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Halloween

By: Ben Fraser

October is here! It’s a time of chillier weather, leaves changing and falling, and of course, Halloween is at the end of the month. Halloween is a holiday filled with costumes, decorations, and music.

Some of the greatest Halloween hits include: Monster Mash, Purple People Eater, I’ll Put a Spell on You, Five Little Pumpkins, Zombie, Ghost Busters, and Bad Moon Rising.

There are certain musical elements and dynamics that make these songs Halloween-esque.

First, there are the spooky or scary lyrics that fit the theme. Phrases like, “I am the one hiding under your bed, teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red,” are definitely scary! This example is from the song, “This is Halloween” from the Nightmare Before Christmas.

Another important element could be writing the song in a minor key. This can make the music sound ominous or spooky. Within the minor key, embellishing the music with more frequent diminished chords can make for an even spookier song! A diminished chord has a lowered third and fifth, while a minor chord only has a lowered third.

One last music dynamic that could make a song fit the theme would be a sudden crescendo from soft to loud or even using a sforzando (forceful accent). This can be done really well on a piano!

So, listen to, practice, and perform some Halloween music. It’s the time of the season for some spooktacular tunes!

The Violin

The Violin

By: Ben Fraser


The violin is a four-stringed instrument made primarily of wood. Its hollow body produces sound when the bow is drawn across any of the four strings, G, D, A or E. The left-hand fingers can press the strings against the fingerboard to change the pitch of the string. This is how other notes are produced such as F, B, C or any sharps or flats in between! The instrument can also be played by plucking the strings. This is called pizzicato and is usually done with the pointer finger.

Although many similar string instruments preceded the violin, the violin was invented in the beginning of the 16th century. Prestigious violin makers of the time resided in three distinct areas of northern Italy: The schools of Brescia, Cremona, and Venice. Within these schools, the finest violins in history were created. The late 1600s to the early 1700s are considered the Golden Age of violin making. Luthiers such as Stradivari and Montagnana constructed some incredible instruments during this time.

Learning to play the violin is a complicated but rewarding process. First, you must pick the correct size instrument. This is achieved by holding the violin under the chin and reaching the left hand to the scroll on the end. If your hand can grasp the scroll, it is the correct size. Next, it must be tuned so the pitches of the four strings are G, D, A and E. Then, the bow is pulled across the strings, while the left-hand fingers produce different pitches. Important concepts to consider while playing are posture, dynamics, vibrato, and musicality.

Fretted Instruments

By: Ben Fraser

Fretted string instruments can be very complicated to learn and teach. Whether we are discussing guitar, electric bass, ukulele or even lute, there are many approaches one could take.

Unlike the piano, on fretted instruments you can play the same note in the same octave in several different places on the instrument. This can be very confusing and hard to grasp for new students, but it’s an important concept to understand. There is only one Middle C on a piano, but Middle C can be played in five different places on most guitars. In standard tuning, it is on 1st fret of the B string, 5th fret of the G string, 10th fret of the D string, 15th fret of the A string, and 20th fret of the E string.

This reveals that one can play the same melodies and chords in several areas of the guitar neck which begs the question: Where should one choose to play any given melody or chord? There are many answers to that question. Certain melodies are easier played in certain areas of the neck. Also, certain chords have different tones and timbres when played on different frets. Some players become partial to certain parts of the neck. There are countless ways to look at it but again, it is an important concept to understand.

This brings us logically to a common debate around fretted instruments. Should one be reading notation or tablature? Notation uses the A-G note methodology by placing different types of notes on the staff. Tablature uses a numeric methodology by placing fret numbers on a diagram of the strings. Notation is important because it provides more information. One can analyze elements like rhythm, dynamics, intervals, and musicality with greater effectiveness through notation. Tablature is important because it tells us exactly where to play a piece of music. It is also much easier to interpret for beginning students.

The bottom line is that both are important and both should be used in the music education of fretted instruments.

RockOutLoud

By: Ben Fraser

When it comes to teaching online music lessons, there are lots of different platforms to choose from. And I have tried many of the various options. Whether its Facetime, Skype, WebEx, or Zoom, every program has its different features and user experience. Recently, I’ve started using a new virtual lesson program called RockOutLoud. The features included in this program are excellent and have been a great help in my lessons.

First of all, access to the program is extremely simple, as you do not need to download an application or client. You simply open up your web browser, and navigate to your lesson via a provided URL. Once both the student and teacher are in the lesson, the magic begins!

As an instructor, the first thing you will notice the variety of buttons and options. There is a search bar that can pull from an extensive library of sheet music, tablature, and exercises. You can also update the library with any documents you might need. These resources can be shared directly to the student in real time.

Also, instructors have the ability to share chords for piano, guitar and ukulele using a very simple point and click chord library. Drummers also have access to a library of rudiments that can be shared instantly.

Some other great features include screen sharing, chatting, and camera flip. I have found the camera flip to be extremely useful! When teaching violin virtually, some of my younger students can get confused without it because my violin appears to be on the wrong side.

Overall, this platform has proven to be a great resource for teaching virtually and in my opinion, is the best option available. It has been the closest thing to in-person lessons I’ve encountered and is great tool for any music teacher to utilize.

School Music Programs

By: Ben Fraser

In many school music programs, there are three basic routes you can take. Generally, you have the choice between Chorus, Orchestra, and Band. They are all equally challenging, fulfilling, and rewarding. And taking music lessons when you’re younger will put you at a great advantage to perform at the highest level in any of the three. Learning the fundamentals of music before entering these programs can set you up for success.

Orchestra is comprised of string instruments. They include the violin, the viola, the cello, and the upright bass. A bow is pulled across their strings to produce a sound. Constructed almost entirely of wood, these instruments are crafted to perfection and all play a part in producing symphonic music.

Chorus is an ensemble of voices. The different vocal parts are often separated into Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass (often shortened to SATB). These are ordered from highest to lowest pitch (Soprano being the highest and Bass being the lowest). The voice is an instrument that everyone has with them at all times. It’s also interesting that Chorus is the only group that uses language in their music.

Band is divided into woodwinds, brass, and percussion. Woodwinds include instruments like clarinets and oboes. Brass has instruments like trombones and horns. And percussion includes drums and cymbals. Brass and woodwinds are played using air from the mouth. Although, the way in which a player puts their mouth to the instrument varies. This is known as embouchure.

All three ensembles are excellent endeavors and require an extreme amount of talent and dedication. Once you’ve figured out what path you want to take, it is recommended to find a private instructor to guide you on your chosen instrument. Go forth and follow your musical passion, there are no wrong decisions when choosing a musical program!

Video Tutorial for In-Person Music Lessons

We are reopening August 10th and will have both in-person and online music lessons.  Here is a video tutorial about our new studio operations with covid-19. 

Music Is a Universal Language

By: Ben Fraser

Music is a universal language, something that we all understand. In every culture, every country, and every background, you will find music. It is vitally important across the globe and has the potential to bring people together in peace and harmony. One of my favorite experiences in music is seeing musicians from different cultures come together and perform as a group. When each culture brings its own unique qualities to the group, an entirely new sound is achieved. This can create extraordinary results. Each musician can communicate with each other using music as the common language.

One common musical thread between cultures is known as the pentatonic scale. It is astonishing how many cultures share this tool in approaching music. The pentatonic scale consists of five notes; “penta-” meaning 5, and “tonic” meaning tone or note. This scale can be found everywhere including the music of Native Americans, Celtic tradition, Africa, and Asia. It is also found in popular music, blues, jazz, and rock. Using this five note scale, musicians from around the globe have a medium through which they can relate, communicate, perform, and ultimately understand each other.

There is no known society that existed without music. Although each culture has their own specific style and approach to music, you will find that the purposes behind music are very similar across the board. Music is essentially to express or change emotions. It can cheer you up, sadden you, anger you or excite you. Music is often ceremonial: used in religion, ritual, and celebration. Music can simply be recreational: entertaining, joyful and fun. Any way you have used music, it almost certain that every other culture has used music in the very same way. And that is something that bonds all of us. We all share a deep love for music and it has the power to unite us.

Modified Studio Operations – Reopening on August 10th

Beginning on August 10th, students will have a choice between online or in-person lessons.  Please review the below operations if you choose to come in-person:

The following rules will be STRICTLY ENFORCED as the studio will now be open with many safety precautions in place because of Covid-19.

    1. All students are required to wear masks.  Our teachers & staff will be wearing masks as well.  Please contact us if your child has any issues with wearing a mask.  Students without masks will not be permitted inside the building.  
    2. All students will have their temperature checked when they enter the building.
    3. If you or your child are sick, PLEASE DON’T COME TO THE STUDIO.  All students can switch to online lessons at any time or have makeup lessons.
    4. Parents or any guests are not allowed inside the studio.  The waiting area is closed.  Please wait in your car while your child/children are in the studio. 
    5. Drop-off and pick-up schedules are strictly followed.  Please be available to pick up your child on time.  
    6. Students have to BRING THEIR OWN MATERIALS (excluding keyboards).  This includes headphones for group piano, guitar picks, music books, tuners, pencils, erasers and any other materials that they use in their lessons.
    7. Lesson assignments will be emailed & students will use a virtual reward program called ClassDojo. There will be no physical prizes given to students.
    8. Please use the bathroom or have your child use the bathroom before coming to the studio.  THE BATHROOM INSIDE THE STUDIO IS CLOSED. 
    9. We will be following these measures to make sure our studio remains clean and sanitized:
      • All our teachers & staff will wear masks & must pass temperature checks and health scans.
      • Sanitize pianos & keyboards after each student.
      • Hand-sanitizers will be used by everyone before and after lessons.
      • Plexiglass dividers will be used in EVERY lesson room & the office.
      • Group piano classes will have pianos spread significantly more than 6 feet apart & no more than 5 students.  Plexiglass dividers will be in group piano classes.
      • All door-handles will be cleaned frequently.
      • Professional cleaning services used regularly. 

PLEASE REVIEW THESE OPERATIONS.  PLEASE REVIEW THESE OPERATIONS WITH YOUR CHILD.  THESE PRACTICES WILL BE STRICTLY ENFORCED.

 

Music That You Enjoy

By: Ben Fraser

Are you tired of practicing the same scales and songs out of your lesson book and not seeing the progress you want to see? Do you find yourself less than thrilled to begin practicing or preparing for the lesson? If either of these apply to you, I have a great recommendation that will help reinvigorate your passion for practice.

Learn songs and pieces that you enjoy! Don’t always stick to technique, theory, and lesson books. There are a wide variety of resources available for learning more popular and modern music that can be much more enjoyable.

The internet is a great place to start. Simply hop on a web browser and do some research on some of your favorite songs or pieces. Most of the time, you will be able to find multiple versions of the same piece of music, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced. You can simply type the name of the song or piece you wish to play, your instrument, and the words, “sheet music.” This will pull up numerous results. Some of these resources will cost a small fee and others will actually be completely free. Some great websites include: Sheetmusicplus, Sheetmusicdirect, and Virtualsheetmusic.

Another great resource is Youtube.com. There is a vast multitude of instructional videos, tutorials, song lessons, and sheet music videos to be found. Do not waste this excellent tool for learning and improving musicianship at your fingertips. Musicians just a few decades ago could not dream of such a fantastic resource. So, use it, you are guaranteed to find valuable resources on Youtube at zero cost.

Finally, purchasing a new music book that sparks your interest can be a game-changer! Whether it’s a popular repertoire book or a collection of selections from your favorite era, getting a book that appeals to you is a great move. They even make books that have music for a specific artist that you can buy. Pick your favorite artist, buy a book of their songs, and start learning!

Whatever method you choose to approach it, get out there and start learning music you love to play. And be sure to pick something at your skill level! There is nothing more important in music than enjoying yourself and feeling fulfilled in what you are practicing and performing.

Reopening Plans

We are planning to reopen our studio in August.
Online lessons & classes will continue in July.
Your Safety is Our #1 Priority
What can you expect in August?

For Music Lessons: Students will have a choice between online or in-person music lessons. Voice lessons will be remaining online until further notice.

For Music Together Classes: We will continue online classes and have outdoor classes (location and class times TBA).

– There will be a face mask requirement & your temperature may be taken.

– Team members must pass temperature checks & take health scans.

– There will be plexiglass barriers in the lesson rooms & office.

– We will wipe down the instruments & lesson rooms after every lesson.

– We will have the studio professionally cleaned regularly.

– We will use ClassDojo (a virtual reward system) instead of our bead reward program.

– We will not share materials (ie: bring your own headphones for group piano).

– Group piano classes will not have more than 5 students (as always). The pianos will be spread throughout our large room with significantly more than 6 ft of space between them.