types of ukuleles

Types of Ukuleles: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

types of ukuleles

Whether you want to buy your first ukulele or upgrade to a new instrument, there are several different types of ukuleles to choose from. Here, ukulele teacher Michael L. introduces you to the different types of ukuleles so you can make the best decision for your goals and your budget…

When you’re shopping for a ukulele (for yourself or your child), it’s important to know the different types of ukuleles so you can find the right fit for you. There are several different types of ukuleles; they come in different sizes, pitch ranges, and distinct styles, which gives them each a different sound.

If you feel overwhelmed by all the different options, don’t worry, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about the different types of ukuleles.


Ukulele Sizes

The first question you should ask yourself is: “what size ukulele do I want?” Traditionally, ukuleles comes in four sizes (also known as voices): soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.

Soprano Ukulele

types of ukuleles

Image courtesy Musician’s Friend

The soprano ukulele is the smallest, and the most common ukulele. The lightweight size makes them ideal for children with smaller hands.

If you have a young student who wants to take ukulele lessons, this may be the ideal ukulele for you. Soprano ukuleles are also generally less expensive than the larger-sized ukuleles.

Concert Ukulele

types of ukuleles

Image courtesy Guitar Center

The concert, or alto ukulele, is the next size up from the soprano. The main difference between the concert size and the soprano size is the length and width of the neck (concert ukuleles have a wider neck). You can tune both ukuleles the same way.

If you or your child need a ukulele that’s a little bit larger than a soprano, but still in the same general price range, you may want to consider a concert ukulele.

Tenor Ukulele

types of ukuleles

Image courtesy Martin Guitar

The tenor ukulele has a warm tone, in comparison to its two smaller counterparts. Some uke players prefer the tenor size for the rounder, more bass-y tone.

Tenor ukuleles are generally a little more expensive than concert and soprano ukes, but if you have a background with guitar, you may prefer the tenor ukulele due to its larger body.

Baritone Ukulele

types of ukuleles

Image courtesy Ukulele tricks

Moving up in size, the baritone ukulele is larger and has a deeper, darker sound. The baritone ukulele is generally tuned lower than other ukuleles. The four strings are usually tuned the same as the lower four strings of a guitar.

If you’re an adult switching from guitar to ukulele, you may want to try the baritone.

Bass Ukulele

types of ukuleles

In the last few years, a new size ukulele has been developed: bass ukulele. These are bigger than the baritone, but they can only be heard through a pickup, which adds more power to your sound. Most bass ukuleles are sold with pre-installed pickups.

Bass ukuleles have the same tuning as electric ukes (see below), but they’re much shorter. It’s actually quite astounding how low they can go in pitch (for such a small instrument).

 

More Ukulele Options

When choosing an instrument, it’s also important to decide if you want an acoustic, electric, or electro-acoustic ukulele.

Acoustic Ukulele

An acoustic ukulele is a traditional ukulele, which doesn’t have to be plugged in. If you get an electric or electro-acoustic ukulele, it can be pretty fun to experiment with effect pedals as well.

Electric Ukulele

types of ukuleles

Electric ukuleles are similar to electric guitars; they don’t make much sound unless they’re plugged in, and they’re usually made with steel strings and magnetic pickups, giving you a metallic sound.

Electro-Acoustic Ukulele

An electro-acoustic ukulele is similar to a standard acoustic ukulele, but it has a pre-installed pickup, so you can plug it into an amplifier. It usually has nylon strings, like acoustic ukuleles, so it has a more traditional sound.

Banjo Ukulele

types of ukuleles

Image Courtesy Ukulele Guide

Another variety of ukulele is the banjo ukulele, or banjolele.  Instead of the traditional body of a ukulele, the banjolele is made with a small drum head on the body. The banjolele has the twang of a banjo with the light-heartedness of the ukulele.


Ukulele Brands

There are several ukulele manufacturers, and when you’re shopping for a ukulele, you should be familiar with some of the most popular brands. Let’s look at some of the most well-known brands.

Kala Ukulele

types of ukuleles

Image courtesy Kala Brand Music co

Kala is only 10 years young, but they make a wide variety of ukuleles. You can find ukuleles priced under $100, and up to several hundred dollars.

The budget ukuleles sound nice for their value and with their higher-end ukuleles, you can definitely hear the difference in the production value. They also make every size and most varieties of ukuleles.

Lanikai Ukulele

lanikai

Image courtesy Lanikai Ukuleles

 

Lanikai is a part of Hohner, a well-known, trustworthy instrument maker from Germany. In the beginning, Lanikai was only known for making cheap, introductory ukuleles. In recent years, however, they have stepped up their production value with some great sounding ukes.

If you’ve ever heard the band Beirut, then you’ve heard a Lanikai tenor ukulele in action. They also make every size and most varieties of ukulele.

Mahalo Ukulele

types of ukuleles

Image courtesy amazon

 

Mahalo ukuleles are known for their unique designs. You can get ukuleles with smiley faces, some shaped like surf boards, some shaped like Flying V electric guitars, and other quirky designs. If you prefer something more traditional, you can still find this with Mahalo.

Most of Mahalo’s ukuleles are priced for a budget, with a great sound for the price. If you’re looking for something with higher production value, you can also find a few models with Mahalo.

Makala Ukulele

makala ukulele

Image courtesy Kala Brand Music Co.

Makala ukuleles are a subsidiary of Kala. At Makala, they pride themselves on making great sounding, budget-priced ukuleles. While there is a wide variety of designs, there’s a limited amount of sizes; most Makala ukuleles are soprano sized.

Makala ukuleles sound great for their value; they’re my favorite brand of introductory ukulele.

Kamaka Ukulele

kamaka

Image courtesy Kamaka Hawaii

Kamaka ukuleles sound magical, but if you want to buy one, be prepared to spend at least several hundred dollars for a new one. They come in a variety of sizes, but most are made in traditional styles (no banjoleles here).


As you can see, ukuleles come in several different shapes and sizes. With a little knowledge and research, you can find the right ukulele for you. I hope this helps you make sense of all the choices that are out there waiting for you!

Which type of ukulele do you use? What do you like about it? Let us know in the comments below! 

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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Video: Learn to sing online

Video: What’s it Like to Take an Online Singing Class?

Is it possible to learn to sing online? With TakeLessons Live, you can attend online group classes to improve your skills, improve your confidence, and get a taste of working with a private voice teacher!

But we get it: the idea can be pretty daunting if you’re a total beginner. What’s it like to take an online singing class, anyway? How should you prepare? We know you might have questions, so we asked singing teacher Reina M. to address some of the most common questions and concerns. Watch the video here, and read the transcription below!

Hi, my name’s Reina and I’m a TakeLessons teacher. I offer a customized, holistic approach to learning the voice during my one-on-one sessions. In addition, I have the privilege of teaching some pretty awesome group classes online using TakeLessons Live.

Online teaching is still relatively new and I get questions every day about how it works. I’d like to run through a few of the more common questions I get, and show you what to expect when you sign up for a class.

So let’s get started with the number one question…

What are the pros and cons to online classes versus in-person?

The pros are that there’s a lot of personal space, so sometimes if you’re a new singer, it can be kind of intimidating to sing in front of your teachers. Having that technological barrier can be super helpful, just making it more comfortable.

Secondly, you’re more likely to show up because you can be in your jammies, it could be raining outside, and all you have to do is turn on your device.

And lastly, you can take lessons anywhere; as long as you have an internet connection and an up-to-date device, you’re good to go.

The cons would be that the teacher can’t give you a hug at the end of class and tell you what a good job you did. You can get an online high five, but it’s not the same. Sometimes there can be technical difficulties so it’s really important to test your internet strength and to use the most up-to-date device that you have.

What are the pros and cons to group classes versus private?

The pros are that you’re not alone. It’s really nice to know that other people can be on this journey with you, and it’s way cheaper [than private lessons].

The cons are that the classes are not customized, so if you’re a level that’s higher or lower than the class is designed for, you may find yourself either wandering off because you get a little bit bored, or you could get frustrated because it’s just a lot of information at one time.

Secondly, you can’t cover as much information just because it is geared towards the general populace of the class and it’s not one-on-one.

What types of students attend online classes?

All types! I get young students, old students, beginner students, advanced students, hobby singers, and professionals. The classes are all-inclusive, they’re open to anyone that wants to learn, and every class is different.

What types of students excel in online group classes?

This answer is really easy: it’s the type of student that practices. Group classes, and all music lessons for that matter, are intended to help you practice on your own. You’re not going to get good in one hour, a week,  or two 30-minute lessons a week. The type of student that excels in group classes is the type of student that can take notes, asks questions, and practices the information and techniques that they’ve learned.

What will I learn by taking online group classes?

Each group class has a different focus. Some of the classes are geared towards beginners and they might focus on basic techniques. Other classes might be more intermediate or advanced, and they’re going to focus on more difficult techniques. So be sure to read the descriptions for each class that’s offered and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Can I actually get better by taking online group classes?

Yes, absolutely! I have noticed no difference in growth or technique retention between my online students versus my in-studio students. If you continue to show up and you practice, you’re going to see growth; easy as that!

Do I need to have anything prepared?

Most of the time, you’re not going to need anything beyond a pen and paper for taking notes, and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated, but be sure to read the descriptions carefully. There are a few classes that may have special requirements.

Will I need to sing in front of the class?

Well, this depends. The teacher is never going to force you to sing if you’re not comfortable, but there are classes, like the audition prep class, where it’s just not going to be as helpful to you if the teacher can’t hear where you’re at and what you’re doing as you’re singing your song.

Some of the more intro classes are more information-based and singing live isn’t even a part of the class. If you have a specific question or concern you can always log onto the class early and speak with the teacher in the little chat box, and just let them know a little bit about yourself.

If I could offer one piece of advice what would it be?

This is the easiest question by far and the answer is it’s that you can sing. Don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise, not even yourself!

The voice instrument takes practice and patience, just like any other instrument, and if you apply yourself and work diligently, you can master your voice.

Group classes are a great way to learn. They awaken your excitement for a new skill, and they can deepen your  appreciation for singing. I definitely recommend signing up for an online group class today through TakeLessons Live. Cheers and congrats on your new journey!

Ready to learn to sing online? Check out our online group classes for free today!

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christina-aguilera

Why Taking Voice Lessons from Christina Aguilera is a Bad Idea

christina-aguilera

Can you learn to sing through videos, like the ones advertised with Christina Aguilera? Read on for voice teacher Elaina R.‘s thoughts… 

Have you seen the online ads offering a voice lesson course taught by Christina Aguilera? Promos for the course have inundated many Facebook feeds, and since I know many professional singers and voice teachers, I’ve been able to watch them react to the ads. Most voice teachers have been amused, terrified, or both by the prospect of people learning how to sing from Ms. Aguilera.

Why are the degree-holding vocalists of the world not on board with Christina Aguilera teaching voice? She is, after all, a six-time Grammy Award winner with an estimated net worth of $130 million. Are we just jealous? The short answer is no! We are truly concerned for voice students who turn to Christina Aguilera for advice, and here’s why.

Talent Does Not a Teacher Make

You are likely an expert chewer. You chew food many times a day, and you have done so for your entire life. One could argue that you are a talented chewer, even. But what if someone who didn’t know how to chew asked you to teach them to chew? You would likely have to think long and hard about your process. In the end, the best answer many people would be able to come up with is, “You just do it.”

Christina Aguilera is a gifted singer. She has a good voice and natural musicality, and her performances often reflect that. However, her innate ability to sing and the fact that she was born with a good singing voice do not mean she knows how to teach singing. As any teacher will tell you, teaching is in and of itself a skill, and it isn’t one that Christina, with her flourishing artistic and television career on top of parental duties, has had any time to curate.

Modern Pop Technique

In addition, Christina Aguilera is a pop singer who specializes in belting (high chest voice). Belting is an extremely taxing form of singing that, when done wrong, can produce disastrous results. Not only does bad belting sound horrible, but it can rapidly destroy your voice.

The vast majority of voice teachers are university trained, which almost always means they have a foundation in classical vocal technique. While classical singing sounds very different than belting, the same rules (breath support, throat relaxation, resonance) apply.

Learning proper vocal technique through classical pieces — or at least less taxing pop pieces — greatly reduces the chance of vocal injury. If learning to sing with low-impact music is like light strength training, trying to skip to belting is like immediately attempting a 300-pound deadlift. It’s just plain unhealthy.

Knowledge is Power

Frankly, the most famous pop singers in the world today usually have no idea what they are doing. Christina Aguilera was blessed with a fair amount of natural ability, but as many of her performances exhibit, she falls prey to many of the same issues that beginning voice students have.

She often suffers from jaw, neck, and tongue tension, resulting in a pressed, flat, raspy sound (and sometimes cracking). Even pop singers who do not have these issues are just vastly talented people who can’t teach anyone how they do what they do.

Professional voice teachers, on the other hand, are a different breed. We may be talented, but we also dedicated ourselves to learning how singing works. We have studied anatomy and vocal technique in an academic setting and can describe exactly why specific faults, such as cracking and straining, occur. A good voice teacher is not just a good singer; she knows the specific details of what she is doing to sing well, and she can describe those details to her students. That’s something that even the most talented singer in the world can’t do.

Can I Learn to Sing With Other Online Videos?

Too busy for lessons, and want to just teach yourself to sing using YouTube videos or other programs? Here’s the thing — absolutely nothing can substitute the help that a private teacher can provide you.

While you can learn to sing songs and basic music theory with online resources, if you want to sing well, working with a vocal teacher is extremely important. Your teacher will be able to notice and correct bad habits that can lead to injuries or those that may be affecting your sound. Plus, the motivation and inspiration you can get from this type of guidance can make a huge difference!

Ready to find a teacher? Browse our teacher profiles here. Want to ease into learning? Check out our free, online group singing classes!

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

Photo by D.S.B

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3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Feeling Lost in Conversation? 3 Helpful Tips for Language Learners

3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Whether you’re practicing conversational French, Spanish, or another language, chatting with a native speaker can be daunting. Here, language tutor Jinky B. shares some tips to keep in mind if you’re feeling lost…

 

Congratulations, you have been taking language classes and diligently studying all that you have learned on your own time. Now you’re ready to go out and have a conversation with a native speaker. The conversation is going well and everything is flowing when you suddenly realize that, well, you’re lost! You feel as though you’re hearing a completely foreign language.

First of all, breathe! Here are three things you can do when you are starting to feel like you’re at your first language lesson, unable to understand anything the other person is saying.

1. Listen for context clues.

Think about what you are finding difficult to understand. Is it a single word? Is it a whole phrase?

Some languages are filled with homophones, words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. Once you hone in on that, think about the context of the conversation. If you’re talking about weekend plans to go to a picnic, think through everything else that was said prior to the misunderstanding.

  • In French, la mer (the sea) and la mère (the mother) sound nearly exactly the same. Think about whether the speaker is talking about a trip to the beach or describing his family.

If it’s an entire phrase, it might be an idiom, one that is more common knowledge to the native speaker so it might not make sense to a language learner.

  • In French, the idiomatic expression Il pleut des cordes does not actually mean that it’s raining rope, but that it’s raining a lot.

Regardless of whether it’s a word or an entire phrase, try to determine the meaning based on the conversation.

See also: French learners, take a look at these additional tips for translating French to English.

2. Ask for repetition.

When in doubt about what you have heard, ask the other speaker to repeat the word or phrase in question. Sometimes hearing the specific word might bring an epiphany to the unknown word(s). Below are some phrases in our most popular languages to ask “Repeat, please.”

Spanish: Repita por favor.
French: Répétez, s’il vous plait.
Japanese: もう一度おねがいします。 (Mōichido onegaishimasu)
Korean: 제발 반복합니다. (jebal banboghabnida)
Italian: Ripeti prego.
German. Bitte wiederholen.

repeat_please

See also: Check out additional Spanish phrases to use here

3. Relax and be honest.

Take a deep breath. Politely let the other person know that you are having trouble understanding. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you’ll find it difficult to follow and participate in the conversation.

And if you aren’t honest with your language partner, they will continue the conversation. Below are ways that you can use to indicate to the other person “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

Spanish: Lo siento, no entiendo.
French: Je suis désolé(e), je ne comprends pas.
Japanese: ごめんなさい。わかりません。(Gomen’nasai. Wakarimasen)
Korean: 죄송 해요. 이해가 안되는 데요. (joesong haeyo. ihaega andoeneun deyo)
Italian: Mi dispiace. Non capisco.
German. Es tut mir leid. Ich verstehe nicht.

im_sorry-_i_dont_understand

See also: 11 Tips for Improving Your Conversational Spanish [Infographic]


Language learning is the same across all languages. You build a foundation of vocabulary and grammar. You learn to put those words together to form sentences. You perfect your accent and comprehension skills. Then, you venture out and practice what you have learned.

Don’t stop at your first obstacle. Just relax and remember to listen for context clues, ask for repetition, and be honest with yourself. Most importantly, have fun! The best way to learn is to enjoy the process.

Want more conversational Spanish or conversational French practice? Sign up for one of our online group classes, or check out our other blog tutorials

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

Photo by Brian Roberts

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singing-too-much-vocal-health

Singing Too Much? Pro Tips To Stay Vocally Healthy

singing-too-much-vocal-health

Is there such a thing as singing too much? If you’re working on a rigorous singing schedule, check out these tips to stay vocally healthy from voice teacher Elaina R

Anyone who’s ever eaten too much at Thanksgiving dinner knows that there is definitely too much of a good thing. This applies to singing as well!

Singing, in my opinion, is one of the most enjoyable activities in the world. But just like eating too much makes you feel sick, singing too much has very real physical repercussions that can prevent you from singing more — sometimes even permanently.

As a full-time professional singer, I sing a lot. I recently had a day where I had to sing for six hours. Even so, I haven’t had any vocal health problems since I was an undergraduate. Here’s why I have to be careful and what I do to keep my cords healthy.

The Dangers of Singing Too Much

Since your vocal cords are a part of your body, singing too much has many of the same effects as overusing any other body part.

Imagine that you’ve been clapping for hours. What would happen to your hands? They would likely be red and swollen. If you kept clapping despite the swelling, your hands would eventually become very painful and develop calluses and blisters. They might even start to bleed (ouch).

This same thing can happen to your vocal cords. The first step is vocal cord swelling. If you continue to sing with swollen or strained vocal cords, you can develop nodules (calluses), polyps (blisters), or hemorrhaging (bloody cords). Treatment for these issues includes vocal rest, vocal therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery. Any of these issues, if not treated, can permanently damage your singing and speaking voice.

Vocal Health as a Singer

Strained vocal cords (and damaging your voice) may sound scary, but it can be avoided. I’m able to sing all day, every day without injury because I am constantly thinking about my vocal health. Staying healthy as a singer is much like staying healthy as an athlete, and following these rules can be the difference between a happy voice and an incapacitated one.

  • Stay Hydrated

I chug a glass of water as soon as I get up in the morning, and I carry a water bottle around with me everywhere. Hydrated vocal cords are nice and plump (and thus less prone to injury).

  • Get Enough Sleep

You don’t need me to tell you that your body functions better when you get enough sleep. Fatigue affects your vocal cords just like it affects the rest of you.

  • Exercise

Good singers have to be very in touch with their bodies, and physical exercise helps you develop kinesthetic awareness. Exercise also helps alleviate tension, especially tension associated with sitting at a desk for long periods of time. This modern tension often centers around the throat, and throat tension is terrible for singing. Shaking your body out of this rigid mode can work wonders for your singing.

  • Address Allergies and Acid Reflux

I have seasonal allergies, so I take medication and use nasal sprays to alleviate post-nasal drip. Post-nasal drip is when mucus drips onto your vocal cords, irritating them and sometimes causing vocal issues. If you have allergies, you need to be aware of this and take appropriate precautions.

I’m lucky enough not to suffer from acid reflux, but many singers do. Acid reflux bathes the vocal cords in stomach acid, which is as horrible for the voice as you would expect. Please see a doctor immediately if you think you have acid reflux.

  • Warm Up

Just like athletes stretch before vigorous exercise, singers must warm up before diving into difficult music. I warm up every morning while puttering around the house — it’s second nature now, and it means my voice is always ready to go.

The Most Important Rule for Singers

I saved the best for last here. If an athlete has poor technique (an improper gait for a runner, a bad swing for a batter), they end up injuring themselves. Same goes for singing.

If you don’t learn good vocal technique, you will probably end up in vocal therapy at some point. But if you work with your voice teacher to improve your technique, you will learn how to sing better overall. Your stamina will build and you will be less likely to hurt yourself. Now doesn’t that sound good?

Photo by Eva Rinaldi

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

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Bad at Keeping Time? 6 Rhythm Exercises for All Musicians to Try

how-to-improve-your-rhythm

Do you struggle with keeping the beat? In this post, music teacher Heather L. shares six rhythm exercises that all musicians can try…

 

When’s the last time that you heard a musician perform live, either at a concert or online, and said to yourself, “Wow, her rhythm sounds really off. But she’s a phenomenal musician!”

I can’t remember, either.

That’s because a strong rhythmic sense is essential to being that phenomenal musician we all aspire to be, and we all can be! It’s part of what distinguishes an amateur from a pro.

Bad at Rhythm? You’re Not Alone

The very thing that those pros have is something called an internal sense of rhythm, which you can hone by tapping into your natural sense of a steady pulse. It’s like your own built-in metronome! It removes the need to tap your foot or rely on a drummer, or any other external time-keeper, for that matter.

It’s important to know that “rhythm” and “timing” mean slightly different things. “Rhythm” means the regular succession of strong and weak beats, but “timing” is your ability to keep a beat by yourself, especially within a group.

Lots of musicians struggle with both rhythm and timing, often because we choose pieces that are too complex for us at that current point in our musical journeys.

So remember your three S’s: Simple, slow, steady.

Simple are the pieces that you choose while you work to improve your rhythm, slow is the tempo that you should play the pieces, and steady rhythm is what we aim for!

If you struggle with rhythm and timing, your music teacher can help you with specific exercises and pieces to practice. In the meantime, here are the rhythm exercises that I recommend to my own students.

1. Record Yourself

  • Start simply. Choose a song that you know really well (think “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), and then choose a slow tempo.
  • Record yourself playing (or singing, if your instrument is your voice) it alone, without a metronome or any backup. Recording yourself gives you immediate and valuable feedback.
  • Listen to the recording. Are you confident that a stranger could tap to your beat? Are you speeding up or slowing down?
  • Tap or clap along with the recording. Keep a tally of how many times you got off the beat or hesitated.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not that steady. Just resolve to improve. Remember, this is just another skill to be learned!

2. March to a Pulse

This rhythm exercise might be the most fun — all you need to do is perform something physical to a pulse. If you like to dance, then dance along with the beat… and if you’d rather walk your dog, then go get the leash!

Physical movement matched to a pulse is called eurhythmics. This is the idea that music should be learned through all of the senses, including your kinesthetic (physical) awareness.

It’s best to create the pulse using a metronome. If you don’t own one, install a metronome app on your smartphone. I have one called The Metronome by Soundbrenner, but you can find lots of them in the App Store or in the Google Play Store.

The following video reveals a fascinating class in which eurhythmics is demonstrated. Notice that the students are creating movements that match rhythms. This is the fundamental idea. Keep watching, and you’ll see simple walking-to-a-pulse, dancing-to-a-pulse, and even punching-to-a-pulse!

3. Tap and Count

Find a recording of your favorite song, and clap your hands together with each count as you listen to it. You can also tap your leg, your guitar or piano, or a table. When you feel comfortable, add counting. Count “one, two, three, four,” or “one, two, three” depending on the time signature. Most songs have the feeling of three or four beats in each measure. Try both and see which one fits.

Remember, if it sounds like a waltz, then it probably has three beats per measure, but if it sounds like a march, then it probably has four beats per measure. Check out a video that demonstrates this exercise here.

4. Practice Subdividing

Now that you’ve counted the basic beat of your song, you’re going to subdivide. Learning how to subdivide is the basis of establishing that internal sense of rhythm, and later, just figuring out tough rhythms!

Subdivision is the practice of dividing the beats of a song into shorter beats. For instance, if you have a song that is made up of only quarter notes, to subdivide you might count “one, and, two, and, three, and, four, and…” instead of “one, two, three, four.” By subdividing, you’ve stopped guessing how long each beat is. I call it “naming the little baby notes.”

The following video visually details this rhythm exercise, but Dan also does a great job explaining it aurally.

5. Be an Apprentice

Find a friend, a neighbor, a band, or a great teacher with TakeLessons whose sense of rhythm and timing you really admire, and then find time to play with them. They’ll probably be flattered that you think of them so highly and be happy to help!

Here’s a terrific video of jazz piano great Chick Corea explaining his tips for getting better rhythmically, and this idea of apprenticeship.

6. Play with a Metronome

Now, take that song that you recorded before, set the metronome to a slow, steady beat again, and play along. But first, feel yourself settling in, letting your kinesthetic pulse — that internal sense of rhythm — sync with what you’re hearing.

Watch this video where the metronome is demonstrated on the piano. Even if you don’t play the piano, the instructor explains so simply that it will immediately make sense on your guitar, flute, or violin, or even your voice!

It’s been said that rhythm is not a series of dots, but of circles. As long as you hit the beat really close to the perfect spot, you’re okay. In fact, as humans, we’ll never be as exact as a metronome! And that’s great, because it creates a groove.

Being just a hair behind or ahead of the beat pulls the listener in, and frankly, keeps us from sounding like robots, or some computer program that makes music. It keeps us sounding human. Being human means being imperfect. And that’s just perfect.

Readers, what other rhythm exercises have helped you improve your skills? Leave a comment and let us know!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Learn more about Heather here!

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