The Top 20 Best Jazz Pianists of All Time [Infographic]

best jazz pianists

Narrowing down a list to just 20 of the best jazz pianists isn’t easy, as there are plenty to choose from. Creative geniuses such as Art Tatum, Count Basie, and Thelonious Monk are just a few of the names that come to mind, among many other greats in jazz’s rich history.

Although most people think of trumpeters or saxophonists when they hear the word “jazz,” the piano has played a crucial role in the development of jazz theory and performance.

Acting as both a solo and ensemble jazz instrument, the piano has important contributions to make in the areas of rhythm, harmony, and style. Some even consider it the backbone of jazz ensembles – as crucial as the double bass that outlines the harmonic figures, and the trumpet that riffs and solos on the melody.

Perhaps what’s most incredible is how jazz piano has supported the evolution of jazz over the decades, from ragtime to bebop to swing and more. If you’re ready to place your finger on the lively pulse of jazz, read on for a compilation of the greatest jazz pianists, ordered by era.

The 20 Best Jazz Pianists

1. Scott Joplin


Scott Joplin’s style represents the earliest precursor of jazz, in the form of the classic ragtime. Born around 1868 in Texas, Joplin’s works inhabit a unique space where classical music and African-American styles, such as work songs and gospels, converged.

The unique sound of ragtime, with its syncopation and joyful melodies, can’t be mistaken for anything else. Joplin’s greatest hit, “Maple Leaf Rag,” epitomizes the genre. His compositions had a classical quality to them and weren’t intended for improvisation, unlike other forms of jazz that would follow.

2. Jelly Roll Morton


A few decades after Joplin’s birth, the pianist who came to be known as “Jelly Roll Morton” was born into a family of proud Creole heritage in New Orleans. His colorful stage name was invented to mask his family name, when he took a job playing piano in a brothel.

Morton acted as a pianist, bandleader, composer, and arranger. He is firmly rooted on the map of jazz piano, thanks to his works which embrace ragtime and early jazz. While his claims to have invented jazz have never fully been proven, it’s certain that he is an important figure who left us with many spirited compositions.

3. Willie “The Lion” Smith


Willie “The Lion” Smith, born in 1897 in New York, moved jazz one more step forward, to the “stride” style – involving rapid, rhythmic alterations in the left-hand accompaniment. This style became popular in the 1920s and 30s.

Willie’s birth name was actually, William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff Smith, chosen to represent all parts of his rich family heritage. A highly influential figure, Willie is one of the best jazz pianists of all time because of his skillful and virtuosic artistry.

4. Duke Ellington


Duke Ellington certainly pulled his weight as a bandleader, but he was much more than that. He also wore the hats of composer and pianist. Alive from 1899 to 1974, he had a prolific and lengthy career which included over 1,000 compositions.

Ellington’s career wasn’t just a solo performance. His strength originated from his use of a big band, or orchestra, which featured dedicated musicians of the highest quality. Born in Washington D.C. and passing much of his life in New York City, Ellington is widely celebrated as a quintessential American jazz musician.

5. Earl Hines


A fabulous pianist who made a mark on jazz history, Earl Hines was someone who truly captivated his listeners. Hines, born in 1903 close to Pittsburgh, had a big band with which he performed.

Yet his artistry was so strong, his piano playing alone contained everything needed for a meaningful, stylized jazz performance. He’s still recognized today as the father of modern jazz and as a huge influence on numerous famous jazz pianists.

6. Fats Waller


Only a year after Earl Hines entered the world, Fats Waller was born in 1904 in New York City. Waller’s career was full of surprises, twists, and turns. His artistry spanned many different genres including comedy, organ, and singing performances.

An entertainer at heart, his most popular works still hold a place in listeners’ hearts, with compositions like “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose” never going out of style. Waller was a popular and well-liked artist with a sense of humor, and his music had no limits—he played jazz and Bach on the organ.

7. Count Basie


Count Basie is a classic – his style is timeless, and the sound of his piano playing at the center of a big band, unmistakable. Born the same year as Fats Waller, Count Basie is most well-known as a bandleader, but his leading was done from the piano. Thus, the two roles of pianist and bandleader are both integral to his identity.

Count Basie knew how to make a big band swing! While he made the big band sound popular, he is also known for shining a light on the rhythm section, with the piano at the centerpiece of the tight-knit group.

8. Art Tatum


Tatum heralded a new age of genius in jazz. He was ahead of his time, a devilish improviser and a technical wizard at the piano. Taking cues from his predecessors, Waller and Hines, Tatum had an especially unique life as a visually impaired musician.

He melded the styles of swing and stride, inventing creative improvisations that surpassed anything heard until then. Born in Ohio in 1909, Art Tatum went down in the history of jazz, and for good reason!

9. Thelonious Monk


Inimitable in personality and musical style, Thelonious Sphere Monk was in a class of his own. His music was and still is widely recorded. His style at the piano is highly unusual, featuring dissonances and dramatic, unexpected changes within a piece.

He was born in North Carolina in 1917 but spent most of his childhood in New York City. Monk’s legacy lives on in the form of albums and tributes, as well as an institute established in his honor, which supports jazz education in public schools.

10. Hank Jones


Hank Jones was a product of Earl Hines, Fats Waller, and Art Tatum, among other greats who influenced him. He was a versatile and admired pianist, bandleader, arranger, and composer, and his career included more than 60 albums.

He also collaborated with well-known musicians like Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Parker. Jones was particularly known for his usage of advanced harmony, and many described his artistry as “impeccable.”

RELATED: 9 Easy Jazz Piano Songs to Learn 

11. Nat “King” Cole


Extremely popular with the public, Nat “King” Cole’s infectious melodies and vocals will never be forgotten. Expanding beyond the sphere of jazz, Nat King Cole also appeared in films and had his own television series.

While his music itself was plenty noteworthy, his life was also remarkable, as he personally experienced a high degree of racism as a black musician born in Alabama in 1919 and going on to perform in the southern states of the US.

12. Dave Brubeck


A contemporary favorite, Dave Brubeck arrived unexpectedly at the piano, after first attempting a formal course of study in zoology. Born in 1920 in California to a pianist and a cattle rancher, Brubeck went on to forge a diverse musical style, encompassing experimental techniques and out-of-the-ordinary meters, rhythms, and harmonies.

His work is perhaps best represented by his ensemble, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which he established the same year that he suffered a debilitating surfing injury. He left behind a vast musical legacy, and four of his six children are professionally involved in music.

13. Bud Powell


Bud Powell signaled a new era in jazz piano: bebop! Known for his compositions and creative harmony, Powell followed in the footsteps of his pianist father. He also admired Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk.

Bill Evans, along with several other famous jazz pianists, would later follow in Bud Powell’s musical footsteps. Powell struggled with mental health and drug abuse, which unfortunately was not uncommon in the bebop scene of this age. Alive from 1924 to 1966, Bud Powell’s music led jazz piano in a new direction.

14. Oscar Peterson


Hailing from Canada, Oscar Peterson came from a vigorous, disciplined classical background, with the habit of four to six hours of daily practice. Soon fascinated by boogie-woogie and ragtime as an adolescent, Peterson is well-known for his diverse style, melding jazz and classical, as well as his work in small ensembles.

15. Bill Evans


Originally from New Jersey, where he was born in 1929, Bill Evans is known for his harmonic prowess at the piano, as well as his collaborations with other famous musicians like Miles Davis and Chet Baker.

A prolific musician who deeply valued his collaborators, Evans was known for his superb work in trios. His music-making involved new harmonies, unique interpretations of old standards, and masterful melodic lines. Evans’ legacy influenced many famous jazz pianists to follow.

16. Ahmad Jamal


Born in Pittsburgh in 1930, Ahmad Jamal valued his connection to the city throughout his life. His relationship with music started very early, as he found himself at the piano at the young age of three.

Jamal’s career has spanned many decades and he is best known for his innovative style of music making, called “cool jazz.” While he was inspired by bebop, his style diverges into his modern interpretation of jazz.

17. McCoy Tyner


Born in 1938 in Philadelphia, McCoy Tyner’s career was defined by his contributions to the John Coltrane quartet. He ultimately used these experiences as a jumping-off point, continuing to innovate even after leaving the quartet due to stylistic differences.

Tyner made several contributions to modern jazz piano, including his approach to chord voicing and his unique voice expressed through his melodic interpretations.

18. Herbie Hancock


Herbie Hancock is a versatile jazz musician who joined Miles Davis’ Quintet at the young age of 23. Hancock was born in 1940 in Chicago and demonstrated exceptional talent in classical piano as a child. He was fundamental in establishing another evolution in jazz history: post-bop. Hancock’s music is extremely experimental with eclectic influences.

19. Chick Corea


Chick Corea has enjoyed a long, distinguished career. Born in 1941 in Massachusetts, Corea draws on a lineage of famous jazz musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Bud Powell.

His style evolved over the years, from avant-garde to jazz fusion to contemporary classical music. Corea is also well-respected for his musical collaborations with other artists, including contemporary Hancock.

20. Keith Jarrett


Keith Jarrett, born in 1945 in Pennsylvania, is a multidisciplinary performer, equally devoted to jazz and classical music. Found to have perfect pitch, he was extremely accomplished at the piano from a young age. His most well-known collaborations were with Art Blakey and Miles Davis.

Although this list isn’t comprehensive, each of these artists’ creativity and legacy gave them a place in the history of jazz – a music which reflects African American history, experimentation, culture, and change.

If you’re interested in honing your jazz skills, spend some time listening to songs from these jazz pianists and even try to transcribe a short riff from one of them. You can also obtain professional instruction from a piano teacher at TakeLessons, who can give you feedback and guidance on how to improve your skills, one lesson at a time!

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8 Showstopping Songs to Sing for a Talent Show

Talent show songsLooking for good songs to sing at a talent show? Talent shows are a great opportunity not just to show off your vocal abilities, but also to express yourself. Check out the list below for some of the best talent show songs that span across genres and skill levels!

The Top 8 Talent Show Songs

“Firework” – Katy Perry


This song is great for showing off a strong middle range without going too low or high. It’s a popular enough hit that commercial karaoke tracks should be easy to find, and piano sheet music is available if you have an accompanist.

This song has a spunky, pulsing dance beat, along with a motivating message, making it perfect for young audiences. For more good talent show songs for mid-range female vocals, check out artists like Taylor Swift and Adele.

“Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell

You might know it from the Counting Crows cover, but the song “Big Yellow Taxi” and its heartfelt environmental statement go back a long way! This song can work for any vocalist, and can be sung in a fairly narrow range, making it pretty easy to perform.

And if you play guitar, this song is great for playing and singing at the same time! Reach back in time to some retro music by listening to Joni, along with other artists from the Woodstock era, and you’ll find plenty of ways to make this message heard in your talent show.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” – John Denver

Folk rock songs are generally pretty well-liked by audiences. They’re a good choice for male and female singers alike, and most are relatively easy to play. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is another good one for playing guitar and singing at the same time.

It’s versatile enough to perform with friends, or even add harmony with multiple singers. You might also like some of Cat Stevens songs, or Simon & Garfunkel (check out “The Sound of Silence,” or their rendition of “Scarborough Fair” for more ideas).

“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” – Green Day

While pop-punk and hardcore punk are very different, Green Day revitalized punk flavors for a generation. This is one of their calmer songs, and ideal for any tenor vocalist. (Of course, it can also be transposed for other ranges, especially if you have friends playing backup instruments.)

This is also a good example of a rock song that would translate well to an acoustic arrangement. For another softer Green Day song, consider “Time of Your Life.” Other punk artists who have good songs to sing at a talent show include Bad Religion, Flogging Molly, and Social Distortion.

“Make ’em Laugh” – Singin’ In the Rain

Are you looking to spice up your act with some movement and acting? Look no further than musical theater! “Make ’em Laugh” is the song from an iconic scene in the Gene Kelly’s film Singin’ in the Rain, featuring some of the best-executed physical comedy ever to hit the screen.

Plus, it’s perfect to incorporate your own unique style! Fans of modern theater will also know songs like “Defying Gravity” from WICKED and “Seasons of Love” from RENT – or, look up stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, like Shirley Temple and Judy Garland.

Fast talkers will perhaps like the Modern Major General’s song from Pirates of Penzance. Your choices in the realm of musical theater are practically endless!

“Come Sail Away” – Styx

The ‘80s and late ‘70s were full of music that is instantly recognizable, and Styx is one of the best-known artists of the era. Their song “Come Sail Away” is perhaps one of their most memorable, along with hits like “Renegade.”

Dennis DeYoung’s lyric tenor range makes Styx’s music particularly good for female vocalists with a strong alto edge, and “Come Sail Away” can be performed to show off your vocal range, as it encourages great flexibility.

Songs like this are especially good for singing with a group of friends! Other hits in this niche include Heart’s “Barracuda,” “Roam” by the B-52s, or “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas.

“Crimson and Clover” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

You know Joan Jett from the iconic “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” but she’s not known as the Queen of Rock for one hit! “Crimson and Clover” is a beautiful piece, and also check out “Bad Reputation.”

For more great talent show songs that are perfect for husky vocals (and impressing everyone with your taste) look into anything by Aerosmith or AC/DC.

“Joy To The World” – Three Dog Night

Speaking of how everyone loves rock and roll, this well-loved classic is sure to get audiences moving, clapping, and singing along! It’s an ideal song for involving a guitar and a drum set as backup, or you can probably find accompaniment tracks for this as well.

If you play piano, rock and roll is a great genre to find songs that sound just as groovy as they do classy when translated to your instrument.

Final Talent Show Tips

When you’re learning to sing, performance experiences like talent shows are a crucial part of your development, and choosing your repertoire wisely is crucial. If you enjoy singing, consider taking voice lessons for the next step toward improving your craft!

A voice teacher can help you select songs that are appropriate for your skill level, range, and style, as well as help you achieve your overall music goals.

Above all, be yourself, and enjoy what you do on stage – that’s what your audience will respond to the most! Good luck on your journey to choosing the perfect talent show song.

What other good talent show songs did we miss? Leave a comment with your favorites below! Want even more song ideas? Check out our list 400+ songs to sing here!

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4 Tips for Learning Jazz Piano Chords & Chord Progressions

jazz chords pianoReady to add some flair and style to your playing with jazz piano chords? Learning jazz chord progressions is an excellent way to explore a new genre on the keys.

Jazz piano can be a fun but difficult thing to learn. In this article, we’ll break it down by helping you master some essential jazz piano chords. Here are four tips to get you started!

How to Play Jazz Piano Chords & Chord Progressions

1. Know Your Theory

In order to even think about playing jazz piano, your music theory skills have to be strong:

  • Practice playing major seventh, dominant seventh, minor seventh, half and fully diminished seventh chords in root position across the keyboard.
  • Practice major ii V I chord progressions (ii minor 7th, V dominant 7th, and I major 7th) and minor ii V i chord progressions (ii half diminished, V dominant 7th, and i minor 7th) in all 12 keys.
  • Be aware of all the possible chord symbols: Major 7ths (Cmaj7, C△, CM7), Minor 7ths (Cmin7, C-7, Cm7), and half-diminished 7ths (Cmin7♭5, C∅). Luckily, dominant 7ths and fully diminished 7ths only are notated one way (G7 and G° respectively).

2. Know Your Voicings

The root position chords above are great to familiarize yourself with the notes, but don’t smoothly connect the harmonies. In C:
jazz chord progressions piano

To play these jazz chord progressions on the piano smoother, move the least distance to the next chord.

jazz chord progressions piano

Often with smooth voice leading, 7ths in one chord resolve to the 3rd of the next chord. There are many unique sounding jazz voicings to experiment with. Use your ear to be the judge.

To experiment, here are some possible voicings to try out with both major and minor ii-V-I chord progressions.

jazz chord progressions piano jazz chord progressions piano

3. Know Your Extensions

Chordal extensions are harmonies added to 7th chords that add texture, color, and a characteristic jazz sound. In fact, 7th chords are rarely played plainly, but with one or more of these added notes.

As a general rule:

  • Major 7ths, minor 7ths, and dominant 7ths often come with added 6ths and/or 9ths. A 9th is just a 2nd an octave up. The 7th is almost always included in any chord, regardless of what extension is being added. When a 6th is added to a dominant chord, it’s always added above the 7th, creating a “13th” interval. Thus, a 13 chord is a dominant 7th with a sixth added above the 7th (see below). Also note that a plain 9 chord indicates a dominant 7th with a 9th added.

jazz chords pianojazz chords piano

  • Dominant chords (plain 7th chords that often function as the V in a ii  V  I chord progression) sound great with many different extensions. In fact, the 5ths and 9ths of dominant chords can be raised or lowered, leading to many unique harmonic possibilities, including 7♭9, 7#9, 7♭5, 7#5, 7♭9#5, 7♭9♭5, 7#9♭5, and 7#9#5.

jazz chord progressions piano

  • Often, in lead sheets and jazz chord progressions, the dominant extensions above aren’t specified, but can be added to taste. This goes for the 6ths and 9ths in major and minor 7th chords. There are almost always extensions added to 7th chords. Many times the 5th is excluded from the voicing, especially if extensions are added. If it sounds appropriate in the chord progression and leads smoothly to the next chord, it’s probably a great choice.

4. Know How to Practice

The easiest way to become familiar with these jazz piano chords is to practice ii-V-I chord progressions in every key.  Another great resource is playing pre-written arrangements found in books such as Piano Stylings of the Great Standards (Vol. 1-6) by Edward Shanaphy or The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine.

These books provide you with many great voicings that are clearly labeled.  And of course, having a quality hard copy full of jazz standards, such as The Real Book by Hal Leonard, is a must for practicing your jazz voicings. Good luck and have fun practicing!

ChrisFPost Author: Chris F. teaches guitar, piano, music theory, and more in Tulsa, OK. He has experience in concert bands, choirs, chamber music groups, jazz combos, and an award winning jazz big band. Learn more about Chris here! 

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The 7 Best Bass Guitar Songs to Learn

Best bass guitar songs to learn

Dreaming of playing the bass? This list of the best bass guitar songs is sure to inspire you.

A bass player can hold a band together and it is often the most distinctive sound you hear in any song. It is a known fact that the bassist is always the “coolest” guy in the band. So when things get rough within a band, it’s the bassist that keeps his cool and keeps the band going.

And the best part about being a bass player is you will ALWAYS have a gig!

So to all the seasoned bass players out there, if you’re just starting to learn the bass, here are seven of the best bass guitar songs to learn – with the most recognizable and hip bass lines in music history.

The 7 Best Bass Guitar Songs to Learn

Queen – “Under Pressure”

Difficulty level: 2

This bass line is a staple of the instrument. Its distinct rhythm and groove is instantly recognizable and it is surprisingly not difficult to play at all. Let’s not forget that there is some controversy over whether the pop artist Vanilla Ice used this line for his hit “Ice Ice Baby.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Give it Away Now”

Difficulty level: 6

This line is probably more suitable once you have a little more experience under your belt. With a line like this, the term “funk” is instantly incorporated into the music. One has to feel the funk to get down with a bass line of this caliber.

Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean”

Difficulty level: 5

You can tell from the way that Michael dances in this song that he is getting his groove from this groovy bass line. It’s a not-so-difficult line to play but it’s always moving so you have to keep the groove up.

Primus – “American Life”

Difficulty level: 9

This is one of the best bass guitar songs on this list. When you hear the bass lines you’ll automatically think “I want to play that!” Les Claypool’s bass lines are more like guitar licks or melody lines.

He gives the bass a distinct sound and a dominant role in any song he plays in, which also makes his bass lines on the more difficult side.

Pink Floyd – “Money”

Difficulty level: 4

The bass line that comes in after a variety of clicking sounds is an unforgettable one. This popular song by Pink Floyd is a hit in anyone’s playlist and this bass line, with its rhythm of 7/4, is one every bassist should know how to play.

Johann Pachelbel – Pachelbel Canon in D Major

Difficulty level: 3

This is not generally a song thought of when talking about bass lines. However, this line known as the basso continuo is in fact a legit Baroque period bass line.

It is so legit that it is even featured in more familiar songs, such as Coolio’s “C U When U Get There” and Green Day’s “Basket Case.” This is a rockin’ canon and exemplifies how far back bass history really goes.

Herbie Hancock – “Chameleon”

Difficulty level: 2

This funky/jazzy bass line is a standard and staple of the bass repertoire that every bass player should know. If bass lines had a holy grail, this might be it.

This line is smooth, classy, and above all, groovy. Herbie made this song popular, but it was the bass line that made it immortal. It’s not difficult to play, so why not learn it?

These are some of the best bass guitar songs to learn, and they all helped in making the bass the immense instrument that it is today. The songs here give any bassist some good grooves to learn that will develop his or her skills.

ChristopherS.Christopher S. teaches bass guitar and composition in Jamaica Plain, MA. He received his Bachelor’s from Humboldt State and is currently working toward a Master of Music degree. Learn more about Christopher S. here!

 

 

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5 Best Korean Learning Apps for Beginners

Learn korean app

The best way to learn Korean is through lessons with a Korean teacher, but supplemental study materials – such as Korean learning apps – can be very beneficial for language students as well.

Learning to speak Korean can be challenging, especially for English speakers. The language has a different alphabet, Hangul, and it contains sounds that aren’t found in English.

Fortunately, between YouTube lessons and language learning apps, there are lots of helpful resources available. Check out the list below for five of the best Korean learning apps to help you master the language.

Best Apps to Learn Korean

1. Learn Korean

Learn korean app

Learn Korean is compatible with an iPhone or iPad. The app contains progressive levels designed to teach Korean in a simple, comprehensive manner.

You can also track your progress through multiple vocabulary and grammar lessons. This Korean learning app is free to download, but there are additional features that you can purchase.

2. TenguGo Hangul

Learn korean app

TenguGo Hangul is a free Korean learning app that’s compatible with both Apple and Android devices. The app includes vowel and consonant charts and instructions for reading and writing in Korean.

If you’re a beginner, TenguGo Hangul is one of the best Korean learning apps to help you master the alphabet.

3. Korlink’s Talk to Me in Korean

Learn korean app

This free app is available for Apple and Android devices. There is also a separate app designed specifically for iPads and tablets.

There are English explanations, easy-to-follow examples, multiple learning levels, pictures, and grammar lessons.

4. Korean Vocabulary Free – Flashcards for Beginners and Kids

Learn korean app

When it comes to this app, the name says it all. Download this digital learning tool to access Korean vocabulary flashcards. The flashcards are organized by categories like food, colors, and greetings.

This Korean learning app is available for Apple and Android devices, and you can download additional features for a small fee.

5. Dongsa

Learn korean app

Dongsa is a fantastic tool to help you learn Korean verbs. It’s available for Apple and Android products. The app teaches all of the different Korean verb conjugations, and it can also help you improve your Korean writing skills.

This app costs 99 cents and you can unlock more features for an additional cost.

These Korean learning apps will help you learn basic Korean, but if you need additional help mastering the language, search here for a Korean teacher near you!

Photo by Gonzalo Baeza

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13 Famous Singers With Surprisingly Bad Vocal Habits

6 Singers Who Made Vocal MistakesBelieve it or not, famous singers aren’t always perfect. In this article, we’ll reveal whose bad vocal habits you can learn from.

It’s easy to turn on the radio and assume that famous singers always sound incredible, but the reality is that every singer has experienced vocal faults at some point. Here are just a few examples of some of the things that can go wrong.

Bad Vocal Habits of Famous Singers

Vocal Fault - Pitchy

Pitchy, Off-Key Singing

Singing a pitch is a complicated coordination between the brain, vocal cords, and breath. Some people don’t have this coordination quite right all the time, and therefore they don’t always sing the notes they want to sing.

In the video below, Taylor Swift is singing flat, meaning she is singing just slightly below the correct pitches. Even good singers sing flat every once in a while.

Régine, on the other hand, has trouble hitting accurate pitches in general and tends to go sharp (higher than she intended). Listen to her last note in the song for a good example.

How to Avoid Pitchy Singing

Like any other skill, learning to match pitch requires practice. If you have a lot of trouble singing in tune, devote five to 10 minutes a day to practicing this.

I have my students use Pitch Analyzer and a keyboard to do this. Just open the app, play a pitch on the keyboard, and try to match it with your voice. Pitch Analyzer helps you figure out if you are flat, sharp, or just right.

Vocal Fault: Nasal Singing

Nasal Singing

Humans can breathe (and therefore sing) through both the nose and the mouth. The soft palate, located on the roof of the mouth behind the hard palate, lifts and lowers to block off the nasal passages from the rest of the breathing apparatus.

Singing with a lowered soft palate lets air out through the nose, causing a nasally tone. See this video from Miley Cyrus as an example.

How to Avoid Nasal Singing

Learn to lift your soft palate. If you have ever “plugged” your nose without touching it (when changing a diaper or jumping into a pool, for instance), you already know how to do this.

If not, try making a really nasally sound, then doing the exact opposite. If your soft palate is all the way up, you will not sound any different if you plug your nose with your fingers.

Vocal Fault - Throat Tension

Throat Tension

  • Katy Perry
  • Christina Aguilera (last note especially, at 1:53)

Throat tension is not only damaging, it sounds more like yelling than singing. In these videos of Katy and Christina, the vocals often sound closer to yelling than to singing.

Note the frayed, pressed tone and the lack of vibrato. If you watch closely, you will also notice that you can see both women’s necks visibly straining.

How to Avoid Throat Tension

There are two ways to decrease throat tension in singers. First and foremost, try to relax your throat. Work in front of a mirror or place your hand around your neck so you can feel your throat muscles better.

You can also move your neck around while you sing (from side to side, as though you are shaking your head “no”) to keep it from stiffening.

The second way to decrease throat tension is to focus on the fundamentals of singing. Singers throats usually tense up to compensate for a lack of proper technique.

Make sure your breath support is working, your soft palate is up, your posture is relaxed, and your energy levels are high as you sing.

Vocal Fault: Tongue Tension

Tongue Tension

Your tongue is a huge muscle that stretches from the front of your mouth all the way back and down, where it connects to the muscles under your jaw. If any part of the tongue becomes rigid during singing, a distinct, clogged sound emerges.

The best example of this that I can think of actually isn’t a singer; it’s Kermit the Frog. If you tense your tongue and talk, you’ll find that you sound like the little green guy.

For singers, this clogged sound results in modified vowels, as well as a general distinct tone quality. Both Sarah Brightman and Eddie Vedder’s sounds are characterized by this sound.

Singing with tongue tension causes vocal fatigue and can eventually lead to vocal problems, so it’s not something you should ignore.

How to Avoid Tongue Tension

Many people are completely incapable of consciously relaxing their tongues, even when they aren’t making sound.

Start by resting your tongue on your bottom lip, so you can see it well in a mirror, and relaxing it (a relaxed tongue is fat and motionless).

Once you accomplish that, put your tongue back in your mouth and learn how to sing vowels without tensing your tongue. (The mirror is your best friend.) When progressing to words, focus on moving your tongue without making it unnecessarily rigid.

Vocal Fault: Jaw Tension

Jaw Tension

When singing, the jaw should be loose and free. Tensing the jaw not only makes it harder to sing, it also sounds (and looks) weird.

Eddie Redmayne’s clenched, shaking jaw and matching vocals attest to this. Although Kathleen Battle (an acclaimed classical singer) still sounds lovely, it is obvious from watching her sing that her jaw is doing some bizarre and unnecessary work.

How to Avoid Jaw Tension

Avoid jaw tension by paying attention. Stretch it out before you sing, look in the mirror, and put your hands on your jaw to feel the muscles. If you notice yourself clenching, stop singing, stretch it out, and try again.

Always make sure that you are breathing, standing, and resonating well. Just like the throat, the jaw tends to clench when your singing technique is incomplete.

Vocal Fault: Damaged Vocal Cords

Damaged Vocal Chords

Vocal cord abuse and overuse can damage your vocal cords. Singers who perform lots of taxing music often suffer from vocal cord damage, especially after years of performing in tours and concerts.

Kelly still sounds good, but the newly acquired raspy quality and her avoidance of high notes are both red flags.

In Mariah’s recording, her cloudy tone quality, squeaking, and inability to hold out notes all point to severely swollen vocal cords.

Singers can even get calluses (nodes), polyps, or vocal hemorrhaging (bleeding welts) that require surgery. Adele, Sam Smith, Tove Lo, Keith Urban, John Mayer… the list of celebrity victims goes on and on.

How to Avoid Damaged Vocal Chords

Be kind to your voice! Don’t scream and yell, and don’t overuse your vocal cords. If you suspect that you have hurt your chords already, or if you don’t know how to sing or speak properly for your health, consult a voice teacher or a vocal therapist immediately.

If it hurts to sing or speak, consider taking a few days off and going on vocal rest (no talking or singing whatsoever). It’s amazing what good a few days of quiet can do.

While celebrities sing off-key through their noses, you can learn to sing in tune, with a raised soft palate and healthy vocal cords. Find a good teacher, ask him or her about these vocal faults, and practice a little every day. Soon, you might be singing better than some of your favorite famous singers!

Elaina RPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, 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 Jana Beamer

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40+ Best Gifts for Singers of All Ages & Genres

Best Gifts for Singers

Looking for the best gifts for singers? We’ve done the searching for you!

Here, you’ll find more than 40 gift ideas for singers of all ages and musical preferences. Our list includes everything from a home karaoke system to microphone sleeves to a vocal dampener.

No matter your budget, you’re sure to find something for that special singer in your life – whether they’re into rock or pop.

Best Gifts for Singers

Small Gifts & Stocking Stuffers

Throat Pastilles ($6.36)

Best Gifts for Singers - Throat Pastilles

There is nothing worse than having a scratchy throat right before singing. These pastilles will keep the throat smooth and the voice clear.

Microphone Charm Bracelet ($17.44)

Best Gifts for Singers - microphone bracelet

Personal touches make the best gifts. This charm bracelet not only showcases a love for singing, but also customizable birthstones and initial charms.

Cozy Headphones ($19.99)

Best Gifts for Singers - sleeping headphones

Does the singer in your life eat, sleep, and dream music? These headphones let them listen to their favorite tunes at bedtime, while remaining comfortable.

Business Card Case ($25.98)

Best Gifts for Singers - business card case

Every artist should have a business card holder that is just as creative and unique as them. They’ll need one when meeting with potential partners!   

Singer’s Oil ($17.32)

Best Gifts for Singers - singers oil

This is one of the best gifts for singers who frequently perform on stage or in front of a crowd. It helps take care of the voice and protect against hoarseness.

Karaoke Key Chain ($10.53)

Best Gifts for Singers - karaoke keychain

Let everybody know who the queen of karaoke night really is, with this fun key chain! It also makes a great stocking stuffer at Christmas time.

Microphone Cleaner ($5.40)

Best Gifts for Singers - microphone cleaner

After all those belts and ballads, microphones really need a good cleaning. This special cleaner easily and safely removes dirt from the mesh head of a microphone.

I Sing Alto” Pin ($3.90)

Best Gifts for Singers - singers pin

Every singer wants to show the world what their true superpower is, and this little pin definitely makes a statement!

For the Singer’s Home

Headphone Bookends ($64.95)

Best Gifts for Singers

A home should be just as stylish as the person living in it. And singers can now pay homage to their favorite pastime with these creative bookends!

Musical Wine Glasses ($64.95)

Best Gifts for Singers

There’s nothing better after a long day than a glass of wine. These unique glasses keep the inspiration flowing as they play the major scale!

“In My Head I’m Singing” Mug ($9.87)

Best Gifts for Singers

Now singers can sip from a mug that tells the world what they’re already thinking about – singing!

Shower Head Speaker ($199)

Best Gifts for Singers

Singing in the shower just got even more fun. This unique shower head plays your favorite songs while delivering a steady stream of water.

Home Karaoke System ($159.99)

Best Gifts for Singers

One of the best gifts for singers is giving them a way to practice their talent (and show it off)! Karaoke nights just got better with this compact home system that includes a speaker.

Best Albums Poster ($16.56)

Best Gifts for Singers

Part decor, part game, this musical bucket list showcases 100 of the best albums ever made. Each album can be scratched off as you listen to it, to reveal the colorful album cover below.

Sound Wave Print ($38.25)

Best Gifts for Singers

Using visual sound waves to portray a favorite song is a great way to remember special moments. Customize your own print and have it showcased in the home forever.

Best Singer Pillowcase ($10.24)

Best gifts for singers

Have sweet dreams sleeping on this pillowcase that is a constant reminder of who the best singer in the house is.

Customizable Mixtape Doormat $37.91

Best Gifts for Singers

Let all houseguests know that a diehard music-lover lives in the house with this personalized doormat.

Best Practical Gifts for Singers

Vocal Dampener ($49.95)

Best Gifts for Singers

Practice is key to becoming a good singer, but that doesn’t mean that everyone around needs to listen in. This dampener reduces sound so that the practice room can be taken anywhere.

Recording Microphone ($29.99)

Best Gifts for Singers

Recording a new song is as easy as can be with this microphone recorder. It plugs directly into a computer to record vocals with crisp clean sound.

Music Teacher Clipboard ($26.48)

Best gifts for singers

There’s nothing that shows a teacher how appreciated they are quite like a personalized clipboard. If the singer in your life is also an instructor, this is the perfect accessory for recitals and practices!

In-Ear Headphones ($87.14)

Best gifts for singers

Not only do these in-ears help amplify sound, but they’re also great for noise cancellation. Musicians know how important both are at any gig or performance.   

Studio Recording Package ($223.13)

Best gifts for singers

This is on our list of the best gifts for singers because it brings the recording studio home in an affordable way. The package comes complete with a mic, headphones, and recording software. 

Hydro Flask ($29.95)

Best gifts for singers

Staying hydrated is one of the most important things a singer can do for their vocal health. A Hydro Flask water bottle is a great reminder to drink more water.

Portable Headphone Amplifier ($59.99)

Best gifts for singers

Headphones just got better! Plug them into this portable amplifier and experience sound that is not only louder, but cleaner as well.

Mobile Audio Interface ($57.36)

Best gifts for singers

Inspiration can come anytime and anywhere. This helpful device allows singers to make studio-quality recordings directly on their mobile phone or tablet.   

Private Singing Lessons ($20-100)

Best gifts for singers

Even the most seasoned singer can use some one-on-one coaching. Private lessons are a great way to help take their skills to the next level.

Headphone Amp ($99.95)

Best gifts for singers

This little USB delivers big sound! It easily plugs into a computer to provide rich clear sound. Now you can listen to music the way it was meant to be heard.

Microphone Isolation Shield ($45.24)

Best gifts for singers

There’s nothing worse than an echo when you’re trying to record a new song. This foldable microphone shield not only absorbs sound, but it’s also convenient to carry and store.

Humidifier ($33.83)

Best gifts for singers

Singers know how important vocal health is, and a humidifier helps keep the voice and throat in top shape. This is an excellent practical gift, especially in those cold winter months!

Vocal Effects Pedal ($281.70)

Best gifts for singers

This compact vocal pedal allows singers to add awesome effects to their songs. Options include a compressor, enhancer, echo, and more.

Best Fun Gifts for Singers

Encore Singing Game ($19.79)

Best gifts for singers

What better way to bring singers together than with a healthy dose of musical competition. This game forces players to come up with as many songs as they can that include a specific word.

Chocolate Record ($28)

Best gifts for singers

What’s better than a vinyl record? An edible one! This yummy chocolate record and cassette tape make a great novelty gift for a singer with a sweet tooth.

B&H Gift Card ($25-200)

Best gifts for singers

This is one of the best gifts for singers who love to shop for new gear. B&H has tons of quality recording equipment, microphones, in-ears, and more! 

Microphone Sleeve ($19.99)

Best gifts for singers

Spruce up any old microphone and show some personality with this fun sleeve! Better yet – get one to match every outfit.

Online Singing Classes ($0-20)

Best gifts for singers

Group classes are an excellent way to develop new skills and meet other singers. With a subscription to TakeLesson Live, your favorite singer gets to interact with a live, online teacher.

Gourmet Tea Set ($34-49)

Best gifts for singers

Tea is a necessity for singers – it helps calm the throat and clears the voice. These fancy tea chests turn a simple, hot beverage into a special and useful gift.

Best Gifts for the Singer-Songwriter

Rhyming Dictionary ($14.63)

Best gifts for singers

Singers often get stuck when writing new material, but this essential songwriter’s dictionary will help keep the verses flowing.

Songwriters Guild Membership ($60-225)

Best gifts for singers

Another one of the best gifts for singers who love to create their own original pieces, an SGA membership will help them get published, work on licensing, and more.

Songwriting Journal ($10)

Best gifts for singers

Every songwriter needs a quality notebook to jot down all their great ideas and lyrics. This customizable notebook is a classic and fits easily into any purse or backpack.  

Concert Tickets ($40 and up)

Best gifts for singers

Concerts are an excellent way for singer-songwriters to get inspired. (Hint: Check out their Spotify playlists if you don’t know who their favorite artists are yet).

Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting Book ($38.68)

Best gifts for singers

Every singer wants their voice to be heard, and this little book offers tips and tricks for writing songs that become hits!

We hope you enjoyed this list of the best gifts for singers. When shopping online, don’t forget to add gift wrapping so the item will arrive ready to go.

For some money-saving deals, shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday! You can also check out a business’s social media page and email newsletter for their current promotions.

As always, it’s the thought that counts. The singer in your life will be grateful for whatever you choose, and may even serenade you in gratitude!

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How to Convert Guitar Chords to Piano Chords [+ Tabs]

Convert guitar chords to piano chords

Curious about how to convert guitar chords to piano chords? We can’t let guitarists have all the fun playing classics like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Hotel California!”

Just because a song is written in tabs doesn’t mean that piano players can’t read it too. In this article, we’ll show you how to translate guitar chords to piano using tabs.

Convert Guitar Chords to Piano Chords

First, let’s establish a basic understanding of the guitar. The notes of the open strings from thickest to thinnest are E, A, D, G, B, and E. Also, each fret on the guitar is a half step.

This means that you can find any note by starting from the open string that the note is played on and counting up in half steps, one fret at a time, until you arrive at the desired note.

Understanding Guitar Tabs

In this tutorial, we’ll be using tabs to convert the guitar chords to piano chords. What you need to know about tabs is that there are six lines that represent the six guitar strings. The bottom line represents the thickest string, while the top represents the thinnest.

The numbers you’ll see on each line indicate the number of the fret that is played on that string. As far as reading rhythms, tabs usually only approximate rhythms. But as you read the fret numbers from left to right, more or less spaces between numbers indicate note values and rests.

So, more space between two numbers means that you’ll either hold the note or rest until the next one is played. If numbers are stacked on top of each other vertically, that means those notes are played at the same time.

Practice Converting Guitar Chords to Piano

In a nutshell, the basic idea for translating guitar chords to piano is a method of counting up in half steps from an open string.

After getting some practice with this method, you can effectively steal all the guitarists’ favorite songs!

Let’s practice by sinking our teeth into one of the most wonderfully cliché, guitar-based songs ever made – “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. Take a look at the video below that provides the tabs.

Now it’s time to figure out the right piano notes, and from there, the appropriate piano chords to play!

We’ll just focus on the first measure for now. To find the first note, we look at which string it’s played on. The number 7 is on the third line from the bottom, which indicates the D string.

Since the fret number is 7, we’re going to count up 7 half steps from the open D string. Feel free to use your piano to help you do this. When we count up we get these notes: D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A.

So, A is the first note. Next, let’s look at the second note. It’s played on the third thinnest string, which is a G. Since the number is 5, we count up 5 half steps from the open G string, giving us these notes: G, G#, A, A#, B, C.

So, our second note is C. Keep using this process to find the next notes.

When we get to beat 3 of this measure, there is a 7 and a 6 stacked on top of each other. This means that both notes are played at the same time. The 7 is on the thinnest string, E, while the 6 is on the third from the bottom string – D.

Starting with the thinnest string, E, let’s count up 7 half steps: E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B. Now, count up 6 half steps from D: D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#. So you’ll play B and G# at the same time.

So there you have it! What song are you going to convert to piano chords next? Do you have any questions about how to use this method? Let us know in a comment below.

AndyWPost Author: Andy W. teaches guitar, piano and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for more than 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!

 

 

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Easy Guitar Tabs

Easy Guitar Tabs for Beginners

Easy Guitar TabsEasy guitar tabs are perfect for beginning guitarists looking to quickly learn some new songs. Using guitar tabs – a simplified form of musical notation – guitarists are also able to easily share compositions.

In this article, we’ll share how to read tablature as well as several easy guitar tabs for beginners to popular songs and riffs that you can start playing today!

How to Read Guitar Tabs

Before we dive into the songs and riffs, let’s start with an overview of tablature. Guitar tabs are written out as six lines with each line corresponding to a string on your guitar, E-B-G-D-A-E from the top down, as shown in the diagram below.

how to read guitar tabs

Guitar tabs show you which note needs to be played on which string by placing a fret number on the corresponding line, but they do not tell you which finger to use or the timing of the piece.

Read guitar tabs from left to right and use your ear to determine the timing of each note. If you’re struggling with a tab, it’s always a good idea to listen to a recording of the song, or work with a guitar teacher for some extra help.

3 Easy Guitar Tabs for Beginners

Before playing the songs and riffs below, make sure your guitar is in tune. You can easily tune your guitar with an app on your smart phone. Here’s a guitar tuning tutorial that shows you how.

Now, onto the beginner guitar tabs…

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”

You can play a wide range of notes without sliding all over the neck of your guitar in the song, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

twinkle twinkle little star guitar tab

For this tab, keep your left hand in what is known as “first position.” Your index finger will play all notes on the first fret, your middle finger plays all notes on the second fret, your ring finger plays the third fret, and your pinkie plays the fourth fret.

Keeping your left hand still and using this fingering will help you build better speed and coordination as you learn how to play the guitar.

“Three Blind Mice”

You can also play “Three Blind Mice” in the same position noted above. Here is the tab for this catchy nursery rhyme.

three blind mice guitar tab

“Happy Birthday”

Knowing how to play “Happy Birthday” on the guitar always comes in handy! Try out this familiar tune using the tab below.

happy birthday guitar tab

As you can see, “Happy Birthday” is a melody that can be played on just one string and is composed of four short phrases. The tricky part of this guitar tab is deciding on the right fingering.

We recommend starting with your index finger on the second fret, your pinkie on the fifth fret, and your ring finger on the fourth fret. You can play the first phrase with your left hand in this position.

To play the note on the seventh fret in the second phrase, you will need to slide your pinkie up to reach. You can then play the fifth fret with your middle finger.

In the third phrase, you will have to slide your pinkie up again to reach the ninth fret, and then slide back down to play the fourth fret with your ring finger and the second fret with your index finger.

For the final phrase, use your pinkie to play the tenth fret and your ring finger to play the ninth fret. Then, slide your hand down to play the fifth fret with your index finger and the seventh fret with your ring finger.

Following this guide to the fingering of this piece enables you to hit all the notes while making minimal movements with your hand up and down the neck of the guitar.

Easy Guitar Tabs for 3 Riffs

A guitar riff is a short, catchy series of notes that is usually repeated a few times within a song. Riffs are typically simple to play and easily recognizable.

Rock and pop music are full of great riffs that you can learn to play quickly. Here are a few examples with easy guitar tabs!

“Smoke on the Water”

This popular guitar riff comes from Deep Purple’s classic song “Smoke on the Water.”

smoke on the water guitar tab

You’ll notice that you need to play two notes on the same fret at the same time in order to play this riff.

One easy way to accomplish this is to lay your index finger across multiple strings in a partial barre chord and only strum the G and D strings. Hold the partial barre shape with your left hand and move your hand from the third fret to the fifth and sixth frets as needed.

“Sunshine of Your Love”

This riff from Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” is also quick and easy to learn.

sunshine of your love guitar tab

To use the proper fingering on this riff, start with your ring finger on the twelfth fret and your index finger on the tenth.

Now, this is a little bit tricky. When you play the first 10th fret note on your E string, slide your hand slightly up the neck to play the 10th fret with your ring finger. Now you can easily reach the 8th fret note that is coming up next.

You’ll notice that this riff calls for a bent string, as indicated by the “b” on the eighth fret of the A string. To bend this note, push the string up the neck of the guitar as you play. Bending a note creates a distinctive, bluesy tone.

“Satisfaction” – Guitar Riff Tabs

One of the most-loved riffs in rock and roll comes from the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Check out the tab below:

satisfaction guitar tab

You can play this awesome guitar riff all on one string! To practice the correct fingering and play with better speed, use your index finger to play the second fret, your ring finger on the fourth fret, and your pinkie on the fifth fret.

Free Guitar Tabs for Beginners

There are tons of free resources online where you can find easy guitar tabs for beginners. A couple of our favorite sites with popular songs include Ultimate Guitar and Songsterr.

Keep in mind as you browse guitar tabs that most of what you see online was submitted by other guitarists just like you. If a tab doesn’t sound quite right, somebody may have heard the song differently or made a mistake when transcribing it.

Online guitar tabs are a great place to start when learning how to play your favorite songs. But if you’re looking for more detailed instruction, nothing beats private guitar lessons!

A guitar teacher can give you the attention and guidance you need to master tricky songs and riffs. Check out the guitar teachers at TakeLessons today to get started.

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5 Best Piano Accessories for Beginners

piano accessories

Before you can start piano lessons, you’ll need to have the right equipment – and that means spending a little extra on piano accessories.

Getting your first piano is an exciting time. It’s like meeting your first pet, finding a new roommate, or buying the most amazing piece of furniture you’ll ever own.

But you’ll need more than just a piano as you progress. If you’re wondering what other supplies you’ll need, here are five helpful tips.

Piano Accessories – Tips for Beginners

1) Location, Location, Location

Your biggest “accessory” is the piano’s location. Ideally, the piano should be placed close to an inside wall to keep changes in temperature and humidity to a minimum. This will not only keep the piano in tune longer, but it’ll also help lengthen its life.

You will want it to look natural in the room, and most likely have it be the focal point of the room. Upright pianos tend to go up against a wall, though you can also use them as a room divider.

Grand pianos are generally placed so that the player has a line of sight to people sitting in the rest of the room. Visit this Pinterest board on piano rooms for some inspiration!

2) Carpet or Rug Under the Piano?

Resist the temptation to put your piano centered on a carpet or rug (unless you live in an apartment building and need to dampen the sound). The natural way to listen to orchestral instruments, including a piano, is on hard floor.

The ear simply wants to hear the reverberation off hard surfaces. This dates back to the baroque and romantic eras of classical music where all concerts were payed on ballroom floors and large stages, all with bare floors around them.

3) Standing Lights

Out of all the piano accessories, this one is perhaps the most important. Table lamps on pianos often cause a glare and get in the player’s eyes – making it all the more difficult to learn at first.

We’ve found that a standing light to the side or slightly behind the player is ideal for seeing the keys without casting shadows. Natural light is another favorite, and overhead lights can also be pleasant.

Resist the urge to put (or light) candles on your piano! Even if you never light them, the wax is NOT your piano’s friend.

4) Wall Art & Paint

Putting art on the wall, centered above the piano, brings attention to the area and can inspire the player. Choose something you will enjoy looking at as you sit and practice!

You can also paint the piano wall a bold color, making it an accent wall within the room and drawing the eye to it.

5) Your Piano Bench

The bench can be a part of the piano’s style and your design expression. Reupholstering it to add a colorful cushion or painting the top can add a burst of character to the piano room without altering the piano itself.

Bonus Tip –

If you purchase an upright piano, you’ll have more of flat surface to play with if you’d like to decorate it with vases or picture frames. However, if you like having the option to open and close the top of your grand piano, for instance, you’ll want to keep it clutter-free.

Whether you’re taking beginning piano lessons or you’re playing at a professional level, trust yourself in what feels right when you are sitting at the piano. If the piano accessories, lighting, and bench inspire you to play more, than you’ve done the perfect job placing your piano!

CherylEPost Author: Cheryl is a singer/songwriter with multiple tours, records, and TV placements under her belt. She teaches piano, composition, and arrangement in New Paltz, NY. Learn more about Cheryl here!

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