Inspiration Corner: 5 Famous Violin Players You've Got to Know

5 Famous Violin Players You’ve Got to Know

Inspiration Corner: 5 Famous Violin Players You've Got to Know

Are you just starting to take violin lessons? An integral part of learning how to play the violin is listening to others. Below, violin teacher Julie P. lists the top five violinists every beginner student should know and listen to…

There are literally hundreds of famous violin players from all over the world. In addition to the number of well-known classical violinists, such as Fritz Kreisler and Pablo de Sarasate, there are also many great bluegrass and jazz violinists. Choosing just a few violinists to listen to can be a daunting task as there are so many genres to choose from. I suggest starting out with the five famous violin players below:

1. Itzhak Perlman (1945 – present )

One of the most famous violin players of all time, Israeli-American Itzhak Perlman has had an incredible recording and performing career. Since the 1960s he has toured extensively, playing with all of the greatest orchestras and conductors around the world. He’s also played at the inauguration of President Obama in 2009, and has appeared on many popular television shows including, Sesame Street, The Tonight Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show.

Perlman is featured on over 150 records, most of which are of the classical idiom. However, he’s also featured on some jazz, folk, and Klezmer albums, as well as on movie soundtracks such as Schindler’s List and Memoirs of a Geisha. Below are some videos of Perlman’s most notable performances.

Here, Perlman beautifully plays the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Minor.

More to check out:

  • Perlman plays “Misty” with jazz great Oscar Peterson from the album “Side By Side.”
  • Perlman plays Klezmer music with four fantastic groups.

2. Mark O’Connor (1961- present )

Mark O’Connor is known for being a genre-crossing violinist. He is respected greatly for both his classical and bluegrass playing, as well as for his jazz and country playing. He has won two Grammys, seven CMA awards, and seven fiddling championships. What’s more, he’s also bagged championships in guitar and mandolin. His solo recordings are wildly popular, with over two million copies sold.

If that wasn’t enough, O’Connor is also a wonderful composer. His popular “Fiddle Concerto” combines the classical concerto form with the American fiddle style. Listen to some of Mark O’Connor’s work below:

Here, O’Connor and the American Music Shop Band band push the tempo past what you think is possible.

More to check out:

 3. Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987)

Jascha Heifetz is considered to be one of the greatest, most famous violin players of all time. Before his death, he was praised for his exacting technique, as well as for his beautiful tone and style, all of which has had a great influence on the modern violin style.

His recording career was extensive and the hundreds of recordings he made cover the bulk of the standard classical violin repertoire. If you want to hear exquisitely played music with great depth of musicality, listen to Jascha Heifetz. Enjoy the sounds of Jascha Heifetz in the videos below:

Here, Heifetz’s performance of Paganinni’s Caprice No. 24 is technically inspiring.

More to check out:

 4. Stephane Grappelli (1908-1997)

A giant in the jazz violin world, Stephane Grappelli is a violinist everyone should know. The French native founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, one of the first and most influential continental jazz groups, with guitarist Django Reinhardt.

Over his 60 plus year recording career, Grappelli recorded with hundreds of the greatest jazz, classical, and folk artists. His talents earned him the honor of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as a spot in the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. Check out his music below:

Here, Grappelli is playing Blue Moon.

More to check out:

 5. Hilary Hahn (1979 – present)

Classical soloist and chamber musician, Hilary Hahn made her orchestral debut at the age of 12. She began her recording career when she was 16 and since then has recorded 16 albums, three of which have earned her Grammy awards. She is a much sought-after soloist, performing with groups such as the New York Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Hahn is also a proponent of new music, and for her album entitled “In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores” she commissioned 26 composers to write short works for her. Listen to her talents below:

Here, Hahn plays Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E minor.

More to check out:

These are just five of the many famous violin players you’ve got to know. If any of these violinists are particularly interesting to you, check out more of their recordings, or find other violinists who play in a similar style. If you’d like to learn to play violin like one of these great players, find a great violin teacher who can help get you there!


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



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How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese? A Timeline for Beginners

How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese

Want to know how long it takes to learn Japanese? Here, Japanese teacher Taro T. breaks down the time it takes to gain fluency in Japanese…

How long does it take to learn Japanese? This answer can vary based on your objective, your learning style, and your study method. Learning a new language is a journey. I’m from Japan, and I learned English and Spanish when I came to the United States. I live in Washington, DC and people are often surprised that I can speak Spanish. People always ask me how long it took for me to learn the language.

 The answer to this question depends on which level of fluency they’re referring to. For example, it took me about six months to be able to have a basic conversation in Spanish, but it took me over eight years to be able to conduct business in the language.

So, how long does it take to learn Japanese? When it comes to learning Japanese, or any new language, you need patience, persistence, and a good work ethic. The good news is, if you put in the time and the effort, you can learn to speak Japanese.

Basic Comprehension: 6 Months

If you know fewer than 200 words, you’re in the pre-beginner stage. You probably know basic Japanese words like kon’nichiwa (hello), arigatō (thank you), and sayōnara (goodbye).

At this level, you may not believe you’re very far along, but you know more than you think! After picking up the first 200 words in a new language, you’re able to recognize them in conversations between native speakers, and  you start to comprehend these words. For example, if you know the Japanese word Kayoubi (Tuesday), you’ll  able to pick recognize it in conversations.

At the pre-beginner level, start looking up any words you hear and don’t understand. Look words up on Google Translate, and review them with your Japanese teacher.

 At this level, with one-on-one lessons and consistent practice, you will pick things up quickly. Within six months, you will know enough Japanese to be able to find your way around in Japan. You will be able to make hotel reservations, ask for and understand directions, and have basic conversations with Japanese speakers.

Beginner to Intermediate (9 – 12 months)

With a solid work ethic, you can advance to the intermediate level in nine months to one year.

The intermediate level is more fun because you start to understand news and other TV programs in Japanese. At this point, you can proudly say you can speak (basic) Japanese! When I first started to understand telenovelas in Spanish, I felt a sense of achievement, and it was really fun to be able to follow the stories.

Advanced Level and Beyond (2 – 3 years)

At the intermediate level, you can understand most of what your teacher says and you can follow along with TV programs. When it comes to using the language with other Japanese speakers, however, you still have some limitations.

This can be frustrating, but it’s important not to get discouraged. In order to get to the advanced level, you will need to be able to understand different speech patterns and sounds, which can take a long time. To really learn and understand all of the nuances of the language, you will need time, a great Japanese teacher, and consistent practice with other Japanese speakers.

Reaping the Benefits

Learning a new language can be very rewarding, but it definitely requires patience and perseverance.

When I first started studying Spanish, I didn’t know if it was ever going to be useful, or if it would add value to my life. Recently, however, I have been using the language to communicate with companies in Latin America. It may have taken me a long time to learn Spanish, but I’m glad that I never quit. I can say the same thing for you when it comes to learning Japanese; one day your Japanese skills will add value to your life, and you’ll be happy that you stuck with it!

Get started today, find a Japanese tutor near you! 
Taro TTaro T. teaches Japanese and ESL in Washington, DC. He is a language acquisition specialist and mentors students from the United States, Thailand, Italy, Korea, Turkey, and El Salvador. Born and raised in Japan, Taro came to the United States when he was 16 to learn English and American culture. He gained fluency in both English and Spanish. Learn more about Taro here!

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12 Classic French Movies (and Movie Series) All Students Need to See

12 Classic French Movies (and Movie Series) All Students Need to See

12 Classic French Movies (and Movie Series) All Students Need to See

Nothing beats relaxing with a great film while you practice your French! French tutor Carol Beth shares her favorite French movies for students…

Watching movies is a great way to maintain and expand your knowledge of French, and there are quite a few enjoyable French movies out there. The following list covers many of the most well-known films that students should check out. The list begins with the most “tame” movies and progresses to those that include romantic themes (or scenes) and sometimes violence. For later films, parents and teachers of younger French students may wish to preview, warn, supervise, obtain guardian permission, or wait until the children or students are mentally and emotionally ready. Ratings are included where possible.

1) Astérix et Obélix contre César (1999)

This film is based on the popular French comic strip starring the two title characters. Astérix is a fierce and clever little Gaulois who – with his big, strong sidekick Obélix and the rest of their village – stands up to the Romans who have taken over the rest of Gaul (France’s old name), and would love to finish off their task by taking over Astérix and Obelix’s village. But, Asterix and Obelix are too clever for that, right?

This film was followed by Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre in 2002, Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques in 2008, and Astérix et Obélix: Au service de sa Majesté in 2012. Unlike the comic strip, these four films are all live-action films with real actors. There have also been quite a few cartoon-based movies from the 1967 cartoon Astérix le Gaulois all the way up to the 2014 3-D cartoon Asterix: Le Domaine des dieux. Not all seem to have been rated. As a reference point, Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre was rated PG.

2) La Gloire de Mon Pere (My Father’s Glory) (1990)

La Gloire de Mon Pere follows the experiences of a young boy during a vacation outside the city of Provence, in the south of France. The landscape and ways of life depicted in the film are typical of French families at the time of the film; southern French landscape still appears similarly today. La Gloire de Mon Pere also has a sequel, Le Chateau de Ma Mere (My Mother’s Castle) (1990), in which the boy’s family returns to the city for work and school, but continues to visit the same country house on the weekends. Not rated.

3) Les Choristes (2004)

For music and education lovers, Les Choristes is a little like a French Mr. Holland’s Opus. The main character, a teacher, takes a job at a private boys’ school which is ruled with an iron fist by an overly-strict and closed-minded principal. The new teacher develops a more positive relationship with the students with his understanding character and love for music. The impact on all their lives is great, especially for one little boy, who grows up to become the film’s narrator. Rated PG-13.

4) Jean de Florette (1986)

Jean de Florette is based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol, and tells the tragic tale of Jean de Florette – a hunchback with a love for life, determination, and work ethic – who returns to the land he has inherited in Provence with his wife and daughter. Their neighbors, an uncle and his grown nephew, pretend to be friends, but really have an eye on their land. Jean de Florette is followed by a sequel, Manon des Sources (1986), which follows the story of Jean’s daughter, Manon. Manon des Sources follows up on and resolves much of what happened in Jean de Florette. Rated PG and PG-13, respectively.

5) Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

Cyrano de Bergerac is based on an 1897 French play by Edmond Rostand set in 18th-century Paris. Cyrano is a proud and eloquent soldier with a gift for poetry, but he is not very good-looking and is particularly sensitive about his rather large nose. He falls in love with his cousin, but she has her eye on a handsome but tongue-tied, ineloquent young soldier in Cyrano’s regiment named Christian. Out of his desire to express himself, without disrespecting the cousin he loves, Cyrano initiates a devious plot with Christian. This is a great film for those who love tragic romance that is also somewhat intellectual. Rated PG.

6) La Vie en Rose (2007)

La Vie en Rose recounts the story of Edith Piaf (played by Marion Cotillard). Piaf was a famous 20th-century singer around the time of World War II who, despite difficult and humble beginnings and personal problems throughout her life, captured the French imagination. Rated PG-13.

7) Les Compères (1983)

Les Compères begins with a worried mother who calls two old lovers to help her find, help and bring back home her troubled, runaway son. She independently tells both lovers – neither of which is her husband nor the actual father her son has always known – that they are his father. The boy is thoroughly confused when they find him almost simultaneously with the same claim, but comes to appreciate their humorously opposite personalities. Rated PG.

8) Timbuktu (2014)

Timbuktu follows the story of Kidane, a cattle herder, who lives outside of Timbuktu at a time when religious fundamentalism has become more common. Though his life is at first peaceful, local ruling jihadists soon disrupt his and his family’s lives. Includes Tuareg, Bambara, French, Arabic, and a little English. Rated PG-13.

9) Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain (2001)

Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain was a hit in the US when it first came out, following the life of Amélie as she seeks true love. Amélie is a cute and sweet but mischievous character who puts her crush through quite a search through Paris to find her. Rated R.

10)La Femme Nikita (1990)

Nikita is offered a chance to avoid punishment (life in prison) for past crimes in return for her role as an assassin. After some convincing, she does so – quite successfully – cultivating her feminine charm, discretion, and deadly aim. As she builds her new life, she also finds herself a boyfriend she loves and who loves her. But then a mission goes awry. I do not recommend this film for especially young viewers or for those who are sensitive to romantic or violent scenes. Rated R.

11) The Trois Couleurs Trilogy

The Trois Couleurs trilogy, consisting of Bleu (Blue), Blanc (White), and Rouge (Red) (named for the colors of the French flag), follows the stories of three groups of individuals whose stories are connected by the intersection of their lives. The films’ stories are said to represent liberty, equality, and fraternity – the ideals of the French Revolution. Bleu explores the life of the main character, Julie, as she seeks emotional liberty after the death of her husband and daughter in a car crash. Blanc follows Karol, a recent divorcee, as he seeks equality through revenge. And finally, Rouge explores the relationships between the characters and, at the end, connects the main characters from all three films. All three films are rated R.

12) La Haine (1995)

La Haine examines the tense relationship between a group of poor Parisian immigrant youth and the police, caused in part by their actions and in part by prejudice towards them. The entire film is in black and white. Rated R.

Do you see a film that might fit your tastes? Many of them are available in the foreign films section of local video rental stores or on Amazon. Or, if there’s a French movie you love that didn’t make the list, tell us about it in the comments below!

Carol Beth

Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She also studied Japanese in high school and college.  She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!



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Spanish Vocabulary for Kids

19 Easy Spanish Vocabulary Words to Teach Your Kids

Spanish Vocabulary for KidsLooking for some creative ways to incorporate more Spanish practice into your child’s daily routine? Here, language teacher Joan B. shares some Spanish vocabulary for kids, and some great ideas to make Spanish part of your day… 

When it comes to introducing kids to Spanish, the key is to keep it simple and fun. Although the best way to learn Spanish is with a tutor, there are certain things you can do at home to reinforce what your child is learning during Spanish lessons. Use the following words to incorporate Spanish vocabulary in your daily activities.

Hola/Adiós (Hello/Goodbye)

These words are useful when you greet friends or part ways with a neighbor or acquaintance. With repetition, these are easy words for kids to learn.

Por favor/Gracias (Please/Thank you)

Kids should learn please and thank you in any language, since these words reinforce good manners. It’s easy to find ways to use the Spanish words in everyday situations. For extra practice, try using these words during mealtimes. You can use por favor after a request, but you can also use it at the beginning of a sentence: “Por favor, escúchame” (please listen to me). There are also many different ways to use gracias. You can use it as a stand-alone thank you, or with more detail:  ”Gracias por la ayuda” (thanks for the help).

Me gusta(n)/No me gusta(n) (I like/I don’t like)

These two phrases are extremely useful when it comes to Spanish vocabulary for kids. Me gusta(n) ___ literally means ___ is pleasing to me, but in English it’s translated as “I like.” Because of the literal meaning, we must add the -n if the item is plural. Similarly, if you don’t like something, you can say, “No me gusta(n).” To help your son or daughter practice, ask him or her, “¿Te gusta(n) ___?” (do you like __?). He or she can reply, “Sí, me gusta(n) ___,” or “No, no me gusta(n).” (“Sí” means “yes” and “no” means “no” in Spanish; those are two other necessary vocabulary words!)

Lo siento (I’m sorry)

No vocabulary list is complete without the phrase “I’m sorry.” This expression is very useful for kids playing together, or if a child needs to show sympathy or apologize.

Necesito/quiero/ No necesito/quiero (I need/want/ I don’t need/want)

These words help kids express their needs and desires. Kids can use these words to communicate basic ideas like quiero jugo (I want juice) or no necesito ayuda (I don’t need help).

Gato/perro (Cat/Dog)

No basic vocabulary list would be complete without including some words to describe kids’ favorite members of the family. You can use the sounds cats and dogs make to reinforce the meaning of the Spanish words, and you can ask questions like “¿Dónde está el gato?” (Where is the cat?). Aside from pets, other essential Spanish family words  include madre (mother), padre (father), hermano (brother), and hermana (sister). Practice using these words with questions like “¿Cómo se llama tu hermana?” (What is your sister’s name?).

Pequeño/Grande (Little/Big)

Size is omnipresent in a child’s life, from a small bug they see in the garden to a big hug they want after taking a fall. Use pequeño and grande to make your descriptions more specific: “¡Qué grande el perro!” (What a big dog!)

Bien/Mal (Well/Badly)

These adverbs come in handy to describe the way that something happens. With kids, you could use them to describe feelings: “Estoy bien” (I’m fine.)

Alto/Adelante (Stop/Go)

These two are great for a game of “red light, green light” in Spanish, or for getting kids’ attention on the street. Alto and adelante are frequently used in Spanish, and can allow you to be courteous (stopping to allow someone else to go ahead, or inviting someone else to go ahead).

Test Yourself

Spanish Vocabulary for KIds Try to use these words frequently so you can help your child commit them to memory. Most of all, have fun introducing your child to Spanish. You can use this list of Spanish vocabulary for kids to have lively, descriptive conversations.

Looking for more ways to help your child learn Spanish? Find a private tutor in your area!

Interested in Private Lessons? Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

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

ukulele cover songs

Top 10 Most Surprising Ukulele Cover Songs

You’d be amazed what you can play on the ukulele! Music teacher Matthew K.  counts down 10 of his favorite surprising ukulele cover songs…

The ukulele is a fun instrument to play! Originating in Hawaii, the ukulele has four nylon strings that are tuned to C major. It is very easy to play, and you can strum it any way and it will provide a nice tone.

Often when one thinks of the ukulele, they think Hawaii, or Luau. Although it originated in Hawaii, many contemporary songs can be covered on the ukulele. Many have seen the ukulele cover of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” but here are some ukulele cover songs you may not have heard!

1. All of Me – John Legend

Performed by Andy Lange

Andy puts on a wonderful performance of this beautiful love song.


2. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Performed by Jake Shimabukuro

The music begins at 1:04, but I recommend checking out the whole video. This is actually a TED talk about how the ukulele is very easy to play, with the message, “if everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a happier place.”

3. Get Lucky – Daft Punk

Performed by Ukulenny

This is a fun version that also features Ukulenny on vocals.


He even included the ukulele chords he uses:

Am 2000
C 0003
Em 0432
D6 2222
Strum Pattern: D-DUxxxUxUxUDUDU

This song was also covered by Jake Shimabukuro.


 4. War Ensemble – Slayer

Performed by Rob Scallon

Yes, someone covered Slayer on a ukulele… I don’t have any more words for this!


5. While my Guitar Gently Weeps – George Harrison

Performed by Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro is a master at the ukulele. This is one of the most beautiful performances on the instrument I have seen. This is something that takes years of practice and cannot just be tabbed out quickly.


6. Master of Puppets – Metallica

Performed by stentorian01

Not as intense as the Slayer song, but still pretty impressive. He starts on guitar, but be patient. It gets good.


7. My Girl – The Tempations

Performed by Mike Miragliuolo

Check out his other covers as well!


8. Radiohead – Creep

Performed by Melissa y Eureka

This is a personal favorite, but please use discretion if you’re viewing these with a child; there is one curse word in the song.


9. Thriller – Michael Jackson

Performed by Jake Shimabukuro

Again, Jake Shimabukuro does not disappoint. Someone had to cover a Michael Jackson song!


10. Is this Love? – Bob Marley

Performed by Ukulenny

Summer is around the corner, and as Ukulenny implies, it’s not summer without Bob.


I was going to attempt to tab out these songs for you, but most are very difficult. I suggest taking lessons through to find a teacher that can first show you the basics of the ukulele. You can work your way toward mastering your own ukulele cover songs and becoming the next Jake Shimabukuro.

Learn one of these ukulele cover songs or pick one of  your own, and master it with the help of a private ukulele teacher. Search for your ukulele teacher now!

Matthew K

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

how to become a broadway star

Want to Someday Star On Broadway? 3 Tips from an Expert

how to become a broadway star

Dreaming about someday starring on the Broadway stage? Here, Los Angeles, CA teacher Meredith P. shares her expert tips to help you get there…


As an audience member, you can sit back and relax at a Broadway show, and not truly understand the work that it takes to get to that coveted stage and the tremendous blood, sweat, and tears that go into each performance. As with athletes, the only thing the audience sees is the end result. A lot of times it can be intoxicating and glamorous. But its rare that an outsider understands the amount of training, sacrifice, focus, and money that is invested into each and every performer and each and every performance.

But that’s every performer’s job… to make it look easy. Because of this, it’s the strong, the tenacious, the hard-working, and the incredibly lucky ones who make it to the Broadway stage.

I began my dance training at the age of two and a half. Sure, back then, my parents weren’t thinking about molding me to be a professional Broadway dancer, but this is just an example of how far back training goes for many professional dancers. Then, as my interest and passion continued, I began ballet training at six, singing lessons at eight, and began working in professional theater productions at age 13.

I continued training all throughout high school and moved to New York City at the age of 18. I was fortunate to be just 20 years old when I was cast as the leading lady of my first national tour; but even then, I still had five more years before I got the chance to fulfill my dream of actually starring on Broadway. But, within those five years, I was working every day on my singing, dancing, and acting skills to carry a show as a leading lady.

If you’re like me, you see Broadway performers as the best of the best! And to be ready for that competition — to be prepared to actually “star on Broadway” — is something that performers train for YEARS to achieve. And, even after all that training, it’s very rare that you get the incredible chance to actually star on Broadway. You never know when that “luck” will roll around. So, what I teach my students is to concentrate on what they can control and to always be prepared for when that luck comes!

If you’re interested in learning how to become a Broadway star, here’s what I did to prepare to star on the stage:

1. Put in hours of work, outside of auditioning for shows.

Artists take voice lessons weekly, sometime more than once a week, depending on the role they’re playing. They’re also taking yoga, meditation, dance, and exercise classes to keep their bodies healthy. This is a daily occurrence. Performers should be working and training daily before they even get to the theater to do their shows.

Also, networking is important, because the more you’re mingling with artists in your field, the more people get to know and like you. Booking a show isn’t always just about skill — a lot of times it can come down to skill and a choreographer or director knowing and liking you.

2. Remember that what a star eats makes a huge difference!

Broadway stars must watch what they eat to be aware of what foods work for them and energize them. Your voice and body can change depending on fatigue, hot or cold weather, and the theater environment, and you have to know how to adapt to that. If you’re doing a tremendously physical show, you have to know that you can’t truly be full at the beginning of it. When I was starring in 42nd Street, I had a rule that I couldn’t be full past 6:30 for an 8pm curtain. I would eat sushi a lot of times between shows because I knew it was good for my energy and digestion. And I always had a banana or an apple in my dressing room to eat before the last 20 minutes of the show, which was the hardest for my role. I learned to never eat nuts or granola, because the pieces got stuck in my teeth, and I almost choked on stage when I started singing.

A lot of Broadway performers eat dinner after the show, and knowing what food is best for your body and what doesn’t create acid reflux is also important, because that affects your vocal cords. Every body is different, and like an athlete, you have to know your body and what fuel works for you to be your best eight shows a week.

3. Have a spiritual or mental practice that helps you balance your body, mind, and soul.

The demands of a Broadway performer are very intense. Not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. The emotional ups and downs are a part of your life, even if you’re extremely successful. Rejection is a part of every performer’s life. For every job you get, there are 50 you didn’t get. So, finding a way to achieve balance is crucial. I’ve turned to meditation, yoga, and “rules” for myself that have helped me lead a full and balanced life outside of the entertainment industry.

For example, I used to tell family and close friends when I got an big audition because I was so excited at the fact that I got a chance! Then, if I got a callback, the pressure was on, and everyone I told would ask, “Did you get it?” Very soon, I realized that if I didn’t get the part, not only would I have to feel the disappointment, I also would have to explain what happened to friends and family over and over again, re-living the rejection.

So, one of my rules now is that I don’t tell anyone until I am signing the contract for the role. This rule might not work for every artist, and I believe balance is about bio-individuality. As a holistic health counselor, I help performers find body, mind, and spiritual practices that promote balance and work for them.

Even after ascending to the top of a Broadway marquee, the work continues. Anybody passionate to learn how to become a Broadway star should constantly be taking voice lessons, acting classes, and dance classes. Take a theater dance class, a ballet class, and a tap class. Even when you’re a star, you should still be taking lessons.

The best, most successful stars never stop training. Ever.

Meredith P.Meredith P. teaches acting, singing, and dance in Los Angeles, CA. She has performed on Broadway, acted in television shows, and even recorded her own jazz albums! She studied at the AMDA College & Conservatory For The Arts and the Institute For Integrative Nutrition in NYC. Learn more about Meredith here!



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easy bluegrass guitar songs

7 Easy Bluegrass Songs on Guitar

easy bluegrass guitar songsEven beginners can start playing a little bluegrass guitar. Music teacher Matthew K. shares a selection of his favorite easy bluegrass guitar songs…

When I first listened to bluegrass music, I knew I had to learn the guitar parts. They are very intricate and fun! The patterns weave in and out of each other, creating a sound that is unique to the genre. It can be a daunting sound for any beginner – and it may seem impossible at first – but remember, everyone has to start at the beginning.

There are some bluegrass tunes that are slightly less difficult than others, and easy guitar songs are still fun to play and impressive to listen to. The following are seven of my favorite easy bluegrass guitar songs.

Please note that you should have a general knowledge of guitar chords, and have the ability to use a flat pick in order to attempt these songs. It is always good to listen to the songs, as well.


1. “Keep on the Sunny Side” – The Carter Family

“Keep on the Sunny Side” is one of the most famous bluegrass songs. The version I am showing you is in the key of C. It is played with a standard bluegrass-strumming pattern: Down – Down – Rest – Up – Down – Up, then immediately repeat. Below are the chords used in the song and how they are played to the lyrics.

 Chord Chord (easy) Chord


Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side


Keep on the sunny side of life


It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way


If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life


2. “Foggy Mountain Top” – A.P. Carter

Here is another very popular bluegrass tune. It can be played quickly with a Down – Down strumming pattern while counting, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2. There is a new chord introduced.

uitar Chord D7


If I was on some foggy mountain top


I’d sail away to the west


I’d sail all around this whole wide world

D7 G

To the girl I love the best


If I had listened to what momma said


I would not have been here today


A lying around this old jail-house

D7 G

A weeping my sweet life away


3. “On Top of Old Smokey” – The Weavers

“On Top of Old Smokey” is a slower song, played in ¾ time. It can be played with a Down - Down – Up – Down pattern, while counting to three. It features the G7 chord.

7 Chord


On top of old Smokey all covered in snow

G7 C

I lost my true lover by courting too slow


But courting is pleasure but parting is grief

G7 C

For a false hearted lover is worse than a thief


A thief he will just rob you take what you have

G7 C

But a false hearted lover will take you to your grave


A grave will decay you turn you into dust

G7 C

And there just isn’t one girl a poor boy can trust


4. “Man of Constant Sorrow” – Dick Burnett

This is a song originally written by Dick Burnett, but made famous by The Cinch Brothers, and later made even more famous by the motion picture Oh Brother Where Art Thou. The following is a simplified version that can be played with a Down – Down pattern.

 Chord Chord


In constant sorrow all through his days


I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow


I’ve seen trouble all my day


I bid farewell to old Kentucky


The place where I was born and raised


The place where he was born and raised


For six long years I’ve been in trouble


No pleasures here on earth I found


For in this world I’m bound to ramble


I have no friends to help me now


He has no friends to help him now


5. “Kentucky Girl” – Larry Sparks

“Kentucky Girl” is a nice song that only features two chords. It can be played much like “Keep on the Sunny Side.” The pattern is Down – Down – Down – Up – Down.

G D7

Kentucky girl are you lonesome tonight


Kentucky girl do you miss me


Does that old moon shine on the bluegrass as bright


As it did on the night you first kissed me


In a valley neath the mountain so high


The sweetest place in all the world


In a cabin with vines on the door


Is where I met my Kentucky girl


6. “Old Doc Brown” – Hank Snow (“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”)

“Old Doc Brown” is a song that is played very slowly and has spoken word over it rather than traditional singing lyrics. It’s a classic. It was first performed by Hank Snow, but later popularized by Johnny Cash. It shares the same chords as “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” which is a very old hymnal song that bears no author. I chose this song because there are a few new chords introduced.

7 Chord7 Chord


I am weak but thou art strong, Jesus, keep me from all wrong

A A7 D A E7 D A

I’ll be satisfied as long As I walk, let me walk close to thee


Just a closer walk with thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea

A A7 D A E7 D A

Daily walking close to thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be


7. “Nine Pound Hammer” – Flatt & Scruggs

“Nine Pound Hammer” is another fast-paced, classic bluegrass song. It can be played with the Down – Down –Rest – Up – Down pattern that we have seen before. The chorus is as follows.

7 Chord


Roll on buddy


Don’t you roll so slow


Well, tell me how can I roll roll roll


When the wheels won’t go


Roll on buddy


Pull you load of coal


Tell me how can I pull


When the wheels won’t roll


It’s a long way to Harlan


It’s a long way to Hazard


Just to get a little brew brew brew


Just to get a little brew


And when I die


You can make my tombstone


Out of number nine coal


Out of number nine coal


Please keep in mind that these seven easy bluegrass guitar songs can be expanded upon greatly. These are merely open chord versions of the songs. The best way to learn is by sitting with a guitar teacher, so that he or she can go through the strumming patterns and fills.

All chord photos are from

Want to learn even more bluegrass guitar songs and techniques? Working with a private guitar teacher is the best way to improve your skills. Search for your guitar teacher now!

Matthew K

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



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Tips for studying for AP Spanish

13 Must-Read Tips to Ensure a 5 on the AP Spanish Test

Tips for studying for AP SpanishGearing up for the AP Spanish exam? Check out these 13 helpful tips from Fairfax, CA tutor Jason N. to increase your confidence…


Spanish continues to prevail as the second language of the United States. It is also the most frequently studied second language in high schools, colleges, and graduate schools. If you are preparing for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam, it probably means that your Spanish is already strong, and you are on track to becoming fluent. Congratulations!

This AP Spanish test is designed to measure how well you communicate with others in Spanish, how well you can present, and how well you can interpret (and respond to) what you read and hear. This includes your ability to think critically, your overall fluency, and how accurate your grammar is, especially your ability to form coherent sentences. You should pass if you can comprehend Spanish close to how a native speaker would in many different contexts, most of which come from various Spanish-speaking milieu. The exam also gauges your cultural knowledge of Spanish-speaking countries and peoples.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, bear with me. It may sound daunting, but you can do it! Similar to any standardized test, the key is anxiety management and preparing well in advance. Here are 13 tips that will help you prepare for and defeat the AP Spanish exam:

  1. Get a Spanish tutor! There are tons of study booklets and materials available to help you practice, but a tutor can help you find the best ones, plus provide tips for helping you organize and channel your time.
  2. Practice Spanish on mobile applications. These can help make learning fun and dynamic, where textbooks may fail.
  3. Manage your anxiety! Your fear about bombing the test may become a significant barrier, potentially bigger than the studying and the test’s difficulty itself! Remember, you got this far already. Mindfulness techniques can help — it’s no coincidence that students who believe in their ability to pass usually do.
  4. Begin studying early — preferably four months before. Our brains absorb information the best when it’s presented relatively briefly but consistent over a large time span, such as 30-60 minutes of studying 3-6 times weekly. This is particularly true of language learning — this is why many Spanish classes are scheduled daily for an hour, whereas non-language classes are often scheduled in two-hour blocks once or twice weekly.
  5. Don’t underestimate the importance of practice tests. Kaplan and the Princeton Review both offer practice tests online. There are also many practice tests for the AP Spanish exam available for free online.
  6. Know how to conjugate most verbs, especially the most commonly used ones, like tener, poder, and hablar.
  7. Know the difference between por and para, ser and estar, and conocer and saber. The multiple choice part, which is half the test, tends to focus on this and is formulaic and straightforward to learn and practice.
  8. Know the basic formulas of certain grammatical structures, such as superlatives (Él es el más…).
  9. Know the time tenses, like el imperfecto, perterito, el plusperfecto, condicional, and futuro.
  10. Know plural and singular, and masculine vs. feminine. I cannot tell you how many people have incorrectly answered certain multiple questions, or were dinged in the writing sections due to a silly mistake here. Remember that many nouns don’t follow the basic rule that nouns ending in -a are feminine and nouns that end in -o are masculine. There are many exceptions to this rule, such as el tema and la mano.
  11. Keep your general Spanish skills fresh by practicing regularly! Keep in touch with friends you meet from Spanish-speaking countries and practice with people you know who also speak Spanish.
  12. Watch telenovelas. They can be funny, but corny. If they hook you, they make for great practice!
  13. Download Pandora and listen to Spanish music on your smartphone. Many of them are catchy and learning the lyrics can give your Spanish a great lift!

In conclusion, you can do it! Systematic and early practice is the key. Set up a consistent study schedule, consult your Spanish tutor for additional study tips and conversation practice, and stay positive!

JasonNJason N. tutors English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 



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10 Common Italian Grammar Mistakes

10 Most Common Italian Grammar Mistakes

10 Common Italian Grammar Mistakes

Are you struggling to perfect your Italian grammar skills? Below, Italian teacher Nadia B. highlights the 10 most common grammar mistakes to help you get on the path to success…

When you’re first learning Italian, it can be hard to keep track of all the complex grammar rules. Understanding all of the differences in how ideas are expressed in Italian versus in English, for example, can be hard to remember. Nonetheless, it’s important that you master your Italian grammar skills if you wish to be successful.

Below are the 10 most common Italian grammar mistakes. By reading this, you’ll learn how to avoid making these common errors!

1. Noun/adjective agreement

One of the most difficult things for English speakers to remember is to make the noun and the adjective agree in Italian. Just remember, no matter what the noun or the adjective is, you should always check to make sure the agreement between them makes sense. Always take into account number and gender. See examples below:

  • Singularun ragazzo amabile (a friendly boy)
  • Pluraldue ragazzi amabili (two friendly boys)
  • Genderuna lezione lunga (a long lecture)

Note: feminine nouns have the adjective ending in -a, while masculine nouns have the adjective ending in -o.

2. Correct verb conjugation

Oftentimes, verb conjugations can seem complex. Making sure the verb conjugation always reflects the subject–even when the subject isn’t explicitly stated–is important. For example, in the sentence, “Lucia ed io andiamo a scuola,” (Lucia and I go to school) the verb conjugation is in the we form (noi) because it’s referring to Lucia and I.

Another common mis-conjugation is in the use of the voi form (you all). In this case, you’ll be directly addressing a group of two or more people; for example, “Ragazzi, siete bravissimi” (“Guys, you are very good”). Often, Italian language learners mistakenly use the loro (they) form when they’re directly addressing a group.

3. Collective nouns viewed as singular

Some nouns in Italian appear plural because they are a unit of several, but they act as singular nouns with regard to the verb conjugation. Two examples of this are la famiglia (the family) and la gente (the people). Even though they are referring to multiple people, they are treated as singular nouns. See examples below:

  • La famiglia è andata alla chiesa (The family went to the church)
  • La gente dice che… (People say that…)

4. Conditions of being

When we explain how we’re feeling in Italian, some of the ways we express this vary from English. For example, many conditions (such as being cold, fearful, etc.) use the verb avere (to have) instead of essere (to be). So, when you want to say you’re feeling cold in Italian, you would say “Ho freddo” not, “Sono freddo.” Similarly, when you’re talking about age, you would say “Ho 24 anni” (I am 24 years old) instead of “Sono 24 anni.

5. Mi piace vs. mi piacciono

Expressing what you like and dislike can often get you into trouble in Italian. The verb piace (to please) is used in a phrase to refer to an item you like. The first common error students make is to conjugate the verb based on the person who likes it. In other words, “Mi piaccio” or “I like myself” which is not what you’re generally trying to convey.

The second mistake that can occur is to forget to make the verb agree with the subject in number. If what you like is plural ( i.e. the books, the topics, the shirts) then you would say “Mi piacciono…“ If what you like is singular, then you should say “Mi piace…“ See example below:

  • PluralMi piacciono i libri (I like the books)
  • SingularMi piace il libro (I like the book)

6. Shortened nouns

Some words in Italian are very long. Because of this many words are shortened. For example, la bicicletta (the bicycle) can be shortened to la bici, and la fotografia (the photograph) can be shortened to la foto. In these cases, the noun is still feminine in the shortened version, even though the word ends in -i or -o. When using these shortened nouns, remember to make the noun agree with the adjective. For example, La bici è rossa (The bicycle is red).

7. Irregular past participles

Once you learn how to form the past participle, don’t forget that irregular past participles exist! Some of the commonly misused verbs include: aprire (aperto), bere (bevuto), chiedere (chiesto), correre (corso), dire (detto), essere (stato), fare (fatto), leggere (letto), mettere (messo), perdere (perso), scrivere (scritto), vedere (visto) and venire (venuto).

8. Essere vs. avere with the past participle

Another common grammar mistake is using the wrong verb before the participle. While there are only two choices ( i.e. essere and avere), it’s easy to get confused about which one to use. The basic rule is that most transitive verbs are conjugated with avere, while intransitive verbs are conjugated with essere.

In some cases, both avere and essere can be used. However, be careful because the meaning can be very different depending on which you use. With the verb finire, for example, “ho finito” means “I finished,” while “sono finito” means “I’m dead”!

9. Making the direct object preceding the past participle agree when using avere

When you have a past participle with avere, you most likely have a direct object following it. For example, Ho scritto le lettere (I wrote the letters). If you wish to use a direct object pronoun, you would put it before the past participle and avere. If you do this, however, you must make the past participle agree with the direct object pronoun that precedes it. For example, Le ho scritte (I wrote them). This is a very common mistake as it is a fine point of Italian grammar. If you use this correctly, you will impress whomever you’re speaking with!

10. Commands

Commands are not very complicated in Italian; however, there is an exception that is often forgotten. While the tu form is expressed in the affirmative by dropping the -re of the infinitive, the tu form is expressed in the negative by using non plus the infinitive. Oftentimes, students use the same tu form for both affirmative and negative commands, which is incorrect. See example below:

  • Affirmative: “Ascoltami!” (“Listen to me!”)
  • Negative: “Non mi ascoltare!” (“Don’t listen to me!”)

Practicing using these grammar concepts in conversation is a good way to check if you’re able to use them correctly. Knowing the most common Italian grammar mistakes should help you notice when you make an error and help you to correct it yourself, or with the help of your Italian teacher.


nadiaBNadia B. teaches Italian in New York, NY. She graduated summa cum laude from New York University, with a double degree in Italian Language and Literature and Classical Music Performance. Learn more about Nadia here!




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Japanese anime

Learn Japanese Through Anime: 4 Shows You Should Watch

Looking for some creative ways to study between Japanese lessons? Here, Jacksonville, FL. teacher James W. explains how you can learn Japanese through anime… 

Learning Japanese isn’t just about memorization and grammar rules. Want to know how to study Japanese and have fun at the same time? Watch Japanese anime! While there are a number of shows that will help you with your comprehension skills, here are some of the most entertaining shows I recommend to learn Japanese through anime.

1. “The Avengers”

“The Avengers” anime series is a great place to start when you’re learning Japanese. With the release of the Marvel Avengers series in the United States, we are already somewhat familiar with the characters and the story. You can watch the shows with subtitles, or use the WaniKani app to help you translate the dialogue. The stories are usually composed of a simple formula, so once you know some basic Japanese concepts, you will be able to follow along. You will also be able to understand more of the story as you progress. One great thing about “The Avengers,” is you can pick your favorite hero and root for him or her, or you can root for all of the characters.

“Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher” is available on DVD, so you can watch it whenever you want, and accelerate your learning. “The Avengers” series is also great for kids. A young Japanese student can learn his or her favorite hero’s lines, wear a costume, and act out the scenes.

2. “Eden of the East”

“Eden of the East” is a teen show that’s popular almost everywhere in the world. Animation in Japan reflects daily life, where people share struggles and triumphs, work together, and experience setbacks, just like people in the United States. In “Eden of the East,” Akira Takizawa is one of 12 secret agents. He must rise to the occasion and leave Washington, DC to make things better in Japan.

It’s not too difficult to follow the story and sound out the words, plus you can use a translation app to help you if you get stuck. When you watch the show, write down any words you don’t know; you can review these words with your Japanese teacher. When you learn Japanese through anime, it will help you understand basic anime, and introduce you to Japanese culture.

3. “Microman”

“Transformers” is an incredible feature film franchise that started as a toy and a cartoon. It was inspired by the Japanese series “Microman.” The action-packed series is great for students of all ages. Who doesn’t love shows about machines that take on human qualities and behaviors?

When you’re learning Japanese, you will be introduced to katakana, hiragana, and kanji. Microman uses these symbols, so watching the show will help you become more familiar with the Japanese writing systems. Another great learning strategy is to turn off the sound and practice saying the characters lines. You can do this with friends, or play several roles by yourself.  This will help you work on your pronunciation of Japanese words.

4. “The Rolling Girls”

“The Rolling Girls” is set in a post-apocalyptic world. Nozomi, Yukina, Ai, and Chiaya ride around on motorcycles and mediate conflicts between different clans.

This show makes learning Japanese fun and exciting.  There are 12 episodes that take you on a journey through Japan’s multi-layered society. The show will help you learn the language and culture, and  gain a greater understanding of Japan as a whole.

The world of Japanese anime is a fascinating adventure. You can find these programs on iTunes, YouTube, and DVD. Watching anime is one of the most fun ways to learn and practice Japanese.  So, what are you waiting for? Everybody likes cartoons; go ahead and get started! This is your stepping stone to a fascinating new world.

Do you have some favorite anime programs that aren’t on this list? Let us know some of your favorite shows! If you want to be able to understand more anime and Japanese TV programs, sign up for lessons with a Japanese tutor.

james-walsh-150x150James W. teaches guitar, singing, and acting lessons in Jacksonville, FL. He spent a year immersed in Foreign Language studies, including Japanese traditions and culture. He specializes in teaching pop, rock, and modern country styles. James has been teaching for 10 years and joined the TakeLessons in 2010. Learn more about James here!

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