Are Music Festivals Worth the Price?

CoachellaSpring has sprung and the season of music festivals is upon us! With SXSW just behind us and both weekends of Coachella coming up in April, tons of music fans are taking advantage of warmer weather to enjoy days and nights packed with performances by artists ranging from Tegan and Sarah to Wu Tang Clan. But before you get out your plastic and splurge on that weekend pass, take a moment to consider some of the ups and downs of the festival experience. Read more

Top 9 Reasons TakeLessons Gift Certificates Make An Awesome Holiday Gift

Holiday adThe holiday season is in full swing, and if you’re looking for the perfect gift for that hard to please musician or music lover in your life, look no further.

Presenting….the Top 9 Reasons Why TakeLessons Gift Certificates Make an AWESOME Holiday Gift!

9.  Our gift certificates NEVER expire!

Whether the recipient wants to start lessons right away or a few months down the road, a TakeLessons gift certificate provides a flexible option that lets them start lessons when they’re ready.

8.  Gift certificates are good for any type of lesson we offer.

With more than 30 types of lessons to choose from, there’s something for everyone!  If you know what instrument the recipient is interested in learning, simply give us a call and one of our student counselors can check our database of teachers to confirm availability at the time of purchase, or you can do a search on our site and find a teacher yourself!


7.  More convenient than fighting the crowds at the mall…

Gift certificates can be printed and mailed to the recipient – or, if you’re a last minute shopper, email delivery is also an option.

6.  Lessons for any age or stage in life.

Old or young, beginner or advanced – everyone can benefit from music lessons.  Our instructors help their students set goals and create a customized curriculum to help them achieve those goals!

5.  A first class experience from start to finish.

Nothing is more important to us than keeping our customers happy.  When you purchase a TakeLessons gift certificate, you can be sure that you are making a risk-free investment.  Should the recipient not be satisfied with their lessons for any reason, we will gladly set them up with a new instructor to ensure that they have a wonderful lesson experience.

4.  A great addition to music instrument gifts.

Planning to buy Junior that guitar or drum set he’s been begging for?  A gift certificate for lessons with one of our TakeLessons Certified™ Music Teachers will make sure he starts his music career off on the right foot.

3.  A fun and unique gift option that will be remembered.

Chances are the recipients on your gift-giving list have all the neckties and kitchen appliances they need.  This year, why not give a gift that will make an impact and potentially change a life?  Which brings us to our next point…

2.  Forget Rockband and learn to play for real!

Sure, video games are fun – but learning to play an instrument provides many more physical and mental benefits, including improved memorization skills, increased self-confidence, and enhanced creativity.

And the number one reason to purchase a TakeLessons gift certificate this holiday season?

1.  It’s better than fruitcake.

Enough said.

Call us at 877-231-8505 or click here to purchase your TakeLessons gift certificate today!  Happy Holidays!

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Give the Gift of Music Lessons this Mother’s Day!

piano fingers

The countdown to Mother’s Day is on, with the big day rapidly approaching on Sunday, May 9th.  This year, instead of giving mom the same old flowers, candy or jewelry, why not give her an experience she’ll remember forever?  Give her 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!  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 Certified™ Instructors and never expire, so recipients can use them at their convenience.

TakeLessons offers gift certificates in amounts beginning at $50, which can be printed at home or sent to the recipient via email.  Simply call one of our student counselors at 877-231-8505 or visit our website to purchase your certificate today – it’s a gift any mom will appreciate!

TakeLessons Rock Star Teacher of the Week: Carol K.

Carol KEach Monday, we give recognition to an outstanding TakeLessons instructor who is making a difference and inspiring students to discover and cultivate their talents through music lessons. This week’s Rock Star Teacher of the Week is Carol K. from Manassas, Virginia, who teaches lessons in piano and music theory in the Washington, DC area.  Although Carol has only been an instructor with TakeLessons for six months, music has always been a part of her life. She began taking both piano and voice lessons at a young age, and it is her passion for all types of music, as well as her ability to interact with both children and adults, that inspires her to teach others.

Carol is a warm and caring instructor who caters to each student’s individual learning style by using a visual and hands-on approach to reinforce musical concepts. She has 100% student retention, which is surely a testament to the interest she takes in her students and her willingness to help them succeed in the learning process.  We are so lucky to have Carol as part of the TakeLessons family!

Black Friday 2009: 40% off Music Lessons for One Day Only!

Black Friday IconWe did it. We jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon. But why wouldn’t we? On a day where people are looking to find deals and start their holiday shopping, why not give them an amazing offer that they can’t refuse??

So…for the first time EVER, we are offering new students 40% off on your first month of voice or music lessons* when you purchase your lessons on Friday, November 27, 2009.

If you were thinking about getting started with music lessons or singing lessons, now is your chance. If lessons are not your thing, lesson packages make fun and unique holiday gifts for family members and friends. We have never offered a deal this great – and it’s for ONE DAY ONLY. You will not be able to get this deal at anywhere else.

We know that signing up for lessons is a big step. You are committing to something new and must find time in your schedule and room in your budget to get started. It’s a very involved decision and we definitely recognize that. But, that is also why we are really excited to offer our 40% off Black Friday sale to all new customers. With savings like these, you don’t really have an excuse to not pick up that guitar, tune up that piano or flip on the karaoke machine and get started with lessons.

You only have one day to take advantage of this offer. So once the tryptophan-induced sleepiness  from your Thanksgiving Turkey dinner wears off, pick up the phone and give us a call at 877-231-8505 on Friday to book your lessons. We will be looking forward to your call!

Nov Calendar

*For more information, click here or visit /black-friday-music-lessons. Customers must call in and mention the Black Friday 2009 offer to receive the discount. The offer is not currently available for online booking.

The Art of Scat Singing

Shoo-bee-do-whap doo-wah…bee bop ba baah…

No, we have not lost all ability to converse here at TakeLessons, we are trying out scat singing — and it’s tough! Check out this article by one of our Berkeley voice teachers, Richard K., and see if you can whip up a scat solo the next time you hear your favorite song…

Have you ever hear a band playing a familiar Rock & Roll or jazz standard and then the vocalist, instead of singing the right words, started singing started singing a bunch of nonsense phrases like “da ba sheh-bop doo-wah” or “Doo-bee-bah-dip shwee-aah”?  Chances are you just heard scat singing.  And if you listen carefully, you might find it to be a real treat.

Scat singing is NOT what a vocalist does when they can’t remember the words to the song.  It is a singer’s act of creative expression; the time when he or she gets to perform a solo just like the instrumentalists do.  And just like instrumentalists, there are skills a scat singer must acquire.

So how does a novice go about learning to scat sing?  Many singers are terrified of scat—that vast unknown territory where you have to (or get to) make up your own melodies, phrases, or rhythmic licks.  Some would rather stick to the safety of the memorized lyrics and melody of a song.  But there is real freedom and excitement in creating your own melodic phrases, and great joy when your audience claps or roars in enjoyment of what you have created.

Learning to scat comes from getting a “feeling” for the music, so many folks start with the blues.  If you’ve ever listened to a song, and had the melody spark an alternative musical idea in your mind that would sound great out loud, you’ve started the process of learning to scat.  Or, if you hear another melody that fits into the one that you’re listening to and you try singing it, that too is scatting.

If nothing else, the way to start learning about scat singing is to listen to some great scat artists. Try to learn their solos and phrasing, try to capture their timing and emulate the tonal qualities they utilize.  Imitate them when they sound like a bell, or like a horn, or like they are growling or groaning.  Also, listen to your favorite instrumental players and learn their solos.  Listen to the solo repeatedly until you memorize it and can sing along while they are playing it.  Try to make your voice sound like an instrument—whether it is a horn, a guitar, a bass, drums or even a piano, if you can!

As with any singing technique, you’ll need to commit some serious practice time to learn and master the skill.  For additional help, sign up for singing lessons with a teacher who is familiar with scatting – the individual attention and that extra ear will definitely help you along your way. Find a voice teacher in your area and book lessons today!

You might also like…
Find Your Voice as a Singer: 4 Tips That Work
How to Build Confidence On Stage
Using Scales to Improve Vocal Range and More


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Power of the Pentatonic Scale

One of our teachers, Drina B., sent us an email with a link to this video from the 2009 World Science Festival to share with all of you.

The video clip is from the “Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus” event at the 2009 World Science Festival. It shows singer Bobby McFerrin (of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” fame) showing the audience the power of the pentatonic scale by getting them to respond musically to his actions. What is really unbelievable is that the audience sings notes that he has not even described to them yet. It really shows us how music truly is a universal language.

Thanks for the clip, Drina!

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So You Wanna Learn to Play Guitar (pt.XX)

Kirk Hammett

Here is the latest entry from our excellent San Diego guitar teacher Jason M


So how do you play a Washburn acoustic?  One of the least asked questions I get is that of knowing your tone.  I don’t play a Washburn acoustic but I think that it’s important to note the tonal qualities of the guitar you own.  The sound that comes out of your axe will shape and define your unique voice to the point that it will eventually become “you”.

I use an ESP KH2 “Skully” Kirk Hammett signature model guitar with dual EMG 81 pickups.  It has 24 frets, an original floyd rose locking tremelo set up with a Jackson reverse dinky headstock and a body that looks like an MII Deluxe.  The neck is a little bit wider than your average electric guitar and has an almost “classical” feel to it when you grip it.  Rather than an old “file down the fret” cliche that allows for optimal shredding, my guitar has jumbo “rounded” frets which if pressed down hard enough can actually make a string bending sound.  The floating bridge takes some getting used to and if you haven’t used one before you can actually make the guitar sound out of tune by leaning on it too hard with your right hand palm mute.  It has a 3 way switch which unlike a strat and more like a Les Paul you can “cut” the sound immediatly and make a really nice Morello sounding percussive “on off” sound.

I also use a Line 6 upgraded AXSYS212 ampliphier with a floorboard that carries both a volume and a wah pedal.  The Line 6 was the first digital amp to master the art of “tube tone” back in the mid-nineties.  I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it as a solid-state amp to be honest.  With 32 presets and 32 user presets with 4 channels each, the options are pretty infinite.  This model can not only replicate the greatest artists of all time but holds

Jason M

countless configurations of individual amp models/effect pedals/cabinet sizes/ and even offers a “noise gate” that you can open or close at will.

Now that’s not my only rig.  I also play a Zakk Wylde custom Epiphone “Les Paul” with 22 frets that I’ve tricked out with his custom “.60” string set up.  Getting used to a set of strings of that caliber requires a huge change in the amount of hand strength that you need.  It’s also got a set of dual EMG pickups and the ability to “cut” the sound out immediately when you toggle between the rhythm and treble pickups (having one volume all the way down of course) like the KH2.

I play that one through a Scott Ian signature Randall ampliphier that has an EQ option of being able to shave your eyebrows off under the right amount of pressure.  It’s got a much more pure clean tone than the Line 6 and ultimately I think the distortion channel is superior as well, but it lacks in the pedal effect options.  I like this amp because it has an L and R input in the back that I can hook my CD player or digital studio into and use as a monitor while I’m training.

As the amp and the guitar make up your unique sound I have a digital studio that completly changes all that.  I record with a Boss BR-532 digital 4-track that has it’s own effects that just don’t match up to the tones that I can get live.  So technically I have a “recorded” voice and “live” voice.  There are a lot of subtle things that you have to pay attention to in the studio like thinking about “loop effects” and pre-post effects that you can alter during a mastering.

I bring these things up because as you continue playing you may start to realize that you can’t sound like Dragonforce on an acoustic.  Black Sabbath unplugged only works for “Planet Caravan”… and maybe some of their Dio stuff.  If you want to develop your own tone I believe it’s important to understand how to control those factors.

Breakdown your own rig and let me know if you have any questions that might help create your ideal sound.

Until next time, enjoy your tone!

Jason M

Jason M

Instrument-Switching: A Good Idea?

Here is an interesting article that we found featured on September 17, 2009 on the Oxford University Press Blog about whether it is good or bad that your child is a music instrument switcher:


Amy Nathan is an award-winning author of books for young people including The Young Musician’s Survival Guide: Tips From Teens and Pros, out now in a new expanded second edition. A Harvard graduate with master’s degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Columbia’s Teacher’s College, she is an ever-struggling piano student and the mother of two musical sons: one a composer and trumpeter, and the other a saxophone-playing government major.

Which six of the following professional musicians were instrument-switchers as kids (answers at the end of the post)? Instrument-switchers start learning to play one kind of instrument that either they (or their parents) thought would be great for them — only to discover later that there is another instrument that they love a whole lot more. And so they switch.

( ) Joshua Bell, violinist

Andre Watts

( ) André Watts, pianist

( ) Paula Robison, flutist

( ) James Galway, flutist

( ) Ann Hobson Pilot, harpist

( ) Cynthia Phelps, violist

( ) Carter Brey, cellist

( ) Sherry Sylar, oboist

At this back-to-school time of year when kids are returning to music lessons, many parents have a nagging worry that their kids will turn out to be instrument-switchers. What if they don’t stick with the instrument the parents just shelled out a lot of money for? What about all the money spent on lessons? Will that be wasted? If they switch, how will they ever catch up with kids who didn’t switch?

Judging by the high level of musicianship of the pros in this quiz —

Music for Children

switchers and non-switchers alike — switching isn’t the disaster that some parents fear it will be. However, the prevalence of instrument-switching does mean that it’s unwise to rush out and buy an expensive instrument for kids until they’ve spent a year or so learning to play it and are sure they really like it. If a family doesn’t already own an instrument a child can learn on, start by renting — or borrowing.

Making up lost time on the new instrument didn’t pose a serious problem for the switchers in the list above. Many had been reluctant practicers with their first instrument. But when they switched, practice time became less of a chore, turning instead into something they actually wanted to do — well, at least much of the time. After all, the new instrument was one that they chose for themselves, one whose sound spoke to them, one they really wanted to play. They were willing to put in regular practice time in order to master it. As for all those lessons with the first instrument — they weren’t a waste, but provided an introduction to music that carried over to the new choice.

“Switching is okay, but don’t switch too soon,” warns Daniel Katzen, who plays French horn with the Boston Symphony. He started on piano at age six, tried cello for a while at age nine, and then two years later finally found the instrument that was right for him, French horn. As he explains in The Young Musician’s Survival Guide, “You can’t tell about an instrument in just a few months. Other instruments always look cool. But after you start playing, you find that no instrument is really easy if you want to play it well.”

Instrument-switching may actually be something a parent could encourage a youngster to think about if the child loves music but never wants to practice. Of course, a lack of interest in practicing could come from other causes, such as the type of music the youngster is learning, the approach the teacher is taking or an overly busy after-school schedule. But it could also be that the instrument just isn’t the right one for that kid. A better match may present itself if the youngster does a little exploring by listening to a variety of kinds of music, going to concerts at school or in concert halls, watching performances on TV, having the school music teacher demonstrate different instruments. Maybe that reluctant practicer will discover an instrument he or she really wants to play, as happened with Ann Hobson Pilot, principal cellist of the Boston Symphony. She struggled with piano lessons for years, not liking them much and not wanting to practice. But when she had a chance to try harp in high school, “I felt more expressive,” she says. “I loved it from the start. So I practiced more.”

Answers to Quiz: In addition to the Boston Symphony’s Ann Hobson Pilot, three other instrument-switchers in the list above are also orchestral musicians, members of the New York Philharmonic: Cynthia Phelps, who switched from violin to viola; Carter Brey, from violin to cello; Sherry Sylar, from piano and flute to oboe. The other two are soloists: André Watts, switched as a youngster from violin to piano; Paula Robison, from piano to flute. The two who didn’t switch: Joshua Bell and James Galway.

Jason Mraz Writes About the Power of Music

Jason Mraz at Foxwood's, May 17 2006

We at TakeLessons are huge Jason Mraz fans. We love his music and his philosophy of endorsing the value of music education for all. Here is a recent “Journal” entry he posted on July 9, 2009 on his own site about the gratitude he feels towards all the people who have given him the gift of music in his life:

I am grateful to have music in my life. My mom was the first person to turn me on to it. She sat me at the piano, shaped my fingers to help me make sense of chords, and we would play chopsticks over and over again. My step-dad, an incredible drummer, gave me a drum kit for my 10th birthday. That gift taught me the essential rock/rap beat, a cross-stick over the hi-hat and snare while the foot slams the kick on the 1 and 3. Even if I never pursued music as a career, those few musical moments introduced me to an organized and expressive way of being that would carry over into friendships and academics, improving my attitude and overall performance at school.

I am so grateful for the many, many amazing music teachers in the public schools who kept me enrolled in the power of self-expression and group participation. I am thankful for that extraordinary study of sound and the opportunity to play when the age was most appropriate for playing.

Please support arts programs in your community, especially in the schools. At the very least, it’ll give the graffiti on the overpass some depth.

Jason Mraz’s enthusiasm and passion for music education for all echoes our own sentiments and our desire to inspire a generation through the power of music.