6 Common Questions About Beginning Guitar


Thinking about taking guitar lessons? It’s one of the most popular instruments for beginners! While it’s pretty easy to pick up the guitar and start plucking, if you really want to master the chords and songs you hear from your favorite artists, working with an experienced guitar teacher is important. Here, Brooklyn guitar teacher Amit P. discusses six of the most common questions new guitar players have before starting lessons…


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Practicing Piano Scales: Unlock the Secrets of Music

piano scalesI like to see all beginning level piano students start practicing the major scales.  There is a wealth of information hidden inside a scale!  Knowledge of scales will help you to understand all of the major keys, along with where chords come from and how they are structured.  Eventually it will enable you to understand the different types of minor keys and how they function.   The melody of a song comes from the scales too.   A melody is simply a scale that is rearranged to make a beautiful song or a beautiful work for piano.

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Infographic: From Vinyl to Vinyl in 50 Years

Are you a fan of vinyl? You’re not alone! Even with all of the hype surrounding the new iTunes Radio set to launch this week, and several other services like Spotify and Rdio ramping up their audiophile appeal, vinyl record sales have been increasing each year. Check out this cool infographic from The Music Bed to learn more about the past 50 years of music recording:

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Julie’s Journey: Lesson 9

julie's journeySure, you can learn about the basics of playing an instrument by going online, but it’s still very important to get individual attention from a private instructor. Our piano student Julie shares how her time with her teacher Jordan M. has helped her make more progress than she ever thought possible… Read more

Get into the Rock Star Mentality

rockstar mentalityThe risqué performances of Elvis Presley, the screaming crowds that followed the Beatles, the instrument-smashing antics of The Who, and the countless other charismatic and iconic contributions to the music of their day are all defining chapters of rock-n-roll that would shape the outcome of nearly all popular music to follow. Just like the swing-dance halls of the 1920s and 30s, the music would draw the attention of the masses and bring uncountable patrons together for something that can only be described as an experience. Read more

TakeLessons Teachers Make a Difference!

Takelessons-Team 1One of my favorite things about working at TakeLessons is checking my email and finding amazing stories from students and teachers about how music lessons are changing lives. Sometimes I get so excited about the stories our students and teachers have to share that I just can’t keep them to myself!

Although we are still growing and working hard to improve every day, it’s important to take some time to recognize the impact our teachers have on so many lives. Here are just a few of my favorite stories that have come in over the past few months. Read more

How Online Lessons Make Life Easier for Busy Families

Parents, you know the drill: September often means running around town from school to sports to errands and other activities. If your kids are interested in adding music lessons to the mix, why not make life a little easier? Online lessons offer busy families the convenience of in-home lessons, often at a lower cost.

Earlier this week, CBS in Phoenix, AZ featured a segment about ten-year-old bass student Kaylin Womack, who has been taking online music lessons with TakeLessons teacher Alex A., based in Tacoma, WA.

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Surprising Ways Music is Good for your Heart

music and heart healthMost likely, you’ve felt a song pull on your heartstrings or maybe even felt your heart skip a beat. Countless love songs have been written about the heart, to the point that for many people love and music are beautifully intertwined.

Outside of these emotional effects, did you know that playing and listening to music actually has real health benefits for your ticker? Whether you’re a musician or a music fan, turn up the tunes and give your  heart some love. Read more

Modal Music: Working with the Dorian Scale


Modal music is interesting for several reasons: First, it gives us a glimpse into the past of the scale development, but also shows how basic harmonic construct has taken place and shape over the period of several centuries.

The modal scale that I am going to use in this example is a Dorian scale. For those who are not familiar with modes, it is essentially a natural D minor that contains B instead of B flat, which changes the placement of whole and half steps (which indeed determines the character of any given scale).

To get into the modal “mood,” first play the natural D minor scale several times, up and down. Now, play the same scale using B instead B flat. You will notice how the mood of the scale has changed and that the upper tetrachord has attained some brightness and optimism. You have to allow your ears to get used to this new tonal experience. Play the scale a few more times. If you need a little more guidance getting into the Dorian scale, there are great guides online for guitar, piano, and other instruments.

Harmonizing the Scale

Harmonizing the scale should be as straightforward as possible while avoiding the tritone F – B or its inversion.

Here are several ways of harmonizing the tones of the scale using triads :


Dm Em F G Am Em C Dm

Dm Am Dm Em Am Em Am Dm

Dm C F Em Am G C Dm

Note: Chords other than triads can be used (for example, major and minor 7 th), however in order to properly understand the modal principle, the simple triads should be used at this stage.

The chord B-D-F or any inversion of the same should be avoided because its presence could easily pull us into C major.

The absence of tensions and resolutions found in major scales (I-IV-V-V) makes modal music softer and more abstract. The Dorian 6th (D-B) allows us to construct the very powerful two chord progression Dm–G. Resolution should not follow into C because the progression Dm-G-C presents a “turnaround” or dominant cadence that confirms the key of C. Instead, it is better to aim for the minor key that will ensure the tonal ambiguity. Sometimes the tonal ambiguity can be preserved and enhanced by using only the root and the fifth instead the whole chord.

Here we’re not bound by classical harmony rules, and some degree of experimentation is necessary to attain satisfactory results. However, care should be exercised in voice leading, especially in a four-part harmony layout: no unnecessary leaps and no intervals larger than octave. Tritone should be avoided for now, although it is possible to use it under certain circumstances and still retain the modal feel.

The Treatment of Passing and Sustained Tones

Passing tones (in relation to main chords) should create acceptable dissonances that can easily be resolved into the third or fifth of the next chord. Typical sustained tones such as sus2 and sus4 should be properly resolved into nearest consonance (usually on the way down). Lastly, remember that melody should be developed in a predetermined manner that ensures fluency and modal integrity.

Peter B.Peter B. teaches piano, violin, and music theory lessons in Stratford, CT. He specializes in teaching classical and jazz styles as well as advanced music theory. Peter has been teaching for over 20 years and he joined the TakeLessons team in August 2012. Learn more about Peter here!



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Photo by Nick Koutoulas

Julie’s Journey: Lesson 8

julie 5Playing music is about so much more than learning the right notes. Our new piano student Julie is getting comfortable reading music, so how will she learn to find the music in the notes? Read on to find out how her teacher Jordan guides her through this part of her musical journey… Read more