

Some of these songs are more complex than others, so it’s crucial that kids work closely with a voice teacher to prepare their chosen audition pieces. In addition to musical accuracy, your young actor will impress their panel if they really know what they are singing about— so it’s a good idea that they do their homework as far as researching the character and show, too!

Confidence is key, and a voice teacher can certainly help with that. TakeLessons does a wonderful job matching up kids with the perfect teacher, and it’s easy to find one who is either nearby, or teaches online.

Have fun exploring these fantastic audition songs for kids, and break a leg!

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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How to Record Yourself Singing

How to Record Yourself Singing (& Still Sound Great) Without a Pricey Microphone

Singers, How to Record Yourself Without a Pricey Microphone

Singers, do you ever record yourself singing? It’s a great idea as you practice. But what if you don’t have a top-quality microphone or video camera? Don’t fret. In this guest post, Jesse from Hear The Music shares some helpful pointers…

 

 

Many voice teachers encourage their students to record videos of themselves singing, as you can review them afterward and identify ways you can improve.

But if you’re just starting out, you may not want to spend hundreds of dollars on recording equipment to do this. You may be wondering, “How do I record myself singing — and still sound good — with only tools I already have?”

Luckily, all you need is a laptop with a webcam or a smartphone!

Here are some helpful tips on how to make yourself look and sound as great as possible.

Positioning

Music videos, like the ones you see from your favorite artists, often incorporate all sorts of wild camera angles, swooping shots, and fancy visual effects. Going on the assumption that your video will be used for self-evaluation and improvement, none of that is necessary.

Instead, keep it simple. Position your camera about chest level and try to get your entire body in the shot. If your foot is out of frame, you may never know that you subconsciously tap your foot as you sing.

One of the limitations of using your phone or laptop webcam is that the microphone and camera are attached to each other. Normally the microphone would be right in front of the singer, and the camera a ways back. Finding the best positioning for this setup is a bit of a balancing act. You want to be able to see as much of your body as possible, while also keeping the microphone close enough to record at a good volume.

If you’re having trouble getting a good balance, you may want to record yourself singing the song twice: once to watch your body movements and mannerism, and another with the camera much closer to get a good recording of your voice.

Simple Room Acoustics

Acoustics are the properties or qualities of a room that determine how sound is transmitted in it, and it is literally a science.

Some basic rules are:

  • Don’t record in a small room with flat, square, bare walls. This causes the sound waves to bounce all over the place and mess with each other. Larger rooms with furniture, carpet, curtains, and wall coverings will make your recording sound much better.
  • Eliminate all the background noise you possibly can. Keep kids and pets out, close doors and windows, turn off the TV and unrelated music, wait until the construction crew outside your window stops jackhammering.
  • If the room still sounds echoey, throw some pillows against the wall and hang up some blankets. They make great cheap acoustic panels.

How to Record Yourself Singing – Best Practices

Keep in mind you’re making a video to showcase and critique your singing abilities, not trying to win a VMA award. (Yet.)

Here are some simple best practices to get you started:

  • Look into the camera. This is the same thing that you (hopefully) will be doing when you perform for other people, so you want to know what it looks like to them.
  • Sit or stand naturally. Don’t tense up just because you are being recorded.
  • Don’t wear distracting clothes. Clothes with lots of stripes or funky patterns may not record right and create some weird effects. Plus you want to be able to focus on you and your music, not your outfit.
  • Beware of your background. Try to have a neutral, plain-looking wall behind you. Same idea as your clothes. You want the focus to be on you and your music.
  • Use lots of light. You want to have plenty of light shining on you from the sides and from behind the camera, but not from behind you.

Next Steps

Once you get the hang of recording yourself and are confident in your abilities, you may want to start looking into producing a higher-quality music video for other people to enjoy.

The easiest way to get a dramatic increase in your recorded music quality is to use an external microphone. These days you don’t need a large expensive home studio system to get great results. Great microphones that simply plug into your computer via USB can be found for less than $100. The improvement will be immediate and glorious. Before you go out and buy something, though, you need to know how to find the best microphones for singing.

Once you have a good microphone, you can use a better quality video camera. In fact, you may already have a great one and not even know it!

When you have those two pieces of equipment you will be able to create videos that rival 90% of the music videos on YouTube! So what are you waiting for? Start recording today!

jessePost Author: Jesse
Jesse owns Hear The Music, a blog dedicated to helping people find great music, and helping them learn to create their own. On his site he offers advice to artists recording music at home, interviews with YouTube stars, and helpful reviews of recording equipment.

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Life in America vs. Life in Spain

Culture Shock: Life in Spain vs. Life in the U.S. [Infographic]

Spain is a popular country to travel to for pleasure, for school, or even for a permanent move! But before you go, it’s smart to research the differences in culture, traditions, and daily life, so you know what to expect. Read on as Spanish tutor Joan B. explains…

 

A diverse country filled with delicious dishes, rich cultural offerings, and plenty of fun, Spain is a country that will delight, amaze, and inspire you.

And as anyone who has traveled abroad knows, no two countries are alike! You might even be surprised by some of the cultural differences that exist. Below, I’ll share some of the key points — based on my own experiences working and living in Spain. Knowing these will help you blend in, connect more with the culture and people, and feel comfortable in whatever setting you find yourself in!

Life in Spain vs. Life in the U.S.

Culture Shock Life in Spain vs. Life in the U.S. [Infographic]

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Here’s a more in-depth look at eight of the cultural differences between Spain and the U.S.

Spain vs. U.S.: Introductions

  • Spain: It’s common for women to kiss on both cheeks when being introduced to either a man or a woman. Men will kiss women on both cheeks when introduced, but shake hands with another man. When introduced, you can reply with “Mucho gusto” (glad to meet you).
  • United States: It’s common in both formal and informal situations to shake hands upon introduction; in informal situations, you might also hug at the conclusion of the meeting once you are better acquainted with the other person. The standard “nice to meet you” will cover any introduction.

Spain vs. U.S.: Meals

  • Spain: Breakfast is a light meal that often consists of a bollo (roll) and cafe con leche (a delicious mix of coffee and steaming milk). Spaniards usually have a snack around 11 a.m., like a bocadillo (a sandwich made with french bread). Lunch, which is the largest meal of the day, is eaten at around 1:30 or 2 p.m. and is often followed by a siesta (nap). At this time many of the shops are closed. At around 7 many people have a snack–often tapas. Dinner, which is a light meal, is eaten at 9:30 or 10 pm.
  • United States: Breakfast can be a big or small affair, with cereal or eggs with toast being common choices. During the weekend, more elaborate options like French toast, waffles, or an omelet with bacon and toast are common. Lunchtime is generally from noon to 1 p.m. A mid-afternoon coffee combined with a pastry is often used to combat hunger and the afternoon slump, while dinner is usually around 6 or 7. Dinner usually consists of pasta, meat, or some other hearty option.

Spain vs. U.S.: Drinking

  • Spain: People generally drink wine or beer with meals or tapas (appetizers). If you want a draft beer, you have to order una caña. Although you must be 18 to purchase alcohol in Spain (16 in Asturias), some families are lax about underage drinking as it is served daily with meals in most homes.
  • United States: Drinking can be accompanied by a meal, but alcohol is often also consumed on its own, at a bar with friends. The drinking age for both consumption and purchase is 21, and parents generally frown on teenagers drinking in the home or outside.

Spain vs. U.S.: Nightlife

  • Spain: If you want to go dancing in the big cities, the nightlife usually doesn’t start until 11 p.m., and lasts long into the night or until dawn.
  • United States: Nightlife can start early — around 8 p.m., or after dinner, and laws generally require bars and nightclubs to close at a certain hour.

Spain vs. U.S.: Personal Space

  • Spain: Personal space is much closer to those with whom you are interacting, often just inches away. You’ll find that people stand and sit very close to you on the subway, especially when it is crowded. It is also customary for women friends to walk arm-in-arm down the street and for male friends to walk with an arm draped over the shoulders of a friend.
  • United States: Personal space is respected and coveted, as throughout most of the United States it’s common to commute in your car, and crowded public spaces are uncommon except in the case of special events. Invading someone’s personal space can be viewed as rude or a violation, especially in the case of mixed genders.

Spain vs. U.S.: Driving

  • Spain: Big cities like Madrid and Barcelona have wonderful transportation systems. Buses and the metro can get you anywhere you want to go. Cars are small and often used more for trips out of the city. Also, pedestrians do not have the right-of-way, so be careful when crossing the street!
  • United States: Driving is the norm in most parts of the United States, with the exception of bigger cities that have good public transportation, such as New York and Chicago. Some families opt for bigger cars to accommodate growing families and increase comfort during long drives. Pedestrian right-of-way is uniformly adopted throughout the United States, so even if you’re the lone pedestrian on a street filled with cars, you will be able to safely cross.

Spain vs. U.S.: Fashion

  • Spain: Young people are fashionable, but dress casually. Men do not wear shorts in the city unless visiting a town on the beach. Older adults generally dress more formally. When visiting a religious site, be sure to dress conservatively, covering both your arms and back — and save the flip flops for the beach. This is not only the respectful thing to do, it is an enforced rule, so you will be turned away in many cases if you are dressed inappropriately for a religious site.
  • United States: People on the whole dress casually during days off, with shorts and sandals a common choice during warmer seasons. Fashion is generally quirky and urban in bigger cities, with preppy choices more common on the East Coast and a laid-back beach style on the West Coast.

Spain vs. U.S.: Shopping

  • Spain: When entering a small shop, always greet the store clerk with “buenos días” or “buenas tardes,” depending on the time of day. You should ask the clerk to show you something; it’s not customary for the customer to handle the merchandise. This also applies to buying fruit or other food items from a market; you do not select the fruit yourself, but ask for medio kilo (half a kilo) or un kilo (2.2 lbs.) of what you want. And don’t forget to say “adios” when exiting the shop.
  • United States: Most shopping is done in behemoth malls, where you can shop to your heart’s content. Malls can be a place to spend the whole day, by enjoying a meal and a coffee or tea, getting your exercise walking around it, and, of course, shopping. It’s nice to say hello upon entering a shop, but not common or required in chain stores.

Happy Travels!

Now that you’re up to speed on what to expect in Spain, you’re ready for your trip! And when you’re there, don’t shy away from meeting the locals. Immersing yourself in the culture and chatting with Spanish speakers is a great way to boost your language skills. (Need some extra practice before you go? Meet with a tutor, or sign up for an online Spanish class!)

Readers, have you traveled to Spain? What other differences did you notice about life in Spain? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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. Learn more about Joan here!

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MO - 5 Insider Tips for a Successful Music Career

5 Insider Tips for a Successful Music Career

MO - 5 Insider Tips for a Successful Music CareerBreaking into the music industry is tough, but it’s a lot easier when have some help along the way. In this article, professional singer and music teacher Liz T. will show you 5 valuable tips you can use to make it the music industry…

 

Based on my performing experience in the music industry, I’ve observed many fellow (and talented) musicians struggle. Having a successful music career isn’t easy, but you don’t have to be the next Beyoncé or Hunter Hayes to be considered a “success.”

There are many independent musicians out there who perform in front of sold-out crowds each night, run their own marketing campaigns, and promote their music in the media — all while making money!

Here are some tips from my personal experience that will help you have a successful music career, no matter which instrument or genre you choose!

How to Make It in the Music Industry


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1. Choose Your Band/Co-Writers Wisely

I’ve seen many leaders fail when they don’t have reliable members in their band. Here’s my advice: Choose musicians you know you can depend on, both on and off the stage. In other words, choose musicians who you can trust to show up to all rehearsals, recordings, and act professional in a music environment.

Don’t Choose on a Whim

More often than not, because of the lack of effort, support, and preparation from the band, the leader may fail. Audition your band mates, try a few gigs with them, and if it’s not working, move on — just like in the dating world! There’s no sense in keeping bad relationships.

The same goes for songwriting: Choose members you want on your team wisely, and consider choosing members who have strengths that you don’t. The bottom line is that you should never feel at competition with your band mates or co-writers; it’s completely a team effort!

For a limited time, try a free online singing class.

Reserve My Spot

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2. Research the Music Industry

As a musician, you should always be listening and watching the charts. It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse — find out what’s popular, what’s performing well, and what’s dying in the industry. From knowing current artists to knowing music-sharing trends, you’ve got to be current with the times!

You Don’t Need to Research Everything

Even if you’re an “old school” person, you don’t necessarily have to download every music app or listen to every artist, but you need to be familiar with what’s happening in the industry. In my experience, a surprising amount of people don’t do their research. Those who don’t do their research might send their music demos on CDs, even when the publisher clearly says “only MP3s” via email. If you do that, you’re only going to upset the publisher.

Keep Up With the Trends

With that being said, read directions carefully and do your homework — you don’t want to make enemies in the industry by making bad impressions! The trends in the industry are always changing, so be sure to read books, blog articles, and ask your friends how they listen to (or even buy) music; who are they going to see in concert, what are their favorite music videos?

Don’t be behind the times — be ahead!

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3. Be Your Own Booking Agent

I’ve often found this very frustrating in the music industry: trying to get the booker or promoter’s attention. Oftentimes, you’ll hear no response, or they’ll have incredibly high demands (and want you to play at less-than-appealing venues). I challenge you to start booking your own gigs when you feel your music is ready to be performed in front of live audiences.

You Can Do It All

I started booking my own gigs first in Boston, then to the New York scene, which eventually lead to Europe! I’ve booked 100+ gigs entirely on my own, without the help of a booking agent. Of course, it takes a lot of time to do this research, along with negotiating contracts and figuring out logistics, such as backline equipment (like amplifiers) and transportation.

There’s no reason you can’t start booking your gigs right away. Focus your attention on one region, then figure out the venues in that market. Indie on the Move is a great resource for this sort of thing!

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4. Keep Plugging Away

Rejection is a common theme in the music industry. You’ll often go to tons of auditions, submit your song, and hear “no,” more than you’ll hear “yes.” With thousands of musicians vying for their shot at fame and fortune, along with few opportunities out there, the competition is fierce.

Rejections Eventually Lead to Success

I encourage you to keep performing and submitting your music. I’ve felt extremely discouraged after going to 100 auditions, but then after the 101st audition, I would land the gig! Moreover, I would submit my music to publishers and record labels over and over, hearing no response, only to finally hear an answer a couple years later!

Don’t let rejection tear you down and stop you from doing what you love. Continue to work on your craft — practice, compose, and write like there’s no tomorrow. You can even create your own opportunities. For example, if you’re still having trouble getting signed, release an album independently! Or, be your own social media manager and promoter.

Remember to always stay positive and believe in yourself!

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5. Pick the Right Songs

Whether you decide to write your own music or be in a cover band, the decision is up to you! Many bands become successful by writing new material, and other bands find their first success by creating new interpretations of original songs.

With YouTube, you can easily upload your songs, promoting them for people all over the world to explore and enjoy! But first, it’s best to decide if you’re going to be an artist that focuses on just making videos, or if you’re more interested in booking live shows. Allocate your resources accordingly.

How to Choose The Right Songs

When choosing your song material, you’ll want to make sure you’re completely comfortable performing these songs. You don’t have to sing an Adele song just because it’s popular and challenging, or write material if you stink at writing lyrics. Instead, find out what your strengths are and which songs showcase your voice or musical instrument the best!

It’s important to find your musical niche. To do this, I encourage you to listen and watch other bands perform in order to see what repertoire they have in their sets or albums. Don’t outright copy other bands or artists, but instead use them as a source of inspiration.

The End Goal is the Audience

Visualize your album or set in advance; the flow, the rhythm, and the melodic content is important to keep in mind. You don’t want to do a show that’s entirely made up of slow rock ballads — your audience will be asleep in no time! It’s vital that you keep them engaged, even if you’re singing about serious subject matter.

The end goal is really to grab and hold the audience’s attention the entire time you’re performing. The same goes for an album; make sure the songs you record transition nicely into each other. The last thing you want is for the listener to skip tracks!

Use Sheet Music to Choose Songs

If you’re still stuck on which songs to choose, you can always browse through sheet music. You can find sheet music for thousands of popular songs, namely by big-name publishers like Alfred and Hal Leonard. There are also a couple of dedicated sheet music websites. Check them out here:

If you’re looking for more than just sheet music, check out this all-encompassing resource guide for musicians:


Conclusion

I hope these tips help you on your way to a successful music career! Remember, you don’t need to be the hottest celebrity in L.A. to have a successful music career. Many musicians find their musical success right in their own backyard (or garage)!

If you ever need one-on-one advice for how to get into the music industry, schedule a meeting with a professional musician on TakeLessons today!

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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