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 San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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Language learning games

Top 10 Language Learning Games for Students of All Ages

language learning games

No matter what language you’re learning, games make the journey to fluency more fun and exciting! Board games, apps, and group activities also help you practice your skills more efficiently in between private language lessons.

For memorizing those vocabulary words and mastering your grammar, here is a list of the top 10 language learning games available today.

Top 10 Language Learning Games

Language Learning Games to Play on Your Phone

language learning games for your phone

1. Languages By Lyrics

  • Cost: Free, with a Pro Version available for $9.99
  • Student Level: Beginner to advanced
  • Requirements: OS X 10.11 or later

Memorizing phrases in your target language is easier with the help of a little rhyme and rhythm. With this fun app, you get to select songs in the language of your choice, see the lyrics translated, and learn to sing along. The Pro Version of the app comes with more advanced exercises.

2. Star Languages

  • Cost: Free
  • Student Level: Beginner to advanced
  • Requirements: Windows 10, OS X 10.8 or later

For more comprehensive practice, this app allows you to choose from a variety of learning games such as spelling tests, crosswords, and hangman. Each game tests a different skill, so you can apply your knowledge about spelling, vocabulary, sentence structure, and more.

3. Vocabulary Games

  • Cost: Free
  • Student Level: Beginner
  • Requirements: Works best on Chrome web browser

These vocabulary games are another great way to boost your memorization skills. Choose from several games including Letter Blocks, Unscramble, and Slang Game. You can play on a computer at home, a tablet, or a mobile phone.

SEE ALSO: 30 Incredibly Effective Tips and Tricks to Learn a New Language

4. MindSnacks

  • Cost: Free for one lesson, with 50 lessons available for $4.99
  • Student Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Requirements: iOS 6.0 or later

With its addictive quests and challenges, the MindSnacks app helps you practice vocabulary, grammar skills, basic verb conjugation, and spelling. This game is available in multiple languages and will keep you motivated as you learn.

5. Lingo Arcade

  • Cost: Free for one level, with more than 150 levels available for $0.99
  • Student Level: Beginner or intermediate
  • Requirements:  iOS 8.0 or later

If you’re a visual learner, this app is perfect for you. Lingo Arcade will help you with word identification and sentence structure using over 3000 visual aids. The app is currently available in Spanish, French, German, and English.

6. Drops

  • Cost: Free, with optional in-app purchases
  • Student Level: Beginner
  • Requirements: iOS 9.0 or later

How much can you learn in five minutes? With this app, you get the chance to test your vocabulary knowledge by matching words and swiping as you learn. As you increase your speed and accuracy, the game will “drop” more new vocabulary words.

Fun Board Games for Language Learning

language learning board games

7. Kloo

  • Cost: Retails for around $16
  • Student Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Requirements: Kloo deck of cards and 2 or more players

Practice how to build sentences with these unique color-coded cards. To play the game, you’ll match cards with different words until you create a grammatically correct sentence. Each card correctly matched is worth one point.

8. Scrabble

  • Cost: Retails for around $18
  • Student Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Requirements: Scrabble board game and 2 or more players

Scrabble is a fantastic way to practice your spelling and vocabulary skills. Have a friend join you for this fun game where small, lettered tiles are placed onto a board to form new words. Scrabble is available in multiple different languages.

Language Learning Games for Groups

language learning games for groups

9. Bingo

  • Cost: $5-$10
  • Student Level: Beginner
  • Requirements: Bingo cards, game chips or coins, index cards, and vocabulary words

To make your own Bingo game in the language of your choice, create a set of vocabulary-themed Bingo cards in a 6×6 pattern. In each box, include the vocabulary words you want to practice. Next, write the vocabulary words on a set of smaller cards. Choose a player to call out the words. The person who completes their card first wins the game!

10. Jeopardy

  • Cost: $5-$10
  • Student Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Requirements: Poster board with 4-5 columns, markers, and buzzers or bells

To play Jeopardy with a group of others who are learning a language, choose 4-5 categories you’re familiar with such as food, people, places, and animals. Each of these categories will be its own column on a board with five rows. Fill in the boxes with the answers to a set of predetermined questions. Remember, one player will need to be the host.

Each of these interactive games will help you improve your language comprehension skills. You can play these games in between language classes to review and reinforce all you’re learning in a fun way.

 

BarbaraSPost Author: Barbara S.
Barbara S. has been teaching Spanish since 2011 and is a native speaker from Argentina. Her teaching style is flexible, cooperative, and understanding. Learn more about Barbara here!
Japanese Dialects

The Ultimate Guide to Major Japanese Dialects

Japanese dialects

If you live in the United States, you’ve probably noticed that someone from New Jersey doesn’t speak the same way as someone from California. This is because of dialects, or forms of language developed and used in specific regions.

These dialects differ not only in accent but in vocabulary, grammatical structure, and slang (from “y’all” in the South to “hella” in Northern California).

The same is true in Japan. A majority of Japanese students are familiar with the type of Japanese spoken in, and north of, the Kanto region which contains Tokyo. But there are several other Japanese dialects to learn, each with many subsections.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan soon, don’t get caught unprepared! Here are some of the major Japanese dialects you can expect to encounter.

5 Major Japanese Dialects

Standard Japanese (Eastern Japanese, Tokyo-type Japanese)

Spoken in: Most of Japan (Hokkaido, Tohoku, and Kanto region; much of Chubu region)

Soon after Japan opened its borders in 1853, the country went through the Meiji Restoration, which united the nation as a major world power. Along with other advancements in society, a standard Japanese dialect was chosen—the one used in Yamanote, a district of Tokyo. Once technology brought about radio and TV broadcasts, this dialect spread quickly throughout the country.

Western Japanese (Kansai-ben)

Spoken in: (Kansai, Chugoku, and Shikoku regions; part of Chubu region)

Eastern and Western Japan have long been separated by differences of culture and dialect, similar to the Northern and Southern United States. Because of the geographical separation, a different type of speech developed over time in the old capital, Kyoto, and surrounding areas.

Western Japanese is known for its shortened words, much like southern American English – think of the southern drawl. Here are some examples:

Meaning Standard Japanese Western Japanese
Look Miru (見る) Mii, miyo (見い,見よ)
Wide Hiroi (広い) Hirō (広お)
Dropped Otoshita (落とした) Otoita (落といた)

Western Japanese also includes many words with modified syllables, as you can see here:

Meaning Standard Japanese Western Japanese
Paid Haratta (払った) Harōta (払おた)
Will not do Shinai (しない) Senu (せぬ)
To exist Iru (いる) Oru (おる)

Unique dialects within Western Japanese include Osaka-ben (spoken in Osaka) and Kyoto-ben (spoken in Kyoto). These two dialects are very similar, which makes it fairly easy for people from Kyoto and Osaka to speak to one another. The cities are only half an hour apart by train.

Kyushu Japanese

Spoken in: The island of Kyushu

Kyushu has long been an important part of Japan, especially as an ancient center of relations with China and Korea. Since it’s separated from the main island both culturally and geographically, it makes sense that a new dialect emerged here.

The Kyushu dialects differ so much from each other that it’s difficult to identify specific congruences between them. As a whole, there are many modified conjugation types, shortened words, and alternate words.

There are three unique dialects in Kyushu: Satsugu/Kagoshima, Hōnichi, and Hichiku. Each of these include their own sub-dialects.

  • Satsugu/Kagoshima: Southern Kyushu, mostly Kagoshima province
  • Hōnichi: Eastern Kyushu, including most of Oita prefecture
  • Hichiku: Western Kyushu, including Fukuoka (Hakata-ben) and Nagasaki (Nagasaki-ben)

SEE ALSO: How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese?

Okinawa Japanese

Spoken in: The island of Okinawa

Some people joke that Okinawa isn’t really a part of Japan, and its controversial history (including annexation by Japan) implies as much. The island is home to several languages that UNESCO now considers endangered as Okinawans lean toward standard Japanese.

Okinawan Japanese borrows many words from standard Japanese, but they have different meanings. For example, “korosu” means “hit” in Okinawan Japanese and “kill” in Standard Japanese. Okinawan Japanese also borrowed some words from English ever since the Battle of Okinawa.

Whether or not Okinawan Japanese is actually a Japanese dialect is often debated, so comparing it to Japanese can be quite difficult. It might be safer to think of the two like Italian and Spanish—similar in many ways, but distinct.

Mixed Dialects

Spoken in: Parts of the Chubu prefecture

Since the borders between Eastern and Western Japan are superficial, the dialects tend to mix. This is most evident in areas of Chubu, where two dialects have meshed into something new.

Let’s look at Nagoka-ben, as Nagoya is Chubu’s largest city. Differences are subtler than those between standard and Western Japanese, but they are still obvious to anyone who speaks either dialect. This mostly manifests itself in slight contractions or conjugation modifications.

Meaning Standard Japanese Nagoya-ben
It gets smaller Chiisakunaru (小さくなる) Chiisanaru (小さなる)
I don’t sleep Nemasen(寝ません) Nesen (寝せん)
It was fun Tanoshikattayo (楽しかったよ) Tanoshikattani (楽しかったに)

Tackling Japanese Dialects

Considering the dizzying array of Japanese dialects, do you think your current Japanese skills are enough to get you through a trip to Japan without a hitch? If not, consider working with a Japanese tutor to study the dialects of the specific areas you’d like to visit. You’ll be glad you did when you’re able to understand Kansai-ben and Kagoshima-ben!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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Elaina RPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches singing in Ann Arbor, MI. She earned a Master of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan. She is also proficient in multiple languages and speaks Japanese, English, Italian, and German.  Learn more about Elaina here!

The 8 Best Language Learning Apps To Boost Your Progress

Best Language Learning Apps

Whether you’re an intermediate to advanced student, or are just beginning the journey to fluency in a foreign language, congratulations! Picking up a new language is great for your career and mental health. It’s also a fun way to make new friends.

With advancements in modern technology, it’s never been easier to speed up the language acquisition process. Here are some of the best language learning apps available for download today. To set yourself up for success, try combining any of these apps along with private tutoring sessions for a fun and effective way to get fluent faster!

The 8 Best Language Learning Apps

1. TakeLessons Best Language Learning Apps - TakeLessons

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free!
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: Apple App Store, Google Play

With the TakeLessons language learning app, you can access private, one-on-one lessons with an experienced language tutor, or online group classes to work on your conversation skills with other students at your level. The app not only helps you find a language tutor or class, but it allows you to connect through a virtual classroom – so you can learn anywhere, any time. 

2. Memrise

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free!
  • Levels: Best for beginners
  • Available At: Apple App Store, Google Play

The Memrise app boasts accessibility to over 200 languages. It combines audio, visual, and chat features to help students memorize vocabulary faster and tackle grammar more efficiently. It can also be used offline, which makes it an excellent way to keep your language skills sharp while you’re off the grid – perfect to use when traveling!

3. Busuu

Best Language Learning Apps - Busuu

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free!
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: Apple App Store, Google Play

Busuu calls itself a social network for language learners, and that is its biggest draw. It offers 12 languages including Russian, Chinese, and Arabic. You can use this helpful app to connect with a native speaker for a quick chat and put your speaking skills to good use. You can also ask questions and get feedback on your accent and pronunciation! All skills levels can benefit from this hands-on practice.

4. MindSnacks

  • Supported Devices: iPhone
  • Cost: $4.99 – $19.99
  • Levels: Beginning to intermediate
  • Available At: Apple App Store

If you love to play games on your iPhone, MindSnacks may be the perfect app for you! (An Android version of the app is reportedly in the works). With its bright colors and cartoon characters, the MindSnacks app makes language basics like grammar and vocabulary fun and easy. Replace Candy Crush with MindSnacks and impress your friends with all you’ve learned!

SEE ALSO: 9 Great Places to Practice a Language with Real People

5. FluentU

Best Language Learning Apps - FluentU

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free version available
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: fluentu.com, Google Play, Apple App Store

Are you a visual learner? FluentU sends you to entertaining YouTube videos in the language you’re trying to learn, complete with subtitles and translations. Language immersion is key to advancing to fluency faster! If questions come up as you’re watching videos, write them down and ask your TakeLessons language tutor about them in your next lesson.

6. Anki

  • Supported Devices: Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free for computers and Androids; $25 for iPhone
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: apps.ankiweb.net, Apple App Store, Google Play

To learn a language, your memorization skills need to be sharp. Anki is an excellent tool for learning anything that requires memorization. It allows you to make over 100,000 flashcards using audio, video, and images, so no matter your learning style you’re set up for success! Flashcards synchronize across devices, so you can access or edit your decks using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

7. Tandem

Best Language Learning Apps - Tandem

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: $19.95
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: Apple App Store, Google Play, Windows Store

Like Busuu, Tandem puts you in touch with an international community of people who are willing to chat with you in whatever language you’re trying to learn. While anyone can benefit from this, it’s especially valuable for intermediate to advanced students who need to practice speaking in real time. This is a great way to become more confident and comfortable in your conversational skills.

8. Babbel

  • Supported Devices: Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android
  • Cost: $6.95-$12.95 per month
  • Levels: Beginning to intermediate
  • Available At: babbel.com, Apple App Store, Google Play

This app is designed to focus on useful phrases and vocabulary that you would use in everyday conversations, such as at a restaurant or social event. If you’re planning to take a trip where your target language is spoken, use Babbel to practice forming some common sentences and phrases. Babbel is an effective tool to supplement private tutoring sessions and can help you practice in between lessons.

It’s fantastic that some of the best language learning apps aren’t just fun to use, but they can help students expedite their language endeavors as well. In addition to using apps to boost your progress, never underestimate the power of face-to-face interaction. Nothing beats practicing your language skills with another person (such as your TakeLessons language teacher) to learn the nuances of a spoken language!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

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

 

Tips for traveling to France

20 Insider Tips For Traveling to France [Infographic]

Tips for traveling to France

From the smell of freshly baked baguettes from the local bakery, to views of the romantic châteaux (castles) in the Loire Valley, to the diverse array of masterpieces displayed in the museums of Paris – France has so much to offer!

If you’re taking a trip to this beautiful country soon, keep reading to learn how to plan the perfect itinerary so you can enjoy France at its best. We’ll share about the weather, what to order when dining out, a few little known sites, and many more helpful tips for traveling to France!

20 Game-Changing Tips for Traveling to France

1. Keep French Fashion in Mind

Pack clothes that are versatile and chic, keeping in mind that the French are simple and effortless when it comes to their style. The saying “less is more” works well for the French.   

One of your goals should be to blend in with the locals – not stand out as a tourist. For the ladies, bring a scarf! In the summertime, light scarves can add a touch of class, or be used as an extra layer at nighttime without the bulk of a jacket.

2. Pack Comfy Shoes

Bring a pair, or two, of comfortable shoes to France. When traveling, you should always expect to be walking quite a bit, whether it’s through the cobbled streets of Le Vieux Carré (the Old Quarter) or through the vineyards in the South.

So leave the stiletto heels at home and opt for a pair of comfortable sandals or sturdy boots. Your feet will thank you later!

3.  Learn the Language

Locals love when visitors attempt to speak the native language. Even if your French is a little rusty and you can only muster up a polite “Je voudrais un café, s’il vous plait” (“I would like a coffee please”), the French will greatly appreciate the effort.

The best way to learn French before your trip is with the help of an experienced tutor. If you’re interested in building up your French vocabulary quickly, try out the online French classes at TakeLessons Live. Classes are completely free for your first month!

4. Check the Weather

Regions along the three coasts of France have a more temperate climate, unlike areas in central France, where you’ll experience more variation between seasons. Paris can also become fairly hot in the summer, so be prepared by packing light-colored clothing made of loose material.

The summer months in the south along the Mediterranean have very little rainfall, but the rest of the country experiences rainy months throughout the year. Paris has quite a bit of rainfall from April through August. Whatever the season, it’s always a good idea to check the forecast prior to your visit to France!

5. Travel in Spring or Fall

If you’re on a budget, the most cost-effective times to travel to France are during the spring and fall months. Keep in mind that if plane tickets are purchased at least three months in advance, you will be able to find some better deals!

6. Try a Bed & Breakfast

Relax in the many charming bed and breakfasts that France has to offer! While there are many options for lodging available to visitors, the more intimate bed and breakfasts in France are superb. Many of them offer home-cooked meals of the region, and the locals’ take on must-see sites.

7. Eat Like a Local

The French are known for, and proud, of their cuisine. Wherever you are in the country, be sure to try the local delicacies. If you’re traveling to Bordeaux, try the cannelé – a small pastry made of vanilla and rum.

Take in the view of the Mediterranean while dining on a traditional seafood dish of the region. You won’t regret trying the bouillabaisse (seafood stew) in Marseille, or the delicious quenelle in Lyon!

SEE ALSO: 50 Useful French Phrases for Travelers

8. Enjoy an Apéritif or Digestif

In France, sometimes the best drinks come just before or after a delicious meal. An apéritif (pre-meal drink) is usually enjoyed among friends before a plat de fromage (cheese plate) is served.

One common apéritif is the kir, which is a mix of white wine and blackcurrant. A common digestif (post-meal drink) is an espresso. Or you can try the “eau de vie,” literally translated “water of life,” which is a popular fruit brandy.

9. Check the Prix Fixe Menu

When you’re unsure about what to order, the prix fixe (fixed price) menu will be your best friend. Selected by the chef, it includes several dishes from the entrée (appetizer) to the plat principal (main dish) to the dessert.  

10. Shop at Outdoor Markets  

One way to save money without sacrificing the French experience is to shop at the outdoor markets. Most towns have an outdoor market or “marché en plein air.” Here, you can find vendors selling the region’s best at a more affordable price. Just be sure to check the local schedule, as some markets are only open on specific days of the week.

11. Enjoy Local Wines

As with the food in France, it’s usually best to go with the regional wine. While there are many options for wine, opting for the local wine is the best choice if you want to fully experience and appreciate the specialties of the area.

12. Travel by Train

Another way to save money on travel expenses while visiting France is to take the train. For the best deals, book three months in advance if you already have an itinerary set. If you’re under 25 and visiting France for a study abroad program or internship, signing up for a “Carte Jeune” offers reduced train fares!

13. Follow the Tour de France

Are you a fan of cycling? If not, would you like to follow a route that takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of France? Follow the cyclists at the Tour de France! This annual event takes place in July with a route through several notable cities and sites.

14. Celebrate La Fête Nationale

Also known as Bastille Day, the French independence day is well-celebrated in this country. If you’ll be in France on July 14th, you’ll get to witness fireworks shows and join in on the festivities. In Paris, go to a ball after the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower! The music and dancing begins around 9 PM.

SEE ALSO: What to Pack for France [Infographic]

15. Check out the Museums

The Louvre is one of the most popular museums in France, but there are so many other inspiring sites to add to your travel list! In Paris alone, there is the lesser-known Musée d’Orsay that boasts of numerous Impressionist paintings by Monet, and the Centre Pompidou that features contemporary and more interactive art. Both have slightly shorter admission lines!

16. Visit Luberon

Don’t forget to bring your camera to the picturesque lavender fields in France. The lavender that blooms in the South of France is a scent that is truly unforgettable. In Luberon these fragrant flowers bloom anytime between late June to early August, with the peak of the season being in early July.

17. Learn About History in Normandy

If you’re interested in historical events, head north for Normandy. Along the coast you’ll find the infamous Normandy and Omaha beaches where you can see remnants of WWII bunkers and memorials to those who fought during the war.

18. Stop by the Castles

France is home to many beautiful and unique châteaux (castles) in the center of the country. Relive the grandeur of the châteaux in the Loire Valley. Villandry is famous for its gardens that are exact replicas of the medieval gardens, while Chambord includes a grand central staircase in the main entrance.

This area of the country is less crowded than Paris or the beaches in the South, so it would make an excellent addition to your itinerary if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle.

19. Make Your Way to Île de Ré

At the mention of French beaches, most people think about the beaches along the Mediterranean Coast. Bask in the sunshine on Île de Ré instead. Located just off the western coast of France, Île de Ré is a unique and lesser-known beach that is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

20. Enjoy the Moment

While planning a trip to France often includes many preparations, it’s important to remember to savor the moment and not get too caught up in your itinerary. Enjoy the food, enjoy the wine, and enjoy the sites. But most importantly – enjoy the journey from one destination to another! Check out the infographic below for a visual reminder of each of these insider tips!

 

20 Insider Tips for Traveling to France

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Please include attribution to TakeLessons.com with this graphic.

 

Keep these tips for traveling to France in mind and you’ll be able to plan the perfect vacation! Enjoying all the food, drinks, and sites that France has to offer will make your visit one that you’ll always remember. Don’t forget to check out TakeLessons Live before you depart to brush up on your French language skills!

 

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

What is a Capo? Everything You Need to Know Here.

What is a capo

A capo is a helpful device that allows you to easily change the key of a song while using the standard “open position” chords that every guitarist knows. With a capo, you can play those same chords in any fret position along the neck of the guitar. Keep reading to find more answers to all of your capo-related questions!

What is a Capo?

A capo (pronounced “cape-oh”) is a small clamp that you can attach to the neck of the guitar at a specific fret. What does a capo do? It keeps all of the guitar’s strings depressed at that specific fret, all of the time. The parts of the capo that squeeze the strings against the fret board are made of rubber, so they don’t damage the wood on your guitar. 

Let’s say you attach the capo at fret two. It will squeeze down all of the strings at fret two and keep them pressed down. So it’s like you’re playing a note at fret two with your finger, but on all six strings simultaneously.

If you were to lay your index finger across all six strings at fret two and press down hard enough so that all the notes at fret two sounded clearly on each string, that technique would be called a “barre.” This barre technique is used by guitarists all the time, but if you are just beginning you may not have tried it yet and when you do, it will take a few weeks to master.

Attaching a capo is a much easier way to achieve the same result. You could say that the capo produces a permanent barre at a specific fret. Now let’s look at what exactly happens when you have a capo attached to your guitar.

How Does a Capo Work?

Let’s use the capo attached at fret two as an example again, although you can put the capo across any fret. Once the capo is on, when you play your strings open, the notes that sound are not E, A, D, G, B, and E (the notes of open strings six through one). Instead, they are F#, B, E, A, C#, and F#.

We say these notes are “one tone higher” or a “whole step” higher (the distance of two frets) than the normal open string notes. If you think of fret three as if it were fret one, and form a C chord as you normally would (but above the capo), it will sound as a D chord.

If you played a song with Am, G, and C chords (which would be in the key of C major), you will hear Bm, A, and D chords (which would move the song to the key of D major). Every time you move the capo one fret higher, you have raised the music by one key. The most common reason for changing the key of a song is to make it easier to sing in your vocal range.

To hear the sound of a guitar with a capo on, listen to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. The capo is on fret seven and it gives the guitar a bright, mandolin-like quality. The chord progression would be in the key of D major, but with the capo on, it comes out in A major.

Who Should Use a Capo?

For beginners, using a capo means that you can play more songs with a limited knowledge of chords and delay learning those difficult “barre chords” you may have heard about. But capos are not just for beginners.

Many songwriters use capos so they can play chords in the style they’re accustomed to anywhere along the neck of the guitar. By moving the capo, they can easily try singing a song in different keys until they find the one that works best for their voice.

In fact, flamenco guitar players routinely use a capo in the first few frets for two reasons – to play songs in the traditional keys, but also for the way the capo tends to push the strings closer to the neck, making chords and fast melodic runs easier to play. Try this if your guitar is a beginner model that is a bit more difficult to play.

SEE ALSO: 5 Guitar Gadgets That Will Change Your Life

Which Capo is the Best?

There are a few different capo designs. One of the best capos is the Shubb, which retails for about $16 on Amazon. It’s made of rugged steel and clamps on very securely. This is handy because if you accidentally bump the capo while playing, it won’t pop off and ruin your performance.

If you’re on a budget, one of Amazon’s best sellers is the UGY plastic capo which retails for about $7. This capo uses a spring action and can be attached or moved very quickly by squeezing two levers together. There are many manufacturers making capos in this style.

A third option is the Dunlop elastic capo, starting at around $3. It uses a stretchy elastic cloth that attaches to a rubber coated, pole piece. Several holes are provided along the elastic to allow for different tensions, as the neck gets wider the higher you go.

Whatever style you prefer, you need to make sure you order the right one for the type of guitar you have. If you order the wrong one, it won’t squeeze the strings correctly. A “steel string” guitar capo has a slight curvature to the part that lies across the fret board, as the fret board on a steel string guitar is slightly convex. A “nylon string” guitar capo is wider and very flat.

Many beginning guitarists often ask their instructors, “What is a capo?” Now that you know what a capo is and how to use one, you’ll be on your way to playing more songs than you thought you could! You’ll also be able to more easily play and sing along at the same time.

Although the capo can be a very helpful tool, try not to rely on it too much. It’s still very important to expand your knowledge of different chords on the guitar. Need some help mastering some of the more challenging chords? Check out TakeLessons. Our expert guitar instructors can help take your skills to the next level!

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MikeJ.

Mike J. teaches acoustic guitar, bass guitar, blues guitar, classical guitar, as well as country guitar in Ogden, UT. He received his Applied Music Degree from Mohawk College and has gone on to receive many certifications and awards since then. Mike is a full time music instructor with over 30 years of experience teaching, performing, and writing music. Learn more about Mike J. here!

Health benefits of playing an instrument

17 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing an Instrument

Health benefits of playing an instrument

Playing an instrument has many benefits – learning self-discipline, strengthening mental capacity, and spreading the joy of music, just to name a few. And research shows that these benefits aren’t just for kids. Musicians of any age can take advantage of the physical and emotional health benefits of playing an instrument.

It doesn’t matter what instrument you choose to play, either! Keep reading to discover how the act of playing music can drastically improve your overall health.  

Health Benefits of Playing an Instrument

Physical Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Deep Breathing – Most of the time our breathing is very shallow, but activities like singing or playing a wind instrument require deep breathing from the diaphragm. This strengthens your lungs and respiratory system. Playing the harmonica can even help with pulmonary disease!
  • Immune Response – When we learn to play an instrument, we often become inspired to create our own music. According to an article by Live Science, making music “enhances the immunological response, which enables us to fight viruses.”
  • Stress Relief – Playing music brings your energy and focus into a positive activity, which can help alleviate stress. Those reduced stress levels can help get your blood pressure and heart rate down to a healthy level.
  • Fine Hearing – Learning music refines your hearing skills by training you to isolate sounds as they occur. Studies have even shown that musicians are better at picking out specific voices and sounds in a noisy environment.
  • Exercise – Playing an instrument naturally leads to increased physical activity. Whether you’re playing the piano, guitar, strings, or a wind instrument, you’re using your arm and back muscles to play and/or hold up your instrument. And if you play the drums, you even get to do some cardio!
  • Posture – Any good music teacher will correct your posture during lessons. This can help you get into the habit of sitting up straight and having proper alignment even when you’re not playing. These are all great ways to alleviate neck and back pain.

Mental Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Mental Performance – Playing music is like doing a workout for every part of your brain. It helps improve your mental performance and memory. There’s even evidence that music can help a patient’s brain recover from a stroke, as well as slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Coordination – Using your fingers, hands, and feet in a rhythmic manner for a sustained amount of time, while also being conscious of playing the correct tones, can be a challenge for even the most coordinated people. Over time though, playing music refines your motor skills that go beyond the hand-eye.
  • Time Management – Learning an instrument requires practice, of course! But more specifically, it requires consistency and routine. Figuring out how to fit practice into your busy schedule and really stick to it helps you develop better time management and organization skills.
  • Reading Skills – Reading music helps strengthen your ability to process information by creating new connections between the synapses in your brain. As a result, reading and absorbing information from other sources becomes a lot easier.
  • Listening Skills – Learning music doesn’t just improve your ability to hear details; it also makes you better at listening. Whether you’re practicing on your own or playing with other people, you have to listen for timing, expression, and whether you’re in tune. This can make you a better listener even in everyday conversations as well.
  • Concentration – Focus is a necessary part of learning an instrument. Improving your musical skills forces you to use all the parts of your brain involved in concentration, making you better able to concentrate in other life situations. This is another reason why music is beneficial for those with disorders like ADD.
  • Mathematics – Learning music is all about pattern recognition, which is mathematical in itself. But even more than that, learning about how music is divided into equal measures and beats, and how those beats are in broken up, can help improve your math skills!

SEE ALSO: The 5 Easiest Instruments Perfect for Adult Learners

Emotional Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Self Expression – Whether you’re writing your own piece of music or playing someone else’s, music allows you to express yourself in new ways. You also get to be creative when choosing your own unique style and genre.
  • Therapy – Playing music can help with stress, insomnia, and depression because it acts as an outlet for difficult emotions. It can be a form of self-soothing in tough situations, and a healthy distraction from a stressful day.
  • Achievement – There’s nothing like the feeling of finally mastering one of your favorite songs! Setting a goal, putting in the work, and eventually reaching that goal gives you a strong sense of achievement. It will improve your confidence in other areas of life in the process.
  • New Friends – Whether you use music as an icebreaker when meeting new people, or as a way to actually meet new people – playing in a choir, band, or orchestra, for example – music is a great way to make new friends.

These are just a few of the remarkable health benefits of playing an instrument. To begin reaping the benefits of music in your life, check out the online group music lessons at TakeLessons Live today.

You can access hundreds of live classes on a variety of instruments – completely free for your first month. Start playing that instrument you’ve always wanted to, and your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

JasmineTPost Author: Jasmine T.
Jasmine T. teaches piano, academics, yoga, and more in San Diego, CA. She has her Power Yoga Level 1 200-Hour Certification, as well as a Certificate of Merit for Piano and Theory from the Music Teachers’ Association of California. Learn more about Jasmine here!
Best apps to learn Italian

7 Top-Rated Apps to Learn Italian Like a Pro

 

Best apps to learn Italian

If you’re looking to pick up some basic Italian or advance to the next level of fluency, there are many useful apps that can help you achieve this goal! The flexibility and convenience of downloading an app on the go makes learning fun and affordable.  

It’s important to keep in mind though that apps shouldn’t be your sole method of learning a language. No technology can beat the personalized instruction and guidance of an experienced language teacher. (Apps aren’t a substitute for real-life conversation practice either)!

With that in mind, here are the 7 best Italian apps to supplement your learning.

The 7 Best Apps to Help You Learn Italian

1. Mondly

Best apps to learn Italian

With a 5-star rating, Mondly allows you to study Italian vocabulary and phrases through interactive games and graphics. The app is free for In-App purchases and also available for the Apple Watch!

Mondly allows you to collect points and compete with other users from across the globe. Students who face challenges learning Italian verbs can also benefit from the app’s 3D conjugation tables.

2. Busuu

Apps to learn Italian

Of all the apps to learn Italian, Busuu was the first one to allow users to have verbal conversations with native speakers from all over the world. The app offers students direct communication with new pen pals right from their phone or iPad.

Busuu also teamed up with McGraw-Hill to enable students to obtain an official learning certificate. The app has a  4+ star rating and allows for family sharing!

3. Learn Italian, Speak Italian

Italian apps

This helpful app was rated by Google as the “Must have app for Android.” Lessons are created by a team of language experts and teachers, with over 150 topics and over 3,000 vocabulary words.

If you’re a beginner, tourist, or business traveler, use this app to test your knowledge with fun quizzes. The Android app also allows you to record yourself so you can keep track of your progress!

SEE ALSO: 10 Podcasts for Learning Italian

4. Italian by Nemo

Italian apps

This app allows for hands free interaction, so you can practice your Italian skills while you walk, exercise, cook, or commute! Italian by Nemo is the perfect companion for busy students who only have a minute or two to spare throughout their day.

You can download the app for free in either the Apple store or Google Play. It has a 4.3 star rating from users.

5. Learn Italian by Bravolol

Italian apps

Learn Italian features a friendly, animated cartoon parrot guiding you on your way to mastering Italian. With engaging and interactive flashcards, this app will help you pick up commonly used Italian phrases and words.

An awesome perk of the app is that it can be used without an internet connection! If you are traveling to Italy, make sure to bring this fun app with you on the plane to brush up on your skills. It’s available in the Apple store and Google Play.

6. Easy Talk

Apps to Learn Italian

The Easy Talk app comes with an Italian travel phrasebook, sample dialogues based on real life situations, and multiple search functions to select and keep track of your favorites.

Another perk – there aren’t any drills or boring grammar exercises! The app can also be used as a personal, pocket translator. It’s available for Android phones for a purchase of $3.99.

7. TakeLessons

Apps to Learn Italian - TakeLessons

For easily accessible Italian lessons on the go, the TakeLessons app is the perfect resource no matter your skill level. Find experienced Italian teachers in your area, or connect with one digitally via the app’s video chat feature.

With the TakeLessons app, you can learn Italian from a professional no matter where you are. You can also join in on free, group classes for your first month as a new student. The app is available for both Android and iPhones.

It’s often said that when learning a new language like Italian, practice makes perfect. Any one of these apps to learn Italian would make an excellent tool to help you practice your skills!

Impress your language teacher and your friends with how quickly you’ve learned. Ready to get started with private lessons? Schedule a one-on-one lesson with an Italian teacher today to start speaking, writing, and reading Italian!

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LizT
Post Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches Italian, ESL, as well as a variety of musical subjects! 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!
Best father daughter songs of all time

Most Popular & Heartwarming Father Daughter Songs of All Time

Best father daughter songs of all time

There’s a special kind of bond between a girl and her father, and dozens of popular songs that honor this strong connection. Whether you’re looking for that perfect song for a father daughter dance, a meaningful Father’s Day tribute, or a special gift for a birthday, keep reading.

In this ultimate list of heartfelt, father daughter songs from every genre, you’re sure to find just the right lyrics to celebrate your relationship with Dad. 

Best Father Daughter Songs From Every Genre

“My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw – Country

“You’re beautiful baby, from the outside in

Chase your dreams but always know

The road that will lead you home again”

This heartwarming song, written from a father’s perspective, is a tear-jerker right from the beginning. It’s an excellent choice for a dance, sweet 16, graduation, or any coming-of-age celebration.

“Daddy’s Little Girl” by Michael Bublé – Classic

“You’re the end of the rainbow, my pot o’ gold, you’re Daddy’s Little Girl to have and hold

A precious gem is what you are, you’re mommy’s bright and shining star

You’re the spirit of Christmas, my star on the tree, you’re the Easter bunny to mommy and me

You’re sugar, you’re spice, you’re everything nice, and you’re Daddy’s Little Girl”

Michael Bublé really shows off his crooner side in this sweet melody about all the wonderful things that a man’s daughter means to him. This song would be a great addition to a wedding or birthday party playlist.

“Your Joy” by Chrisette Michele – Neo Soul

“No one loves me just like you do

No one knows me just like you do

No one can compare to the way my eyes fit in yours”

This soulful tribute from a daughter to her father is perfect for a girl or young woman to sing to her father. Not too comfortable with your singing voice? Write the lyrics in a greeting card to add an extra nice touch.  

“Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle – Christian/Gospel

“Oh, with all that I’ve done wrong, I must have done something right

To deserve a hug every morning, and butterfly kisses at night”

This beautiful tune, written from a father’s perspective, shares special moments throughout different stages of his daughter’s life. It’s a nice option for a wedding, or simply when you want to remind your father that you’ll always be his little girl!

“Daughters” by John Mayer – Acoustic Rock

“Fathers, be good to your daughters

Daughters will love like you do

Girls become lovers who turn into mothers

So mothers, be good to your daughters too”

This acoustic tune from John Mayer shares about the loving bond that exists between family members. It’s meaningful but also light-hearted, and would be a fitting addition to any family gathering.

“Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon – Pop

 

“So you’ll always know, as long as one and one is two

There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you”

Slightly more upbeat but just as sentimental as the rest, this catchy tune goes with any father daughter occasion. The lyrics represent a sweet declaration of love from a father to his daughter.

“I’ll Always Be Your Baby” by Natalie Grant – Contemporary Christian

 

“You are my hero and that will never change

You still can dry my tears with just a smile”

This Natalie Grant song is a heartwarming tribute from a daughter’s perspective. The lyrics mention walking down the aisle, so this would be a great song for a wedding reception or engagement party.

“Daddy” by Beyonce – Contemporary R&B

 

“Because you loved me I overcome, yeah

And I’m so proud of what you’ve become, yeah

You’ve given me such security

No matter what mistakes I make you’re there for me”

In this R&B number, Beyonce reminisces about all the ways her father has been there for her over the years. If you truly admire your father, this is the perfect song as a token of gratitude to him.

“Zoe Jane” by Staind – Alternative Metal

“I wanna hold you, protect you from all of the things I’ve already endured

And I wanna show you, show you all the things that this life has in store for you

And I’ll always love you, the way that a father should love his daughter”

This beautiful song has a very powerful chorus that emphasizes just how much a father desires to protect his daughter. It’s a wonderful song for the dad who loves rock music and soulful lyrics.  

“Dance with my Daughter” by Jason Blaine – Country

“Gonna dance with my daughter

Spin her around under the lights

‘Cause I’m just a father making the most of this moment in time”

This sentimental, country tune emphasizes the importance of enjoying every moment while your daughter is growing up. Since it’s written from a father to his daughter, it would be best for a wedding or father daughter dance.  

“Fathers and Daughters” by Michael Bolton – Pop/Rock Ballad

“When times are hard I know you’ll be strong

I’ll be there in your heart when you’ll carry on

Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky

Fathers and daughters never say goodbye”

This emotional ballad is an appropriate choice for any milestone event, such as a graduation. It would be a guaranteed tear-jerker if sung as a duet, since it commemorates the eternal bond between a father and daughter.

“Cecilia and The Satellite” by Andrew McMahon – Alternative/Indie

“If I could fly, then I would know

What life looks like from up above and down below

I’d keep you safe, I’d keep you dry

Don’t be afraid, Cecilia, I’m the satellite

And you’re the sky”

This uplifting and modern tune is a poetic promise from a father to his daughter. It’s a delightful alternative song just right for a father daughter dance or birthday party playlist.

“I Loved Her First” by Heartland – Country

“From the first breath she breathed, when she first smiled at me

I knew the love of a father runs deep, and I prayed that she’d find you someday

But it’s still hard to give her away, I loved her first”

This truly heartwarming song is a testament to the pride and protectiveness a father feels toward his daughter. It’s a sincere and moving choice for a father daughter dance at a wedding.

Each of these father daughter songs has its own unique way of honoring the love between a daddy and his little girl. Choose one of them for your special event, or combine all of them into one CD to give as a special gift to your father!

Are you musically talented? You can also consider learning to sing or play one of these beautiful songs to guarantee a memory that will last him a lifetime!

 

JasmineTPost Author: Jasmine T.
Jasmine T. teaches piano, academics, yoga, and more in San Diego, CA. She has her Power Yoga Level 1 200-Hour Certification, as well as a Certificate of Merit for Piano and Theory from the Music Teachers’ Association of California. Learn more about Jasmine here!
hawaiian ukulele songs

Strum Patterns You’ll Need to Play Hawaiian Ukulele Songs

hawaiian ukulele songs

Get your uke and start strumming! Music teacher Christopher S. shares how to play five common ukulele strumming patterns

In order to play any stringed instrument, such as the guitar, mandolin, or ukulele, you have to learn how to strum it. Strumming is an essential part to playing the ukulele, which gives it that true Hawaiian-Island sound.

In this article, I will discuss the different types of strum patterns used when learning to play Hawaiian ukulele songs and also the positioning of the hand to achieve these different strum patterns.

There are many different ways to start learning basic strumming on the ukulele. You will also see that, by looking at other ukulele players, everybody has their own style. Eventually, with proper practice, you will take suggestions and patterns and develop your own techniques and styles, as well.

To get you started, here are my suggestions to begin learning the common techniques and practices of strumming the ukulele.

Strumming Technique

First, start off with a simple chord (for example, a C chord), and practice your strumming technique with just that chord. The most common and traditional way of strumming the ukulele is by using your index finger. With your right hand just over the sound hole of the instrument, strum down with the index finger, hitting the strings with your nail. When you strum up, just bring your index finger back up into the palm of your hand, and the strings will make contact with the flesh of your finger.

Another popular strumming method is to put your thumb and index finger together to form a semi-two-sided pick. That way you strum down with the nail of your index finger and up with the nail of your thumb.

In any case, it is always important to strum with your wrist and not your whole hand when strumming. Using your entire hand and arm to strum can get tiring quickly and you will loose control much more easily.

Basic Strum Patterns

Now that you have the basics in strumming technique, let’s take a look at some basic strum patterns which you can use to play your favorite Hawaiian ukulele songs!

To help notate these patterns, I will use a “D” indicating a down strum and a “U” indicating an up strum. A “-” means that there is a pause or a missed strum.

The most common time in all music is the 4/4 (“four-four”) time signature. This means that, in one bar of music, you can count “1, 2, 3, 4,” and it fits right into one complete strum pattern.

Pattern One

This first pattern is a very common one and is very easy to do once you have the feel for it. My suggestion to learning this pattern is to try to play it slow. Do it once, and then stop the strings, and then do it again the same way. Once you feel comfortable with the finger motion, try repeating it but keeping it at a slow tempo. Lastly, play it at a faster tempo so that it sounds like music! This pattern is very common and can even be used in the song “Hey Ya!” by Outkast.

Strumming Pattern 1: D – D U – U D –

Pattern Two

This second pattern is very similar to strumming pattern 1, although it has another “up” strum at the end to really connect the repetitions. This makes it seem a little harder; however, once you start using it, it may seem even more natural to do. You can use this pattern in the song “High Hopes” by Paolo Nutini.

Strumming Pattern 2: D – D U – U D U

Pattern Three

This next strumming pattern is a really straight-forward one and is very easy to do. You can play this pattern in the song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys, and you will instantly hear it.

Strumming Pattern 3: D – D U D U D U

Pattern Four

Now, lets look at what is known as “Half-Bar Patterns.” Just like the name implies, these are patterns which only make up two beats of the 4/4 (“four-four”) measure. These patterns are good to use on songs where the chords change quickly. This pattern can be used to play the “Sesame Street” theme song. Of course, like all patterns, this one gets repeated, so make sure you practice changing chords on every repeat.

Strumming Pattern 4: D – D U

Pattern Five

This last pattern will use a new technique. When reading strumming notation, you may see an “x.” This is to indicate that you make a percussive sound, rather than a harmonic sound, when you strum. To do this, you simply relax the left-hand fingers, so they are touching the strings but not applying pressure. Then, when you strum with the right hand, you get a kind of “chink” sound. This next pattern uses that “chink” sound which you can hear in a song like “Betrayed by Bones” by Hellogoodbye.

Strumming Pattern 5: D U x U

Knowing basic strumming patterns is a great first step to learning how to play Hawaiian ukulele songs. Be sure to spend some time practicing the patterns above to change up your practice and improve your technique. These patterns can be applied to other genres, as well.

Lastly, be sure to work with a ukulele instructor to really fine tune your uke-playing skills! A teacher can show you what you are doing well, or need to improve on, and will make your ukulele practice more effective and enjoyable.

Photo by aaron gilson

Christopher S.Post Author: Christopher S.
Christopher S. teaches online ukulele, guitar, and bass guitar lessons. He lived abroad in Seville, Spain for two years, where he studied classical and flamenco guitar. He is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Guitar Performance, and has been teaching students since 2004. Learn more about Christopher here!

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