5 Essential Singing Techniques That Will Enhance Your Sound

Singing Techniques

Professional singers often find themselves performing in more than just one style of music, so if you’re a beginner it’s to your advantage that you study a variety of singing techniques! Take some time to explore the different genres of singing as well.

Today’s musical world includes everything from opera to heavy metal to gospel, and there are even several sub genres! To get you started, here are five different singing techniques that can enhance your sound – when done properly.

5 Singing Techniques to Enhance Your Sound

Belting


One of the most common vocal techniques in musical theatre and pop music is belting. Other styles that include belting are gospel, R&B, and modern country music.

The best way to describe belting is that a singer is taking the chest voice (where you speak) into a higher register than usual, creating an exciting and very powerful sound!

Without the guidance of a voice teacher however, many beginning belters can end up hurting themselves when they strain to make the desired sound. Think of belting as a “controlled yell” or an “extended, belly laugh.”

A well known belter is Idina Menzel. In the video above, she demonstrates this singing technique beautifully – especially at the end!

Falsetto

Falsetto is a vocal technique where one sings outside of the “normal” range. This can often result in a “breathy” sound when coming from an untrained voice. However, there are many singers who have made careers out of it – just look at the Bee Gees, for one!

Falsetto is common in pop, R&B, rock, and classical music when considering the countertenor voice. This is another one of those singing techniques where a beginning singer can run into trouble if they are not light enough in their approach.

It is best to be patient when studying falsetto and to work with a skilled voice teacher to help you, starting with simple exercises like sirens and slides so you can explore your range. The video above features the king of falsetto, Frankie Valli, demonstrating how falsetto sounds when it’s very strong!

Riffing

Riffs and runs are also known as vocal melismas, and to do them requires some serious musicianship! This is a form of vocal improvisation, which takes a lot of practice. The best way to master riffing is to start small at first.  

Start embellishing a simple song – even as simple as a nursery rhyme! Add just one additional note (thirds or fifths are usually best) to one word. Once you build confidence, add another note, and then add another simple pattern to an additional word.

Vocal runs are especially popular in R&B and gospel styles, but melismas actually have their roots in classical music. Singing with excellent articulation and support is key to mastering this vocal technique.

From a stylist standpoint, you want to avoid overdoing it to the point where the melody of the song is unrecognizable. Watch the great Whitney Houston above demonstrating the right way to add vocal runs to a song.

Rock Yells

This is one of the more controversial singing techniques. Many students ask their teachers if it’s possible to yell or scream in a healthy way for hard rock and heavy metal. The answer is yes, but you must work with a good voice teacher to master this singing technique!

Although you will give the impression of yelling, a healthy yell is quite different. Real yelling can cause phonotrauma (where the cords bang together at a fast rate and can wreck your voice). The trained rock yell is more like belting, where you rely on using serious lower body support more than anything else.

By putting focus on the lower body, you will protect your cords and have a much stronger sound. Paired with the technique of “vocal fry” (also known as the “creaky door” sound), rockers can get that desired, rough yell while being safe at the same time.

One man known for lots of good rock yells and screams is the late Ronnie James Dio. He was a trained singer who admitted in interviews that his experience as a trumpet player helped his breath control immensely! Check him out in the video above.

Country Yodeling


Don’t be fooled – this fun singing technique goes way beyond corny Swiss folk songs! Country and bluegrass singers can benefit greatly from mastering this skill.

Yodeling is a type of singing where there are very fast and repeated changes of pitch between two vocal registers: the chest voice and the head voice.

A good voice teacher can help a singer improve their yodeling skills by starting with simple interval drills to get this big sound out in a healthy way! Watch Dolly Parton demonstrating how vocal techniques like yodeling can spice up any classic country song.

Before Getting Started

These are just five of the most common singing techniques that vocal students seek to learn. No matter what style of music you’re into, good vocal technique is paramount. But before you delve into special singing techniques, it’s always best to get a handle on the basics.

This means learning to sing with reliable breath support, as well as having a confident ear. Singing with support eliminates the chances that you’ll sing with a breathy or weak sound. Having confidence in your ability to match pitch and sing rhythmically makes it a lot easier for you to make progress!

Ready to start learning new vocal techniques? You’ve come to the right place: TakeLessons has a tremendous variety of voice teachers specializing in many different genres of music. You can also try online singing classes for free to learn the basics in a fun, group setting!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

How Long Does it Take to Learn German? Find Out Here.

How long does it take to learn German

“How long does it take to learn German fluently?” This is a straightforward question with an answer that differs from person to person. The amount of time it will take you to master the German language relies on multiple factors, including your end goal.

Do you need to be professionally fluent, able to easily speak with others in a business setting? Perhaps you’ve stumbled into a company that does a lot of business in German-speaking countries and you’d like to talk with your clients.

Or, are you looking to learn the language for more casual reasons, such as to carry on conversations with friends and family? Maybe you’d just like to learn German to read Goethe in the original language.

Once you have your end goals in mind, you can more accurately answer the question: how long does it take to learn German? Let’s look at a couple different sources that provide estimates for how long it takes to learn the language.

How Long Does it Take to Learn German?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and its companion volume exist due to the exhaustive studies completed by some of Europe’s greatest minds on the subject of language learning. These volumes give us an idea of how long it might take you to learn German.

It’s important to keep in mind that each person will have a different, personal learning curve when they work toward learning a language. But we can infer from the CEFR data that it may take around 1,000 hours of dedicated practice time to reach a “high intermediate” level of language proficiency.

So if you’re looking for an estimate of how long it takes to learn German, it can take around three years with one hour per day of practice, or one year at three hours per day.

Across the Atlantic, the United States Foreign Service Institute uses a different measurement for language proficiency: the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale. They suggest that with enough resources, someone could reach a “general professional proficiency” in German in 750 hours.

Note: this study, however helpful, included highly adept polyglots (people who already speak several languages) making up the bulk of its participants.

3 Quick Tips for Learning German

Either way you look at it, these studies show that German might take quite a bit of time to learn. But fear not! There are plenty of ways to speed things up for yourself. Check out the following tips to get started.

Tip #1: Language Immersion

how long does it take to learn German fluently

Total immersion is often cited as the best way to learn a language. Moving to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, or Liechtenstein presents a sink-or-swim experience that is highly beneficial if you want to learn German quickly.  

The difficulty though, is that not everyone has the ability to fly off to Europe for a couple years. This is where finding a language partner (or two) comes in handy.

Tip #2: Find Language Partners

how long does it take to learn German

There are many native German speakers who are looking to improve their English skills online. Dozens of sites allow you to connect with other language learners for a “language exchange.” In other words, you help them with their English and they help you with your German.

Another excellent way to practice your speaking skills is to meet other German speakers near you. Check out sites like Meetup to look for opportunities to hang out with other German speakers and students locally. The more you make speaking German a regular part of your daily life, the faster you’ll learn it.  

Tip #3: Take German Lessons

how long does it take to learn German fluently

A sure-fire way to jump start your foray into German would be to take some German classes or even private German lessons. There are plenty of experienced instructors who offer both in-person and online lessons.

Working with a German teacher will set you up for success right off the bat, as they’ll be able to tailor a structured curriculum for meeting your individual goals.

So, how long does it take to learn German fluently? The real answer is that it varies from person to person. Learning a language is one of those “you get what you put into it” types of skills. But if you put the strategies listed above into practice, you’re already well on your way!

Need Private Lessons?

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

20 Different Types of Guitars & The Legends Who Played Them [Infographic]

Different types of guitars

While certain types of guitars are standard in modern culture, the instrument has a wide variety of expressions that is nearly impossible to tame. From the ancient Greek kithara to the guitar-like lute from pre-modern Spain, the many different types of guitars vary just as much as the people who play them.

Some types of acoustic and electric guitars are more common than others. Steel string dreadnought acoustics and Stratocaster-style electrics are likely to be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of the guitar. But some guitarists find they can’t do what they want with just 6 strings. 

In this article, we’ll start with the most common types of guitars, and then move toward the most exotic. We’ll also share the moments that made these guitars legendary.

*Click the “Play” button next to each guitar to hear the legend who played it!*

20 Different Types of Guitars – Acoustic & Electric

#1 Fender Stratocaster

  • Guitar Type: Solid-Body Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: Eric Clapton

It’s hard to overstate the influence of the Stratocaster. A tremendous pedigree of electric guitarists have made history on this type of guitar. It’s been reissued in hundreds of different designs and is by far one of the most popular types of electric guitars. The slanted, double-cutout body and three-pickup control setup give the Stratocaster both a visual signature and sonic versatility.

This guitar probably had its first major introduction to the public from Buddy Holly, but Clapton was one of its most influential proponents. Check out this clip from the song “The Weight” where Clapton pulls the soulful voice of this guitar into its full bloom.

#2 Martin D-45

  • Guitar Type: Steel String Dreadnought Acoustic
  • Legend Who Played It: Neil Young

For most guitar enthusiasts today, this is what “playing the guitar” means: the snap and brightness of a 6-string steel, which has strong projection and durability. Many guitarists favor the versatility and clarity of dreadnoughts, but especially singer-songwriters.

The Martin D-45 is one of the most common types of acoustic guitars. Check out Neil Young playing a well-loved song that he added to the Rock n’ Roll tradition, below.

#3 Fender Telecaster

  • Guitar Type: Solid-Body Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: Buck Owens

The foundational favorite of country and rock guitarists, this model is known for its single cutaway body, 2 single-coil pickup system, and characteristic “twang.” Modern country greats like Brad Paisley have predecessors like Buck Owen to thank for popularizing this guitar. Check out Buck and his band playing “Act Naturally.”

#4 1969 José Ramírez 1a “AM”

  • Guitar Type: Classical Nylon Acoustic Dreadnought
  • Legend Who Played It: Andres Segovia

Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz and fingerstyle genius Earl Klugh favor classical guitars for their round, sweet tone and stability when playing complex lines. These tend to have higher actions (the distance between the strings and fingerboard) and wider necks than many other acoustics.

When played with the correct nail technique, they create an unmistakable tone that has been enjoyed by European audiences since the 1600s. For a taste of the secret sauce, listen to the grandfather of modern classical guitar playing the legendary tremolo piece, “Leyenda.”

#5 Gibson ES-175

  • Guitar Type: Hollow-Body Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: Wes Montgomery

The Gibson ES-175 has become the iconic example that represents an entire class of guitars: hollow-body electrics. The rich, mid-range tone of these guitars was made legendary in jazz by players such as Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery. (Although the guitar has subsequently found its way into a myriad of other popular styles). Check out the haunting ballad “Round Midnight” below.

#6 The National Style O

  • Guitar Type: Resonator Acoustic
  • Legend Who Played It: Son House

Resophonic guitars, made mostly by European companies, were favorites of the 20th century Bluesmen. Every legendary country, blues, and rock musician drew inspiration from players of this style.

Son House was one of many legendary examples of Bluesmen who used open-tuned, resonator guitars. With their raw feeling and creative exploration with bottleneck slides, these players set the precedent for the coming generations of popular musicians. Keep in touch with the roots and watch Son House play “Death Letter Blues.”

# 7 Fender Precision Bass

  • Guitar Type: 4 String Electric Bass
  • Legend Who Played It: James Jamerson

Some discover the bass as a first instrument, and others as a crossover from the guitar. Jamerson actually started on the upright bass as a classical player on his path to becoming the legendary bassist that drove dozens of Motown hits.

His unmistakable warm, round tone was a combination of the bass’s design and special modifications like flatwound strings and foam mutes. The hearts of many were won by his melodic bass style and thumpy drive as a rhythm player. Numerous legends even as great as Victor Wooten trace their devotion to bass to Jamerson’s influence.

#8 The Höfner Bass

  • Guitar Type: 4 String Electric Bass
  • Legend Who Played It: Paul McCartney

The tone of this bass is instantly recognizable to any Beatles fan. The emphasis in the mid range and the plunky attack gave a unique flavor to dozens of Beatles songs, such as “When I’m 64.”

Paul also liked the balance it created on stage, given the fact that he played left handed and the bass was a symmetrical body design. See this late performance of “Don’t Let Me Down” to feel the magic for yourself.

#9 Maton EM-TE

  • Guitar Type: Electric-Acoustic Dreadnought
  • Legend Who Played It: Tommy Emmanuel

Maton guitars are typically outfitted with an internal microphone as well as a piezo saddle pickup. This allows for tremendous variety and clarity in the percussive tones Tommy Emmanuel gets out of his guitar, while leaving his fingerstyle tone beautifully intact.

Be prepared to be blown away by his performance of “Mombasa,” and let your imagination stretch what you thought was possible with an acoustic guitar.

# 10 The 12 String Guitar

  • Guitar Type: Steel String Dreadnought Acoustic
  • Legend Who Played It: John Denver

Known for his melodies and lyrics, John Denver arranged his songs with an extremely wide instrumental palette. At heart, he was just a guy with a guitar singing to people, but the use of a 12 string brought a twist of flavor to his repertoire. Check out the orchestral version of “Annie’s Song” and be inspired.

# 11 Gibson Lucille

  • Guitar Type: Semi-Hollow Body Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: B.B. King

The Gibson Lucille possesses a slightly more moderate tone than the full hollow-body, while still blending acoustic sweetness and electric drive. This unique guitar has other special modifications too, like the elimination of the f-holes to reduce feedback. B.B. King, also known as the King of Blues, has a legendary affection for this and many of his other guitars.

# 12 Gibson EDS-1275

  • Guitar Type: Double-Neck Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: Jimmy Page

Though innovators like Michael Angelo Batio and Justin King have branched out into their own uses of double neck guitars, Jimmy Page’s live performances of “Stairway to Heaven” made the heroism of the double neck guitar a fundamental part of rock history. The legend is available for all to experience in the performance below.

# 13 The TRB JP2

  • Guitar Type: 6 String Electric Bass
  • Legend Who Played It: John Patitucci

For those who just can’t get enough notes, the 6 string bass is a platform of the imagination. Heavily used in both metal and jazz, one of the first recognized 6 string bass virtuosos was John Patitucci. Patitucci played for Chick Corea on many of his influential albums.

The additional scale length on the high C string gives melodies a quality that is hard to find on any other instrument, and the low B can…well, shake the floor. Experience Patitucci’s fusion style with his electric quartet playing “Ides of March.”

# 14 The Twang Machine

  • Guitar Type: Cigarbox Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: Bo Diddley

The Twang Machine is just one of the many examples of unconventional body types. Having both the look and sound of a tin can, this unique guitar was one of the many showman tactics that made Bo so popular. Check out this performance at the presidential inauguration concert of 1989, when he’s still in great form!

# 15 The Purple Rain Guitar

  • Guitar Type: Special Body Electric, Telecaster Style
  • Legend Who Played It: Prince

The late legend played a sizable collection of uniquely styled guitars. Taking the visual appeal of the guitar to another level, Prince had several special body designs made especially for him.

Having spent a lot of his career experimenting with symbols that expressed his values, Prince’s singular body designs pointed not only to his artistic flair but also to his personal beliefs. Watch him play his famous “Cloud” guitar in the video of “Purple Rain” below.

# 16 Martin LX1E

  • Guitar Type: Miniature Acoustic
  • Legend Who Played It: Ed Sheeran

In popular music, it’s the little things that count. Tons of artists are competing for the narrow band of sounds available in the pop genre, so finding a secret weapon that helps you stand out from the crowd can go a long way. Ed Sheeran has the gift of bringing a unique flavor to his radio work as well as his live shows.

His signature mini-Martin is a key tool, and it’s one of the more unique types of acoustic guitars. It draws audiences in with an effect that can only be described one way: if you want to be heard in a loud room, whisper. The piezo pickup is also great for looping percussion. Check out Ed’s live version of “Tenerife Sea” for a taste of how it all works.

# 17 The ESP MX220

  • Guitar Type: Active Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: James Hetfield

In an era where Metal was just beginning to distinguish itself from Hard Rock, Metallica guitarists were leaning toward using active pickups to define their sound. Active pickups have a brighter sound and compress the signal to give the tone more sustain.

This sound gave 80s thrash metal bands greater control of dynamics through effects processing, and greater ease with speed techniques like shred picking. The look of this guitar also became a signature for Hetfield, as you can see in this live rendition of “Enter Sandman.”

# 18 Epiphone Zenith

  • Guitar Type: Tenor Guitar
  • Legend Who Played It: Ani DiFranco

Even at her commercial peak with “Little Plastic Castle,” Ani DiFranco was never an A-List celebrity. Anyone seasoned in the culture of singer-songwriters would tell you that her individuality as an artist surpasses that of most folk legends in the 60s, and her guitar technique is a marvel of spontaneity.

She would also most certainly win the Guinness Record for most guitar switches per show, and her Epiphone Zenith would be one of the more interesting guitars in the line-up. Rather than trying describe it, watch DiFranco playing her fan favorite “Little Plastic Castle.”

#19 Ibanez TAM 100

  • Guitar Type: Active 8 String Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: Tosin Abasi

Certain players have been able to define the creative direction of a genre purely on the basis of their ability and artistic vision. Tosin Abasi is one such artist who brought the use of 7+ string guitars into greater favor among progressive metal players. For guitarists who just can’t get enough notes, this guitar itself can be the inspiration for the music.

#20 The Hamer 5-Neck

  • Guitar Type: Multi-Neck Electric
  • Legend Who Played It: Rick Nielsen

Cheap Trick’s lead guitarist developed a guitar with 5 necks modeled after different sounds he liked: a 12 string, a Les Paul Junior, a Fender Stratocaster, a whammy bar neck, and a fretless electric.

The Hamer 5-Neck is certainly one of the most outlandish types of electric guitars. Though admittedly unwieldy to play, many electric guitarists will identify with the hunger to have access to more sounds. Watch Ricky capture the vibe in this classic performance of “Surrender.”

Each of these guitars is famous because a great player created a moment with an audience that carried that memory with them long after. If you’re a guitarist, remember to take every opportunity to explore the different types of guitars on your journey.

Taking a look at the many types of acoustic and electric guitars out there will help you expand your creative horizons, find an instrument that captures your unique sound, and deepen your experience as a guitarist. Feeling inspired to take guitar lessons? Check out the guitar classes at TakeLessons Live for free today!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

Counting in Korean: A Beginner’s Guide to Korean Numbers

Counting numbers 1-10 in Native & Sino Korean

Learning the Korean numbers is necessary to read, write, and speak in Korean. In this article, we’ll show you how to count in Korean from 1–10.

The Korean number system is complex, but with a little practice, anyone can learn it! There are two different categories of numbers in Korean: Korean numbers and Sino-Korean numbers.

The two categories can cause some confusion, so let’s look at the differences between them, so you can learn how to count in Korean.

An Intro to Korean Numbers

What is Sino-Korean?

Sino-Korean refers to actual Korean words that originated in China or were influenced by Chinese words. About 60 percent of Korean vocabulary is Sino-Korean.

Tofu is a great example. Tofu is written as 두부 in Korean (read as dubu) and written as 豆腐 in hanja (Chinese characters).

Sino-Korean vocabulary also includes the Korean numbers used for dates, money, time, addresses, and numbers above 100.

Below is a list of numbers 1 to 10 in (native) Korean and Sino-Korean, so that you can see the difference in pronunciation and writing.

Korean Numbers 1-10

  • 1  하나 hana
  • 2  둘 dhul
  • 3 셋 sehtt
  • 4  넷 nehtt
  • 5  다섯 da-seot
  • 6 여섯 yeo-seot
  • 7  일곱 il-gop
  • 8 여덟 yuh-deol
  • 9 아홉 ah-hop
  • 10  열 yeol

Sino-Korean Numbers 1-10

  • 1 일 il
  • 2 이 i (pronounced as “e”)
  • 3  삼 sam
  • 4 사 sa
  • 5  오 o
  • 6 육 yuk
  • 7 칠 chil
  • 8 팔 pal
  • 9 구 gu
  • 10 십 ship

Remember, Sino-Korean numbers are used for dates, money, time, addresses, and numbers above 100.

Here’s an example:

If your friend asks you how long it’s been since you started studying Korean, you could answer: “나는 한국어 공부 시작한지 “셋” 일” (native Korean numbers).

This answer will show that it’s only been three days since you started studying Korean, but it will sound really awkward. The correct reply is:
“나는 한국어 공부 시작한지 “삼”일 됐어,” since you must use Sino-Korean when you’re talking about dates.

Patterns in Korean Numbers

Now that you know the difference between (native) Korean and Sino-Korean numbers, let’s look at the basic logic in the two numbering systems.

Consider this example:일, 이, 삼, 사, 오, 육, 칠, 팔, 구, and 십. You know now that this is a Sino-Korean numbering set. It’s used for dates, money, time, addresses, and numbers above 100.

Obviously, there are numbers, like 11, that go over 10. So how do you say/write 11 in Korean? Again, there is a logical consistency with numbers in Korean. You know 11 is a product of adding the numbers 10 and one.

You also know that 십 is 10 and 일 is one. When you add those two together, you get 11, algebraically, and you get “십일” in Korean.

What about 12? The same rule applies: 10 is 십 and two is 이. Add those two together and you get 십이. Can it be really be that easy? Yes!

The same rule applies to (native) Korean numbers: 하나, 둘, 셋, 넷, 다섯, 여섯, 일곱, 여덟, 아홉, and 열. These are the Korean numbers 1 – 10, so what’s 11? 열 is 10 and 하나 is one. When you add these together, you get 11, which is “열 하나” in Korean.

When the number exceeds 19 (열아홉 in Korean or 십구 in Sino-Korean), you will need a new number for 20, which is 스물 in (native) Korean  and 이십 in Sino-Korean.

After that, the counting logic still applies, so here’s how you can figure out 21 in Korean: It’s the product of  스물 (20) and 하나 (One). In Sino-Korean, combine 이십 (20) and 일 (one).

Whether you’re using Korean or Sino-Korean numbers, the same logic applies when it comes to adding numbers. For a visual reminder of Korean and Sino-Korean numbers, see the infographic below!

 

numbers 1-10 in native and sino Korean infographic

There you have it! The numbers in Korean may seem complex at first, but once you understand the basic principles and logic behind these two systems, it will be much easier to master counting.

Is there a certain Korean number you need help spelling or saying? Let us know in the comments below! If you’re ready to start learning more Korean today, search for a Korean teacher near you.

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

How to Play The Mandolin for Beginners: 5 Steps to Get Started

how to play mandolin for beginners

So you want to learn how to play the mandolin. For beginners to playing an instrument, the mandolin is a great option for starting your musical journey. Many people ask, “Is the mandolin easy to play?” or “Is it hard to play the mandolin?”

Fortunately, the mandolin is not a difficult instrument to learn. It’s lightweight and compact so you can practice anywhere. It also has less strings than many other instruments, like the guitar, which makes reading tablature much easier.

The mandolin is just unusual enough that people will be curious as to what instrument you’re playing. This will give you great satisfaction if you like standing out from the crowd!

Whatever your reason for wanting to learn to play the mandolin, this guide is a great source of information for beginners. We’ll provide an introduction on how to play the mandolin, including five steps to get started today.

How to Play Mandolin for Beginners

Step 1. Find Your Favorite Style or Genre

how to play the mandolin for beginners - bowl backed

Throughout the years, the mandolin has been featured in recordings from a wide range of musical genres. For example, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton have both been recorded playing the mandolin on folk and blues songs. Classical composers have written great pieces for the mandolin.

Irish musicians have used the mandolin to great effect in traditional folk tunes. Last but not least, country and bluegrass mandolin players (such as Bill Monroe and Jethro Burns) have made their mark with the instrument as well.

As a beginner to the mandolin, it’s important to listen to music from each of these styles. This will help you decide which one fits your musical preferences. Once you’ve decided which genre you’d like to focus on, a mandolin teacher can personalize your lessons accordingly and teach you relevant techniques for that style of playing.

Step 2. Purchase the Right Mandolin

how to play mandolin for beginners - f style

The style of music you choose to learn will affect several aspects of the mandolin you should purchase. While it’s true that you can play any genre on any mandolin, some designs are more appropriate for certain genres.

Do you want to play bluegrass music? Then you might want to purchase an F style or an A style mandolin. F style mandolins have the swoopy curl at the top of the body near the neck. A style mandolins are more tear-drop shaped. These two styles of mandolin are the most popular for bluegrass players.

If you want to play classical or European folk genres, a bowl backed (AKA “potato bug”) shaped mandolin will be a better fit. Lastly, if you want to play Irish music you might want to consider a larger A style mandolin, or perhaps even a mandola.

Step 3. Get Light Mandolin Strings

Mandolins are slightly more difficult than other stringed instruments in one aspect: they have two strings per note instead of just one string. So while the tablature for the mandolin reads like any other four string instrument, in reality you will have to press down two strings every time you want to play one note.

This can be difficult on the fingers for a beginner to the mandolin, so it’s important to purchase light strings when just starting out. You’ll have less volume, but starting with light gauge strings will make playing much more comfortable. Martin Lights are the perfect strings for beginners as they are durable, but not too painful for the fingers.

You should expect to experience some finger pain and discomfort as a beginner – this is normal. When finished practicing, try soaking your fingers in a product called “Witch Hazel.” This astringent is great for taking the sting out. Many professional musicians use Witch Hazel after shows to ease the pain in their fingers.

It will also help any blisters turn into calluses more quickly. Last tip – if you do get a blister, don’t pop it. You want the swelling to go down naturally so that it can turn into a callus, which will make playing the mandolin much easier in the long run.

Step 4. Find a Good Mandolin Teacher

how to play mandolin for beginners - find a teacher

If you want to learn how to play the mandolin, yes, you could watch hours of YouTube videos and try to improve on your own. But beginners should be cautious, because when you’re new to the instrument, it’s difficult to tell when you are or aren’t getting accurate information.

Without a live person there to tell you when you’re using incorrect techniques, you could easily develop bad habits that you might never be able to fix. One of the biggest benefits of working with a mandolin teacher is that they can tailor lesson plans to your individual needs. (They can also help you build a solid foundation of music theory)!

To start your search for the perfect mandolin teacher for you, check out TakeLessons. They have a wide range of qualified teachers all over the country that can help you learn how to play the mandolin right away.

They also offer lessons via video chat, if you’re interested in learning to play the mandolin online. To get started, browse through TakeLessons teachers’ profiles to find one who has experience in the style and genre you’re pursuing.

If you’re really interested in learning how to play Italian music, a Bluegrass teacher might not be the best fit. Ideally, you should find a teacher who enjoys a wide variety of styles so you can explore the great sea of mandolin music that is out there.

Step 5. Take Advantage of Helpful Resources

If you’re taking private lessons, chances are your teacher has their own materials to share with you to develop your skills. However, it never hurts to have some extra resources for practicing on your own – which will really get you to the next level.

There are dozens of great apps, YouTube videos, and books for just about any style of mandolin playing imaginable. Taking advantage of these resources will inspire you to practice, learn, and develop your skills even more. For starters, see the list of examples below.

  • Mandolin Method Book 1 – This book, written by noted mandolinist Richard DelGrosso, teaches beginners essential skills such as how to read music.
  • Mandolin Cafe – When you have a pressing question about the mandolin and aren’t sure where to turn, check out the helpful forums on this website.
  • Dead Man’s Tuning – These instructional books are available in four unique volumes for learning the mandolin in alternate tunings.
  • MandolinTabs – Want to learn a new song on the mandolin? This YouTube channel features easy tutorials for songs in a variety of genres.
  • Mandolin for Dummies – This book is a good resource for beginners to mandolin who are looking for a more comprehensive introduction to the instrument.
  • Chord! – Chord! is an inexpensive app that can help you learn new chords on the mandolin, enabling you to play many more songs.

In conclusion, if you’re a beginner and want to learn how to play mandolin, you need to discover your style, find the right mandolin for that style, and utilize the variety of resources available to you. Follow these steps and you’ll be playing the mandolin in no time.

Can you think of any more tips on how to play the mandolin for beginners? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches mandolin, ukulele, 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!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

The Fast & Foolproof Way to Learn Flute Notes [Beginners’ Cheat Sheets]

the fast and foolproof way to learn flute notes

Looking for a quick and easy way to learn flute notes for beginners? As you start to become more familiar with the flute, you’ll naturally become curious about learning more notes.

In the beginning, it’s important to start to learn flute notes right away—the sooner you learn them, the sooner you can read sheet music and master different melodies.

Learning flute notes can also help you improve on specific elements of your technique that are crucial to getting off to a good start. You’ll start to see your posture, the way you hold the flute, and your embouchure all improve with practice.

Proper Posture for Learning Flute Notes

Speaking of posture, there are a few key things you should remember to help you learn how to play flute notes comfortably. First, let your fingers curve over the top of your keys using the least amount of tension you can manage, without feeling like you’ll drop the flute.

Don’t try to grip the keys or put your fingertip right on the key. Instead, let your whole hand hold the flute, and remember that your fingertip is simply an extension of your finger that originates near the wrist.

As you learn flute notes, try to release and relax your elbows and shoulders, which are two areas that often try to “help” as you play. Lastly, learn to keep your fingers close to the keys—don’t let them fly away with each change of note!

How to Learn Flutes Notes Quickly

learn flute notes properly

Here are the steps you can follow to learn flute notes for beginners, as easily and quickly as possible. We’ll then discuss ways you can put these notes into practice and start memorizing them.

Commit to One Note at a Time

Each note has specific keys that need to be pressed, and trying to learn all the notes at the same time can be overwhelming! Commit to one note at a time, and continue to review the ones you’ve already learned.

Create Associations for Each Note

In the beginning, each note configuration can seem random. Try to make a specific association for each note so you can easily recall it.

For example, for B flat, you can think of it as “pinchers” – you only press down your left index finger and thumb keys and your right index finger key (plus your right pinky finger key). This creates an image of pinching between your index fingers and thumbs.

Learn Flute Notes in a Logical Order

It’s a smart idea to start by learning the notes of a scale, such as the B flat major scale. This includes the notes B flat, C, D, E flat, F, G, A, and then an additional B flat.

For your very first notes, learning A, B flat, and C (all on the staff) can also be a good option. A has four keys depressed. To switch to B flat, lift up your left third finger and press down your right index finger. Then for C, lift up your left thumb and your right index finger.

Double Check the Fingering

Beginners often make errors in the fingering of notes. Sometimes, the difference in sound of pressing an extra key is very subtle. However, over time this makes a big difference, not just sound-wise but also technique-wise. To avoid learning the wrong fingerings, double check a fingering chart as you learn flute notes.

Tips for Memorizing & Practicing Flute Notes

how to learn flute notes

  • A large part of memorizing flute notes has to do with muscle memory. This is why it’s important to practice good posture habits as you learn notes, because you’re creating a habitual pattern in your muscles for how to play each note. Make it a good one!
  • Use your brain to solve the puzzle. Lots of musical learning can happen without your instrument. While it’s of course important to hold and play your flute, you can also practice notes when you’re on the go or away from your flute.

Print out some blank flute fingering charts and use a pencil to darken the keys you would depress for each note. This type of visual memory practice can cement what your muscles are already learning.

  • Once you feel comfortable with your memory of the notes, start to practice very simple melodies that you can find in a beginner method book. This will strengthen your memory even more, and train your ability to switch between notes smoothly and comfortably.

Practicing this way also improves your breathing and stamina. As you read the music, you’ll be reinforcing a trifecta of musical knowledge: the fingering for the note, its printed placement on the musical staff (what line or space it appears on), and its name (D, E flat, or F, for example).

  • Remember to set specific and realistic goals for yourself. Once you’ve learned all the notes in a specific scale, set a long term goal to learn all the flat or sharp notes. Then ultimately, you can try to master the chromatic scale.

Cheat Sheets for Learning Flute Notes

The best way to learn flute notes is by reinforcing your knowledge in a variety of ways. Check out the following five sites that offer cheat sheets and helpful charts on mastering flute notes for beginners. Get ready to increase your learning speed, while making flute practice more fun!

  1. Flute for Dummies – This page covers learning which hand goes where, as well as finger placement. It also includes a complete fingering chart. In the beginning, you’ll learn the middle range of notes and over time, you can learn the lowest and highest notes.learn flute notes - cheat sheet
  2. Flute Fingering Trainer – Test your flute note knowledge here! You can select your desired level (easy, medium, or hard) and then identify each note by clicking on the keys of the flute. This will help you learn and reinforce the knowledge you already have.learn flute notes - flute trainer
  3. JenniferCluff.com – This is a complete fingering chart, in order from lowest to highest notes. You can start by learning the first A listed (in the low octave) and continue upwards to the A that is one octave higher.learn flute notes - fingering chart
  4. 8notes – This website covers learning a note from start to finish. It features a color-coded guide for putting each finger on the right key. Check it out as a precursor to learning your first flute notes and then advance to “Part 8.”learn flute notes - illustration
  5. The Flute Teachers’ School – Watch this two-minute video to see a visual description of how to read a fingering chart. Then read the tips on how to learn flute notes for beginners, too!learn flute notes - video

Now you know how to learn flute notes! Follow the suggestions above and it will be an enriching process to increase your knowledge and flute abilities. As you gain more knowledge, the best way to advance your skills is to take private flute lessons.

An experienced flute teacher can observe your progress, correct mistakes, and provide personalized suggestions for what to learn next. Remember to enjoy the journey, and before you know it – you’ll know all the notes!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

Japanese Writing Systems for Beginners: Learn Romaji

What is Japanese Romaji? A Roman character and letter system for English speakers

When learning Japanese you’re introduced to several writing systems, including hiragana, katakana, kanji, and finally – romaji.

Romaji simply means “Roman characters.” You will typically use romaji when you type out Japanese sentences using a keyboard.

Romaji is the representation of Japanese sounds using the western, 26-letter alphabet,” says Donald Ash, creator of TheJapanGuy.com. “Romaji puts Japanese into a format that most Westerners can read and understand.”

Although romaji is one way to write Japanese syllables, it’s not a completely functional system.

“First of all, there are ways in which the Japanese sound system is different from English,” says Tofugu writer Linda Lombardi. “Second, there’s more than one way to write even some English sounds in English.”

Romaji isn’t used as often as kanji, katakana, and hiragana, but it’s still a good idea to be familiar with it when you’re learning to speak Japanese.

How to Use Romaji for Beginners

Let’s take a look at romaji, and the the standard Japanese syllables.

Hiragana is the basic writing system that is commonly used in Japan. Hiragana uses 46 letters, so there are 46 romaji variations to represent all hiragana. (See the chart below, read from right to left).

romaji to english alphabet chart

Japanese syllables, however, have more variations than 46 because hiragana letters can be combined to describe variations of sounds.

Dakuon and Han-dakuon

Japanese syllables consist of dakuon (impure sounds) and han-dakuon (half-impure sounds). Dakuon sounds occur in the  か (ka), さ (sa), た (ta), and は (ha) rows. The consonants for each row k, s, t, and h should be changed to: g, z, d, and b. See the chart below for examples.

romaji japanese syllables chart - dakuon

Notice that “zi,” and “zu” are used twice for different letters.

Han-dakuon only occur on the “h” consonant row, which changes the sound to a “p.” In Japanese writing, dakuon is described by simply adding two dots right next to the original letters. Han-dakuon uses a small circle instead of dots.

romaji japanese syllables chart - Han-dakuon

Here are some extra tips to keep in mind about romaji:

  • The romaji for じ (zi) and ぢ (zi), ず (zu) and づ (zu) are the same
  • Spelling “zi” to describe the sound can be confusing, because from an English speaker’s perspective, it should be spelled “ji.” The same thing applies for “し” (si/shi) and “つ” (tu/tsu), too.
  • Romaji uses the Hepburn system of romanization, which is a Japanese-English translation system. For example, if you type “ji” on a computer, it will be translated to “じ” automatically.

SEE ALSO: 8 Essential Japanese Greetings

Yôon

Yôon (twisted sound) is formed by combining hiragana. You have already been introduced to the  や (ya), ゆ (yu), and よ (yo) letters in chart 1.

When these three letters follow other letters, [except for the “あ” vowel row, or わ (wa), を (wo), and ん (n)], it’s going to create distinctively different sounds. This conjugation happens to dakuon and han-dakuon sounds as well. See the chart below:

romanized japanese chart - yoon

When や, ゆ, and よ are conjugated with other letters, the size of those three letters has to be smaller. If you write the letters in the same size, it’s not considered a conjugation. It’s just two syllables happening successively.

For example, “きや” is read and written as “kiya” instead of “kya” – one syllable sound. ちゃや which means “tea shop,” is written as “tyaya” in romaji.

Tyôon

Tyôon means “long sound.” It often happens in Japanese when two vowels are written successively. Since all Japanese syllables have a vowel, the vowel in the first syllable can be connected with another vowel directly. When this happens, it creates the feeling of a longer sound.

In Japanese hiragan, tyôon is written as ちょうおん. If you write each syllable in romaji, it would be “tyouon.”

Now let’s focus on the first two syllables of the word, ちょう. The vowel “o” in “tyo” is connected with the vowel “u.” This “ou” sound is considered a “longer sound.”

In official romaji writing, this is supposed to be written so as “tyôu” with a circumflex (a mark placed over a vowel to indicate a contraction or change in length or tone). This longer sound is a very important part of Japanese pronunciation.

You can see this in two common Japanese last names: おおの (Ôno) and おの (ono). These two names are similar but distinctively different.

When you see two Os, you may be tempted to say “oo” as in the word “ooze.” Using a circumflex can help to eliminate this confusion.

Of course, there are exceptions to these rules. For example, when the vowels “e” and “i” are combined, you can’t use a circumflex. So romaji writing for the term “movie,” えいが, should be written as “eiga.” Just write each syllable rather than “êga,” even though this is still one of the longer sounds.

On the other hand, if two Es are combined, you still have to follow the circumflex rule, even though the pronunciation for “ei” and “ee” are the same. This might sound confusing but with enough practice, anyone can master it!

SEE ALSO: Japanese Vocabulary for the Family

Sokuon

Sokuon means urging sound. I’d describe this as a skipping or jumping sound. These kinds of words are written with a small “tu” in hiragana (いった (went) and やった (did).

Just like yôon, there is a smaller letter in between. In romaji, you should write the two examples as “itta” and “yatta.”

Most of time, romaji writing works when you type on a keyboard. It doesn’t always work perfectly, however – describing Japanese syllables with the alphabet sometimes requires adjustments.

For instance, じ、ず、and ぢ、づ are the same in romaji: “zi, zu.” When you need to type ぢ and づ on the keyboard, you can actually use “di” and “du” because ぢ and づ belong to the だ (da) row in the first chart we shared.

New Japanese syllables have also been added since foreign words and new terms were imported. These new syllables combine vowels and consonants. These syllables are still controversial, and most of them are not even officially acknowledged, even though you can see them everywhere in Japan.

As you can see, romaji is a very unique component of the Japanese language. If you’re having trouble understanding these concepts, seek the help of a Japanese teacher who can break it down into small segments to make it easier for you. Good luck and enjoy learning Japanese!

AndyWPost Author: Kaoru N.
Kaoru N. teaches Japanese and guitar lessons in Brighton, MA. Originally from Tokyo, he graduated from Berklee College of Music with a dual major and is available for local or online lessons. Learn more about Kaoru here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

Photo by Benjamin Krause

How to Learn Russian

How to Learn Russian Fast & Easy with 8 Simple Steps

So you want to know how to learn Russian – the seventh most spoken language in the world. With around 300 million speakers, you certainly won’t have trouble finding other students to practice with!  

There are dozens of good reasons to learn how to speak Russian. Perhaps you admire Russian culture, or maybe you’ve always wanted to visit Moscow or Saint Petersburg as a tourist.

Whatever your motivation, Russian is not an easy language. However, it isn’t as hard as you think either! Follow these eight steps and you’ll start your learning journey on the right foot.

How to Learn Russian in 8 Simple Steps

1) Master the Russian Alphabet

how to learn Russian - letters

If you want to know how to learn Russian, the alphabet is the best place to start. The Russian alphabet is easy to learn because it’s very phonetic. Russians use the “Cyrillic” alphabet, named after the Greek monk, St. Cyril.

The alphabet consists of 33 letters, and it may seem unfamiliar at first. However, it has many similarities to the English alphabet. Some of the letters look and sound exactly like their English counterparts: A, B, D, K, L, M, O, and T.

On the other hand, some Cyrillic letters have the same pronunciation as English letters, but look differently. For example, the Cyrillic “г” sounds like the English “g,” and the Cyrillic “ф” sounds like the English “f.”

There are really only a few new sounds that need to be learned, but the rules of Russian pronunciation are simple. With a few exceptions, you typically pronounce words as they’re spelled and spell them as they’re pronounced.

Realistically, you could learn Cyrillic in a day. While you may make a few mistakes at first, practice will help you learn to distinguish between the English and Russian alphabets.

2) Learn Common Russian Words First

how to learn russian - common words

Every language has words that are more commonly used than others, so it’s helpful to learn these first as they’ll come in handy during daily conversation. Start by learning the words listed below.

  • Здравствуйте (Hello)
  • Привет (Hi)
  • Доброе утро (Good morning)
  • До свидания (Goodbye)
  • Как Вы живёте? (How are you?)
  • Было приятно познакомиться с Вами (Nice to meet you)
  • Да (Yes)
  • Нет (No)
  • Пожалуйста (Please)
  • Спасибо (Thank you)

If you’re learning Russian for a specific purpose, such as travel or business, there will be a set of vocabulary terms that you should work to memorize first. Be sure to let your Russian teacher know your goals and he or she will help you learn the most useful vocabulary right away.

3) Find Cognates in Russian

how to learn Russian

When wondering how to learn Russian quickly, one of the first steps you should take is to find words that have the same meanings in both Russian and English. 

There are many words in Russian that sound just like their English counterparts. Start with the examples below.

  • Телефон (telephone)
  • Компьютер (computer)
  • Такси (taxi)
  • Аэропорт (airport)
  • Лампа (lamp)
  • Технология (technology)
  • Температура (temperature)

4) Learn the Rules of Russian Grammar

how to learn russian grammar

Russian is a very rule-based language. For example, just like in French and Spanish, each noun has a gender assigned to it that you must memorize.

There are three genders in the Russian language: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Here are the rules for determining which gender a certain noun is. Look at the last letter of the word.

  • If it is a consonant, or “й”, the word is masculine.
  • If it is “а” or “я”, the word is feminine.
  • If it is “о” or “е”, the word is neuter.
  • If it is a silent letter, like  “ь”, then it could be either masculine or feminine.

There are very few exceptions to these rules, but the notable ones occur mainly because of physical gender. For example, the following exceptions occur because the person you’re referring to is male, so the word is masculine.

  • Папа (Dad)
  • Дядя (Uncle)
  • Дедушка (Grandfather)
  • Мужчина (Man)

There are many more grammar rules to learn, such as how verbs change tenses, how nouns become plural, etc. It’s best to learn these rules from a professional language tutor to ensure that you’re practicing them properly.

5) Take Advantage of Flexible Sentences

the best way to learn russian - practice writing

Word order in Russian sentences is very flexible and different from the firm, “subject-verb-object” structure that English speakers are used to. For example, in Russian there are several ways to express the statement, “I live in Miami.”

  • Я живу в Маями. (I live in Miami)
  • В Маями я живу. (In Miami I live)
  • Живу в Маями. (Live in Miami) – You can skip the pronoun altogether!

Here is another example using the question, “What did you talk about?”

  • О чём вы говорили? (What did you talk about?)
  • Говорили вы о чём? (Talked you about what?)
  • Вы говорили о чём? (You talked about what?)
  • О чём говорили? (About what talked?)                              

To use the flexibility of Russian sentence structure you need to understand the system of declension which means that nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and numerals change their endings depending on gender, number (singular or plural), and one of six grammatical cases.

You’ll also have to learn how to properly conjugate verbs. For help with some of these trickier concepts, see the next step.

6) Learn From a Russian Teacher

Best way to Learn Russian

Private lessons from an experienced Russian teacher are the best way to learn Russian – whether you take in person or online lessons. A professional, native speaker can provide a structured learning plan that is tailored to your individual needs and goals.

They can lead you through tricky concepts like grammar rules, and give you feedback on your accent and pronunciation.

To find a qualified Russian teacher, check out TakeLessons. Here, you’ll get to search through dozens of teachers’ profiles until you find one who is the right fit for you.

On a teacher’s profile page, you can learn about their background, rates, and read reviews from students who have worked with the teacher before.

7) Read Children’s Books

how to learn Russian - read books

Children’s books are an excellent way to build your grammar and comprehension skills. You might feel silly at first reading a book for children, but keep at it, as this will help lay the foundation for mastering Russian.

If you’re not quite ready to start reading in Russian yet, try listening to audiobooks or use dual language books that show the English and Russian translation side by side. “The Little Prince” (Маленький Принц) by Antoine de Saint Exupery is a great dual language book to start with.  

One of the most popular children’s authors in Russia is Korney Chukowsky. Many have referred to him as the Dr. Seuss of Russia. Here are just a few of his incredible audiobooks that you can find on YouTube.

  • Doctor Ouch (Доктор Айбоит)
  • Telephone (Телефон)
  • Moydodyr (Мойдодыр)

8) Practice Speaking & Writing

best way to learn Russian

The best way to learn Russian quickly is to use every opportunity to speak it. Become more confident and comfortable in your speaking skills by memorizing Russian idioms, common sayings, and practicing short dialogues daily.

When communicating with native speakers, be brave and ask them to correct your mistakes. Need someone to practice with? Find a language partner near you, or online, with sites like Meetup and My Language Exchange.

Lastly, don’t forget to work on your writing skills. Writing is secondary in learning a foreign language, but absolutely necessary.

Keep a vocabulary journal and find a penpal to write to. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and put all the skills you’re learning into practice!

In Conclusion

Now you know the best way to learn Russian. Everyone is capable of mastering a foreign language, but with these tips and tricks under your belt, you’ll be on your way to learning Russian faster.

Once you master Russian, you’ll be able to better appreciate the rich Russian culture – including the famous writings of Leo Tolstoy, brilliant composers like Tchaikovsky, and the glory of Russian ballet.

If you’re a world traveler, you’ll also be able to explore spectacular beaches, experience the taiga with its diverse wildlife, and visit the Russian Far East like a local.

There is so much to do and see in Russia. Speaking the native language will help you fully experience all that Russia has to offer, and meet all sorts of fascinating people along the way. Get started today!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

Is Saxophone Hard to Learn? Read This Before Taking Lessons.

Is saxophone hard to learn

“Is saxophone hard to learn?” Not exactly. The saxophone, like many instruments, is not difficult to begin playing. It can however, be challenging to master

Many people say that it’s easy to make a sound on the saxophone, but harder to make a good sound (at least, at first). But if you’re considering getting started with saxophone lessons – don’t be discouraged! Any self-disciplined student can progress in their saxophone skills by taking the right steps as a beginner. Keep reading to learn more.  

Is Saxophone Hard to Learn?

The saxophone should be easy to get a sound out of on the first day. If the sound is not responding, the reed and mouthpiece are likely being squeezed together as a result of too much jaw pressure.

The way that you hold your lips on the mouthpiece of the saxophone is called the “embouchure.” This is the most important aspect of learning the saxophone and it has a great impact on tone quality. This skill is developed over several years and will require a great amount of coaching.

You may still be wondering, “Is saxophone hard to learn?” The truth is, certain people will have an easier time learning the saxophone than others. For example, students younger than middle school age shouldn’t take saxophone lessons because of their smaller hands and mouth.

Is saxophone hard to learn

On the other hand, people who have prior experience on any wind instrument, especially woodwinds such as the clarinet, will adapt to the saxophone very quickly. Fortunately, the fingering system for the saxophone is not as complicated as other woodwind instruments.

One of the biggest challenges of the saxophone is that it’s not an instantly gratifying instrument. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop good tone quality.

Some students get frustrated that they don’t sound like a professional within the first month or two. These unrealistic expectations can set a student on a course for disappointment. Keep in mind that college music majors who have been playing the saxophone for eight years still have a lot to learn!

The Easiest Way to Learn the Saxophone

Now that you no longer have to ask, “Is saxophone hard to learn?” you’re probably wondering how to get started. Initially, it’s very important to develop fundamental skills on the saxophone, and not simply work on playing the same songs over and over.

Working on the embouchure, scales, articulation, dynamic control, and vibrato will strengthen your abilities as a saxophonist. To start your learning journey with ease, follow the simple steps below and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Choose Your Equipment Wisely

When beginning to learn the saxophone, having quality equipment can make a huge difference. Stay away from “value” brands. Professionals will tell you that if you’re worried about the initial cost, it’s better to get a used instrument from a trusted brand rather than a cheap, brand new instrument.

To get started on the saxophone, you’ll need some standard equipment for beginners.  Here are our best recommendations:

  • The Selmer S80 C* mouthpiece
  • Vandoren Traditional “Blue Box” reeds (strength 2.5)
  • A Bonade ligature
  • Yamaha or Selmer saxophone. Most beginners start on an alto saxophone (the smaller of the two), although some begin on the tenor saxophone.

Is saxophone hard to learn

For your neck-strap, simply make sure that it is rigid and not stretchy. Most music educators will agree that this is a good quality beginning setup.

Find an Experienced Saxophone Instructor

The best thing a beginning saxophonist can do is to choose a good private instructor. TakeLessons has a great selection of experienced saxophone instructors for both online and in-person lessons. Be sure to choose a teacher who can help you reach your specific goals.

If you hope to play in the jazz, pop, or rock genres, it’s best to start with a classical instructor and classical equipment. This type of instruction will help you build a solid foundation of tone, reading ability, and technique. 

Practice, Practice, and more Practice!

Mastering any instrument is a lot of work, but remember to have fun! With your teacher’s suggestions and feedback in mind, put in the hours properly practicing your instrument. Then, as a reward at the end of your practice session, try some improvisation or play your favorite song.

Including this important step in your practice routine will help you stay motivated. In addition, reminding yourself at the end of a practice session why you love the saxophone will help you avoid frustration and continue thinking positively about your progress.

Now you’re ready to get started. Search TakeLessons today for a qualified saxophone teacher near you. The journey of becoming a saxophonist can be a winding road, but it will also be incredibly rewarding. Good luck!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

5 Keys to Mastering Opera Singing Technique

Opera singing technique

Opera singers are known as the true “vocal athletes” in the music world. They must rely entirely on their body to be heard: no microphones allowed. (Unless they’re performing in a stadium, of course)! Operatic singing requires voices that can easily be heard over a full orchestra in very large houses.

Although pop music dominates today’s televised talent shows and the radio, opera is still a celebrated art form that is more accessible than ever. Every year, many young singers begin their studies of opera singing technique in the hopes that they will have a successful career singing the music of composers like Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi.

Have you always wondered what it takes to become an opera singer? Let’s take a look at the five keys to mastering opera singing technique so you can find out how to get started!

How to Master Opera Singing Technique 

1. Find the Right Teacher

An opera voice teacher must have a strong knowledge of the “bel canto” technique, which means “beautiful singing” in Italian. Renowned opera singers such as Maria Callas and Jussi Bjorling knew the importance of bel canto and made it a point to study with such teachers often.

When looking for an opera instructor on TakeLessons, you can easily find someone with experience who specializes in bel canto. See if the instructor lists who their teachers were, and what master classes or other programs they have attended. If you’re really serious about opera, you should study with someone who has learned from the experts.

2. Practice Opera Singing Technique Daily

Yes, daily. Opera singing requires more than other genres, and to succeed you must have stamina. There are several helpful resources you can purchase that opera singers use, including the vocal exercise books by Vaccai, Concone, and Sieber. These books are inexpensive and can be used daily to improve your opera singing technique!

It’s important that you spend time perfecting your arias. However, keep in mind that there is such a thing as practicing too much! While there isn’t a magic number of minutes that every singer should practice, listen to your body. If you feel any sort of fatigue, it’s best to stop for the day so you don’t strain or damage your voice.

3. Study the Greats

The best opera singers were considered great because there was consistency in their voices, and they knew how to treat them! Watch them closely and you’ll start to notice things, like how they never “push” or put forth way too much effort when they sing.

They also knew what roles were appropriate for them, as they were fully aware of what their voices could and couldn’t do. Dame Joan Sutherland was often approached to sing heavy Wagner repertoire, but she declined knowing it would ruin her voice. She instead stuck with the bel canto repertoire, which showcased her incomparable coloratura skills.

There is a reason why people still talk about artists such as Sutherland and tenor Luciano Pavarotti to this day. Both were absolutely committed to the art of bel canto.  They both enjoyed long careers on the opera stage because of their reliable technique.

Here is a YouTube video of them describing some of the basics of bel canto, along with revered mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne.

4. Take Care of Your Instrument

You are the instrument! Unlike a pianist or guitarist, you can’t put your instrument away – it is with you at all times and you must care for it almost obsessively. Opera singers should be sure to have an exercise regimen and a healthy diet.  

Many famous opera singers practice yoga as it helps them breathe more effectively. It’s also critical that opera singers get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated at all times. As for your diet, it’s best that singers avoid caffeine and too much dairy, as it can cause acid reflux and excess mucus.

Operas are not known for being short performances. As mentioned previously, you will need lots of physical and mental stamina to sing your role well! Keeping your body and voice in tip top shape is necessary to improve your opera singing technique.

5. Study a Few New Languages

Americanized vowels, such as the diphthongs you hear in country music, are frowned upon when singing opera. This can be one of the biggest challenges singers face when learning opera singing technique, but a good voice teacher will help you master “pretty vowels” (which bel canto is all about)!

The main languages to focus on for opera singing are Italian, French, and German. The more you gain basic knowledge of each language, the more beautiful your vocal lines will be in your arias.

Beginning singers should consider taking classes in as many of these languages as possible. Depending on what happens with your opera career, you might be visiting these European countries and you’ll need to know how to communicate with the locals, too!

So there you have it. If you can master opera singing technique, you can sing anything! Are you ready to get serious? The best place to start is TakeLessons. Find the right classically trained vocal coach for you today!

mollyrPost Author: Molly M.
Molly M. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Schaumburg, IL. Her specialties include teaching Opera and Classical Voice to beginners, shy singers, children, and older beginners. Molly started teaching in 2002. Learn more about Molly here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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