How to Set Up a Drum Set

drum setNew to the drums? Learning how to set up a drum set properly should be your first priority. Read on as Mundelein drum teacher Jonah D. shows you the way…






Before I even touch the drums I have to set up my drum throne.  I adjust the height so that I can lift my legs easily using my thighs.  I start with a height that puts a 90-degree angle at my knees.  I sit higher up, but you can raise or lower the seat to make it comfortable.  Sitting too high or too low will actually impede your ability to play.

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Video: Learn and Master Major Scales

Gibson guitarGuitarists, want to master your scales once and for all? Practicing scales and training your fingers goes hand-in-hand with improving your overall technique, especially when you start working on soloing and improvisation. We were excited to come across Gibson’s series of tutorial videos, and this one in particular is great for guitar players who want to learn a few major scale exercises.

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Dubstep Violin with Lindsey Stirling

We simply can’t get enough of Lindsey Stirling! Her amazing violin skills, modern integrations of hip-hop and dubstep, and creative videos (many of which have gone viral) have launched her into YouTube celebrity fame ever since she impressed audiences nationwide on America’s Got Talent. She has performed globally and recently embarked on a U.S. tour, and her first self-titled album was released on September 18th. Take a look at her most recent music video here:

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Studying Creativity: How to Find Your Muse

creativityBeing a musician isn’t always sunshine and roses – sometimes you lose focus and motivation. But finding your muse can help give you a fresh new outlook and the inspiration to continue creating. Today’s featured guest author is Astoria, NY teacher Jessy T. Read on as she shares her story…

We all possess a creative spirit that leads us to do, to make, to discover and to enjoy.  It’s that inner spark that suddenly one day ignites, and makes us leap out of bed and set out to create something that is uniquely our own.  For us musical folks, this is why we pick up an instrument or start singing.  Music is our natural medium of expression.

I have been a singer for my whole life.  Through singing I have found the greatest joys and greatest challenges I’ve ever known.  Singing was always fun and made me feel good when I was younger, so it seemed natural that I would pursue serious vocal study at the collegiate level.  I was excited to embark upon this journey, but I quickly discovered that studying voice was not all fun and games.  In fact, it was difficult, tedious and even frustrating.  After a while, I found myself enjoying it less and less.  I even got to the point when I was actually dreading my voice lessons.  I was analyzing myself so much that I forgot singing was supposed to be fun!  I felt mechanical, and had censored my creative intuition so many times that it practically went into hiding.

In the midst of this artistic turmoil, I turned to songwriting.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was an escape for me.  I was searching for some way to enjoy making music again, and soon found my new favorite form of self-expression in the process.  I will never forget the first time I performed my first original song at a college coffee house.  The reaction from my friends and colleagues was so positive and reassuring; I knew I had discovered something very exciting!  This “unleashing of the muse” was a breakthrough for me because it helped me to express everything I was feeling in a creative way, it reminded me of WHY I wanted to sing, and it helped me to trust my musical and artistic choices again.  I started to feel like an artist for the first time in my life.

As a beginning student of singing, all of the technicalities can seem daunting.  It is easy to lose touch with that creative spirit that inspired you to make music in the first place.  When you break something down to its most fundamental levels, it can become challenging to see the forest for the trees.  You can actually end up getting in your way and blocking your own creativity.

So, how do you study singing (or any other instrument) without losing touch with your own creative intuition?  The answer is you must make it into a study of creativity.  And you do so by always reminding yourself to HAVE FUN!  This may be easier said than done, but isn’t that why we start making music to begin with?  Because it’s fun!  Don’t allow yourself to become so bogged down in the study that you forget the initial joy you found in music.  Trust your unique choices, and try to not be your biggest critic.  Your creative spirit is calling.

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Astoria voice lessons with Jessica T.Jessy T. teaches singing, music performance, music theory, and songwriting lessons to students of all ages in Astoria, NY. With a Bachelor’s degree in Voice Performance, Jessy specializes in classical, music theory, jazz and pop styles. She joined the TakeLessons team in August 2012. Find out more about Jessy, or visit TakeLessons to search for a teacher near you!


Photo by derrickcollins

What Musicians Can Learn From Olympic Athletes

2012 OlympicsIt’s official. It’s that time again, and I definitely have Olympics fever! Bring on the Opening Ceremony, the gorgeous London backdrop, the edge-of-your-seat parallel bars, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 100-meter dash – oh, and does anyone else out there like watching televised table tennis as much as I do?

Every four years I look forward to watching the athletes battle it out, and I’m always inspired by the way the events bring together people of all countries, cultures and backgrounds.

As I’ve been following the news, I started thinking about how similar sports and music are, in that sense. In sports, the rules are understood no matter what language you speak. And with music? You can appreciate catchy harmonies, melodic piano runs and the beat of the drum without even saying a word. But that’s not where the similarities end. I’ve put together my list of things musicians can learn from Olympic athletes here – what other crossovers can you think of?

1. Success takes dedication and commitment.
No athlete wakes up one morning, decides to take up a particular sport, and then days later is invited to the Olympics. I recently read that 15-year-old Kyla Ross, the youngest gymnast on the U.S. team this year, practices 30-35 hours every week – that’s pretty much a full-time job! What’s more, these athletes usually begin training at a very young age.  To compare: if you think you can master the guitar in just a few short lessons, you’ll probably end up pretty frustrated. True success – with anything - takes passion, practice, and most of all, commitment.

2. Try, try again.
If you don’t perform at your finest the first time, there’s nothing wrong with trying again. Take 71-year-old equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu, whose attendance this year makes him the second-oldest contender in the history of the Olympics. He first competed in 1964, but has never medaled.  There are two lessons here: First, you’re never too old to dedicate yourself to a goal. Second, you’re not limited to just one opportunity to reach that goal. If your audition doesn’t go the way you wanted, reflect on what you can do better, keep your attitude positive and then try again – even if it’s 48 years later.

3. Attitude is everything.
Whether you’re preparing for a small, family-only recital or the most important audition of your life, your attitude will always influence your performance. If you’re so worried about getting through a specific part of the song, you may not be playing at your full potential.  So instead of focusing on the negative thoughts, think about how you’re going to rock it out, and how all of your practice is about to pay off. Athletes often use visualization techniques to envision themselves reaching the finish line – take advantage of the strategy by picturing yourself wowing the audience.

4. Goals are necessary.
Setting goals, no matter how far off they may seem, gives yourself the direction you need. With an ultimate goal of the gold medal, great athletes know the importance of breaking that down into smaller goals – run a little bit faster or throw a little fit further next time, for example. So what do you really want? Do you want to record an album? Do you want to be the next Adele? Do you want to eventually earn a Grammy, or sell out huge amphitheaters? Write those goals down. Determine the smaller steps and milestones that will lead up to that, and then get to work!

5. Don’t neglect your support team.
Many athletes, with the exception of sports like basketball or volleyball, perform alone. However, they often have a large team working behind the scenes, from personal trainers to nutritionists to coaches and managers who are there along the way. The lesson here? Never underestimate the power that your own support team can offer.  Whether this is a mentor of your own, a great music teacher, a street team to promote your gigs or your bandmates, a little support can go a long way.

- , TakeLessons staff member and blogger

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You might also like…
- Keeping Your Music Skills Sharp This Summer
- Mind Games: Improving Your Mental Practice
- Excel at Music By Acting Like a Child


Photo by Donna_Rutherford.

Student Success Stories: Never Give Up!

microphoneOne of the best things about working at TakeLessons is hearing our students’ stories – about their goals, their achievements, and how music has impacted their lives. For some, the goal might start off small: mustering up the courage to sign up for lessons to begin with, for instance.  Maybe it’s earning first chair in orchestra or the lead in a school musical. For others, it might be dreams of earning a record deal, performing on stage or going on tour. Music is important to everyone in the office, and seeing students reach these goals truly reminds us of why we work here.

Recently, we received an email from one of our Ridley Park voice students, May.  She’s been a student with TakeLessons since November 2010, and wanted to share her recent accomplishment of recording two original songs.  She definitely caught my eye – or ear, you might say – and I’ve chosen to feature her as this month’s Student Success Story. Below, you’ll find my interview with May, along with a link to her recordings.  Congrats, May, for reaching your goals!

- , TakeLessons staff member and blogger

What is your musical background? When did you start singing?

I have sung and danced since I was a little girl, but never took formal classes. Money was scarce when I was growing up and extracurricular activities were not choices for my family. The thought never occurred to me that I could take professional singing lessons. I had also been told that I was not “born” with a singing talent, therefore it would be useless for me to try to sing. I do remember being ten years old telling my father proudly that one day I would be a singer and his answer was a firm “No.”

Walk us through your experience with private music lessons – how long have you been taking them? How has TakeLessons helped you in reaching your goals?

One day I was singing Barbra Streisand’s “Somewhere” when I was struck with the realization that I loved singing so much, I should take professional lessons, even if I wasn’t “born” with the talent. So I looked online for singing lessons, found Takelessons, and set up my lessons immediately for that very weekend. Takelessons helped me find professional singers, who are also educators, that I can trust. I have had two admirable, talented singing teachers, Valerie H. and Claire B., who have helped me be the best singer I can be to date. My singing teachers have helped me develop my breathing techniques, singing confidence, music theory comprehension, and my unique needs for singing my personal best, particularly for the kind of music I love to sing. I know I am still and will always be working on improving my singing, and I am happy to do so for the rest of my life.

What inspired you to record your songs?

That little ten year old girl, the one that always wanted to be a singer, would remind me on occasion how much I wanted to be a singer. I love all types of music, especially upbeat, fast tempos. I want to combine meaningful, substantive lyrics and messages with an eclectic array of musical instruments for an uplifting mood. I want to touch people’s minds, hearts, and souls personally with my music. Sharing my music with the world is my goal!

What advice would you give to beginner students?

The first step is to give yourself a chance. Do not listen to naysayers, no matter what their intentions may be. Try, do your personal best, practice, and keep at it… Like my first song says, “Never give up. You gotta keep on keeping on!”

Check out May’s songs here!


Do you have a story you’d like to share? Email us at, and you might be featured in an upcoming blog post!

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Photo by wstyder.

Discounted Summer Music Lessons – Now Through May 25th!

SummerMemorial Day is approaching, and you know what that means: summer is almost here!  And if you haven’t started thinking about your family’s schedule, it’s smart to start planning before it’s too late.

In the land of sunscreen and Popsicle stands, it can be all too easy for kids to forget all of the techniques and songs they learned in the last 9 months, so it’s important to keep them engaged in music in some form.

Many families take advantage of the extra time available by adding in extra lessons or extending the lesson duration, giving kids a head start on their instrument before the next school year starts. For students shuffling between family visits, camps and other vacations, a flexible lesson schedule can be ideal.  If committing to a weekly timeslot is too difficult, speak with your child’s teacher and call our support staff to switch over to the “Flex” plan.

Of course, the opportunity isn’t restricted to the youngsters: with the longer days and carefree attitude the season usually encourages, it’s the perfect time for musicians of all ages to get started.  Since some teachers will have more open availability as students take breaks, use that to your advantage and secure an after-work or weekend timeslot.

But best of all?  We’re offering a special Memorial Day promotion to help you get a jump start – now through May 25th, new students are eligible for one FREE lesson with the purchase of three lessons.  For a longer commitment, book our Quarterly plan and receive two free lessons with the purchase of eleven lessons. Browse our certified teachers, find an instructor near your home and begin a summer to remember!

To find out more and take advantage of this special discount, call us at 877-231-8505 and connect with one of our student counselors!  This offer is available to new students only, and is not currently available for online booking.  Lesson plan pricing will return to normal for all billing cycles following your initial purchase.


Photo by Loren Sztajer.

Beyond the Piano Tie: 5 Absurdly Cool Pianos

If you’ll be in Los Angeles between now and May 3rd, keep your eyes open for the latest public art installation – 30 pianos, designed and decorated by local artists and community organizations, with one simple instruction: “Play Me, I’m Yours”!  The art celebrates conductor and pianist Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th anniversary as music director for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Similar Street Pianos have been featured in several US cities over the past 5 years, including Birmingham in 2008, New York in 2010 and Austin in 2011. Check out their official website to download a map of the piano locations and find out more information.  You can also upload your own photos, videos and stories to be featured on the website.  Just a look through their library shows just how creative artists can get with a seemingly simple piano.

We’ve shared photos of crazy guitar designs here before, but what about pianos?  Here are a 5 absurdly cool piano designs that caught our eye:


Chichi, Rocking Piano1. Chichi, the “Rocking Piano”:
This piano really rocks – back and forth, that is.  UK designer Sarah Davenport crafted this idea around a standard baby grand from the 1900s and literally rocks the player as a way of strengthening the relationship between the pianist and the piano.



Burning piano2. Burning Piano:
Ok, not really a piano design, but a unique performance nonetheless.  In 2008, Japanese pianist Yosuke Yamashita donned a fireproof suit to play a piece as the piano enveloped in flames.  Believe it or not, it was actually the second time he performed the stunt.



Piano table3. Piano Table:
Would you love to have a piano in your home, but the space is too limiting?  Georg Bohle’s Piano Table design works double-duty – just don’t get any crumbs between the keys!  The electric keyboard is made out of oak wood and is completely hidden when the lid is down.  All yours for the retail price of $6,000.


Hydra Piano4.  Hydra Piano:
This other-worldly design by Macedonian designer Apostol Tnokovski was reportedly inspired by a Lady Gaga performance.  The concept is also heavily influenced by Hydra, the mythological 7-headed sea monster, hence the name.


Schimmel Pegasus5. Schimmel Pegasus:
Italian designer Luigi Colani takes us to another dimension with this unique look. The Pegasus offers an ergonomic keyboard, over 200 strings, and 7 1/4 octaves. Its curved soundboard also results in a highly-efficient resonance system.  Reportedly Lenny Kravitz and Prince each own one of these pianos.



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