Boo! How to Deal With Your Worst Music Nightmares

You get up on stage.  Adrenaline is rushing through your body.  You’ve been working on a solo for months, and now’s your time to show it off.  The band is counting on you.  And as the crowd screams your name, you grab the microphone, take a deep breath and… you’ve lost your voice?!

Sound like a singer’s worst nightmare?  It’s enough to give any musician a scare!

Luckily – with the exception of this nightmare – most of the time when you make a mistake, it’s much more noticeable to you than to your audience.  But for someone just starting out, we know how traumatizing it can be.  Making mistakes is a natural part of learning – and it shouldn’t scare you.  Here are some pointers to think about, courtesy of Gerald Klickstein from The Musician’s Way Blog:

1. Errors are not failures
An on-stage mistake resembles a stutter: it doesn’t bar listeners from hearing and feeling the larger phrase.  When we miss a note or drift off pitch, if we keep up the musical intensity, listeners will stay immersed in the music and don’t notice the flub.  Even when bigger mishaps occur – say, a singer misses an entrance or has a sizable memory slip – we can still keep the mood alive.

Failures, in contrast, result in lasting loss: a driver who causes a fatal car crash fails as a driver and citizen.  Just remember: an on-stage error can’t become a failure unless a musician turns it into one.

2. Errors are not shameful
Musicians who confuse errors with failures often harbor shame. Not only do they view slips as disasters but also conclude that their missed notes prove that they’re untalented.  Of course, mistakes aren’t fun. We might even feel guilty if our blunder alters a special moment in show.  But there’s a world of difference between guilt and shame.

It’s human nature for us to feel guilty if, for example, we accidentally damage a friend’s instrument. People who feel shame, though, believe that their mistakes indicate that they are inferior.  When musicians perceive errors as shameful they also wrestle with stage fright because if on-stage slips seem catastrophic, their possibility triggers fear.

In truth, every musician, no matter how gifted, makes errors on stage.  As we build up our abilities, we make fewer and smaller errors, and we mask them more gracefully.  Nonetheless, our errors alert us to things we need to learn, so if we treat them positively, they can actually aid our development.

3. Errors are information
When we rid ourselves of any negative emotional baggage associated with errors, we can then see them for what they are: information. Errors don’t come with emotional strings unless we strap them on.

Memory slip? Enjoy ad-libbing through it, and then explore the possible causes in practice. If you discover a flaw in your memorization procedures, modify your learning habits accordingly, and your on-stage security and artistic power will grow.

In sum: Instead of running out screaming the next time you miss a note, think of it as a learning experience, keep calm and keep on going.

Readers, what do you think of this advice?  How do you react to mistakes and what do you learn from them?  Check out our Facebook page and join the discussion.  Happy Halloween!

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Find Out What It Takes to Rock Beyonce-Style Confidence

It’s hard to ignore the stage presence and larger-than-life personalities of divas like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Tina Turner.  They’ve certainly made a name for themselves, and this year on December 19th, VH1 will be celebrating these women at the VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul concert series.  The show will pay tribute to the “great cities of soul music,” recognize the impact soul music has had on the 21st century’s music and pop culture, and feature performances from the likes of Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, and Florence + The Machine.

As our own tribute to these fearless females, today we’re exploring how you can become a more confident performer – something that these divas radiate with each breath – courtesy of Bulletproof Musician (see also: our tips earlier this week for overcoming stage fright).  Learn how to strut your stuff and you’ll be sure to make a Beyonce-style impression at your next audition or performance.

First off, let’s discuss the misconceptions of self-confidence.

The good news is that confidence is something you can change – and that you actually have quite a bit of control over your level of self-confidence. This may come as something of a surprise to you, as there are many who believe that confidence is largely a character trait, that you either have it or you don’t. Others think that only success or positive feedback can build confidence, and that you can’t make mistakes or experience “failure” if you want to become more confident.

Well, it turns out that these are all just misconceptions. Many musicians suffer from a great deal of self-doubt and insecurities, despite great success.  So what do you have to do to become more confident, you ask?

Ready to be like Beyonce?

One of the keys to becoming a more confident performer is mastering your self-talk.

Self-talk is the term that psychologists use to describe that internal dialogue we all have with ourselves throughout the day. You know, the one that calls us clumsy when we stub our toe on the bedpost, or an absent-minded idiot when we get back from the grocery store and realize we’ve forgotten the one thing we went there for. Some of us talk out loud or mumble to ourselves, others keep it all inside, but we all have that voice inside our head that is often very difficult to turn off.

Mastering Self-Talk

Keep in mind that your subconscious mind is listening to everything that you say to yourself, and that it doesn’t have a filter. It will take in everything that you say, and over time, unconditionally accept the most consistent messages as reality – whether this is actually true or not.

The vast majority of the thoughts that your mind generates when you are under pressure are unhelpful. They are often irrelevant (“Hmm…I wonder what I should eat for dinner”), overly analytical (“Keep your thumb unclenched, fingers light, elbow around, shoulder down…”), or self-destructive (“Uh-oh, here comes that passage that I screwed up in rehearsals”).

If you can identify these thoughts, the next step is to create a self-talk log.  Pick a piece that you’re working on that’s particularly challenging, and record yourself performing it.  While playing, pay attention to anytime you have a thought – pause, and repeat it out loud so your audio recording captures it.  When you’re done, take note of all of the thoughts you had throughout your practice session.

How many of them were critical, unsupportive, irrelevant, distracting, and the type of remark that you would never say to a friend? Did you insult yourself or make personal attacks? Were you able to keep your mind rooted in the present, or did your thoughts linger on mistakes or even review past incidents when you’ve made that same mistake? Did your thoughts project into the future?

If you notice a pattern, it’s time to make a change.  From now on, each time you hear yourself engaging in negative self-talk, “overwrite” it with more supportive, constructive and self-supporting thoughts.  For example, instead of thinking “Why do I always rush that passage and mess it up? I’m such a screw-up!”, think  “Hey, take it easy. Even the best make mistakes too. Get refocused and move on. Plenty of time to figure out why this happened later.”  Even if the positive thoughts seem corny or fake, the idea is to come up with thoughts that help you feel more positively inside, and ultimately keep you moving towards success.

Follow these steps and your new-found confidence will help you with auditions, performances and more – in fact, it might be the most important facet of your success as a musician!

Readers: what strategies do you use to keep your confidence level up?  Do you practice these tips of monitoring your inner voice?

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How to Break into the Music Biz Without Even Playing a Note

Do you dream of someday working in the music industry, but consider yourself tone deaf? If you don’t have the musical chops necessary, it doesn’t mean you need to give up on that dream.  Today, we’re taking a look at a few behind-the-scenes career paths that might be right up your alley.  For example…

Booking Agent (or Talent Agent)
Booking agents work to secure performance engagements for musical artists and groups. They work to find talent to book and may be involved with developing the talent toward a goal. They must possess good communication skills to sell talent and develop contacts in the music industry. They often work closely with an act’s manager and may be involved in setting the fee and negotiating with promoters or clubs. A booking agent is paid a percentage of the negotiated fee for an act’s performance.

Entertainment Attorney
An entertainment attorney handles any contractual matters conceivable within the entertainment industry. Entertainment attorneys can be freelance, hired on retainer, or an employee of a company or business within the entertainment industry. Entertainment attorneys generally specialize in one of three separate fields within the entertainment industry: sports, film and television, and music. An attorney that specializes in the music industry usually has a solid depth of understanding with regard to copyright laws and artist/band agreements with managers, publishers, record labels, booking agents, etc. Successful completion of law school and a state bar exam are requisites for being an entertainment attorney, as well.

Publicist (or Staff Publicist, Press Agent)
A publicist handles the publicity and press needs of acts signed to a label. Publicity helps the label sell records and produce income. A publicist must be able to get an artist’s name in the news (magazines, music trades, TV, radio, etc.) as often as possible. This is accomplished by writing press releases, sending them to the correct media, talking to media about acts, and arranging interviews. The publicist often arranges a series of print interviews, radio interviews, and TV appearances in conjunction with the release of a new record. Staff publicists spend a lot of time on the telephone and are usually the first to send out promotional copies of new records and other important materials to the media. After a new record is released, a publicist may work with the A&R or promotional departments on a showcase booking of the group, and make arrangements for a press party.

Music Publisher
Music publishers are responsible for acquiring the copyrights to songs and publishing them. They may work for a very large music publishing company and perform one or two specific duties as a music publisher. They may work for a relatively small firm and fulfill a variety of functions. Many individuals in music publishing or songwriting become independent music publishers, running their own music publishing firm. The goal of the music publisher is to find and acquire potential hit songs (copyrights) and songwriters, promote them for financial gain, and serve as copyright administrator whereby tracking, licensing, and payment collection can be done efficiently. A good music publisher has knowledge of all facets of the music business, an understanding of music industry dynamics, an ability to hear hit tunes, knowledge of copyrights laws, and contacts in the music business.

Tour Coordinator
The tour coordinator is responsible for coordinating the many facets of an act’s tour, including travel, lodging, arranging for services, and budgeting for expenses.

Sound Technician
Sound technicians are responsible for high-quality sound during the live performance. They usually arrive at the concert site before the performers and are involved in unloading and setting up the equipment and instruments along with the road crew. The sound technician supervises the placement of equipment and works with the talent during the sound check to achieve the best sound. They may even work a soundboard during the actual performance.

The list goes on and on: music supervisor for TV and movies, music journalist or critic, music therapist, and of course, radio DJ.  The NAfME Career Center page and the Careers page for Berklee’s College of Music are great resources to check out if you need some guidance.  So if you’re in college now – or ready for a career change – consider these options if you can’t carry a tune!

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Top 5 Musicians That Used Technology To Make Music Awesome

Musicians making documentaries is nothing new.  But making a 3D documentary?  Now more and more groups are following suit – and Metallica is the next to jump on the bandwagon.  Following a collaboration with Lou Reed (Lulu‘s official release date is October 31st), Metallica is now planning a 3D feature film.

Will 3D music documentaries be the next big thing?  Who knows – with how fast technology is growing, the music industry has to think fast to keep up. Last week, we discussed a few iPhone apps to help the modern-day musician.  So what other ways has the digital world intersected with music?  Check out this list of 5 musicians who have used technology to break boundaries and change the way we think about music:

1. Lil Wayne

Technically, Cher was one of the first artists to use auto-tuning to make a hit. However, Lil Wayne has made an entire career of that crazy phase vocoder. Still, and although it’s become a very popular tool, many artists have rejected it, including Jay-Z, whose song “DOA” (Death of Auto-tune), is a direct backlash against the sound. However, Lil Wayne will not cave. He told VIBE magazine auto-tuning “ain’t dead.” If that’s not good enough for you, that’s too ba-a-a-a-a-ad.

2. Duran Duran

I’m not sure if music videos put Duran Duran on the map, or if Duran Duran put music videos on the map. Considering their banned “Girls On Film” video and the fact that they were the first to have their music videos shot on 35mm (rather than videotape), it’s a toss up.

Since the introduction of video to the music world, Duran Duran has been making waves. In 1984, they introduced video technology into their live shows by being one of the first acts to provide video screens above the stage. They have recorded concerts using iMAX and 360 degree panoramic cameras with 10.2 channel audio. They are on MTV’s “100 Greatest Videos Ever Made” list with “Hungry Like The Wolf,” as well as VH1’s “100 Greatest Videos” with “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf.” In fact, MTV named “Hungry Like the Wolf” the fifteenth most-played video of all time.

3. Kraftwerk

If you ever wondered what it would be like for robots, both in look and sound, to compose music, check out Kraftwerk.

Kraftwerk, German for “power plant,” is known as a pioneer in the world of electronic music. The signature Kraftwerk sound has repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, a classical Western style of harmony, and a minimal and strictly electronic instrumentation. The group’s simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer speech software. Their videos are also cutting edge in both art and visuals. Next time you make a song on your computer, be sure to thank those crazy Germans!

4. Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound

Spector’s signature technique, known as the “Wall of Sound,” was revolutionary. It consisted of a dense, layered, and reverberant sound that reproduced well on AM radio and jukeboxes popular at the time. He accomplished this by having many electric and acoustic guitarists perform the same parts in unison, then added orchestras, and then recorded everything using an echo chamber. The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Queen, and The Ramones all utilized this sound.

5. Les Paul

What did Les Paul do? He made rock n’ roll possible. He pioneered the solid body electric guitar. Les Paul also innovated guitar playing itself with a particular fretting style and guitar licks. He has many songs and singles on the charts, but he’s best known for giving rock stars something to smash on stage – making our music louder and more dangerous.

(See the full list here.)

Artists everywhere are amping up to revolutionize the way we play and listen to music.  What do you think will come next? Leave a comment below! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.


How to Break your Songwriter’s Block and Get the Girl

Twenty years ago in 1991, before Justin Bieber was even born, soulful crooners like Whitney Houston and Color Me Badd topped the Billboard charts.  It’s also the year Boyz II Men released their first album, Cooleyhighharmony. Today the group released their latest album, Twenty, featuring an array of new songs, as well as a few of their old-school classics.

If you grew up in the 90s, there’s a good chance groups like Boyz II Men provided the unofficial soundtrack for your middle school crushes and forlorn love stories. The majority of their songs – like most of the R&B genre – have a theme of love and relationships.  For songs with so much emotional draw, lyrics are especially important.

And as pop culture has showed us time and time again, music is a great way to woo the object of your affection (just look at John Cusack in Say Anything – and he didn’t even have to play an instrument!).  But what’s a musician to do when you want to get the girl, but can’t find the lyrics to say it?  Don’t fret – we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves to help you overcome your “songwriter’s block”, courtesy of Disk Makers’ blog, Echoes:

1. Start with a title
“Find an interesting title and most of the song will often write itself,” says songwriter, guitarist and producer Tommy Marolda, who has written tunes with Richie Sambora and Rod Stewart. “That’s something I’ve used in a lot of my songwriting.” Successful song-crafters like Bon Jovi and Diane Warren have used this strategy, and songs like “Living’ On A Prayer,” “Bed Of Roses” and “Dead Or Alive” were written this way. “With most songs, the title tells the whole story,” he continues.

But where can you get an intriguing song title if the ideas just aren’t flowing? “Try looking at magazines,” says Marolda. “You can flip through the table of contents and sometimes they use interesting hyperbole or plays on words that can spark something in you. Or go to a poetry section in a book store and look at the titles of poems.”

2. Look and listen everywhere
“Whether you’re on a train, walking around, or just having a conversation, you never know what you’re going to hear,” says independent singer/songwriter Natalie Gelman. “When I’m really in the moment and paying attention to what’s happening around me, sometimes I’ll hear someone say something random and think, “That’s a great line! I should use that.’”

3. Carry a notebook, voice recorder, or both
This may seem basic, but since you never know when inspiration will strike, it’s important to have a way to document a great musical idea whenever it comes along.

If you’re comfortable with traditional musical notation, a small notebook with staff lines can be all you need. If you prefer to sing your melodies, a voice recorder on a smart phone or another small recording device can do the trick.

4. Keep unfinished ideas
Even if you’re only able to come up with a verse here and a chorus there, save everything you write, recommends Marolda. “A lot of famous songwriters have a suitcase full of ideas that they pull for different songs when they get stuck,” he says. “Go back into your own catalog of unfinished work and see what’s hanging out. You’d be surprised that a bridge you wrote years ago might fit perfectly with a song you’re working on now.”

5. Write a lot
For Gelman, more hours spent writing music means an easier overall creative process. “Writing constantly helps you become comfortable with the act of crafting songs — and with yourself as a songwriter,” she says. “As songwriters, we have to accept the good, the bad and the ugly that comes out when we write. It’s important not to reject anything that you write, and to keep writing.”

Part and parcel of writing a lot is working on whatever inspires you at any given moment, regardless of whether or not it fits into your genre of choice. Are you a shred-metal guitarist who suddenly comes up with a great Zydeco accordion line? Write it down. Even if it’s totally unusable for your current band or project, you never know when such a creative tidbit might come in handy down the road.

This is just the start to the full list of tips, which can be viewed here.  After you’ve tried your hand at writing, let us know how it goes.  What are your own strategies for writing songs?  How many of you carry around a notepad for when inspiration hits?  Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

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Overcoming Stage Fright: 4 Important Steps

Boy with stage frightDo your palms sweat every time you get up in front of others to perform?  If you get nervous when all eyes are on you, you’re not alone.  Most musicians, at some point in their careers, have experienced stage fright or battled nerves.

But forget the age-old advice of imagining the audience in their underwear – here the steps to follow that really work for overcoming stage fright

Step 1: Self-Assessment
Get to know yourself as a musician and as a performer.  For example…
– What are your capabilities and limitations as a performer?
– Ask yourself: “What am I really afraid of?” Worst-case scenario—you run off the stage and everyone laughs hysterically. That’s unlikely, and might give you perspective into the realities of what it is you are really afraid of.
– Try not to confuse self-assessment with self-criticism!

Step 2: Gradual Exposure and Preparation
– Look for opportunities for exposure to mild to moderate levels of stress that challenge but do not overwhelm your coping skills, such as visualization of the performance.
– Other examples: practice performances, dress rehearsals, taping yourself and playing back.
– Be thoroughly prepared. Nothing replaces adequate time spent in rehearsal and practice! (See also: How to REALLY Maximize Your Practice Time).

Step 3: During the Performance
– Rather than blocking out the audience, or seeing them in their underwear, try seeing them as allies who are generally supportive and want you to do well.
– Remember, most performers have to contend with anxiety – it comes with the territory. You’re in good company!
– Feelings of anxiety are natural, and can be used to your advantage.
– Act calmly, even if you feel nervous. The more you dwell on anxiety, the more you are likely to remain preoccupied with it.
– Try to overlook errors when you perform. Overall impressions are more important to the audience than note-perfect performances.
– Enjoy what you’ve accomplished! Others are more likely to enjoy it this way, too.

Step 4: After the Performance

– Temper external feedback with internal beliefs and expectations you have already established.
– Asking others for feedback without asking yourself first might be depriving yourself of a significant source of valid information about your performance: YOU.

View the full article, Coping With Music Performance Anxiety, here.

If your music goals involve overcoming stage fright and building your stage confidence, we hope these tips help you perform your best.  And if your nerves still get the best of you – don’t dwell on it afterward.  Celebrate your accomplishments, and keep working toward your goal!

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You might also like…
What’s Causing Your Stage Fright?
How to Bounce Back From a Bad Audition
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5 Things Siri Can’t Help You Do On The iPhone

With the iPhone 4S now on the market, it’s hard to get away from all of the hype.  The iPhone has been a game-changer from the very first release in 2007, with its extensive app market and now with its very own digital personal assistant, Siri.  But believe it or not, there are some things Siri can’t help you with.  Try asking her to tune your guitar, or find out the name of that new Mumford & Sons song that is always on the radio.

So what’s a musician to do?  Luckily, the iPhone still has a ton of music-related apps that aren’t going anywhere.

Last week we discussed Bjork’s new album, which has been released with corresponding apps.  Rihanna has her own version, with her Talk That Talk album released in Facebook app form, allowing fans to unlock pieces of the album by performing certain tasks.   Now that apps are becoming the “next big thing,” we can’t wait to see what other creative uses artists will think up.

Even if you’re not releasing an album, there are tons of awesome iPhone Apps that will rock your music-loving world.  Here are 5 that we think top the charts:

1. Pandora Radio
Pandora is the go-to streaming music app for a lot of mobile and web users. The service the app accesses uses advanced recommendation algorithms to play music for you that matches your tastes. It builds custom stations around your favorite artists, and those stations are refined as you give it feedback about which tracks and artists you love and which ones you hate.
The app is simple as can be; just type in the name of a song or artist, and music starts playing that’s either by that artist or someone Pandora’s algorithm deems similar. Enjoy the beats and melodies, and bookmark songs you like so you can buy them through download services.
Price: Free

2. Ocarina
One of the first music-making apps, Ocarina has hardly waned in popularity. It’s just what you would guess — a digital ocarina. You blow into the microphone as you would blow into the ocarina, and the touchscreen has dots in place of an ocarina’s holes. Additionally, Ocarina has a globe view that lets you see and listen to performances by other people who are using the app all over the world.
App developer Smule runs an online forum full of notation to help Ocarina fans figure out songs. The songs are mostly user-submitted and they cover a wide range of styles. However, because the ocarina instrument received a boost in popularity after it was featured in the very popular video game The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, there are a bunch of video game songs to be found on the forum.
Price: $0.99

3. Shazam
Shazam’s primary feature is its ability to recognize almost any popular song playing nearby. Just whip out your iPhone or iPod Touch and load up the app when you hear a song you like but don’t recognize, and Shazam will tell you what it is and provide you with information about where to buy it digitally. There’s also a chart of popular songs that will help you find great songs to listen to.
The app can launch Pandora’s streaming service, and it has an elaborate tagging system. You can share your tags with your friends on Twitt er or Facebook. The developer has launched two versions of Shazam. There’s a free version simply called Shazam, and there’s Shazam Encore, which supports unlimited tagging and a few additional features.
Price: Free or $5.99

4. Slacker Radio
Don’t trust computer recommendation algorithms to pick songs out for you? Slacker Radio is an online music streaming service that’s carefully curated by either music experts or other users. It also has artist-themed stations like Pandora does, but it goes about creating them in a completely different way. Download this app and you’ll have access to 2.4 million songs on 100 programmed stations and 10,000 artist stations. We think that’s a great deal at “free.”
Price: Free

5. Pocket Guitar
Pocket Guitar doesn’t have high-end professional features like BeatMaker, but it only costs a dollar — a perfect price for a fun toy. As with Ocarina, the name tells you what you need to know: This app is a pocket-sized guitar simulator. You can pluck and strum the virtual strings using your device’s touchscreen.
There is an impressive array of customization options for a $0.99 app. You can tune each string individually and activate and modify various effects. For example, you can set a delay by the millisecond between 100 milliseconds and 10 seconds, and adjust the level and feedback. You won’t be cranking out any top 40 rock records with this app, but it’s certainly fun.
Price: $0.99

The full top-10 list can be found at the tech blog My Life Scoop.

We the help of these apps, you have music tools at your fingertips at all times – and we hope the curiosity inspires more users to pick up an instrument, take music lessons, or start a career in the music biz.  What apps are we missing?  Let us know in the comment section!

Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

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Time To Get Real: New Rocksmith Game Hooks Up To Actual Guitars

Ever since Rock Band and Guitar Hero were released, there have been opposing sides arguing for and against using the game as a learning tool – after all, players don’t use actual instruments or use correct finger placements for chords.

But that controversy can be put to rest with the newest music game, Rocksmith – and we can’t wait to try it out!

Rocksmith allows users to hook up their guitars directly to a PC, Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 through an output jack.  The program features mini-games (a “Guitarcade,” if you will) to help improve your guitar skills, including games focused on fret placement, scale patterns, harmonics and slide technique.  Advanced players can take advantage of the Technique Challenge, in which specific techniques must be repeated back, and sections that need work are highlighted and slowed down.

This release got us thinking… what other music games made a big impact on the industry?  CNN recently wrote up a list of Top 10 Music Games Of All Time, and here a few that caught our eye:

1978: “Simon”

Behind the music: Launched on May 15 at Studio 54, this Jurassic forerunner to today’s touch-sensitive Nintendo DS featured four colored buttons (red, green, yellow and blue) and three simple variations on its gameplay. A great memory is crucial — players have to repeat back a randomized or user-created sequence of lights and tones with a simple poke. Named after the child’s game “Simon Says” and created by Ralph Baer — who also invented home console gaming with the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972 — it quickly became an American institution.
Why it rocks: Besides single-handedly popularizing handheld electronic entertainment and directly influencing every subsequent system from the Game Boy to the PlayStation Portable (PSP), its pattern-based action formed the basis for nearly all music-themed titles to come.

1997: “PaRappa the Rapper”

Behind the music: A far cry from what was going on with PCs at the time, this quirky PSOne Japanese import challenged players to bust a move by pressing buttons in time to featured beats. Do it correctly and you drop mad science on martial arts masters, moose driving instructors, Rastafarian frogs and chickens that pass for chefs.  Captivating domestic audiences with its sing-song vibe, hypnotic play and psychedelic cardboard-cutout aesthetic, it’s still one of the freshest interactive approximations of emceeing hip-hop heads will find.
Why it rocks: PaRappa brought the ‘rhythm game’ category home to North American shores, which eventually gave birth to countless hip-wiggling rivals from Unison to Bust-A-Groove.

And of course…

2007: “Rock Band”

Behind the music: The first game to combine all aspects of the virtual music-making experience (singing, pounding drums, playing guitar or plucking bass) was also the initial offering to deliver peripherals for all (including microphone, plastic drum set and faux ax) in one kit.In total, over 100 million digital songs have been downloaded for the “Rock Band” family of games, with more than 2,700 tracks from 900 artists including Metallica, The Ramones and Fleetwood Mac available across all retail and downloadable installments, including digital distribution platform the Rock Band Network. Thousands of masters, re-recordings or alternate tracks (all playable) by artists like Rush and Weezer, not to mention countless fans — who can perform as cohesive four-man bands online — should ensure it remains a house-party icebreaker of choice.
Why it rocks: Providing the now-defunct MTV Games a then-marquee entrée into the gaming universe, it also laid the foundations for groundbreaking tributes (“The Beatles: Rock Band”), cutting-edge online innovations (“Rock Band Network”) and future motion-controlled games (“Dance Central”) to come.

Here at TakeLessons, we’re all for any games that gets kids hooked and interested in music.  Of course, the best way to learn is to work one-on-one with a music teacher, who can tailor the lessons specifically to you and your goals.  (Need help finding a teacher?  Click here to search by zip code and lesson type!)


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Ace Your A Cappella Audition With These Handy Tips

The Sing Off is in full swing now, with eight talented a cappella groups remaining in the competition after this week’s episode.  The show, which is in its third season, features a cappella groups from around the U.S., performing each week in hopes of continuing on to get the grand prize of a Sony Music recording contract and $200,000.

While Glee helped make choir groups “cool” again, The Sing Off has brought a cappella singing to the spotlight.  This is truly a battle of the voices, as performers don’t have back-up bands to rely on as a safety net. Collegiate a cappella groups are especially popular, with Oxford University’s Out of the Blue and The Whiffenpoofs of Yale University leading as two of the most notable groups.


For those interested in getting into the a cappella craze, eHow contributor Tina Molly Lang gives us some tips for how to succeed at an a cappella audition:

(1) Understand that succeeding at an a cappella audition involves balancing a solo voice with the ability to blend. While classical training helps, a cappella groups are not necessarily looking for an operatically trained voice. While it is important to hold your own during a solo, a cappella groups like singers who will blend with the sound and harmony of the group. In a cappella groups, it is more important to be a team player than it is to be the best singer. If the group is going flat or sharp, you have to adjust to them, even when they are wrong. A cappella groups also like to have a pure sound. They like straight tone, as opposed to vibrato.

(2) Know that ear training is important. At the audition, the group might play a progression of notes that you will have to sing back. Alternately, they may play a succession of chords and have you find and sing the middle note. Preparing for the ear-training part of the audition will require longer-term effort. While voice lessons will help your vocal technique, they may not necessarily help in ear training or musicianship. There are many ways to develop a good ear: Listen to different kinds of music, practice chords at the piano and take music-theory classes. Instrumentalists tend to have an advantage in the ear-training section of the audition. Instrumentalists are used to reading more complicated music and hearing different tonalities.

(3) Recognize that a cappella groups also look for a personality fit. At the audition, they will ask you to prepare a joke. They want to see if you blend with the social dynamic of the group. A cappella groups like fun, outgoing people. Performing a cappella involves not only singing, but also stage presence, humor and the ability to perform off the cuff. That’s why so many a cappella singers also have theatrical training.

You can read the full article here.

We’re excited to see this music style keep impacting mainstream audiences, and can’t wait to see what’s next.  Students and teachers -are you part of an a cappella group?  What was the experience like?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Most Guitar Strings Changed in One Hour, and Other World Records Ready to be Broken

Their songs have been featured in commercials, video games, and TV show trailers, and have earned a long list of award nominations.  And now, after a whirlwind 2-year tour, rockers 30 Seconds to Mars are about to break a Guinness World Record for Most Shows Performed During a Single Album Cycle.  The tour promoted their 2009 album This Is War, and their 300th performance on December 7th of  this year will seal the deal for the world record.  The band has seen so much success thus far, it’s only fitting to see them achieve this record!

In honor of this achievement today we’re taking a look at some other music-related Guinness World Records.  Here are some of our favorites:

Most piano key hits in one minute: The most piano key hits in one minute is 498 and was achieved by Balázs Havasi (Hungary) during the Symphonic Red Concert Show at the Music Academy in Budapest, Hungary, on 29 November 2009.

Most No. 1 music videos: Madonna had her ninth No.1 on the US Music Video chart on 24 April 2010 with Sticky & Sweet Tour. No popular music artist has had more.

Most live concerts in 24 hours (multiple cities): The most live concerts performed in 24 hours in different locations is seven: “The Hangar Tour”, by rapper Jay-Z performed in seven different cities to promote the release of his new album ‘Kingdom Come’ (2006, Universal Music) from 7 am on 18 November to 1:15 am on 19 November 2006. The concerts were performed in the following order: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Most guitar strings changed In one hour: The most guitars re-strung in 1 hour is 30, achieved by Glenn Haworth (Australia) at Haworth’s Shellharbour Music Centre, Albion Park Rail, Australia, on 15 March 2009.

Longest career as a music teacher: The world record for the longest working career for a music teacher was set by Charles Wright (USA, b. 24 May 1912) who began teaching piano privately and professionally in 1931. He continued to do so for the next 76 years until he passed away on 19 July 2007, aged 95 years 56 days.

Largest Singing Lesson: The largest singing lesson involved 6,651 participants and was achieved by Sweet Adelines International during the 63rd Annual Sweet Adelines International Convention and Competition at the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, on 24 October 2009.

Largest Kazoo Ensemble: On 14 March 2011, an audience of 5,190 classical music fans at the “Big Red Nose Show” held in the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK, formed a kazoo ensemble as part of Red Nose Day. Accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra and led by comedienne Sue Perkins, the ensemble hummed-out renditions of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyres and Eric Coates’ Dambusters March. The event was hosted by BBC Radio 3’s Katie Derham and Basil Brush.

These are just a few of the crazy musical acts that have earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, and we can only imagine what other stunts will be thought up next.  For all of the aspiring artists out there – why not dream big?  Maybe you could join in and earn a world record yourself.

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