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Philly Music Lessons specializes in connecting students of all ages and skill levels with great teachers in the Philadelphia and Main Line areas. We encourage our teachers to cultivate unique lesson plans based on the interests, needs, and learning styles of each individual student. Their expertise ranges from classical to jazz, to contemporary and other niche styles on all instruments and voice. We offer lessons and group classes at our Fishtown and South Philly studios (coming soon to Passyunk Square!). We also teach in-home lessons throughout the Greater Philadelphia Area, including the Main Line.

How it works:

Just contact us! Once we know your scheduling needs, we set off to connect you with one of our teachers whose expertise matches your goals and interests. After finding a teacher whose availability syncs with yours, we set up a trial lesson at one of our studios (Fishtown or South Philadelphia) or in the comfort of your own home. We also offer in-home trial lessons. Trial lessons are half-off so you don't have to commit to the full-price or a long-term lesson plan. If you enjoyed your lesson, just let us know!

More on how it works
  • Piano Lessons

    Whether you want to learn how to read music, or just play along with your favorite songs, our teachers will take a customized approach, and create the perfect lesson plan for you.

  • Guitar Lessons

    Our teachers design fun and creative lesson plans specifically for you. Chords, soloing, improvisation, and theory are all taught in a progressive and easy to understand manner. We offer personalized guitar lessons for all ages, styles and skill levels.

  • Drum Lessons

    We can help beginners quickly learn the basic patterns and techniques to back up a band. Once you've got the basics, we'll help you learn interdependence and the advanced techniques of the masters.

  • Violin Lessons

    Discover the Suzuki method for violin, and learn your favorite songs at the same time! We'll give you the proper technical foundation to make the violin sound warm and beautiful.

  • Voice Lessons

    Whether you're a complete beginner, or have been singing for years, voice lessons can be an eye opening experience. Learn proper breathe control, body alignment and vocal placement to maximize the potential of your voice.

  • Cello Lessons

    Learn the fundamentals of bowing and fingering to get a beautiful tone out of your cello. Our string teachers have degrees from various music programs throughout the country and are great with beginners and advanced students alike.

  • Upright Bass

    Increase your knowledge of upright bass (double bass), or learn this string instrument as a beginner. Our teachers offer lessons to children and adults alike. We teach the basic skills, such as rest stroke and bowing, which apply to studies in jazz, classical, bluegrass and more.

  • Bass Guitar

    Bass guitar is the foundation of a band. Working from tabs or standard notation, beginners will be able to follow along with their favorite songs in no time. More advanced students can learn theory and how to construct bass lines.

  • Ukulele Lessons

    Great for tiny fingers! The Ukulele is a fantastic first instrument for kids and budding musicians of all ages. Our lessons will teach you the fundamentals of any string instrument, while exploring styles and strumming patterns unique to the ukulele.

  • Flute Lessons

    Learn how to read music, proper breathing technique and the standard repertoire, all while gaining the skills necessary to perform in an orchestra or ensemble.

  • Trumpet Lessons

    Learn how to read music, proper embouchure and breathing techniques, all while gaining the skills necessary to perform in an orchestra or ensemble.

  • Sax & Clarinet Lessons

    From beginners to advanced, we will teach the fundamentals of playing woodwind instruments, including proper breath control, tone and technique. Advanced students can learn jazz theory, dixie land melodies, and more in depth orchestral pieces.

  • Philly Music Babies

    Baby and toddlers can learn music too! Babies (0-3) join weekly classes in Fishtown, occurring weekday mornings and select Saturdays throughout the year. Big kids (4-6) join exploratory group music classes - Hands-on exploration with ukuleles, drums, and piano.

  • Beginner Classes

    Learn the basics of guitar, violin or voice in a group setting! Classes for both kids and adults focus on a variety of beginning techniques and repertoire. As each class progresses, students will learn to perform songs as a group.

  • Summer Rock Camp

    Kids will learn rock repertoire, play in a band, record in the studio and walk away with a professional quality recording. Summer camps last one week and are held at our studio.

Our Teaching Philosophy

We strive to hire great teachers. Our core instructors have backgrounds in a variety of musical styles - jazz, classical, bluegrass, rock, blues, and more. With methods ranging from ear-training and intuitive playing to advanced studies in notation and music theory, our lessons provide thoughtful and fun guidance. A broad range of experience allows our teachers to creatively prepare students for performance, collaboration, composition, and more.

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Season Packages for Fall

season packagesFall is around the corner! With school starting up any day now (if not already), consider weaving some music lessons into that crisp, Autumn, productive schedule of yours. Season Packages are the best option for those looking to stay on top of their lessons in the coming months. By paying for your Fall in a chunk (a season package is 10 lessons), you’ll receive 10% off. This applies to both in-home (Philadelphia and the Main Line, see in-home areas here) and studio lessons (Fishtown and South Philly).

Our mantra, when things get in full-swing here, is “music as meditation”, and we hope you can find refuge in your practice when the school year kicks into full gear. One study showed that practicing piano daily had a positive impact on executive function, inhibitory control, divided attention, and mood state of its participants. Sounds like the perfect combination to make for an enjoyable and focused Fall!

Is My Child Ready to Start Music Lessons?

cardMany parents want their children to learn an instrument, and why not? Studies have shown that weekly music lessons can increase a child’s IQ. Some don’t know when their child should begin though. At what age is a child ready for such a commitment? I’ve had parents surprised to hear that their child is too young for one instrument, yet they could have started another instrument years before.

Still, it’s not always as simple as reaching a certain age. General guidelines can help you decide if your child is ready to start music lessons. Let’s consider a couple of them here, then we’ll give you approximate ages for when a child is ready to begin lessons for popular instruments.

 

Desire

Learning a skill comes easier to those who want to learn it. Age or subject matter doesn’t change that. So if your child has great interest in learning the piano or guitar, they’re much more likely to meet the other requirements listed here.

 

Focus

Some children focus better than others, and focus is crucial when it comes to music lessons. Your child will need to remain focused for a ½ hour lesson once a week in addition to 15 minute practice sessions daily. Even this can be a long time though. Observe your child to see how well they focus on other activities before scheduling their first lesson.

 

Physical Ability

While physical limitations should not stop a student from enjoying music, some kids are too young to hold an instrument properly or find an instrument in their size. If, for example, your child wants to learn the drums but can’t keep a sturdy grip on the sticks, they’d be better off waiting until they can.

 

Resources

Music lessons for students of any age require a fair amount of time and money. Even if your child wants to start with a low-cost instrument for ½ hour lessons, they will still be expected to practice at home for regular intervals, and purchase sheet music along the way. Also remember that kids will grow out of some instruments, so new ones will need to be rented or purchased as they grow. It’s worth taking the time to decide if you and your child are prepared to use these resources.

 

If you feel confident your child has the desire, focus, physicality, and resources to start music lessons, then scan the list below to find the instrument they’re interested in and the age we recommend they start. Keep in mind individual teachers may have different age guidelines, so feel free to ask if you are uncertain.

 

Piano, 5 years old

Violin, Viola, Cello, 4-5 years old

Guitar, 5-6 years old

Ukulele, 4-5 years old

Drums, 5-7 years old

Voice, 8-9 years old

Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, 7-8 years old

Trumpet, Trombone, 8 years old

 

And remember: your child will never be too old to start music lessons. If your child doesn’t begin studying an instrument until it’s offered at their school or until they’re in middle or high school, they still can reap the benefits of music education. However, they can be too young for certain instruments. Band and orchestra instruments may need to wait until your child is seven or eight years old, but solo instruments like piano or guitar could start earlier. Plus, no matter what instrument they pursue later in life, your child can still get a head start on their music education! Check out our Philly Music Babies class for more.

What is a Sonata, Anyway?

Piano Lessons PhiladelphiaThe word Sonata is certainly one that most people have encountered at some point in their lives. But, what does it really mean? Is it just a song that lasts longer than normal? Does it have to have a piano? These questions are important for listeners, because they introduce a whole new way of hearing music for someone! For performers, understanding the form is essential to an effective interpretation.

In today’s usage, a Sonata is understood to be a piece that follows a set form. When it’s written for one instrument alone, or with piano, it’s usually called a Violin/Cello/Piano/etc Sonata. However, the same structure is also used as the building block for String Quartets, Trios, Sextets, and so on. If you write a piece for an entire orchestra that uses this structure, we use another fancy word: a Symphony. Although the entire work could be referred to as a Sonata, the first movement (and many times the fourth movement as well) normally follows a form historically referred to as Sonata-Allegro form. Here’s a brief overview of what that looks like!

Overview

The way a Sonata works is with melodies that move through different keys. More specifically, there is melodic motion from a first, tonic key to the second dominant key (otherwise known as V or five). Assuming that there is no introduction section, the action starts with the aptly named exposition section. A primary theme is presented which establishes the first key (for example, C major). It then uses a transition to modulate to the dominant key for the secondary theme. ( For example, in the key of C Major, the dominant key is G Major) From there, the music moves into the development section where the material is twisted around until it finds its way back to a repeat of the first section in the original key. This is called the recapitulation. The primary theme is heard again exactly as it was heard before. The music will then make a subtle change to the transition it used before to change keys, but it will reorient itself so that it does not modulate. It’s at this point that the most important moment happens: The secondary theme is played in the original key instead of the dominant key. It’s the dramatic climax of the work, and in the best sonatas, everything leading up to it is oriented toward achieving it.

To more easily describe this, here’s a description of the three distinct sections that make up a sonata: Exposition, Development, and Recapitulation (Recap). There is also an optional fourth section, the Coda, which composers can use to extend the end of the piece for a little bit of a fun, or even to add entirely new interpretive ideas:

 

Exposition

The exposition is where the premise of the story is presented. The original key, which is established with the first theme, goes a long way to establishing the mood of the whole piece. As already mentioned, the sonata then transitions to a second theme in the dominant key. This move to the dominant is important; it marks a journey that the music must take. The satisfaction that the sonata offers is granted by the feeling of moving away from home (the tonic key) and then returning at the end. The way the exposition sets this up determines the effectiveness of everything that follows.

Development

The development is where the composer is allowed to really stretch their skills and show off. The order in which you hear different melodies usually loosely follows the order in which they appeared in the exposition, but they may or may not be recognizable when they are played here. The themes are stretched, pulled, fragmented, and jumbled all together as the composer sees fit.

Where the exposition was about moving from the tonic key to the dominant key, the development is under no such rule. It can travel to any key the composer feels like, and it can arrive there however the composer thinks will be dramatically satisfying. This sometimes means that fragments of the melody cycle through the circle of fifths every measure, or maybe that it moves quickly into a strange, far-away key and stays there for the duration of the section. When composers want to really go crazy, they may even make up a brand new theme that hasn’t been heard before in the piece!

What does all of this mean for interpreting some kind of meaning from the work? The best way to explain it is probably to equate it to the middle story in a trilogy, where your characters are at their darkest points, and the stakes become clear as you prepare for the final ramp up to the climax in the third part. (E.g. The Empire Strikes Back: Han Solo is frozen and given to Jabba the Hut while Luke Skywalker loses his hand and finds out that Darth Vader is his father.)

This graph shows the basic building blocks of Sonata-Allegro from.

This graph shows the basic building blocks of Sonata-Allegro from.

Recapitulation

Eventually, the development will have to settle down a bit and come back to the primary theme,  just like it was heard in the beginning. At this point, you’ve found yourself in the recapitulation, or recap as we might say in modern American English. The recapitulation is very much like a repeat of the exposition, but there is one crucial difference: The secondary theme must cadence in the tonic key, not the dominant. This is how we measure the success or failure of the journey. By achieving a perfect authentic cadence (the strongest kind of harmonic cadence) in the tonic key, the second theme has undergone a transformation. It’s been brought into line with the overall goal of the sonata. It’s almost like coming home from college after graduation; sure, you’re the same person, but you’ve undergone a big process of change that turns you into the mature adult you were always meant to be.

If the cadence is successful, the only thing that’s left to do is continue to play out the remaining music from the exposition, still in the tonic key. You make it to the final bar and feel rightly proud of yourself!

On the other hand: perhaps you weren’t successful. Perhaps the second theme never quite made it to the right key and it just gets left behind as a failure. There’s a lot of interpretive power there that can range from lost hopes and dreams to being forever alone without love. This gives the Sonata a bittersweet or tragic quality, regardless of it being in a major or minor key (here’s looking at you, Brahms).

Coda

This is something that becomes more important as you move later on in music history, but the presence of a big coda can also tell you a lot about what the composer is trying to express. Traditionally, the only thing the coda is supposed to do is have a bunch of fun, with redundant cadences to celebrate the success of the journey. It gives a big dramatic finish and reinforces the eighteenth-century Enlightenment ideals that gave birth to this whole form in the first place.

However, as composers write more and more sonatas, they start to get a little experimental with things. We can give Beethoven the credit for starting this rule-breaking trend with the final movement of his third symphony. The coda he writes ends up going on for 15 minutes! It’s the equivalent of getting to the end of a superhero movie, watching the main character beat the bad guy, have a celebration, and then find out—PLOT TWIST—the bad guy is still alive and needs to be defeated again! It was an effective tool for making his material take on a larger than life quality. What he’s implicitly saying here is that his music cannot be constrained by convention. In order to truly find a solution to the puzzles he’s presented, he has to go beyond the known forms and into uncharted territory.

 

Sonata-Allegro form has been a cornerstone of music for 250 years, and all of the famous composers would have written very different music if this form hadn’t been in place. Understanding this form goes a long way to understanding the Western classical music tradition as a whole. This was just a very brief overview of what makes up a Sonata, and there are countless more aspects to the form and tradition that an interested learner could seek out.

As a way to apply your new knowledge of Sonata-Allegro from, check out this annotated video of the first movement of Mozart’s Dissonance Quartet played by our very own string teachers! Each section’s name will appear on the screen as it happens.