By: Ben Fraser
If you’re trying to improve yourself musically, private lessons are an excellent way to achieve that goal. There is much to be said about following the guidance of a trusted instructor and committing to a regular routine of music education. Having a musical mentor can provide inspiration, motivation and the much-needed discipline to become the musician you want to be.
But what if you are unable to physically meet with a music teacher? Whether it be distance, occupation, schedule, or even illness, what if some obstacle prevents you from attending music lessons? What should you do then?
The answer is quite simple. Try online music lessons. There are lots of great platforms to facilitate lessons via smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. Notably, Zoom has proven itself to be a worthy platform for the task. You simply sign on at the time of your lesson and enjoy all the benefits of a private lesson from the comfort of your own home. All you need is an internet connection for a real-time interaction with a qualified music instructor. And it feels as if you’re practically in the studio with them!
There are also some added features with online lessons. By using “screen-sharing,” a teacher can instantly pull up relevant documents, videos, and games in the lesson. Whether it’s a chord diagram chart, note-learning video, or music theory game, you and the instructor have access to a multitude of resources at your fingertips. Online lessons also increase the tendency for at-home practice. Not only does it get you in the rhythm of playing music at home, but the online format creates more reminders for you such as assignments and lesson overviews through email.
So, if you’re thinking about music lessons but don’t have the time or ability to make it to a music studio, I would recommend online music lessons. They have proven to be impactful and highly effective. Keep practicing!
By: Ben Fraser
Holidays are some of the best occasions for celebration, and where there is celebration, there is music. Music makes people feel a certain way and people often tend to feel happy and joyous during the holidays. Mardi Gras is approaching and is most famously celebrated in New Orleans. When I think of New Orleans, I almost always think of Cajun food, the infamous Mardi Gras parade and partying, and last but not least, the iconic jazz music that makes the big New Orleans southern tradition come alive. The food isn’t the only thing in New Orleans that has flavor! Jazz is an American treasure that still lives on today and other genres of music have branched from its strong roots. Some iconic artists who started a name for jazz are Louis Armstrong (a New Orleans favorite), Ray Charles, Miles Davis, and Frank Sinatra. These artists have made some great music that is still played and performed around the world. Songs like “What a Wonderful World,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “Hit the Road Jack” are some great jazz standards that any jazz musician should know and the beginner to intermediate student can learn. These songs are so catchy and a lot of fun to play.
Jazz music is played from the soul and often artists will improvise and have fun with their music. Students who learn jazz songs can learn to improvise too and learn this style to help ease anxiety and become more comfortable with performing! Unique chord structure and unique voicings can be learned through jazz music along with embellishment and flare. Voice students can learn the same concepts, but learn to sing with a fuller, more relaxed sound. Jazz is what celebration is all about and when there is celebration, there will always be music!
By: Ben Fraser
Valentine’s Day is the next major holiday after Christmas in the new year and recognized by many people from young to old. It is probably safe to say that most think of heart-shaped chocolate boxes, flowers, jewelry, and Hallmark cards on Valentine’s Day, but also love songs come to mind. Music is a way for our minds to focus on the present moments we share with each other and set our minds in the appropriate mood. A romantic candle-lit dinner on Valentine’s Day at your favorite restaurant almost always has love songs playing in the background to make that romantic dinner even more special and to set the mood!
Valentine’s Day music doesn’t only come in handy for adults on February 14th, but it is also a great way to teach young students a little bit about the history of music. There are countless love songs that come from all over the world and still linger in our pop-culture especially during this time of the year. Some classics include artists like Frank Sinatra who carried the famous love melodies of jazz throughout the 1940s and later. Shortly after, came Elvis Presley in the 1950s who stole many hearts all of over the world with his soulful voice and dashing good looks. Students who aspire to learn jazz guitar or a brass instrument, for example, would benefit from studying Frank Sinatra’s music and there are so many fun songs to choose from like “Fly Me to the Moon” or “Funny Valentine.” Elvis Presley sang some lovely love ballads like the classic, “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” or “Love Me Tender.” Both songs would be great for voice students or for students who study voice along with an accompanying instrument like a piano for example. There are countless love songs to choose from throughout history and continue to hit the top 40 today. Next time you think of Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that the music sets the mood.
By: Ben Fraser
We are almost through our first month of 2020 and everyone seems to be settling back into normal schedules. Hopefully we are staying on track with all our musical resolutions for the year. That being said, the chill of winter is certainly upon us. Although it seems to have arrived a bit later than usual this season, I know we are all feeling it each time we step outside. What better time is there to stay in and practice? Whether we are prepping for our Spring Recital, improving our techniques, or playing through our favorite winter music, it truly is a great time of the year to learn new music!
One excellent song for the season is “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. This collaboration of two great talents is truly astonishing. It has been featured in countless TV shows and events since its release in 2008. Set in Bb minor, “Winter Song” captures the beauty and aesthetic of snowfall. A great song for vocalists and all instrumentalists, the lyrics evoke feelings of nostalgia and hope.
Another great winter selection is “Let It Go” from Disney’s animated film, Frozen. This song was composed by Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. In the movie, it is performed by Idina Menzel who played Queen Elsa. Starting in F minor and eventually modulating to Ab Major, this song is a deeply emotional and victorious tune. This power ballad is set in four-four and has a tempo of almost 140 bpm. There are many arrangements available ranging from easy to difficult.
One last song of winter is called “The Snow is Dancing” from “Children’s Corner” by Claude Debussy. Requiring semi-detached playing in both hands with the melody between them, the piece is quite difficult. The left hand becomes fuller towards the middle and becomes detached and alternating again towards the end. Due to its remarkable color effects, it perfectly portrays snow and the less visible images behind it.
Rejoice in winter by playing some music inspired by the season of cold and frost.
By: Ben Fraser
The holidays are over, now what? Traditionally, people make a New Year’s resolution that starts on January 1st, so why not make a musical resolution? Now that it’s 2020, it’s time to form a clear vision of what we want to accomplish musically. It may be helpful to start with a list of goals and potential improvements on musical aspirations. This list could include a favorite piece of music, a new practice schedule, or even performance goals. Whatever it may be, personalize the list and make your goals attainable but challenging.
The new piece of music could be something you’ve always dreamed of playing but never had the courage to start learning. No matter how difficult it may seem, tell your instructor about it and let them help you find an arrangement that works for you. Even if it’s extremely challenging, 2020 is going to a be long year and you will have lots of time to practice it. Pick something that excites you, something that you are truly passionate about.
Setting a new practice schedule can range from simple to more complex. Whether you want to decide on which days and how long to practice, or strictly coordinate each practice session, any effort towards planning practice is a positive action. Practicing 15-30 minutes every day is more constructive than cramming in an hour before your lesson. Try to set aside a small amount of time each day for practice. It helps to plan it at a specific time. Some examples include before/after school, before/after dinner, or right when you wake up!
Performance goals are important too. They can push you to perform more often and in different places. For example, you could plan to sign up for all available recitals this year, perform at your school/talent show, play at a party, perform at a restaurant/coffee shop, or put together a concert for your friends and family. Whatever performance goals you may set, they will help motivate you to get out and present your skills.
So make 2020 amazing and set some musical resolutions!
By: Ben Fraser
Preparing for and performing in recitals can be difficult, scary, exciting, and rewarding all at the same time. They are a great opportunity for us to share our skills in front of our friends, family, and fellow musicians. Also, becoming comfortable performing in front of a large audience is an extremely valuable skill. A skill that can only be obtained by putting ourselves on stage. Recitals are an integral part of a musician’s development and should be regarded with the utmost importance.
Choosing the right repertoire for a recital is a vital first step. Not only should we pick something that we can master in time, but we should give ourselves a moderate challenge. This will make practice more entertaining and the performance will be more satisfying. After perfecting the notes and rhythms in our pieces, we can work with our instructors to improve on aspects like musicality, dynamics, and balance. These aspects will transform a good performance into a superior performance. Working with a metronome is also key during preparation. We can start at a comfortable tempo, and slowly increase it until it is at performance speed. This process will also increase our muscle memory, which will prove useful during our recitals.
It is paramount to get a good night’s rest before a recital. This will ensure that we are able to remain focused and calm on stage. Eating well before performing is also a must. We need proper nutrition to perform at our very best. It can also prevent us from shaking or feeling unwell during our performance. Our arrival to the location of the recital should be as early as possible to avoid any feelings of being rushed or pressed for time. This way we have plenty of time to become comfortable with the venue. When it is finally time to perform, it is important that we take a deep breath and relax.
Playing or singing the first few measures in our head can be helpful. Once we have imagined the piece at performance tempo, it is time to count ourselves in. We should shift our focus away from the audience and towards our repertoire. This will help prevent our mind from wandering and minimize any lapses in attention. Even after a small mistake, it is best to continue onward as if it never happened. It is likely that most listeners will not notice a mistake if the performer quickly moves on. Once we have finished our performance, we should smile and take a bow because we have accomplished something great. From preparing to performing, recitals are an excellent way to build discipline and motivate us to become the best musicians we can be.
By: Ben Fraser
We all want to reach our full potential and become the best musicians we can be. To do this, there is one thing we all must do throughout our musical career. Practice. Although at times it seems daunting and tedious, it is a necessary part of our development as musicians. Like many other things in life, the most difficult part of the process is committing ourselves to the process. Once we are practicing, it’s not so bad. In fact, it can be very enjoyable, rewarding, and even therapeutic!
Make practice fun! Start off with your favorite music. Yes, scales, chords, and arpeggios are important, but not if it discourages you from practicing. Begin with something that you enjoy and then mix in some technique building exercises. Also, pick some repertoire that you are interested in. Maybe something from your favorite artist, movie or TV show. Possibly just a song that you can’t get out of your head. Share your interests with your music teacher! There is most likely music associated with them.
Practice makes lessons better and more productive. When your teacher gives you something to work on at home, try to learn all the notes on your own. This way, you can use the lesson to work on more important things like musicality, dynamics, and tempo. It is also a great feeling to come in to a lesson prepared and ready to show your instructor what you have worked on. This leads to improved performances and more opportunities to play music!
Another advantage of practicing is how it calms and centers you. It can be a great form of meditation. When practicing, it becomes easy to let all your worries and stresses fall away. Making a habit of it not only helps with discipline and focus, but it helps with relaxation and refreshment of thoughts. After a practice session, there is a good chance you will have a clear mind and your mood will be greatly improved.
Set some time aside for practice and realize how much of a positive impact it has! Take advantage of how great it makes you feel and what it can help you accomplish.
Amid the holiday season, it is time to start tuning our instruments, warming up our vocals, and practicing our parts for something that we all love and cherish, holiday music! What a perfect way to set the mood for the holidays and bring happiness to all those that are near. No matter what holiday we are celebrating, music seems to be great way to bring the holidays to life and create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for everyone.
During this time of year, some bring gifts, some bring stories to tell, and some bring food. As musicians, we bring a sound to the holiday season. A joyful noise. It’s something that embellishes each holiday in a way that is truly unique. After all the decorations are hung, gifts wrapped, food prepared, and families and friends have gathered, there is one thing that brings everything together in the most magical way. The music. It is the final touch for the perfect holiday gathering.
It is something we can share with our parents, siblings, children, and friends. People of all ages are drawn to the music of the season and it’s something that so many enjoy. The very nature of the music brings people together and ignites a feeling of contentment and bliss in so many of us.
Holiday music is a great way to utilize our musical skills because so many people are familiar with it. It can also be a nice change of pace for seasoned musicians and students of music alike. Learning and performing holiday music is a fun and exciting way to improve our musicianship while spreading cheerfulness and joy. I implore all musicians to pick some holiday tunes and start learning, practicing, and memorizing them so we can share the gift of music with the people that are near and dear to us. It just might mean more to someone than we realize.
Our upcoming recital is NEAR!
Come check out our Fall *Costume* Recital on Sunday, October 20th at 2:00pm at Red Light Cafe. Tickets are $5 at the door.
The cornerstone of the Music Together® program is our Mixed-Age music class, for children from birth through age 5—and the grownups who love them! Gathering babies, toddlers, and preschoolers together makes each class fun for all. There are lots of group activities for kids out there, but Music Together offers a true family music class for the youngest infant to the oldest great-grandparent, and everyone in between. Imagine an extended family with a dozen or more kids and a bunch of caring adults, and you’ll get the idea!
Each week, a trained Music Together teacher leads the class in singing, dancing, and playing songs that range from tender lullabies to boisterous jams using child-friendly percussion instruments. Our award-winning music, illustrated songbook, and other print and online resources will help you continue the music-making fun at home and nurture your child’s musical growth—even if you don’t think of yourself as a great singer or dancer. Like parenting, making music requires no previous experience or expertise, just a willingness to get down on the floor and get silly with your child!