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Taylor Swift

5 Talented Singers You Can Learn From in 2016

How to become a famous singer - Taylor Swift

Ready to make 2016 your best year yet? Many vocalists stood out last year, and looking at their strategies and success stories can be a great source of inspiration — especially if you want to be famous someday! Read on as voice teacher Molly R. shares her thoughts… 

 

2015 was a stellar year for lots of talented and famous singers. It seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Taylor Swift and Adele, just to name two that stand out. Singers like those two generated a lot of buzz, and who wouldn’t want that?

As we dive into 2016, it’s a great time to reflect on your goals as a singer. Do you want to be a famous singer someday? Do you want to start small, and overcome your stage fright? Do you want to learn how to write a song? Whatever your goals may be, there’s a lot you can learn from the big artists of the past year. Here are some ways you can incorporate their major successes into your own New Year’s singer resolutions!

Artist: Hozier
What You Can Learn: Collaborate

Hozier

If you want to become a well-known singer within the music industry, your work is never done. Once you get yourself out there, you need to keep yourself out there!

To get extra buzz, many artists create more performance opportunities by collaborating with other singers — which can be especially effective if it’s unexpected pairing. You can learn a lot from Irish singer Hozier; check out his electrifying Grammy performance with Annie Lennox here:

On a smaller scale, you could ask another singer to be your duet partner for karaoke, or perhaps get a small group of singers together and put together a cabaret night!

Artist: Adele
What You Can Learn: Know when to rest

Adele

It’s tempting to say “yes” to everything, especially when you are just starting out. It’s great to be passionate about singing, but remember you’re human! You only get one voice, so be careful with it.

Just look at Adele, the hottest artist of the year: she underwent major vocal surgery a few years ago, yet didn’t jump back into performing right away because she wanted to take her time healing. Not only that— she has also become a proud mom and wanted to put family first!

Make it a goal to have balance in your life. Feeling worn out after a run of another musical, even though there’s another one holding auditions for vocalists next week? Ask yourself if you need a break, and really listen to your body.

Artist: Taylor Swift
What You Can Learn: Market yourself

Taylor Swift

You may have heard the advice “you gotta have a gimmick!” That’s originally from the musical “Gypsy”, and it’s often true!

Being a talented singer is one thing, but what makes you interesting to your audience? Singers need to be savvy about marketing themselves. Taylor Swift happens to be brilliant at this. We should all look to her as an expert on a variety of things! She has revamped her image completely (country to pop!), she’s always out and about with her huge fan base, and how about that “squad” of hers?

Ok, so a lot of that’s pretty hard to do if you’re… well… not Taylor. But here’s what you CAN do: get out there in your community! Offer to sing at fundraisers, nursing homes, and so on. Show that you’re a singer with character who cares about a few causes. And yes, why not build up a “squad” of your own? Make this squad filled with trusted accompanists, like voice teachers, dancers, and other singers. Connecting with a group of like-minded artists is essential for your growth!

Artists: Tori Kelly and Shawn Mendes
What You Can Learn: Keep plugging away

Tori Kelly - Shawn Mendes

YouTube is where today’s singer hopes to be noticed. But you’ll want to have a strategy in mind. Are your videos high quality? Are you posting good content? How often? What are you doing to promote your music videos? How about your audience — what are you doing to grow them? Are you cross-promoting across other social media channels, like Twitter and Instagram? These are the important questions to ask.

To get inspired, take a look at the success story of Tori Kelly! She was eliminated from American Idol, but took matters into her own hands and built up a huge YouTube following. Shawn Mendes, another great artist to learn from, got his start on Vine and now has a top 10 hit and a recording contract.

Of course, you’re not restricted to finding an audience online, or with one of those platforms specifically. The key is to keep plugging away— in any medium! Whether it’s YouTube or a local coffee shop, keep giving your best to your audience.

Now… put your learning into practice!

No matter what your resolution is as a singer, remember to bring your best vocally every time. Look at what other successful and famous singers are doing, and find what you can learn from them. Working with a great voice teacher is also key — he or she can help you become a better singer, and may even have insider advice or a network to connect you with.

Happy New Year, and happy singing!

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

Photos by Austen Maddox, Karen BlueEva Rinaldi, Disney | ABC Television GroupJustin Higuchi

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15 Yoga Poses and Breathing Exercises for Singers 500x300

15 Yoga Poses With Powerful Benefits for Singers

15 Yoga Poses and Breathing Exercises for Singers

You know how important breath support is for great singing — but are you regularly incorporating breathing exercises for singing into your warm-ups? Read on as voice teacher Shannen R. shares 15 yoga poses to try out, designed to help with various elements of your singing… 

 

Get ready to free your vocal cords of strain, increase your breath capacity, and get the strength you need for powerful belts and the control for soft tones. Going beyond simple breathing exercises for singing, the following yoga poses free your neck, shoulders, and spinal muscles of tension. Your breath and sound will move freely, and your core muscles will grow stronger so you can manipulate your voice.

15 Yoga Poses and Breathing Exercises to Try

1. Three Part Breath
Benefit: Strengthens your breath support for belting and long notes

People tend to breathe shallow and in one favorite cavity of the body. Learning to use all cavities of the body will give you enough breath for belting and for long, held notes. Start either lying flat on your back or propped up with two yoga blocks, one block at the highest level and the second block at the medium height.

2. Seated Breath
Benefit: Guides you to use your full breath capacity

While the Three-Part Breath teaches you how to breathe into all your front body cavities, now we’re going to explore our back body cavities to use your ultimate breath capacity. Start seated with your legs crossed and your feet flexed.

3. Eagle Arms
Benefit: Another breathing exercise for singing, this enhances your ability to hold belts

The hardest area of the body to breathe into is the upper back. To find breath here, we will practice eagle arms. This will also give you the ability to hold belts and soft, unwavering tones.

4. Kapalabhati Breath
Benefit: Activates your core and clears your sinuses 

In yoga we practice breathing techniques called pranayama. Kapalabhati breath, translated from Sanskrit to “breath of fire,” will activate your core and clear your sinuses to give you beautiful, open notes instead of nasal and strained notes. Repeat this for 5-15 continuous rounds.

5. Ujjayi Breath
Benefit: Supports evenness of breath

To hold long notes and maintain the correct pitch with an unwavering tone, your breath must be even. Ujjayi breath, another pranayama technique in yoga, is the practice of finding evenness of breath. Repeat for 5-15 rounds.

6. Neck and Back Twist
Benefit: Relaxes your muscles to reduce vocal strain

A lot of times when your voice strains to reach a note, your vocal cords are being pulled by tight muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back. To release these muscles, practice this easy restorative twist on a yoga bolster, a few stacked pillows, or stiff folded blankets. You may hold this twist for up to five minutes.

7. Seated Neck Stretches
Benefit: Relaxes the neck muscles to reduce strain.

Another way to stretch out the muscles in your neck is with seated neck stretches. These stretches will target the back and the sides of the neck, and can be practiced multiple times throughout a day.

8. Self Massage: Neck Massage Tool
Benefit: Another relaxation exercise for neck muscles 

One of my favorite neck massage tools is from Daiso, the most adorable Japanese store you’ll ever find. For this exercise you’ll need a towel and the neck massage tool, which can be purchased here or at your local Daiso store.

9. Self Massage: Neck Massage With Tennis Balls
Benefit: Another exercise for relaxing neck muscles

If you don’t want to buy the Daiso neck massager, you can use tennis balls to relax your neck, which will help you avoid strain and increase your vocal range.

10. Self Massage: Back Massage
Benefit: Relaxes the muscles in your spine 

If your spine is tense, EVERYTHING goes wrong. This is because your spine is connected to your brain and is in charge of relaying messages to your body. If there is any tension in the spine, it can cause blocks in the message pathways, and result in excess anxiety and other mental obstacles. Spinal tension can also cause postural problems, which limit your breathing and create muscle tension.

In the video below you’ll learn how to massage your whole spine with two tennis balls. Don’t be alarmed if it feels very tender the first time. Give light pressure and do not practice it for too long. The more you maintain a self-massage practice, the more comfort you will find.

11. Self Massage: Shoulder Massage
Benefit: Relaxes your shoulders, which can affect your neck, throat, and vocal cords

The shoulders can be a tough place to get! Nail those shoulder knots that are pulling on your neck, throat, and vocal cords with this massage.

12. Spinal Twist
Benefit: Relaxes your spine, creates better breath capacity 

Roll up a big fluffy towel and get ready for the cheapest and best spinal reliever of your life! Space in the spine will create more space for your breath to travel, giving you more breath capacity when singing.

13. Tadasana
Benefit: Relaxes your muscles to reduce vocal strain

The key to singing is good posture — I’m sure you’ve heard this a billion times. Tadasana, or mountain pose, teaches you how to stand correctly and builds the muscles needed to avoid hunching the shoulders forward or arching the back so the ribs puff out. Correct posture will help you avoid straining your voice, and encourages evenness of breath to create controlled sound and power for belts.

14. Puppy Dog Pose
Benefit: Lengthens the spine and leads to greater power and control when singing

A variation of the ever-so-famous downward facing dog, this pose will lengthen your spine, creating space in between each vertebrae, and is another great way to open up the shoulders. Space in the spine equals space for breath, which leads to more power and control when singing.

15. Back Release and Shoulder Opener
Benefit: Relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck, and leads to a fuller vocal range

This forward fold and shoulder opener combo will have your spine, shoulders, and neck melting with relief! This pose will relax all of your throat muscles and vocal cords so you can access a full vocal range.

If you have any questions or if any of these stretching and breathing exercises hurt, make sure to check with a qualified teacher. Feel free to contact me through TakeLessons for additional help!

 

Post Author: Shannen R.
Shannen Roberts is a yoga instructor, singer, pianist and keyboardist, singer and songwriter, and founder of self-help site The Strange is Beautiful. She teaches in Valencia, CA, as well as online. Learn more about Shannen here! 

 

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6 Valuable Things to Know About Learning Guitar

6 Valuable Things to Know About Learning Guitar

6 Valuable Things to Know About Learning GuitarBefore you start taking guitar lessons, there are a few things you should know! Guitar teacher Ryan B. shares six things everyone should know about learning guitar…

It really is a magical moment when you first pick up a guitar. The feel of the wood, the tension on the strings, the way the curve of the body fits just right on your lap. You’re filled with visions of yourself on stage playing for thousands who worship your every note.

The problem is the next moment isn’t quite so magical.

You try to play a chord, but the only sounds are dull thuds and ceaseless buzzing. Your clumsy fingers just can’t figure out how to coax music out of this cursed piece of wood.

For so many, frustration is where their experience learning guitar begins and ends. But going into it with the right mindset can make all the difference and lead to a nice payoff. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re starting on the guitar:

1. Your hands need some exercise

There are 35 muscles that control your fingers! And you’re going to need each one of those to make your guitar strings hum just how you hear them in your head. So when you practice, especially in the beginning, remember to warm up and stretch (here’s a great video) so you don’t hurt yourself. And keep in mind that after a long session you might have sore hands and forearms.

2. Practice is really boring sometimes

Just like anything else, practicing your guitar can get extremely monotonous. After a hundred times practicing that new scale or picking pattern and still needing more work, it’s really easy to give up and play something easier. But to get better you really have to hunker down and put in the hours necessary (in fact they say you need to practice something for 10,000 hours before you master it!).

3. Take good care of your instrument

You’ve been practicing every day and really making progress towards your goals, but one day during a particularly intense session you break a string (or input jack, or neck…). The problem is you don’t know how to fix it, and so your guitar sits and collects dust and all your skills melt away. It’s a common story, one that happens far too often. Learning some simple maintenance like changing strings, cleaning the neck and a bit of basic wiring can go a long way towards preventing lapses in your practice because of something as simple as a busted string.

4. The fastest way to learn is to slow down

Everyone wants to play their favorite lick right when they pick up the guitar. When you try to do this, though, you’re either going to fail miserably and inevitably give up or learn it very very poorly. Before you get to killer solos you have to master your scales. And in order to master your scales you have to learn to do your scales very… slowly… In order to really shred through those suckers, you’ve gotta get them perfect going at a snail’s pace and then slowly pick up the tempo. And then once you’ve mastered that, then you move on up to the next step. And so on and so forth…

5. Ditch the phone

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m addicted to my phone. If I’m away from it for just a few minutes I start to get jittery and extremely curious about my friends’ Facebook walls. But too many distractions will keep you from getting productive practice time in. This might mean getting a dedicated guitar tuner instead of an app so you don’t even need your phone in the room with you. Hopefully you can spend the next hour learning guitar and not looking at cute cat videos.

6. Take a break

Now you’ve been doing scales for hours, and despite getting rid of obvious distractions, you’re still having trouble focusing. Maybe you need a break. You need to be able to put the work in, but if you’re getting too stressed it will also hurt your practice (and make your fingers too tense- which is not a good thing). Every once in a while, take a few minutes to play a fun easy song or watch that silly cat video you’ve been putting off. Maybe even a quick power nap.

There’s a lot more to learning guitar than just these, but I hope that these tips can help you along your musical journey. Happy pickin’!

Get personalized tips and tricks for learning guitar by taking private lessons with a guitar teacher. Guitar teachers are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on locations and availability. Search for your guitar teacher now!

Ryan B Ryan B. teaches guitar, banjo, and mandolin in Chicago, IL. A graduate of the University of Illinois, he can teach his students music theory, and as a member of a traveling local band, he can also help with songwriting! Learn more about Ryan here!

 

 

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From the Expert Top Violin Tuning Tips

From the Expert: Top Violin Tuning Tips

 From the Expert: Top Violin Tuning Tips

Learning how to properly tune your violin is important for many reasons. Not only does it ensure you get the best sound, but it also helps train your ear. Knowing how to tune a violin, however, is often easier said than done. Below, violin teacher Carol Beth L. shares her top violin tuning tips…

Effective tuning is a vital skill for a musician to acquire. For kids just starting to learn violin, parents may want to grasp proper tuning as well, so that they can assist the child in the beginning. In time, however, the student should be able to do it him or herself, or musical independence will be difficult to obtain. Typically, violinists have a pretty standard process for tuning their instrument. Below are some simple tips and tricks to remember when tuning your violin:

1) Start with your A string

Find an A to listen to, and then compare and adjust your A string to match. There are several different ways to obtain a pitch. For example, if you’re playing with other string musicians ask them to play you an A, or if you have a nearby piano that’s in tune use that. If you don’t like either of those options, you can use an electronic tuner (often combined with a metronome) to provide the standard 440 A. There are also apps and online tuners that will tell you if you’re sharp, flat, or in tune. While these can be useful, be careful not to become too dependent on them. As a trained musician, you should be able to tell on your own whether your instrument is too high or too low based on a given pitch.

If you really want to train your ear, make it a habit to listen for the A and match it using your ear. If an electric tuner is your only option, I would recommend using it only for the A string, and then use your A string to help you tune your other strings. Using the electric tuner to check yourself after you’ve given it a go on your own can help you reinforce or adjust your ear.

2 ) Invest in a tuning fork

You may want to consider investing in a tuning fork, which requires less space than an electronic tuner and doesn’t require batteries. Tuning forks are made to vibrate at 440 Hz, or the perfect A. To see if you’re properly in tune, play your violin’s A while ringing the tuning fork. If your violin is out of tune, you’ll hear a distinct difference between the note you’re playing and the note played by the tuning fork.

If you’re around young people, you’ll quickly become very popular after they see the tool’s usefulness. All you have to do is strike it on a table and touch the base to the body of your violin, and they’ll be fascinated when they hear the perfectly in tune 440 A. Many of them will want to try it out themselves, and it will most likely become their new favorite toy (and even disappear!) if you aren’t careful. Amazon carries quite a few tuning forks ranging from about $4 to $14 plus shipping.

3) Listen for the ‘click’

When you’re finished tuning your A string, tune your E string next, followed by the D and G strings. For the E and D strings, use the A string as a reference point to hear whether your other strings are in tune. When done right, you should be able to hear the chord “click.” If one string is too high or too low, the sound will be slightly dissonant, not smooth. For strings that are too close in pitch, they will tend toward an augmented fourth (also known as a tritone), which is one of the most (if not the most) dissonant chords out there. If you can’t quite tell at first if they’re in tune, or if you can’t tell whether the string you’re tuning is too high or too low, try playing the notes separately, and then return to playing the chord. When you reach the G string, use the D string as a reference point.

4) Check the pegs

As you tune, use your pegs only if your strings are more than about one-fourth to one-half a step off, your fine tuners need to be adjusted, or your violin doesn’t have fine tuners. If the string only needs to be adjusted a little bit, use the fine tuners instead. The smaller the instrument, the larger the impact the tuners will have, since they’re pulling back or releasing a larger percentage of the (relatively smaller) string. If the instrument has no fine tuners, sometimes you can adjust the pitch a small amount by slightly tugging on the string and then releasing it, or by pushing on the string in the string box area in the scroll.

5) Keep it safe

If your instrument is exposed to humidity or temperatures to which it isn’t accustomed, be prepared for it to go out of tune. To prevent this from happening, place less stress on your violin by keeping it in a place where changes in temperature, pressure, and humidity will be minimized. The same applies to when you replace your violin strings. Violin strings need to be replaced from time to time; the new strings will change at the beginning as they stretch out in response to the pressure exerted upon them.

6) Adjust to your surroundings

As you become more accustomed to tuning your instrument, be open to adapting to groups that use non-standard tuning. A cellist with whom I sometimes play commonly uses 432 Hz as her standard A, since it was often used prior to modern times. It sounds about a half-step lower than a 440 A. I tune down my instrument to match hers when I play chamber music with her, and re-tune it when I go back to play with my own orchestra. Some professional orchestras tune slightly high – between 441 and 445 Hz – to help the string instruments sound brighter.

 

Violin tuning is both a skill and a way to train your ear to hear both chords and small differences in pitch. At first, learning how to tune your violin can be difficult. With constant repetition, however, it will become a natural process – and you may even end up with some useful tips of your own! If you’re looking for some additional violin tuning tips, ask your violin teacher to give you some expert insight into the practices he or she uses.

 

CarolCarol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

 

 

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French Guide- When to Pronounce the Letter T

French Pronunciation Guide: When to Pronounce the Letter T

French Guide- When to Pronounce the Letter TFrench pronunciation is full of little tricks that trip beginners up. Tutor Annie A. shares her tips for pronouncing the letter T…

Try reading the following French words aloud: tarte, partons, portions, democratie, septieme, mangeaient, amitie, and vert. Do you pronounce all the T’s in the same way? Do you pronounce them at all?

There are no simple answers, and you will run into many questions about the letter T as you practice proper French pronunciation. There are many different rules that govern whether you hear a T sound, an S sound, or nothing at all. And as with many other things in the French language, there are always exceptions to those rules.

First of all, the French pronounce the letter T slightly differently than English-speakers do. In French, your tongue rests against the tip of your upper front teeth, whereas in English your tongue stays behind your teeth. This tongue position results in a softer and smoother T in French.

When to Pronounce the Letter T

Always pronounce T when it comes at the beginning of a word.

  • train, tourner, tomber

You will also always pronounce double-T’s.

  • grotte, cette, attitude

Th- is pronounced just like T because the H is silent.

  • the, theatre, theme

T is also pronounced when it is at the end of a word and followed by E.

  • droite, carte

In many nouns and adjectives, words ending with -te denote the feminine form.

  • vert, verte; petit, petite

When to Pronounce T Like S

In cases where ti- is followed by another vowel, it is pronounced as the sound “sy.”

  • Information, fiction, democratie, diplomatie, patient

Exceptions to the Rule

However, as always, there are exceptions to the ti- rule.

When ti- is followed by a vowel but preceded by S, you will pronounce the letter T.

  • amnistie, bestial, vestiaire

You also pronounce T in all forms of verbs ending in -tions and -tiez.

  • portions, portiez, inventions, inventiez, etc. (Note: this is not in the case of nouns ,eg. des portions, des adoptions, des inventions. Here the sound will be “sy”)

T is pronounced in all forms of verbs and nouns derived from the verb tenir, even the forms in which ti- is followed by another vowel.

  • Je soutiens, l’entretien, je maintiens

T is also pronounced in ordinal adjectives ending in -tieme.

  • septieme

And in feminine past participles of verbs ending in -tir.

  • partie, sortie, garantie

Pronounce your T’s in nouns and adjectives ending in -tiers or -tiere.

  • matiere (n), sentier (n), entier (adj.), entiere (adj.)

There are still other exceptions to the ti- rule. For example, pronounce the T in the following words:

  • moitie, pitie, amitie

Liaisons or Linking Sounds in French

The practice of linking a word ending in a consonant with the following word beginning with a vowel is compulsory in some cases. Often, liasons will cause you to pronounce T’s that would otherwise be silent.

When an adjective ending in T precedes a noun that starts with a vowel, the T will be pronounced, joining the two words together.

  • le petit enfant

T is also pronounced when a word starting with a vowel follows est.

  • Il est utile

Third person verbs, singular or plural, ending in T link with the following word starting with a vowel.

  • Il chantait une chanson

When is T Silent or, as the French Say, Muet?

When T is the last letter of a word, it is silent.

  • et, est, abricot, salut

However, there are a few words that are exceptions to this rule. Always pronounce the T at the end of the following words:

  • ouest, est (n), huit, brut

The T in et is always silent. Never make a liaison with et.

  • Elle est bavarde et impolie.

When a verb ends in -ent, the -ent is not pronounced.

  • ils tombent

When a verb ends in -ait or -aient, the T remains silent.

  • il tombait or ils tombaient

When a word ends in -at, the T is silent.

  • attentat

With so many rules and exceptions it seems a daunting task to learn French pronunciation, but it is not so. You can get used to the correct pronunciation by studying with a qualified teacher and practicing every day. Listen to as much spoken French as you can, keep working hard, and someday those tricky T’s will come naturally to you!

Master French pronunciation with the help of a private tutor. Tutors are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on locations and availability. Search for your French tutor now!

Annie A

 Annie A. is a French instructor whose lessons are conducted exclusively online. Teaching for the past 12 years, she found her passion for the language while studying in Paris as a teenager. Learn more about Annie here!

 

 

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German Grammar Excersies For Beginners

Practice Makes Perfect: German Grammar Exercises for Beginners

Practice Makes Perfect: German Grammar Excersies for Beginners

Are you a beginner German student? Practicing your grammar skills is important to your ongoing success. Teacher Noel S. shares some German grammar exercises you can use to help refine your skills…

After you’ve spent some time learning words for various people, places, and things, naturally you’ll want to put those new words into action. While you’re eager to gain command over new grammar skills, it’s best to start with the basics. Every language has different variables that need to be memorized; for instance, which gender a specific noun has. These variables will be learned over time, with experience, and lots of practice. So, let’s get on the fast track to learning German with the following three grammar exercises:

German Grammar Exercise 1:  Changing Verb Endings According to their Subject Pronoun

The subject pronouns used in German are the same as the singular ones used in English; for example, I (ich), you (du), he (er), she (sie), it (es).  In addition, there are also three plural subjects:  we (wir), you (ihr), and they (sie). It’s important to note that in German there’s one formal subject for you (Sie) which takes on its own verb ending that is different from the informal singular or informal plural “you” subjects.

When the pronoun changes, the verb ending changes too. For example, if you want to say “I play guitar,” you take the I pronoun (ich) + the verb stem (spiel) + the correct verb ending used with the ich pronoun (e), put it all together for an easy conjugation formula: Ich spiele Gitarre.

We can master this part of German grammar with some practice changing verb endings. First, follow the sample exercise below in which we take the verb stem and add the boldface ending for each subject pronoun. After you’ve reviewed the sample, try changing the endings on your own with the verbs below.

Sample Exercise

Infinitive Verb: spielen  (to play)

Root: spiel

ich spielGitarre         du spielst Gitarre         er, sie, es spielt Gitarre            wir spielen Gitarre

ihr spielGitarre                   sie (they) spielen Gitarre                                            Sie spielen Gitarre

Exercise A.

Infinitive Verb: hören (to listen or hear)

Root: hör

ich höre Salsa-Musik        du__________               er__________             wir__________

ihr__________                                sie (they)__________                                          Sie__________

Exercise B. 

Infinitive Verb: trinken (to drink)

Root: trink

ich trinkWasser         du__________                 er__________               wir__________

ihr__________                               sie (they)__________                                  sie__________

German Grammar Exercise 2:  Making a Question Using Conjugated German Verbs

Now that you’ve mastered changing verb endings according to their subject pronoun, use your new skill to easily make a question. Making a question using conjugated verbs is as easy as switching the subject and the verb. See the example below for reference.

Sample Exercise

Before:”Er trinkt Cola.” (He drinks cola.)

After: “Trinkt er Cola?” (Is he drinking cola?).

Now it’s your turn! Change each sentence below into a question:

  1. Er reist gern. (He likes traveling.)
  2. Du spielst immer Tennis. (You always play tennis.)
  3. Sie ist ledig. (She is single)
  4. Sie essen Fisch. (They eat fish)
  5. Ich liebe Kaffee. (I love coffee) Try changing this one to “Do you love coffee?”

German Grammar Exercise 3: Placing an Expression of Time After the Verb and Before a Place

Want to add even more detail to your sentences? German natives will be delighted to hear you speak their language confidently and correctly, so let’s make sure you add details in the right spot.

In the sample exercise below, we’re stating that the flowers are beautiful.  If we want to add even more detail, we can easily insert an expressions of time ( i.e. springtime). The words contained in parentheses are an expression of time.  Add the time expression from the parentheses after the verb and before the noun to complete the sentence.

Sample Exercise

Before: Die Blumen sind besonders schön. (im Frühling)

After: Die Blumen sind im Frühling besonders schön.

Rewrite each of the following sentences to include the expression of time:

  1. Wir machen eine Reise. (nächste Woche)
  2. Ich werde hier wohnen. (ein Monat)
  3. Er fährt nach Zürich. (jeden Tag)

Mastering these German grammar exercises can be difficult, but with consistent practice you can greatly improve your skills. If you need some help perfecting your grammar skills, you might want to consider taking private German lessons with an expert teacher who can give you the one-on-one attention you need to successfully navigate through the German language.

 

Noel SNoel S. teaches German and music lessons in Beachwood, OH. He minored in German during his undergraduate studies and holds a Masters degree in music from Dusquesne University. Noel has been teaching since 2001. Learn more about Noel

 

 

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3 Ways to Make Learning German Fun for Kids

German for Kids: 3 Ways to Make Learning Fun

 German for Kids: 3 Ways to Make Learning Fun

Do you want to make learning German more entertaining and engaging for your child? German teacher Noel S. shares three ways to make learning German fun for kids…

Let’s face it, learning German for kids can be tough—not to mention intimidating. From mastering a long list of complex vocabulary words to perfecting the pronunciation of various words, it can be difficult for kids to stay engaged and motivated. By implementing fun games and exercises into their curriculum, however, you can make learning less overwhelming and more enjoyable. Below are three exercises you can use to make German for kids more fun:

First Activity: “Simon Says”

Every child loves a game of old-fashion Simon Says, or in this case, Simon Sagt. Not only will this classic game keep your child engaged, but it will also help him or her practice common German commands. Before you begin the game, review the eight basic German commands seen below.

Note: If you don’t have a blackboard or whiteboard, simply substitute another household item.

Once your child has taken some time to get familiar with the commands, you’re ready to play! As the adult, you’ll take on the role of Simon and issue commands to your child (for example: Simon sagt Stehen Sie auf). To make things interesting, try keeping score!

  1. Stehen Sie auf: Stand Up
  2. Setzen Sie sich: Sit Down
  3. Machen Sie das Buch zu: Open Your Book
  4. Gehen Sie an die Tafel : Go to the Blackboard
  5. Schreiben Sie an die Tafel: Write on the Whiteboard
  6. Gehen Sie an die Tür: Go to the Door
  7. Hånde Klatschen : Clap Hands
  8. Beschreiben Sie das Bild: Describe the picture

Second Activity: “Name That Person”

If your child is a visual learner, this next activity will be very beneficial as it uses images to help him or her absorb ideas and concepts. First, gather photos of the following hobbyists or professionals: dancer, singer, scientist, hiker, tennis player, world traveler, pianist, and whomever else you’d like to add. Next, compile a bank of descriptive statements in German that describe each hobbyist or professional (for example, “Ich spiele gern das Klavier.” means “I enjoy playing the piano.”)

Now comes the fun part… Place the photos in front of the student where they are visible and read one description at a time out loud. Next, have the student point to the appropriate photo in which the description best describes. If your child is at an intermediate level, try setting a time limit for them to answer.

Third Activity: “Likes and Dislikes”

Does your child need help with adverbs? This activity will help him or her practice both, while staying engaged. First, review the common adverbs used to rate one’s likes and dislikes. Examples include:

  • Besonders: Particularly
  • Sehr: Very
  • Nicht sehr: Not much
  • Nicht: Not
  • Gar nicht: Not at all

Once your child has these adverbs down pat, show him or her pictures of various categories like video games, foods, perfume, bicycles, etc. and have them rate their preferences using one of the words listed above. Then, ask him or her to say the completed statement out loud to ensure proper pronunciation.

German for kids isn’t easy. If your child is struggling to stay engaged, try working with an experienced German teacher who has the tools to make learning fun and easy.

 

Noel SNoel S. teaches German and music lessons in Beachwood, OH. He minored in German during his undergraduate studies and holds a Masters degree in music from Dusquesne University. Noel has been teaching since 2001. Learn more about Noel

 

 

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How to Prepare For Your First Online Violin Lesson

How to Prepare For Your First Online Violin Lesson

How to Prepare For Your First Online Violin Lesson

Have you always wanted to play the violin? Online violin lessons are a great option for busy or remote students. Below, experienced violin teacher Carol Beth L. discusses several ways to prepare for your first online lesson…

Taking live, online violin lessons can provide a lot of flexibility absent in face-to-face lessons. Neither you nor your teacher needs travel to meet the other, making scheduling easier and more convenient. Live online lessons, however, are a bit different from face-to-face lessons as there are several moving parts. Therefore, it’s important to be sure you’re prepared. Here are a few things to test before your lesson begins.

The setup

Make sure you have a strong Internet connection and that you can log in to your preferred communication platform, whether that be Skype, Google+ or something different you and your teacher have chosen. If you’ve never used the platform before or you haven’t used it in quite some time, don’t count on just hopping on five minutes before your lesson begins. Remember Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That being said, log in to the platform 15-30 minutes before your lessons begins to make sure everything is running smoothly.

The best angle

Check your camera connection and, more importantly, how you’ll appear on the screen. Your teacher will need to see you from the waist up to ensure you have the right posture. He or she will also want to examine how you’re holding the violin, so be sure that the entire instrument fits comfortably within the horizontal parameters of the screen. If you’re a beginner and aren’t quite sure how to hold your violin, you might try reaching your hand out to the left while in view of the camera. If the camera can see your face and your left hand at the same time, you should be fine. In addition to making sure you’re positioned right, you must find a space that has minimal disturbances ( if any) and you’re comfortable in.

The sound

The audio element is just as important as the visual element. Before your lessons begins, check the audio quality. This is especially important if you haven’t used the platform before or if you haven’t used it to record yourself. It’s a good idea to set up a chat with a friend or family member beforehand to see if he or she can hear you talk or play your violin clearly. While you’re at it, make sure you can also hear them!

The equipment

Make sure you are on top of any additional equipment you need. Are you a beginner? Have a violin that fits as best you can estimate, but for young students especially, be ready for feedback from your teacher if necessary. Have rosin for your bow and a pad or chin rest for your violin (according to your teacher’s recommendations and your preferences). If you have a pad or sponge instead of a chin rest, make sure you have a way to attach it. A large rubber band usually works fairly well. A fold-up portable stand may also be useful, along with any books and CDs your teacher recommends. If you haven’t used your stand before, figure out how to set it up well before lesson day.

 

Once you are set up and ready to go, relax and have fun. Like many things in life, learning the violin is about the journey as much as it is about the destination. If you can enjoy the ride, you may coast further ahead than you would otherwise. Be prepared for obstacles; you and your teacher may find certain elements of your online violin lessons need further adjustment. If you can start successfully, however, those difficulties will be easier to negotiate.

 

CarolCarol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

 

 

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The Best, Baddest, Loud Guitars for Metal

The Best, Baddest, Loud Guitars for Metal

The Best, Baddest, Loud Guitars for MetalOn a quest to find the best guitars for metal? Guitar teacher James W. shares a few of the baddest guitars around…

Why are metal guitars so easy to play? The simple truth is metal has been around a long time, since way back in the 1960’s, and technology has kept pace with musician’s demands. Read on, and we shall see how knowing what to look for in a guitar makes or breaks your crunch lead!

1. Schecter Guitars

These guitars are perhaps the holy grail of metal masters. They are completely modern in design features. By focusing on killer design and affordable custom options, Schecter Guitars from the San Fernando Valley in Van Nuys, California knew when to listen to young musicians carefully and knew what to create to lead the way into a new era. It’s hard to find a cooler, high-end guitar aimed so specifically at the metal genre. Even though they started out by copying manufacturers like Fender, they didn’t take long to move on and create original designs for pickups, body shapes and wiring, and custom paint with a very high standard for attention to detail.

Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars. Very Bad!

2. Fernandes Guitars

This maker is another great innovator from the valley, and truly one of the best guitars for metal. Fernandes created the ground breaking sustainer pickup for guitar in the 1990’s. It holds notes forever at the flick of a switch or footpedal. As we all know, sustain of notes is an important part of the metal guitar sound. Just ask for their Vortex Model for metal. He builds guitars that look cool, play well, and have a fast neck. Need I say more? Even used, these guitars are highly sought after.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars. Super Bad!

3. Fender Guitars

Some folks don’t know about this one. The Fender Custom Shop in Corona, California will make virtually anything you want – within reason that is, and there are a few metalheads working there. Adding twin blade and custom humbucking pickups by Seymour Duncan or Fender paved the way. Just strike up a convo by asking them about the guitars they like and their tattoos. Surprisingly, they will even answer the phone themselves and are very helpful. Your dream guitar awaits, and dang, it feels so good.

Rating: 8 out 10 Stars. Cool Bad!

4. Jackson

Now here is a company, also from the valley, that almost went under when Kurt Cobain made his “Jagstang” hybrid Fender guitar the cool guitar to own in the 1990’s. Suddenly sales went to nothing. So, Jackson Guitars went on vacation and returned as a custom shop and were revived in the early 2000’s with new ideas and a new love of music and musicians. Metalheads who think Randy Rhoads is the guitar player to follow buy these guitars. The Jackson RR III Randy Rhoads “Sharktooth” Model is back in demand. And the pickups just scream.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars. Awesome Bad!

5. Gibson

Normally I would not think of Gibson as a metal machine maker. But Zakk Wylde of Ozzy Osbourne’s band has proven metal can reign supreme on his custom signature bullseye design pop art Les Paul. These guitars are slightly pricey, but you get a sleek neck, custom Zakk Wylde pickups, Floyd Rose trem, and more. Everything about this guitar is designed to withstand a brutal assault on your worldwide tour and come back for more.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars. Serious Bad!

6. EVH Wolfgang Stealth by Eddie Van Halen

A guitar that is EVH can handle anything. It is Eddie’s guitar of choice; for the last two years it is all he plays on stage. It’s built to Eddie’s specs, a road warrior made for the metalheads around the globe. Comes with patented EVH Drop D-Tuna designed and invented by Ed himself for instant drop D tuning and instant return to regular tuning. If you love EVH “brown sounds”, this guitar is very high end with a reasonable price. It even has a NAMM Award for best value. You can’t do much better than this.

Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars. Totally Killer Bad!

When you’re choosing a new guitar, it all comes down to your own personal needs and what your ear tells you just sounds best. So have fun, and try them all before you buy. Happy rockin’!

For more guitar tips and tricks, taking private lessons with a great guitar teacher is the way to go! Guitar teachers are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on locations and availability. Search for your guitar teacher now! 

James W. teaches guitar, singing, and acting lessons in Jacksonville, FL. He specializes in teaching pop, rock, and modern country styles. James has been teaching for 10 years and joined the TakeLessons in 2010. Learn more about James here!

 

 

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how watching Spanish movies can help

Improve Your Pronunciation: 3 Spanish Movies to Watch Now

how watching Spanish movies can helpBecoming fluent in a new language can feel quite daunting, especially when you’re trying to translate in your head first! Read on for some great tips to increase speed and pronunciation from instructor Giulia M

 

I have been teaching Spanish, Italian, and English for a number of years. I am Italian, which means that two of the three of the languages I teach are not my native one. I understand the challenges students encounter while learning a new language since I’ve been through them myself.

In order to master a language and express our thoughts and emotions in an effective way, we need to start thinking in that language. This can be difficult to achieve, but with time, practice, and dedication, your thoughts will begin to originate in your new language.

I think the most powerful tools we have when learning a new language is our memory and our capacity to imitate. In fact, a big part of my learning process through the years has been when I watch movies in Spanish and memorize the dialogue. Much like with music, memorizing movie dialogue can help you learn pronunciation without having to think about the translation. The practice is useful when training yourself to think in a new language.

My Top 3 Spanish Movie Recommendations

There are so many great opportunities out there to watch movies in Spanish! I am a big fan of the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. His movies are very interesting and the actors speak Spanish beautifully. These are a few of his greatest titles.

Volver

A comedic drama, the film features ghosts, murder, and love as it details the relationships between three generations of women in Madrid.

All About My Mother

This emotional film follows a woman coping with her own personal tragedy as she makes new friends and reacquaints herself with an important character from her past.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Many complicated paths cross in a confusing jumble as a woman seeks to discover the reason her lover chose to leave.

Even More Spanish Movies to Watch

I recommend movies from Mexico like Y Tu Mamá También or Amores Perros to hear Spanish being spoken in a non-Spanish accent.

Chilean and Argentinean movies might be a little more challenging because the actors tend to speak quickly. I am a big fan of Ricardo Darín, an Argentinian actor. You may want to check him out if your Spanish is intermediate or advanced. I love El mismo amor, la misma lluvia, Son of the Bride, or Nine Queens.

Quick Tips for My Students

  • Watch movies with English subtitles if you are a beginner, and in the language you are learning if you are intermediate or advanced. This way you will be able to connect the words you’re hearing with the words you’re seeing on the screen. This will help you memorize new words and work on pronunciation. Using two of your senses at once tremendously increases your learning ability.
  • Whenever you don’t understand a word, concept, or grammatical structure, pause the movie and look it up in your textbook or a Spanish dictionary. This will be more accurate than using an online translator and the act of looking for something helps you learn.

I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I do! I promise that on top of having fun, your level of comfort while speaking Spanish will increase rapidly.

Readers, do you like to watch movies in Spanish? What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

Guilia M

Giulia M. teaches Spanish, Italian, singing, and guitar in Austin, TX and online. She is from Florence, Italy, and has been a tutor for the past 12 years. Learn more about Giulia here!

 

 

 

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