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how to be a successful musician

Do Perfectionists or Free Spirits Make Better Musicians?

how to be a successful musician

When it comes to practicing and playing music, are you a perfectionist? Or more of a free spirit? Learn how to be a successful musician using your strengths and weaknesses in this guest post by guitar teacher Wes F...

 

If you’ve ever taken a personality test, you may be aware that most traits are thought to inhabit a continuum — for example, if you’re thinking about the traits of introversion and extroversion, you either lean toward a solitary (introverted) or a more socially adventurous (extroverted) disposition. In my years of teaching guitar, I’ve noticed that students also tend to favor one of two extremes when approaching practice.

Some students will be perfectionists when it comes to practicing music. Others will be more of the free-spirited type.

Each of these extremes comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. One isn’t better than the other, but there are things you can learn from both sides to become a better musician. Below, I’ll describe each personality type, and offer tips for how to get out of your comfort zone.

Free Spirit Musicians

Most people take up an instrument in the hopes that it will be fun, perhaps inspired by a virtuoso player seen at a concert or online. They make it look so easy! It must be such a fun, free feeling to do what they do!

It is, but that freedom has to be paid for with time spent practicing and improving; nobody starts out on guitar playing Eric Johnson’s “Cliffs of Dover” as their first song!

For free spirits, this can wind up being a real problem. Sure, there’s a part of them that knows that becoming a successful musician is going to take time and work, but knowing that and experiencing it are two different things. Free spirits tend to lose focus if they don’t see results quickly. What happens most often is that they settle for “good enough” and convince themselves that they’re nailing a song when in fact they’re just not noticing where they can improve.

How to succeed if you’re a free spirit:

  1. Be hard on yourself.
    Pay attention to what you’re playing. Make sure each note sounds really good. Focus on looking for where things are wrong rather than where they are right. You won’t be able to improve if you don’t perceive a problem. (Working with a private music teacher can also help with this.)
  2. Narrow your focus.
    Don’t simply play through the whole song and call it done; find sections that are causing you problems and play them multiple times (more slowly than you want to!). Too many mistakes to count? Chop that section in half and narrow your focus even more.
  3. Expand your attention span.
    If you’re bored or frustrated, you should take a break — but don’t stop what you’re doing immediately! Push through the discomfort for a few more minutes. Making this a habit will help you adjust to the more difficult aspects of learning your instrument. You may even someday find yourself enjoying things you never thought you would.

Perfectionist Musicians

Perfectionists have the opposite problem of free spirits. They can’t see past the mistakes they’re making — sometimes to the point that they struggle to have any fun. They suffer from a high degree of burnout, and spend a lot of time doing menial work that seems necessary to them, but is often counterproductive.

How to succeed if you’re a perfectionist:

  1. Vary the difficulty.
    Something that often goes along with perfectionism is a disdain for songs that are “too easy.” This can lead to a lot of needless frustration. It’s a good idea to designate songs as easy, medium, or hard, and make sure you’re always working on one of each. (Free spirits can probably benefit from this advice as well!)
  2. Goof off.
    You can actually learn quite a bit from simply playing with the sounds your instrument makes — as long as you are doing so in a mindful way. Feel free to sound like a screeching mutant ferret trying to sing opera, but make sure you’re aware of how you got it to sound that way and see if you can reproduce it! Your music teacher can also help you explore and connect with your instrument.
  3. Make time for play.
    Put a limit on the amount of repetition in your practice time. It’s a good idea to spend time playing all the way through your song without stopping to correct everything you don’t like. This will give you a new perspective and help you see what all that repetition is for. You should find that letting go and having fun is very motivating. (Tip: Check out these musician resources for finding people to jam with, too!)

How to Be a Successful Musician – Try Something New!

If you feel like you’ve stalled in your progress on your instrument, give these suggestions a try. Doing the same things over and over and expecting different results doesn’t usually work out too well. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; the most successful musicians recognize these and adjust their practice accordingly to improve. Good luck!

Photo by oh_debby

WesFPost Author: Wes F.
Wes F. teaches bass guitar, guitar, songwriting, and more in Atlanta, GA. He studied classical guitar and composition at Asbury College and later more in-depth guitar studies at the Atlanta Institute of Music. Learn more about Wes here!

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10 Essential Fitness Exercises for Musicians

Infographic: 10 Best Fitness Exercises & Stretches for Musicians

As musicians, it can be easy to forget that it’s not just our mind that matters — our body plays a role in learning music, too! And just as it’s important to find a great teacher to guide us toward reaching our goals, it’s also vital that we remember how to take care of ourselves.

Here are 10 fitness exercises, stretches, and activities you can do to stay in tip-top shape, for all types of musicians — from singers to guitarists to wind instrumentalists and more!

10 Essential Fitness Exercises for Musicians

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10 Fitness Exercises & Activities for Musicians

Power yoga

What it is: Fitness-oriented classes that focus on breathing, alignment, strength, balance, and opening up the body
Best for: Everyone
How to get started: Choose between heated and non-heated classes at a local studio or with a private yoga instructor; look for vinyasa-based classes that link breath to movement.

Learning how to properly and deeply breathe isn’t just important for singers! Taking full breaths is known to reduce stress and improve concentration. Breathing slowly and deeply, especially during challenging yoga poses, will help you to do so during stressful moments, calming both your mind and your body.

See also: 15 Yoga Poses with Powerful Benefits for Singers [Videos], Yoga for Musicians via Yoga Journal

Core strengthening

What it is: Exercises that strengthen the muscles in your torso, including your abdominals and back muscles
Best for: Vocalists, pianists, wind instrumentalists
How to get started: You can incorporate core work in many different workout formats, but especially in Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing classes. Or create a routine for yourself that includes planks, crunches, and oblique work.

Put simply, you need a strong core to hold yourself upright. It’s not just about having a six-pack; having a weak core can put strain on your back and ultimately cause chronic back pain. Core strength also helps improve your balance and stability — super important for all the sitting and standing we do!

See also: 8-minute Abs Workout, Beginner Pilates videos via Blogilates

Posture work

What it is: Exercises that help maintain proper alignment of your spine
Best for: Everyone
How to get started: This is usually incorporated heavily in barre and yoga; you can also try doing some simple exercises at home, such as wall sits or shoulder rolls — anything that encourages your shoulders back and down, your chin slightly tucked, and your feet parallel with each other.

Sitting at a computer all day, being hunched over our phones, and slouching in general can wreak havoc on our posture. Over time, our spine begins to morph into the wrong shape — chin jutting forward, shoulders hunched, feet forming a v-shape. Not to mention that a performer with poor posture just doesn’t look as confident or as professional!

See also: Posture and Breathing, via Brass Musician Magazine

Arm strengthening

What it is: Exercises that strengthen the biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles
Best for: Percussionists, pianists, string instrumentalists, wind and brass instrumentalists
How to get started: Most common in weight training classes; create your own circuit at home or at the gym, including push-ups and different weight-lifting exercises.

No matter if you’re a singer or you play an instrument, chances are you’re going to be holding something up, whether it’s your music, your instrument, or your arms. Some instruments may even require using the strength of your arms for certain techniques. Strengthening your arm and shoulder muscles can help prevent injuries, especially to the joints that end up fatigued when they aren’t supported by strong enough muscles.

See also: Is weight training safe for pianists? via Tim Topham, How Weight Training Has Made Me a Better Musician via William James

Intense cardio

What it is: Exercises that increase your heart rate and keep it high or raise it in intervals
Best for: Everyone
How to get started: Try a spin class or do sprints, jumping-rope, or jumping jacks on your own.

Cardiovascular health is important for everyone, but musicians especially can benefit from the mind-over-matter mentality that it takes to push yourself past your limits. And increasing your heart rate during exercise can ease stress, relieve anxiety, and help you sleep better — all of which benefit both your practice and your performance.

See also: Burst Training for Beginners via Dr. Josh Axe

Dance classes

What it is: Classes (or videos) that include short snippets of choreography and a variety of genres of music
Best for: Vocalists, instrumentalists (especially those playing in any sort of ensemble or band)
How to get started: Try a Jazzercise, Zumba, or cardio hip-hop class. These classes are a great workout, and some formats include strength training, too.

Dance classes with choreography require you to stay present and focused, and to memorize moves in the context of the music. These skills come in handy when you need to memorize a piece of music, especially if you are singing or playing with others. They also require coordination and improve your rhythm by forcing your body to feel the beat. Lastly, dance classes can expose you to types of music you might not listen to on your own.

See also: 30-minute Aerobic Dance Workout via GoodHealth 24/7

Neck & shoulder stretches

What it is: Stretches that ease tension in your neck and shoulders and encourage them to stay relaxed, even after the stretch is over. These stretches also bring balance to your body
Best for: Pianists, wind instrumentalists, guitar players, string instrumentalists
How to get started: Do several stretches that include the front and sides of your neck and the fronts of your shoulders; do these several times a day, especially before and after practicing.

Keeping tension in your neck and shoulders while practicing can cause you to suffer more over time. Especially if you allow your shoulders to come up and forward, this can really weaken your posture and cause back pain, in addition to the neck pain already present. Tension can also inhibit your playing, since many techniques require your muscles to be controlled but in a relaxed way.

See also: 10 Essential Stretches for Musicians via Music Notes, 11 Stretching Exercises for Musicians via The Strad, 16 Simple Stretches for Tight Shoulders via Greatist

Hip flexor stretches & backbends

What it is: Stretches that open up the front of your body and counteract all the sitting and leaning forward we do
Best for: Vocalists, pianists, guitarists, drummers
How to get started: Many yoga postures are hip openers and backbends; take a yoga class, work with a private yoga teacher, or do a few stretches on your own at home.

Tension in the front of your body causes it to be imbalanced and ends up pulling on the back of your body. This takes a toll on your posture and can cause muscle and joint pain. Some say that we carry our stress in our hips, so opening them up would naturally help relieve that stress. Backbending opens your chest and lungs and can help you breathe more deeply.

See also: 4 Hip Flexor Stretches to Relive Tight Hips via Stack

Outdoor hobbies

What it is: Any outdoor activity that forces you to breathe and/or sweat!
Best for: Everyone
How to get started: Go hiking, biking, or swimming; do a marathon or mud run; take a surfing or stand-up paddleboarding class.

In his piece “For Poets”, Al Young advises “Come on out into the sunlight/ Breathe in Trees/…Don’t forget to fly”. The message rings true for all artists — the best inspiration comes from being out in nature and experiencing life. Many musicians spend so much time holed up in studios and practice rooms, so it’s even more important to remind ourselves to get out there and have those one-of-a-kind experiences.

See also: 5 Things That Smart Musicians Do Every Day, via SonicBids

Meditation

What it is: Sitting in stillness, calming your mind, and focusing on your breath for a certain amount of time
Best for: Performers
How to get started: Take a meditation class or listen to a guided meditation.

Meditation not only reduces stress and anxiety, it also improves focus and memory. And when you have the skills to calm your mind anywhere, anytime, you can handle anything! For performers especially, practicing meditation will connect your mind and body and allow you to keep calm, no matter how many people are in the audience.

See also: Free Guided Meditations via UCLA Health, How Musicians Can Really Benefit From Meditation via GuitarHabits


Try these fitness exercises, get healthy, and give your music the strong, vibrant musician it deserves! And don’t forget one of the most important aspects of growing as a musician: a great teacher who will guide you and encourage you to be the best you can be. Good luck!

JasmineTPost Author: Jasmine T.
Jasmine T. teaches piano, academics, yoga, and more in San Diego, CA. She has her Power Yoga Level 1 200-Hour Certification, as well as a Certificate of Merit for Piano and Theory from the Music Teachers’ Association of California. Learn more about Jasmine here!

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Rosita R.

The 7 Types of Learners & How to Find the Best Teacher For YOU

Rosita R.

No matter how far your education has taken you, you’ve likely had a lot of teachers over the course of your life.

Elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers and beyond; each year brought one (or more) teachers and mentors into your life. Maybe you even had Little League coaches or camp counselors along the way.

When it comes to private lessons, though — whether you want to learn music, languages, fitness, or something else — it’s a whole new ballgame.

You select the teacher, tutor, or coach you want to learn from. And that can be a little overwhelming!

Fortunately, finding a good teacher for music lessons or otherwise — the perfect person to help you or your child — doesn’t have to be hard. But it does take some reflection and research.

Finding a Great Tutor or Teacher with TakeLessons

To begin, let’s pinpoint who you are, what you want, and what you need. Out of the options below, which do you identify with? Start your search at TakeLessons with the lesson type and your zip code, and we’ll help you find a tutor or teacher who’s the perfect fit.

Want to find your teacher faster? Call our team at 877-231-8505 and we can help!


The “Schedule-Challenged” Student


We get it: life can get busy! Whether you’re working around a 9-to-5 office job, or you’re a parent juggling your child’s extracurriculars, we know some students need a specific timeslot — no exceptions. On the flipside, if your schedule is constantly in flux, you may want a teacher who can offer you more flexibility.

Our search filters make it easy to find instructors with the availability you need. And if you have unique scheduling needs, remember that you have the option to ask instructors questions before booking — simply click the Ask a Question button to the right of a teacher’s profile picture to send them a message.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on the “Availability” dropdown at the top. Select the day(s) you’re looking for, and then pull up individual profiles to see available timeslots. You can see this within the box to the right of the teacher’s information.
  • Consider our “Schedule As You Go” plan if you need flexibility.
  • Have a unique scheduling situation? Use the Ask a Question tool to message teachers before booking, or contact us for assistance.

The Location-Bound Student


What’s that, you say? You don’t want to spend two hours commuting to and from your lesson? We get it.

We’re lucky to work with instructors from all across the U.S. — you’ll find teachers from Seattle to St. Louis, and everywhere in between. You may even find teachers who will travel to your home for lessons.

Even if there’s not a teacher directly nearby, online lessons make it easy and convenient to connect with our top teachers on a regular basis. Not tech-savvy? We’ve created the TakeLessons Classroom just for you. It’s a video chat-based virtual classroom that requires no downloads, and you can get to it right from your Student Account.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • Looking for a teacher close by? After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on Sort by: Distance to see your closest options.
  • Want an instructor who will come to you? Pull up an individual profile, and look at the “Select a location” prompt in the right-hand box. If a bubble for “Your Home” shows, the teacher may be able to travel to you — click the blue prompt to enter your address and make sure you’re within his or her travel radius. (Or, contact us via phone or email for a quicker search!)
  • Prefer online lessons? After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on the “Location” dropdown, and select “Online.”

The Budget-Conscious Student


Private lessons can be expensive. But as many students can attest to, the personalized attention you get from them is priceless! Fortunately, if you’re operating on a budget, there are ways to make it work.

TakeLessons teachers set their own prices, which are shown prominently within search results. This is usually based on their specific location, their experience level, and how long they’ve been teaching.

Also, consider taking online lessons! Often these are a bit cheaper than in-person or in-home lessons, and you’ll be saving money (and time!) by not having to commute anywhere.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on Sort By: Lowest Price to sort your options. Note that prices may be marked at 30-minute, 45-minute, or 60-minute lesson durations.
  • Consider online lessons to save money. After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on the “Location” dropdown, and select “Online”.

The Goal-Oriented Student


Are you an aspiring singer dreaming of being the next Adele? Are you learning French for an upcoming vacation, or so you can interact with clients at work?

If you have specific goals, it’s more important than ever to find the right teacher. So first, write down those goals: where do you want to be in one year? Five years? Ten years? Next, get to work: dedicate some time to browsing profiles, and look for instructors who have experience teaching the specific genres, techniques, or skills you want to learn. Look for the Student Favorite badge for our top teachers, and read the reviews from current and past students.

Still struggling? Use the Ask a Question tool to message teachers before booking, or give us a call for extra assistance in finding the right match.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • Dedicate some time browsing profiles to find someone who has the experience you need.
  • Use the Ask a Question tool for specific inquiries before booking.
  • Look for the Student Favorite badge (a red heart icon) in search results for our top teachers.
  • Read other students’ feedback! After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on Sort By: Reviews to see teachers with the most reviews.

The Picky Parents


OK, maybe you’re not picky. Moms and Dads, we know you just want the best for your child!

And for kids, the “right” teacher isn’t always the most qualified — often it’s the person your child feels the most comfortable with. You’ll want to find a tutor or teacher who is patient, encouraging, and friendly, with (successful) experience with other children.

If safety is important to you, you may want to start your search by marking the option for “Background Check Verified” — this indicates the instructor has opted in and passed a thorough background check.

From there, filter your results by clicking on “Student Age” and selecting from the dropdown. Many teachers will also list their experience and what age groups they enjoy working with in the “Overview” section of their profile. Feel free to use the Ask a Question tool to send a message to the teacher, too.

Beyond that, sometimes it just comes down to a personality match. And the best way to test that is to just try out a lesson — if for any reason it’s not working out, our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee protects you.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, check the box for Background Check Verified.
  • Click on the “Student Age” dropdown, and indicate child or teen.
  • Pull up individual profiles and look at the ages taught in the “About” section.
  • Browse through profiles to get a feel for the teacher’s personality.
  • Use the Ask a Question tool to message teachers before booking.
  • Call us for extra assistance to find that perfect teacher for your child!

The Hobbyist (or, the “Bucketlister”)


If you’re a casual learner who just wants to have fun — or to check off your bucket list — you’re in luck! Most of our teachers are well-equipped to help you with the basics. As you search for your teacher, spend some time browsing profiles and see who catches your eye. Most teachers will speak to their experience, interests, and teaching style in the “Overview” section of their profile. Feel free to give us a call and we can help you sort through your options.

And for older adults, it’s never too late to start learning! Many of our instructors enjoy teaching retirees and above, and will cater your lessons to your learning style and interests. Filter search results by clicking on the “Student Age” dropdown, and use the Ask a Question tool to message teachers if you have a specific inquiry.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • Dedicate some time browsing profiles.
  • Look for the Student Favorite badge (a red heart icon) in search results for our top teachers.
  • Read other students’ feedback! After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on Sort By: Reviews to see teachers with the most reviews.
  • Seniors: Find instructors who teach older adults by using the “Student Age” dropdown.

The Worrywart (and Everybody Else)


With our search tools, you can filter your results to find a music teacher, tutor, or coach based on what matters to you, whether that’s price, location, availability, or ages taught. If you’re still not sure, use the Ask a Question tool to message any teachers you’re curious about.

But all said and done, we know that an online profile will only take you so far. So if you’re still not sure, give us a call at 877-231-8505! Our staff includes Student Counselors who regularly talk to our teachers across the U.S., and have experience matching students and families with the best teachers.

Beyond that, there’s no need to worry. You always have the option of booking a smaller lesson package to try things out. Not quite what you expected? Our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee protects you. (Read more here.)

So what are you waiting for? When you’re ready to take that first step toward your goals, we’ll be here.

Special shout-out to music teacher Rosita R., featured in the photo! Learn more about Rosita here.

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benefits of listening to classical music

10 Shocking Benefits of Listening to Classical Music [Infographic]

benefits of listening to classical music

Chances are you’ve heard that there are several benefits of listening to classical music. But is there any actual truth behind this statement? According to numerous studies, there absolutely is.

There are a ton of brainy benefits one derives from listening to classical music. From pain management to improved sleep quality, listening to classical music has both mental and physical benefits.

In fact, simply listening to classical music as background noise can have a significant impact on your mood, productivity, and creativity.

I guess those old guys were really onto something, huh.

Below are some surprising benefits of listening to classical music backed by actual science.

benefits of listening to classical music

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10 Benefits of Listening to Classical Music

1. Decreases blood pressure

Want to keep your heart healthy? According to an Oxford University study, listening to classical music can help reduce one’s blood pressure.

In the study, researchers played participants different styles of music, including rap, pop, techno, and classical.

Classical music was effective at lowering participant’s blood pressure, while rap, pop, and techno actually raised blood pressure.

2. Boosts memory

Did you know that listening to Mozart can actually help improve your memory? According to a study, people who listened to Mozart’s music showed an increase in brain wave activity that’s linked directly to memory.

So next time you have to memorize a big speech or presentation, put on some Mozart while you practice.

3. Sparks creativity

To get your creative juices flowing, listen to some classical music. While listening to classical music won’t instantly make you creative, it will help put into a more creative mindset.

Next time you need to brainstorm, try listening to some Mozart or Bach to get your mind thinking outside the box.

4. Reduces stress levels

If you’re feeling particularly stressed, listen to some classical tunes. A study found that pregnant women who listened to classical music were less likely to feel stressed throughout their pregnancy.

Scientists claim that classical music’s tempo is similar to the human heart, which eases both anxiety and depression.

5. Supercharges brainpower

Do you have a big test or project coming up? Boost your brainpower by listening to some classical music.

In a study, French researchers found that students who listened to a lecture in which classical music was played in the background scored better on a test compared to other students.

6. Fights depression

When you’re feeling down in the dumps, ditch the donuts and opt for some classical music instead.

Several studies have proven that classical music helps relieve depression and melancholy.

In fact, a study from Mexico discovered that listening to classical music can help ease symptoms of depression.

7. Puts you to sleep

Do you toss and turn for hours before finally falling asleep? Rather than squeeze in another episode of Games of Thrones or New Girl, listen to classical music.

According to a study of people with sleep issues, listening to classical music for just 45 minutes prior to bed can help improve sleep quality.

8. Relieves pain

Instead of reaching for another Tylenol, you might want to consider playing a Bach or Beethoven playlist. Multiple studies have shown that listening to classical music can help relieve pain.

According to researchers in London, patients listening to classical music used significantly less pain medication.

9. Makes you happy

Want to get out of that bad mood you’re in? Listening to classical music can help increase dopamine secretion, which activates the brain’s reward and pleasure center.

In fact, a 2013 study found that music can help put people in a better mood.

10. Improves productivity

It’s a Monday morning and you can’t seem to get it together. To help boost productivity, listen to some classical music.

A series of studies have proven that music makes repetitive tasks more enjoyable.

A study performed by researchers at the University of Maryland found that Baroque classical music in the reading room can help improve radiologists’ efficiency and accuracy.

Give it a Try!

While classical music can’t raise your IQ 10 points, there are a ton of benefits of listening to classical music. Not sure where to start? Our friends at Merriam Music put together a great beginner’s guide here.

Whether you need to cram for an important presentation or you simply want a good night’s sleep, classical music can help. But Don’t just take our word for it. Try it out for yourself and let us know what benefits of listening to classical music you experience!

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How to Get Into the Best Music Schools | Conquering Your Vocal Auditions

5799735562_0bb308e7f9_o (1)Do you want to attend one of the best music schools in the country? Most music programs will require an audition in addition to the regular application materials. Ace the audition and score a spot in your dream program with these tips from Toledo, OH teacher Elizabeth B...

 

 

Have college auditions got you blue in the face? Have heart! The following tips will help you at different points of the audition process — whether you’re looking at one of the best music schools for auditions next year or you’re on your way to your audition right now, I promise these tips will be helpful to you.

While I am a vocal teacher by trade, these tips translate into other instruments and musical disciplines also. Whether you want to study music education or saxophone performance, these tips are designed to help you do your best at the audition.

Tip 1. Prepare (and practice) the repertoire

This seems obvious, but you’ll want to look carefully at the school’s audition requirements — and believe me, they are all different. I advise doing this as soon as possible, as you don’t want to be learning a new piece the week of your audition! Get with your private instructor or trusted ensemble director and discuss the options. You want to use pieces that you can perform well now and that will show you at your best. The audition panel, above all, is listening for potential! They ask questions like: What is their current level compared to their age? Can this student excel in this environment? Will they become a superb musician in four years?

Tip 2. Connect with a teacher at the school

I can’t emphasize this enough with my students — do your homework and find a teacher you want to take a lesson with. These lessons can happen at any time but I advise my students to try to set one up when you’re initially looking at schools, as well as the week before your audition, if both your and the teacher’s schedule allows. This can get a bit pricey if you’re looking at more than four or five programs or multiple teachers, but it will make all the difference. Ask the teacher at least three weeks prior to your ideal date that you would like to take a lesson; if you don’t hear back in a week, send a polite follow-up email and go from there. I am telling you — seeing a friendly face on the audition panel will help put you at ease.

Tip 3. Run through your repertoire in front of your family

This step isn’t always easy for students, but it can help make you feel more comfortable on the day you’re auditioning. This is especially beneficial if you haven’t performed a lot or if you get nervous before you perform. You’ll get experience running through your repertoire and your family will get to enjoy hearing you perform. Try having them ask for a piece after you pick your starting piece; this will simulate the audition setting and help you become accustomed to performing your pieces in a different order.

Tip 4. Be nice to everyone at your audition

Audition days are long! Speaking from experience, the staff have been there since the wee hours of the morning setting up so everything is perfect for the potential students. Everyone is tired and the last thing you want is to start off on the wrong foot with the admissions staff at your dream school. Again this seems obvious but “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” go a long way in making the people checking you in and taking you to your room much happier. You also don’t know who these people are — maybe they are adjunct faculty who got roped into helping. Better to be nice and polite than sorry!

Tip 5. Breathe when you get in the room

As I said previously, the audition panel wants you to succeed! They enjoy having too many high-quality candidates to pick from; it’s a nice problem to have and they want you to be one of them! When you take the stage, take a breath (a good diaphragmatic breath), and begin when you feel composed. Try to stay in your zone as much as you can — keep any negative thoughts out and focus on whatever you are performing, whether that be Mozart, Liszt, or Rodgers and Hammerstein. I tell my students to set an attainable goal for their auditions, things like staying in character or remembering the decrescendo in the last phrase. That way you can walk away with a sense of success no matter what the outcome.

I hope these tips help you feel confident in your auditions for the music school of your choice — best of luck!

ElizabethB.

Elizabeth B. teaches singing in Toledo, OH.  She received her Bachelor of Music from Grand Valley State University, as well as her Master of Music from Chicago College of Performing Arts.  Elizabeth is a classically trained singer and has been teaching students since 2011. Learn more about Elizabeth B. here!

 

 

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How Music Lessons Helped Me Learn a New Language

Italian language

Want to learn a new language? If you’ve ever taken music lessons, you may be at an advantage! Read on as Ann Arbor, MI piano teacher Amy C. explains…

 

I recently began taking a beginner’s Italian class. (I’m sure you are already wondering what this has to do with music lessons, but bear with me.) I often hear Italian spoken around me because I nanny for a native Italian family. However, besides hearing this family speak and knowing a few simple phrases (ciao, buona notte, grazie, to name a few), I am not familiar with the language in any real way.

My first Italian class focused on pronunciation. It came as quite a surprise to me, but I turned out to be the most proficient student in this area. By the way, I’m not trying to brag—there is a very good reason why language comes to me naturally. As my instructor remarked, I must have picked up on subtleties of the language from the family without even realizing it. However, I am convinced that there’s another reason I was able to perceive these subtleties, and that is because of my musical training.

Traditionally, music and language have been treated as completely different faculties of the brain, in which speech is associated with the left hemisphere and music is associated with the right (Lutz Jäncke, The Relationship Between Music and Language). Over the years, however, as techniques of monitoring brain functions have evolved, scientists have discovered a link between the two faculties—a link, perhaps, that we have always known intuitively.

When your brain absorbs new information (like when you learn a new language), neurons communicate with each other by sending off electrical pulses—these are brainwaves. In a new study that appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience, neurobiologist Nina Kraus studied these brainwaves in children when they processed music and speech. Interestingly, she found that the brain uses similar circuits to process both. Furthermore, she discovered that children who learned an instrument for at least two years not only improved their musical ability, but also experienced an increased ability to process language.

So even if you do not plan on learning a new language anytime soon, it is encouraging and even a bit mind-boggling to realize that your brain is capable of much more change than you can even begin to comprehend. When you set out to learn a musical instrument, you are making a commitment to pay attention to the depth and richness of sound, but also to the nuances of life, which you might never have noticed otherwise.

AmyCAmy C. teaches beginner to intermediate piano lessons in Ann Arbor, MI. She specializes in working with young children (5-10 age range). Learn more about Amy here! 

 

 

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Time-Saving Hacks for Busy Music Students

hacks for musiciansThese days, “busy” seems like the norm. Kids’ schedules are packed with extracurriculars, and some families are barely making time for dinner. College students are running from classes to internships, and most adults are just trying to find that elusive work-life balance.

What ever happened to taking a break, grabbing your guitar, and noodling away for an afternoon?

While you can’t shirk your responsibilities, there are ways to manage your schedule and, consequently, end up with more time to spend on your music. Here are a few time-saving hacks for aspiring musicians:

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5 Practice Tips with a Spring Break Twist

As Spring Break hits, it’s so tempting to put everything on hold and just lounge by the pool with some lemonade, passing a few lazy days before getting back to school or work. If you’re studying music however, it is really important not to slack off when it comes to your practice routine. Taking just a week off can seriously slow your progress or even move you backwards from reaching your goals. How do you keep up your discipline to practice when your brain is in vacation mode? Try these five tips to make the most of your break! Read more

Composing Life Lessons from Music

The benefits of music are well-documented when it comes to instilling skills and confidence in young children – here, TakeLessons instructor Bryan B. explains how music can translate into career success for adults as well!

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Recently, I went on a two week trip to sunny Northridge, California, where I got to work with amazing artists and teachers to help develop my craft. What is my craft you say? Singing – more specifically, opera singing.

The program I took part in, OperaWorks, provided me with much more insight than I initially expected. Living in an age of doubt, I immediately felt like it might not have been worth my money. But after two weeks I was pleased to see that there were noticeable changes not only in my music, but also in my life.

Let’s take a closer look at how my training in music affected my life and my world:

Opera-ism #1: I am AWESOME. This was a technique I learned to help prepare myself for an audition. By giving myself a pep talk before walking through the door, I am able to walk in with confidence.

So how does this apply to my life? Well, aside from teaching, I have a normal day-to-day job in sales. And as part of that job, I have to provide people with a service or product. This can be really nerve-wracking because I hate sales people myself. I recently went to buy a car and the worst part about the whole experience was the salesman. I already knew I was going to buy a car, I had already researched the car that I wanted and he just seemed to get in the way. Because of experiences like these, I try to steer myself away from being a “pushy” sales guy.

When I applied my “I am AWESOME!” pep talk to my day-to-day job, I found that it was a lot easier for me to sell to people without being pushy or being pushed over. I was able to confidently talk about products, build relationships with my clients and actively listen and respond to their concerns. Essentially, being AWESOME allowed me to be myself when I was on the phone, and let my personality shine. What I learned from this is products don’t sell – people do.

Opera-ism #2: Music is not what’s written on the page, it is what the performers make of it. The intention of the composer was not that the performer sing the song exactly how it was written, in a robotic fashion, but to add expression and interpretation to it.

This came to light for me when I sang an operatic aria (Love Sounds the Alarm from Acis and Galatea), which is a love song.  Rather than expressing lovey-dovey emotions, this aria became a “war speech” in OperaWorks. I was inspiring a nation to defend itself against its enemies. The whole meaning of the song changed, but it was really effective.

The real life experience happened in learning my “pitch.”  You can always hear the sales pitch coming when you’re on the phone with a salesman.  Well, I realized it’s not about the words, it’s about the meaning. Upon returning, having already memorized the pitch, I started to implement the meaning of the words, and tie them back to the desires of my customers.

What I’ve learned as a performer has more than affected my life – it has changed me. I went into OperaWorks as an insecure performer and came out a confident man. The results speak for themselves. My performance at work has improved, and my personal life is much happier and free. This just goes to show that things shouldn’t be taken at face value. What you learn in school might actually apply to real life. Who knew?

 

Bryan B.

TakeLessons Instructor

TakeLessons and Music 4 Miracles Team Up to Help Children with Cancer

Recently, our student counselor Kathleen V. had the opportunity to speak with Kristi Huddleston, the founder and president of the non-profit organization Music 4 Miracles. Based in Florida, this inspiring organization is powered by Kristi’s passion to raise awareness and financial support for families of children diagnosed with cancer. The funds raised help provide education through the gift of music lessons.

Kristi’s journey began when she came into contact with a 9 year old battling cancer, and her heart was immediately inspired to do everything in her power to help that child’s family. Since then, Kristi has helped over 15 families and brought smiles to each of their faces through the gift of music. A musician and songwriter herself, Kristi wrote the song “Already an Angel,” which was inspired by the children she helps on a daily basis and brings about a message of hope through tumultuous times. The song can be purchased through the Music 4 Miracles website, and all proceeds are used toward helping more families and bringing music to children’s lives.

TakeLessons is happy to be able to help set up piano lessons for Bella, one of the Music 4 Miracles children, with our rock star teacher Karen J.  This coming July, we will also help set up another Music 4 Miracles child named Shiloh with in-home guitar lessons! Our thanks goes out to Kristi and the sponsors who make in-home music lessons possible for these children, while also offering hope and the gift of music education that can last a lifetime. To learn more about Music 4 Miracles and how you can become a sponsor, please visit www.music4miracles.org.