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TL shouts 5-27

TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 8/25/14

Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are the shout outs we received this week:

David P. in Cincinnati, OH has shout outs for several of his students. He wrote:

Singer-guitarist Brian O. was recently hired as the ministry leader for a church in Cincinnati. After he began taking voice lessons with me, several of the members began complimenting Brian on how much better he sounded for their services.

My percussion student Chris Z. is auditioning for the Cincinnati Youth Symphony Orchestra. He’ll be playing Etude 1, from the book Portraits in Rhythm as well as “Scherazade” by Rimsky-Korsav on snare drum.

Student Jarod E. is now the bassist for the McNicholas High School Marching Band thanks to his hard work at bass lessons. The marching band is performing a collection of challenging songs from the Beach Boys.

Tim B. in Newberg, OR wrote, “I just wanted to give a shout out to my weekly student Ollie. He conquered playing and reading the music for Simple Gifts. The trick is all F’s are sharped throughout the song. He completed it self-correcting himself. If he made a mistake he replayed the song from beginning to end. He is developing ear training and sight reading and music theory, all while being enrolled in school and playing football fulltime. Touchdown buddy.” Way to go, Ollie!

And Karen H. wrote in to tell us about her daughters’ singing instructor Kimberly L. She wrote, “Both of my daughters, one of whom has Asperger’s, really enjoyed taking singing lessons with Kimberly over the past one and one-half years and I would highly recommend her.  They each received individualized lessons plus were provided immediate feedback and encouragement.  I never heard a “do I have to go” when it came time for their lessons which says a lot, especially in the summer when I often hear this about other things.” Thanks for all you do, Kimberly!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Google+ to keep the conversation going!

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

English Writing Rules and Tips

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

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

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

Semi-colons

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

Fewer Vs. Less

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

Who Vs. Whom

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

Its Vs. It’s

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

Writing in Active Voice

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

Ambiguous Pronouns

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

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

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!

 

 

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TL shouts 5-27

TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 8/18/14

Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are the shout outs we received this week:

Marci S. in Lenexa, KS, wrote, “Last Saturday, August 2nd, many of my students participated in a recital for family and friends. ALL students performed above and beyond my highest expectations. Way to go guys! Due to multiple back surgeries, I have not been able to hold a recital for a little over a year. I was afraid students would forget their performance skills- but they were lovely.” Bravo to all the students who performed, and we’re happy to hear that Marci is feeling better after her surgeries.

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Google+ to keep the conversation going!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

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TL shouts 5-27

TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 8/11/14

Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are the shout outs we received this week:

Rose C. in West Haven, CT, wrote, “Just joined your awesome website! Here’s my student Nicole Frechette ~ Up & Coming Nashville Country Artist CRUSHING IT!!!! Check her out on YouTube.”

Nicole O. in Winter Park, FL shared a screenshot of a message from her student and wrote, “Hey all! I love getting text messages like these!! Ava is a talented pianist and vocalist. We learned Katy Perry’s “Roar” using just chord symbols to brush up on our music theory and chord construction. Ava enjoyed creating her own arrangement of the piece as we learned about chord substitution and added several ninths and sevenths to jazz up the tune! Thanks :)”

Good News Text

 

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Google+ to keep the conversation going!

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3 Unique Writing Topics for Students

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When you’re given a writing assignment – but not a topic – deciding what to write about can be a challenge. Here, teacher Matthew H. shares a few unique writing topics to consider… 

 

Virtually all students eventually will be required to write an essay on some literary piece they read in class or for homework. Normally, you will be expected to answer a specific question the teacher has posed to provoke a thoughtful response. However, sometimes you will be given the option to write on your own terms. These freestyle papers can be a relief to some students who have no interest in traditional essay questions, or a nightmare to those who have difficulty coming up with unique writing topics for themselves. Below are some interesting approaches that you can apply for successful papers.

1. Comparison with a topical entity.
Often, comparative essays will require you to take two major literary characters (from similar or distinct writing styles) and pit them against each other, noting similarities and differences in their actions and books’ themes. This can make for some really insightful commentary, but how many times can you compare King Lear with Pere Goriot and find something new? Instead, try taking a traditional literary figure and relating him or her to something topical, whether in current events or pop culture. This will make for a unique writing topic that your teacher likely hasn’t read yet and that you will enjoy writing.

2. Focus on a minor element.
Most schools focus on major literary works that the whole world is familiar with (e.g. Hamlet), with emphasis on the primary character or central themes. Change things up a bit by choosing a looked-over component of the piece that perhaps is not as obvious to discuss. This may seem more difficult because it’s riskier to write on something with less material, but it will allow you to have a new perspective on the work. Going back to Hamlet, all of the major characters have been analyzed countless times. Even minor characters such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have inspired brand new works of fiction. Why not take a seemingly minor element and expand on it, such as the concept of boat travel in Hamlet, and see what that could represent. Even if it seems risky to steer away from the traditional components (main characters and obvious themes), your teacher will appreciate that you avoided a safe choice, and you may end up creating some really innovative observations.

3. Discuss the worldview of the time.
While this approach is not uncommon at university settings, high school students often forget that a piece of literature is in some way representative of the particular society at the time it was written. Outside of the witch-hunts of The Crucible having been written as a parallelism to the McCarthyism of the 1950s, many students completely overlook the fact that novels, plays, and poems knowingly or unknowingly serve as responses to the current affairs of that particular generation. Even if during class the teacher discusses how The Fountainhead was Ayn Rand’s personal backlash at communism during the Cold War, when writing essays, students will often focus on the concept of objectivism as it strictly appears in the novel as opposed to connecting the theory to the “bigger picture” of real life at that point in time. Drawing those connections not only makes for a unique writing topic, but shows that you have understood the material at a deeper, more substantial level than would be possible to demonstrate with a more superficial essay topic.

In other words, when coming up with unique writing topics, don’t be afraid to take risks. By taking an approach somewhat outside of the box, you open yourself up to exploring new avenues, not only in literature, but in your life as well. Now get writing!

MatthewHMatthew H. teaches a variety of subjects both online and in New Milford, NJ. He recently received his MA from NYU with a background in Sociolinguistics and related research. Learn more about Matthew here! 

 

 

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TL shouts 5-27

TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 8/4/14

Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are the shout outs we received this week:

Kim K. in Ridgewood, NY shared this photo of a blanket made by her crochet student Kelsey C. Beautiful work, Kelsey! Keep it up!

kelsey C

Tali H. in Olympia, WA wrote, “One of my beginner piano students, Chris R., is only on his third lesson and is already playing the opening lines of a rather advanced version of Für Elise . What’s more, his joy at playing a harmony he recognizes just lights up both his own face and mine! Great to see hard work coming to fruition!” Great start, Chris! Stick to your lessons and keep practicing. You’ll go far!

Cornel D. in Corona, NY shared a video of his progress learning the craft of acting. In this video, Cornel reads as an FBI agent interrogating a shady businessman. Cornel says he is making good strides and we have to agree!

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Becoming an Actor with No Experience: Is it Possible?

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Dreaming of making it big on screen or on stage, but worried you don’t have the right amount of experience? Read on as teacher Matthew H. shares his advice… 

 

While becoming an actor may seem extremely difficult in and of itself, without any experience it may even feel nearly impossible. However, what we often fail to realize is that the process alone of becoming an actor is filled with lessons that add to our overall experience and skill set. In fact, there’s actually no such thing as no experience when becoming an actor. Regardless if you choose to act as a hobby or have dreams to make it big as a working actor, here are some tips to refine your skills and get noticed.

First, let’s go over some basic definitions:

What is acting? This may seem obvious, but you have to have a clear understanding of what the art/craft/profession of acting is before embarking on any sort of career in the field. Many definitions exist, but some of the most prevalent ideas state that acting is “reacting to given stimuli” and “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” These viewpoints have been adopted by many conservatories and theater schools that teach diverse techniques by famous actors and directors such as Meisner and Stanislovski. With this understanding of acting, we can say that acting essentially is an extension of living.

Who are actors? Based on the above definition of acting, we all are actors. Everyone you encounter on the street is an actor. All people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, social status, and so on necessarily are performing on a daily basis. We all react to stimuli in different ways, having to negotiate all sorts of situations in which we find ourselves. In fact, as individuals we are placed in multiple roles that we have to fulfill (son/daughter, coworker, friend, student), sometimes simultaneously. So rather than worrying about becoming an actor, we should focus more on tapping into the actor that is already inside of each of us.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s address the real question: how do you become successful as an actor? Well, the short answer is to just act. If you want to make it on Broadway or in Hollywood, then you’ll have to join the appropriate union (SAG, AE, etc.). Gaining membership is tricky, as these organizations have unique systems that require having performed in certain types of shows. The best way to overcome this is to find as many different opportunities as you can and audition. Do the community theater musicals, help your friends out with a role in their film class’ final project, make your own YouTube series, do whatever comes your way. This will give you the experience you need to hone in your acting skills, as well as create some visibility for yourself within the greater acting community. Someone may see you in a small, unpaid role and think that you’d be perfect in a larger production. In this regard, flexibility is an actor’s greatest asset.

While there is no one right way to become an actor, you cannot wait to “get discovered.” In fact, you have to go out of your way to make people notice you (for the right reasons), and then you will be one step closer to realizing your dream of becoming an actor.

MatthewHMatthew H. teaches a variety of subjects both online and in New Milford, NJ. He recently received his MA from NYU with a background in Sociolinguistics and related research. Learn more about Matthew here! 

 

 

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yamaha p-35

5 Best Keyboards for Piano Players

digital pianos

Sifting through digital piano reviews can be a time-consuming task, but it’s important to find the right fit when you’re purchasing your first piano or keyboard! Here, Powell, OH teacher Sara Marie B. shares her top 5 options to consider… 

 

Whether you’re a pianist without the space for an acoustic piano, you want something portable, or you just prefer the bells and whistles of a keyboard, it can be difficult for pianists to find keyboards that really fit all of our requirements.

Most importantly, however, as you begin learning how to play the piano, you should have a keyboard that feels and sounds as much like a piano as possible. Some of the requirements to look for are weighted keys, real-size keys, at least 66 keys (but preferably 88), a sustain pedal, touch-tone sensitivity, piano action, well-sampled piano sounds, an adjustable stand, and an adjustable bench.

When the keyboard is not realistic enough (meaning, it is not enough like an actual acoustic piano), your learning may be hampered when performing live on an acoustic piano. And if you do anything in the way of events, recitals, group classes, talent shows, or even playing for fun in the back of a favorite bar, if the acoustic piano feels too foreign then the results will be frustrating. Dynamics will be harder to produce, keys may be missed due to being used to another weight of keys that is unlike an acoustic piano, and tone quality may be poor. Having a keyboard that mimics the function of an acoustic piano is vital.

Here are five of the best keyboards for piano players that I recommend to my students if an acoustic piano purchase is not possible (all are under $2,000 retail price!), with descriptions taken directly from merchandiser websites, in part or in whole:

Korg SP-170s Digital Piano

Korg SP-170s

Screenshot from http://www.korg.com/us/

The new Natural Weighted Hammer Action keyboard is accurately weighted like a traditional piano, with a heavier touch in the lower ranges and becoming progressively lighter in the higher registers. Three levels of Key Touch Control allow the keyboard response to be matched to nearly any playing style, preserving all of the subtle expression of the original performance.

Yamaha P35B 88-key Digital Keyboard

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As the entry level to the hugely popular P-Series digital pianos, the P35 brings together everything an aspiring pianist needs to develop: high-quality AWM (Advanced Waveform Memory) samples, an easy to understand interface, and a slim 88-key graded hammer action for maximum portability. Sheet music stand, power supply and pedal/footswitch are all included.

Yamaha YDP-V240 Arius 88 Key Digital Piano

Screenshot from KraftMusic.com

Screenshot from KraftMusic.com

The Yamaha YDP-V240 is an ensemble console digital piano featuring 88-note Graded Hammer Standard weighted Action. It has the authentic look, feel and most importantly the sound of an expensive acoustic Grand piano. Its 88-key graded hammer action keyboard delivers all the expressiveness, depth and subtle nuances to satisfy even the most demanding pianist, from developing student to seasoned professional.

Kawai KDP-90 Digital Piano

Screenshot from http://www.kawaius.com/

Screenshot from http://www.kawaius.com/

The Kawai KDP-90 Digital Piano is designed using its Advanced Hammer Action IV (AHAIV-F) as an 88-note, “graded” keyboard, formed from extremely accurate stereo “maps” of sections through the entire dynamic range of the original piano. Touch and response authentically reproduce the feel of a grand piano.

Casio Privia PX-850 88 Weighted-Key Digital Piano

Screenshot credit: http://www.soundtechnology.com.au/

Screenshot credit: http://www.soundtechnology.com.au/

The PX-850 is the flagship digital piano from Casio’s Privia line, with big sound and amazing tones. The PX-850 has the advanced AiR sound set providing an additional level of realism including grand piano lid simulation and sympathetic resonance. This 88-key digital piano also has a dual 20W speaker system and a cabinet that opens, providing a rich concert sound.

Whatever you buy, just remember to make sure that you are able to sit properly at the keyboard (adjustable bench, adjustable stand) and that the keyboard is as similar to an acoustic piano as you can find. You probably won’t be able to find these at your nearby big-box stores, so take a trip to the music store nearest you and begin exploring the quality keyboards available for pianists of all levels!

Looking for additional digital piano reviews? Check out some of our favorite resources here:

SaraSara Marie B. teaches piano, singing, songwriting, music theory, and more in Powell, OH, as well as online. She has been teaching music lessons since 1992, and has been involved in music and performance since 1983. Learn more about Sara Marie here!

 

 

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GMAT study plan

5 Weeks to Success: Your GMAT Study Schedule [Infographic]

Prepping for the GMAT? You probably know better than to procrastinate – perhaps you’ve read our GMAT study tips, downloaded some practice tests from the Internet, and marked the test date in red on your calendar already. But how do you put your plan into action? What should your GMAT study schedule look like? Check out this handy infographic from online tutor Natalie S. to make sure you’re on track…

GMAT Infographic for TL.ppt

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!

 

 

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