How to Read Body Language: Examples from Around the World

how to read body language

If you want to make a great first impression no matter where you are, learning how to read body language is key. And while you may be familiar with the customs and nonverbal cues of your own culture, traveling abroad is a different story.

Different cultures have their own interpretations of body language. For example, direct eye contact may be expected in one country, but be inappropriate in another.

Some other important nonverbal cues to pay attention to are hand gestures, personal space, and even posture. Included below are some helpful tips on how to read body language, as well as a few examples of body language from around the world.  

5 Tips on How to Read Body Language

1. Proximity

Paying attention to how close someone stands to others during conversation is vital. If you stand too close to someone, it might be a sign of aggression in their culture. On the other hand, if you stand too far away, it might come across as insincere.

In Japan, it’s common to have more of a distance between others. One reason for this need of extra space is the bow made when greeting others.

This is quite different from Latin American cultures, which are very tactile and affectionate. When speaking with someone from a Latin American country, be prepared to stand very close to the other person.

2. Face and Eyes

Many times, observing a person’s facial expressions can tell much more than their words. Is the person looking away, or at someone else? This might mean that he or she is not fully engaged in the conversation.

Direct eye contact on the other hand is typically a sign of genuine interest. Another sign of sincerity is a smile that involves the entire face. A smile that involves just the mouth might be a forced smile.

3. Hand Gestures

Always be sure to observe the hands of whoever you’re speaking with. Are they motioning with their hands as they speak, or are their hands folded? In what context do they use certain gestures or signs?

A seemingly small gesture can have a positive meaning in one country, but a completely opposite meaning in another. In the US for example, a thumbs-up sign signals a confirmation. In the Middle East, however this same gesture is offensive!

body language examples

4. Arm and Feet Positioning

Posture is also key in understanding body language. Pay attention to how others’ arms and feet are positioned while speaking. In some cultures, folding your arms across your chest appears standoffish and even insulting.

Sitting positions are also very important. Positioning your feet to show your soles while sitting is considered very rude in most Middle Eastern countries.

5. Mirroring

Appropriate body language in a culture will usually be mirrored. So one of the most important tips on how to read body language is by merely observing the other person to see if he or she is mirroring your movements.

It’s always on the safe side to shadow what you see others doing in another culture. Over time you’ll learn to adopt that culture’s customs so you don’t stand out too much from the crowd!

Body Language Examples From Around the Globe

Check out this animated infographic with examples of how body language differs around the world. Be sure to click on each magnifying glass for more details!

Here are some more body language examples that represent the many cultural differences around the world.

Head Movement

Head movements can have very different meanings in different parts of the world. For example, in India, a side-to-side head tilt is used to confirm something. In Japan, a nod means that you have been heard, but not necessarily that there is agreement.

Eye Contact

In most Western cultures, eye contact shows that you are being attentive and interested in the speaker. Constant eye contact in Japan can make people feel incredibly awkward.

In Spanish and Arabic cultures, strong visual contact is very common between people of the same sex and not looking back is often considered disrespectful.

Nose Contact

Blowing your nose into a handkerchief is a typical action in Western cultures, but it’s considered dirty and rude to the Japanese. Tapping your nose in Italy means “watch out,” while it means that something is “confidential” in the UK.

Lips and Kisses

In the Filipino culture, the lips are used to point toward something, while Americans would use their fingers. Kisses in public are a normal way to say hello or goodbye to a loved one in some European cultures, but in Asian cultures, these gestures are considered intimate and are often left for the privacy of one’s home.

body language examples

Finger Signs

It’s important to be cautious when using finger gestures in other countries. Here are the various meanings of joining the thumb and index finger to form a ring:

  • This is positive sign in the US, meaning “OK.”
  • In France and Germany, this signals “zero” or “nothing.”
  • In Japan, this sign means “money” if you’re in a professional setting.
  • In some Mediterranean, Arabic, and Latin American countries, this gesture is an obscenity.

Proximity

Personal space varies greatly across cultures. It’s common in China for people to stand very close to one another, while Americans are accustomed to a lot of physical space. Latin American cultures are very tactile and affectionate so they also stand closer to one another.

Physical Contact

While an almost automatic response for some people, touch is very important to consider when with people from other cultures. In the British culture for example, they are more conservative with their tactile gestures. In the US, Americans are more open to handshakes and hugs.

Other countries where it may be considered rude to touch others include:

  • Japan
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Scandinavia

Some countries where it’s generally okay to touch the other speaker include:

  • Turkey
  • France
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • Spain

Learning how to read body language can truly enhance any cultural or travel experience. If you’re interested in learning more, studying a foreign language is another excellent way to gain insight into communication styles that differ from your own.

Check out TakeLessons to learn the language of your choice and be introduced to its culture by a native speaker. Or join an online language class today for free!

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL in Jacksonville, Florida. She has a Bachelors in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and over five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

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The Single Most Important Tip for How to Sing Acapella

how to sing acapella

Want to learn how to sing acapella? You’re not alone! From the contemporary acapella group Pentatonix, to smash films like Pitch Perfect and televised singing competitions, singing acapella has become more popular than ever this year.

Singing acapella is a true test for the singer to demonstrate their sense of musicianship, tonality, intonation, ear training, and sight reading. Being able to sing acapella also puts the singer at an advantage for securing jobs as a performer.

Whether you want to join a choir, glee club, or barbershop quartet, this article will help you learn the most vital tip for how to sing acapella.

#1 Tip for How to Sing Acapella

Ear training is the single most important tip for how to sing acapella. What is ear training you ask? Being able to recognize pitch, tone color, and rhythms by hearing, and then demonstrating that through singing.

The official definition from Webster Dictionary is: “training to improve musical perception that generally includes solfège, sight singing, and musical dictation.”

Don’t be intimidated! Ear training is not as scary as it sounds. Below, we’ll share a simple exercise to get you on the right track in developing your listening skills.

The Most Effective Ear Training Exercise

To get started, pick a few standard, traditional songs – something from the American songbook such as “Amazing Grace” or “God Bless America,” that everyone is familiar with. Next, listen to a professional recording of the song.

[If you play an instrument, learn to play the melody of the song. It’s okay if you need to look at the sheet music or lyrics – this does not need to be memorized right away.]

Once you feel confident acapella singing the melody of the song, start to double-check yourself. Sing one note at a time, and then compare it to the recording.

If you’re playing along with a piano or guitar, check your pitch against it. If you did not hit the correct note, simply try again until you can sing the correct pitch.

how to sing acapella

This process does take time, and it shouldn’t be rushed. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hit the right note the first time; it takes practice!

Once you’ve mastered note-by-note checking, try acapella singing the whole song from start to finish. Record yourself doing this so you can spot areas that still need some improvement.

If the notes you sang sound the same as the original melody – congrats, you’re training your ear! If they sounded quite different, focus back on that melody again, and go over it pitch by pitch.

You should also compare your last note to the last note of the recording, to make sure you stayed on track.

You can repeat this exercise as many times as you need to with as many different songs as you like. You can also watch video tutorials like this one, that help you learn to identify and remember the individual notes in a song –


The more practice you get at ear training, the faster you will learn how to sing acapella!

More Ways to Perfect Your Acapella Singing

Being able to recognize if your singing is off pitch, flat, or sharp is ear training in itself. To further sharpen these necessary skills for acapella, listen to a range of very good singers and then, some not-so-good singers. Look for the difference in their pitch, intonation, and tonality.

If you’re unable to tell the difference of hearing pitches, and every note sounds the same to you, you may require some additional ear training methods.

Here are a few excellent apps that will help you learn while on-the-go:

You can also try singing while you play scales or singing intervals to perfect your sound. If you’re a more advanced musician, try composing without the use of an instrument or transcribing your favorite song.

Every professional singer should have a few songs in their repertoire that they can sing acapella. You never know when your next audition may be, and you can’t always expect a musician or CD player to accompany you at your auditions.

If you need some additional guidance learning how to sing acapella, consider lessons from a vocal instructor to broaden your skillset. A vocal teacher can guide you through the process of ear training at a pace that’s comfortable for you. Good luck, and enjoy learning the art of acapella!

LizT
Post Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing and acting lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal Performance and she currently performs all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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5 Little-Known Factors That Affect Your Piano Posture

correct piano posture

Proper piano posture: the words alone are enough to make any pianist wince, straighten up, and make every effort to maintain it, at least for a few minutes.

You may not realize that when you’re playing the piano, your posture is a key factor in your technique and whether or not you feel at ease practicing the instrument.

Because practicing is a repetitive activity, it’s important to do it well. Otherwise, you risk reinforcing bad habits through repetition. If you struggle with maintaining proper piano posture over time, it could lead to pain and injury.

When your body is in an optimal relationship to the bench, the ground, the pedals, and the keys, you develop ways of executing challenging passages with coordination, skill, and grace without as much effort. Let’s take a look at how to improve our piano posture.

5 Factors That Affect Piano Posture

Slumping at the piano is an obvious no-no, but there are a few additional factors that you probably haven’t considered relevant to your piano posture.

Recognizing these factors and making adjustments can create a significant difference in feeling poised and comfortable at the piano. The best part is, these changes are all very easy to implement into your routine!

1. Your Bench

The first culprit to proper piano posture is often your bench (or lack thereof). The bench is the last thing someone considers when buying a piano or keyboard. You may not even have a bench at all!

Remember that the bench is an integral part of the piano, and it’s important to find one that’s a good fit for you. A good option for many people is an adjustable bench, which you can tailor to any player’s height. This ensures that your hand and wrist positioning are correct, so that you can make a good tactile connection to the piano and avoid repetitive stress injuries.

Your bench is also a source of stability.

Your sitting-bones (at the bottom of your pelvis) give you strength to play forcefully when needed. Standing up while playing is particularly hazardous, since you’re forced to look down at the piano and bend your arms at an awkward angle to reach the keys.

One other common problem is using a chair instead of a bench. While not the worst option, this can also negatively affect your posture, particularly if you have a tendency to recline into the backrest while playing. As you can see, your bench can make a big difference in your ability to stabilize, connect to the piano, and draw the music from your whole body, not just your hands.

2. Practice Session Length

Another critical factor that’s often missed when thinking about correct piano posture is how long you’ve been seated. Playing for extra long periods of time can wreck anyone’s posture, even those who started with good posture at the beginning of the practice session.

This is especially true for beginners, since the amount of concentration needed to execute your playing makes it challenging to also dedicate attention to your posture.

At the end of a long practice session, you might find yourself over-focused at the piano, with your neck drawn forward to your music and your spine collapsed. Luckily, this hidden factor in piano posture is easily fixed.

Take frequent breaks, set a timer if needed, and build up to longer playing times as your body adjusts and forms good habits.

3. Not Using a Footstool

This next surprising pitfall is particularly key for children and shorter adults at the piano. Are your legs dangling from the piano bench? This is a big red flag! Just like the bench helps you to stabilize your body, so does the ground.

If you’re not touching the ground, you’re losing a place to release your weight into while maintaining an upright posture.

Being upright at the piano actually starts from the ground, and an adjustable footrest is an excellent solution.

Not using a footstool when it’s needed means you’ll be putting a lot of effort and strain into your upper body. You may even find that your legs are tense, as you can get into the habit of holding them up while they dangle in the air.

4. Lack of Exercise

Another factor you may not have considered actually happens outside of piano practice. Have you ever thought about physical fitness as a part of maintaining good posture at the piano?

Playing the piano is an endurance sport of your small muscles, as well as your spine and upper body.

Exercising allows you to release any tension from your practice session and encourage circulation.

Another reason to exercise outside of your piano practice goes back to the idea of repetition. Since you’re exercising certain muscles repeatedly at the piano, it’s important to vary your workout so you can avoid tension from over-strengthening certain muscles.

5. Your Position on the Bench

Lastly, it’s important to take a few minutes to notice how you’re sitting on the bench. A big factor in correct piano posture is to make sure you don’t just have the right equipment, but that you’re also using it well.

If you’re sitting too far back on the bench, this can have a detrimental effect on your posture.

Why? Just like you don’t want to be collapsed forward and leaning too far into the piano, it’s equally important not to lean back and over-straighten your arms.

This position strains your connection to the keys and causes too much effort to maintain your posture. It also throws off the positioning of your head, as your head may crane forward to compensate for your backwards stance. Yikes!

Final Tips & Tricks

Now that you’ve seen some sneaky causes of bad piano posture, here are a few tips that will help you reduce strain in the future. With these tips, you’ll feel better and look effortlessly graceful at the piano, too!

  • For pianists who feel that the weight of the music lies in their shoulders, try to release your upper body weight into the bench, so your shoulders can release and widen.
  • You can do the same with your feet by allowing them to release into the ground, so your legs feel free instead of tense.
  • Allow your head to rest easily on top of your spine and try to avoid pulling your neck forward, toward the music.
  • Let your eyes view the music with a wide, easy gaze so the muscles of your head and neck can release.

Having correct piano posture is very important, and if you feel like you need some more attention in this area, a qualified piano teacher can help you overcome these challenges and improve your technique.

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4 Easy Drum Songs for Beginners

Easy drum songs for beginners

It’s well-known that learning a musical instrument can enhance creativity, coordination, and overall happiness. The drums are a popular choice for their rhythmic sound and the tempo they give to group music.

But while it might be nice to be able to play like Keith Moon from “The Who” right away, you’re going to need to practice first in order to learn how to play the drums that well!

If you’re just beginning, one of the best ways to establish a foundation is to learn songs that are good for practicing beginner drum techniques. Learning the easy drum songs for beginners on this list will help you master some rudiments and get used to song structure!

4 Easy Drum Songs for Beginners

1. “Run to the Hills” – Iron Maiden

The speed of Clive Burr’s epic drums might make you think that this is a hard song to learn.

However, while learning to play as fast as the great Clive Burr can take time, “Run to the Hills” is quite simple to play because it features the rudiment that every beginner should first learn: the single stroke roll.

To play this sticking pattern, alternate strokes between the left and right drumsticks. Start out slowly, then go faster once you start to get the hang of it. Use a metronome to help with your tempo.

Relax your shoulders and wrists. Learning this is fun, because you’ll sweat as you try to speed up and perfect your single stroke roll.

2. “Beverly Hills” – Weezer

Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” features simple patterns and slow-paced drumming, making it a great song for new drummers who love alternative rock.

This hit from 2005 is a wonderful song for applying another important rudiment, the double stroke roll (especially on the hi-hat for this song), which consists of alternating double strokes with the right and left hand.

While learning this song start out at a manageable speed, and make sure to watch your stick height. When practicing the double stroke, you may find that having an instructor’s guidance is the best way to polish your technique and increase your speed.

3. “Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry

The Katy Perry hit “Teenage Dream” is another one of the best easy drum songs to learn because of its simple pattern. This song is great for practicing the flam on the snare drum, which is yet another rudiment to know. It’s used to thicken the notes by adding a grace note.

To do this, place one drumstick a few inches higher than the drum and the other one eight to ten inches higher. When you play, these two strokes should be nearly simultaneous.

The higher drum stick thickens the note when it hits. Once you can play the drum flam right, you’ll feel like a true pop star as you jam to this song!

4. “Cantaloupe Island” – Herbie Hancock

One of Herbie Hancock’s all-time best songs, “Cantaloupe Island” maintains a slow and groovy tempo throughout much of the song, which makes it a manageable piece for beginners.

Any jazz aficionado knows about Herbie Hancock’s truly exceptional drummer, Tony Williams. If you want to be a jazz drummer and play like Williams, there are few better songs to learn than “Cantaloupe Island”.

With an easy tempo, “Cantaloupe Island” won’t feel like it’s too fast after some practice. This iconic jazz song calls beginners to learn the buzz roll, something that’s very popular in big band and jazz music.

This multiple bounce technique is great for crescendos and is best played at a smooth, medium-paced tempo. It’s important that the sound stays even between the two drumsticks. While playing buzz rolls, alternate hands after roughly three strokes and keep the drumsticks very low.

Final Tips!

Are you ready to pick up the drum sticks now? The key is to first study the rudiments and get a basic grasp of them, as these are the building blocks for playing drums. Once you start getting some rhythm, you’ll be hooked on playing the drums and improving your skills.

Looking for a few more things to play? Check out our ultimate list of drum songs!

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Photo By: j.sutt

The 10 Best Guitar Brands for Acoustic & Electric Players

best guitar brands

Many beginning guitarists ask the same question: which are the best guitar brands? Is there a particular brand that outshines the others?

Finding the best guitar really comes down to your interests and determining the type of music you want to learn. Although the material you’ll learn for electric, classical, and acoustic is very similar up front, certain guitars are more appropriate for specific genres of music.

In this article, we’ll dive into several top guitar brands to help you decide which guitar is right for you, no matter your style.

Top 10 Best Guitar Brands

Most guitar brands offer a variety of different types of guitars. However, each company is most likely known for a particular style. Here are some of the best guitar brands to get you started!

Best Acoustic Guitar Brands

Taylor


Taylor is a brand known for high quality instruments and well-defined tone. They have been building guitars since 1974. Many of their top-end guitars are made in the United States, while cheaper Taylor models are made in Mexico.

While Taylor guitars are very nice, this particular brand comes with a fairly hefty price tag to match. If you’re ready to invest in your first long-term acoustic guitar, then this is an excellent option!

Breedlove


Breedlove is a lesser-known guitar brand that emerged just a few years ago. Their acoustic guitars offer a great sound, while their process for sourcing materials and testing for quality is a key aspect that sets them apart from larger companies. Instead of mass producing factory-made guitars, every Breedlove guitar is unique in its own way.

The Passport Dreadnought Mahogany guitar has become one of Breedlove’s most popular models because of the rich tone produced by its dark wood. You can see in the video above how the Breedlove style truly sets them apart from the rest of the industry.

Yamaha


You may know them for their motor division, but Yamaha was originally founded as a music company. They began with pianos and after being successful in that market, they built their guitar brand. Today, they’ve been building guitars for over 50 years and are still going strong.

Yamaha manufactures guitars that start in a very reasonable price range and end in the upper levels of the atmosphere. If you’re looking for variety, look no further. The various types of guitars that Yamaha offers have consistently good reviews and are great for all occasions.

Martin


If you have spent any time in the guitar world, you’ve definitely heard of Martin. They have been one of the top guitar brands, in the acoustic space, far longer than anyone else. In fact, they’ve been building guitars since the 1830s!

Many of Martin’s antique models have sold for thousands of dollars, even with some damage. Martin guitars have always been lauded for their perfect tone and comfortable feel. These guitars will definitely require more of an investment to purchase, but they are well worth the cost in the long run.

Arcadia


On the other side of the spectrum from Martin, Arcadia is a company that makes very good beginner guitars. Their focus is on providing you or your child with an affordable guitar to begin learning.

Their models range from the DL41 (a full-size acoustic guitar) to the DL36 (a ½ size guitar). These guitars are very affordable and can be purchased for $100 or less on Amazon.

Eventually, you will want to upgrade to one of the other top guitar brands on this list. However, if you’re just starting out on the instrument, Arcadia is a good way to go! Check out the DL41 in the clip above.

Best Electric Guitar Brands

Fender


Fender is a guitar brand that has risen to legendary status in the electric marketplace. While they are primarily known for their Telecasters and Stratocasters, they also offer some unique solutions for the acoustic guitar player as well.

Of the Fender electric guitars, the Stratocaster is a fan favorite. If you’re looking for a dirty blues sound like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix, you can’t get anything better than a Strat!

Gibson


Because of their unique innovations like dual-coil pickups, the Gibson sound has developed into one of the most recognizable tones available. This is one of the many reasons Gibson made our list of top guitar brands. 

The Gibson Les Paul is probably one of the most iconic guitars to emerge during the rock era. If you prefer the modern rock sound of Slash and his peers, then the Gibson Les Paul is the way to go! The only big drawback of Gibson guitars, for most beginners, is their price tag.

Epiphone


If you would like a Gibson-esque sound but are just starting out on the guitar, you need to check out Epiphone, a company that is owned by Gibson.

Their guitars follow many of the same processes as the traditional US-made instruments, however they are made overseas. This allows them to sell at a much more budget-friendly price.

Ibanez


For all the shredders out there, Ibanez is the perfect fit for you! Players like Joe Satriani, Paul Stanley, and Steve Vai all use Ibanez guitars because of their unmatched hard-rock capabilities. Along with a Floyd Rose tremolo system, Ibanez electric guitars give you the ability to do things other guitar brands simply do not.

In some ways they are a cross between Gibson and Fender. They have a similar body style to a Stratocaster while using the dual-coil pickups of a Les Paul. These guitars are primarily for rocking out and testing the limits of guitar engineering. If you want to shred with the best, go ahead and try one!

Jackson


Jackson is another brand that has re-interpreted the nature of guitar music. This is a brand you will rarely find outside of the metal and rock genres. Their guitars are designed to sound great with heavy distortion or on a clean channel.

If you want to play modern rock, a Jackson guitar is a great choice. Famous for their Floyd Rose Tremolo system, they offer guitars that range from $199 to $1,299 so there is something for everyone.

Ready to Start Playing?

Hopefully you found this list of the best guitar brands helpful. By now you know where to shop for guitars, but have you found a place to advance your playing skills? TakeLessons offers private, one-on-one guitar lessons with experienced and qualified teachers.

If you’re not ready to purchase private lessons yet, check out the free online guitar classes at Takelessons Live. At no cost, you can join a group of like-minded learners and begin taking classes on your own schedule.

Did we leave any notable guitar brands off this list? Let us know who you’d add in a comment below!

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