online sheet music resources

Turning Pages: Where to Find Sheet Music Online

Sheet music onlineAfter you’ve learned the notes and scales (or guitar chords, for all you guitar players), there’s only so much noodling around you can do on your own before you’ll need to find actual music to play.  And once you’ve learned how to read it, the world of sheet music is your oyster!

When you’re first starting out, your music teacher should have ideas for typical beginner pieces – but if you have your eye on another tune (or perhaps a popular song on the radio), the Internet can be a great resource for finding sheet music.

Here are a few of our staff and teacher favorites for finding sheet music online:


This is a great online catalog of over 200,000 songs, with everything from Bach to Sara Bareilles. The categories (piano, guitar, voice, woodwinds, brass and strings) are easily searchable, with additional lists for the current Top Downloads, New Stuff and Recommended Picks.  A corresponding app also syncs to your iPad, where you can even annotate the music with virtual highlighters and text.  Note: In order to print the sheet music, you’ll need to download Musicnotes Suite, the program used to preview and make purchases.

This website boasts the world’s largest collection of music, with over 720,000 titles in their catalog.  Similar to, pieces are categorized in several different ways, including by instrument, genre, format (CD sheet music, DVD sheet music, play-along, karaoke, etc.), top sellers and even alphabetically if you want to spend the time purely browsing.  Additionally, each piece is marked with a difficulty rating and includes a rundown of all of the different positions, scales, chords and rhythms you will need to know beforehand.  The only downside?  Since downloading to your computer isn’t an option, you’ll have to place your order and wait for the snail mail to arrive.

If you’re looking for free sheet music, is a great resource for all types (and levels) of musicians.  Not only can you find sheet music, but the website offers tons of other music tools, like an online metronome, interactive music theory lessons and guitar or piano chord charts.  You can also set up blank sheet music, if you’re planning on trying your hand at composing!

Suzy S., TakeLessons staff member and blogger

Where do you go to find sheet music?  Share the link by either leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page! Looking for a private teacher?  Sign up for music lessons here.

View all Free Sheet Music Resources.


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5 Killer Tips for Mastering Guitar Chords

Guitar chordsLast week, TakeLessons teacher Kevin B. showed us how to play 5 easy guitar chords that allow you to play tons of easy songs.  Have you been practicing?

Just as pianists should learn the theory behind scales, beginner guitar players should review individual chords to ensure a well-rounded foundation.  After all, chords are the basis of guitar playing, so the more you know, the easier time you’ll have learning songs.  Instead of just memorizing each chord, go the extra mile to really understand which notes are involved and why. Check out a few of these great tips from the Not Playing Guitar blog and you’ll be dominating those guitar chords in no time:

1. Become an expert.
Your love of chords and what they can do for you should push you to learn as much as you can about them. For example, learn all about chord inversions and extensions, or how to alter chords by moving just one note.

2. Learn how chords are made.
Your first step to becoming a chord expert should be to learn how chords are made. You can learn the notes of each chord and their relative scale positions. Your knowledge will help you learn how to find or create fingerings for any chord, play chord extensions and inversions and enrich your playing.

3. Practice in all keys.
Whenever you learn a new chord progression or a song, practice it in as many keys as possible.

4. Integrate each chord you learn with those you know already.
Make sure you understand how each new chord you learn relates to the others you already know. What is its place in progressions and songs? What other chords does it work well with?  Remember to practice the new chord with the chords you know already, and learn how to change to and from all of them with the new chord.

5. Integrate new chords into your repertoire.
When you learn a new way to play a chord, try out the new form in your existing songs and progressions. This will grow your playing options and also allow you to hear how different chord forms sound.

Ready to take your guitar playing to the next level?  Find a private teacher near you and sign up for music lessons here!


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Videos We Love: Walk Off the Earth Thinks Outside the Box

You know that saying, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere”? These days, it seems like we could rephrase that as “If you can make it on YouTube…”

Whether you like it or not, YouTube has created a new level of status that can make or break a musician’s career.  And the musicians that are doing it right know that ultimately, creativity is king.

Canadian band Walk Off the Earth impressed us in January with their cover of Gotye’s “Someone That I Used to Know,” in which all five band members shared and played one guitar.  (Click here if you haven’t seen it.)  The video propelled them into viral video history and YouTube celebrity status, gathering more than 80 million views in just a little over two months. Well, now they’re back with yet another amazing cover of Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes,” this time performed in room full of boxes and playing on… yes, boxes.

If you have a few minutes, we definitely recommend checking out the other tunes on their YouTube channel.  Our other favorites include their covers of Adele’s “Someone Like You” and the Beatles’ “From Me To You,” in which they once again share and overlap instruments.  What, you guys only play one instrument at a time?  So five years ago.

What’s the most creative music videos you’ve seen lately? We want to know! Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page!

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How to Practice Scales Without Pulling Your Hair Out

Piano notes“Do I really have to practice these scales?”

Yes, we know – running through scales may not be the most fun part of practicing.  Most beginner musicians would rather jump right into learning songs and duets.  But the truth is, spending time warming up with technical exercises such as scales will help you in the long run.

First, by learning scales (and the underlying keys and theory), you are learning the essential vocabulary of music.  And how can you read without understanding the language first?

Second, scales are a great technique builder for any musician, not just pianists.  Scales can help woodwind and brass players learn fingering combinations, recognize your instrument’s comfortable range (particularly when moving through octaves with chromatic scales), and help you with improvising.

The good news is that scales don’t have to be boring.  Why not spice things up, while you’re at it?  Try adding in different dynamics, patterns and articulations, for example.

We loved this list of ideas from LaDona’s Music Studio for breaking from the norm – although the list is specific to piano scales, a few of the ideas can be transposed to other instruments as well:

1. Accelerando/Ritardando – both ways. Add dynamics.

2. Accent unusual notes – for example, accent the 2nd of each group of four 16th notes.

3. Articulations – all staccato, or different slur/staccato combinations.

4. Chromatics – repeat the 2 white notes a few times, or try separating by a minor or major 3rd.

5. Clusters – play black-note groups in solid clusters.

6. Cross-rhythms – left hand in eighths for 2 octaves, right hand in triplets for 3 octaves – start one octave apart. Reverse, starting 2 octaves apart.

7. Dynamics – assign each hand a different level of sound.   Also, start left hand forte then diminuendo while right hand starts piano and crescendos. Meet in the middle.

8. Eyes Closed

9. Legatissimo – conscious overlapping.

10. Upside Down – start at the top and descend first.

What other ways do you make practicing scales more exciting?  Leave a comment below!


You might also like…
Using Scales to Improve Your Vocal Range and More
How to Use a Metronome for Efficient Practice
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How to Join the 1 Percent… of Musicians

The New York Times posted an interesting infographic last week describing the other, less-publicized trends of the “1 percent”… including the estimate that only 1 percent of the adult population plays a musical instrument each week.

So… where do you fit in?  For those of us who have a musical background, it may seem crazy to think that there are so many people out there who haven’t felt the excitement of playing a song for the first time, the gratification of learning a new language (music!) or the electricity of harmonizing with another musician.  If you’ve never felt that, what’s holding you back?

We recently came across a great article from the Music Made Easy blog comparing learning music to traveling and exploring somewhere new, which is the perfect way to think about it.  It can definitely feel like that for the beginner musician – but that shouldn’t stop you.  It just requires careful preparation – and a road map, of sorts.

The articles continues on to list out the things you would need to plan if you were traveling, for example:

Work out how to get there (Transport)
Work out where I want to go once I’m there (Procure a map)
Work out how to get around (Navigation)
Work out how to deal with possible pitfalls (Inside knowledge)
Work out how I’m going to sustain my travel (Fuel)
Work out how to obtain day-to-day necessities (Supplies)

Next, how would these relate to starting music lessons?

1. Transport = Understand how to practice effectively
With effective practice you can get to where you want to go.
2. The Map = Keep a practice diary
With this you will be able to see where you have been and where you are headed.
3.  Navigation = Reflective learning
This tool can help you to plan the best way to progress.
4. Inside Knowledge = Reacting to your inner critic
This information will show you how you can begin to let yourself create great music.
5. Fuel = Motivation
This will give you guidance on how to keep your motivation levels up in order to keep learning.
6. Supplies = Performing and recording
These aspects are necessary to keep yourself happy and comfortable in music so that you can continue to play.

While the article points out there is no “final destination” in music, if you’re armed with this kind of knowledge and preparation, you can come out of your travels with a new skill-set, and the satisfaction of reaching a goal.  And just as you would look back on the memory of a great vacation, you can look back on how much you learned and how much fun you had during the process.  So the question is: Are you ready for the adventure?

Your turn: what are your goals, and what’s holding you back?  How are you working to overcome your fears?  Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook!



Ready to try your hand at music lessons?  Search for instructors near you and learn more about TakeLessons here.

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Photo by Chris Blakeley.


Mind Your (Music) Business: Teacher Networking 101

Music teaching jobsHow often do you network or trade resources with other teachers? The old cliche claiming it’s all “who you know” certainly rings true for most career paths these days, but it can be especially helpful for teachers or anyone hoping to break into the music or entertainment industries. Networking for music teachers, specifically, can also help you establish a great reputation in your community, connect with potential new students and discover new opportunities for performances, auditions and more.

Consider these tips as you work on your music teacher networking skills:

Plan a group recital
Connect with another teacher in your area and pool your resources to plan the ultimate recital.  This can be especially useful if you’ve never put on a recital before – it can feel overwhelming for some, so having a partner to help organize everything can ease the stress.  Moreover, you can share sheet music if necessary, and expose your students to other similar young musicians.

Join a music teacher association, like MTNA
Associations like MTNA offer opportunities for ongoing education, mentoring, access to professional support and teacher grants, as well as a certification that looks great on your resume or TakeLessons profile.

Attend conferences & conventions
Search for conventions, meet-ups, and other music events near you.  Strike up a conversation with someone afterward or during intermission, and you may just find your next new student.  At the very least, experiencing new music and performances may give you an extra dose of inspiration for your next lesson.

Take advantage of social networking
Consider starting your own blog, or submitting an article to an established music blog where students may be looking (like the TakeLessons blog!).  Connect with your students and parents, and join forums and Facebook groups in your area.  Use these groups to start communicating and sharing advice with other teachers in your area, and you could find some great connections.

Perform – everywhere and anywhere!
As musicians, it’s second nature to want to get out there and perform.  But sometimes teaching can get in the way.  In order to keep up your own performing chops, consider contacting local fairs, block parties, and school or charity events to find out how you or your students can perform. Getting up on stage and performing is a great way to get your name out there and advertise your experience as a teacher.



Photo by Poetprince.

Watch Now: How to Play “Pumped Up Kicks”

The song “Pumped Up Kicks” has been a huge hit for indie rock group Foster the People, spending eight consecutive weeks at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S., and even earning a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.  Following the breakthrough success of the song, Foster the People have now earned their place alongside similar genre-defying bands like Phoenix and MGMT.

And best of all, this catchy song is easy to play.  There are four main chords you’ll need to know, and you can be on your way to leading the karaoke with your friends and family.  Join TakeLessons staff member and guitar instructor Aldo B. as he shows you the four “Pumped Up Kicks” chords you’ll need to know below:

Did you find this tutorial helpful?  What other songs would you like to learn how to play?  Leave a comment below or stop by our Facebook page to sound off! Looking for a guitar teacher near you? Click here to search by your zip code and lesson type!


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Avoiding 5 Common Rehearsal Mistakes

band practiceSo you’ve mastered the art of deliberate practice on your own – what about when rehearsing with your band?  Practicing with extra people can add another level of distraction and requires even more preparation and focus.  When it comes to band practice, especially if you have a gig or performance coming up, sometimes you just need to buckle down and save the goofing off for later.

Check out a few of these mistakes to avoid from to ensure your band practice is smooth and productive:

1. No agenda
Make the most of the band’s time together by knowing what you plan to accomplish. Is it a writing session or a performance rehearsal? Do you need to tighten up a few tunes that were sloppy at the last gig? Plan it out in advance. If the group has vocal harmonies or dual guitar parts to work out, you might want to set up separate rehearsal times for just those band members.

2. Inviting friends and fans
Don’t invite anyone to your rehearsal other than bandmates. It’s fine if you need a manager or other business associate to hear what you’re doing, but keep your legions of fans out. Most musicians just don’t tend to work as productively, or even act normally, when there are other eyes and ears on them. If that many people are dying to hear you play, here’s a crazy idea: book a gig!

3. Free-for-all
It’s one thing to take a moment to adjust your tone or get a new riff under your fingers; it’s another to run a dozen lead lines when everyone else is ready to start working. If your band is populated with aimless, endless noodlers, try setting a new rule for rehearsal: Each player signals that he/she is ready to rehearse by not playing.

4. Planning to wing it
Unless you play out all the time, be sure to run your whole set list for the next gig from top to bottom, dress-rehearsal style. Don’t stop for anything. Deal with problems — broken strings, cracked voices, forgotten lyrics, dropped drumsticks — as you would if you were onstage.

5. Rehearsing at full volume
It’s always great to feel your pant legs flap in front of a 12″ speaker, but do you really need to rehearse with the amp on 11? At lower volumes you’ll be better able tweak an arrangement, make pitch corrections, and call out audible changes on the fly. May your eardrums live another day.

What other issues have come up at rehearsals you’ve had, and what did you do to fix them?  Leave a comment below, or stop by our Facebook page and leave a comment!


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All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Music Recitals


Break out the flip flops and gardening gloves – today marks the the first day of Spring!  Which also means: teachers, it’s time to start planning your Spring recital!

Planning the perfect recital takes time and resources, but the benefits to everyone involved can be extremely rewarding.  As teachers, you can earn recognition from parents and the community for going above and beyond.  Many of our TakeLessons teachers have collaborated with other instructors in the area for recitals, which can be a great way to network.

Students can experience the joy of performing in front of an audience of friends and family, and learn to overcome stage fright in the process.  The memory of a successful (and fun!) recital can last a lifetime, and do wonders for their confidence.  And parents, of course, can see their child’s progress and how much fun they’re having!

The skills that students can gain by performing even translate into real life lessons – even if their future career path doesn’t involve music.  Here are just a few examples, as originally published on the Park Slope Music Lessons website:

Recitals are like so many things in life. It’s a due date when you need to really know something well and you need to show it in public, in this case 100 of your friends, family members and peers. Think of the times when you had to present a paper or a case or a sales pitch at a specific time and day. The recital is preparation for that. It’s a deadline.

Discipline and Mastery
Preparing for the recital is also like life. The discipline required to learn, memorize and perform the pieces is the same discipline you use when you are in college working on a term paper, at your job preparing the big Powerpoint presentation to your clients, presenting your court case to the judge and jury and so on. There’s a level of mastery that needs to be achieved in a recital. And music lessons culminating in a recital is a training ground for discipline on the road to mastery.  Even better to start at such an early age!

Mistakes happen. In fact, how often do things go exactly the way you want them to? Almost never. Your goal is to minimize them. But you can never achieve 100% perfection. To play like a machine is completely useless. It’s the mistakes that make you sound human and gives you unique expression. As described in a recent NY Times article about what makes music so expressive, researcher Daniel J. Levitin at McGill University and Edward W. Large at Florida Atlantic University recorded a concert pianist performing a Chopin etude analyzing it for speed, rhythm, loudness and softness. They then recreated the performance with a computer stripping it of any human variances, in other words, making it more perfect. They then scanned the brains of listeners as they listened. The results? Perfection is boring.

Another thing discovered by these researchers is that music can give us emotional hits by creating a subtle change from a pattern. Students should be gaining an understanding of the structure lying underneath the piece of music they are working on. Whether it’s the grand scheme of section A followed by section B, or even just how the notes of one measure actually are spelling out an F chord. It’s the same in real life. There’s an order and structure to how things are put together, whether it’s a sandwich, a computer program, a resume or a social network.

Possibly the best part of a recital is the immediate feedback from the audience. There’s no waiting around for an acceptance letter in the mail; if you did well, you know it right now! And if not so well, then you know that too.  Students should learn to reflect back on their performance, and recognize what they did great at and what they need to work on.  Recitals are a safe space, since the audience will always be rooting for you – but if you make a few mistakes, it really doesn’t matter as long as you did your best. There’s always the next recital!

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Special thanks to Los Angeles instructor Kelly K. for sending us great pictures from her own holiday recital!

Learn to Play 20 Songs Using 5 Easy Guitar Chords

5 Basic Guitar Chords & 20 Easy Guitar Songs for Beginners

easy guitar chords guitar songs
Are you ready to learn 5 basic guitar chords that are the basis of dozens of easy songs? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at a few simple open-string chords on the guitar that you can use to play many beginner guitar songs.

You’ll learn how to read guitar chord grids and tips for memorizing these 5 important guitar chord shapes. We’ll also take a look at a chord-change exercise that will help you get your chord playing skills up to speed in no time.

How to Play 20 Guitar Songs with 5 Easy Guitar Chords

Understanding Chord-Grid Notation

Along with guitar tablature (or “tabs), chord grids are an important shorthand method of notating guitar music. Although it is important for all guitar students to eventually learn to read music notation, tablature and chord grids are usually a better option for beginners who just want to learn simple rock, pop, or folk songs quickly. Remember, the notation is just a means to an end, and just another way to learn something you’ll play on your guitar.

basic guitar chord gridWith chord-grids, you are looking at a simple diagram, or snapshot, of the guitar neck. The guitar is oriented so that the headstock is pointing upward, horizontal lines represent the fret-wires that separate the frets (spaces), and the vertical lines are strings.

Dots inside the diagram represent left-hand fingers, which are placed over the string inside the indicated fret. For the ‘A’ chord pictured here, all three fingers sit inside the second fret. Set your fourth (pinky) finger on the 2nd string, your third (ring) finger on the 3rd string, and your second (middle) finger on the 4th string.

Often the left-hand thumb will stay anchored on top of the neck to deaden the sixth string. This is called a flesh mute and allows the guitarist to strum all six strings so that only five strings are heard.

5 Open-String, Basic Guitar Chords for Beginners

A, C, D, Em, G Guitar Chords for Beginners

Once you understand the notation, the next step is to get the chords down by memory. In some cases, these basic guitar chords can be remembered easily by comparing them to geometric shapes. If you connect the dots inside each grid, you’ll see that the ‘A’ is a straight line, the ‘C’ is a diagonal line, the ‘D’ is an equilateral triangle, and the ‘G’ chord forms an isosceles triangle.

After you have the chords memorized, it’s time to check each chord string-by-string to ensure all the notes are sounding. Pick through each string going downward from the bass strings to the treble strings. Listen closely to verify each note. If a string is muted, try resetting the fingers so they sit higher on the fingertips. Make sure the fingers do not touch against any open strings, thereby dampening them.

Chord Change Drills

guitar chord progressions

Practice changing between any two chords using this simple drill. Play each chord on beats 1 & 3, lift the fingers completely on beats 2 & 4, and repeat. Make sure to set and remove all the fingers together (simultaneously). By doing this for a few minutes each day, you will learn to do fast and clean chord changes in the left hand, which is key to being able to play songs well.

20 Beginner Guitar Songs Using Only A, C, D, Em, and G Chords

Now that you’ve mastered the basic guitar chords for beginners, you can move on to learning dozens of new songs. Here’s a list of 20 easy guitar songs that use only these five chords:

1. Bad Moon Rising (Credence Clearwater Revival)

2. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)

3. Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)

4. Catch the Wind (Donovan)

5. Clementine 

6. Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

7. Lightly Row 

8. Amazing Grace 

9. Time of Your Life (Green Day)

10. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star 

11. Heart of Gold (Neil Young)

12. Old MacDonald 

13. Story of My Life (Social Distortion)

14. Louie, Louie (The Kingsmen)

15. What I Got (Sublime)

16. Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)

17. Anything, Anything (Dramarama)

18. Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young)

19. Mary Had a Little Lamb 

20. Viva la Vida (Coldplay)

These songs are just the beginning! If you need help mastering the chords, or adding more difficult chords such as the F Chord, to your repertoire, try working with a guitar teacher near you, or find one online. Taking guitar lessons is a great way to ensure you’re building your skills on a solid foundation. Now go have fun rocking out!

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