7 Common Chord Progressions for Every Piano Player

piano chord progressions

Chord progressions offer a view of music from a whole new perspective. Once you know some common variants, you’ll be able to create your own music, learn and sight-read written music more quickly, and have a greater understanding of music in general.

First, what are piano chord progressions? Chord progressions are simply a sequence of chords. (A chord is two or more notes played together). Chord progressions exist to develop the music in a harmonically meaningful way. Often you can hear a “harmonic story” in each chord progression which includes a beginning, middle, and end.

In order to notate and analyze chords, musicians use a system of Roman numerals. In each major key, there are seven unique chords, built off the notes of the scale. Each chord in the scale can be major, minor, diminished, or augmented.

Here are the notations for each chord in a major scale: I (major), ii (minor), iii (minor), IV (major), V (major), vi (minor), and vii° (diminished). As you can see, a capital Roman numeral indicates “major,” and a lowercase Roman numeral indicates “minor.”

7 Piano Chord Progressions Everyone Should Know

The chord progressions on the following list can be used in any of the 12 major keys. For simplicity’s sake, each chord progression below is shown both in Roman numerals and in the key of C Major, as an example. (The last progression on the list is an exception, which is in minor).

In each genre of music, there are specific chord progressions that are commonly used and well loved. Below, you’ll learn seven of the most common piano chord progressions from jazz, gospel, blues, and more!

1. The 12-bar Blues Chord Progression

This chord progression is incredibly simple because it uses just three chords – I, IV, and V – but it has infinite possibilities for melodic improvisation. When played over 12 bars, this progression becomes a “12-bar blues.”

Note: A bar of music is a way of notating a set amount of time, or a certain number of beats, in the music. In the 12-bar blues, each bar would have four beats or counts, and each chord would last one bar. This makes 12 bars in total – one for each chord.

You can experiment with improvising on top of this chord progression using the blues scale. When this chord progression is used in a blues song, it’s repeated many times throughout the song. You’ll find the 12-bar blues in songs like Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” and Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”

Without further ado, check out the progression in C Major below. This chord progression, like all chord progressions, can be played in a variety of timings. Here, the chord progression (I-IV-I-V-I) is extended so it can last for 12 bars.

C – C – C – C – F – F – C – C – G – G – C – C

I – I – I – I – IV – IV – I – I – V – V – I – I

If you’d like, you can also practice this in other keys by transposing it. To do this, choose your key (say, G Major), and then use the sequence of Roman numerals above to create the same chord progression using the scale of G Major.

If you need more help or want to check your transposition, you can type in the chord names (i.e. C, G, F) here and they will be transposed to the key of your choice.

2. The “Cadential” Chord Progression

No piano chord progression list would be complete without this one, since it defies genre and is an essential ending progression. This is called a “cadential” chord progression in music theory, and it’s particularly common in classical, church, and gospel settings.

The ii-V-I chord progression is complete on its own, but it can also be made into the longer progression I-vi-ii-V-I. You can hear this progression in many jazz standards, including Miles Davis’ “Tune Up” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”


Here’s what this progression would look like in C Major:

Dmin – G – C

ii – V – I

3. The Songwriting & All-purpose Chord Progression

This progression will likely sound familiar to you, as it’s extremely popular and has a dramatic sound – thanks to the minor vi chord. The progression lends itself very well to songwriting.

It can actually be altered by starting on any of the chords in the progression and then continuing in the same order (for example, V-vi-IV-I). Changing it in this way creates different tonal sentiments, from melancholy to drama.

Songs using this progression are numerous, including the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Goin’ Down.”


Here it is in all four alterations:

C – G – Amin – F / G – Amin – F – C / Amin – F – C – G / F – C – G – Amin

I – V – vi – IV / V – vi – IV – I / vi – IV – I – V / IV – I – V – vi

4. The Classic 3-chord Progression

This is one of the most versatile piano chord progressions, yet also one of the simplest! It’s been widely used as the basis for many songs, especially in modern pop. It’s also a good one to practice improvisation, since the progression itself doesn’t take a lot of concentration.

You’ll recognize it in Richie Valen’s “La Bamba,” Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”


Here is the 3-chord progression in C Major, as an example:

C – F – G

I – IV – V

5. The Canon (AKA Pachelbel) Progression

This progression is named after Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, an idyllic work that has become very well known. It is a more extended version of the previous I-IV-V progression. Like the 12-bar blues, it can be repeated many times within a single song.

The Canon progression appears in many genres, particularly pop. You’ll hear it in Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” and Blues Traveler’s “Hook.”


The progression looks like this in C Major:

C – G – Amin – Emin – F – C – F – G

I – V – vi – iii – IV – I – IV – V

6. The 50s Progression

This progression is a throwback to the 50s, although it’s still in use today. It has several different catchy names that speak to its versatility including the “Heart and Soul” chords, the “doo wop progression,” and the “ice cream changes.”

You can hear it featured in songs like Ben E. King’s hit “Stand By Me,” Green Day’s “Jesus of Suburbia,” and Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up.”


This chord progression makes the rounds in many genres, including pop, classical, reggae, and doo-wop.

C – Amin – F – G

I – vi – IV – V

7. Andalusian Cadence

Now that you know a number of basic piano chord progressions in major, here’s one that has a bit more flair thanks to its roots in Flamenco music. This progression is in minor, and it also uses chords that are lowered by a half step (♭ VII and ♭ VI).

You’ll hear the Andalusian cadence in Ace of Base’s “Cruel Summer,” Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack,” and Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”


The Andalusian cadence looks like this in C Minor:

Cmin – B♭– A ♭– G

i – ♭ VII – ♭ VI – V

Chord progressions are fundamental to playing the piano proficiently and understanding music on a deeper level. To learn more about chord progressions and the theory behind them, piano lessons are a great solution.

A teacher can help demystify music theory, and give you personalized exercises to train your ear and fingers. Try an online piano class, or take one-on-one piano lessons with a professional instructor near you to learn more.

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Banjo vs Guitar: The Difference, Difficulty, & How to Decide

guitar vs banjo

The battle between the banjo vs guitar is a tough one, especially when you’re new to music and trying to decide which instrument is right for you. In order to make the right choice, consider the following factors, and check out the poll below to see what other readers think is the best instrument to play!

Which instrument do you prefer: banjo or guitar?

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Banjo vs Guitar: Key Things to Consider

Musical Style & Preferences

banjo vs guitar

It’s important to think about what style of music you want to learn. Keep in mind that all music instruction starts off with similar, basic concepts. So either instrument will suit the purposes of teaching you the skills you need to get started as a musician.

It’s not until you progress a bit that you start to understand the intricacies of a particular musical style. And it is a common misconception that the banjo is an instrument solely used for bluegrass. Both the banjo and guitar have been used in a wide variety of genres, including blues, jazz, folk, country, and even pop.

Both instruments lend an interesting sound to any genre of music. Even a few classical composers saw fit to use the banjo when it was introduced to them in the late 1800s. So, round one in the battle between the banjo vs guitar, does not go to either instrument. They both are very versatile and can facilitate many different styles of playing.

Difficulty of the Guitar vs Banjo

guitar vs banjo

Depending on your size, the banjo might be easier to play because the neck is smaller and there are less strings. Some banjos tend to be a bit heavy for certain people though, especially children.

What about the ease of pressing down on the strings? Well, this can be easily adjusted depending on the gauge of strings you use on either instrument. Thinner strings will be easier on the fingers, no matter what instrument you choose.

The tuning you decide to learn will affect your ease of playing. The banjo is tuned to an open tuning, called “Open G tuning.” The guitar is typically tuned to “Standard” which are the notes E, A, D, G, B, E, and this does not create an open chord like the banjo tuning does.

This means that whenever you pick up a banjo and strum across the strings, it immediately makes a pleasant sound because the strings are already tuned to one of the chords you will learn to play.

So in this round of the banjo vs guitar debate, it appears that the banjo has a leg up on the competition. However, it is important to understand that certain guitar styles, such as the dobro that we often see in bluegrass music, will also be tuned to an Open G tuning, thereby taking away any advantage that the banjo has over the guitar.

Learning & Playing Chords

guitar vs banjo

When you’re learning to play in open tunings on the banjo, you will learn simple two and three finger chords that make up the basic chords you need to play bluegrass music. For example, the first few chords you’ll learn in Open G tuning on the banjo will likely be G, C, and D.

People often ask if learning chords is more difficult on the guitar because there are more strings. This is certainly the case when you’re playing in standard tuning. However, the chord shapes on both the banjo and the guitar all fall into five basic categories.

Once you have learned the five basic chords (C, A, G, E, and D) you have the ability to play any of the chords that you will need to learn for either instrument.

How to Decide

Ultimately, the final decision comes down to which instrument makes you the happiest. Which do you enjoy playing the most? Whatever you decide, you will find that the same skills you learn on the guitar allow you to easily take up the banjo later on, or vice versa.

The best way to end the debate between the guitar vs banjo is to actually try a few private lessons. At TakeLessons, there are a variety of experienced teachers who play both the guitar and banjo, if you need some professional guidance making your final decision.

Regardless of which instrument you choose, when you start your musical journey on the banjo or guitar, it will be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make! Good luck, and let us know which instrument you decided on in the comments below.

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches banjo and guitar lessons in Winston Salem, NC. Willy has been teaching for over 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

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10 Cool Ukulele Riffs Anyone Can Learn to Play [+ Tabs]

Cool Ukulele Riffs

Every ukulele player should have a few cool ukulele riffs in their back pocket. In this article, you’ll learn 10 of the best riffs to impress your friends and add some variety to your repertoire.

When you first start playing the ukulele, you’ll most likely learn the four basic chords – C, G, Am, and F. Once you have a handle on these four chords, you’ll be able to play tons of songs. But after you get comfortable playing songs, you’ll want to spice up your repertoire.

One easy way to do that is to include ukulele riffs in your playing. A ukulele riff is a series of notes played within a song that creates a catchy melody. A riff can be played as a pattern of single string notes, or as a series of chords. Often the riff is repeated several times throughout the song and is easily recognizable.

10 Cool Ukulele Riffs to Learn Today

Eventually, you’ll be able to pick out riffs by ear, but when you’re just getting started it helps to have the notes tabbed out for you. Ukulele tabs are an easy way to learn the notes of a melody, even if you can’t read music.

Keep in mind that tabs don’t usually include the timing for how long to play each note. (It will help if you’ve heard these riffs at some point in your life, so you’ll know the rhythm).

Tabs also won’t tell you what fingers to use to play each note. As you advance in your skills, you’ll be able to choose an effective fingering quickly. So without further ado, here are 10 cool ukulele riffs with tabs below.

1. “Shave and a Haircut”

This quick riff was made popular by the late 80s, semi-animated movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

cool ukulele riffs

2. “Weak” by SWV

This fun riff is repeated over and over throughout the song. Like many ukulele riffs, this one has been transposed to a key that fits the ukulele, while still maintaining the integrity of the melody line.

cool ukulele riffs

3. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones

This opening riff is played by the guitar on the original recording. Because of the tuning of the ukulele, the tab below is written so that the melody is played higher than the original key.

cool ukulele riffs

4. “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley

This song simply requires a knowledge of the four essential ukulele chords (C, G, Am, and F). The turn around riff follows the chords.

cool ukulele riffs

5. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

One of the most popular, cool ukulele riffs is the opening of “Eye of the Tiger.” It’s a sure way to turn your ordinary ukulele into a rock and roll machine. Below are two different versions of the opening riff.

cool ukulele riffs

Or…

cool ukulele riffs

6. “Charlie Brown” Theme Song

A classic riff that has been played on piano, guitar, and now the ukulele. All the notes are on the one string (above the 5th fret) which makes this an easy riff you can learn to play today.

cool ukulele riffs

7. “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens

This opening riff is the longest riff on this list. It’s also a bit more challenging than all the rest because of the frequent changing of strings within the melody. It’s a fun challenge for beginning ukulele players that will help with finger coordination and speed!

cool ukulele riffs

8. “Friends” Theme Music

If you’re a Friends enthusiast, this is the ukulele riff you’ve been waiting for. Within the popular TV series, there are reprises of the original theme music that are used to help transition between scenes. This is one of those transitions that is used often.

cool ukulele riffs

9. “Simpsons” Theme Song

There are two tabbed versions of this popular riff below. The first is in the original key. Because of note limitations on the ukulele, the last four notes of the riff have to go up instead of down.

cool ukulele riffs

The second version is a transposed version of the riff. It has the same intervals as the original melody where the last four notes go down. Like most music, it is up to the individual artist to decide which version they prefer best.

cool ukulele riffs

10. “Beverly Hills Cop” Theme Song

This catchy ukulele riff has a great rhythm and you can learn to play it in a day. Plus, most of your friends have heard this riff, and even hummed it a time (or 10).

cool ukulele riffs

We hope you enjoyed this list of cool ukulele riffs to wow your friends and family. Be sure to check out Takelessons Live to learn more ukulele skills. You can also work with a local ukulele teacher to improve your technique.

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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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50+ Best Acapella Songs for Girls, Guys, Groups & More

acapella songs

Every singer should have a few traditional and contemporary acapella songs under their belt. Many times, singers are required to sing acapella at auditions – without an accompanist or background track.

Music directors often ask singers to sing acapella in order to hear and test their musicality and stamina. (Acapella singing requires that these skills be sharp!) It also shows that you’re able to be a leader, and that you’re comfortable having the spotlight on you as a solo singer.

If you have an audition coming up, or are simply looking to find more music for your group or choir, check out this list of the best acapella songs broken up into categories for different genders and genres.

50+ Best Acapella Songs for Any Singer

You can sing just about any genre in the acapella style, including pop, jazz, R&B, country and Broadway. Many artists such as New York Voices, Pentatonix, and the Mormon Tabernacle choir have turned both traditional and contemporary songs into their own unique vocal arrangements.

They create all the melodies, rhythms, and harmonies with their voices alone! By diving into separated voice parts, each person plays an important role in their acapella ensemble. For instance, a male voice may take all the bass lines, while a soprano takes the melody, and another voice handles the beatboxing.

Check out this list to get started!

Best Acapella Songs for Female Singers (Solo or Group)

  1. “I knew you were trouble” Taylor Swift


This incredible rendition of Taylor Swift’s song comes from an all-female acapella group – the BYU Noteworthy. The harmonies are crystal clear and the arrangements, quite entertaining!

  1. “I can’t make you love me” Bonnie Raitt
  2. “Tale as old as time” Beauty and the Beast
  3. “I turn to you” Christina Aguilera
  4. “Dreaming of you” Selena
  5. “Don’t wanna lose you” Gloria Estefan
  6. “Try” Colbie Caillat
  7. “Natural woman” Aretha Franklin
  8. “Love song” Sara Bareilles
  9. “Fallin’” Alicia Keys

Best Acapella Songs for Male Singers (Solo or Group)

  1. “Bridge over troubled water” Simon & Garfunkel


This is a spectacular group performance by Ithacappella. Pay attention to what it sounds like when you take away the instruments and just hear raw voices.

  1. “Can’t buy me love” The Beatles
  2. “Leaving on a jet plane” Peter, Paul and Mary
  3. “Hakuna matata” The Lion King
  4. “Mmm bop” Hanson
  5. “Beat it” Michael Jackson
  6. “Candle in the wind” Elton John
  7. “When you’re gone” Matchbox 20
  8. “Who let the dogs out” The Baha Men
  9. “I want it that way” Backstreet Boys

RELATED: The Top Tip for How to Sing Acapella

Best Acapella Songs for Large Groups of Men & Women

  1. “A whole new world” Aladdin


Check out this mixed group singing acapella. Notice their volume and how they really listen to each other to create a flawless performance!

  1. “Where have all the flowers gone” Peter, Paul, and Mary
  2. “I say a little prayer” Aretha Franklin
  3. “Country roads” John Denver
  4. “Yesterday” The Beatles
  5. “Human nature” Michael Jackson
  6. “True colors” Cyndi Lauper
  7. “Give me one reason” Tracy Chapman
  8. “God must have spent a little more time on you” N’SYNC
  9. “September” Earth, Wind and Fire

Best Contemporary Acapella Songs (Solo or Group)

31.“Single ladies” Beyonce


The strong melody and added rhythmic components in this live student performance are very impressive!

  1. “If I was your man” Bruno Mars
  2. “Home” Michael Buble
  3. “You belong to me” Taylor Swift
  4. “Hello” Adele
  5. “A million reasons” Lady Gaga
  6. “God bless the broken road” Rascal Flatts
  7. “She will be loved” Maroon 5
  8. “Stickwitu” Pussycat Dolls
  9. “Hero” Mariah Carey

Best Traditional Acapella Songs (Solo or Group)

  1. “Sir Duke” Stevie Wonder


Check out this all-male group and their fun performance energy!

  1. “My way” Frank Sinatra
  2. “Nature boy” Nat King Cole
  3. “Let there be peace on earth” Harry Connick Jr.
  4. “Somewhere over the rainbow” Eva Cassidy
  5. “I will always love you” Dolly Parton
  6. “You’ve got a friend” Carole King
  7. “Fire and rain” James Taylor
  8. “Amazing grace” Celtic Women
  9. “Moon river” Barbra Streisand
  10. “Wade in the water” Fisk Jubilee Singers

Singing acapella is quite engaging, because you have the flexibility to improvise with the melody, rhythm, and interpretation. The biggest challenge however, is keeping your intonation and pitch in sync.

If you’re looking to strengthen your skills as an acapella singer, it’s best to get some instruction from a trained vocal coach, such as those at TakeLessons. An acapella singing teacher can help you learn new material and gain confidence for an upcoming audition or performance.

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

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Bass vs Guitar: The Differences, Difficulty, and How to Decide

bass vs guitar

For aspiring musicians trying to decide between bass vs guitar, there are many factors to consider. What style of music do you want to play? What do you find most enthralling about that style? And, where do you see yourself fitting into that style?

These are all key questions to answer when considering which instrument to learn. Here, we’ll uncover the pros and cons of playing each instrument.

One important thing to realize is that whichever instrument you start with, you’ll learn concepts that apply to other instruments as well. This is all part of your musical journey and will help you become a multi-faceted musician.

To help you find the better fit for you, let’s start by breaking down the differences between the bass player and the guitar player.

Already made up your mind? Cast your vote on the best instrument to learn below!

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Bass vs Guitar: How to Decide

Bass Guitar

The bass guitar is the foundation for all music. Without bass, there is nothing to weigh the music down and bring it all together. Oftentimes, the bass player is the most essential element in creating a successful band. They determine the “feel” of the music by laying down a pattern of notes according to their rhythmic pattern with the drums.

Bass players are often understated individuals who appreciate the improvisational nature of their instrument. While other instruments have to stick with their respective written parts, the bass player has a greater ability to play what they feel is right (especially in blues and jazz progressions).

For this reason, the bass player usually learns to be fluent with scales and chordal patterns so they can lay down an awesome bass line! When considering bass, you must ask yourself: is this the role I want to play?

Are you the “understated foundation” of the band? If you feel like this is the right place for you, then the next thing you should do is consider the style of music you want to play.

A Note About 4, 5, or 6 String Basses

guitar vs bass

A bass player has a unique choice in the number of strings they want on their bass guitar. You can purchase basses with 4, 5, or even 6 strings. For the most part, the only real difference between basses with more strings is the availability of higher or lower notes on the instrument.

Most 4-string basses are tuned like a guitar, that is: E-A-D-G. With 5 or 6 string basses you can choose to add lower notes, like B-E-A-D-G, or higher notes. While a 5 or 6 string bass can seem enticing, a majority of the time all you will need is 4 strings.

Pros of Bass:

  • Bass is arguably the most important instrument in a band. A song without bass just isn’t right.
  • Bass allows you to improvise and be active in the creation of a song.
  • You can choose between a wide variety of bass guitars including 4, 5, or 6 string basses.
  • Tabs for bass guitar are readily available.

Cons of Bass:

  • Since the strings on a bass are bigger to provide the right tone, bass players have to work to get really strong fingers.
  • The neck of a bass is also very long, so starting out on a full-size bass might be difficult for musicians with smaller frames.

Guitar

guitar vs bass

The guitar is a very flexible instrument. A talented guitarist can fulfill several roles including rhythm section, lead guitar, or a mix of both! But generally, if you like to be the center of attention, the guitar is a good fit for you.

Guitarists play a defining role in the style of a band. If you listen to artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kirk Hammett (from Metallica), and then compare them to Tommy Emmanuel, you’ll see just how much flexibility there is with this instrument.

Guitar players are often at the forefront of the band. While the bass provides the foundation of the music, the guitar player builds upon it. By building chord progressions from bass licks and matching them with a drum beat, the guitarist can create some awesome songs!

Pros of Guitar:

  • While bass does have more freedom within a song, if there is a solo it usually goes to the lead guitar player.
  • The strings on a guitar are smaller than on a bass, so there is less finger strength required to learn the guitar
  • There are numerous styles of guitar. You can play like Tommy Emmanuel or Kirk Hammett – the possibilities are endless!
  • Tabs for music are readily available.

Cons of Guitar:

  • The guitar is just as much a rhythmic instrument as a lead instrument, so it requires you to learn more chord shapes than bass.
  • There is never a shortage of guitar players, so getting a gig can be difficult.

Musical Styles for Bass vs Guitar

guitar vs bass

What style of music do you hope to learn to play? What do you listen to in the car? Do you listen to rock, country, blues, jazz, or classical?

Both the guitar and bass have unique responsibilities within each genre of music. Neither guitar nor bass is any better than the other for a certain style of music; they simply perform different tasks.

For example, blues music offers improvisational freedom for both the bass and guitar. The bass player gets to make unique bass lines and the guitarist gets to play solos.

Where Do You Fit In?

If you’re still trying to decide between bass vs guitar, try taking a few introductory lessons. There are many guitar and bass teachers online and locally. Taking beginner level classes or lessons will give you a taste of each instrument so you can make a more informed decision.

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How to Read Body Language: Examples from Around the World

how to read body language

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

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

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

5 Tips on How to Read Body Language

1. Proximity

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

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

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

2. Face and Eyes

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

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

3. Hand Gestures

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

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

body language examples

4. Arm and Feet Positioning

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

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

5. Mirroring

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

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

Body Language Examples From Around the Globe

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

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

Head Movement

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

Eye Contact

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

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

Nose Contact

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

Lips and Kisses

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

body language examples

Finger Signs

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

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

Proximity

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

Physical Contact

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

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

  • Japan
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Scandinavia

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

  • Turkey
  • France
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • Spain

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

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

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

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The Single Most Important Tip for How to Sing Acapella

how to sing acapella

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

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

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

#1 Tip for How to Sing Acapella

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

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

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

The Most Effective Ear Training Exercise

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

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

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

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

how to sing acapella

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

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

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

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

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


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

More Ways to Perfect Your Acapella Singing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Little-Known Factors That Affect Your Piano Posture

correct piano posture

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

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

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

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

5 Factors That Affect Piano Posture

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

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

1. Your Bench

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

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

Your bench is also a source of stability.

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

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

2. Practice Session Length

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

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

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

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

3. Not Using a Footstool

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

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

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

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

4. Lack of Exercise

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

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

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

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

5. Your Position on the Bench

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

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

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

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

Final Tips & Tricks

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

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

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

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DIY: Homemade Capo Tutorial in 4 Easy Steps [Video]

How to make a DIY Homemade Capo

If you want to learn how to make your very own homemade capo from scratch, keep reading. In this article, we’ll share four simple steps to put together a DIY capo on the fly – with just two materials!

When you’re jamming with friends and there’s a new vocalist in the mix, you might find yourself having to play in unfamiliar keys. If you left your trusty capo at home, no problem! Follow this easy guide and you’ll learn how to make a capo in no time.

DIY Homemade Capo Tutorial

You can solve the key-change conundrum with relative ease if you know how to make a capo on the fly. Essentially, you need a rigid strip of material that can be clamped onto the neck of your guitar.

Here are the materials you’ll need:

  1. A pencil or sharpie
  2. 2-4 rubber bands (medium thickness)

Yes, you only need two simple materials for this homemade capo. If you can’t find rubber bands, a good alternative is a hair band.

Now that you have all you need, here are the steps for how to make a capo.

Steps to Make a DIY Capo

  1. Make sure your guitar is in tune.
  2. Place the pencil or marker upon the desired fret.
  3. Fold the rubber band in half and loop it over both ends of the pencil.
  4. Add more bands as needed to achieve the desired tension. Check this by plucking each string and listening for a clear tone.

That’s it! This is such an easy way to put together a homemade capo on the fly, with materials that are readily available. Need to see the process demonstrated visually? Watch the steps in the quick video below:

5 Reasons Every Guitarist Needs a Capo

Now let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using a capo, in case you weren’t already convinced that you need one.

  • A capo creates a moveable nut or barre. For example, if you place the capo on the second fret, you’ve moved all the chords up one step (a C is now a D).
  • It allows you to play chord shapes that you’re already familiar with, but in a different key. So with a capo, a bit of transposing savvy, and a handful of chords, you can play some previously hard to reach tunes.
  • Using a capo allows you to explore different chord voicings, or inversions, which can make a chord sound brighter or darker, and add interest to picking.
  • It is helpful for changing tunes to a more comfortable range, or key, for vocals.
  • A capo adds depth when playing with other guitarists. Some can play open chords while others place capos at different locations, which creates a broader sonic range and textural interest.

Now you know some of the benefits of using a guitar capo, so even if you’re only slightly familiar with this tool, you can begin exploring its capabilities.

You’ve also learned how to make a capo very quickly and easily if you wish to try out these concepts without spending any money.

While practicing your skills, be sure to look into private guitar lessons or online guitar classes to help you achieve your musical goals, as personal feedback is a very important part of the learning process. Have fun with your DIY capo, and rock on!

TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches guitar, drums, 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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