Making Practice FUN – 2 Ways to Spice Things Up

piano practice

Is practicing your instrument becoming more of a chore than an enjoyable pastime? Check out these tips from Hayward, CA and online teacher Molly R. for making practice fun and getting out of the rut:


Sometimes as students and teachers, we lose sight of some pretty important things in music making: personality… and plain FUN!

Sure, there may be a handful of musicians out there that wow with their impeccable technique. But is that really enough? Think of yourself as an audience member for a moment and ask yourself which performances are the ones you really remember: the ones that appeared flawless, or those that touched you in some way?

We should ask ourselves the same thing as a musician in our day-to-day lives. Do you want to be perfect, or do you want to be interesting? It all starts in the studio or practice room.

Here are some ways to get out of your head and to start bringing the fun back into making music:

  • Are you a singer? Well, if you’re learning a “serious” aria, why not sing it in the style of Katy Perry or Beyonce? Why not rap it? Instrumentalists… the same applies to you! Say you’re doing a jazz or classical piece that’s pretty difficult . Stand up and rock it Jerry Lee Lewis style and really use your body and attitude (no one’s looking! Go, Killer, go!).
  • How about our basic warm ups? Those don’t have to be boring, either. Sing your scales using nonsense words. Swing the rhythms! Dance or sway or stomp and clap. Make funny faces. Use your imagination – the options are limitless!

Now after you have done some of these “crazy” (but hopefully fun!) things, sing or play as “you.” Record yourself. Are you amazed at the difference? You should be. Something magical just happened. By allowing yourself to cut loose , you will do wonders for your singing and playing. When the mind relaxes, so does the body!

As I tell my students, practicing should NEVER be a chore. There are plenty of ways for making practice fun by mixing it up and simply playing. My rule is “first, make it fun.”  After all, isn’t that why you got into music in the first place?

mollyrMolly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. 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!

Free TakeLessons Resource

 Photo by Hsing Wei

Piano Lessons

Top 5 Piano Lesson Books for Adults

Piano Lessons

Have you been thinking about taking piano lessons, but aren’t sure where to begin as an adult? No problem! Learning musical theory and practice as an adult just means that you’re more likely to be a dedicated, intelligent student!

Learning with the help of piano lesson books is an ideal way to get comfortable with your new instrument and grasp the basics of musical theory. Once you have covered the basics, you can work with a specialized, private piano teacher to enhance your skills!

The following piano lesson books are the most highly rated among adult learners:

Alfred’s Basic Adult All-in-One Piano Course

The Alfred’s collection of piano books is one of the most popular among adult students because it’s easy and enjoyable to use. Each section covers a piano lesson, musical theory, and technical information about the elements of music and the piano itself. This is the most highly recommended adult piano book on the market right now!

John Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course

Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course is not an overstatement: this series of piano lessons is perfect for beginners. Thompson introduces each note in his book one at a time and reinforces his lessons with colorful illustrations and characters. This lesson book, complete with writing and reading assignments, is a great supplemental resource when working with a professional teacher one-on-one.

The Classic Piano Course Book

Written as a series of piano lesson books, the Classic Piano Course Book starts at the beginning with notes, names, pitches and keys. From the first book in this series, you’ll be guided carefully through the practical exercises, as well as theoretical learning. Beautiful classical songs, like “Swan Lake” and “Fur Elise” are included, which will motivate you to complete the lesson! There’s no better feeling than achieving the ability to play a beautiful piece of music. Understanding classical music fundamentals will also help you to play different genres of piano music, and a piano teacher will be able to show you exactly how these principles apply.

Bastien Piano for Adults

The Bastien Piano for Adults lesson book was truly designed with adult learners in mind. Not only does the sample music include songs from all kinds of musical genres and eras — jazz, blues, folk, ragtime and classical — but the lessons are more progressive than children’s versions, at least in terms of musical theory. In addition to the text, the Bastien book includes a CD accompaniment to the lessons. The CD will help you gauge your understanding of tempo and timing, but it still can’t replace the private teacher’s pinpointed guidance.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Musical Theory

Don’t be embarrassed by the title — The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Musical Theory will help you complete your learning experience! A lot of adults worry that they have no musical affinity or natural talent. Is that how you feel? Then this book is most definitely for you! This guide is not specific to piano, but it will help you on your journey to understanding the theory behind all music, from the piano to vocals. Confusing theories are explained as simply as possible, which will help you on your way to being a virtuoso in no time. Musical theory can seem very complicated to the untrained student, so you should never hesitate to seek out the professional guidance of a music teacher.

With the right piano lesson books in hand, you can really tackle your new instrument with gusto! Once you feel more confident at the keys, you will benefit the most from learning with a good teacher. TakeLessons piano tutors can help you find the right person to help with any questions or struggles you experience on the piano, as well as suggest new course books to enhance your learning even further.

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

Free TakeLessons Resource


Photo by fortinbras

Teacher Spotlight: How My Adult Students Inspire Me

music lessons for adultsWe’ve said it before… it’s never too late to sign up for music lessons! In fact, taking music lessons as an adult has many advantages. And in turn, these students inspire our teachers! Check out Citrus Heights, CA teacher Jenny G.‘s story…



Read more

Is Your 9-to-5 Draining Your Creativity?

OK Go is known for their creative music videos, and their most recent release is definitely on par.  After all, why stand on stage playing instruments (yawn!), when you can use a car with retractable arms to play the instruments for you?  These guys are either insane or genius – decide for yourself.  (Click here to watch the video for “Needing/Getting”!)

Musicians are usually creative by nature.  But sometimes – especially if music is something you do in your spare time, instead of as your career – it can be all too easy to get caught up with the routine of life.  Maybe you have to stay late at work, and the last thing you want to do is practice scales and etudes when you get home.  Maybe your goal is to write a song, but the lyrics just aren’t coming to you.  Maybe you’ve practiced your heart out, but the idea of performing in front of people makes you break out in hives.  But why give up on something you were once so passionate about?

Being creative is something that needs to be exercised, just like a baseball player exercises certain muscles.  So if the daily grind is starting to get to you, it’s time to take action.  Shake up your routine and jump-start your creative mind.  Even if the initial activity doesn’t involve music, it may awaken parts of your brain that will help you in music later on.  Need some ideas?  Here are 10 ways to rejuvenate your creativity, courtesy of

1. Surround yourself with creative people. Hang out with writers, musicians, poets and artists. Often, just being in a creative environment will inspire you and refresh your creative mind.
2. Start somewhere. Whether it’s creative writing in Word or sheet music, the brain will eventually loosen up and it will be easier to break through the barrier and come up with ideas.
3. Expose yourself. Expose yourself to new art – books, music, paintings – all the time. If you’re a rocker, listen to funk. If you’re a crime writer, read fantasy. If you’re a productivity writer, read something about slacking off.
4. Do something new. Play chess. Read a book if you usually watch television and watch television if you read. Go outside. Sing in the shower.
5. Meet new people from different walks of life. Gain insight into their perspectives on life. Strike up a conversation on the bus.
6. Shut out the world. Instead of sucking in new information, sit quietly, go to sleep or meditate. Stop thinking and clear your mind so that the clutter doesn’t get in the way of your thoughts.
7. Don’t be a workaholic – take breaks. Your mind needs a chance to wind down so it doesn’t overheat and crash.
8. Experiment randomly. What does a flanger sound like on a vocal track? Like Lenny Kravitz, of course.
9. Exercise every day, before you sit down to be creative. If you exercise afterward, you’ll get the creative burst – just too late.
10. Spend time with your children. Or someone else’s.

What other ideas have you tried when you feel your creativity dragging?  Share your thoughts below! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

Photo by: flattop341

Stop Stressing: 3 Remedies For Musical Frustration

The 2012 Oscar nominations were released today, although only two songs (“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets and “Real In Rio” from Rio) are up for the Best Original Song category. This is the first time only two songs have been nominated, which came as a big surprise seeing as how 39 contenders were originally noted back in December.

Still, the music industry has several other opportunities to shine throughout the year, such as the American Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, and the upcoming Grammy Awards.  And if you dream of one day taking home one of those awards, you better start working hard!

With hard work, however, may come frustration.  Maybe you’re not mastering a piece as quickly as you’d like, or you’re having trouble with a specific section.  Perhaps it’s stage fright that’s holding you back.  Wherever your frustration stems from, it’s important to learn how to handle it to your advantage.  Read on for a few helpful tips for dealing with those musical frustrations:

Tip #1. Give Yourself Credit – Before looking to improve something, look at the progress that has already been made. Appreciate and be thankful for that. Remember when you were a beginner and you couldn’t play at all? You would have been happy to have the skills you have now.  Appreciate this, and feel good about what you have achieved up to this point.  Many people beat themselves up over their own playing when they are pretty good already. This does not mean that you should become complacent or lose motivation to improve, it only means be happy with yourself and your playing as you continue to improve and move forward as a musician.

Tip #2. Become Aware of That Which Empowers and Inspires YouThere may be certain things, moments, scenarios, events, places or people that make you feel good about yourself as a musician.  These things are different for each musician.  Perhaps you become very inspired by going to see a concert.  Or maybe you get very motivated by watching or jamming with musicians who are currently better than you.  Or, maybe you become inspired by revisiting some of your old recordings and seeing how much you have improved.  Being able to realize (and have tangible proof of) how much you have grown as a musician is a powerful inspirational force for some people.  Whatever these things are, anything that gets you away from concentrating on the temporary frustrations and setbacks and focuses you on your motivation and inspiration is what you should surround yourself with.

Tip #3. Let Time Be On Your Side – Many musicians feel frustrated when big progress does not seem to come in a short period of time.  As a result, time is perceived as an enemy.  However, if you are making at least some progress over time and you are patient enough and let accumulated time work for you, then time in fact becomes your biggest advantage. Learning an instrument is much like investing money with a fixed rate of compound interest.  In the beginning, the investment seems to grow so slowly that it seems like you are watching grass grow, but over the years, the growth will explode because of the exponential power of compound interest. If you know that time is on your side, you will be sure to feel much better about your musical future.

How do you handle your stress when you’re feeling frustrated?  Let us know – leave a comment and share with the community!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Saltmiser.

Composing Life Lessons from Music

The benefits of music are well-documented when it comes to instilling skills and confidence in young children – here, TakeLessons instructor Bryan B. explains how music can translate into career success for adults as well!


Recently, I went on a two week trip to sunny Northridge, California, where I got to work with amazing artists and teachers to help develop my craft. What is my craft you say? Singing – more specifically, opera singing.

The program I took part in, OperaWorks, provided me with much more insight than I initially expected. Living in an age of doubt, I immediately felt like it might not have been worth my money. But after two weeks I was pleased to see that there were noticeable changes not only in my music, but also in my life.

Let’s take a closer look at how my training in music affected my life and my world:

Opera-ism #1: I am AWESOME. This was a technique I learned to help prepare myself for an audition. By giving myself a pep talk before walking through the door, I am able to walk in with confidence.

So how does this apply to my life? Well, aside from teaching, I have a normal day-to-day job in sales. And as part of that job, I have to provide people with a service or product. This can be really nerve-wracking because I hate sales people myself. I recently went to buy a car and the worst part about the whole experience was the salesman. I already knew I was going to buy a car, I had already researched the car that I wanted and he just seemed to get in the way. Because of experiences like these, I try to steer myself away from being a “pushy” sales guy.

When I applied my “I am AWESOME!” pep talk to my day-to-day job, I found that it was a lot easier for me to sell to people without being pushy or being pushed over. I was able to confidently talk about products, build relationships with my clients and actively listen and respond to their concerns. Essentially, being AWESOME allowed me to be myself when I was on the phone, and let my personality shine. What I learned from this is products don’t sell – people do.

Opera-ism #2: Music is not what’s written on the page, it is what the performers make of it. The intention of the composer was not that the performer sing the song exactly how it was written, in a robotic fashion, but to add expression and interpretation to it.

This came to light for me when I sang an operatic aria (Love Sounds the Alarm from Acis and Galatea), which is a love song.  Rather than expressing lovey-dovey emotions, this aria became a “war speech” in OperaWorks. I was inspiring a nation to defend itself against its enemies. The whole meaning of the song changed, but it was really effective.

The real life experience happened in learning my “pitch.”  You can always hear the sales pitch coming when you’re on the phone with a salesman.  Well, I realized it’s not about the words, it’s about the meaning. Upon returning, having already memorized the pitch, I started to implement the meaning of the words, and tie them back to the desires of my customers.

What I’ve learned as a performer has more than affected my life – it has changed me. I went into OperaWorks as an insecure performer and came out a confident man. The results speak for themselves. My performance at work has improved, and my personal life is much happier and free. This just goes to show that things shouldn’t be taken at face value. What you learn in school might actually apply to real life. Who knew?


Bryan B.

TakeLessons Instructor

Lessons With Jimi: Tips for Teaching a Piano Student with Alzheimer’s

windy and jimiThe following story comes from piano teacher Windy C. in St. Petersburg, Florida. Last fall, Windy began the challenging journey of teaching piano lessons to a student with Alzheimer’s.  Below she shares some helpful tips she’s learned as a result of working with her student, Jimi. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story, Windy!


Last fall I began teaching a 90-year-old woman who has moderate stage Alzheimerʼs. Knowing this in advance, I thought I was up for the challenge; however, things changed when we sat down at the piano for our first lesson and she looked around the room with a confused look on her face and said, “Iʼm sorry, I have no idea what Iʼm doing here.”

I can honestly say I might have had some second thoughts at that point. I looked at her and calmly replied, “Well, Iʼm Windy and youʼre here to play the piano with me. So letʼs have some fun!” But in my head I was mildly freaking out and thinking “Oh my goodness, what the heck have I gotten myself into? How am I going to do this? I never learned how to teach someone with no short-term memory in college!”

I came home after that lesson and scoured the internet and college text books for tips on teaching music to people with dementia, but I came up with nothing. What I am about to share is what I have learned through my experience with Ms. Jimi. I am not a doctor, nor am I an expert on how the brain functions, but I strongly feel that what I am about to share can help anyone working with people who struggle with early to moderate stage dementia or Alzheimerʼs.

Over the past year, Ms. Jimi and I have built a wonderful relationship and I look forward to her lessons more than all my others because I never know what to expect.  All the orthodox ways of lesson planning, goal setting, and progressing go out the window and our 30 minutes together are more like a session of music therapy. Here are five practical things that I have learned from teaching Ms. Jimi:

1. Give The Student The Opportunity To Reach Small Goals

Early on, I realized that Jimi was not going to progress as a typical student would. She could not remember from week to week what we had played the lesson before, so it was obvious that our lessons together needed to be taught in the moment, as an exercise time for her brain.  For 30 minutes, Jimi and I play through pieces that she enjoys and that challenge her, but do not frustrate her.

Ms. Jimi can play simple songs with both hands in C position, G position, and middle C position. We have about six songs in each position that we cycle through. Occasionally, I will add a new one. Usually I will help her through the song the first time. Then we will play it again, and she almost always improves the second time. I’ve noticed when Jimi can play through an entire song by herself, she feels very accomplished. However, she never remembers from week to week what we played during the previous lesson.

2. Use Teaching Aids

As I said, Ms. Jimi is 90, so her eyes struggle at times. Large note music, with the letter written inside the note head, help her immensely. Sometimes I put stickers on the keys to label them just like I might do for a child when he or she is first learning a position. Having the keys labeled is one less thing she has to figure out, which allows her to play through the piece more fluently and enjoy the melody.  I have also found that staying in the same position for an entire lesson helps her to feel more successful. Switching positions between songs causes her to become confused, which then leads to frustration.

3. Know When To Take Breaks

Jimi loves chocolate. If I sense that she is having a rough day and not enjoying the music, we eat a chocolate together.   Sometimes I pull out books that I’ve brought along and ask her if I can play a song for her. She loves “Claire de Lune” and each time I play it, she reacts as if itʼs the first time I have played it for her. “Oh Wow! I love that song!” she will say, often teary-eyed.

4. Know When To Keep Quiet

There are times when Ms. Jimi says “Donʼt touch my fingers this time!” or “Now let me do it and you donʼt talk!” I love her wit, her will, and her determination. And I have definitely learned that it doesnʼt have to be perfect, but she needs to do it on her own. Sometimes I just need to sit back and let her play; if she stumbles, I try to let her figure it out unless Iʼm asked for help.

5. Be Flexible, Creative and Make it Fun

Iʼm always looking for ways to improve Jimi’s experience at piano lessons. Even though I know I could teach Jimi the same exact lesson every single week and she would probably never know – I WOULD KNOW. I mean, good grief, if I live to be 90, I hope that someone makes sure Iʼm still having fun!

One time her grown son came to town and brought her to her lesson. We worked on a simple waltz. She played it for him. Then I asked her if she wanted me to play it so that she could dance with her son. They floated around the room and it was a special moment. On another occasion, I showed her a YouTube video about a 100-year-old woman who was a Holocaust survivor and still loved to play the piano every day. Jimi loved it!

Each music student has different needs. No two students are the same, and that’s what makes our job as music teachers exciting and ever-evolving! My challenge for other teachers is to take the time to experiment and think outside the box to help enrich the lives of their students, not only musically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Music reaches deep into the soul and can bring so much joy into the lives of others!

Enjoy the Journey,

Windy C.

Windy Cobourne

Interested in Private Lessons?

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

Free TakeLessons Resource

Music Lessons for Mom! Celebrate Mother’s Day with a Music Lesson Gift Certificate

Mothers DayAre you looking for a fun and unique Mother’s Day gift that will make this year’s celebration extra special? If the answer is yes, you’ve come to the right place! This year, celebrate mom’s special day by giving her an experience she’ll remember forever – the gift of music lessons with a TakeLessons gift certificate!

Whether your mom has previous musical experience or wants to try singing lessons or playing the piano for the first time, a TakeLessons gift certificate is a unique Mother’s Day gift that gives her the opportunity to learn some new skills and have a little fun too. TakeLessons gift certificates are valid for any type of music lessons that we offer, including singing lessons, guitar lessons, piano lessons and many more!

Gift certificates can be used for lessons with any of our TakeLessons Instructors and never expire, so recipients can use them at their convenience. Certificates are available in any amount and can even be printed at home or sent to the recipient via email.

Simply give us a call at 877-231-8505 or visit our website to purchase your certificate today – it’s a gift any mom will appreciate!

Wanna Play Music? Join the Fun During NAMM’s Wanna Play Music Week May 2-8

WannaPlay2011During the week of May 2-8, musicians, schools, and other organizations across the country will come together to celebrate National Wanna Play Music Week, an annual event sponsored by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).  This week-long celebration highlights the importance of music education programs in schools and promotes the benefits of playing music for people of all ages and skill levels.  NAMM is also a TakeLessons organizational partner, which is why we are proud to support this event and power the lesson locator tool on the official Wanna Play Music website.

Ahead of this year’s Wanna Play Music week, NAMM has introduced a new initiative called “Pledge to Play” where interested participants can take a pledge and make their commitment to learning an instrument. There’s still time to sign up on the Pledge to Play Facebook page – you’ll even have the chance to win some cool prizes!

The week will officially kick off on Monday, May 2 with the seventh annual “Music Monday,” an event in which schools, community and professional organizations will perform one piece of music simultaneously at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, 11 a.m. Mountain Time, 12 p.m. Central Time, and 1 p.m. Eastern Time.  NAMM hopes that by having everyone sing the same song at the same time, music will transcend all genres and unite people through the melody and the act of performing the piece together.  You can register your school or organization as a participant in Music Monday online or by emailing If you aren’t able to play at the designated time, NAMM also encourages participants to pick up an instrument and play at any time throughout the day.

Other events will take place throughout the week, including an announcement of the “Best Communities for Music Education” on Wednesday, May 4 and a day featuring “unexpected celebrity musicians” on Thursday, May 5.  The week concludes with National Music Store Weekend from May 6-8, when musicians and non-musicians alike are encouraged to visit and support local music stores in their neighborhoods. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved during this year’s Wanna Play Music week, so mark your calendar and get ready to play!

Music Lessons for Adults: It’s Never Too Late to Start!

guitar students

For adults with hectic schedules and limited free time, learning to play an instrument at this stage in their lives may seem like a pipe dream.  Sure, it would be fun to fulfill that childhood dream of learning to play the piano or jam on the guitar, but other priorities such as work or family commitments often prevent many adults from leaping into music lessons with the same enthusiasm they might have felt at a younger age.

But if you have the passion and desire to play music, it’s never too late to get started with lessons; in fact, there are many positive benefits for adults who take music lessons, including the following:

–Music lessons help with job skills such as creative thinking, collaboration, social aptitude, expressive communication, and confidence.
–Music lessons provide a creative outlet that balances work life, family life, and personal time.
–Music lessons can help lower stress.
–Music lessons provide a way to be involved with others that share similar interests.
–Music lessons help seniors stay active, vibrant, and mentally sharp.

For adult students who are just beginning their musical journey, the process of learning to sing or play an instrument can certainly be daunting.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Keep expectations realistic. Regardless of whether or not you have ever played an instrument before, there will be a learning curve.  Don’t expect to play like a pro straight away; instead, set realistic goals of milestones you’d like to achieve in the next week, month, and so on.  Track your progress and make the necessary adjustments to ensure you are on track to meeting your goals.

Trust your teacher. Your teacher is there to help you reach your goals.  More than likely, this person is a professional with many years of experience – take advantage of the fact that you are working with someone who is an expert at playing their instrument, and ask for their advice.  In turn, your teacher should take the time to learn about you as a student, identifying your strengths and weaknesses and then tailoring each lesson to your needs.

Success takes time. We’ve all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect,” and if you want to master your instrument, you need to practice.  This time commitment can be a deterrent for those with busy schedules, but you can still learn an instrument even if you don’t have much time to practice – just expect the process to take longer and your progress to be slower.  As long as you stay focused and motivated, you will be able to achieve your goals.

TakeLessons offers music lessons for adults and students of all ages.
Want to learn more? You might also like…
5 Key Benefits of Taking Music Lessons as an Adult
Is Your 9-to-5 Draining Your Creativity?
Excel at Music By Acting Like a Child