Learning By Listening: Ways to Study As an Auditory Learner

Auditory Learners

Do you learn best by listening? Find out about the most effective study strategies for auditory learners in this article by San Diego tutor Natalie S

People generally learn new concepts in a few different ways. Some people are tactile learners; they use a hands-on approach to grasp and understand new material. Others are visual learners; they have to see a concept in order to comprehend it. Lastly, there are auditory learners. The most effective way for auditory learners to understand a new concept is to listen and hear the information. It is more common to be a visual learner than an auditory learner, and because of this, teaching strategies in schools are often geared toward visual learners. This makes comprehension of new ideas and lessons a little more difficult for auditory learners. If you are an auditory learner, check out our tips below to help you study in the most effective and efficient ways for you.

1) Cancel out noisy distractions.

As an auditory learner, sound is the most important aspect of your learning environment. Find a silent place to study, so that you are not distracted by ambient noise. If this option fails, invest in some noise-canceling headphones.

2) Hire a tutor.

A tutor can sit with you one-on-one while you re-read information aloud. You can also work with peers in the same way, reviewing and teaching the information to each other. This is a great way for auditory learners to engage in new material.

3) Record your lectures.

A class structure that is primarily based on lecturing is great for auditory learners. If your teacher permits it, ask if you can record the lectures, so you can listen to them again at home when you are reviewing the information. These recordings end up being great study tools to use later when preparing for exams.

4) Create a mnemonic device.

Experts suggest that this is one of the best learning methods for auditory learners. If you’re struggling to remember a specific concept or piece of information, try creating a mnemonic device for it. Turn the information into a song, a rhyme, or some sort of word association. By creating an interesting association, you’ll be more likely to remember the information.

5) Teach yourself.

If you learn best by listening, then try talking to yourself. Read the material aloud while you study, and review the concepts out loud as if you were teaching a class. This combination of reading and speaking the same information aloud will help you comprehend and internalize the information quicker.

These easy tips and tricks are designed to help auditory learners study more effectively and efficiently. Good luck!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Are Advanced Placement (AP) Courses Worth It?


Are AP courses really that important? Find out in this guest post by Grand Rapids, MI tutor Elizabeth S...


One major question that comes into play when choosing classes for the school year is this: are Advanced Placement (AP) courses worth it? 

Of course, there is no easy answer to this question. Many people will answer: “Yes. Advanced Placement classes are definitely worth it! If you get good scores on the tests, you can waive those basic classes in college!” Others will respond: “No way! They are just harder versions of the normal class, and not all colleges and universities offer or recognize the classes that your class would cover. Besides, that test costs extra money!”

After hearing these answers, one might be more conflicted than before. When I was in high school, I signed up for many advanced placement courses, and even in some with no intention of taking the tests. The experience, for me, was worth it for many different reasons.

Challenging Yourself

Number one: AP courses are more challenging and in-depth than regular classes.

I found that in these classes, I was more interested and motivated to participate, because the coursework was more challenging. In the class, we weren’t just glossing over the basics; we learned the basics and then applied those to the subject at hand. The demonstrations used were interesting because the teachers had to make sure we understood what they were teaching us.

Learning to Meet Higher Expectations

Number two: The expectations were much higher than regular classes.

One thing that I have learned throughout my life and teaching career is that if someone has high expectations for a person and/or group, people usually try to reach those expectations. In advanced placement classes, this was proven for me every day. The attitude of, if one is in these classes he or she should be doing well in them, puts a lot of pressure on students to live up to that standard. While it was tough, I came out with more than the knowledge of the subject I was learning, but with knowledge of better time management and study skills.

Connecting With Peers

Number three: A lot of my friends were doing it as well.

Who doesn’t like taking classes with their friends? Not only was the coursework more interesting, I always had people I could talk to about it who weren’t my teacher.

Preparing for College

Number four: I was more prepared for the intensity of college courses because my AP teachers treated the classes in much the same way as my college professors did.

That being said, I will leave you with this advice: if you’re wondering if AP courses are worth it, it really depends on you as a student. If you want to be more challenged in high school, then by all means take the classes. You don’t have to take the tests to still get many benefits of taking an AP class. If, however, you are not prepared or do not feel prepared, then you may want to stay in regular classes.

Advanced Placement classes have the potential to do a lot of good for students who are ready for the extra challenges. These classes will not only give you a deeper understanding of the subjects you are taking, but they will prepare you for the courses you will take in your journey through higher education.

ElizabethElizabeth S. tutors in various subjects in Grand Rapids, MI. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a two majors in English/Language Arts and Education, plus two minors in French and Elementary Distributed.  Learn more about Elizabeth here! 



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tips for writing a song

Tips for Writing a Song | Starting Songs And Ending Writer’s Block

tips for writing a song

Feeling stuck? Get back on track with these helpful tips for writing a song, courtesy of Perth Amboy, NJ teacher Jeff S...


One of the most frequent problems that songwriting students encounter is pushing past writer’s block and generating ideas for new songs. So here are several tips for writing a song that will help you overcome a creative dry spell and get you back to creative productivity.

Start With A Title
Think of some interesting subjects that you think would make good songs. Then come up with a list of catchy song titles for those subjects. Try to come up with titles that tie into your subjects, so that you can clue your listener into the storyline. Example: Your subject is a girl who is madly in love with a guy, but the guy can’t commit himself to her exclusively. Here are some titles based upon this scenario: “I’m Gonna Turn You Around”, “You Don’t Have To Look For Love”, “Won’t Find A Better Love”, “What More Do You Need?”, “I’ll Keep You Happy”, “I Need To Know”. Go ahead and try to add to the list, but a much better idea is to come up with a storyline and then compile a list of titles based on it.

Develop Your Title Or Song Idea And Come Up With One Song Section
Once you get a title that you like, start searching for a good opening line for the first verse. In your brainstorming process, try to do two things: first, offer your listener a clue as to what the song will be about. Second, zero in on the conflict or problem that your storyline presents. Let’s go back to our concept for the song and start developing opening lines, based on the female perspective of the protagonist. Here are some that I came up with: “I wish I knew what I didn’t give you”, “I wish I was the one who was wrapped around your heart”, “It hurts me so bad that my love’s not good enough”. Do you see how these lines set the story up and entice the listener to want to know more and be brought into the reality of the singer? Now, try your hand at some opening lines for Verse 1.

Look for Inspiration In Books, Magazines, or on TV
If you’re having trouble coming up with song titles, go to the library or bookstore or glance through the TV listings (as TV shows frequently title episodes), newspaper, or a magazine. You can’t copyright a title, so don’t think this idea is tantamount to stealing. You can also look through a book of clichés and plug in a new story to an old cliché, or create a new twist on an old cliché by substituting a word. (Example: “Better Love Next Time” is an improvement over the time-worn cliché, “Better Luck Next Time” — but that one has been done already, so try coming up with your own.)

When In Doubt, Brainstorm
If you’re at a standstill with this part of the development process, pull out your thesaurus and your rhyming dictionary. First, however, do a 10-minute brainstorming session to come up with words and phrases that will serve as connectives (i.e. words that relate to your topic). Do not edit yourself, just generate as many as possible, WITHOUT opening up either book. When you’re exhausted or when the 10 minutes end, take a look at your list and start finding rhyming words and synonyms for those words. Remember — select ONLY the words you really like and the ones that you think will fit into your story. Use them to develop verse or chorus lines.

Hopefully some of these tips for writing a song will get your creative juices flowing again!

JeffSJeff S. teaches guitar, ukulele, speaking voice, songwriting, and more in Perth Amboy, NJ, as well as online. Jeff has created and taught songwriting and music business classes at colleges, universities, and music schools throughout the country for many years. Learn more about Jeff here! 



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4 Common Challenges Faced By New Guitar Students (And How To Overcome Them)

As with any new skill, learning how to play the guitar comes with challenges. Here, Perth Amboy, NJ teacher Jeff S. shares his guitar playing tips to help you stay motivated…


I’ve been teaching guitar to students of all ages and skill levels for many years and have gotten quite adept at spotting and remedying the challenges faced by beginners. So I’ve decided to address them in this article to offer students and their parents some insight on how to get beyond the problems so they can truly enjoy the guitar experience.

Below are brief descriptions of each problem and the guitar playing tips to correct them:

Problem #1 – The guitar pick keeps slipping out of my hand


While the thickness of a guitar pick is an individual preference, I don’t recommend a thin pick. It’s too flimsy and offers little stability and control. So I suggest a medium gauge pick (.60 mm to .88 mm) and sometimes a medium-heavy pick (.80 mm to 1 mm). I also strongly suggest a “grip pick,” as the regular flat plastic picks can be slippery and fall to the floor. There are many varieties of grip picks, but I personally prefer the Jim Dunlop Nylon Standard pick (I use the 1 mm, but some might find it too rigid).

Besides the type of pick, it’s important to hold the pick with the thumb and index finger (tucking in the other three fingers to form a loose partial fist) and in doing so create a striking surface of no more than a quarter of an inch (at the tip end of the pick).

Problem #2 – The notes I’m trying to fret sound muffled or not very clear


There are three important guitar playing tips that go along with this. First, you want to be sure your nails aren’t too long (i.e. beyond the fingertips) and you’re making fingerboard contact using the fleshy part of the fingertip — not with the nail or under-nail area or the back of the finger. Second, the point of contact should be with the fleshiest part of the fingertip. Third, the left hand needs to be arced upright as much as possible (without causing discomfort) so that it’s reasonably perpendicular to the neck. And finally, the left hand fingers shouldn’t press down on the fret, but rather slightly to the left of the fret.

Problem #3- My fingers hurt and it’s tough to keep playing

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The old-school solution would simply be to say “No pain, no gain,” or “Your finger discomfort will go away soon.” And honestly, that’s probably pretty good advice. But here are some more constructive solutions:

  • Make sure the guitar has light or extra light gauge strings on it, as the thickness of the strings directly impacts how sore the fingers get.
  • Soak the fingertips in apple cider vinegar for 30 seconds to a minute after playing (be sure to wash with soap thoroughly, as you don’t want your guitar or guitar strings to smell like apple cider vinegar!) or try icing the fingertips after playing.
  • Take the guitar into the shop and get the “action” lowered as much as possible (see my other article, “How Playable Is That New Guitar of Yours?”, for more details on this).

If none of these guitar playing tips offer sufficient help, consider trying a pain-reducing ointment with benzocaine on your fingertips. (Be sure to consider the allergic potential and also be sure that your child doesn’t put his or her fingers in their mouth after applying such a product.)

Problem #4- I can’t stretch my fingers of my left hand to reach the 3rd or 4th frets, or I’m having trouble applying enough pressure to fret a note


Every guitarist will need to access the 3rd and 4th frets with their ring finger and pinky, respectively. And it’s not just to play the notes on those frets, but to gain overall hand control and fingerboard accessibility.

I often assign the chromatic scale to students as a finger stretch and warm-up exercise. Using the left hand index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers, respectively, play the notes on the first four frets (delegating index to 1st fret, middle to 2nd fret, ring to 3rd fret, pinky to 4th fret) to play a total of 24 notes (four per string).

Another great way to increase reach is to pick up a small rubber ball (handball size) and squeeze it several times before you practice guitar. You can also spread your fingers apart on the ball, much the way a baseball pitcher would spread them to throw a changeup. This particular pitch calls for separation between the index, middle, and ring fingers, and that’s the perfect stretch to develop more finger reach for guitar. You can see the grip here.

Whether you’re the one learning guitar, or if you’re a parent trying to support your child, the most important thing to remember is that there’ll always be learning curves and growing pains to overcome and a need for patience and perseverance to get beyond them. Once a new guitar student gets used to fretting notes and how much hand pressure is needed to fret notes, and their skin toughens up a bit on their fingertips, things will fall into place. Be encouraging and they’ll get past these early challenges.

JeffSJeff S. teaches guitar, ukulele, speaking voice, songwriting, and more in Perth Amboy, NJ, as well as online. Jeff has created and taught songwriting and music business classes at colleges, universities, and music schools throughout the country for many years. Learn more about Jeff here! 



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Speed Reading – Can it Really Be Done?


Want to learn how to read faster? Tempted by all the promises of speed reading programs and classes? Find out if there’s truth behind the strategies in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R


Imagine a library full of frantic-looking students, their eyes darting back and forth as they flip through textbooks. These students are attempting the controversial art of speed reading. Unfortunately, many of these students will probably find that they remember very little of the information they are so busily scanning.

This begs the question: do these strategies for learning how to read faster really work? Or is it a fantasy thought up by busy students? Let’s explore the concept of speed reading, whether or not it works, and what might work better.

What is Speed Reading?

Speed reading involves quickly glancing through text. The goal of this type of reading is not to absorb every word. Instead, readers want to quickly understand the gist of the text. They want to be able to regurgitate important themes and summarize the text, even if they miss the details.

As you can imagine, speed reading only works in certain situations. Unfortunately, reading a textbook isn’t one of those situations. There are certain things you cannot scan through with good results.

Speed reading is best for simple reading, such as:
• Mainstream news articles
• Advertising emails and letters

Speed reading is bad for complex reading, such as:
• Textbooks
• Scientific articles
• Literature

Speed Reading Techniques

For lighter reading, here are some tried-and-true techniques that can help you glean the overall themes quickly. Although these techniques probably won’t help you read Chaucer any faster, they might help you clear your inbox or read the news in less time.

  • The glance-over: Look over chunks of text a few lines at a time, picking out important elements (such as nouns and numbers) as you go.
  • The diagonal: Cut a diagonal through each paragraph with your eyes, searching for these important key elements.
  • Just read faster: Look at each line individually, but at a very rapid pace.

Better Than Speed Reading

If you are tempted to try speed reading in an academic setting (you forgot to study for the big test, for example), know that you aren’t going to learn how to read faster in one night. Instead, here are a few techniques that may be more useful to you:

  • Read just a hair faster: Instead of attempting to read at lightning speed, go for just a slightly brisker pace than usual. Don’t go overboard – just be conscious of your speed and, while still reading and processing each word, see if you can handle a few more words per minute.
  • Chapter summaries: Many textbooks come equipped with summaries at the end of each chapter or section. Others have key words grouped at the ends of chapters. Use these! If you have to study a whole textbook in one night, read all of the summaries and look up any specific topics that are confusing.
  • Headings and tables of contents: You can also go through textbooks and look just at the headings and subheadings. Alternately, take a gander at the table of contents. Use this as a guide to help you revisit (and properly read!) the hardest sections.
  • Study buddies: Get together with classmates, compare notes, and test each other. If you don’t know where to start, try randomly flipping to a page in the book and asking each other questions from it. If one section is no problem, move on to the next one.

This goes without saying, but the best way to get to know the material is to actually read it. Learn how to manage your time so that you can complete assigned readings, take notes, and really absorb the material before crunch time. Not only is a natural reading pace more effective, it can also be fun. If you have trouble managing your time and studying well, consider hiring a tutor to help you hone these skills.

ElainaElaina R. is a writer, editor, singer, and voice teacher based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her book Slaying Your Admissions Essay Dragon shows how to write application essays that are actually fun to read. Elaina has served as an editor for several notable books as well, including NFL great Adrian Peterson’s autobiography Don’t Dis My Abilities. Learn more about Elaina here!


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Arts and Crafts Ideas for Kids: 3 Simple Steps to Get Started


Ready to get those creative gears moving? Grab your kids and check out these fun arts and crafts ideas, courtesy of Virginia Beach, VA teacher Jenn E


Art allows children to explore their imagination, plan, reason, and express their thoughts and feelings. Children who regularly participate in arts and crafts are more likely to be creative, innovative, and resilient. While it is common for adults to feel apprehensive about doing art — since most stop once it’s no longer a required course in school — adults and kids alike can take pride in their products by following these three simple steps.

• Start off small. Do not try to imitate the most elaborate arts and crafts ideas you see on Pinterest. Instead, stick with small projects by creatively using things around the house. For example, try making masks out of paper plates, create noise makers with empty cans and bottles, or cut up old cardboard or cereal boxes to create any type of structure.

• Stick to one medium. It can get very overwhelming in the craft aisle — so many fun things to imagine putting together to make your work of art. But remember, art is about the process, not the product. Your creation probably won’t look like a van Gogh, and that is OK; take pride in the completed effort, even if it’s not something show-worthy. Choose one medium, whether that’s paint, glitter, appliqué, crayon, or something else, and stick with it. When you flood yourself with options, a mess is the only thing you will end of creating.

• Keep it simple. Look at teaching websites for creative crafts for kids. Make sure you are staying within your child’s developmental level. For kids under five, keep it to them scribbling with crayons; school-aged children can advance to other arts and crafts ideas that include cutting and gluing materials. If you have multiple children at different ages, a great tip is to get a kit and cater the projects to each level. I like getting wood picture frames (or making my own from cardboard — it can be used for everything crafting) and have the children paint it, then do a photo shoot for the children to take more ownership and have more pride in their piece.

There are a thousand crafts ideas you can do with your kids, and it can get very overwhelming for a novice. Stick with these simple ideas to build your comfort level. As you and your child succeed, you will be excited to try more and get more complex. And as you and your child engage in creativity you will find both of your minds expanding as you look at the world from a newer view.

Looking for additional guidance? Get one-on-one help from one of our arts and crafts teachers, in subjects including sewing, jewelry design, and scrapbooking!

JennEJenn E. teaches painting, cooking, photography, and more in Virginia Beach, VA. Jennifer studied Psychology, Art, Biology, and Chemistry in undergrad at Florida State University, and later got her graduate degree in Art Therapy from Eastern Virginia Medical School. Check out her blog, or book lessons with Jenn here!



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Buying Your First Ukulele: 3 Things to Consider


Thinking about buying a ukulele? Learn the ins and outs of finding the best ukulele for you in this guest post by Casselberry, FL teacher Laurie K...


So you are ready to buy your first ukulele! Awesome, step one is complete… “Decide to play the uke!”

I am going to go over three basics when considering this new and fun instrument, in order to find the best ukulele for you:

  • Size
  • Prices
  • Styles


There are four sizes for ukuleles: Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. Most likely you are reading this article with an image of the soprano in your mind. Soprano ukuleles are the more popular size and come in more variety. The concert and tenor sizes are also tuned like a soprano ukulele, but are slightly bigger in their bodies, with longer necks and more frets. This makes them popular among professional players. The baritone ukulele is actually tuned to the the lower strings of a guitar (D, G, B, E). So, you’ll have a one-up if you are already a guitar player! The baritone ukulele is fun but is much bigger in size and has a lower tone overall… which goes against the two main reasons people are attracted to ukuleles: size and sound. So — my guess? You’re looking for a soprano.


Ok, yes, you can buy a ukulele for $12. But I caution you to only buy these for your toddler children… they do not stay in tune! The cheapest ukuleles are going to be around $20-30 and they will be a much different sound and material than ukuleles priced at $50 and up. My recommendation is to go for the $50-up price range. You’re going to get a nicer material and most come with Nylgut strings. If you buy cheaper, you’ll most likely end up spending on new strings, which can definitely upgrade a plastic uke. So to save you that trouble, go a little higher. If you’re on the fence about being able to play, it’s fine to go with a cheaper uke too; you can always upgrade later!


The cheaper styles are Mahalo and Makala ukuleles. These brands are mostly made of colorful plastics and can sound alright if re-strung with “Aquila” strings. I personally bought a Makala Dolphin bridged uke that was a light blue color. It was super fun to play but was a challenge to keep in tune. You can watch my YouTube review of it below:

My first ukulele was actually a gift. It is an Ovation-style uke — the “Applause by Ovation UAE20 Soprano Ukulele” — and it’s an acoustic/electric, meaning I can play it unplugged and also plugged into any amplifier. I own a small Vox amp and it sounds amazing both ways. I was a lucky girl to start with this uke and I have to say it’s probably in the range of $120-160, but very worth it! I have performed many shows and it barely ever needs to be tuned, the material keeps it from being affected by humidity, and it’s beautiful! (To watch my Ovation Applause ukulele in action, check out my video here!)

For the best beginner ukuleles, I suggest the following brands: Lanikai LU-21C, Kala KA-C, Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele. I have not tried them all, so I do suggest going to a local music store like Guitar Center to try some different brands. You can also search for online and YouTube reviews.

Have an awesome time finding the perfect ukulele for you! Mine has been with me from the beginning and I’ve continued to add on to my collection. Let me know if you find something new and exciting! I’d love to hear from you.

Happy uke-ing!

LaurieLaurie K. teaches ukulele, songwriting, painting, and more in Casselberry, FL. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts along with a minor in Music, and her experience includes leading Music Together classes with families and children aged from 1-5. Learn more about Laurie here! 



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8 Simple Steps for Learning Fast Piano Songs


Struggling to get through the fast piano songs you’re dying to play? Here, Helendale, CA teacher Sylvia S. shares her tips for success…


Piano is an easy instrument to learn. You push a key, and a note sounds. Compared to instruments like the violin, which can take months and months of dedicated practice before a pleasant sound comes out, piano seems like a walk in the park.

But because of this, it’s also one of the easiest instruments to learn to play poorly. Many piano students become so enraptured with the idea of moving forward quickly that the idea of playing piano fast becomes a goal. We want to play fast, to really show we can do our stuff, but often what happens when we take on all that speed is the quality of the playing is compromised. Most piano players don’t learn patience with the process.

If you’re struggling to master songs with faster tempos, you’re not alone. Here are some tips for learning fast piano songs:

1. Be patient… start with the basics, and find the most difficult part of the song. Find out how slow you need to go to play that part accurately. Use a metronome, and set it at that slow pace. If you don’t have a metronome, you can search for one online. I like this one. Play the entire song at that slow pace. Yes, even the easy parts. Play it perfectly again and again.

2. Watch your fingers. Are there places in the song where your fingers are tripping over each other? Even the best pianists need to come up with specific fingering for certain passages. Go ahead and write in the finger numbers like a beginner … 1-2-3-4-5 … and don’t forget the left hand!

3. Don’t practice in front of an audience. If you’re practicing at home and your family listens in while you practice, remember that your song isn’t going to sound anywhere near as good in the beginning as it will in the future.

4. Don’t practice the same mistake twice. Practicing mistakes teaches you to play inaccurately. If you notice you’re having trouble on certain passages, stop and slow down even more. Work on those specific passages, and give the rest of the song (which you play well) a rest. If you practice perfectly, you’ll learn to play perfectly. Yes, even the hard parts.

5. Celebrate your accomplishments with feelings of confidence. While practicing your “fast” piano songs at a snail’s pace, you’ll slowly and surely become more confident about all the little details of fingering, dynamics and, yes, specific notes. You will become enlightened about those complicated places, and before long they will become easy. When you can play smoothly and slowly, you’re ready for the next step.

6. Let your metronome be your best friend. By now, you’re used to that tick-tick-tick and keeping a slow pace throughout the song. Now, push the metronome speed up one notch. You probably won’t notice you’re playing any faster, because metronomes are calibrated to very small increments. If you can play the song at that pace, push the metronome speed up one more notch.

7. Continue working on speed, one metronome notch at a time. If you start going faster than you can play accurately, move the metronome speed back down one notch. Work on smoothing out those hard parts, and then playing the whole song at that speed.

8. Set your goal speed, using the metronome. Slowly work up to that goal speed, one notch at a time. You’ll know you’re ready when you’re at your goal speed, and playing accurately and confidently.

Now you’re ready to perform that fast piano song. And remember: your audience didn’t sit in on your practice sessions. Nobody but you (and maybe your family) will ever know how hard it was for you to learn that fast song. If you can make all that hard work look easy, then mastering your fast piano songs will be easier than ever.

Good luck!

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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Piano playing at Palewell

7 Common Reasons You’re Not Improving at the Piano

Piano playing at Palewell

Feeling stuck? Read on as Memphis, TN teacher Kevin F. shares how to diagnose your struggles and find the right fix…


You’ve had it. You’ve been playing the piano and working on a particular piece for six months and have gotten nowhere. There’s a good chance you’re suffering from one of the following reasons for not improving, so let’s take a look at common problems and their common fixes.

1. You’re not practicing enough. There is a great propensity among musicians, beginners especially, to rush through their music a few times a week and call it practice. Unless you’re a small child, anything less than 30 minutes a day probably isn’t going to cut it.

2. You’re practicing too much. Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking, practice too much!? Yes, you can practice too much. Our brains and bodies are fantastic organs and machines, but after a while they still get tired. Once you get tired, any attempt to practice is an exercise in futility.

3. You’re not practicing the right way. This one is much harder to understand, but if all you do is play each piece once through (as best you can), you’re doing it wrong. There are lots of other ways to vary your practice, such as doing hands separately, starting at the end of the piece, varying rhythms, and so on.

4. You’re not staying focused. If you want your practice to mean something, you have to truly focus on playing the piano. Turn off the phone, put the kids in another room, whatever you need to do so you can focus. Better a 30-minute, focused practice than three hours doing five other things at the same time.

5. You’re playing a piece not appropriate for your level. There are two sides to this: either you’re playing stuff that’s too easy, or stuff that’s too hard. The first doesn’t challenge you at all, the second gets too frustrating. I believe the average pianist learns a piece in two to six weeks. Full memory may take a bit longer, and your mileage may vary.

6. Your technique is faulty. There are often simple little tricks of the pianist trade that you might not learn without structured learning, or maybe you learned to do something that is impeding your ability to do other things. Fingerings come to mind first, but there are others. Which leads me to the last point…

7. You need a piano teacher, or a different one. There are plenty of people who are self-taught, but if you keep hitting roadblocks in your development, a good teacher can help you in many ways. He or she can provide insight, technique, and performance suggestions, as well as accountability. Or, it is possible you might need a new teacher if you feel like you aren’t learning anything from your current instructor anymore or that your styles clash too much.

If you looked through this list and feel like you’ve tried all of the solutions, it might be that you have hit a real ceiling — so I’ll give you one last free tip: take a break and come back later. Now stop making excuses and make music instead!

Kevin FKevin F. teaches piano, music theory, songwriting, and various academic subjects in Memphis, TN. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Harding University and his Master in Music from Azusa Pacific University. Learn more about Kevin here!



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5 Contemporary Pianists You Should Be Listening To

Mitsuko Uchida – http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mitsuko-uchida-mn0002172392/biography, photo by Richard Avedon

Beethoven and Mozart aren’t the only famous pianists you should be listening to! Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares her recommendations for contemporary piano players to check out… 


The world’s getting smaller. Everything is global now. One great benefit is that the world gets to share music in ways that have never been seen before. Contemporary pianists from all over the world are keeping beautiful music alive and interpreting it in new and exciting ways. Listening to the piano is not only fun, but it’s a great way to feed yourself as an artist. Here’s a list of five contemporary and famous pianists that you should be listening to.

Lang Lang

Born in China, Lang Lang began playing the piano at the age of two, studying with a college professor at three, and won a regional piano competition at five. Now he performs and teaches globally, and is one of the most famous pianists in the music world. His intuition and sensitivity is clearly evident in his playing. Here’s Lang Lang’s “Ave Maria”.

Mitsuko Uchida

Born near Tokyo and raised in Europe, Mitsuko Uchida has built an amazing career of performance, scholarship, and conducting. She has appeared with the world’s best orchestras and honored with numerous awards. Below is her interpretation of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 4 in G major. Notice her incredible attention to detail, especially dynamics and texture.

Pavel Zarukin

Now an elementary music teacher, Dr. Pavel Zarukin studied piano at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in St. Petersburg, Russia. His energy and flawless technique have made him into a well-respected figure in the world of piano.

Diana Krall

Said to be the best-selling jazz artist alive, Diana Krall is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and pianist. Take note of her careful and thoughtful touch on the keys in this unexpected rendition of the Mamas and the Papas classic “California Dreamin’”.

Martha Argerich

Considered one of the greatest pianists of the latter part of the 20th century, Martha Argerich was born in Buenos Aires to Spanish and Russian-Jewish parents. She won two big piano competitions the year that she turned 16. Below is her moving interpretation of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major.

All of these artists may play the piano, but each of them brings his or her own special specific talents to the keys. A couple are sensitive and intuitive, others are clean and technical. Perhaps the greatest benefit of listening to many famous pianists is learning that we’re all different when we play. That’s why they call it art.

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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