Do You Know the Absolute Best Book to Read for Practicing a Language?

The Absolute Best Way to Learn a Language With a Book

There are so many different ways to learn a language. It’s good to have some guidance on which is the best! In this article, we’ll explain why one beloved book series is the best to way to learn a language…

 

Language learning doesn’t have to be boring. It’s not all about reading textbooks and completing workbooks. It’s much like a quest; you have to discover the feel, rhythm, and nuances of the language yourself. After all, some aspects are difficult to memorize and– like our native language– better learned through practice.

Learning a language can actually be quite fun! From using tongue twisters to playing with language apps to performing in theater, there are plenty of ways to make it exciting. Reading is an excellent and fun way to expose yourself to a new language. Although we love watching films, they have a lot of visual and nonverbal information that doesn’t benefit your language skills. Just as fun and more effective, reading forces you to tackle the language head-on.

Once you learn the key vocabulary and basic grammar of the language, reading Harry Potter is an excellent way to further your education! Let’s find out why.

Why Reading Harry Potter is the Best Way to Learn a Language

harry potter

 


1) It’s Universally Available

Harry Potter has loyal fans all over the world. This wouldn’t be the case if the series hadn’t been translated into 74 different languages! Whether you’re learning Spanish, Korean, or Japanese, Harry Potter can help you. As an added bonus, each translation has a different book cover. Fun!

me gusta


2) It’s an Easy Read

The Harry Potter series is a relatively easy read. The first book is appropriate for ages 6-7 and the most difficult book for ages 11-12. Since Harry Potter is a children’s book, you don’t have to worry about reading above your level. Alternatively, the books cover a range of grade levels from 1st to 7th grade. This is great for the more advanced learners. The series offers something for language learners of all stages!

Plus, if you’re already familiar with the series, you don’t have to waste energy figuring out the plot or who the characters are. You can just focus on the language itself!read

Of course, you’ll come across words you don’t know. These give you an opportunity to grow! Don’t reach for a dictionary right away. Wait a while, and sit on the word for a bit. There is a lot of repetition throughout the books. See how the word is used afterwards, so you can figure out the meaning yourself. It’s a fun challenge, and you’ll be more likely to remember the word!


3) There’s Multiple Volumes for Continued Learning

 

There’s a lot of material for you to keep busy with a whopping 7 books in the series. Each book is usually a grade level above its predecessor. As the series progresses, the language and themes become more complex. This will guide you on your learning journey as you become stronger in the language!

With the progressive difficulty, you’ll be able to track your progress easily. This is important in giving you motivation to keep learning.

learn

There’s a wealth of knowledge waiting for you in the Harry Potter series– especially since each book is longer than the last!

 


4) It’s Written in Modern Language

Harry Potter was written recently, so the writing doesn’t include phrases that are old or outdated. You don’t have to worry about dissecting 17th century foreign writing!

wut

Granted, there’s Latin-derived phrases like “Expecto Patronus” or “Alohamora“, but those usually stay the same in translated versions. Easy! Sure, there’s some vocabulary that is specific to Harry Potter, but let’s be frank. Are you really going to complain about knowing that “Zauberstab” means wand in German?


5) It’s Written in a Conversational Tone

Seeing the language in context is essential! We would argue that it is the best way to learn a language. You can memorize verb tenses or sentence structures diligently, but they’re difficult to apply when the pressure is on. The Harry Potter series is written in a conversational tone that can be applied in real life easily! Reading will help train your brain, so that nuances, like using the correct verb tense, make click and become second nature to you.

wicked


6) There are Audio Books

Have you ever read a word where you later surprised by the pronunciation? Take the word “epitome.” Although you’d think it’s  pronounced “epi-tome”, it’s actually pronounced “epi-tuh-mi.” This is why the translated Harry Potter audio books are such a great resource!pronunication

You can listen to the audio book while you’re reading. You’ll get a better grasp of new vocabulary by learning how to pronounce and spell the words– at the same time! Listening to the audio books will also train your ear, so that you’ll imitate native speakers more accurately. You’ll be more accustomed to the rhythm of the language.


7) You Can Have Movie Nights

The Harry Potter films have been dubbed in many different langauges. When you’re done reading one of the books, you can grab some popcorn and your favorite candy for a movie night with friends! Watching the movies will strengthen your new-found vocabulary when you can hear how they’re pronounced and when to use them,. You’ll also get to hear native speakers talk naturally and grow familiar with how fast they speak. Watching the movies will strengthen your listening skills.

Although reading the books are a more effective way to study, you deserve to relax! Watching a movie is a well-earned reward for powering through a translated Harry Potter book!

party


Learning a new language is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Now that you know why reading Harry Potter is such a great way to study a foreign language, dive right in, and pick up the first book. To help you on your language-learning journey, sign up with a private language instructor today!

Did we miss anything on this list? What do you think is the best way to learn a language? Share your thoughts and comment below! 

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7 Best Soundtrack Pieces to Play on the Piano

Want to learn how to play songs on the piano from your favorite movies? In this week’s guest post, our friends at Tomplay share the seven best soundtrack pieces to play on the piano...

Whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned professional, it’s important to have a diversified repertoire to be able to choose music that fits a certain mood or appeals to a particular audience.

It seems obvious that an audience at a jazz club might prefer to hear jazz over classical, teenagers at a coffee shop might want to hear arrangements of pop tunes, and your family at a holiday party might want to hear Christmas carols (or music related to whatever holiday you may celebrate).

Soundtrack music from movies is a genre that fits a variety of playing situations, and the pieces can often be changed and arranged to sound different than the original score.

Below are seven famous soundtrack pieces that are great to learn on the piano, and some tips on what’s behind the music:

1. “My Heart Will Go On” Titanic

Starting off this list of film soundtracks is James Horner’s memorable theme from the movie Titanic.

The infectious melody and romantic lyrics, originally recorded for the film by Celine Dion, are very popular among audiences comprised of people who were teenagers growing up in the 90s, and anyone who may have enjoyed the 1997 blockbuster love story.

Musically, the song creates a lot of interest as it begins in the key of E major, modulates to F minor in the last chorus, and finally ends in the key of Ab major.

It is a fantastic piece to play with an accompaniment, vocal or other instrument, and can be tweaked in some ways to suit your playing ability, such as removing embellishments like the quick scalar descending lines in the opening theme.

2. Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean Theme

The main theme from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, titled as “He’s a Pirate,” is a progressive piece that is instantly recognizable for its catchy melodies and dynamic contrast.

The original score in the film features a full orchestra, but playing this piece on the piano alone is a surefire way to get an audience excited about your playing, especially if there are kids in the audience (who doesn’t love a good pirate adventure?).

Due to its quick pace, a good practice method to help tackle this piece is to start slow and gradually raise the tempo as your right and left hands can work independently.

3. Yann Tiersen’s “Comptine d’un autre été”

Comptine d’un autre été : L’après midi is Yann Tiersen’s piano piece written for the French film Amelie.  It is a somber sounding piece in the key of E minor.

The first section begins with a beautiful motif in the right hand, and changes to a quicker syncopated right hand part in the second section, while the left hand continues the ostinato of the chord progression (i, III, v, VII or Em, G, Bm, D).

The piece is in binary form, which means that it is comprised of a A and B section. The B section occurs when the whole piece is repeated, with the right hand being played one octave higher.

4. The Godfather Theme

Perfect for fans of the classic gangster movie The Godfather, “Speak Softly, Love,” was composed by Nino Rota, with lyrics written by Larry Kusik.

Layered with intricate harmonies due to the use of accidentals, triplets in the left hand, and octave movement with syncopation in the right hand, a piano arrangement of this beautiful song is best attempted slowly, like the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, due to its complex nature.

The song has been translated into many languages including English, Italian, Sicilian, French, Spanish, and Ukrainian, so you can really get creative by arranging a variation featuring verses in multiple languages.

5. The Pink Panther Theme

Arguably the most widely recognized theme on this list, The Pink Panther theme was written by Henry Mancini for the 1963 comedy The Pink Panther.

While notated in the key of E minor, Mancini uses chromaticism to create the interesting harmonies in the theme, which evokes a sound like the blues scale.

The theme can be easily recognized at first by its signature perfect 5th chromatic slide to the E minor harmony (though omitting the third to keep the perfect 5th) in the left hand.

While you practice this piece, try breaking it into four measure sections as you bring the right and left hands together, so you do not overwhelm yourself reading the accidentals and syncopated rhythms.

6. “Concerning Hobbits”

“Concerning Hobbits,” sometimes referred to as The Shire theme, is Howard Shore’s acclaimed piece from the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, which is a film adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy novel of the same name.

“Concerning Hobbits” is a recognizable theme used throughout the films (especially the first film in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring). Set in the key of D major, this piece is great for pianists of all skill levels, as it can be reduced as necessary to accommodate.

A beginner player could, for instance, simply play the main theme in the right hand and hold whole note chords in the left hand. On the other hand, a player who is more comfortable with left and right hand independence could arpeggiate the harmony in the left hand, as written and as heard in the opening of the piece.

7. John Williams: “The Imperial March”

This simply would not be a popular soundtrack list if we did not include an example from Star Wars.

“The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” is sure to please audiences spanning many generations – which makes total sense as the original Star Wars trilogy was released in the 1970s and 80s, the prequel trilogy in the 90s and 2000s, and Disney’s recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December 2015.

Williams composed the piece around a recurring theme (leitmotif) associated with Galactic Empire, Darth Vader, or the dark side of the Force. It is heard, in full or in part, throughout the original trilogy, prequels, and as a very brief adaptation in The Force Awakens.

The March is set in the key of G minor, and beginner pianists can get started by just learning the leitmotif, which can be broken into five shorter ideas.

Hopefully this list gets you started learning a few famous soundtrack themes that you can dig into regardless of your proficiency on the piano.

If you have any favorites that we missed, let us know in the comments!

Guest Post Author: Jack McCarthy
Jack McCarthy is a featured writer for Tomplay interactive sheet music app; pop and classical scores for piano, violin, and more, accompanied with real recordings by professional musicians. Jack is also a singer and songwriter, based in Philadelphia.

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alternate guitar tunings

Step Up Your Game: 4 Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners

alternate guitar tunings

Whether you just started guitar lessons or you’ve been playing for a while, you may be itching to learn some new songs and take on some new challenges. You might be wondering: where can I go from here? That’s where alternate guitar tunings come in! With this guide from Michael L., you’ll learn how alternate guitar tunings can take your playing to the next level…

One of the amazing things about the guitar is its versatility. Not only can you play rhythm and/or melody in different genres, but you can also change the tuning (or the key) to create different atmospheres.

Here’s the deal:

Not all songs are written to be played in standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning, so if you want to expand your range as a guitarist, you need to learn play some alternate guitar tunings.

Alternate guitar tunings, or open tunings, allow you to play new songs and explore new music styles. Essentially, alternate guitar tunings will expand your range and skill set.

If the only alternate tuning you know is Drop D tuning, then this tutorial will introduce you to some new concepts. We will focus on three open tunings: Open G, DADGAD, and Open D.


Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners

Drop D Tuning

You may already be familiar with drop D tuning: Take your low E string and tune it down a whole step to D. In this tuning, you can play power chords by barring the low three strings.

Drop D tuning is usually associated with metal music, but you can also play other songs like the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong” and “I Might Be Wrong” by Radiohead.

Open G Tuning

Open G tuning requires three strings to change notes. Tune the E strings down a whole step to D, and the A string down a whole step to G.

Now when you strum the guitar, you’ll play a G chord. This tuning makes the guitar resemble a banjo, except with a banjo, the low G string is a high G string and the low D is not there. You can play some banjo songs in this tuning, substituting the high G with the low G offers a new sound on some traditional banjo songs.

I primarily use this tuning for blues, folk, bluegrass, and rock, but I’m sure you can find other genres to play in this tuning. A couple of songs that use this tuning are “Poor Black Mattie” by R.L Burnside and “Death Letter” by Son House (or covered by White Stripes).

The beauty of open G tuning is that you can strum the bottom five strings together and play a melody with any of the strings as long as the note is in the key G. You can also get any major chord you like if you barre the fretboard on the corresponding right fret (the chord is based off the notes on the G strings).

If you want a minor chord, barre the fret but play a half-step lower, on the B string. Alternating between the low G and D strings gives you fun bass lines, too.

If you would like to learn more chord shapes simply look online for “banjo chord chart” and apply those shapes to the guitar in this tuning.

DAGAD Tuning

DADGAD is very similar to open G. For this tuning, just tune the fifth string back up to A and the B string to A. This tuning opens the door for some really neat sounding modal music.

You can play folk music, like Paul Simon’s version of “Scarborough Fair” and “Armistice Day”, some rock music like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir“, or even nu-metal like Slipknot’s “Circle“.

Open D Tuning

Open D tuning requires four strings to change notes. Tune the E strings down to D, the G string to F#, and the B string to A.

Now, when you strum the guitar, you’ll get a D chord. Again, I mostly use this tuning for rural music (blues, country, bluegrass, ragtime, etc.) This tuning is also my favorite to play the slide guitar.

Go ahead and strum steadily on the low D string while playing melody notes on the high D and A strings, and tell me that’s not one of the most sultry sounds you’ve heard! A couple of my favorite songs in open D are “Blind Willie McTell” by Statesboro Blues and Bob Dylan’s “Corina, Corina“.

As with open G, you can find any major chord by barring the corresponding fret (the chord is based off the note on the D strings). If you want a minor chord, play a half-step down on the F# string.

Here are a couple of open D chords, besides barre chords, to get you started.

G7 A7
—3— —2—
—2— —0—
—1— —1—
—0— —2—
—2— —0—
—0— —2—

I hope this gives you some new ideas on how to approach the guitar. Have fun with these alternate guitar tunings. They changed the way I think of guitar and I hope they do the same for you, especially if you’re a fan of delta blues and folk music!

If you need help with any of these alternate guitar tunings, ask your guitar teacher to go over them during your next lesson!

Want to ramp up your guitar skills at home? Try one of our free online group classes

Willy MPost Author: Michael L.
Michael teaches ukulele, guitar, drums, and music theory in Austin, TX. He studied music theory and vocal performance at the Florence University of the Arts in Italy. In addition to private lessons, Michael teaches music to special education students in Austin public schools and foster children with Kids in a New GrooveLearn more about Michael here!

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online guitar class

I Tried an Online Guitar Class and Here’s What Happened…

online guitar class

Have you ever wondered if you can really learn guitar online? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to try an online class but weren’t sure if it was right for you. Check out this video testimonial and find out how you can try a free online group class!

If you didn’t already know, you can take live, online guitar classes right here at TakeLessons! In the new TakeLessons Classroom, you can connect with a teacher and take a lesson on your computer or mobile device. The best part? You don’t even need to leave your house to boost your guitar skills!

If you’ve never taken an online class, you may have some questions about how it works. In this video testimonial, learn all about the new TakeLessons Classroom and find out if online classes are right for you!

Desi M. enjoyed her class on easy guitar chords for beginners. As a mom, she loved that the TakeLessons Classroom was easy to set up and convenient to use at home.

Desi: The best thing about the online course was that it was first offered for free to try it out. Setup was easy, I just needed to find a quiet spot, and in a full house with kids, that’s hard to do! Which also leads to the convenience part of taking an online course: You can’t really bring your children with you on lessons, depending on the instructor and/or classroom setting, so being able to take a free lesson while watching your kids in the next room is amazing. 

If you’re unsure about online classes, I recommend trying a class for yourself. You never know where it may lead you, and even if you decide you prefer in-person lessons, you’re still going to learn from the experience.

Check out the video for Desi’s full recap of her online class experience.


Have you taken an online class? We’d love to hear about your experience. Let us know in the comments below!

Are you interested in trying a live, online class? In addition to guitar, we also offer classes in singing, piano, language, photography, crafts, and more. For a limited time, you can try a class for free. Check out the class schedule, here

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learn violin

Pinspiration: 13 Fantastic Pinterest Boards to Help You Learn Violin

learn violin

Believe it or not, Pinterest is one of the best online resources for all things violin! From pictures, charts, and tutorials, to infographics, how-to guides, and video lessons, it’s an amazing place to find instruction and inspiration. Here, music instructor Julie P. brings you 13 awesome Pinterest boards to help you learn violin…

Learning violin can be challenging and sometimes, you can use a little inspiration to keep you going. It may seem like you’re making slow progress, but if you keep working, you can learn to play the violin!

If you didn’t already know, Pinterest is a fantastic place to learn violin, if you know who to follow!

From violin inspiration to sheet music and tutorials, here are 13 Pinterest boards to help you learn violin!


Violin

by Allyson

learn violin

This board features helpful articles about specific topics to help you learn violin. There are practice guides and easy-to-follow tutorials.

You will find inspiration and entertainment through beautiful pictures of fine violins, performance videos, and beginner sheet music and tips.


Violinists

By Catherine Blankenship

learn violin
Look through hundreds of beautiful pictures of violinists of all ages.

You can discover new artists and learn about your favorite violinists. Plus, if you picture yourself like the people on this board, you’ll be back in the practice room in no time!


Violin

By Chelsea Hopkins

learn violin
Check out this board for a mix of articles, instructional videos, and infographics.

There are also lots of pictures and helpful tips for both new violinists and intermediate players.


The Violin Player

By Lorene Lash

learn violin
When you’re learning violin, it can be fun to know a little bit about the instrument’s origins.

Learn about the violin through this board by Lorene Lash.

Pins also include artwork featuring famous violinists.


Violin

By Lishno W.

learn violin
If you’re a beginner, follow this board for violin songs and fun activities.

Violin practice should be fun, so use this board to spice up your routine!


Learning the Violin!

By Molly H

learn violin

Learning the Violin by Molly H. is packed with exercises, articles, and tips to learn violin.

It also has a bunch of easy, beginner-friendly sheet music.


Violin

By XxNikki TurleyxX

learn violin

Looking for pop, rock and movie sheet music? Check out these pins to learn some new tunes!


Learn to Play the Violin

By Revelle Strings Violins

learn violin

This board is like an FAQ page for learning the violin.

If you have questions about what kind of violin you should buy, how to get started, the benefits of playing the violin, or how to stay motivated, you will find answers here with this board from Connolly Music.


Violin

By Lauryn Gibbs

learn violin

Lauryn Gibbs put together an awesome smorgasbord of violin inspiration!

There are fun, artsy pictures, videos of violin pop covers, inspirational quotes, and violin humor.


Learning to Play the Violin

By Sissy Bates

learn violin

This board is packed with helpful how-to guides. You can learn how to tune your violin and  read about proper care and maintenance.

There are also tutorials where you can learn different violin techniques like vibrato and shifting, and helpful tips to find the right violin for you.


Violin, Music Learning

By Noell R.

learn violin

Violin, Music Learning has a good mix of tutorials, practice tips, inspiration, and fun.

If you play any other instruments or are interested in other music topics, you will find lots of helpful resources.


Violin Tutorials

By MJStreetTeam

learn violin

If you’re working on your bow hold or want to master important violin techniques, Violin Tutorials is the board for you.

From video tutorials to lessons, you can find an easy-to-follow guide to help you boost your violin skills.


Learning the Violin

By Katelyn Lucas

learn violin

From sheet music to infographics and guides, Learning the Violin is a great Pinterest board for beginners.

You can find charts to help you learn proper finger placement, infographics on the parts of the violin, and sheet music to help you learn new songs.


When you check out these boards, you’ll be itching to get back in the practice room! The more you practice, the more you can do with the violin, so get inspired and then get to work!

Which violin boards do you follow on Pinterest? Let us know in the comments below! 

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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guitar news

The 5 Best Websites for Guitar News and Gear Reviews

guitar news

Part of learning to play guitar is staying up to date on current events, gear, and industry news. To help you stay in the loop, guitar instructor Matt K. has put together a list of his go-to websites for guitar news…

Once you’ve taken a few guitar lessons, you may feel the urge to learn more about the instrument, and the gear that goes with it.

The guitar can become an addiction, and once you’ve mastered the chords, scales, and licks, you’re going to want to learn about all the gear and equipment.

A guitar isn’t just a six-stringed instrument anymore. The addition of an amplifier, pedals, and other fun gear can help produce a number of different sounds.

There are several guitar news websites for up-to-date info on guitars and gear, along with in-depth music news, and sometimes even tablature to learn new songs.

Maybe you want to learn more about the guitar players that play your favorite songs, or learn when they have a new album coming out.

From electric guitar news, acoustic guitar news, and gear reviews, here are my favorite sites to stay  in the loop with all things guitar.


Music Radar

guitar news

I’ll start with my favorite website for any type of gear news, from guitars to DJ equipment, Music Radar.

Any time I’m looking at a new piece of gear or a new instrument, I go to Music Radar and read one of their reviews.

Music Radar also complies lists which make it easier to decide what to buy. For example, before buying a new travel acoustic guitar I checked out their list “32 of the best budget acoustic guitars in the world today“.


Guitar World

guitar news

Guitar World is less “techy,” and instead  features lots of artist news and guitar videos.

You can still learn about the latest gear and even get a quick video tutorial on how to tune the guitar in different keys, but I go to this website to see “Dude Plays Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ on Banjo”.

 


GuitarPlayer

guitar news

I remember being in the grocery store with my mom and picking up the latest issue of Guitar Player Magazine when magazines were still a big thing. Now, the magazine is online and very easy to navigate.

GuitarPlayer always has very informative, interesting articles. For example “U.S. Made PRS vs. Korean Made PRS: What is the difference” (PRS stands for Paul Reed Smith and is an excellent guitar).

GuitarPlayer also has excellent product spotlights that I recommend checking out.


Ultimate Guitar

guitar news

Where Music Radar is all about the gear, Guitar World and Guitar Player are about the news. Ultimate Guitar, however, is all about the TABS.

When I want to learn a new song, this is my go-to website. They have a great ranking system, so you know which guitar tabs are accurate and which ones were created by an internet troll.


Premier Guitar

music news

 

Last, but definitely not least, Premier Guitar keeps you up to date on guitar news, gear, and artists.

There are also some great how-to videos, and my favorite feature, the “Rig Rundown“. This section features a new artist or band every week and shows the guitars and gear they use on a nightly basis.

If you want to see how your favorite bands get their sound, check out Premier Guitar.


Check out these sites and let me know which ones you like. If you have any other go-to sites for gear and guitar news, let us know in the comments below! 

Matthew KPost Author: Matt K.
Matthew K. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music composition at Mercyhurst University, and he has been teaching lessons for four years. Matthew is available to teach in-person lessons as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Matt here!

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piano lessons

10 Things That’ll Happen When Your Child Begins Piano Lessons

piano lessons

Are you considering enrolling your child in piano lessons? In this week’s guest post, our friend Doreen Hall from Piano Parents lists 10 reasons why your child should start piano lessons…

I have taught hundreds of piano students over the course of my 30-year teaching career. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the positive impact that piano lessons have on kids.

If you’re considering piano lessons for your child, here are 10 great things that you can expect to see as your child moves forward on his or her musical journey.

Research shows that children who study music do better on standardized testing and in school overall. After all, music and math are very much intertwined.

2

Practicing every day teaches kids discipline as well as patience. Oftentimes, the disciple it takes to learn the piano spills over into other areas like school and other extracurricular activities.

3

Learning to accept constructive criticism will help your child build self-confidence. What’s more, being able to do something special, like playing the piano, helps kids feel good about themselves.

4

Of course, participating in piano recitals and concerts helps kids feel less self-conscious. However, talking one-on-one with a teacher also helps children feel better about speaking with others.

5

A great deal of my students make friends with one another. Your child will also make friends with other music students by playing in groups, accompanying other music students, or just having fun singing with friends.

6

Studying music makes kids into musicians. This applies to all areas of music, not just the piano. Almost all of my piano students participate in band, orchestra, chorus, or musical theater.

7

Reading music is a skill most people don’t have. People who can read the treble and bass clefs required for piano playing can read music for almost any instrument.

8

TV and video games are fun for kids, but playing the piano is much better for young minds.

9

Concentration is something one must build. At first, your child may only be able to concentrate for 10 minutes, but as he or she advances and the music becomes more difficult he or she will learn to concentrate for an hour or more at a time.

10

It is a well-known fact that playing music reduces stress. What a great positive way to deal with life’s difficult moments.

Piano lessons are great for children. There are so many benefits to learning the piano from developing life skills to creating a lifetime of memories. If you’re a piano parent congratulations, you are giving your child a wonderful gift!

Photo by Miki Yoshihito

Guest Post Author: Doreen Hall
Doreen Hall is the creator of Piano Parents, a website that provides support and encouragement to the parents of piano students. Doreen lives in West Palm Beach, Florida where she is a piano teacher, composer, and freelance musician. She is also the creator of Paloma Piano, a website featuring reproducible piano music for students. 

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Play Like the Pros: 5 Techniques You Can Learn From Famous Violinists

famous violinists

Don’t just watch your favorite famous violinists, learn from them! Here, music instructor Julie P. shows you the violin techniques you can learn from watching famous violinists…

You have probably seen videos of famous violinists on YouTube and various violin blogs. In fact, these videos may have inspired you to pick up a violin and take lessons.

Want to know the best part?

While these videos are inspiring and entertaining, they’re also educational. You can learn important violin techniques by watching the masters at work!

So grab your violin and your computer, and get ready to watch and learn. Here’s what you can pick up from five famous violinists.


Lindsay Stirling

Stage Presence

Lindsay Stirling is a talented violinist who enjoys her craft and adds her own style.

The famous female violinist combines playing with acting, dancing, and storytelling. The result is a pop-infused violin party.

Her performances are great examples of stage presence and how to enjoy playing the violin. Lindsey is an inspiration to dance to the beat of your own drum and make you dreams come true!


Mark O’Connor

Fast Bowing

Want to learn how to bow super fast? Mark O’Connor shows you how it’s done in this video of “Orange Blossom Special.”

He plays 16th notes at  breakneck speeds with incredible bow technique. Watch his right arm work as one unit, supporting his bow hand.

Also, notice how his right-hand fingers stay relaxed and don’t tense up. His playing is efficient, with no wasted movements.

Want to improve your finger strength? Try these exercises!


David Oistrakh

Projecting Your Sound

In this video, David Oistrakh plays the Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto,” and has no problem projecting over the orchestra.

Watch how he uses his entire bow and a fast bow speed to create more sound. Even on shorter notes, he uses a lot of the bow length to create his enormous sound. His right hand is sometimes just a blur!

His bowing engages his whole arm, which allows him to bow with speed and power without taxing his bow hand.


Taylor Davis

Creativity / Brand

For you aspiring violinists, the internet is full of potential fans, if you can find the right way to engage them. Another famous female violinist, Taylor Davis, has made her mark with a YouTube channel full of videos of her performing video game and movie music.

The millions of views have allowed her to release multiple albums and go on tour. Taylor loves playing this music, so she used her creativity to build a full brand around it.

In this video, she plays music from Pirates of the Caribbean, you can see how she has crafted a full video experience with costuming, staging, and a dynamic accompaniment.

You can learn even more about Taylor in this Q&A she did for us at TakeLessons!


Jerusalem Quartet

Communication

Watching string quartets, like the Jerusalem Quartet, is great a great way to learn about communication between musicians, which is important if you want to play with other performers or in an orchestra.

In this video, notice how the Jerusalem Quartet moves to the music, look up at each other, and gesture at various points in the music.

Solid communication will help you have a smooth performance!


The more you watch famous violinists, the more you will learn. When you find a video you like, watch it several times; you’ll notice new violin techniques each time.

Besides videos and lessons, there are lots of helpful violin resources available online. Take advantage of these materials and use them to boost your violin skills!

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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violin bow hold

Product Review: Master Your Violin Bow Hold With Bow Hold Buddies

violin bow hold

Are you struggling with your violin bow hold? While it’s one of the most important aspects of your technique, it can be a challenge for new violin players. Here, violin teacher Naomi Cherie S. reviews Bow Hold Buddies, a product designed to improve your violin bow hold..

If you’re a beginner or you’re having trouble with your violin bow hold, I recommend checking out a product I recently heard about called Bow Hold Buddies.

proper violin bow hold is essential to your foundation as a budding player. Holding the bow in a very specific, time-tested way will impact the quality of the tone you produce.

The proper violin bow hold can also be one of the hardest feats for a beginner to accomplish, as it requires a very specific set of muscles and hand positioning.

With practice and exercise, students can usually pick it up within a few months, but some students, especially young children, have a harder time than others.


Bow Hold Buddies

violin bow hold

Image courtesy Things4Strings

Enter Bow Hold Buddies, a unique device that fits on your bow and guides your hand into place for the perfect violin bow hold. Ruth Brons created Bow Hold Buddies to help her beginner violin students.

“My beginners love getting off to a quick start and I  value optimizing lesson time,” Brons says. “Because I do not have to correct the bow hold multiple times in each lesson, which is both time consuming and frustrating, students are able to move through and master those first couple of method books so much more quickly and easily.”

I got the chance to test the Bow Hold Buddies product myself, and I even tried it out with some of my students. Read on to see the results!


The Results

Installation

The Bow Hold Buddies device is fairly easy to install and use.

I was a little unsure at first when reading the pictogram on the instructions, so I definitely recommend watching the short video where the creator explains exactly how to use the product.

Bow Hold Buddies are lightweight, smart, and cute. They come in animal shapes including a frog, a fish, and an elephant, which makes them perfect for kids and adults, and the adjustable design can adapt to any hand size.

How it Works

violin bow hold

While there are several exercises you can do to improve your violin bow hold, this device eliminates confusion and shows you exactly where to place your fingers.

Since it covers most of the areas where your fingers shouldn’t be, your fingers will easily to slip into place in the right spots!

As one of my adult students said, “Now I can see everything I was doing wrong before. It’s almost as if you can’t put your fingers in the wrong spots.”

See Also: Violin Bow Hold for Beginners


Conclusion

All in all, I’d recommend this product to anyone who’s just starting out, but like any DIY or commercial violin training device, only as a temporary tool.

Bow Hold Buddies are kind of like training wheels on a bike: they will help you get started, but you shouldn’t use them forever.

Having even the slightest bit of extra weight on the bow can reduce your control and overall tone quality. Therefore, while I highly recommend this product, I suggest you use it until your hand adjusts and you can keep your violin bow hold in place without struggling.

I’d also suggest alternating between playing with the device and playing without it. For instance, try practicing with the Bow Hold Buddies for 20 minutes, then take them off and see how you do.

When you practice on your own, watch closely, and take note of how your muscle memory is working and improving a little bit each time you practice.

For even more ways to improve your violin bow hold, try these exercises!

Props to Things4Strings for their creativity and ingenuity on this product! I definitely haven’t seen anything else like it. Make sure to check out the other useful tools for cello and violin at Things4Strings.

If you’re struggling with your violin bow hold, make sure to ask your violin teacher for help! 

Post Author: Naomi Cherie S.
Naomi teaches violin in Austin, TX. She is a classically trained violinist with over 20 years of experience and a diverse musical background. Learn more about Naomi Cherie S. here.

Image courtesy joeannenah

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Video: vocal exercises to increase range

Video: Vocal Exercises to Increase Your Range | Singing Tips

Singers, ready to reach those high (or low!) notes? In this video, teacher Arlys A. demonstrates some easy vocal exercises to use as you work on increasing your range.

Vocal Exercises to Increase Your Range

Try incorporating these exercises into your practice routine:

  1. Lip bubbles or lip trills
  2. The “oooh” slides

From there, work with your voice teacher to find songs at the right level for you. It’s crucial to find the balance of challenging yourself, but not straining your voice!

Here’s an idea of what your voice teacher may work with you on:

  • Discovering your current vocal range is our first step.
  • You should then discover your weak spots – where your voice sounds weak, where you have trouble, and where you need help. After this we can then start to increase your vocal range.
  • Here, you’ll learn tips and suggestions on how to sing lower or higher – depending on what you want. Lessons will vary here, as each student is different.
  • Lastly, you’ll learn how to bridge your voices together so there is no gap between them.

Not sure of your current vocal range? We love this video, which you can follow along with to determine your vocal range:


Make sure to stand up straight and fully support your voice as you’re working on these exercises, too. Posture can make all the difference!

Additional Resources About Increasing Vocal Range

Want to learn more? Check out our live, online singing classes taught by Arlys and other awesome singing teachers!

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