How Hard is the GMAT, Really?

26408408_cb10f054d0_oHow hard is the GMAT, really? Find out the insider scoop in this guest post by online tutor Marcus S...


New students and prospective students planning to go to grad school to get an MBA (or other advanced business degree) often ask me, how hard is the GMAT, really? Some people say it’s hard, while other say it’s easy. The GMAT is unusual in this way. With other grad school tests, such as the LSAT or MCAT, most students assume they are facing a tough exam. Determining the difficulty of the Graduate Management Admission Test is confusing because it has unique features that make it hard to compare to other exams.

The Content of the GMAT Should Be Familiar

MBA programs like to welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds. If the GMAT tested high-level math, it would give an unfair advantage to engineering and math majors. If it tested obscure vocabulary words, literature majors might have the upper hand. Instead, the makers of the exam only use material they expect everyone taking the GMAT to have studied.

You probably learned all of the math on the GMAT while you were in high school, and the same goes for the basic economic terminology you’re expected to understand. But that’s an example of why the difficulty of the GMAT is hard to determine: do you remember everything you learned in high school? The good news is that a refresher course is always easier than learning from scratch.

The GMAT Is Different From High School, and That’s Bad

The curriculum level of GMAT is essentially high school material, true. In fact, if you were an honors student in high school, you probably went well beyond the algebra and geometry seen on the GMAT. Yet the GMAT is different in several key ways. In high school, timing on tests is usually not a big deal, and many teachers might give you as much time as you need. They want to test your knowledge, not your speed. On the other hand, the GMAT is meant to test your speed (among other things).

The other major difference also has to do with time, but rather than how little of it they give you to answer the questions, the issue is how much total time the test takes, which is over four hours. A big part of GMAT preparation is getting used to working under the pressure that the strict clock brings, as well as building up the mental and physical stamina to stay sharp throughout the long exam.

The GMAT Is Different From High School, and That’s Good

There are also ways that the GMAT is easier than a 9th grade algebra test. For one thing, you don’t have to “show your work.” As long as you end up with the right answer, it counts. Plus, the test is multiple choice, and this format opens up the possibility to use tricks and shortcuts that would make your 9th grade algebra teacher scream, or at least shake her head in disapproval.

So… How Hard is the GMAT?

The GMAT isn’t necessarily hard, but it does require specific skills. What really matters is not how hard it is, but how you do compared to your peers. Remember that unlike the SAT, which most teenagers take, the GMAT is taken only by people who have already done well in college, meaning the competition is tougher this time around. So don’t take this test lightly. But with the guidance of an expert GMAT test prep tutor who understands your strengths and weaknesses and the nuances of the test, you’ll be on your way to acing the exam and earning your graduate degree.

MarcusSMarcus S. tutors online for a variety of subjects. He has been trained and certified to teach classes and give individual tutoring to students in the SAT, GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for the Princeton Review. Learn more about Marcus here!



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Why Childhood is an Important Time to Learn a New Language

Importance Of Babies Learning New Languages

Should you teach your infant multiple languages? Read on for some insight from Linthicum Heights, MD tutor Tirina S...

Early childhood represents a period of time when growth and development happen at an extremely rapid pace. From infancy to about the age of two, there is no other stage of development when the brain has the greatest capacity to acquire and retain information, which includes learning a second language. Research has confirmed that the best time to introduce a new language is during this early stage of development. Learning a new language is important for babies because it is during this time of development that the child is most capable of achieving natural fluency; it helps to strengthen proficiency in their first language and it has been found to positively effect intelligence.

There are three main reasons why learning a second language is important for babies:

1) It is the best time to achieve natural fluency.

During the “baby stage,” a child’s mind is like a sponge. Babies are extremely perceptive about things and the people around them. This is easy to see as babies quickly recognize and identify the difference between mommy (or their primary caregiver) and other family members. They are able to receive information easily and learning is effortless. When it comes to languages, babies are able to distinguish even the slightest inflections of tone that exist between words. As we get older, learning a second language is more challenging, because our brains are not as perceptive when it comes to hearing different sound inflections. Some adults find it impossible to learn a new language. So the earlier a new language is introduced, the more naturally fluent the speaking will be.

2) Learning a new language helps to strengthen a baby’s proficiency of his or her“mother tongue.”

The term “mother tongue” is just that — the language of the mother. This term comes into play when a child is born to parents who speak different first languages. While teaching in Thailand as a preschool teacher and ESL coordinator, I was often asked by my bilingual parents, “Will our two-year-old become confused if we speak a different language in the household?” My definitive answer was, “No, the more the merrier.”

In class I taught in English, but I always encouraged the parents to teach their native languages to their children. I had one toddler who didn’t speak any recognizable language — just jibber-jabber. His mother was concerned that his speech development was late, possibly due to language confusion. As she explained to me, he hears English in class, is spoken to in Thai by his family, and loves watching Japanese cartoons. I assured this worried mom that soon all the pieces would fall in their proper place. And sure enough, within a few months, he was speaking clearly and understanding everyone who spoke to him.

Early on in the language development, a child exposed to different languages may mix them when speaking. But as the child’s language begins to develop, he or she will easily sort out the differences. As vocabulary, tones, and meanings are sorted, his or her understanding of the “mother tongue” is enhanced.

3) Learning a new language positively effects a baby’s intelligence.

Learning languages stimulates the brain and causes it to work more effectively. There has been extensive research done on the subject of language learning and early childhood development. Studies have shown that children who learned multiple languages during their early stages of development tended to achieve higher marks in other academic areas like reading and mathematics. Learning a new language as a baby will greatly affect their academic abilities and overall intelligence.

There are many products on the market geared toward language learning for babies in the form of musical CDs and videos. Exposure to a new language is most effective the earlier that it is introduced. If you are a bilingual parent, speak to your baby in both languages. He or she may seem confused in the beginning, but when it is all said and done, your child will acquire great fluency and get a boost in his or her intelligence.

Is your child older, and can handle more one-on-one guidance in lessons? Find a language tutor in your area here!

TriniaS.Tirina S. teaches ESL in Linthicum Heights, MD.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Early Childhood Psychology. Tirina spent the past seven years living in Thailand teaching the English language to Thai students. Learn more about Tirina S. here!



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What Does it Take to Become a Music Therapist?

how to become a music therapist

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


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

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

What is a Music Therapist?

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

What Are the Benefits of Music Therapy?

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

How to Become a Music Therapist

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

The Music Therapy Degree

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

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

The Test

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

The Power of Music

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

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



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15 Holiday Gift Ideas for Guitar Players

SONY DSCNeed some holiday gift ideas? Check out the best gifts for guitar players in this guest post by Los Angeles, CA guitar teacher Nils B...


It’s the time of the year when most retailers offer some pretty decent discounts on a variety of gear. Assuming the basics (picks, tuner, strap, gig bag/case, cable, and amp) are already accounted for, these are some good suggestions, either to pick up for yourself or as a holiday gift. Most of these can be found in the $10-$50 range.

Apps & Software

• Tuner apps: These can be found for free or relatively little, and work great as a main tuner, or as a backup, since most people take their phone wherever they go.
• Metronome apps: A metronome is an absolutely essential practice aid, and these virtual versions often feature quite advanced options like polyrhythms and automated tempo changes.
• Multitrack recorder: Most phones and tablets offer a basic voice recorder, but you can open a whole new range of possibilities with a multitrack app specifically meant for audio recording and editing. It’s great for quickly saving ideas and even complete songs, or easily creating your own jam tracks.
• Modeling apps: These offer software emulations of amplifiers and effects, either as post-processing (as part of a multitrack recorder) or in real time, and usually work best in combination with interface cable.
• Interface cable: In case you’re not satisfied with your phone’s built-in microphone for accurately capturing your guitar’s sound, there are also a good number of audio interfaces/adapter cables available for phones and tablets, enabling you to connect your guitar (or any other instrument) directly to your device for a higher-quality signal. These work great in combination with most recorder or amp/effects modeling apps.
Miscellaneous apps: In addition to the aforementioned apps, there is a whole range of ear training, fretboard trainer, and chord dictionary apps available, all of which are great tools to extend your musical knowledge.


• Strap locks: These prevent your guitar strap from slipping off the strap buttons, and have been an absolute lifesaver for me. I have them on all my guitars and all my straps, for ultimate interchangeability. There are various different models and designs available, which all pretty much do the same thing.
Capo: This is a small clamp that clips onto any position on the fretboard, shifting the key of the open position. These are essential for guitarists who prefer open chord shapes instead of barre chords, or anyone who would like to be able to utilize more advanced open chord voicings in different positions/keys. There are lots of different models available, and it is important to make sure the capo is compatible with the guitar it is intended for.
• Slide: This is a cylinder that fits around one of the fingers on your fretting hand and substitutes the frets, allowing for smooth transitions in pitch and a very expressive vibrato. Different materials (glass/metal/ceramics) give different sounds and preference is really a matter of taste.
• Ebow: An EBow is a small, battery-powered device that replaces your pick and creates infinite sustain on whatever string you float it over. It takes a little while to get used to, but it turns the guitar into a whole new instrument. You can also combine it with a slide for even more interesting sounds.


• String winder/cutter: These make installing new strings a breeze; plus, they are cheap and fit in any gig bag!
• Multitool: These generally include a screwdriver and truss rod/bridge/saddle adjustment hex keys, essential for on-the-fly adjustments to your guitar’s setup, but they also come in handy for any odd job that requires a screwdriver.
• Cleaning kit: This generally includes a microfiber cloth, a cleaner, a fretboard conditioner, and occasionally a polish. Keeping your guitar clean does not only make it look better and play nicer, it also prevents damage to the wood and hardware.


• Single or multi-guitar stand: This is a great accessory to have if you use more than one guitar live, or if you want to keep your collection at home safely stored.
• Wall hanger: These make your guitars double as cool-looking wall decorations, plus it’s also a great way to save floor space.

Whether for a beginner or a more advanced guitarist, these are great additions to any player’s arsenal of tools and supplies, and there’s something here to fit everyone’s budget. They’ll make the perfect gift for the guitarist in your life, keeping him or her inspired and motivated, or in some cases they simply make life easier — which means more time can be spent playing instead!

NilsBNils B. teaches guitar, ear training, and music theory in Los Angeles, CA. He attended various schools for his training, including the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. Nils has been teaching students since 2002. Learn more about Nils here!



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7 Online Resources to Take Your Homework Up a Notch

4623303363_41da494cb4_bLooking for some web-based tools to really amp up your presentations, essays, and studying? Check out these seven online resources for students in this guest post by former English teacher Robert Morris


Who doesn’t like learning? The process of discovering new worlds and concepts you didn’t know existed is always exciting. Although your teachers can make the classes boring, that doesn’t mean that learning cannot be fun. Whenever you need help with certain lectures, you can rely on online tools to help you discover a whole new world waiting to be explored.

  • Easel.ly – When the lessons are accompanied with images and infographics, it is easier for you to remember the details and have a starting point to build knowledge upon. At Easel.ly, you can explore thousands of infographics that make the learning process easy and fun. What’s even better, you can create your own infographics as a way of representing what you have learned.
  • NinjaEssays – What do you do when you find yourself struggling with writing assignments? You turn to NinjaEssays.com, of course! With the help of this website, there is no academic writing task that’s impossible to achieve. You’ll get to collaborate with expert writers and learn from their knowledge, talent and experience. Moreover, you can also hire great editors to cover the final stages of the writing process and make your own content flawless. Your teacher will be happy with the results!
  • Thinglink – Let’s explain the benefits of this tool through an example: you can get the map of Washington, D.C. and use it to explain how a bill is turned into a law over the Capitol building. That explanation can be provided by a link to a website, text, or an embed code for a video. When you’re looking for a simple and quick, but effective way to add more dynamic to your school projects, Thinglink is the way to go.
  • Ipiccy – If you need to edit an image, Photoshop may be too complicated. Ipiccy enables you to resize and crop the image, as well as add great effects and filters. If something doesn’t turn out the way you wanted to, you can easily undo the actions. Of course, Ipiccy enables you to treat images in a more sophisticated way too, so it’s fun to discover its layers and advance your skills step by step.
  • Padlet – All students love it! This virtual board enables you to add and arrange different sticky notes. By personalizing and organizing your notes, you will make the learning process easier than ever. You can turn your Padlet board into a scrollable blog where you can post interesting online resources, as well as your personal writings on the concepts you learn at school.
  • WeVideo – Your teacher assigned a video project and you don’t know where to start? This web-based video editing tool will enable you to transform the exhausting process into a fun experience. As soon as you start using WeVideo, you’ll realize how fun video projects can really be. The tool enables you to upload content, mute parts of the base video, add your own narration, and publish the final product in different file sizes. In addition, you can also add transitions, effects, and themes to make the video look more professional.
  • BigHugeLabs – How about making fun trading cards, posters, and presentations? BigHugeLabs is one of the most effective educational tools for K-12 students. Here is a great example of how you can use it: create a movie poster for the book you just read. Feature characters and themes that convey its essence; that’s a guaranteed way that you’ll remember the story forever.

When studying and writing gets boring, turn to technology! The process of studying can be exhausting at times, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find an easy way to complete the projects and learn the lessons. With the seven online resources for students listed above, you can approach learning from a new angle that will not only make the experience fun, but will also result with better grades.

Need extra help with your studies? Working with a private tutor can give you the one-one-one guidance you need. Find a tutor in your area here!


Robert Morris is a homeschooling dad from New York, circle him on Google+. Now Robert is in the process of writing his first book. He was working as an English teacher for 5 years.

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7489124186_1624b51ca5_k (1)

Tricks For Differentiating The Two Blues Chord Progressions

7489124186_1624b51ca5_k (1)Ready to get started with learning blues chord progressions? Here’s an intro by Austin, TX guitar teacher Samuel B...


In order to properly respect and understand both the theory and structure of ANY kind of American music, it’s essential to be able to play the blues. Although the form is said (by some scholars) to have originated in Africa within the story-telling traditions of village griots (historians/poets/musicians who would play a five-stringed instrument known as the halam, which is believed to be the banjo’s precursor), the call-and-response idiom recognizable within the tradition of singing a line and repeating it (often within the first half of a stanza) likely has its origins in the cotton field.

Unless you’re John Lee Hooker (who made a career of playing a single chord in a manner derivative of African forms — listen here), there are two blues progressions – the twelve-bar and the eight-bar.

I typically teach one song for each. The first is Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” — listen to the song here:

The other song I like to use is Leroy Carr’s “How Long Blues”:

I’ve taught other students (with whom a shared enthusiasm for blues and blues-based music is not as apparent) each progression using other tricks.

  • The Eight-Bar Progression Begins With Two (Not Four) Measures Of The First Chord

The structure of the twelve-bar pattern is as follows: E-E-E-E-A-A-E-E-B7-A-E-E/B7. Although Johnson switches to A for the second measure and then back to E for the third (which is an acceptable variation), he adheres to all of the changes I’ve identified.

The eight-bar progression follows a similar albeit condensed sequence: E-E-A-E-E-B7-E-E/B7. The YouTube version I’ve included above involves another acceptable variation: an A minor chord instead of an E major one during the fourth measure of the verses.

One of the easiest differences to remember between this sequence and its twelve-bar counterpart is the opening of each. The eight-bar opening is merely half the length of the twelve-bar one as E (in this case) and is played for only two measures.

  • The Eight-Bar Progression’s First Change Lasts One (Not Two) Measures

Again, the eight-bar pattern represents 50% of another of the twelve-bar segments as A (in this case), and is played for only one measure.

  • The Eight-Bar Progression’s Closing Involves Two (Not Three) Chords

Think of the twelve-bar closing as rolling down a hill. You start at the top (at B7 in this case), roll down to the chord behind it (A), and arrive back down at the foot (E), staying on each chord for no longer than one measure. The eight-bar’s closing (by contrast) involves a simple return to the foot. You might even consider using Star Trek terminology here and think of your hand being “beamed” back down to E instead of rolling back to it.

The ending measure of each of these blues chord progressions is identical, though probably the most difficult measure (in both cases) to learn to play. It involves more than one chord and a change only one-fourth of the way in (EB7B7B7). I dub this final chord (B7) the interrupting chord. Unlike the other chords, it’s awkward and abrupt. However, it’s as essential to each progression as the other chords are. A feisty accent is a more acceptable ending for a blues stanza than merely having it drift off on the chord it began on.

SamuelBSamuel B. teaches beginner guitar lessons in Austin, TX. He teaches lessons face-to-face without sheet music, which is his adaptation of Japanese instruction (involving a call-and-response method). Learn more about Samuel here!



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2 Effective Techniques for Smoothing Out Your Legato

LegatoWhat are the best exercises for practicing legato music on the piano? Here, Helendale, CA teacher Sylvia S. offers her tips and tricks for mastering the technique…

Legato… a beautiful and mysterious word that brings images of a pair of swans gracefully gliding on the placid waters of a still lake. In the phrasing of the Italian renaissance, the time and place where the language of music was born, legato meant tied, bound, or connected. In terms of legato music, it means this and more. The art of playing legato can be compared to floating serenely across the water of a Venetian canal in a gondola, holding hands with your lover through the tunnel of love. In the romantic language of music, legato is the ultimate in smooth, seductive, sensuous phrasing.

This word is most often found in classical, or “legitimate” music, while piano sheet music will more often use descriptions like “play smoothly.” Regardless of the wording, the artistry of smooth or legato style is as much imagination and imagery as it is technical ability. Before practicing “how” to play legato, an aspiring pianist who wishes to bring his or her audience the tantalizing treats of smooth sound imagery may venture in the ideas of desire. Desire to enter into this styling, and then delve into the practical.

Practice Scales and Arpeggios

So, what is the practical side of legato? What, or how, to practice before schmoozing into that gondola or shape-shifting into that swan lake? Despite the ease with which experienced pianists seem to glide over the keys, the reality is that strength and consistency is just as important as a light hand at the performance.

Practicing scales and arpeggios is one way to start. Practice two ways. First, slowly and deliberately lift and lower each finger using maximum force. This builds musculature in the hands, which you will need for the greatest control. Then, after your hands are warmed up, work on smoothing out the sound. Watch for any weakness, particularly with the fourth finger, which tends to be the most difficult to work independently. Also, look for any clumsiness or “thunking” sounds; often, this will be where the thumb and fingers are alternating.

If you’re working on speed or keeping a steady pace, you can use a metronome, or if it’s simply a legato touch you’re after, your metronome can take a little vacation for a while. Scales and arpeggios will help develop strength, evenness, and smoothness, as long as the only phrases you play are based on bits and pieces of consecutive or arpeggiated notes.

Work on Agility Exercises

More likely, though, your legato songs or passages within a longer piece of music will be more complicated. This is where agility exercises come into play. One of the most well-known and dependable ways to develop agility on the piano is from a traditional exercise book written by a 19th century French composer and piano teacher named Charles‐Louis Hanon. Officially titled “The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises”, this volume is known to initiated pianists simply as “Hanon”.

Like exercises for sports stars, the first few exercises are simple. As the book progresses, the exercises become more difficult. Each builds on the other, and with dedicated practice over time, can create effective improvements in strength, speed, and agility that borderline on miraculous. Like anything worthwhile, dramatic improvements take time, and grand improvements in playing legato music will come with steady practice. However, if you need to learn how to play legato on short notice, even a few weeks of dedicated Hanon drills can help form a foundation of technique to underscore the imaginative artistry of a passable piano performance.

Eventually, those beautiful and mysterious sound paintings will become a gift for your audience, and when that time comes you will know. Because you, too, will feel that cool electricity of excitement rise up your arms as you play; those swans will come to life through the smooth sonic waves coming from your light touch on the keys. When that moment arrives, all at once you will share and experience the magic known as legato.

SylviaSSylvia S. teaches singing, piano, theater acting, and more in Helendale, CA. She comes from a musical family of several generations, and her experience includes playing an electric keyboard and singing vocals in a professional, working band. Learn more about Sylvia here! 



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5 Piano Lesson Myths Debunked

P1050252Interested in taking beginner piano lessons, but worried you’re too old or too busy? These are just two of the common reasons that might keep you from learning piano. Here, online piano teacher Crystal B. debunks a few of these common excuses and myths…

Most everyone has thought about taking piano lessons at one point or another, but there are a few common myths have keep new students from taking the first step to actually getting started. Today, I’d like to address these five myths and help you make an informed decision about taking beginner piano lessons.

Myth #1 – “Piano lessons are boring!”

I think people imagine sitting at the piano with a mean piano teacher who keeps yelling at them to play the same scale over and over. The truth is, most of us aren’t that scary at all! Learning a new instrument is a challenging, but extremely rewarding journey. And my goal as an instructor is to make that journey as fun as possible! Different instructors have different approaches for accomplishing this, so it’s important to find someone who is a good fit for you and your learning style — and who also understands your goals.

Yes, there are some things that everyone needs to learn — such as theory and scales. But learning these things doesn’t have to be boring! What if there were a way to show you how scales fit in to your favorite songs on the radio? And how knowing music theory will empower you to quickly learn the songs that you love? Even when you’re learning things that seem difficult and may not seem like fun, work with your instructor to find creative and practical ways to incorporate this new knowledge. You’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes to learn — and how much fun you’ll have doing it!

Myth #2 – “If you don’t start piano lessons by age 11, it’s too late.”

I’ve actually heard this myth attached to several different ages, and many variations of thought, such as, “You can learn the instrument, but you will never be able to reach your full potential” or “It will be much more difficult to learn if you start after a certain age.”

I am living proof that this is just a myth. I didn’t start taking piano lessons until I was 12 years old. But once I started lessons, I couldn’t get enough of the piano! I practiced and played constantly, and I had a great teacher who encouraged me and kept me challenged. Because of this I was able to start teaching my own students by age 15, and playing professionally by age 16. The point is, age really doesn’t matter. It’s about your passion for music, desire to learn, and the dedication to invest time in practicing and honing your craft. So don’t be discouraged — it’s never too late to start learning the piano!

Myth #3 – “I don’t have time to take piano lessons.”

Several years ago, the only option for taking lessons was to travel to a teacher’s studio or home each week. These days, there are many options to accommodate busy schedules while still enabling students to learn just as much as they would in a traditional setting. Here are a few options that might work if you feel your schedule is keeping you from enrolling in piano.

  • Online Lessons – This is how I personally teach several of my students. It enables you to take lessons from the comfort of your own home, while still giving you a true one-on-one customized lesson. This option also gives you the opportunity to work with an instructor who is located anywhere in the world! Lesson times are usually more flexible, with a lot of instructors offering weekend or evening lessons via Skype.
  • Mobile Instructors – A lot of instructors now offer the option to travel to your home for lessons. This is a great way to avoid traffic or time spent waiting around for a lesson to be over. You would still need to set aside a day/time that would work for the lesson, but sometimes this is easier if you have the convenience of being in your own home.

Myth #4 – “I can’t start piano lessons because I don’t own a piano.”

Although there are few things I love more than playing an actual piano (especially a baby grand!), the truth is, you don’t have to have a piano to start learning. There are many different types of affordable keyboards that are great to start with, especially for beginners. If the student is a child, I actually recommend taking this route if you don’t already own the piano. Even kids who love music will often want to try a few different instruments before settling on one. Starting out with a keyboard will allow him or her to try piano without you having to make a serious financial commitment.

There are many great websites where you can find amazing deals on lightly-used keyboards. If you decide you would rather buy new, most music stores offer these options as well. The bottom line is, no matter what you start learning on, the most important thing is to get started!

Myth #5 – “Trying to play ‘by ear’ can actually hinder your progress in learning piano.”

I have heard several stories of students being told not to use their “musical ear” to assist them while reading notes. And for some reason, many students feel like they need to choose to be either a “note reader” or an “ear/chord chart player.”

While most people are naturally inclined one way or the other, I believe it’s equally important for a student to develop both skill sets. I like to incorporate ear training exercises for all of my students, in addition to note reading. I believe this helps to creative versatile, well-balanced musicians who can adapt to any situation. Your ability to hear what music should sound like will also prove extremely valuable in correcting mistakes as you are practicing on your own throughout the week. So to sum things up, playing by ear will definitely not hinder your progress in learning piano. In fact, quite the opposite!

Even if you don’t want to become a professional musician, taking beginner piano lessons can add great enjoyment to your life. If you’ve let piano lesson myths keep you from starting lessons in the past, maybe it’s time to try it out! Happy playing!

CrystalBCrystal B. teaches piano online. She has been teaching all ages and levels for more than 15 years. Learn more about Crystal here!




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5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Pianist Should Make

14129632984_8a42e1b637_kThinking about making some New Year’s resolutions? If you’re new to the piano, we challenge you to make some specific to your lessons! Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares a few suggestions…


The beginning of a new year is fast approaching, and the one thing that comes to the minds of most of us this season is that formidable word “resolution.” We can choose to think of the word with dread and annoyance, reminded of all the times that we’ve tried to stick to our resolutions and failed, or we can choose to think of each new resolution not as an impossible chore, but instead as an opportunity to improve, grow, and move forward. In order for our New Year’s resolutions to work, they have to serve us, not the other way around.

Every pianist, no matter what his level, is aware of some specific aspects of his piano life that he’d prefer to be different in the coming year. The question is, what are the five New Year’s resolutions that every pianist should make? What are some areas in which we could all grow?

1) Make playing a part of your everyday life

It’s been said that in order to make something a habit, you have to do it for 30 days straight.  This coming year, start writing practice sessions into your daily planner, just like you do your appointments and sports practices, and stick to it for 30 days. In order to keep it from becoming a chore, consider playing first thing in the morning before you even know what’s hit you!

2) Commit to ongoing learning

Every pianist has further to go in his educational journey. If you’ve stopped taking lessons, then consider starting back up. If you’re currently taking lessons, then consider taking more often, for longer durations, or even taking a free online college course in addition to your private lessons. Some sites, like Coursera.com, offer free classes from accredited institutions, and occasionally you’ll find ones focused on songwriting, musicianship, and even world music. You won’t get a college credit, but it’s a fun way to become a better musician.

3) Get a few fun, new songs

Whether you get these new tunes from a music store, purchase and print them out from a site like Sheet Music Plus or Musicnotes, or borrow from a friend, doesn’t matter. What does matter is how it’ll breathe new life into your piano practice. The songs inside don’t necessarily have to be new to you, just new to your playing. You can find arrangements of almost any song that you know. There’ll be days when you just don’t want to play, and those fun tunes will be there just to get your fingers on the keys.

4) Stop judging yourself

We’ve all done it. One terrible lesson, one recital disaster, one seemingly impossible song and we’re telling ourselves that we just aren’t as good as we thought we were, that piano isn’t our thing, and asking ourselves, really, who are we kidding? Never, ever forget that even the best pianists in the world have had bad recitals and lessons and really difficult songs that they couldn’t stand. Have compassion for yourself in the same way that you would have compassion for a friend having a tough time with their piano studies. Self-judgment can be the most fatal and growth-stunting mistake of all.

5) Start recording your lessons

There are few things more effective at improving almost everything about your playing than audio or video recording your lessons. With your instructor’s permission, start recording all of your lessons. Not only will you get to hear your teacher’s comments, but you’ll also get to hear everything you play. I’ll be honest: not all of my students are fans of hearing their own playing. But frankly, it can be a sign of our maturity as musicians. And if you’ve resolved to stop judging yourself (see above resolution), there are only two things that you’ll hear in each recorded lesson: great playing, and opportunities to improve.

Think of these five resolutions as five tanks of gas. Each one could get you further along in your journey of learning and your path of self-improvement. Who knows? Maybe this’ll be the year that we stick with our resolutions.

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



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Renew Your Motivation With These 5 Inspiring Videos for Pianists

Feeling stuck? Take a break from your piano practice and try something new. Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares five incredibly inspiring piano videos to renew your excitement…


For new pianists, the importance of inspiration should not be underestimated. Listening to and watching great musicians, especially live music, is just as critical to your success as piano practice itself. Most of the pianists whom I know, including myself, could probably point to several musical experiences that ultimately inspired them to pursue music as a career. For some of us, a couple of those musical experiences were as an audience member. For most of us nowadays, online videos have become a wonderful link to all kinds of different music, musicians, and interpretations of well-known literature. In many ways, they have replaced live music in our busy days. Much of our experience as an audience member in this post-modern world is watching videos. The following are five of the most inspiring videos for new pianists.

First, Jason Pelsey rocks out below on an incredible piece of music. The title of the video claims that he’s the best piano player in the world, and once you see this video, you might agree that he is! His speed and agility look like someone is fast-forwarding; it’s almost too amazing to be true. And seeing it from his perspective with a GoPro only made the performance extra cool.

Next, Thelonious Monk, a Juilliard School alumni and jazz pianist extraordinaire, has inspired generations of piano players with his inimitable intuition. He seems to lack any self-consciousness, and yet possesses total self-awareness. Watch how freely he dances before sitting down at the piano at the beginning of this biographical film, “Straight, No Chaser”.

Not all inspiration needs to come from famous pianists — here, a little girl named Emily, who has Down syndrome, plays Clementi’s Sonatina, Opus 36, Number 1 beautifully and from memory. This is a perfect example of how much all of us, even those of us with special needs, are capable of.

Sometimes, maybe a handful of times in each century, pianists come along who quite obviously understand their music from the inside and underneath. Their interpretations are so completely certain and fluid at the same time. Mitsuko Uchida is one of those pianists. Here she is performing Mozart’s piano concerto number 9 in E flat major.

Finally, child prodigy Aimi Kobayashi outperforms most pianists twice her age. Her impeccable rhythm and understanding of dynamics is stunning. Now 19, she continues to study just as hard as she did as a little girl. Here’s a video of her playing Mozart’s piano concerto number 26, still young enough to have a lunchbox.

Did you notice that I didn’t choose only the fastest or the most famous pianists in the world as the most inspiring? Speed and fame are only two inspiring elements in a big world of piano playing. Things like connecting with the music, focus and determination, a lack of self-consciousness, and musical intuition are just as inspiring, and frankly, not as easy to learn from a teacher. These are parts of the pianist’s spirit that can be cultivated and nurtured with the help of lots of hard work, a passion for learning, and an open heart.

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



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