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.


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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Vocal Audition Crimes

Vocal Audition Crimes: 3 Mistakes That Turn Judges Off

Vocal Audition CrimesHave an audition coming up? You may know what TO do, but what about what NOT to do? Take a look at these tips for singing auditions in this guest post by Glendale, CA voice teacher Ben M...


Let’s face it: auditions are nerve-wracking. You’re presenting your talent for somebody else’s approval, and that’s not easy to do. But auditions can also be a ton of fun and lead to amazing changes in your life. It’s incredibly important to make auditions a habit, even if you’re happy with where you are in your singing career. The more auditions you attend, the easier it will be to convince yourself to go to the audition in the first place, the better you will perform, and the more likely any given audition will lead to the result you want. We’ve already covered the things you SHOULD do at an audition in a previous post. Here are the top three vocal audition crimes to avoid.

1. Letting Your Fear Take Over

A teacher once had to convince me that my anxiety over auditioning has exactly 0% benefit to my performance. Many of us believe that our anxiety will somehow prepare us to perform and will cause us to do a better job because we “take it more seriously.” But there’s a difference between anticipation and anxiety.

It’s great to be mentally prepared and aware of what will be expected of you at an audition. But the moment it crosses over to stress, you’re wasting valuable physical and emotional energy. You’ve crossed over to the dark side, where you’re now faced with the risk of psyching yourself out, forgetting your lyrics, or creating unnecessary tension in your voice. If you find yourself in this position, take a deep breath, count to 10, remind yourself that it’s just an audition, and RELAX. Just as with vocalization, the only way to see the results you want is to let go and allow your body to arrive at and STAY at a place of rest.

2. Not Knowing Your Words By Heart

There’s never an excuse not to know your lyrics at an audition. In fact, there’s every reason to ensure you know them by heart. It’s not just to prove you know the words – it’s about internalizing the song and spending time with it, which is one of the important tips for singing well. Once you learn how to efficiently memorize lyrics, it can actually be quite fun. The process allows you to apply your own voice to the song and make little changes in phrasing and intonation. Methods vary depending on how you learn best, but I have always found that memorizing a song line by line yields the quickest results. Sing through one line of a song until you know it, then start from the top of the song and sing up to the line you just learned. It may seem like it takes longer this way, but you’ll find that you internalize the tune much faster. Remember to do your core memorization at least one night before – you’ll find that the words come much easier the next day.

3. Going Too Far Out Of Your Sweet Spot

Not everybody agrees with me here, but an audition is not the time to try something you’ve never done before. Nor is it the time to try to sound like somebody you have never sounded like. It’s tempting for singers to go over the top and show the outermost range of what they can do, but the problem with this is that you are exposing your limits to the folks auditioning you. In the process, you’re taking the attention away from what it is you do best. When an audition notice asks to “see your range,” be smart about your choices. Make sure that your audition piece is 90% in your sweet spot – the tried and true range and timbre of your voice. If you like, you can add a few special embellishments that show the tip of the iceberg, but don’t make that uncharted territory the meat of your audition. Besides the weakness-exposure factor, you’ll find that whatever anxiety you do carry into the audition will not work in your favor if you’re trying to hit higher notes or mask your voice with a tone that isn’t yours.

Lastly, don’t go at it alone! Consulting a vocal coach is a necessity before attending a big audition. Besides helping you brush up on technique, a good coach will also be able to critique your audition and help you pinpoint weak spots, preparing you for an easy audition process that you can repeat again and again.

Readers, what other tips for singing auditions have helped you? Let us know in the comments below!

Preparing for a contest or competition? Check our singing contest tips here!


Ben M. teaches music performance and singing in Glendale, CA. He attended Northeastern University and is currently studying voice at Brett Manning Studios. Learn more about Ben here!



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French Grammar Rules Distinguishing Between Imparfait and Passé Composé

French Grammar Rules: Distinguishing Between Imparfait and Passé Composé

French Grammar Rules Distinguishing Between Imparfait and Passé Composé

French grammar guru Carol Beth L. is back on the blog with this guide to the passé composé, the imparfait, and when you should use each of them…

If you’ve been studying French grammar long enough, you may know that French has two different forms of the past tense: the passé composé (composed past) and the imparfait (imperfect). It is sometimes difficult for those who have just learned them to distinguish between situations that require the passé composé and situations that warrant the imparfait. There are patterns, however, that can help you tell when to use each one.

Generally speaking, the passé composé is used for things that happened only once in the past, and that happened at a specific time, not over a duration of time. If you want to talk about the one and only French lesson last happened last Thursday, for example, then you doubly know that you should use the passé composé. It happened at a specific point time (last Thursday), and there was only one such lesson on that particular Thursday. So you might say:

J’ai eu mon cours de francais jeudi dernier.
I had my French class last Thursday.

If your teacher asks you if you did your homework, then you probably also both know which homework that was, and either you’ve done it or not. If you did do it, you hopefully only had to do it once. So if you’ve done it, you’d probably say:

Oui, j’ai fait mes devoirs. Les voici!
Yes, I did my homework. Here it is!

A side note in this example: “devoirs,” or homework, is plural in French while the English version is singular. As a result, even though it may seem odd to us English-speakers, it is correct to use the plural possessive pronoun “mes” and the plural object pronoun (and under some other circumstances plural article) “les.”

Or, you might hear your less diligent doppleganger say:

Euh, alors, mon chien a mangé mes devoirs….
Ahhh, well, my dog ate my homework….

The imparfait, on the other hand, is usually used under different circumstances. The first common situation is a repeated action in the past.

Au lycée, je faisais mes devoirs tous les jours.
In high school, I did my homework every day.
Aux années soixante, il visitait la France tous les ans.
During the ’60s, he visited France every year.

The second common situation is when one enduring event or action is happening, and something else happens during the first one. In this case, the surrounding, more long-term event takes the imparfait, and the interrupting event takes the passé composé. In this sort of situation, the event that is conjugated using the imparfait might under other circumstances require the passé composé – sometimes even in an adjacent sentence.

Mais c’est vrai, j’ai fait mes devoirs hier soir. Pendant que je faisais mes devoirs, mon chat a sauté sur la table et a marche sur mon travail.
But it’s true, I did my homework last night. While I was doing my homework, my cat jumped on the table and walked on my work.
Pendant que nous dinions, ma mere a appelé.
While we were eating dinner, my mother called.

Let’s look at a few examples and see if you can tell whether to use the imperfect tense or the passé composé.

1) L’année dernière, je (j’) __________________ (visiter) la France.
Last year, I visited France.
2) Pendant que je (j’) __________________ (être) en France, je (j’) __________________ (rencontrer) une vieille amie.
While I was in France, I met an old friend.
3) Quand nous __________________ (être) petits, nous __________________ (jouer) sur le meme equipe de football.
When we were little, we played on the same soccer team.
4) Pendant notre séjour, nous __________________ (voyager) a Strasbourg, une petite ville alsacienne a la frontière allemande.
During our stay, we travelled to Strasbourg, a small Alsacien town on the German border.
5) Pendant que nous __________________ (rester) a Strasbourg, nous __________________ (visiter) la Musée d’Alsace.
During our stay in Strasbourg, we visited the Museum of Alsace.

How do you think you did? Here are some answers to check yourself:

1) ai visité (passé composé)
2) étais (imparfait); ai rencontré (passé composé)
3) étions (imparfait); jouions (imparfait)
4) avons voyagé (passé composé);
5) restions (imparfait); avons visité (passé composé)

How well did you do? If you missed some of them, don’t be discouraged. Keep looking for examples and practice using them. While there are general rules you can use to figure out which one is appropriate, it takes time to internalize the logic of a new language. Remember to keep it fun and enjoy studying French!

For more help learning French grammar, study with a private tutor. Tutors are available to work with you in-person or online via Skype depending on your location. Search for your French tutor now!


Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!



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