Video: Learn to sing online

Video: What’s it Like to Take an Online Singing Class?

Is it possible to learn to sing online? With TakeLessons Live, you can attend online group classes to improve your skills, improve your confidence, and get a taste of working with a private voice teacher!

But we get it: the idea can be pretty daunting if you’re a total beginner. What’s it like to take an online singing class, anyway? How should you prepare? We know you might have questions, so we asked singing teacher Reina M. to address some of the most common questions and concerns. Watch the video here, and read the transcription below!

Hi, my name’s Reina and I’m a TakeLessons teacher. I offer a customized, holistic approach to learning the voice during my one-on-one sessions. In addition, I have the privilege of teaching some pretty awesome group classes online using TakeLessons Live.

Online teaching is still relatively new and I get questions every day about how it works. I’d like to run through a few of the more common questions I get, and show you what to expect when you sign up for a class.

So let’s get started with the number one question…

What are the pros and cons to online classes versus in-person?

The pros are that there’s a lot of personal space, so sometimes if you’re a new singer, it can be kind of intimidating to sing in front of your teachers. Having that technological barrier can be super helpful, just making it more comfortable.

Secondly, you’re more likely to show up because you can be in your jammies, it could be raining outside, and all you have to do is turn on your device.

And lastly, you can take lessons anywhere; as long as you have an internet connection and an up-to-date device, you’re good to go.

The cons would be that the teacher can’t give you a hug at the end of class and tell you what a good job you did. You can get an online high five, but it’s not the same. Sometimes there can be technical difficulties so it’s really important to test your internet strength and to use the most up-to-date device that you have.

What are the pros and cons to group classes versus private?

The pros are that you’re not alone. It’s really nice to know that other people can be on this journey with you, and it’s way cheaper [than private lessons].

The cons are that the classes are not customized, so if you’re a level that’s higher or lower than the class is designed for, you may find yourself either wandering off because you get a little bit bored, or you could get frustrated because it’s just a lot of information at one time.

Secondly, you can’t cover as much information just because it is geared towards the general populace of the class and it’s not one-on-one.

What types of students attend online classes?

All types! I get young students, old students, beginner students, advanced students, hobby singers, and professionals. The classes are all-inclusive, they’re open to anyone that wants to learn, and every class is different.

What types of students excel in online group classes?

This answer is really easy: it’s the type of student that practices. Group classes, and all music lessons for that matter, are intended to help you practice on your own. You’re not going to get good in one hour, a week,  or two 30-minute lessons a week. The type of student that excels in group classes is the type of student that can take notes, asks questions, and practices the information and techniques that they’ve learned.

What will I learn by taking online group classes?

Each group class has a different focus. Some of the classes are geared towards beginners and they might focus on basic techniques. Other classes might be more intermediate or advanced, and they’re going to focus on more difficult techniques. So be sure to read the descriptions for each class that’s offered and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Can I actually get better by taking online group classes?

Yes, absolutely! I have noticed no difference in growth or technique retention between my online students versus my in-studio students. If you continue to show up and you practice, you’re going to see growth; easy as that!

Do I need to have anything prepared?

Most of the time, you’re not going to need anything beyond a pen and paper for taking notes, and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated, but be sure to read the descriptions carefully. There are a few classes that may have special requirements.

Will I need to sing in front of the class?

Well, this depends. The teacher is never going to force you to sing if you’re not comfortable, but there are classes, like the audition prep class, where it’s just not going to be as helpful to you if the teacher can’t hear where you’re at and what you’re doing as you’re singing your song.

Some of the more intro classes are more information-based and singing live isn’t even a part of the class. If you have a specific question or concern you can always log onto the class early and speak with the teacher in the little chat box, and just let them know a little bit about yourself.

If I could offer one piece of advice what would it be?

This is the easiest question by far and the answer is it’s that you can sing. Don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise, not even yourself!

The voice instrument takes practice and patience, just like any other instrument, and if you apply yourself and work diligently, you can master your voice.

Group classes are a great way to learn. They awaken your excitement for a new skill, and they can deepen your  appreciation for singing. I definitely recommend signing up for an online group class today through TakeLessons Live. Cheers and congrats on your new journey!

Ready to learn to sing online? Check out our online group classes and sign up today — new students get a 30-day trial for free!

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christina-aguilera

Why Taking Voice Lessons from Christina Aguilera is a Bad Idea

christina-aguilera

Can you learn to sing through videos, like the ones advertised with Christina Aguilera? Read on for voice teacher Elaina R.‘s thoughts… 

 

Have you seen the ads for Masterclass.com, offering a voice lesson course taught by Christina Aguilera? Promos for the course have inundated many Facebook feeds, and since I know many professional singers and voice teachers, I’ve been able to watch them react to the ads. Most voice teachers have been amused, terrified, or both by the prospect of people learning how to sing from Ms. Aguilera.

Why are the degree-holding vocalists of the world not on board with Christina Aguilera teaching voice? She is, after all, a six-time Grammy Award winner with an estimated net worth of $130 million. Are we just jealous? The short answer is no! We are truly concerned for voice students who turn to Christina Aguilera for advice, and here’s why.

Talent Does Not a Teacher Make

You are likely an expert chewer. You chew food many times a day, and you have done so for your entire life. One could argue that you are a talented chewer, even. But what if someone who didn’t know how to chew asked you to teach them to chew? You would likely have to think long and hard about your process. In the end, the best answer many people would be able to come up with is, “You just do it.”

Christina Aguilera is a gifted singer. She has a good voice and natural musicality, and her performances often reflect that. However, her innate ability to sing and the fact that she was born with a good singing voice do not mean she knows how to teach singing. As any teacher will tell you, teaching is in and of itself a skill, and it isn’t one that Christina, with her flourishing artistic and television career on top of parental duties, has had any time to curate.

Modern Pop Technique

In addition, Christina Aguilera is a pop singer who specializes in belting (high chest voice). Belting is an extremely taxing form of singing that, when done wrong, can produce disastrous results. Not only does bad belting sound horrible, but it can rapidly destroy your voice.

The vast majority of voice teachers are university trained, which almost always means they have a foundation in classical vocal technique. While classical singing sounds very different than belting, the same rules (breath support, throat relaxation, resonance) apply.

Learning proper vocal technique through classical pieces — or at least less taxing pop pieces — greatly reduces the chance of vocal injury. If learning to sing with low-impact music is like light strength training, trying to skip to belting is like immediately attempting a 300-pound deadlift. It’s just plain unhealthy.

Knowledge is Power

Frankly, the most famous pop singers in the world today usually have no idea what they are doing. Christina Aguilera was blessed with a fair amount of natural ability, but as many of her performances exhibit, she falls prey to many of the same issues that beginning voice students have.

She often suffers from jaw, neck, and tongue tension, resulting in a pressed, flat, raspy sound (and sometimes cracking). Even pop singers who do not have these issues are just vastly talented people who can’t teach anyone how they do what they do.

Professional voice teachers, on the other hand, are a different breed. We may be talented, but we also dedicated ourselves to learning how singing works. We have studied anatomy and vocal technique in an academic setting and can describe exactly why specific faults, such as cracking and straining, occur. A good voice teacher is not just a good singer; she knows the specific details of what she is doing to sing well, and she can describe those details to her students. That’s something that even the most talented singer in the world can’t do.

Can I Learn to Sing With Other Online Videos?

Too busy for lessons, and want to just teach yourself to sing using YouTube videos or other programs? Here’s the thing — absolutely nothing can substitute the help that a private teacher can provide you.

While you can learn to sing songs and basic music theory with online resources, if you want to sing well, working with a vocal teacher is extremely important. Your teacher will be able to notice and correct bad habits that can lead to injuries or those that may be affecting your sound. Plus, the motivation and inspiration you can get from this type of guidance can make a huge difference!

Ready to find a teacher? Browse our teacher profiles here. Want to ease into learning? Check out our online group singing classes — free with your 30-day trial!

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

Photo by D.S.B

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3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Feeling Lost in Conversation? 3 Helpful Tips for Language Learners

3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Whether you’re practicing conversational French, Spanish, or another language, chatting with a native speaker can be daunting. Here, language tutor Jinky B. shares some tips to keep in mind if you’re feeling lost…

 

Congratulations, you have been taking language classes and diligently studying all that you have learned on your own time. Now you’re ready to go out and have a conversation with a native speaker. The conversation is going well and everything is flowing when you suddenly realize that, well, you’re lost! You feel as though you’re hearing a completely foreign language.

First of all, breathe! Here are three things you can do when you are starting to feel like you’re at your first language lesson, unable to understand anything the other person is saying.

1. Listen for context clues.

Think about what you are finding difficult to understand. Is it a single word? Is it a whole phrase?

Some languages are filled with homophones, words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. Once you hone in on that, think about the context of the conversation. If you’re talking about weekend plans to go to a picnic, think through everything else that was said prior to the misunderstanding.

  • In French, la mer (the sea) and la mère (the mother) sound nearly exactly the same. Think about whether the speaker is talking about a trip to the beach or describing his family.

If it’s an entire phrase, it might be an idiom, one that is more common knowledge to the native speaker so it might not make sense to a language learner.

  • In French, the idiomatic expression Il pleut des cordes does not actually mean that it’s raining rope, but that it’s raining a lot.

Regardless of whether it’s a word or an entire phrase, try to determine the meaning based on the conversation.

See also: French learners, take a look at these additional tips for translating French to English.

2. Ask for repetition.

When in doubt about what you have heard, ask the other speaker to repeat the word or phrase in question. Sometimes hearing the specific word might bring an epiphany to the unknown word(s). Below are some phrases in our most popular languages to ask “Repeat, please.”

Spanish: Repita por favor.
French: Répétez, s’il vous plait.
Japanese: もう一度おねがいします。 (Mōichido onegaishimasu)
Korean: 제발 반복합니다. (jebal banboghabnida)
Italian: Ripeti prego.
German. Bitte wiederholen.

repeat_please

See also: Check out additional Spanish phrases to use here

3. Relax and be honest.

Take a deep breath. Politely let the other person know that you are having trouble understanding. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you’ll find it difficult to follow and participate in the conversation.

And if you aren’t honest with your language partner, they will continue the conversation. Below are ways that you can use to indicate to the other person “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

Spanish: Lo siento, no entiendo.
French: Je suis désolé(e), je ne comprends pas.
Japanese: ごめんなさい。わかりません。(Gomen’nasai. Wakarimasen)
Korean: 죄송 해요. 이해가 안되는 데요. (joesong haeyo. ihaega andoeneun deyo)
Italian: Mi dispiace. Non capisco.
German. Es tut mir leid. Ich verstehe nicht.

im_sorry-_i_dont_understand

See also: 11 Tips for Improving Your Conversational Spanish [Infographic]


Language learning is the same across all languages. You build a foundation of vocabulary and grammar. You learn to put those words together to form sentences. You perfect your accent and comprehension skills. Then, you venture out and practice what you have learned.

Don’t stop at your first obstacle. Just relax and remember to listen for context clues, ask for repetition, and be honest with yourself. Most importantly, have fun! The best way to learn is to enjoy the process.

Want more conversational Spanish or conversational French practice? Sign up for one of our online group classes, or check out our other blog tutorials

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and has more than five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

Photo by Brian Roberts

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Singing Too Much? Pro Tips To Stay Vocally Healthy

singing-too-much-vocal-health

Is there such a thing as singing too much? If you’re working on a rigorous singing schedule, check out these tips to stay vocally healthy from voice teacher Elaina R

 

Anyone who’s ever eaten too much at Thanksgiving dinner knows that there is definitely too much of a good thing. This applies to singing as well!

Singing, in my opinion, is one of the most enjoyable activities in the world. But just like eating too much makes you feel sick, singing too much has very real physical repercussions that can prevent you from singing more — sometimes even permanently.

As a full-time professional singer, I sing a lot. I recently had a day where I had to sing for six hours. Even so, I haven’t had any vocal health problems since I was an undergraduate. Here’s why I have to be careful and what I do to keep my cords healthy.

The Dangers of Singing Too Much

Since your vocal cords are a part of your body, singing too much has many of the same effects as overusing any other body part.

Imagine that you’ve been clapping for hours. What would happen to your hands? They would likely be red and swollen. If you kept clapping despite the swelling, your hands would eventually become very painful and develop calluses and blisters. They might even start to bleed (ouch).

This same thing can happen to your vocal cords. The first step is vocal cord swelling. If you continue to sing with swollen or strained vocal cords, you can develop nodules (calluses), polyps (blisters), or hemorrhaging (bloody cords). Treatment for these issues includes vocal rest, vocal therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery. Any of these issues, if not treated, can permanently damage your singing and speaking voice.

Vocal Health as a Singer

Strained vocal cords (and damaging your voice) may sound scary, but it can be avoided. I’m able to sing all day, every day without injury because I am constantly thinking about my vocal health. Staying healthy as a singer is much like staying healthy as an athlete, and following these rules can be the difference between a happy voice and an incapacitated one.

  • Stay Hydrated

I chug a glass of water as soon as I get up in the morning, and I carry a water bottle around with me everywhere. Hydrated vocal cords are nice and plump (and thus less prone to injury).

  • Get Enough Sleep

You don’t need me to tell you that your body functions better when you get enough sleep. Fatigue affects your vocal cords just like it affects the rest of you.

  • Exercise

Good singers have to be very in touch with their bodies, and physical exercise helps you develop kinesthetic awareness. Exercise also helps alleviate tension, especially tension associated with sitting at a desk for long periods of time. This modern tension often centers around the throat, and throat tension is terrible for singing. Shaking your body out of this rigid mode can work wonders for your singing.

  • Address Allergies and Acid Reflux

I have seasonal allergies, so I take medication and use nasal sprays to alleviate post-nasal drip. Post-nasal drip is when mucus drips onto your vocal cords, irritating them and sometimes causing vocal issues. If you have allergies, you need to be aware of this and take appropriate precautions.

I’m lucky enough not to suffer from acid reflux, but many singers do. Acid reflux bathes the vocal cords in stomach acid, which is as horrible for the voice as you would expect. Please see a doctor immediately if you think you have acid reflux.

  • Warm Up

Just like athletes stretch before vigorous exercise, singers must warm up before diving into difficult music. I warm up every morning while puttering around the house — it’s second nature now, and it means my voice is always ready to go.

The Most Important Rule for Singers

I saved the best for last here. If an athlete has poor technique (an improper gait for a runner, a bad swing for a batter), they end up injuring themselves. Same goes for singing.

If you don’t learn good vocal technique, you will probably end up in vocal therapy at some point. But if you work with your voice teacher to improve your technique, you will learn how to sing better overall. Your stamina will build and you will be less likely to hurt yourself. Now doesn’t that sound good?

Photo by Eva Rinaldi

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

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Bad at Keeping Time? 6 Rhythm Exercises for All Musicians to Try

how-to-improve-your-rhythm

Do you struggle with keeping the beat? In this post, music teacher Heather L. shares six rhythm exercises that all musicians can try…

 

When’s the last time that you heard a musician perform live, either at a concert or online, and said to yourself, “Wow, her rhythm sounds really off. But she’s a phenomenal musician!”

I can’t remember, either.

That’s because a strong rhythmic sense is essential to being that phenomenal musician we all aspire to be, and we all can be! It’s part of what distinguishes an amateur from a pro.

Bad at Rhythm? You’re Not Alone

The very thing that those pros have is something called an internal sense of rhythm, which you can hone by tapping into your natural sense of a steady pulse. It’s like your own built-in metronome! It removes the need to tap your foot or rely on a drummer, or any other external time-keeper, for that matter.

It’s important to know that “rhythm” and “timing” mean slightly different things. “Rhythm” means the regular succession of strong and weak beats, but “timing” is your ability to keep a beat by yourself, especially within a group.

Lots of musicians struggle with both rhythm and timing, often because we choose pieces that are too complex for us at that current point in our musical journeys.

So remember your three S’s: Simple, slow, steady.

Simple are the pieces that you choose while you work to improve your rhythm, slow is the tempo that you should play the pieces, and steady rhythm is what we aim for!

If you struggle with rhythm and timing, your music teacher can help you with specific exercises and pieces to practice. In the meantime, here are the rhythm exercises that I recommend to my own students.

1. Record Yourself

  • Start simply. Choose a song that you know really well (think “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), and then choose a slow tempo.
  • Record yourself playing (or singing, if your instrument is your voice) it alone, without a metronome or any backup. Recording yourself gives you immediate and valuable feedback.
  • Listen to the recording. Are you confident that a stranger could tap to your beat? Are you speeding up or slowing down?
  • Tap or clap along with the recording. Keep a tally of how many times you got off the beat or hesitated.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not that steady. Just resolve to improve. Remember, this is just another skill to be learned!

2. March to a Pulse

This rhythm exercise might be the most fun — all you need to do is perform something physical to a pulse. If you like to dance, then dance along with the beat… and if you’d rather walk your dog, then go get the leash!

Physical movement matched to a pulse is called eurhythmics. This is the idea that music should be learned through all of the senses, including your kinesthetic (physical) awareness.

It’s best to create the pulse using a metronome. If you don’t own one, install a metronome app on your smartphone. I have one called The Metronome by Soundbrenner, but you can find lots of them in the App Store or in the Google Play Store.

The following video reveals a fascinating class in which eurhythmics is demonstrated. Notice that the students are creating movements that match rhythms. This is the fundamental idea. Keep watching, and you’ll see simple walking-to-a-pulse, dancing-to-a-pulse, and even punching-to-a-pulse!

3. Tap and Count

Find a recording of your favorite song, and clap your hands together with each count as you listen to it. You can also tap your leg, your guitar or piano, or a table. When you feel comfortable, add counting. Count “one, two, three, four,” or “one, two, three” depending on the time signature. Most songs have the feeling of three or four beats in each measure. Try both and see which one fits.

Remember, if it sounds like a waltz, then it probably has three beats per measure, but if it sounds like a march, then it probably has four beats per measure. Check out a video that demonstrates this exercise here.

4. Practice Subdividing

Now that you’ve counted the basic beat of your song, you’re going to subdivide. Learning how to subdivide is the basis of establishing that internal sense of rhythm, and later, just figuring out tough rhythms!

Subdivision is the practice of dividing the beats of a song into shorter beats. For instance, if you have a song that is made up of only quarter notes, to subdivide you might count “one, and, two, and, three, and, four, and…” instead of “one, two, three, four.” By subdividing, you’ve stopped guessing how long each beat is. I call it “naming the little baby notes.”

The following video visually details this rhythm exercise, but Dan also does a great job explaining it aurally.

5. Be an Apprentice

Find a friend, a neighbor, a band, or a great teacher with TakeLessons whose sense of rhythm and timing you really admire, and then find time to play with them. They’ll probably be flattered that you think of them so highly and be happy to help!

Here’s a terrific video of jazz piano great Chick Corea explaining his tips for getting better rhythmically, and this idea of apprenticeship.

6. Play with a Metronome

Now, take that song that you recorded before, set the metronome to a slow, steady beat again, and play along. But first, feel yourself settling in, letting your kinesthetic pulse — that internal sense of rhythm — sync with what you’re hearing.

Watch this video where the metronome is demonstrated on the piano. Even if you don’t play the piano, the instructor explains so simply that it will immediately make sense on your guitar, flute, or violin, or even your voice!

It’s been said that rhythm is not a series of dots, but of circles. As long as you hit the beat really close to the perfect spot, you’re okay. In fact, as humans, we’ll never be as exact as a metronome! And that’s great, because it creates a groove.

Being just a hair behind or ahead of the beat pulls the listener in, and frankly, keeps us from sounding like robots, or some computer program that makes music. It keeps us sounding human. Being human means being imperfect. And that’s just perfect.

Readers, what other rhythm exercises have helped you improve your skills? Leave a comment and let us know!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Learn more about Heather here!

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French Greetings The Right and Wrong Way to Greet Someone in French

How to Greet Someone in France | 15 French Phrases to Know

French Greetings The Right and Wrong Way to Greet Someone in French

How much do you know about French greetings and salutations? Learn the do’s, don’ts, and phrases to know in this post by French tutor Jinky B...

 

Traveling to a foreign country can be quite exciting. For French learners, maybe you have your eye on Paris, Versailles, or Nice.

This is your opportunity to explore the culture and really use all the French that you’ve been learning and practicing!

But all the preparation may come to a startling halt if you’re not sure how to approach or greet someone in France. Here are a few tips to make the interaction less daunting and to make a great first impression.

French Greetings – The Do’s and Don’ts

The etiquette on greeting people in France depends on a few factors. While it’s expected and considered polite to greet everyone, whether it’s your colleague or a shopkeeper in the magasin (store), the way you greet each person depends on your relationship with them and the social setting.

  • Les bises (the kisses) are a typical greeting when meeting friends in France.

Depending on the region of France, la bise can include one, two, or even three little kisses on the cheek. If in doubt, let the other person initiate and move to one side of your face or the other. The kisses generally begin on the right side of the face.

  • A handshake is a greeting that is reserved for business or formal settings.

When entering a meeting for work, it’s normal for colleagues to offer a firm handshake. It’s also common for men to greet with a handshake rather than with une bise.

  • A hug, contrary to American greetings, is reserved for close family members or significant others only.

A hug is seen as an invasion of privacy to the French and can make someone feel awkward or uncomfortable.

French Phrases to Know – Greetings & Salutations

As with proper French greeting etiquette, the correct “hello” depends on your relationship with the other person and the social context.

1. Bonjour – Good morning & hello

Use bonjour to say “good morning” or “hello” to someone for the first time seeing them in a day. If you encounter the same person again later in the day, it’s appropriate to use a less formal hello.

2. Enchanté(e) – Nice to meet you.

In a more formal setting, it’s polite to indicate that you are “delighted” to meet someone after they introduce themselves.

3. Bonsoir – Good evening & hello

This greeting is used in similar situations as bonjour, but reserved for the evening.

4. Salut – Hi

Considered to be a more casual greeting, using salut is appropriate when you see someone again later in the day.

5. Coucou – Hey

Close friends use this greeting often. You can skip the formal bonjour and use this, or even ciao, when seeing these close comrades.

6. Ça fait longtemps, dis donc! – Long time, no see!

An ideal greeting between good friends, young French people tend to use this phrase when meeting up.

7. Âllo – Hello

This greeting is used exclusively for conversations on the telephone.

8. Ça va? – How are you?

A very simple way to ask someone how they are doing is to say Ça va? It’s a condensed version of the question Comment ça va? (How are you doing?). Either is correct and can be used in formal or more casual settings.

9. Tu vas bien? – How are you doing?

Literally translated to “are you doing well,” this is a polite way to ask someone how they are when you’re expecting a positive reply.

10. Quoi de neuf? – What’s up?

This is very casual, so I recommend using with close friends.

11. Au revoir! – Goodbye!

Rather formal, this is a safe way to say goodbye, no matter the social setting.

12. Salut! – Bye!

This is more casual than au revoir, but is very appropriate when leaving someone.

13. Ciao! – See ya!

This is Italian in origin, but is popular among the younger French population.

14. À plus! – Later!

This is an easy way to indicate you’ll see someone later, but at an unspecific time.

15. À demain! – See you tomorrow!

The demain can be replaced with any day of the week if you know that you will see the other person soon.

Learn More French Phrases

Once you’ve mastered these French greetings and salutations, you can fill in the middle with great conversation! Here are some additional guides to check out:

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and has more than five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

Photo by Garry Knight

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An Introductory Guide to Becoming a Multi-Instrumentalist

Infographic: How Easy Is It To Switch Instruments? | Music Tips

Drummers, are you curious about the cello? Is it easy or hard to switch from guitar to piano? Learn the tips and tricks for switching instruments in this post by teacher Willy M

Have you been playing an instrument for a while now, but you’re beginning to realize that it doesn’t do everything you’d like to do musically? Did your parents spend a lot of money on an instrument (and you like it), but you’d also like to try something new?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, then this is the article for you!

Switching from one instrument to another — from guitar to piano, for example — doesn’t have to be difficult. Sure, you won’t master it overnight. But this article will dive into tips and tricks to make the transition easier.

How to Play Multiple Instruments

switching-from-piano-to-guitar

I am a multi-instrumentalist. I play keyboard instruments, and I play stringed instruments like the guitar, the banjo, and the mandolin. I also play wind instruments like the harmonica and the tin whistle, as well as percussion and drums for different bands.

People often come up to me when they see me perform with some kind of amazed wonder. Other musicians approach me as if I am some kind of superhuman to be able to play at a professional level on a wide variety of instruments.

But let me assure you, I am a normal person just like you.

What makes me different is that I’ve learned to understand that all instruments share some of the same fundamental principles. And once you understand the principles that apply to all instruments, you can figure out how to make music on these instruments.

But first, let’s break down the four main types of instruments:

  • Piano (including keyboards)
  • Stringed instruments (including guitar, banjo, mandolin, and violin)
  • Wind instruments (including flute, harmonica, brass instruments, and bagpipes)
  • Percussion instruments (including drum set, djembe, and cajon)

Understanding the Basics

switching-from-drums-to-guitar

There are a few things to keep in mind when transitioning from one instrument to another:

1) The basic notes will almost always be the same, no matter what instrument you switch to. (I say almost, because some world instruments do have extra notes, but for our discussion we will stick to well-known Western instruments.) A Major scale will always be A Major scale. A Minor scale will always be A Minor scale.

2) There will be some muscle memory issues that need to be worked out with almost every transition you make. Sometimes you will be switching from predominately using your left hand to predominately using your right, or vice versa. Sometimes, you’ll need to build finger strength when you move over to an instrument that requires more than your first instrument. Posture muscles, lip and mouth muscles, finger calluses, arm muscles, and even leg muscles may need to be developed and conditioned.

3) You may find that the way you comfortably sit with one instrument is not the way you sit comfortably with another instrument. As an example: when I play the banjo, I sit with my knees tucked in to allow the banjo a place to rest while I play, whereas with the drums, my knees are wider apart to reach the hi-hat and kick pedals.

4) You may find that your fingers are already trained. For instance, a guitar uses the left-hand fingers for playing chords and lead lines. The Irish tin whistle uses the left hand to finger some of the holes, and the dexterity gained from playing the guitar can easily cross over to the tin whistle.

5) Depending on the instrument you begin with, some new musical techniques may need to be learned. If you started with an instrument that uses a particular clef, you might need to learn to read another clef. If you never read tablature before, you might need to learn.

How to Switch Instruments – Diving In Further

An Introductory Guide to Becoming a Multi-Instrumentalist

So now that we’ve covered some basic things that you need to look out for, let’s take a look at switching to and from certain instrument categories.

Jump to Sections:

Piano to Strings
Piano to Wind
Piano to Percussion
Strings to Piano
Strings to Wind
Strings to Percussion
Wind to Piano
Wind to Strings
Wind to Percussion
Percussion to Piano
Percussion to Wind
Percussion to String
Recap

  • Switching From Piano to a String Instrument

Switching from keyboards to stringed instruments can be tricky. If you are switching to a stringed instrument that primarily uses tablature (guitar, banjo, mandolin, lute) you might find that learning to read the TAB is confusing.

Another thing to look out for is this: when you play a keyboard instrument, it takes little to no muscle strength to push down on the keys to produce a note. But with most stringed instruments, you will need to build up finger strength, finger sensitivity (yes, you might start developing calluses on your fingers), and even arm strength when you transition. These things are normal.

  • Switching From Piano to a Wind Instrument

When you switch from playing the piano or keyboard to an air-blown instrument, you may find that you are much more conscious about your breath control. You may find that your ribs hurt, and you might feel lightheaded at first as you learn how to support your breath. Also, depending on the type of instrument (padded, valve, or open-holed) you may find that you develop thicker pads on your fingers if you are switching to an open-holed type of wind-blown instrument.

As far as reading music is concerned, though, most wind instruments use the same clefs that you have already memorized– so that will be easy for you!

  • Switching From Piano to Percussion/Drums

One of the nice things about switching from piano (where you are using pedals with one foot) or organ (where you are using pedals with two feet) to the drum kit is that you are already trained to use your feet as you play. This dexterity of your hands and feet will make this transition much easier.

Also, many piano parts in popular music and classical styles tend to be rhythmic and multi-rhythmic, respectively,  so mastering the multi-rhythms of the drums should feel like something you already know.

The tricky part of this switch is it might take you some time to develop finesse on the drums. It is all well and good to beat out a rhythm on a percussion instrument, but to do it smoothly and with subtlety will take some practice.

  • Switching From a String Instrument to Piano

It’s always easy for me to spot a performer who started out on a stringed instrument and then moved to the keyboard, because they tend to have what I call the “guitarist’s hiccup.” When you play guitar, you play left then right — the left hand forms the chord first and then the right hand strums. Even if this is done almost instantaneously, it is still something that you will hear when a guitarist-turned-pianist plays. There is always a ba-dum rhythm to their playing as the left hand lands on the keyboard slightly before the right hand. Musicians who successfully transition from guitar to piano learn how to get rid of this stutter.

Another thing for some string players to consider: if you’re switching from an instrument that is devoted to one clef, you might need to learn a new clef; if you are coming from a TAB-based instrument, you’ll need to learn how to read sheet music. Also, proper seated position at a keyboard might be a bit uncomfortable for some string players, but you’ll develop it with practice.

  • Switching From a String Instrument to a Wind Instrument

Many of the challenges here are the same as the ones I mentioned for switching from piano to wind instruments.

Additionally, if you’re a guitar player who has developed calluses on your fingers, you may have some trouble with open-holed instruments, as the calluses on your fingers may cause a gap. You’ll have to press down with extra strength to seal the hole.

Here’s the bonus: Some air-blown instruments can be played while you play your stringed instrument, like playing a harmonica with a guitar.

  • Switching From a String Instrument to Percussion

Moving from a stringed instrument to a percussion instrument, like from guitar to drums, is a relatively easy transition. Both use wider arm movements, and both tend to be used as rhythmic instruments. Percussion sheet music is similar to TAB, and often the rhythm string players are used to listening for the kick drum to help them keep time. The left-hand dexterity that is developed in many stringed instruments is also good for helping you play smoothly.

However, if you’re switching to a drum set that requires playing with both hands and feet, this is where you’ll need practice.

  • Switching From a Wind Instrument to Piano

This may be one of the more difficult transitions to master. Muscle memory will need to be re-learned, since your hands will transition from being in-line to side-by-side. You’ll be a pro at reading one clef — but with keyboard you’ll need to read two clefs (and up to 10 notes) at a time.

For this type of switch, I recommend approaching each finger on the keyboard as if you were looking at a separate wind instrument. Spend a lot of time learning how chords and harmony work, too.

  • Switching From a Wind Instrument to a String Instrument

This can also be a bit of a tough switch, as you’ll have a similar problem with the hand positions. You also may have a lot of pain as you develop calluses on your fingers, and as you develop muscles in the arms you are not used to using.

Also, if you play an open-holed wind instrument, keep in mind the same advice applies from transitioning from strings to air-blown instruments. Your calluses might get in the way of achieving a nice tone on the stringed instrument. You may also need to learn how to read tab, if you’re switching to guitar.

  • Switching From a Wind Instrument to Percussion

If you play a wind instrument, switching to percussion might seem like a bizarre transition. For some percussion instruments, you’ll need to get used to using both your hands and your feet!

Keep in mind, though, that rhythm doesn’t change from one instrument to the other, so the rhythmic principles will always apply. And the fact that you are used to playing left and right hands in various sequences will do you well when you switch over to the drums.

  • Switching From Percussion to Piano

Switching from drums to piano produces a lot of the same challenges as the other way around. On the plus side, it’s good that you can use both your hands and your feet. This will be useful, especially if you are going to be playing the organ.

But there are a lot of new musical principles that percussionists will need to learn. For example, you’ll have to learn chords, scales, how melodies work, how chord progressions work, how harmony works, and the differences between major and minor and modes. It’s a far greater learning curve than the other transitions that I mentioned above.

  • Switching From Percussion to a Wind Instrument

As a percussionist, you’ll likely have rhythm down pat — so that part will be easy for you. But for this transition, you’ll learn to focus on one note and one hand position at a time. While you might find this a bit constrictive, in the end it will give you another outlet for your musical expression. You’ll also need to practice breath control and support.

  • Switching From Percussion to a String Instrument

Like the transition from drums to piano, switching from drums to strings has a whole host of challenges. The foremost is probably development of finger strength, which is not something most percussionists spend a lot of time on (unless you play something like the djembe or cajon). Other issues include learning tab or sheet music, learning about chords and harmonies, learning about melody, and all of the other things that you would learn if you were to transition to the keyboard, as mentioned above.

On the plus side, you’ve probably built up your arm strength, which will carry over well.

Recap: Notes for Switching Instruments

guide-to-switching-instruments-guitar-piano-violin-etc

Ready to Make the Musical Switch?

So this concludes my overview of the tips and techniques that will help you become a multi-instrumentalist. One last piece of encouragement: if you decide to delve into this exciting world, know that you will be greatly rewarded! You’ll learn about different aspects of music, as well as find your strengths. In the end, you’ll be a much better musician all around.

Readers, what instrument will you learn next? Are you currently switching from guitar to piano, piano to guitar, or another category? Leave a comment below and share your experience!

 

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston Salem, NC. Willy has been teaching for 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

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How to Use Your Smartphone for Language Learning

10 Genius Ways to Use Your Smartphone to Learn a Language

How to Use Your Smartphone for Language Learning

Can your phone help you learn a language? Absolutely! Check out these tips and ideas from Spanish tutor Joan B. and start exploring…

 

You’re addicted to your phone (join the club) and love everything it offers you — access to friends, amazing deals through apps, and up-to-the-minute news. But did you know you can also use it to help you learn a language?

It’s true: your smartphone is one of the best tools you can use to strengthen your language skills — especially when you use your phone to supplement your learning in between regular language lessons with a tutor.

Ready to get started? Try these tips to transform your phone into a portable language-learning console!

1. Visit fun sites.

You now have permission to play games and fun apps as often as you’d like on your phone — as long as they’re in another language. Here are a few language-learning apps and websites you can explore:

Tip: If you’re working toward a specific goal, ask your language tutor for their recommendation for an app to use or a game to play based on your strengths and challenges.

2. Watch YouTube videos.

Try watching music videos in your target language! Often you can find the lyrics in the notes below the video to read along if you need extra help. You can also watch how-to tutorials on any subject that interests you (chess, yoga, etc.), or you can even go for language-learning videos.

Tip: Browse through our recommendations for YouTube channels for learning German, learning Italian, and learning French.

3. Listen to foreign music on Spotify.

You can also discover new artists and reap the benefits that come with listening to music in your target language. You’ll get a feeling for the culture and sentiment in addition to learning new vocabulary and pronunciation.

Tip: Check out tutor Christopher S.’s recommendations for 5 New Musicians Who Can Improve Your Spanish.

4. Message friends on WhatsApp.

This is my favorite way to communicate with friends abroad, since it’s secure and free for everyone (no surprise fees here!). You can send each other jokes, ask how their day is, and get in a little language conversation practice all at the same time.

Tip: Choose from one of these conversation starters in Spanish and start chatting!

5. Snapchat in another language.

Create snaps with language from your target language to practice, or watch snaps from the country or language you’re interested in to get a taste of what’s happening locally.

Tip: Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages offers some great tips for using Snapchat here.

6. Try the WordReference App.

This handy dictionary is actually way more than a dictionary. It also includes threads from native speakers who share the true meaning of confusing phrases and word usage. It’s exhaustive, and in the unlikely case that you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can start a new thread and receive helpful advice.

Tip: Word-a-day updates like the one from SpanishDict are another great way to continue learning.

7. Keep lists of new vocabulary using Google Keep or Evernote.

Retaining new vocabulary is key in language learning, and keeping it in a list on your phone will allow you to review it frequently. You can also share the lists with others, like your teacher or tutor, or other friends learning the same language.

Tip: Struggling with remembering the vocab you’re learned? Check out my advice for memorizing French words.

8. Talk to Siri (or Google).

Did you know that if you change your settings on your phone to your target language, you can have long, deep conversations with Siri? You can ask her various probing questions (“How was your day?”; “Tell me a story, please?”) that will provoke long answers. You can listen to her pronunciation and read her words. Even better, she will test your pronunciation. If it’s a little off, she won’t understand; you’ll become much more precise and accurate thanks to her insistence.

Tip: Here’s a cool post from author Mike Boyle about how iOS 7’s Siri can help you learn a language.

9. Change your language settings on a few apps.

If you don’t feel ready to switch your whole phone to your new language, try changing it on just a few apps, like Facebook. Spanish learners, for example, will intuitively understand that “me gusta” means “like,” even if you’re brand-new at Spanish language learning. And by switching languages, you’ll absorb all kinds of new vocabulary and key phrases.

Tip: Learn how to change your language settings on Facebook here.

10. Join communities to get more conversation practice.

The best way to learn a language and speak colloquially is to get in more conversation practice! Try browsing through Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks to see how native speakers interact casually. Or, join one of our live, online group classes to chat with tutors and other students at your level.

Tip: More ideas for using Facebook here, via AlwaysSpanish.


Feeling better about your smartphone addiction? With these tips, you can use your phone to improve your language skills and learn something new. There’s so much to explore! Get started today, and watch your skills grow and thrive.

Readers, how do you use your smartphone for language learning? Leave a comment and share your best tip.

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side jobs for language lovers - teach abroad

10 Ways to Make Money as a Language Lover [Infographic]

Do you speak multiple languages? Maybe your linguistic love affair started in high school, when you took your first Spanish class. Maybe you were born into a bilingual family, exposed to the beauty of languages at an early age. Or maybe you even caught on later in life, after taking language classes just for fun.

Whatever the case, we applaud you! Being bilingual is an awesome skill, and one that can lead to higher-paying jobs, a sharper brain, and an expanded network of friends and colleagues. But beyond the pride and goal-achieving side of learning, did you know there are ways to make money with your skills?

Check out the infographic below for 10 perfect side jobs for language lovers…

10 Ways to Make Money as a Language Lover

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For a deep-dive into these tips, check out our guest post on FluentU, 10 Ways for Savvy Language Learners to Make Money on the Side (While Keeping the 9-to-5).

How to Make Money With Your Language Skills

1. Become a tutor.

Teaching part-time is one of the easiest side jobs for language lovers. Some companies may have you sign on as an hourly contractor, working specific hours at a specific location. Other companies offer more flexibility — with TakeLessons, for example, you can set your own prices and availability, as well as offer convenient online tutoring.

2. Work as a freelance translator.

Another popular option for language lovers is working as a freelance translator. Online translator jobs are plentiful and can be found through marketplaces like Upwork.

3. Grade/score standardized language examinations.

Many universities and testing centers outsource their grading for tests like the AP Spanish Exam. You can search for these jobs on the ETS website and HigherEdJobs.

4. Do some freelance writing.

If you’re a strong writer, why not combine that with your love for languages? Consider creating your own language-learning blog (you can then monetize it with ads or affiliate links once you’ve established an audience), or get paid on a per-article basis through Upwork or Zerys. (Tip: If you’re already a TakeLessons tutor, you can also get paid to write blog articles for us!)

5. Create language videos on YouTube.

If you’re a natural on camera, creating a YouTube channel might be right up your alley! Similar to monetizing a personal blog, once you’ve built your audience you can make money through ads that play before each video. This is a really flexible side job, since you can create videos in bulk and then release them whenever you want.

6. Sell your (original) content.

Many schools and companies will pay tutors to create quizzes, worksheets, posters, and other course materials. Check out sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and TeacherLingo. See also: 15 Platforms to Publish and Sell Online Courses via Learning Revolution.

7. Create a language app or game.

Are you tech-savvy? Creating a language app or game can end up being one of the most lucrative side jobs for language lovers — if you have a great idea, that is. Make sure to do your research, since your app will need to be better than the competitors (and there’s a lot of them!). See also: How Much Money Can You Earn With an App? via Fueled.

8. Teach at a museum, library, or community college.

Museums and libraries are sometimes open to hosting events, talks, and even mini-courses, if you know how to market yourself well. Or if you’re willing to commit more time, consider looking into community colleges in your area — some hire instructors for language courses based on expertise, not credentials.

9. Lead a trip to a foreign country.

Did you study abroad in high school or college? Most people look back on their experience fondly; immersion truly is one of the best ways to learn a language! Many study abroad programs hire trip leaders and coordinators, if you have the time to spare. Look for programs that fit your availability, whether that’s leading a short-term excursion or a longer trip.

10. Teach English abroad (great for a gap year!)

Teaching English abroad is another very popular option, if you’ve got the time! Programs include a range of locations, contract lengths, and pay. Check out sites like TeachAway and GoAbroad for opportunities. See also: Teaching English Abroad: Are You Qualified? via GoOverseas.

Additional Resources – Do Bilingual Workers Earn More?

If a side hustle isn’t your thing, consider using your language skills within your 9-to-5. Although it’s yet to be determined whether bilingualism increases income on its own, there are tons of benefits that come from learning a second (or third) language. Here are some additional resources:

Readers, how else have you made money using your language skills? What other side jobs for language lovers do you recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know!

JasonNPost Contributor: Jason N. offers online tutoring for English and Spanish. 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! 

Photo by teflheaven

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learning a language as an introvert

How to Survive (and Thrive) as an Introvert Learning a Language

learning a language as an introvert

Are extroverts better at learning languages? Au contraire! Learn how to survive (and thrive) as an introvert with these tips from Alexandria, VA tutor Elisha O...

 

 

There’s been a lot of hype lately about introverts and extroverts. And no matter which side you identify with (or if you’re a little of both!) there are definitely advantages and strengths on both sides of the spectrum.

As an introvert myself, my most productive and creative time is the time I spend alone. However, I’ve found that there are also many skills that simply cannot be done alone — and learning a new language is one of them.

Sure, you can stay home and read, study, and watch movies in your target language. But in order to really improve, communicating with others needs to be part of your learning strategy. While some extroverts jump at the opportunity to go out and socialize in a foreign language, the same idea leaves many introverts shaking in their boots.

So, does that mean that extroverts are better at learning languages? Not at all. But introverts may need to try different strategies along the way.

Here is a list of the most common obstacles introverts face when learning a language and how to solve them.

Problem: The thought of a “language meetup group” makes you cringe
Solution: Ease into learning from the comfort of your home

If you’ve never felt like your best self at networking events or mixers, your instinct will probably be to avoid group language meetups. Walking into a building and breaking the ice with one person after another in your first language is scary enough, let alone doing it in your second or third!

Well, there’s good news for us introverts. These days, the internet offers opportunities to connect with others no matter where you are — even from your own home. This makes a lot of students feel more comfortable, since you’re not in an unfamiliar location. Technology provides just the right amount of distance to feel comfortable and secure. 

I recommend easing into a new language with online, private language lessons with a tutor, and then progressing to online group classes to get conversation practice.

Problem: You’re good at reading, writing, and listening, but struggle with speaking
Solution: Practice speaking without people around

While this may affect introverts and extroverts alike, introverts are less likely to seek out speaking opportunities and get out of their comfort zones, which furthers the gap.

Before you delve into a new language (whether for the first time or after a long hiatus), try listening to music in your target language and singing along as best you can. You’ll get a feel for vocabulary as well as how to pronounce the words, which can help you feel a lot more confident the next time you speak out loud.

You can also try talking to yourself throughout the day in your target language. For example, try narrating what you’re doing as you get ready for work or school in the morning. The trick to overcoming your nerves is often just practicing speaking more!

Problem: Breaking the ice is not your forte
Solution: Prep yourself with conversation starters

“You mean I have to… think of stuff to say?”

No! Not necessarily. As introverts, we often prefer for others to set the tone and pace of the conversation, at least at first! If starting conversations isn’t your cup of tea, and talking to strangers makes you queasy, consider requesting more structured classes from your teacher.

My ESL students also enjoy the seasonal book clubs that I coordinate. With this format, students don’t have the pressure of responding to small talk questions or improvising. The book provides a context in which they can frame the conversation, and they can even prepare responses to discussion questions ahead of time.

Problem: You’re afraid of looking “dumb”
Solution: Find a tutor you feel comfortable with

If there’s one thing I hear from students the most, it’s this. Sure, learning would be so much easier if we could travel back in time and return to being children, when our brains are like sponges and our pride could never be hurt! But learning a language as an adult can be a totally different experience. We often fear that we will appear less intelligent and articulate than we really are when we speak another language.

My advice for these students is to find a tutor who has actually learned a second language or lived in a foreign country. These teachers get it. They know first-hand the courage it takes to learn a new language, and will support and encourage you every step of the way!

Introverts, what other tips have you found helpful for learning a new language? Leave a comment below and share it with us!

Photo by uoeducation

ElishaOPost Author: Elisha O.
Elisha teaches English, ESL, Essay Writing, and Grammar in Alexandria, VA, as well as online. She earned her degrees in Psychology and Spanish from Western Washington University. Learn more about Elisha here!

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