8478193904_0a683f6444_k

Intro to Writing Types: 5 Types to Know

Writing Tips And Styles

Ready to tackle your next big writing assignment in school? Learn about some of the different writing types in this guest post by San Diego and online tutor Natalie S. to prep yourself…

Throughout your high school and college experience, you will be asked to write many different types of essays. Take a look at our handy guide below to learn the purpose and function of the most common types of writing and see how to best craft them to support your arguments.

Argumentative

The writing type you’ll be asked to use the most in high school is the argumentative essay. In an argumentative essay, the writer makes an initial claim (aka their thesis), and uses the body of the paper to list evidence that supports that claim. Various tactics that can be used to bolster your arguments include addressing counterpoints and refuting them, or using rhetorical devices. An argumentative essay can also be used to analyze literature in English classes.

Compare and Contrast

In a compare and contrast essay, you essentially pick two (or more) books, events, or objects and compare them by examining their similarities and differences. There are two main ways to structure a paper like this. For example, if you’re comparing William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Light in August, you can structure your body paragraphs by discussing the first book, then the second book, and then make a direct comparison between the two. This structure is called the Block Method. If you’re up for a challenge, a more difficult way to structure your paper (but also a more interesting way) is for each body paragraph or section to represent a point of comparison. So for the above example, your body paragraphs might discuss race relations, time, and Southern culture as used in both books.

Cause and Effect/Change Over Time

This is one of the writing types that you’ll most likely come across in history class. The cause and effect essay is generally used to analyze historical occurrences. Generally, these essays should be written in chronological order. The intro paragraph needs to include a thesis that states both the cause and the effect that you will be discussing. Your body paragraphs should include (in chronological order) the proof and events that support your thesis. For example, if your thesis is that Europeans caused the decimation of the Native American population, your body paragraphs might include information about the initial population of people within the Americas, European diseases, and eventual wars involving the Native Americans and the Europeans.

Process

A process paper is designed to explain how something is done. For example, you might write a process paper for an older relative on how to work the remote control, or how to send an email. This writing type is a bit different, as it’s generally written from the second person point of view (using the “you” tense). However, keep in mind that your writing will be stronger if you avoid using the word “you”  and instead write using command phrases. For example, say “First, turn the TV on” instead of “First, you should turn the TV on.”

Narrative

Narrative essays are most similar to short stories, or something that you might write in a creative writing class. These essays should tell a story, and they are generally written in the first-person point of view. What differentiates a narrative essay from a short story, however, is that a narrative essay needs to have a strong, blatant conclusion as to the point or thesis behind the paper. A short story, on the other hand, can have an ambiguous or oblique thesis driving it.

Now that you have an understanding of the purpose and function of these different writing types, you can better craft and organize your essays and get that A+ grade! For further information, tips, and outlines to help you get started, check out one of my favorite online writing resources. 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!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by HoodChianne

10716037823_8e770455e7_k

Don’t Go Back to School Without Doing These 10 Things

Summer is coming to an end – are you ready for a new academic year? If not, don’t fret. Get organized for back to school with these tips from online tutor Natalie S

Back-to-school prep is upon us! The summer is drawing to a close, and it will soon be time to get ready to begin a new school year. We know it can be overwhelming when you start to think about the long list of things to do in order to prepare for school, so here are some steps to help you get organized for back to school and start the year off on a successful note!

1) Write down your goals

write down goals

A new year is beginning and that means opportunities for a whole new set of experiences. Take a few minutes to write down five goals that you hope to accomplish this year, and think about how you can make this year better than the last one. Do you want to improve your knowledge of a specific subject, to prepare yourself for AP classes later on? Or maybe take on a new hobby, like photography or learning how to play an instrument? Get excited about what’s in store!

2) Get one step ahead of everyone else

studying

If you know who your teachers are and you can easily contact them, consider sending an email asking for the class syllabus. Most teachers generally stick to the same schedule each year, so they can give you an idea of what books you might be reading or what concepts you might be working on in the first few weeks of school. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can begin to read ahead or study some of those concepts on your own. This will help lighten your workload later in the semester when you have less time!

3) Review last year’s math concepts

math

This is especially important if you’re advancing into a higher consecutive math class, like Algebra I to Algebra II, or Pre-Calculus to Calculus. Spend 20 minutes each day reviewing the concepts that you learned last year, and attempt to get ahead by reading over the first chapter or two for the new, more advanced course.

4) Form a study group

study group

Are you and a few of your friends taking the same class? Make a commitment to study together! Even if you all have different teachers, the core material will be the same. Set up a plan before school starts, so everyone builds it into their schedule from the beginning of the year.

5) Write

write

Most students take an entire summer off from stringing eloquent arguments together, and because of this, their early semester essays suffer. Take 20 minutes each day and practice writing short introductory paragraphs. You may also want to get ahead by working with a writing tutor, or at least lining one up for when you need help with your first writing assignment.

6) Review last year’s foreign language notes

spanish words

If you’re taking Spanish, French, or any other foreign language, review the vocabulary and grammar rules before school begins. Most foreign language classes hit the ground running with very little review, so make sure you take the time to look through your old notes and books.

7) Identify the course you are least excited to take this year

studying

Maybe you really hate learning new math concepts, or perhaps biology just doesn’t interest you at all. Regardless of the reason, figure out which subject might be the most challenging for you and start preparing for that class now. Do some online research, find a tutor through TakeLessons, and really dedicate some time to learning more about this subject. Even though it may not be fun, this will help a ton!

8) Purchase a daily planner

day planner

This is perhaps the most important item to buy before the school year starts. It’s been proven time and time again that people are more effective when they write down their goals, plan out their days, and give themselves deadlines for projects and assignments. This is a great habit to get into at a young age, and it is a huge part of what makes people successful. Be disciplined, make yourself stick to a consistent schedule, and write down the top five things you want to accomplish each day. You will stay motivated and be more productive. Most importantly, you’ll be creating healthy habits that will facilitate success in your future endeavors.

9) Organize your study time before school starts

study plan

Create a study chart depicting when you’ll study for each subject, and hold yourself accountable to making the time to study for those classes. Make sure you plan for some flexibility in case one subject needs more attention than another.

10) Seek out a tutor now

tutor

It’s important to enter the new school year feeling confident in your abilities, so if you foresee any issues, don’t wait to find a tutor! Your workload is only going to become tougher and more intense as the year goes on. Be proactive and get the help you need, before you’re really struggling.

Follow these steps to get organized for back to school and you’ll be ready to start off the new year with confidence and a plan for success. Each year brings the possibility to learn, grow, and be more inspired than you were the year before. Enjoy the ride and embrace all of these newfound opportunities that will soon arise for you!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. 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!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photos by Rick Payette, Mario Mancuso, Francisco Martins, Concordia University, Nathan Congleton, Alexa Clark, Christian Jensen, Sara Grajeda, Jimmie, Utah State Librarycomedy_nose

8409238733_a0fb163c60_k

The 6 Toughest English Writing Rules – and How to Remember Them

English Writing Rules and Tips

Have a big writing assignment coming up, but worried about your grasp on grammar? Don’t fret! Here, online tutor Natalie S. shares her tricks for remembering some of the toughest English writing rules…

Grammar isn’t for everyone. In fact, most people tend to forget the majority of their grammar and punctuation lessons by the time they graduate from high school. Even though grammar tends to be a boring subject to learn about, it’s still important to understand and utilize grammar and punctuation rules correctly. These seemingly small details make a big difference in the quality of your writing.

Below are a few tips to help you easily navigate some of the trickiest grammar, punctuation, and overall English writing rules!

Semi-colons

This is one of the most abused and misused punctuation marks in the English language. Semi-colons are used to connect two complete sentences (often called independent clauses) into one sentence. For example, “I went to the beach; it was too hot.” This single sentence shares one common idea (the beach) and contains one complete sentence on either side of the semi-colon. Pro tip: Try to split your sentence into two complete thoughts. If you cannot do it, a semi-colon doesn’t belong in your sentence.

Fewer Vs. Less

“Fewer” means a quantifiable number. For example, “I had three fewer items than Tom.” “Less” is used in a non-quantifiable situation, such as “I was less sad after eating chocolate.” Pro tip: If you can attach a number to the sentence and it still makes sense, you should be using the word “fewer.”

Who Vs. Whom

“Who” is a subjective pronoun, whereas “whom” is an objective pronoun.  Pro tip: If the word, “he” can be substituted into the sentence, use “who.” If the word “him” can be substituted into the sentence, use “whom.” For example, “Who went to the store? He went to the store.” “She bought an apple for whom? She bought an apple for him.”

Its Vs. It’s

This is one of the easiest English writing rules to remember, but it’s still one of the most common mistakes that people make. “Its” is possessive. For example, “The cat licked its paw.” “It’s” stands for “it is” and it’s an abbreviation.  Pro tip: To remember which one to use, try replacing the phrase with “it is.” Does the sentence still make sense? If yes, then you use “it’s.” If no, then use the possessive “its.”

Writing in Active Voice

Avoid sentences like, “Bob was chased by the crowd.” Instead, write, “The crowd chased Bob.” The first example illustrates passive voice. The second sentence is an example of active voice.  Using active voice makes your writing more compelling to read. Pro tip: If you can insert the phrase “by zombies” at the end of your sentence and it makes sense, you are using passive voice! For example, “Bob was chased by zombies.”

Ambiguous Pronouns

Pronouns can be used in place of nouns to make your writing flow better. For example, start with these three sentences: “Nancy went to the store. Nancy bought ice cream. Nancy bought oranges.” To make it flow, we use pronouns in place of Nancy: “Nancy went to the store and she bought ice cream and oranges.”  When using pronouns, be careful to avoid the ambiguous pronoun. For example, “Sarah went to Jenny’s house for a party. She had cake.” The pronoun “she” in the second sentence is ambiguous. Pro tip: Ask yourself questions like, “Who had cake? Was it Sarah or Jenny?” to figure out how to correct the sentence. Technically, Jenny is the “she” in this sentence, but considering that the subject of the sentence is Sarah, the writer is actually intending to use “she” in place of “Sarah.” It should say something like, “Sarah went to Jenny’s house for a party, and she enjoyed eating the birthday cake.”

Writing assignments can be difficult; they require a lot of focused time and effort. If you remember and implement these simple tips and tricks, you will create writing that is easier to comprehend and more compelling to read.

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. 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!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Hometown Beauty

5861655549_bfc49d1d3a_b

8 Singing Tips for Reaching Your Lower Register

5861655549_bfc49d1d3a_b

Struggling to reach your lower register when you practice your vocal exercises or sing your favorite songs? Check out these helpful singing tips from Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L...

 

You know, it seems that we singers talk all the time about how tough our higher register is (and it can be). But as a voice teacher and a singer myself, I have to admit that the lower register gives many of us just as much reason for frustration. Often, in performance or in recordings, even of acclaimed, famous singers, the lower notes sound weak and faint. Sometimes, they’re barely audible. But when they’re sung with both confidence and care, they can be truly beautiful.

Most importantly, whenever singers encounter any challenge in their voice studies, it’s especially important to remember not to force sound in any register. This forcing often leads to more frustration, then tension, tightness, and pain, and sometimes even permanent injury. You might have heard this a lot in reference to your higher register, but not necessarily to your lower, and yet it’s just as important. It would be like forcing yourself to do a gymnastic split before you were really ready to do it. You could hurt yourself.

So, instead, follow these singing tips for reaching your lower register:

1. Be gentle.
I realize that this is a repetition of what you just read, but it can’t be reiterated enough. When low notes aren’t treated gently, in addition to the dangers listed above, you could sound like you’re bellowing or yelling.

2. But don’t be too gentle.
The opposite of forcing is sometimes a whispering sound or an ill-supported phonation. This can be just as damaging to the vocal folds as forcing, over time. Use an assertive and warm tone.

3. Activate your core.
Use lip trills, or lip bubbles, to get your breath going and your muscles warmed up. There are 37 different muscles involved in your breathing. Get them all going!

4. Fill up your “tire.”
When you breathe, it’s not only your tummy and the front of your torso that fills up, but also your back! Imagine yourself filling up with air all the way around, just like a bicycle tire, and take five deep breaths.

5. Slowly, “walk down the stairs.”
Using the same lip trills and a feeling of great support in your “tire,” trill five-note patterns descending (going down) from your middle register. You don’t have to have a piano or descend exactly by half steps. Just be gradual.

6. Sing the same patterns on “yee.”
With a relaxed, slack jaw, go back to the middle register and sing descending notes slowly, continuing to pay attention to your sensations and acknowledging what they’re telling you. If you sing down to a spot that doesn’t feel good, then go back up.

7. Sing the same pattern yet again on “yoo.”
The vowel sound “oo” is the least warm of all of them. So as you sing it, focus on a warm, rich, and round sound.

8. Sing a low passage.
If you have a song that has an especially low passage, then try it on lip trills first, then on the words. The lip trills should ensure that you have proper support.

These singing tips for reaching your lower register should be just what you need to tackle those deep, rich sounds. Remember, your voice is completely unique. You will sound different from everyone else, including your favorite singers. That’s part of what makes you special and exactly why listening to yourself without judgement is key. As always, be yourself, and sing with your own voice.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint 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!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by ramesh Iyanswamy

4748894205_30a4a7ff2e_b

Essential Scales for Jazz and Blues Piano Players

4748894205_30a4a7ff2e_b

Curious about playing jazz or blues on the piano? Learn about some of the essential scales to learn in this guest post by Augustine, FL piano teacher Heather L...

 

Jazz music has been called the only truly American art form, born and raised on this very soil. A combination of the historical music forms of both African and Caribbean slaves and European immigrants, it may be the only way in which the “melting pot” objective was ever successful. To listen to jazz is to listen to America. For pianists, it can be a challenging and illusive genre. Many classically trained piano players never even attempt to learn it, while some would love to try, but just don’t know how. There are essential scales that jazz and blues players should know.

While jazz and blues (considered a sub-genre of jazz) may sometimes sound complex, it’s built very simply from the bottom up, so to speak. Major and minor scales and chords are most certainly used, but some things must be different in order for it not to sound like anything else. Here’s a list of essential scales for jazz and blues piano players. When you read “played over ______ chords,” it simply means to play the scales indicated in either hand while playing a chord in the other. Try different combinations, like playing a chord in the right hand, while playing a scale in the left.

The following scales are best played over major chords.

G blues scale
G Bb C Db D F G

C blues scale
C Eb F Gb G Bb C

Lydian mode scale
C D E F# G A B C

Mixolydian mode scale
C D E F G A Bb C

The following scales are best played over minor chords.

Aeolian mode scale
C D Eb F G Ab Bb A

Dorian mode scale
C D Eb F G A Bb C

The following scales are just fun!

Dominant Bebop Scale
C E G B C B Bb A G (then descend) F E D C

Major Bebop Scale
C E G B C B A Ab G (then descend) F E D C

Lydian Dominant Scale
C E G Bb C (then descend) Bb A G F# E D C

Get creative. The real idea here is not just to play the scales ascending and descending, but to improvise using the notes of the scales. The more that you practice these essential scales for jazz and blues piano players, the more comfortable that you’ll feel playing them and the more sounds that you’ll create. I’ve met plenty of people who’ve told me that they “can’t” improvise or play jazz, and while I know that some people have natural gifts, I also know that the best work hard. Oh, and have fun, too!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint 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!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by ataelw

4665461114_0619f13b86_b

Your Best Piano Practice Routine: 4 Things to Focus On

4665461114_0619f13b86_bYou know practicing is important – but how should you design your ideal piano practice routine? Check out these helpful tips from Brooklyn, NY piano teacher Liz T...

 

In order to be prepared for your weekly piano lessons, you must spend your time wisely practicing on your own at home! In this article, I’ll review some tips to help you figure out what you should be spending your time practicing.

But first, how much practice? If you are taking a weekly 30-minute to an hour piano lesson, and are serious about sharpening your piano playing and theory, then I suggest sitting down at the piano 3-4 times a week, for an hour at a time. You’ve heard the phrase before, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice!” It’s true – the only way you can improve your sight reading, ear training, and performance is by practicing. Now here’s what to practice:

1. Scales and Finger Patterns

Pull out your favorite method book, and practice your scales. Practice them slowly, really fast, piano vs forte, and so on, making sure to get all of the fingering down correctly. Practice until you can play without looking at the sheet music, and you know which scales have which sharps and flats. Practicing scales and tricky finger patterns will help you pick up your finger dexterity and learn to read new pieces faster. (Do these exercises for about 10-15 minutes.)

2. Chords

Next, work out different chord progressions, which is great if you want to play jazz or accompany singers! Start out with your simple chords, and each time you practice, learn a new chord (major, minor, 7ths, 9ths, Sus4), different voice leadings, and inversions. While your scales will most likely be in the classical realm (major or minor), you can also try switching it up a bit and enhancing your knowledge with learning how to play some jazz chord progressions! Feel free to start improvising and practicing your soloing. You may have to do it live someday, and now is the time to get comfortable “soloing” on the piano. (Do this for about 10-15 minutes.)

3. Composition Analysis and Performance

Whether the piece you’re currently working on is Bach, Gershwin, or Menken, first go through the piece and analyze it slowly. Assuming you have previous piano knowledge, ask yourself: What key is the song in? What is the time signature? Is there a chorus, or reoccurring melodic motif? Are there suggested fingerings I should use? Then start to go over just the rhythms of the song, clapping them out. If it’s a tricky rhythm, go ahead and write it into your sheet music.

Then start playing – go through the melody from start to finish with just your right hand, then do the same with the left. It is important that you really get comfortable playing the right hand and left hand separately before putting the two hands together. (Work on this for about 20-30 minutes.)

4. Practice the Tricky Parts

Now that you have practiced both hands separately and then together, go over some of those parts that may have caught you up. Is there a really fast part of the song? Are there some tricky chords? Are the trills or accidentals messing you up? Practice the more challenging parts, and keep doing them constantly, until you get it right! Repetition is key for your fingers, ears, and brain. The more you do it, the more natural it will become. Don’t forget it’s okay to take a five-minute break at this point, too; just come back and play the whole piece through again after your break. (10 minutes)

This piano practice routine is a clear and concise way for you to now start practicing more efficiently. Now go forth, practice, and make some music!

LizTLiz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as 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!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by hyekab25

reading piano notes

Introduction to Reading Piano Notes | 5 Easy Steps

reading piano notes

New to the piano? Reading piano notes is your first step to tackling that piece of music – check out these steps from Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T. to get started…

To be able to play the piano proficiently, you must start right away at learning to read sheet music! Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be reading piano notes in no time!

1. We’ll take the treble clef first. This is the staff that shows which notes you are to play with the right hand. If you are learning for the first time, you must familiarize yourself with the letter names of the lines and spaces. On your staff paper, label the white spaces with FACE starting with the first space at bottom of page and going up, then the lines EGBDF, starting at the bottom line going to the top line. There are little tricks to help you remember the names of the lines and spaces – for example, just remember the phrase “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.” Work on memorizing this a bit each day.

Treble clef

2. Now take a piece of music you want to learn, and underneath the music notes of the right hand in the treble clef, go ahead and write the letter names. (Use a pencil, that way you can erase it later!) This isn’t a great habit to get into in the long run, but it’s perfectly fine for just starting out. Or if there is one note you are having a hard time remembering specifically, feel free to just write that one note letter name. Keep in mind we are only focusing on the white notes at first. Don’t worry about the black keys, your sharps and flats, just yet.

3. After you have memorized all of the letter names on the lines and spaces for your right hand (the treble clef), let’s move onto reading piano notes on the bass clef, where the notes on the lines and spaces will be played with your left hand. Practice drawing the bass clef, which will start on the F line. Then with the spaces at the bottom of the page, name your spaces ACEGB (remember “All Cows Eat Grass,” and don’t forget to add your B at the top!). Then name your lines starting at the bottom of page GBDFA (“Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always”). Memorize these notations as well. Now transfer these letter names of the lines and spaces to your piano song from step #2, and name all the notes with your left hand in the bass clef.

Bass Clef

4. There is also another method with numbers that may be easier for you to read. Find a diagram of your hands and, looking at the right hand and starting with your thumb, label each finger with 1, then 2, 3, 4 and your pinky should be 5. Do the same with your left hand. There are many easy piano songs to begin with, such as “Three Blind Mice”, “Hot Cross Buns”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, and “Jingle Bells” that only use notes C-G or numbers 1-5. Starting on middle C of the piano, put both thumbs on the note, and align both your hands so that your right pinky ends on 5 (G) and your left pinky should land on 5 (F). You can write in the numbers next to letter names, if that helps you out more. Remember to begin with only the white notes.

hands

5. Now, as you read through your song, play and sing the letter or numbers while playing, which will help you memorize the names of numbers of the notes. Once you have practiced this for a while, try erasing the letter names and testing yourself to see if you still remember the playing pattern and tune of song. I bet you will do better than you think!

With these steps, reading piano notes and music will start to become natural to you, and it can even help you to learn other instruments as well as sing! For each piece you learn, write in the letter names or fingers, and then erase them when you get comfortable. Pretty soon you won’t even need to write them in!

If you ever need further instruction on learning to read piano notes, or if you would like to take some beginning piano lessons, schedule a lesson with me today! The earlier you start, the better, but I welcome all students, of all ages and levels!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. 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!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by Basheer Tome

2659201465_60bc71fcdc_b

8 Essential Piano Chords Every Pianist Needs to Know

Once you’ve memorized the notes on the piano, it’s time to put them together to create piano chords! Here, Augustine, FL piano teacher Heather L. reviews the eight chords to master first… 

 

Except for most minimalist or avant-garde of styles, every musical genre is based on chords. From Mozart’s piano concertos to the Beatles’ hits, chords are foundational. Memorizing them is essential to songwriting, reading new music, and understanding the theory beyond the basics of piano. The fact is that there are dozens of piano chords to learn, but here’s a list of what I consider to be the most important.

1.  C major

This consists of C, E, and G, most easily played with fingers 1, 3, and 5.

Here’s a video of how to play it:

2.  C major 7/9b

For more advanced students, try  a jazzy C major 7 flat 9.

Here’s a video of how to play it:

3.  G major

This consists of G, B, and D, also played with fingers 1, 3, and 5.

Here’s a video of how to play it:

4.  G major, first inversion

A great variation is to play an inversion of G major, like the first inversion. To play this, your right hand finger 1 plays B, finger 3 or 2 plays D, and finger 5 plays G. Your left hand finger 5 plays B, finger 3 plays D, and finger 1 plays G.

Here’s a video of how to play it:

5.  A minor

This consists of playing A, C, and E with fingers 1, 3, and 5 in both the right and left hands.

Here’s a video of how to play it:

6.  A minor 7

Play the A minor chord, but add G or G#, depending on the type of minor that it is.

Here’s a video of how to play it:

7.  F major

This consists of F, A, and C, played with fingers 1, 3, and 5 in both the right and the left hands.

Here’s a video of how to play it:

8.  F major, second inversion

For those of you who love a variation, try the second inversion of F major. This means playing, with your right hand, C with finger 1, F with finger 3, and A with finger 5. Your left hand would play C with finger 5, finger 2 or 3 plays F, and your thumb plays A.

Here’s a video of how to play it:

If you hadn’t noticed already, my list of essential piano chords comprised of the one (I), four (IV), five (V), and six (vi) chords of C major.  (Beside each number in you’ll see Roman numerals. These are often used in formal theory instead of Arabic number (1, 2, 3…).) Those different chords in different combinations together can make up what are called progressions. The progressions that those particular chords of any major or minor key make are found in many pop, country, and rock songs. Try playing these piano chords in any key in different orders to find the basis for a new song of your own. On the other hand, you might just hear the progression of one of your favorite tunes. Either way, you might just have a hit song on your hands.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint 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!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by pedrobonatto

12763292385_97d2b2ddd1_b

Kids’ Piano Lessons: How Often Should My Child Practice?

12763292385_97d2b2ddd1_b

Wondering how to best provide support and encouragement for your kids’ piano lessons, particularly when it comes to practicing? Here’s some great advice from Augustine, FL piano teacher Heather L...

 

When it comes to kids’ piano lessons, how often should a student be practicing? This is a common question that I’ve often received over the years. Parents find the best instructors for their children, invest time and resources in their music education, but aren’t sure quite what to do when the kids are at home, ready to practice. Frankly, this issue might turn into a tense conversation sometimes. Teachers will remind parents of their share of the responsibility for encouraging their child’s studies; parents have high expectations of how influential the teachers will be on how diligently the students study at home. Teachers might remind parents that they can’t very well go home with the student, but on the other hand, they’re failing to help educate the parents on how exactly to be a part of the educational journey.

As a parent of a young pianist, you could be the very element in their music education that projects them to success – self-confidence, the ability to think critically, and a lifelong love of learning. If you were to study the great pianists, or even simply the best-educated, hardest-working people in the world, then you would probably find a parent who was consistently inspiring.

All of this brings us to the question, “How often should my child practice?” It is part of my teaching philosophy that every piano lesson, and more importantly, every student, is different. One job of the teacher is to identify, over time, a student’s particular learning style and general attitudes about work, and then adjust the specific practice schedule accordingly.

All students should practice six days a week. How long each daily session is, depends on the child’s age. Typically speaking, young children, ages 3 and 4, should be practicing about 10 minutes. Five- and six-year-olds should extend it to 15 minutes, seven- and eight-year-olds, 20 minutes, nine- and ten-year-olds, 25 minutes. Children ages 11 through 14 should devote a full half of an hour to their piano studies.

The time suggestions listed above are merely that. They are also subject to change due to an upcoming audition or performance. In the case in which your child has, for instance, a recital coming up, the daily practice session should be extended by 10 minutes. Practice time suggestions should also change according to long-term goals. If you have a 15-year-old teenager who wishes to audition for the Juilliard School, then his practice habits will be different from the 10-year-old soccer player who plays piano for fun and just wants a lifelong hobby.

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that your young pianist’s hands should be on the keys six days every week. If a child is really tired of his regular piano curriculum, then it’s still important to play something, even if it’s just for fun. Encourage your child to pull out an old piece that they’ve always loved to play. If your child dreads the length of each practice session, “I’m TIRED of practicing!”, then let him take a short break and come back to piano later. It’s important not to force a child into a frustrated and resentful state, or else they might always hate playing the piano. Inspire a healthy relationship with the his keyboard studies, and you’ll see a great pianist blossom.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint 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!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by roseannadana

Baby Taylor

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Buying The Best Beginner Acoustic Guitar

Baby Taylor

Looking for the best beginner acoustic guitar to purchase? Read on for some helpful advice from Perth Amboy, NJ guitar teacher Jeff S...

Selecting the right guitar teacher for you or your children is certainly a crucial decision and the choice you make can often dictate how well the lessons will go.

Yet an often overlooked (and quite frankly, often-botched) step that needs to be carefully addressed before lessons begin is selecting the right size and type of beginner acoustic guitar for your child’s age, body and hand size, and musical inclinations.

I would estimate that 60% of my students (or their parents) buy the wrong size or type guitar. And this invariably puts me in the awkward and unenviable position of eventually being the bearer of bad news. And while I never push my students or their parents toward purchasing another guitar, I’m often asked for my input on this subject. So in an effort to be helpful and to point them in the right directions, I have compiled a list of some guitar makes and models that are size-friendly, are reasonably easy to play, and are cost-efficient for most budgets. I have recommendations for acoustic guitars under $500.00 as well as acoustic guitars between $500.00 and $1,000.00, which I will share with you in part two of this article, but first let me offer details on what I consider “the wrong guitar.”

When I speak to a new student’s parent and they tell me they bought a “guitar package deal” at a warehouse or club wholesale store, I have to hold back a wince. Not necessarily because of a lack of quality of merchandise sold there, but because typically there’s a very large-sized guitar featured in these bundles or packages (which can include a small amp, tuner, cable, picks, etc.). But the sad reality is that most children and even some teens and adults will be challenged to comfortably wrap their arms around them and be able to reach the sound hole of the instrument (where they need to place their right hand to strum the strings).

The name of this type of guitar is dreadnaught (and in my mind, the prefix “dread” is quite apropos). And dreadnaughts, along with jumbo-sized guitars, are the largest, widest-bodied acoustic guitars on the market. When a child attempts to hold them (especially a small child), it feels and looks about as natural as if they were holding a St. Bernard dog on their lap. So I would generally steer you away from dreadnaughts and jumbo-sized guitars, no matter how sweet a deal you find at the club and warehouse stores, In fact, even if Uncle Jimmy offers to loan or give one to you for your kid, I’d say thanks, but no. The only possible exceptions to my admonitions against larger-bodied guitars would be for taller or larger teens and adults. Then the dreadnaughts and jumbos are worth looking into for their big sounds and great values.

I would also steer clear of nylon string (aka classical) guitars unless your child or you are interested in learning classical guitar music, flamenco, or the like. The reason I say this is because the necks on classicals are significantly wider than steel string acoustics, and they’re almost always highly lacquered (making them prone to stickiness and therefore quite difficult to maneuver on). The nylon strings can also be more difficult to grip than steel strings for many students.

So what size and type of guitars would I recommend? How do you find the best beginner acoustic guitar? My suggestions would be: folk size, 3/4 size, orchestra size, mini-jumbo size, and travel size.

All of these body shapes and sizes are nowhere near as wide as dreadnaughts and jumbos, so students (of just about every size) feel much more comfortable holding them. The trick is finding them, because strangely enough these ginormous-sized dreadnaughts tend to be the most common in music stores and are often less expensive than their smaller-bodied counterparts. Strange, huh?

Stay tuned for my list of recommendations for best beginner guitars, play the instruments in the store and compare them carefully, consult a knowledgeable salesperson if you can find one at the store, and buy cautiously (and hopefully at a store or online seller with a lenient return policy). But my closing mantra would be: “Less is more.”

Happy selecting and strumming!

JeffS

Jeff 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! 

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign UpPhoto by murray