Can You Pass This Basic Music Theory Quiz? Test Your Knowledge!

music theory quiz

A knowledge of music theory is absolutely indispensable to musicians. For beginners, it can seem intimidating, but experienced musicians will attest that theory is well worth the effort needed to master it.

While you can certainly acquire proficiency on an instrument without a knowledge of theory, you’ll miss out on the depth of understanding that it provides. Music theory is also extremely useful for musicians.

Think of music theory as your tool box. It enables you to analyze, transcribe, and replicate songs. It also equips you to communicate effectively with other musicians.

A sound knowledge of theory enables you to compose your own music with confidence and enjoy a whole world of possibilities!

Can you pass a music theory quiz for beginners? This quiz is an excellent way to test your knowledge of basic theory. Give it your best shot and if you get stuck, we’ll go over each answer in detail below.

Music Theory Quiz: Review

How did you score on our music theory test? Let us know in the comments section below! To check your work, here is a review of each question and answer.

1. The numbers at the beginning of a piece of music represent the: (C) Time signature.

The time signature indicates the meter of the music, with the upper number representing the number of beats per measure and the lower number indicating the value of each beat. For example, 4/4 tells you that you have four beats per measure, and the quarter note gets the beat.

2. The lines in the treble staff are, from bottom to top: (C) EGBDF.

Think, “Every Great Band Draws Fans” or “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” Don’t confuse this with the bass staff, which we asked about later in the quiz.

3. A 16th note will have the following: (B) Two flags.

These indicate that the beat has been subdivided twice. Sixteenth notes break a quarter note into four parts, for example. They are very common in music.

4. A dotted half note equals how many quarter notes?  (B) Three.

One dot after a note indicates that half of that note’s value is added to the duration. A half note is equal to two quarter notes, so the dot adds one quarter note. Now you just have to solve the simple math equation: 2+1=3.

5. The musical term used to describe differences in volume is: (C) Dynamics.

This is a very expressive element of music. In the most basic sense, pp = very quiet, p = quiet,  mp = moderately quiet, mf = moderately loud, f = loud, ff = very loud. The performer has a bit of creative license with interpretation.

6. The symbol used to denote the range of a particular staff is a: (C) Clef.

The clef at the beginning of a staff indicates the pitches and range of that piece of music. We use the treble clef, the bass clef, and the C clef. The rhythm clef is an exception, as it is used for non pitched percussion notation.

7. The small lines above or below a staff are called: (C) Ledger lines.

These indicate notes that extend beyond the range of the given staff. When reading the bass or treble staves, middle C will always be on a ledger line (one above the bass or one below the treble).

In the treble staff, any note A5 and above will be on ledger lines. In the bass staff, anything E2 and below will be on ledger lines. These are also used often in music.  

8. The spaces in the bass staff, from bottom to top are: (C) ACEG.

Think, “All Cars Eat Gas.” Notice that this question is specifically asking about the spaces, not the lines.

More Music Theory Tests

Want to take another music theory quiz to sharpen your skills? Here are a few excellent resources to check out.

Enjoy exploring music theory and the freedom of expression that it can afford you. Music theory translates to all instruments, so learning it will make you a more versatile and well-rounded musician!

If you want to take your knowledge of theory to the next level, you can easily find affordable and reputable music theory instructors for online or local lessons.

TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches music theory, guitar, piano and more in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She’s been teaching since 2010 and has her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University. Learn more about Tracy here!

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halloween-playlist-preview

10 Essential Songs You Need on Your Halloween Playlist

halloween-playlist

Whether you’re turning your house into a creepy haunted mansion, heading to a rockin’ Halloween party, or getting the kids dressed up for trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, these Halloween party songs are the best way to get into the spirit.

No playlist fit for consumption by ghouls and goblins is complete without these 10 essentials.

Turn it up, and have a happy and safe Halloween!

1. Thriller

Who doesn’t love the “Thriller” dance?

2. Candy

Because it’s not Halloween without plenty of candy.

3. I Put a Spell on You

For extra bonus Halloween points, check out Bette Midler’s version of this classic tune from the movie Hocus Pocus.

4. This is Halloween

Another great Halloween movie, Nightmare Before Christmas, is full of great songs by Danny Elfman, perfect for this scary season!

5. Dead Man’s Party

Speaking of Danny Elfman, throw a “Dead Man’s Party” with this 80’s favorite.

6. Time Warp

Rocky Horror is always appropriate.

7. Somebody’s Watching Me

This tune is perfect for a Halloween dance-off!

8. Ghost Riders in the Sky

Johnny Cash brings the spooky vibes in this golden oldie.

9. Psycho Killer

Run, run, run!

10. Monster Mash

Because it’s not Halloween until you’re doing the mash!

What’s your favorite Halloween party song? Tell us all about it in the comments below!


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making time for hobbies

Here’s the Secret to Finding “Hidden” Time for Your Hobbies

making time for hobbies

“If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend your time?”

Your answer to that question can tell you a lot about yourself, and it’s fun to think about.

But the reality is: 24 hours is all you get. (Sorry!)

You can’t quit your job. You can’t ignore family commitments and responsibilities. If you want to learn a new skill, improve your current talents, or work toward a big learning goal, it’s up to you to make that happen. So how do you balance that with a busy schedule?

It’s simple: learn to budget your time the same way you budget your money.

Here are the steps you can take if you feel like you’re too busy to learn or take up a new hobby, proven to work by some of our top students.

1. Decide you WANT to learn.

find time to learn

The first step to financial success is deciding to have a budget. And that budget is often dictated by your short- and long-term goals. Maybe you want to pay off your student loans or mortgage within five years. Or maybe you just want that new jacket you saw at Nordstrom.

Now let’s translate that into learning: what are your goals there? Do you want to be able to sing confidently in front of a group? Play guitar at a friend’s wedding? Speak Spanish fluently on an upcoming vacation? Write these down, and put them somewhere you can see them every day.

Excuses will always come up. And heck, life will sometimes get in the way. But if you’re excited about improving your skills, that’s the first step.

2. Be realistic.

finding time in your schedule for music lessons

You wouldn’t set a $300 budget for going out to eat if you only had $50 discretionary cash per week. Similarly, be realistic about the time you can commit to practicing and taking lessons.

If you’re juggling a busy schedule, a 30-minute lesson once per week may be all you can find time for. Or maybe you can’t even commit to that — fortunately, you can find teachers who are more flexible week-to-week, and rescheduling is always an option if something comes up.

Once you have your lesson time penciled in, then it’s time to schedule your practice time. But be realistic about that, too! You may not be able to practice for hours every day, and that’s OK. Even a short practice session will help you stay on track, if you make it efficient.

3. Find the right hacks.

skype with language exchange partner

If you’re a super-budgeter, you probably know all the tricks. You hold out for great deals, look for coupons and discount codes, and so on.

Same goes for budgeting your time. If you break down your schedule, you may find you have extra time in your day for your hobbies. And yes, that may mean skipping the Netflix marathons, or cutting back on the time you spend browsing social media.

You were probably expecting that advice, right? But look: there are even more hacks you can try. Here are some ways TakeLessons students have made time for their hobbies:

  • Take online lessons. Ordering takeout for dinner is a great time saver. What if you could get music or language lessons delivered to the comfort of your home, too? Turn on your computer, pull up the TakeLessons Classroom, and you can meet with your teacher instantly — no travel time required.
  • Take advantage of your workspace. If your company allows it, consider taking your online lessons during your lunch break. If you prefer in-person lessons, find a teacher close by your work, so it’s not a hassle to get to. You can also use your time going to and from work. As a language learner, for example, you can practice listening to your target language during your commute!
  • Find a flexible teacher. If you need to reschedule a lesson every now and then, don’t stress. While a designated lesson time each week will help you stay accountable, we understand that things come up! If you have unique scheduling needs, feel free to use our Ask a Question feature before booking your lessons, to find a teacher who can accommodate.
  • Use your guilty pleasures to your advantage. Learning a new skill doesn’t have to be all work, no play! Musicians: jamming with community groups or going to karaoke is a fun way to add music to your day. Language students, consider changing the language settings when you’re watching TV, or pick a foreign movie with subtitles.

4. Adjust as needed.

practice guitar

Budgets ebb and flow — unplanned bills show up, salaries go up and down, and can’t-miss opportunities arise. The best financial advice is to stay flexible and adjust your budget often.

Similarly, sometimes the time you’ve budgeted doesn’t go as planned. We get it: life gets busy. So don’t beat yourself up if you need to reschedule a lesson or if you miss a practice session. Stay positive, and fit in what you can!

Planning ahead can help, as well. Work with your teacher to create a 15-minute practice routine, if you’re short on time one week. Or, make a list of ways to fit practice into your everyday life.

Even the most successful people have “off” days. Get back on track when you can, review your goals again, and envision where you’d like your skills to be in one year.

5. Pay yourself first.

pay yourself first

One of the best money tips out there is to pay yourself first.

What does that mean, exactly? In terms of finances, it means setting aside funds for your future self before anything else. (Think: emergency funds, retirement accounts, and so on.)

So, apply the same strategy to how you’re spending your free time. Want to stay sharp? Learning a musical instrument is linked to improved memory, concentration, and IQ. Want to get ahead in your career? In today’s job market, learning a second language will make you a more valuable employee, and may even lead to a higher salary.

Or maybe it’s a more personal goal. Many of the adult students we talk to mention they took music lessons as a kid, and wanted to bring that joy back into their lives.

So the question is… do you want to invest in yourself? When you think of it that way, making time for your hobbies seems like a no-brainer.

Readers, how do you make time for yourself? Have you ever felt like you were too busy to learn something new? Leave a comment below and share your experience! 

Photo by Will Foster

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Famous Black Musicians From Then Til Now [Interactive Timeline]

Black History Month is an excellent time to highlight the many famous black musicians who made their mark in American history. The music of these talented composers and performers transcended cultural borders and inspired many to follow in their footsteps.

Some of these musicians overcame obstacles throughout their careers to raise awareness of black music. Others used their skills to fight social injustice and make a positive impact on society. Although they came from different backgrounds and musical styles, each of the artists below contributed to the music we know and love today.

*Click the “Play” button next to each artist to hear a sample of their music!*

Famous black musicians

Inspiring, World Famous Black Musicians From Different Eras

James Reese Europe (1910s)

famous black musicians - James Reese Europe

James Reese Europe is referred to as the “Martin Luther King of music” because of his contributions during the early days of ragtime. Europe, who was born in Alabama in 1880, became the first black bandleader to perform at Carnegie Hall. He later led his band to France, where they performed for Allied armies during World War I.

Europe’s bands were full, symphonic ensembles – a contrast from the smaller groups of New Orleans that became the face of early jazz. Instead, Europe brought ragtime together with the military band tradition of John Philip Sousa and other composers. This hybrid style led to Europe’s appeal with multiracial audiences in a segregated society.

Historians now refer to Europe’s style as “proto-jazz” or “hot ragtime.” His work introducing white audiences to the skill and creativity of black composers and performers helped create an environment where jazz could thrive.

William Grant Still (1930s)

famous black musicians - william grant still

William Grant Still created the first symphonic work by a black composer that was performed by a major orchestra. Still was born in 1895 in Mississippi, and he grew up surrounded by music. His stepfather took him to symphony performances and Still learned to play both the cello and clarinet.

After serving in World War I, Still became an arranger for some of the most famous jazz acts of the 1920s. But his true passion remained symphonic work. His first symphony was written in 1930 and premiered the following year by the Rochester Philharmonic. Although the piece is for a traditional orchestra, it includes blues idioms and music from Still’s childhood.

There were many famous black musicians by the 1930s in jazz music, but Still inspired other black composers to focus on symphonic music. He demonstrated that traditional black music was as powerful with a symphony as with a jazz band.

Berry Gordy Jr. (1950s)

famous black musicians - berry gordy jr

Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown, was born in Detroit in 1929. Gordy’s leadership of Motown Records led to the success of many famous black musicians including Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.

Gordy got his start as a songwriter who specialized in crossover hits. In the 1950s, Gordy wrote songs for Jackie Wilson and Etta James that reached the top 10 on both the R&B and pop charts. This convinced Gordy that black musicians needed their own national record label to produce and promote their work to a larger audience.

Over the course of the 60s and 70s, Motown would become a major force in the recording industry, exposing the country to black musical groups and helping launch the careers of many famous artists. Gordy’s ability to find, develop, and promote musical talent led to Motown being among the most successful African-American owned businesses of the 20th century.

Nina Simone (1960s)

famous black musicians - nina simone

As a child, Nina Simone dreamed of being a classical concert pianist. She began playing piano at the age of three and with the help of her family, she enrolled at Juilliard for a summer to prepare for classical piano program auditions. Her family moved to Philadelphia to help support her, but she was not accepted to the prestigious piano program at the Curtis Institute.

Instead, she began performing jazz at cocktail bars to make money and during this time she also began singing. Simone performed songs based on her African-American heritage as well as her classical background. During the 1960s, she became known for her protest music, releasing original songs that specifically addressed the civil rights movements.

Simone began to speak and perform at civil rights rallies and events, including the Selma to Montgomery marches. Her music directly addressed social injustice while combining jazz, classical, and spiritual influences. In 2018, Simone will be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Afrika Bambaataa (1980s)

famous black musicians - afrika bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa not only transformed hip hop culture, but he used music to turn a street gang into a positive community force. Born Lance Taylor in the Bronx in 1957, Bambaataa grew up in the projects and eventually became a warlord of the Black Spades gang. However, a trip to Africa led him to change his name, and his worldview.

Upon his return he began transforming the Black Spades into a group focused on positive community impact. Bambaataa saw hip hop music as the vehicle that his new group could use to create socially aware communities like the ones he saw in Africa. In 1982, Bambaataa took his hip hop group on a national tour to begin spreading his approach outside of New York.

Bambaataa’s music combines early forms of rap, sampling from disco and funk, and advanced turntable techniques. Bambaataa focused on social messages in his music, referencing American leaders from Thomas Paine to Malcolm X. Without Bambaataa’s work, hip hop would not have the international appeal it has today.

Get Inspired

Each of these famous black musicians overcame obstacles to create music with a lasting impact. Let us know which musicians you find the most inspiring in the comments section below. If these stories inspired you to grow your own musical skills and talents, check out the free music classes at TakeLessons Live today!

Guest Post Author: Ryan Sargent is the Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators. He is also Social Media Manager at SmartMusic, where he shares music education tips with teachers across the country. 

The 7 Types of Learners & How to Find the Best Teacher For YOU

No matter how far your education has taken you, you’ve likely had a lot of teachers over the course of your life.

Elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers and beyond; each year brought one (or more) teachers and mentors into your life. Maybe you even had Little League coaches or camp counselors along the way.

When it comes to private lessons, though — whether you want to learn music, languages, fitness, or something else — it’s a whole new ballgame.

You select the teacher, tutor, or coach you want to learn from. And that can be a little overwhelming!

Fortunately, finding a good teacher for music lessons or otherwise — the perfect person to help you or your child — doesn’t have to be hard. But it does take some reflection and research.

Finding a Great Tutor or Teacher with TakeLessons

To begin, let’s pinpoint who you are, what you want, and what you need. Out of the options below, which do you identify with? Start your search at TakeLessons with the lesson type and your zip code, and we’ll help you find a tutor or teacher who’s the perfect fit.

Want to find your teacher faster? Call our team at 800-536-6206 and we can help!


The “Schedule-Challenged” Student


We get it: life can get busy! Whether you’re working around a 9-to-5 office job, or you’re a parent juggling your child’s extracurriculars, we know some students need a specific timeslot — no exceptions. On the flipside, if your schedule is constantly in flux, you may want a teacher who can offer you more flexibility.

Our search filters make it easy to find instructors with the availability you need. And if you have unique scheduling needs, remember that you have the option to ask instructors questions before booking — simply click the Ask a Question button to the right of a teacher’s profile picture to send them a message.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on the “Availability” dropdown at the top. Select the day(s) you’re looking for, and then pull up individual profiles to see available timeslots. You can see this within the box to the right of the teacher’s information.
  • Consider our “Schedule As You Go” plan if you need flexibility.
  • Have a unique scheduling situation? Use the Ask a Question tool to message teachers before booking, or contact us for assistance.

The Location-Bound Student


What’s that, you say? You don’t want to spend two hours commuting to and from your lesson? We get it.

We’re lucky to work with instructors from all across the U.S. — you’ll find teachers from Seattle to St. Louis, and everywhere in between. You may even find teachers who will travel to your home for lessons.

Even if there’s not a teacher directly nearby, online lessons make it easy and convenient to connect with our top teachers on a regular basis. Not tech-savvy? We’ve created the TakeLessons Classroom just for you. It’s a video chat-based virtual classroom that requires no downloads, and you can get to it right from your Student Account.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • Looking for a teacher close by? After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on Sort by: Distance to see your closest options.
  • Want an instructor who will come to you? Pull up an individual profile, and look at the “Select a location” prompt in the right-hand box. If a bubble for “Your Home” shows, the teacher may be able to travel to you — click the blue prompt to enter your address and make sure you’re within his or her travel radius. (Or, contact us via phone or email for a quicker search!)
  • Prefer online lessons? After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on the “Location” dropdown, and select “Online.”

The Budget-Conscious Student


Private lessons can be expensive. But as many students can attest to, the personalized attention you get from them is priceless! Fortunately, if you’re operating on a budget, there are ways to make it work.

TakeLessons teachers set their own prices, which are shown prominently within search results. This is usually based on their specific location, their experience level, and how long they’ve been teaching.

Also, consider taking online lessons! Often these are a bit cheaper than in-person or in-home lessons, and you’ll be saving money (and time!) by not having to commute anywhere.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on Sort By: Lowest Price to sort your options. Note that prices may be marked at 30-minute, 45-minute, or 60-minute lesson durations.
  • Consider online lessons to save money. After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on the “Location” dropdown, and select “Online”.

The Goal-Oriented Student


Are you an aspiring singer dreaming of being the next Adele? Are you learning French for an upcoming vacation, or so you can interact with clients at work?

If you have specific goals, it’s more important than ever to find the right teacher. So first, write down those goals: where do you want to be in one year? Five years? Ten years? Next, get to work: dedicate some time to browsing profiles, and look for instructors who have experience teaching the specific genres, techniques, or skills you want to learn. Look for the Student Favorite badge for our top teachers, and read the reviews from current and past students.

Still struggling? Use the Ask a Question tool to message teachers before booking, or give us a call for extra assistance in finding the right match.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • Dedicate some time browsing profiles to find someone who has the experience you need.
  • Use the Ask a Question tool for specific inquiries before booking.
  • Look for the Student Favorite badge (a red heart icon) in search results for our top teachers.
  • Read other students’ feedback! After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on Sort By: Reviews to see teachers with the most reviews.

The Picky Parents


OK, maybe you’re not picky. Moms and Dads, we know you just want the best for your child!

And for kids, the “right” teacher isn’t always the most qualified — often it’s the person your child feels the most comfortable with. You’ll want to find a tutor or teacher who is patient, encouraging, and friendly, with (successful) experience with other children.

If safety is important to you, you may want to start your search by marking the option for “Background Check Verified” — this indicates the instructor has opted in and passed a thorough background check.

From there, filter your results by clicking on “Student Age” and selecting from the dropdown. Many teachers will also list their experience and what age groups they enjoy working with in the “Overview” section of their profile. Feel free to use the Ask a Question tool to send a message to the teacher, too.

Beyond that, sometimes it just comes down to a personality match. And the best way to test that is to just try out a lesson — if for any reason it’s not working out, our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee protects you.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, check the box for Background Check Verified.
  • Click on the “Student Age” dropdown, and indicate child or teen.
  • Pull up individual profiles and look at the ages taught in the “About” section.
  • Browse through profiles to get a feel for the teacher’s personality.
  • Use the Ask a Question tool to message teachers before booking.
  • Call us for extra assistance to find that perfect teacher for your child!

The Hobbyist (or, the “Bucketlister”)


If you’re a casual learner who just wants to have fun — or to check off your bucket list — you’re in luck! Most of our teachers are well-equipped to help you with the basics. As you search for your teacher, spend some time browsing profiles and see who catches your eye. Most teachers will speak to their experience, interests, and teaching style in the “Overview” section of their profile. Feel free to give us a call and we can help you sort through your options.

And for older adults, it’s never too late to start learning! Many of our instructors enjoy teaching retirees and above, and will cater your lessons to your learning style and interests. Filter search results by clicking on the “Student Age” dropdown, and use the Ask a Question tool to message teachers if you have a specific inquiry.

Tips to find a teacher:

  • Dedicate some time browsing profiles.
  • Look for the Student Favorite badge (a red heart icon) in search results for our top teachers.
  • Read other students’ feedback! After you’ve pulled up your initial search results, click on Sort By: Reviews to see teachers with the most reviews.
  • Seniors: Find instructors who teach older adults by using the “Student Age” dropdown.

The Worrywart (and Everybody Else)


With our search tools, you can filter your results to find a music teacher, tutor, or coach based on what matters to you, whether that’s price, location, availability, or ages taught. If you’re still not sure, use the Ask a Question tool to message any teachers you’re curious about.

But all said and done, we know that an online profile will only take you so far. So if you’re still not sure, give us a call at 800-536-6206! Our staff includes Student Counselors who regularly talk to our teachers across the U.S., and have experience matching students and families with the best teachers.

Beyond that, there’s no need to worry. You always have the option of booking a smaller lesson package to try things out. Not quite what you expected? Our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee protects you. (Read more here.)

So what are you waiting for? When you’re ready to take that first step toward your goals, we’ll be here.

Special shout-out to music teacher Rosita R., featured in the photo! Learn more about Rosita here.

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What instrument should I learn

What Instrument Should I Learn? [Quiz]

What instrument should I learn

If you’re completely new to music, you’re probably asking “What instrument should I learn?” Learning how to play an instrument is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself, whether you’re 15 or 50, so great job getting started!

There are so many instruments to choose from that starting from scratch can feel overwhelming. In this article, we’ll share a little bit about five of the most popular instruments to help you decide.

First, take this fun and helpful quiz that pairs you up with an instrument that matches your personality, preferences, and goals!

What Instrument Should I Learn?

The Smart Choice: Piano

Arguably the most versatile instrument on the planet, the piano is an excellent option for creating inspiring music.

One major advantage of this instrument is the way its keys are laid out. The keyboard is a near perfect mirror of the steps needed to understand music theory, and this is why we’ve dubbed piano “the smart choice.”

The piano is a great instrument for adults and children. Students of any age or background can learn how to produce tones on the piano within just a few minutes. However it can take years to master more advanced piano skills.

what instrument should I learn - guitar

The Popular Choice: Guitar

Electric, acoustic, and classical guitar – there are so many options! Each instrument is unique and better suits the needs of different students.

No matter how old you are, the guitar is an absolute blast to play. Students typically learn to master chords and scales after a month or two, but it can take years to master the instrument’s more virtuosic capabilities like fingerpicking, arpeggios, and soloing.

The electric guitar is the best choice for younger students because its strings are easier to play than the acoustic or classical guitar’s. Keep in mind though that you’ll need an amplifier to go with it.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Most Unique Instruments to Learn

what instrument should I learn - violin

The Challenging Choice: Violin

The violin is capable of producing some of the world’s most achingly gorgeous music, but it’s an instrument that can take many years to master.

The violin is similar to the guitar except that there are no frets, and this makes it especially challenging to learn. But even with its challenges, the right violin teacher can help students of any age navigate this incredible instrument over time.

If you’re interested in picking up the violin, give yourself six months to a year to master some of its basic concepts. The violin requires patience and persistence; you won’t sound like Joshua Bell or Antonio Vivaldi right away!

what instrument should I learn - ukulele

The Simple Choice: Ukulele

The ukulele is the friendliest instrument to learn on the planet, but that’s not the only reason you should consider playing it. Ukuleles are inexpensive, portable, and cheery-sounding instruments that are perfect for creative songwriters.

Amanda Palmer and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole are a few well known uke musicians, but thousands of artists around the world play this fun instrument. The only real downside of the ukulele is that it’s extremely limited as far as sound and dynamics go.

If you’re looking for an awesome starter instrument for kids, the uke is best choice available, hands down. Kids can learn how to play simple chords on the ukulele within a week or two.

what instrument should I learn - drums

The Fun Choice: Drums

If you’re looking for an instrument that lets you be loud and expressive, then the drums are perfect for you. Drums come in all shapes and sizes, but most sets have a snare, bass drum, hi-hat, and toms.  

Do Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr, and Keith Moon inspire you? Listening to some of music’s famous drummers before deciding which instrument you should learn is a good idea.  

It can take a few months of practice on the drums to be able to produce solid and discernible beats. The drums aren’t too difficult to learn, but you’ll definitely want to work with an experienced drum teacher to ensure that you’re learning correct technique.

We hope this article and quiz helped you answer the daunting question “What instrument should I learn?” If you need more help choosing the right instrument for you, try sampling a few beginner-level lessons in several different instruments before committing to just one.

Check out TakeLessons Live where you can take FREE classes in each of these instruments for 30 days!

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Guest Post Author: Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and educator. He records and performs music under the name, Straight White Teeth.

Christmas gifts for musicians

40+ Unique Christmas Gifts for Musicians

Christmas gifts for musicians

Looking for Christmas gifts for musicians? You’ve come to the right place. The holidays are upon us and it’s time to do some shopping! No matter what instrument your favorite musician plays, they deserve a gift just as unique as their hobby.

We’ve compiled a list of the best Christmas gifts for musicians to make finding the perfect present a little easier. Whether you’re shopping for stocking stuffers or a bigger, more impressive gift, there’s something for everyone on this list!

40+ Unique Christmas Gifts for Musicians

Stocking Stuffers for Musicians

Christmas gifts for musicians

Musician’s Dice, $19 – If the musician in your life loves spontaneous jam sessions, or has ever experienced a roadblock when composing, then this is the perfect gift. These dice are a fun way to help musicians improvise and get their creative juices flowing.
Christmas gifts for musicians

Music Magnets, $2-10 – Their small size makes them perfect for a stocking, and with all the unique designs available you’re sure to find one for your favorite pianist, flutist, or guitarist!  

Christmas gifts for musicians

Vinyl Record Cufflinks, $60 – Do you have a stylish musician friend or relative? Help them show off their musical style with these cufflinks! This accessory is as unique and funky as your favorite musician.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Guitar String Bracelets, $14 – Fashion forward musicians will also love these creative bracelets. They can display their love of music on their wrists by wearing repurposed bass guitar strings as a fashion statement.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Music Score Removable Tape, $8 – Composers can cover up mistakes or change a passage with this removable tape. No damage will be done to the original, and the musician can easily add to any piece of music!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Premium Dark Rosin with Case, $10 – This premium rosin will not only produce less dust but the stylish and convenient case makes one-handed application easy. Viola, cello, bass, and violin players will thank you.

Christmas gifts for musicians

“Rock On” Iphone Case, $18 – You can tell a lot about someone’s personality by the way they accessorize their phone. Give your favorite musician another way to express themselves with a cool phone case that shows off their love of rock!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Ear Plugs, $20 – These ear plugs are perfect for musicians in loud environments because they reduce volume but still let the sound in. Your musician can enjoy the music while protecting their hearing!

Christmas Gifts for Musicians’ Homes

Christmas gifts for musicians

DIY Music Ornament, $6-20 – Cut up strips of sheet music and stuff them into clear ornaments from your local craft store. Bonus if it’s their favorite song!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Record Clock, $38 – All musicians need to be good at keeping time (literally)! They’ll enjoy looking at this clock so much they’ll never be late for band practice again.
Christmas gifts for musicians

Framed Music Quote, $34 – These elegant wall hangings give musical quotes an artistic flair. They can be easily displayed in a musician’s home as a decorative yet meaningful piece.
Christmas gifts for musicians

Guitar Flipper Spatula, $12 – Whoever said musicians can’t cook has never seen these cool spatulas! Your favorite musician will be more motivated to make breakfast before band practice with this fun kitchenware.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Life Without Music Mug, $18 – Give a gift that combines their love for music and coffee! This cute and funny mug is perfect for any musician who appreciates a hot drink.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Sound Waves Print, $45 – Give that musician you love a sentimental gift with these customizable sound wave prints. Use their favorite song or first dance to turn a memory into a piece of decor!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Guitar Amp Keyholder, $35-40 – Modeled after a real amp, this keyholder will add some musical flair to any home. Your favorite musician will never lose the keys again!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Art Vinyl, $52 – Their favorite vinyl record can double as an art piece and stay protected from damage. Bonus if you give this gift with a record already inside!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Portable Bluetooth Speaker, $60 – Every music lover will appreciate a good speaker. These portable speakers make it easy to take music wherever you go, just use the Bluetooth to connect a phone or Ipod!
Christmas gifts for musicians

Vinyl Record, $20-35 – Oh how music has evolved! For the friend or relative who loves music and all things vintage, records are a perfect gift if they own a record player.

SEE ALSO: Best Last Minute Gifts Ideas for Musicians

Practical Christmas Gifts for Musicians

Christmas gifts for musicians

Bright Hammerhead LED Music Light, $22 – This ultra bright light is compact and portable. The gooseneck also twists and will attach to anything, so all the musician has to worry about is playing music!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Pick Punch, $25 – Now string instrumentalists can make their own picks out of anything they want. This is a fun gift for the creative musician who always loses picks!

Roadie 2 Automatic Guitar Tuner, $129 – Tuning a guitar just got a thousand times easier! Roadie 2 directly connects to the tuning peg of the guitar and once the string is strummed, it automatically gets it into perfect tune. Roadie 2 works on most string instruments including electric, acoustic, classical, 7 and 12-string guitars, ukulele and more. You can tune to standard or switch to any alternate tuning in just seconds. Roadie 2 also comes with a built-in wind/unwind feature for easy restringing.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Music Stand, Music Sheet Clip, and Light, $35 – This collapsible music stand comes with everything a musician needs to ensure they have an amazing performance or practice session. The best part: it all fits into one nifty carrying case that’s included!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Moleskine Music Notebook, $13 – This notebook is perfect for musicians, songwriters, and composers. The right page consists of eight staffs and the left is blank so they can write down and brainstorm new ideas.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Swirly Gig Drink Holders, $26 – Staying hydrated is a necessity for many musicians, especially singers. These holders clip onto most microphone stands so a beverage is easily accessible during  jam sessions.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Mic Stand Ipad Holder, $20 – Put the music and lyrics right at their fingertips! This tablet holder fits onto most mic stands and is perfect when trying to learn a new song.  

Christmas gifts for musicians

Headphones, $25 – A musician can never have too many pairs of headphones! Durability and excellent sound quality make these headphones perfect for any music lover.  

Christmas gifts for musicians

Guitar Center Gift Card, $5-500 – Guitar Center has something for every musician, not just guitarists! If you’d rather send a quick e-gift card, you can even customize it with a personal photo.

Fun Christmas Gifts for Musicians

Christmas gifts for musicians

Spontuneous: The Song Game, $30 – What better way to spend cold winter nights with friends and family than by playing a singing game! Don’t worry – no talent is required, just a knowledge of song lyrics.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Itunes Gift Card, $10-$200 – An Itunes gift card is perfect for music lovers because it allows them to download their favorite songs or music-related apps. The best part is you can choose whatever amount fits in your budget.  

Christmas gifts for musicians

Guitar Case Lunch Box, $22 – Do you know any young musicians who are still in school? This fun lunch box will help show everyone in the cafeteria what a cool musician they are. It even comes with stickers to customize it!
Christmas gifts for musicians

Mini Portable Karaoke Machine, $28 – Take the show on the road, literally. This portable karaoke machine will let your favorite musician have fun singing wherever and whenever their heart desires!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Playable Electronic Guitar Shirt, $30 – What’s more fun than a vintage t-shirt featuring a playable musical instrument? This shirt hooks up to a mini amp and allows the wearer to actually play their favorite song.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Mechanical Music Box Set, $7-$22 – This creative gift is extra unique. Based off the old classic music boxes, this set lets the music maker punch holes onto paper which is fed through the box to make beautiful melodies!
Christmas gifts for musicians

TakeLessons Live Subscription, $0-20/month – For the musician who is still learning, or wants to explore new instruments, a subscription to online music classes is the perfect fit. TakeLessons Live offers more than 300 classes on a variety of subjects, from singing to piano to ukulele.

Impressive Christmas Gifts for Musicians

Christmas gifts for musicians

USB Mix Tape, $26 – Make your special someone their very own mix tape, well sort of. This unique gift lets you add the playlist to a USB in cassette-like packaging. So 80s rom-com!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Mahogany Ukulele, $79 – The ukulele is an excellent gift for new musicians, or experienced ones who want to broaden their skillset. This mahogany ukulele is a great option because it’s both high quality and affordable.
Christmas gifts for musicians

Pocket Synthesizer, $89 – It may look like a strange calculator, but this small synthesizer allows a musician to make beats in the palm of their hand! Of all the Christmas gifts for musicians, this one is sure to be a favorite.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Concert Tickets, $30-$1000 – Is there a band in town they’ve been dying to see? This is the perfect opportunity to surprise your favorite musician with a night they won’t forget.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Medium Sized Cajon, $129 – Have a drum enthusiast in your life who doesn’t have the space for a full set? A cajon is the perfect marriage of chair and drum. It’s also a great new instrument for musicians who want to branch out and try something new!

Christmas gifts for musicians

Portable Cube Amp, $180 – This small amp is battery operated and can be taken anywhere. It works with guitars, keyboards, MP3 devices, and more.  

Christmas gifts for musicians

Crosley Keepsake Vinyl Record Player, $169 – Few things are as cool as a vintage record player. With all the options of vinyl record players out there, this keepsake is a must-have.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Portable Digital Audio Recorder, $160 – Don’t let its small size fool you. This little audio recorder has amazing sound quality and is the perfect Christmas gift for the creative songwriter.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Computer DJ System, $70 – This USB powered DJ system hooks right up to a laptop so the DJ can scratch, mix, fade, and more all of from one device like the disc jockeys of old.

Christmas gifts for musicians

Music Lessons with a Private Instructor, $50-$5,000 – A private instructor is the best way to learn a new instrument or improve musical skills. Surprise the growing musician in your life and purchase private lessons as a gift! TakeLessons has thousands of teachers to choose from.

Finding Christmas gifts for musicians doesn’t have to be a challenge with these creative and unique ideas! When ordering online, don’t forget to account for shipping costs and the length of time your gift will take to arrive.

Checking for coupon codes and discounts is another helpful tip if you’re sticking to a shopping budget. Whatever gift you decide on, remember it’s the thought that counts and the musician in your life will appreciate it!  

Is Cello hard to learn

Is Cello Hard to Learn? Read THIS Before Taking Lessons

Is Cello Hard to Learn

Many beginning musicians wonder, “Is cello hard to learn?” The process of learning the cello is not difficult, but it’s important to keep in mind that the cello is not an instrument of instant gratification. It does require focused, daily practice time and a good teacher to guide you along the way.

How far you progress with cello is a direct result of the amount of quality time you put into practicing the instrument. Even someone who puts in just 30 minutes a day will notice a significant improvement after a few weeks, regardless of their age.

A student who continues to take cello lessons and practice beyond their first year has the potential to develop into a talented amateur, and a young student with the right dedication could continue their studies all the way through to a rewarding professional career.

Is Cello Hard to Learn?

When learning how to play the cello, very little is spoon-fed to you by the instrument. Keyboard and fretted instruments (such as the piano and guitar) are a little easier to learn the basics. Simply putting your finger on the right key or fret will allow you to produce the note you want to hear.  

With the cello, you need to have a teacher guiding you through the early stages to ensure you’re learning in a healthy way. This will lead to a lifetime of enjoying the instrument. If you have the right teacher, anyone can learn the fundamentals of playing cello.

As with most instruments, the cello will come more easily to someone with experience reading notes and rhythms. Most of cello music is written down, rather than transferred aurally from teacher to student. But with a little patience, students of all ages can learn the musical language without prior knowledge or exposure.

Does Age Matter?

Young students make great beginner cellists. Often with youth comes unbridled enthusiasm for learning a cool new instrument and a mental elasticity that helps them absorb new information like a sponge.

These advantages can carry a student a long way. The excitement encourages them to practice more on their own and their ability to retain information helps them progress quickly in their studies.

One difficulty that young students face though, is the challenge of critically analyzing their playing. As a result, they need an outside observer to help them identify things that cause them trouble, whether it is posture, intonation, tone quality, etc. Young beginners are also generally less coordinated than their adult counterparts and will remain that way until well after puberty.

Adult beginners have their own set of advantages. Firstly, they’re better in control of their bodies which helps them make changes to technique and posture more quickly. They also have a strong ability to critically analyze their own actions, and better sense of how they want to sound.

As a result of their ability to critically analyze their own playing, adult learners can sometimes go straight to the criticizing part. This can lead to discouragement when they don’t immediately sound the way they want. However, the student is probably playing at a level appropriate to how long they have been studying.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing in between lessons is another necessity that makes learning the cello much easier. Without daily practice times, you will find your teacher going over the same concepts week after week during your lessons. Make a commitment to find a small chunk of time each day to practice playing the cello and you’ll set yourself up for success.

If you only have five minutes, play some open strings for tone quality. Have a little more time? Add in some scale practice. If you have even more time, pick apart the challenging sections of your newest solo piece. There is always something you can practice, but focus on the most important concepts with the time that you have.

Start Learning Cello Today

You no longer have to wonder if the cello is hard to learn. With a teacher guiding your technique, regular practice times, and a willingness to learn, you too can become an excellent cellist.

You won’t have to worry about twisting your left arm into an uncomfortable position like violinists, or pushing air through several yards of tubing using only your lungs like a brass player. Instead, you’ll get to enjoy the comfort of the relaxed seated position for the cello.

Overall, the cello is an incredible instrument with a wonderful depth of sound and breadth of repertoire. To get started now, sign up for your first cello lesson right here at TakeLessons with one of our many talented instructors.

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Violin or Cello

Violin or Cello: Which Instrument Is Right For You?

Violin or Cello

Choosing whether to play the violin or cello can be difficult, but this article will help you consider the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

The violin and cello are two of the most well-known and commonly studied instruments in the string family. Each one is central to the makeup of the orchestra we know today. Becoming familiar with the pros and cons of these two instruments will help you decide whether the violin or cello is a better fit for you.

Violin or Cello – How to Decide

Pros and Cons of the Violin

The violin’s most commonly cited advantage is that it’s practical. The violin is (on average) significantly less expensive than the cello. It’s also smaller and more portable. In addition, many people appreciate the violin’s range and tone, which is similar to that of the human voice.

Because the instrument has been popular now for around 400 years, there isn’t a shortage of repertoire to keep both budding and experienced violinists challenged. Within orchestras, spaces for violinists also tend to be the most numerous, so in that sense violinists have an advantage (especially over winds, brass, and percussion).

Compared to other string sections however, violin can also be more competitive because so many people play it. It might not be too difficult to earn a spot in the second violin section, but earning a place among the upper ranks can be more difficult.

Pros and Cons of the Cello

The cello is often cited for its practical disadvantages – mainly its size and expense. But for students who enjoy the sound of the cello more, hauling around a larger and more expensive instrument is well worth the care and effort.

The cello’s low register and tonality resonates with many musicians far more than the violin’s higher register.

Both the violin and cello have a unique range and repertoire that tend to draw different people. While violin repertoire is probably more extensive, the cello also has a well-established and diverse repertoire, including significant solo works.

Fewer students study the cello than the violin, so cellists are usually in higher demand than violinists. This tends to hold true even when taking into account the typically lower number of cellists required to create an orchestra or chamber ensemble.

Which is Harder to Play: Violin or Cello?

Many students wonder, which instrument is more difficult: the violin or cello? People who have tried both instruments tend to say the cello is less difficult due to its more natural position. The position of the violin can feel awkward at first, however advanced violinists insist that it becomes natural over time.

Many experienced musicians say that both instruments have their own difficulties. For example, although a cellist’s playing position is easier to learn, the thumb position on the cello is difficult for many students. Advanced cellists also must learn three clefs instead of just one.

SEE ALSO: How Easy is it to Switch Instruments? [Infographic]

Making the Choice Between Violin or Cello

Music students and their families can do a number of things to help them in their decision between the violin or cello.

  • First, consider what opportunities are available at school or in the community. Keep long term goals in mind.
  • Make sure the student has exposure to both instruments. This can include videos, CDs, or local concerts. Local colleges and conservatories often perform concerts for the general public and many of these feature the violin and cello. Local symphonies also put on free concerts in the park.
  • To be sure you’re making the right choice, it’s always a good idea to sample each instrument and take a couple lessons. Check out this directory of violin teachers, and this directory of cello teachers. Lessons are available both in-person and online all over the country.
  • Above all, the student should love the sound of whichever instrument they choose, whether it’s the higher and more cheerful violin or the deeper and rich cello.

What are your thoughts on whether the violin or cello is a better instrument? Let us know in the comments below!

Carol
Post Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in Sacramento, CA. She currently plays viola in the Rancho Cordova Civic Light Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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5 World-Famous Hispanic Musicians With Inspiring Stories

Hispanic Musicians

Many of the world’s most well known and talented musicians come from a Hispanic background. The music of these singers, guitarists, and pianists has won globally recognized awards and transcended cultural borders.

Several Hispanic musicians, such as Santana and Gloria Estefan, have overcome the odds to chase their dreams and here, we’ll share their inspirational stories. Keep reading to learn about five artists that are sure to leave you motivated, encouraged, and moved.

5 Inspiring Hispanic Musicians

Gloria Estefan – Pop Singer

Hispanic musicians - Gloria Estefan

Source: Jesus Cordero

Gloria Estefan was born in Havana, but her family fled from Cuba to Miami when she was a young girl. After serving in Vietnam, Gloria’s father became very ill. With her mother working and attending night classes, Gloria was left at home to care for her father and sister.

These responsibilities were a lot for a teenager, but Gloria turned to music as an escape. She would lock herself in her room and sing for hours. In 1975, Gloria became acquainted with a keyboardist who later became her husband. He led a band called “the Miami Latin Boys” and asked Gloria to be the lead vocalist as soon as he heard her sing.

The band’s name was later changed to “the Miami Sound Machine.” Their albums launched to the top of the charts, and Gloria was called a demure, Hispanic version of Madonna.

Her story doesn’t stop there, though. A car accident while on tour in 1990 left Gloria with broken vertebrae in her back. Never one to stay down, she made a miraculous recovery and was back on tour and making albums within the year. To this day Gloria Estefan is still making music, with many projects paying tribute to her native home of Cuba.

Santana – Guitarist

Hispanic musicians - Santana

Source: Libby Fabro

Santana has become a very familiar name, working with artists from every genre such as Michelle Branch and DJ Khalid, but it hasn’t always been that way. Growing up in Mexico, Santana’s father originally taught him how to play the violin, but he found that he liked the electric guitar much more.

As a teenager living in Tijuana, Santana started out performing at a variety of small venues.  He later moved to San Francisco and spent his days working as a dishwasher in a diner and playing for change on the streets. B.B. King and Ray Charles were two of his biggest musical inspirations.

Santana never gave up on his dreams though, and eventually decided to pursue music full time. What started out as “The Santana Blues Band” later became known as “Santana” and gained a mass following, even performing at Woodstock.

The crowds loved Santana’s sound – a mix of blues, rock, and jazz. The band released multiple albums that went platinum and Santana has continued to win Grammy awards. He also recently published a memoir called “The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light” with the hope of inspiring others, and it became a national bestseller.

Ruben Gonzalez – Pianist

Hispanic musicians - Ruben Gonzalez

Source: Ebet Roberts

Ruben Gonzalez is proof that it’s never too late to pursue your passion. He released his debut album at the age of 78! Ruben originally studied medicine, but later in life he decided to pursue music.

He was known for his Latin jazz sound and was requested by many bands and ensembles. Ruben was best known for working with the Afro Cuban All Stars and the Buena Vista Social Club, specializing in Latin dance and traditional Cuban music.

His album with the Buena Vista Social Club won a Grammy in 1997, and that same year Ruben decided to release his first solo album – “Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez.” After releasing a second album in 2000, he died three years later knowing that he had done what he loved with his life. His music is still enjoyed by many.

Placido Domingo – Opera Singer

Hispanic musicians - Placido Domingo

Source: Barbara Davidson

Both of Placido’s parents were singers for Spanish operettas in Madrid, which definitely contributed to his remarkable tenor voice and musical abilities. This didn’t mean that his success came easily, though.

After moving to Mexico at eight years old, Placido began appearing alongside his parents in performances. He originally played the piano and enrolled in school to become a conductor, but later decided to focus on singing. Placido had a few small television appearances and often played in piano bars to earn money.

At 18 years old, he began landing roles in various opera productions. Placido continued to work hard and eventually won a Grammy award for Best Opera Recording in 1971. Fourteen Grammys later, he is now in his seventies and lives by the motto, “If I rest I rust.”

Placido didn’t even let health problems such as cancer slow him down. He is still performing, recording, and running a prestigious voice competition called “Operalia” to discover and nurture new talent.

SEE ALSO: 20 Spanish Traditions, Customs, and Superstitions

Selena – Tejano Singer

Hispanic musicians - Selena

Source: Dave Einsel

We can’t discuss Hispanic musicians without mentioning Selena. Known as the “Queen of Tejano,” Selena’s legacy lives on today despite her early death. (Tejano is a type of music that incorporates Mexican and other styles of music such as country.)

Selena began singing as a child. She was the lead in her family’s band alongside her brother and sister. The band originally performed at her parents’ restaurant, weddings, and fairs. As their music became increasingly popular, the band started to record albums and go on tour.

Eventually Selena was signed as a solo artist, and her Spanish-language albums received major accolades and awards. She began to work on her first English album, but before she could see its release, she was killed by one of her own fans at just 23 years old.

Selena’s untimely death was shocking to all who enjoyed her music. Her English album, “Dreaming of You,” was later released in 1996. The album sold more than a million copies and introduced many people to Tejano music. Selena’s story lives on, and she continues to inspire many with her impressive accomplishments in such a short career.

Each of these Hispanic musicians are inspiring in their own unique way. From different regions and different walks of life, they all overcame obstacles to introduce the world to their musical styles and abilities. Tell us about a musician you love in the comments below!

Feeling inspired to work on your own musical talents? Learn how to become a better musician and performer from expert instructors in the online courses at TakeLessons Live.