Motivate Your Child To Practice With a Reward System

Getting your child to practice anything can be tough. It’s easy for them to get distracted, bored, or otherwise uninterested when faced with a task. In this article, piano and singing teacher Mariana L. shares her reward system for kids that works brilliantly on her music students…


Children can get bored and easily distracted while trying to focus on a task.

Many of them look like this:

As a piano and voice teacher, the number one question I receive from parents is:

“How do I get my child to practice more?”

This question usually arises after they find themselves constantly nagging their children to practice. In turn, this causes the music students to become frustrated; they may even lose the interest and love they felt for their instrument when they began taking lessons.

What’s my suggestion for handling this situation? A reward system. Its purpose is to encourage students to practice and regain the joy they felt for music when they first wanted lessons.

In my experience, parents are always excited about introducing a reward system for music lessons because it’s something familiar; most of them already use a reward system at home for their children’s schoolwork, chores, behavior, etc.

What is a Reward System?

The concept of a reward system stems from the operant conditioning studies of psychologist B.F. Skinner. Skinner studied positive and negative reinforcement as a way of changing or achieving a behavior from an individual.

In his laboratory, Skinner placed some rats in a box that had a lever, which, upon pulling it, released pellets of food. At first, the rats would accidentally push the lever and receive their reward. After several times of getting food by accident, they figured out how to receive the reward (food) whenever they wanted it.

For children, practicing their instrument is the lever and the food is whatever your child gets excited about. Their reward could be toys, books, games, or even an extra outing to the park – it’s up to you.

Setting Up a Reward System

I strongly recommend you work with your child’s instructor to figure out what both of you would like to achieve from the reward system. For example, you might simply want your child to practice more than fifteen minutes a day, but your child’s instructor might also want them to mark their sheet music before coming to the lesson.

Work out your goals first, then compare them to the goals of the instructor, and then construct the reward system from there.

To prepare your little music student for success, make sure they have the following items:

  • An assignment chart
  • Tons of stickers
  • Fake money [optional]

With my students, I use three sheets to manage the system.

1) The Point Tracker

On this sheet, each colored star has its own point value. All you need to do is assign X amount of points to X amount of dollars and you’re good to go! I find it easiest to calculate points per one dollar value.

2) The Point Earning Guide

On this sheet, you’ll assign a point value to behaviors and/or tasks. You can be as broad or as specific as you want. For instance, you could reward ten points per one minute of practicing, or fifteen points for finishing a unit. In this example, the guide is quite specific because there were certain behaviors my student’s mother and I wanted to correct.

3) The Reward Menu

This part of the process, in my opinion, is the most fun to create! Parents, teachers, and students can work together to decide what type of prizes the student will receive. My rewards include students getting to play with a box of my percussion instruments, playing a musical game on my iPad, or playing on my keyboard with voices other than the piano (violin, trumpet, xylophone, etc.).

Remember to assign a somewhat high “cash” value to the rewards to ensure the goal is not achieved too early. As a bonus, this is also a wonderful way to teach children about saving money!

My Shareable Files

I use a free graphic design service called Canva to create sheets for my students. Below are the sheets that I use. Feel free to change them based on your student’s needs and desires.

How to Keep the System Working

After working with a reward system for a few months, parents often wonder if the system is sustainable. In other words, they’ll ask:

“Will I always have to reward my child in order to get them to practice?”

To tell you with complete honestly, there’s no general answer to that question. Some students develop an almost Pavlovian response to practice, where they no longer need a reward to pick up their instrument every day; playing music IS the reward.

The natural consequence of more practice is, of course, developing an advanced skill to play an instrument. And with enough practice, being able to play more complex and interesting pieces of music.

If a student is not ready to practice without getting rewarded, it’s always a good idea to find ways to keep the system fun and fresh; every couple of months, sit down to change the rewards and ways to earn points. It’s best to consult with the student’s teacher first, since certain behaviors and skills might have already been achieved.


If you can take anything from this post, it’s this: remember the joy that music brings to your child’s life. Find a way to keep that passionate flame burning. The last thing they want is to restart piano lessons as an adult, regretting the fact that they quit as a child.

For more information about reward systems and encouraging your child to practice, try scheduling a lesson with a private music instructor. A little one-on-one instruction goes a long way!

Know any tricks to get young students to focus on practice? Comment below!

Post Author: Mariana L.
Mariana L. teaches singing, piano, and Spanish in Maple Grove, MN. She’s holds a Masters of Music degree from The Catholic University of America. Her approach to teaching is speaking in terms that are easy for her students to understand and remember. Learn more about Mariana here!

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10 Wacky Facts About the World’s Most Famous Piano Players [Infographic]

If you’re learning how to play piano, chances are you’ve come across the works of famous piano players, such as Rachmaninov, Beethoven, and Chopin.

But do you know anything about these famous pianists?

Sure these famous piano players wrote and performed some of the most well-known classical music pieces, but their personal lives are equally just as colorful.

For example, did you know that Rachmaninov had enormous hands? Or that Beethoven went deaf at the age of 25?

Check out the infographic below to learn some more interesting facts about the world’s most famous pianists from different eras.

famous piano players


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10 Wacky Facts About the World’s Most Famous Piano Players

1. Sergei Rachmaninov

Rachmaninov is described by many as a brilliant pianist, conductor, and composer.

It’s no wonder Rachmaninov was such a talented piano player, as it’s rumored that he had enormous hands that could span 12 piano keys.

2. Ludwig van Beethoven

Virtuoso pianist and talented composer, Beethoven composed dozens of famous concertos that have withstood the test of time.

He was known for improvising, but at the early age of 25 he lost his hearing, which caused him to hear constant buzzing.

3. Franz Liszt

19th century Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist, Liszt was known for his intense performances.

Much like the Beatles, Liszt had thousands of devoted fans who would turn hysterical during his performances.

4. Frédéric Chopin

One of the most celebrated pianists, Chopin has contributed many significant works.

Those who saw Chopin perform were extraordinary lucky, as the legendary pianist only gave 30 public performances during his entire lifetime.

5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Who doesn’t think of classical music when they hear the name “Mozart”? While he might have been known for his musicality, Mozart was also famous for his toilet humor.

6. Franz Schubert

While Schubert had a short career, he made an astounding contribution to classical music, having written more than 20,000 bars of music.

Standing at a mere five foot one, Schubert was given the nickname “Schwammerl,” which means little mushroom.

7. Arthur Rubinstein

With remarkable technique and musical logic, Rubinstein was beloved all over the world.

He had the reputation of being a grand storyteller, and was also fluent in eight languages, including English, Polish, Russian, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

8. Glenn Gould

Known for his interpretations of Bach, Gould lived a very eccentric life. He was a hypochondriac with obsessive personality traits.

For example, he wore gloves and an overcoat no matter the temperature. He also insisted on performing on the same chair throughout his entire career.

9. Vladimir Horowitz

Considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, Horowitz was best known for his performance of works during the Romantic era.

Horowitz’s father believed in his talent so much that he changed his age on his certificate so that he wouldn’t be enlisted in military service.

10. Claudio Arrau

Known for his interpretations of Beethoven, Arrau was a child prodigy. In fact, he could read music before he could read words.

These are just a few interesting facts about the world’s most famous piano players. Now that you know some piano trivia, share your new knowledge with your friends or piano teacher.

Did we miss any fun facts about your favorite famous piano players? Tell us in the comment sections below!

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french learning app

French Language App Review: MosaLingua

french learning app

Are you looking for a fun app to help you practice French in between lessons? Below, French teacher Jinky B. shares her review of the French language app MosaLingua… 

As a French instructor for students of various ages and proficiency levels, I’m always searching for easy and interactive apps to help supplement French lessons.

So when I was introduced to the French learning app MosaLingua, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun it was to use.

The science behind the app is a formula of timed repetition. After words are introduced and reviewed, they are repeated at specific points in time.

This formula allows students to learn French words and phrases quickly. What’s more, the student can see and track progress via visual graphs.

Below are some of my favorite benefits the app offers as well as ways students can use the app to learn French effectively.

1. Learn Essential Vocabulary

MosaLingua initially provides the student with flashcards. Based on the student’s proficiency level, the flashcards can be increased in difficulty.

A clear audio clip is played and then the student repeats the phrase via a recording option.

The flip side of the flashcard then shows the French vocabulary word, its English equivalent, and the word(s) in a sentence.

I love the recording option. The student can compare the recording to the teacher recording and make any necessary changes.french learning app

2. Explore Thematic Vocabulary

If students are interested in exploring a specific theme—for example, shopping or traveling—a list of thematic categories is provided.

Within each category are more specified lists, such as how to ask the cost of an item or how to ask where something is located.

This is a great option if the student desires to quickly learn a set of phrases to use in a certain situation.

french learning app

3. Listen to Dialogues

One feature that I particularly like is audio of actual dialogue depicting common situations that arise during travel or everyday life.

Students have the option to listen only to the dialogue or to also see the corresponding French and English subtitles.

This feature is great for students who are working on their pronunciation skills and oral comprehension.

french learning app

MosaLingua is incredibly user-friendly with various ways to practice French vocabulary. Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate student, the app is a great way to practice in between your French lessons.

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French lessons in Jacksonville, FL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature and Psychology from Florida State University and has over five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

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10 Easiest & Hardest Languages to Learn for English Speakers

MO - 10 Easiest and Hardest Languages to Learn for English SpeakersEvery language requires a different learning approach. Depending on how easy or hard a language is to learn, you can have varying practice times, materials, and degrees of discipline. In this article, you’ll learn about 10 popular languages and their difficulty levels from our language learning friend, Julie Petersen


Language difficulty is a hard thing to calculate. It really depends on a variety of factors, such as personal motivation and interest, desire or need, surrounding culture, and even psychological barriers. Everyone is unique, so it’s not going to be the same experience for every individual; it all depends on your perspective and personal intelligence level.

The best approach is to keep an open mind and to have realistic expectations. In other words, do not expect to be fluent in a new language within one week (but don’t limit yourself either).

Check out our list below of the 10 easiest and hardest languages for English speakers to learn and get started on your language learning today!

*The languages in both of these lists are in no particular order

Easiest Languages


1) Danish

This Scandinavian language is grammatically easy and has only nine verb forms, including the passive, which is familiar to English speakers. It has a lot of Germanic-based vocabulary and unique speaking patterns, which are quick and soft. Most motivated native English speakers should be able to achieve a basic level of fluency within 6 months (depending on how often you study).


2) French

This romance language is difficult for many English speakers to pronounce. There are more verb forms (17 as compared to English’s 12) and it uses gendered nouns as well. However, French’s Latin origins make much of the vocabulary easy to learn. It has more in common with English than any other romance language. With regular classes and determination, you may have basic French fluency within as little as 3 months.


3) Italian

Italian is a romance language that is written as it sounds, making it easy to learn. Once the initial phonemes (units of sound) are understood, the reading becomes natural. The words tend to end in vowels, which give it fun style. Grammatically, the language follows romance language structure. Italian also has fewer verbs than French or Spanish. For native English speakers, this is a similar learning time-frame as French, or the other romance languages.


4) Portuguese

There are fewer prepositions in Portuguese than in English, but their uses are not always the same as in English. This means they can be easy to remember, but also hard to implement. The interrogatives (like ‘how’ or ‘what’) are really easy in Portuguese as well. Pronunciation is usually not too difficult for English speakers. With regular practice, basic fluency can be achieved within 3-6 months.


5) Spanish

Spanish pronunciation is fairly easy for English speakers and it only has ten vowel sounds (compared to English’s 20). It has a few new letters to learn, but they’re simple (just like Italian). Words are written as they sound and Spanish follows its own rules with fewer irregularities than other romance languages. Spanish is one of the most common second languages for English speakers to learn. A basic level of fluency can be accomplished within 3-6 months.

Hardest Languages


1) Arabic

Most Arabic letters have four different versions. Choosing the correct form depends on where the letter is placed in a word – and the vowels are not included when writing either. This makes learning the language (and translating it) much more difficult for English speakers. “Nobody serious about the language imagines that approaching fluency can be achieved in anything less than a year, even while living in an Arabic-speaking country,” writes a user from


2) Mandarin

Mandarin is a Chinese language that is often referred to as the most difficult to learn. Experts estimate that it’ll take 2,200 class hours to achieve proficiency. This is due to its tonal sound and abundance of characters, words, and rules. The language has a long history and every sound in Mandarin’s phonetic writing system has four different pronunciations.


3) Japanese

Japanese also has a character-based system, but this includes thousands of characters that must be learned before you can write at any decent Japanese level. The language has three writing systems as well, and each has it’s own alphabet; you’d have to learn one new language, but three new alphabets. To be able to hold conversations with other Japanese speakers, it’ll take 2-3 years of practice.


4) Korean

Korean is an extremely unique language. It’s so unlike any other that it’s very difficult to absorb naturally (but it’s not as hard as you think). When building a sentence in Korean, the subject goes first, the object second, and the action last. It’s all backwards for English speakers, and when directly translating, sentences sound funny. On average, you’ll need to study at least 2,200 hours before you’re truly fluent in Korean.


5) Icelandic

Icelandic is probably easier for most English speakers, than say, Mandarin. However, it’s still very complex. Less than 400,000 people in the world speak the language and they come from one island. Practicing may be difficult since the language has not changed much since the ninth century. Rather than adopting foreign words, the natives simple recycle old ones. For English speakers, it’ll take an average of 1,100 hours of practice to become fluent.


No matter what language you need or choose to learn, stay positive. It’s never impossible to learn a new language, and chances are good that it will enhance your overall life experiences.

New languages can expand your education and global communication, as well as your career and travel opportunities. So use this list, find a private language instructor, and immerse yourself in a new language today!


Julie Petersen is a private English language tutor and a content marketer. She is a part-time editor at online writing service and is an author of AskPetersen educational blog. Check her latest blog post about Grademiners. You may contact Julie on Linkedin.


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french grammar

10 French Grammar Mistakes You’re Probably Making

french grammar

Mastering all of the French grammar rules can be tricky for beginner students. Below, French teacher Carol Beth L. shares 10 French grammar mistakes you’re probably making…

Making mistakes is inevitable when you’re learning a new language. After all, you’re learning complex grammar rules, difficult pronunciation, and long lists of vocabulary words.

Students often make the same French grammar mistakes over and over again. Being aware of these common grammar mistakes will help you avoid them in the future.

Below are some of the most common French grammar mistakes students find themselves making, even when they are familiar with the rules.

The first few mistakes relate to specific phrases that students have a tendency to misuse, while the rest deal with grammatical patterns that are quite complex.

1. Greetings

In English, when you greet someone in the early morning hours, you typically say “Good morning.” This English greeting doesn’t translate literally in French.

In fact, the phrase “Bon matin” does not actually exist in the French language. Rather, one would simply say “Bonjour!” when greeting someone.

2. Translations

A number of other literal translations can also be tempting. For example, you might want to express your interest in hobbies, people, and activities.

Be careful not to literally translate the English phrase “I am interested in…” into French (eg, Je suis interessée dans…). Instead, say “Ça m’interesse” (That interests me) or “____ m’interesse” (____ interests me).

3. Subject/Object

To correctly state that you miss someone, use the verb “se manquer.” If you want to say “I miss you,” say “Tu me manques.”

To say “He misses us,” say “Nous lui manquons.” Remember that the English subject and object switch places when translated into French.

4. Agreement

Remember to make adjectives properly agree with feminine or plural nouns. For example, the adjective “amusant (funny) would be changed to “amusantein the feminine singular and “amusantesin the feminine plural.

In English, adjectives don’t usually change based on the gender or number, so it’s easy for students to forget this important French grammar rule.

5. Articles

French has more articles than English. Both languages use “a” and “the”, but French has separate articles to denote masculine, feminine, and plural of each one.

Recall, however, that no neuter exists among French pronouns or articles. For example, a table is most definitely feminine, whereas the wall beside it is quite masculine.

In addition to having more articles, French also uses articles more frequently than English. In English, for example, you would say that “We meet regularly on Mondays,” but French-speakers would use the appropriate article, saying “on se rencontre régulièrement le lundi.

6. Prepositions

Remember to use the correct preposition and include the appropriate article contraction when necessary. In theory, French prepositions are easier than English prepositions because there are fewer of the most common ones.

For example, “De” translates to “of” or “from”, and “à” translates to “to,” “at,” and sometimes other related location or movement prepositions.

A few places to watch out are when you’re talking about playing musical instruments (Je joue d’un instrument) and sports (Je joue à un sport).

Also, be extra careful with those pesky articles! Relevant contractions include “du” (“de” + “le”), “des” (“de” + “les”), “au” (“à” + “le”) and “aux” (“à” + “les”). “De”, “la”, and “à la” do not contract.

7. Negative Articles

Use “il n’y a pas de” rather than “il y a pas de”. When using “de” or “de” + an article in the negative, remember that French has lots of exceptions! This is one of them.

If there is zero of something, take out the article. For example, someone could say “Il y a du pain sur la table” (There is bread on the table). In the negative, this would become “Il n’y a pas de pain sur la table,” not “Il n’y a pas du pain sur la table.”

8. Conjugated Verbs

Remember to conjugate your verbs. While we do this in the English language, it’s not as much or in as much detail as French-speakers.

This is especially important when you’re writing because all those silent final consonants and vowels need attention.

The singular forms are the most similar in present tense, but are not always spelled the same, so watch out!

9. Passé composé/ Imparfait

The English distinction between the present perfect and the simple past isn’t exactly the same as the French distinction between these two tenses.

The passé composé is very commonly used for one-time events in the past. For example, “J’ai fait mes devoirs hier soir.” (I did my homework last night.)

The imperfect is used more often for something a person used to do over a period of time in the past. For example, “Je faisais mes devoirs tous les jours.” (I did my homework every day.)

10. Subjunctive

The subjunctive is one of the most difficult verbs in French, if not the most difficult because we don’t use it often in English. Many of us anglophones aren’t even aware of the fact that we use it at all.

The first step is to understand the situations in which it is used, and then practice, observe, and correct oneself. Then practice some more, and observe some more, and correct oneself more.

Give yourself time to perfect this French grammar rule, but also insist on understanding and using it correctly. Gradually, you will be able to use it successfully.

These aren’t the only French grammar mistakes out there, but they are certainly worthy of attention.

Keep your eyes open and your ears peeled for other mistakes, and correct them when you can. In no time, you will be well on your way to excellent (and impressive) French usage!

CarolPost Author: Carol Beth L.
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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how to make it as a touring musician

How to Make it as a Touring Musician: Sleepmakeswaves Tells All

how to make it as a touring musician

If you’re an aspiring guitarist, you’re going to want to get to know the instrumental post-rock quartet sleepmakeswaves. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, the band kicks off their United States tour this month, behind the release of their new album Love of Cartography.

We had a chance to catch up with Alex Wilson from sleepmakeswaves (bass, keys, electronics), to chat about the new album, and living the dream of being a touring musician.

TL: First of all, congrats on the new album and the tour, and thank you so much for chatting with us!

AW: Thanks for having me. Very excited about our upcoming tour of the United States with The Contortionist, Monuments and Entheos. Only a few days out now.

TL: Following the success of your previous album, what were you looking to do differently with Love Of Cartography?

AW: We wanted to shake things up for ourselves without vastly changing what we were about. One part of that was the process. We tried to bring our stage show into the studio as much as possible by tracking together in a room. Our producer, Nick DiDia, pushed us in that direction and we would be reluctant to make a record differently now.

The other shake-up was the emotional vibe. There was less emphasis on the darker, brooding side of our sound and more push to being euphoric and uplifting. A natural outgrowth of where we were as musicians and people when writing Cartography.

TL: You guys are living the dream of many aspiring musicians; what goes into being a touring musician, the dedication involved, practice, sticking with it when you may not feel inspired?

AW: It’s not so much a thing one does, it’s more like a way of life. There’s practice, alone and with bandmates. There’s admin ­­­— emails, making sure gear works, money stuff. There’s being away from work, home, loved ones and finding ways to keep everyday life humming along OK while that happens.

Most of all, it’s about a mindset I try to cultivate: balancing the fortune of living the dream with the discipline and dedication to not waste the opportunity. Being grateful for music and travelling the world, and gracious in the face of the tougher stuff: getting fired, getting dumped, being broke, and missing home.

TL: Speaking of touring, how do you continue to write new music and practice while on tour? What do you love about being on the road and performing live?

AW: I have to write music on the road or I lose my mind. It’s a way to unwind. On tour, I have my laptop, USB interface, headphones, Ableton Live, amp sims, EZ Drummer and no shortage of guitars. That’s enough to keep me cranking out the riffs. Big chunks of “Emergent”, “Great Northern” and “A Little Spark” were written this way.

For me, a good night on the road is when sleepmakeswaves takes the stage and is firing on all cylinders. There’s a vibe between us and the crowd. Then we get on the bus and talk and drink until 4 a.m. when me, and our drummer Tim, start making sandwiches. I’ve made some very deep relationships touring, have seen amazing parts of the world and shared moments with excellent people all around the world.

TL: How does being an instrumental rock band shift your focus, the way you play and practice , and how you write your music?

AW: I always wrote music sleepmakeswaves-style, I just happened to find the band that would fit the sound in my head when we got together 10 years ago. The instrumental approach fits my muse well because I’m at my best when I’m exploring pure sound and finding new ways to approach the geometries of rhythm and pitch. I have a huge place in my heart for excellent singers and lyrics but I think it’s part of sleepmakeswaves musical path to focus predominantly on the power of instruments and pure sound.

TL: How does music allow you to express yourself? Do you find it harder to create music when you are dealing with personal hardships or is it a great outlet for emotions?

The whole point of music, to me, is to convey emotion. Sometimes the relationship is one of pursuit. I feel an emotion (joy, despair or something we don’t have a name for) and try to nail it down in a song. Sometimes it’s discovery, writing just for the love of music and chancing upon a feeling or vibe that is unintentional but running with it.

Johnny Marr, one of my favourite musicians, called songwriting daydreaming in sound. Emotionally, I love composition because it’s satisfying to create. Live, the volume, audience, and physical intensity of what we do takes me out of everyday thought patterns in a way little else can.

Writer’s block for me has sometimes corresponded with hard times, sometimes with really great stretches in life. There’s a dark and intense side to my personality that I think would be far harder to manage had I not created such a large space for music in my life.

TL: Can you talk a little about your creative process? I know you guys have said originality is a priority, how do you use your musical influences and still maintain your own originality?

AW: That’s really hard to answer, a great deal of the process is intuitive. I view songs as puzzles that need to balance fresh musical ideas with a kind of emotional narrative that will give them shape and impact. So we tend to cycle through ideas and arrangements until things feel exciting for us while satisfying obsessions we have about balance, melody and atmosphere.

For me, originality is good in moderation. I like things to be fresh, but being different just for the sake of it won’t impress me on its own. There’s got to be craft and emotion to give weight to a new idea. Some bands are Radiohead and change all the time and remain brilliant. Other bands are Converge and make the same kind of record each time and remain brilliant.

TL: Many of our readers are beginner musicians, what advice do you have for someone who is just getting started learning an instrument, or who feels discouraged?

AW: Push through the awkward beginnings when your fingers hurt and you don’t want to practice. Because eventually you’ll be good enough to play your favourite songs. And that’s one of the best things ever.

TL: We’d love to share your video for “Great Northern” what would you like our readers to know about the video, can you give us a little background?

AW: It’s made by a friend of ours, Bradley Coomber, who works in the film industry. We told him we wanted a video clip about a kid who travels to space. Because upward motion is heaps inspirational and space rules hard. The results speak for themselves.

Again, a big thanks to Alex and all of sleepmakeswaves for chatting with us about music and guitar. Check out their website to keep up with the latest band news; we wish them the best of luck on their tour!

Now, check out the new music video for “Great Northern”!

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how to practice guitar

How to Practice Guitar in 15 Minutes | An Efficient Practice When You’re Short on Time

how to practice guitar

When you’re learning guitar, you know how important it is to practice. Sometimes, however, you just don’t have time for a full practice session. This doesn’t mean you need to skip practice altogether. In this video, Austin, TX. guitar instructor Aimee B. teaches you how to practice guitar in 15 minutes…

If you want to boost your guitar skills, you need to increase your knowledge of chord voicings. There’s more than one way to play the same chord on the guitar. The good news is that the guitar is made up of a series of repeating patterns.

We will use a system, called CAGED to understand the five positions of a major chord on the guitar neck. Once you learn how to voice one major chord and its relation to the CAGED pattern, you can easily voice the same chord in multiple positions.

How to Practice Guitar in 15 Minutes

One Minute: Centering Visualization

Approach your practice with a calm, positive mind. Take a minute to take a few deep breaths and visualize yourself with your instrument.

This is your time to focus on your practice, so give yourself permission to mentally let go of the other matters in your day.

Three Minutes: Open Voicings of the C, A, G, E, and D Major Chords

Practice voicing the C, A, G, E and D major chords in the open position on the guitar neck.

The open position refers to the area of the first three frets on the guitar neck where you have open (unfretted) strings ringing out.

Practice moving smoothly between each chord. The goal is to memorize the shape of the chord, or the way it looks on the guitar.

guitar practice


Five Minutes: Identify the Root of the C, A, G, E, and D Major Chords in Open Position

Voice a chord and identify the root of the chord by playing only the string(s) where the root is located. The root of the C chord is “C”, the root of the A chord is “A”, and so on.

Again, the key is to think of the shape of the chord and memorize where the roots are within that shape. You don’t need to memorize string and fret numbers.

Use the following to check your knowledge of the roots in each chord:

C Chord/C Shape Roots

B string 1st fret
A string 3rd fret

A Chord/A Shape Roots

G string 2nd fret
Open A string

G Chord/G Shape Roots

Low E string 3rd fret
High E string 3rd fret
Open G string

E Chord/E Shape Roots

Open low E string
Open high E string
D string 2nd fret

D Chord/D Shape Roots

Open D string
B string 3rd fret

NOTE: Instead of thinking of an open string as being open, think of the guitar nut located at the head of the guitar as being a finger holding a position.

In other words, visually approach the nut of your guitar as being another fingered fret.

guitar practice


Eight Minutes: Take One Chord and Move through the Five Shapes on the Guitar (CAGED)

Play the C major chord, starting in open position, and move up (higher) on the guitar neck through the five different shapes of the chord. In all instances, you will play a C major chord.

The notes voiced in the C major chord are C, E, and G. All three of these notes that make up the C chord remain present as you move up on the guitar neck through the five positions. The only thing that changes is how the chord looks, or the shape, NOT the chord itself.

Here’s the easiest way to think of the five chord positions in the CAGED system:

“I’m playing a C chord that looks like a C shape; I’m playing a C chord that looks like the A shape; I’m playing a C chord that looks like the G shape; I’m playing a C chord that looks like the E shape; I’m playing a C chord that looks like the D shape.”

REMEMBER: Where the chord shape ends, the next shape begins!

guitar practice

guitar practice

Repeat Previous Steps for the A, G, E, and D Major Chords

Once you have moved the C major chord through each of the five positions, continue through the CAGED system voicings with a different chord.

For instance, start on an open A major chord. The next shape for the A chord, moving up on your guitar, is the G shape, then E, D, and C.

Guitar Practice Challenge

Take a three-chord song you know in open position, find the next chord shape up on your guitar for each chord, and relearn the song in this new position.

NOTE: Some positions are more friendly to play in than others.

So next time you think you don’t have enough time, remember how to practice guitar in 15 minutes. Don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of your guitar playing journey.

Ready to get started playing guitar? Search here for a teacher near you!

Aimee B.Post Author: Aimee B.
Aimee B. teaches piano, guitar and music theory in Austin, TX. She earned her B.A. in philosophy and art from St. Edward’s University, has worked as a professional musician for over ten years, and has taught over 100 students as a private music instructor.

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True or False? Top 7 Piano Myths…Busted!

MO - True or False Top 7 Piano Myths Busted

There are a lot of myths about learning how to play the piano. In this week’s guest post, our friends from dispel the seven most common myths about playing the piano… 

One way to understand how valuable or how popular something is to our society is to understand the fallacies and myths surrounding it.

Quite often, the more famous something is the more stories and pseudo-intellectual facts there happens to be about it.

The piano it seems is not immune to these elaborate false truths. In fact, there are bucket loads of myths.

We have come up with the 7 most famous myths surrounding the piano… and have officially busted them all!

Myth 1: “Children learn faster than adults.”

Not so fast, young grasshopper.

This one sounds like a doozy, except that it’s not true–at least not true enough. You see, according to scientific research, there is actually no discernible difference in terms of learning the piano between children and adults.

So no more excuses saying you “didn’t learn it when you were young so it’s too late now.” What may be true is that a child is less burdened by the stresses of life and thus tends to have less mental clutter.

As a result, when you can finally get them to sit down for more than two minutes without fidgeting, they can more easily focus their ability on learning music. This creates the illusion that children absorb new material faster than adults.

However, unlike adults, children often lack desire and motivation to play, treating piano playing as a chore rather than a pleasure. Thus, it’s this difference in attitude that makes all the difference between adults and kids.

Myth 2: “Long sessions of practice time are best.”

Must. Practice. Piano. And. Not. Move.

We have no idea who started this rumor. Perhaps it was mother goose who just wanted a breather. Probably not. In any case, we all have experienced some degree of psychataxia–or in common-folk language, a disordered mental state with confusion and inability to concentrate–while playing the piano.

The reason is that after about 15 minutes of an activity, the average person becomes mentally fatigued. Therefore, it is actually advisable, contrary to popular belief, to practice for shorter lengths of time rather than a never-ending marathon.

Short bursts of concentration repeated frequently are much more effective and produce optimal results rather than one long session. So, even if you only have 10 minutes to learn piano online, DO IT.

Myth 3: “I should never write in the sheet music.”

Uh…most of the time notes are good.

We understand that many centuries ago, paper was a rare commodity in the form of papyrus. However, we’re quite sure this myth came about long after paper became widely used.

Perhaps it was for the sake of the environment in order to get everyone to use the same piece of paper? Perhaps not. While writing on sheet music may make it look messy, as long as it’s intended for you, you should do what helps you learn best.

After all,  it’s better to have some cranky old lady frowning at your scribbled notes, than to forget the proper fingering at the time of a recital.

Plus, the notes will help drill the information into your brain faster, meaning that you won’t even be needing the doodled notes for very long anyway.

Check out “7 Piano Myths . . . Busted” to read the remaining four myths. 

Guest Post Author: OnlinePianist
OnlinePianist is the only animated online piano tutorial. Here you can find the biggest collection of free piano lessons. The site includes free piano sheet music and notes, piano chords table, lyrics and hundreds of piano songs.

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taylor davis

How Violin Star Taylor Davis Turned Her Dreams Into Reality

taylor davis

If you’re learning violin, you probably know a thing or two about Taylor Davis. Tayor is a talented violinist, arranger, composer, and a YouTube sensation. Her love for video game and film music helped her launch her YouTube channel ViolinTay, which has over 150 videos and one million subscribers!

In addition to her viral YouTube videos, Taylor has released five full-length game, anime, and film-themed albums. Her self-titled original album debuted at #10 on the Billboard Classical Charts.

Following the success of her first headlining U.S. tour, Taylor recently completed a tour Europe. The talented star took some time to chat with us about violin and her love for music, and to share her insight and inspiration for aspiring violinists.

taylor davis

photo by Aga Jones

TL: Being a touring violinist is something most people only dream of doing. What do you love about it and what was surprising to you? What advice do you have for anyone who gets nervous during a big or small performance?

TD: I feel so incredibly blessed to be touring now because it’s truly a dream come true to perform the kind of music I love for an audience that loves it just as much. So much of what I’ve done over the past six years with my music has been online via my YouTube channel, and while I love my audience on there, it’s sometimes tough to only interact with them online because you really miss out on that personal element. What I really love about touring is the chance to actually see people out there in the audience while I’m performing, and meeting them after the shows and talking with them because it’s so nice to have that type of personal interaction.

The most surprising thing about touring was how much I enjoy it! I was pretty nervous to start on my first tour last year because I really didn’t know how I was going to like it, but I had such an amazing experience and am so excited that it’s becoming a regular part of my career now.

One of the things that has helped me get over nervousness during a performance sounds so simple but it’s so true, and that is to just make sure that I feel like I’m prepared. If I think I could have practiced more, or there are still a few parts of a piece that I needed to work on more, then I sometimes get nervous during a performance because I’m not fully confident. If I feel like I truly prepared as much as I could, then it’s a lot easier for me to relax and enjoy the performance.

TL: You released your first self-titled original album after working on game, anime, and film albums; how was this different, were you more nervous or excited? The album has been very successful, does this mean more original projects in the future?

TD: I love working on cover songs, but it had always been a dream of mine to release an album of original music. I was definitely nervous since I am mostly known for my covers. I was really proud and excited about the original music but I really didn’t know how my audience was going to react since I hadn’t released much original music to that point.

I had such a supportive group of fans cheering me on through my Pledge Music Campaign that it really inspired me and made me feel a lot more confident about the project. I’m so glad that people are enjoying the album now! When I get back from my European tour, I’m going to immediately start working on another album of original music.

taylor davis

photo by Aga Jones

TL: You’ve been studying violin since you were eight, what was your inspiration early on, how did you stay motivated to practice and improve? You’ve said your mom was one of your biggest supporters, why is it important for music students to have a strong support system?

TD: I will be honest, I was incredibly unmotivated to practice and pretty much did everything I possibly could to avoid it when I was younger! I did study with a private teacher, but it was very casual and they were short lessons. My mom is truly the only reason that I am a violinist today, because there were so many times where I wanted to quit, but she was always incredibly supportive and found creative ways to incentivize me to practice.

If I wanted to play video games, I had to at least practice 30 minutes of violin first, so that was a pretty huge motivator for me. haha! Now, I actually really enjoy practicing, but it took me a long time to get to this point. I think it’s important for a music student to have some sort of support system, or a strong role model to look up to for inspiration.

Learning an instrument can sometimes be very discouraging because you have to be so patient and work very hard to continue practicing, and sometimes it feels like you’re not even improving. If you have someone in your life to cheer you on, or someone you look up to who can inspire you to work through those discouraging moments, I think that can make all the difference.

TL: Let’s talk about starting your (wildly popular) YouTube channel ViolinTay. How did you decide to share your videos on YouTube? Were you surprised by the response that you got from fans, how did this help you to continue pursuing your passion for both video game music and violin?

TD: I started my channel almost six years ago after I graduated from college. I never thought that I would have a career in music, but I started to get really sad right before I graduated because I realized that I might not do anything more with music in my adult life, since I fully intended to get a business-type job.

I started thinking of ways that I could keep music in my life, and one day when I was randomly searching for some of my favorite game music on YouTube, I saw a few people had posted videos of themselves playing video game music. I was really shocked to see that people were interested in it because I thought I was one of the only people who liked this type of music. I grew up being a “nerd” and was made fun of a lot for my interests in video games and other nerdy things. I figured I had nothing to lose by putting up a few videos of myself playing video game music and decided to start posting my favorite tracks.

I was surprised to see that people were finding my videos and seemed to be enjoying them. It was really slow at first, and I was working a business day job at the time, but as my channel grew, I gradually started upgrading my equipment and tried to improve the quality of my videos as much as I could afford to.

It’s still hard for me to believe that this is what I’m doing for my career now and that my really low-budget videos I filmed in my parents’ spare room ended up leading to this. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I’d be able to have a career playing my favorite type of music, and that so many other people would be enjoying it with me. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel for where I’m at.

TL: What’s the coolest thing about being on tour and performing live?

I think, like I mentioned before, that personal connection that you feel when you’re performing to a live audience is really amazing. I’m usually always working alone from my home and sometimes it can get very lonely, so being out on tour is a really nice change of pace, not only for interacting with my fans in person, but for also working with my tour team.

My piano player, Salome Scheidegger, has become one of my best friends and we had so much fun together on the first tour, and my tour manager is a wonderful person and so much fun to hang out with. Even though I’m a solo artist, I definitely feel like I’m a part of a team when I’m out on the road, and I love that feeling.

TL: You worked on an awesome Star Wars violin medley and even made a really cool video! What was that like for you? The video must have been an intense but unforgettable experience!

TD: Yes, I’m really proud of that music video! The director, Landon Donoho, is someone who I’ve been working with for years and he’s incredibly talented and fun to work with. We talked about the video concept before I had created the arrangement, and we had the idea to do the light side vs. dark side type feel, so I really tried to create that feeling in the music as well.

Landon also suggested that I try out some body paint for this one, and I was a little scared about that at first since I’ve never done anything like that, but I’m so glad that we did that because I think that really ended up making the video really special. The makeup artist did an amazing job!

I also really wanted to take the music in a different direction from my normal arrangements because I always like trying new things and experimenting, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s definitely a different style and I won’t always arrange new pieces like that, but it was so much fun to try something new!

TL: Between your YouTube channel, the albums you’ve worked on, and touring and playing music, you’ve been able to combine two of your biggest passions and achieve your dreams! What advice would you give someone about trusting the process and keeping the faith while chasing a dream?

TD: I think that one of the most important things to keep in mind, that I think is difficult for some artists to understand, is that you really need to think of yourself as both an artist and a business. I think there’s sadly a negative feeling sometimes towards the business aspect of any sort of creative career and a lot of artists either think they’re “selling out” to engage in it, or they simply don’t want to deal with it because they only want to be creative and not worry about everything else it takes to build a career in this industry.

In my opinion, and what has certainly been true in my own career, it’s absolutely crucial to be comfortable and confident with both the creative and business side of things. It’s almost crazy to think that you can solely be an artist nowadays and that someone will randomly discover you and offer to handle everything else for you to turn your art into a sustainable career, that just realistically doesn’t happen.

I didn’t sign with a management team until last April (that was 5 years after I started my channel), and while they help me now with tour planning and general advice/resources, I still very much manage all of my video projects, albums, website, and social media myself. I think it’s really important for an artist to stay involved in those aspects because you won’t find yourself in a position where you’ll get taken advantage of, and if you’re the one ultimately calling all the shots, it’s a lot easier to stay true to yourself and your vision.

There are plenty of days where I end up not being able to work on music and have to handle tasks that I don’t enjoy and that aren’t fun or creative, but they’re necessary to continue sustaining and growing my career. I’m still not at the point where I can afford to delegate all that kind of work to other people, and having to still do that kind of work definitely makes me feel grateful for the days where I can just be creative and work on some new music or spend a lot of time with my violin. For me, it actually feels like a nice balance.

Again, a huge thank you to Taylor Davis for taking the time to chat with us! To learn more about Taylor and keep up to date with her latest projects, bookmark her website and subscribe to her YouTube channel!

Ready to turn your violin dreams into reality? Sign up for lessons with a private teacher today! 

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how to be a more interesting person

The Secret to Becoming a More Interesting Person

how to be an interesting person

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of learning a new language. It can slow your brain’s aging and even improve your memory… heck, you might even make more money if you’re bilingual!

But what if your motivation to pick up Spanish, Japanese, or another language isn’t based on the brain boost? What if you just want to understand the sushi terms on your menu, order a round of German beer, or rattle off all the different kinds of French cheese? That’s totally fine to admit. Sounds pretty cool to us, too!

We recently came across this colorful take on reasons to learn a language from our friends at City Speakeasy, and it’s a great look at a few of the more unconventional considerations.

For example, here’s how learning a language can help you be a more interesting person:

Become More Interesting
It’s sad to say, but those who speak English as their first language are considered to be far less motivated to learn another language. Become more approachable, live with vibrancy; you only live once for crying out loud! Bask in the glory of an engaging conversation about French cheese, Italian agriculture, Spanish art. When would you have ever had it otherwise?

Next time you’re out and about, prime yourself for your bilingual future. It gets easier every moment you practice; your words flowing more fluidly with each [mistake]. Order in Spanish during your next taco binge, or snag a ticket for the flick with subtitles you keep talking yourself out of. Finally understand what in God’s name they’re singing about at the opera!

Continue reading the article here.

Readers, why are YOU learning a language? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Photo by Ignacio Bernal