Archive | March, 2017

The Spring Recital Is Upon Us!

recitalpicCalling all musicians! This year’s Spring Recital will be held on May 20th at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia. All Philly Music Lessons students are encouraged to sign up for a slot at either of the two concert times.

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

  • Set 1 at 1:30pm
  • Set 2 at 3:00pm

Will you bring down the house with a brilliant rendition of your favorite song from Broadway, or shred through some classic rock? If you’re not sure what you’d like to do, your teacher can help you decide what to perform to best show off all of your progress. Not only do you get to perform yourself, but you also get the chance to support the rest of the Philly Music Lessons family in their own musical journey!

Show off your skills to friends and family alike right on Rittenhouse Square!

Electric or Acoustic Guitar?

original-inhome_lessonsFor those interested in learning to play the guitar who do not yet own an instrument, you might wonder whether you should by an electric or acoustic guitar. Each has its pros and cons, which is why a little research can go a long way. Let us help you make your purchase by pointing out some factors you might not have considered.

Interest

You probably already have a sense of whether you prefer an electric or an acoustic guitar. Many students come to music lessons wanting to play certain songs, and these songs usually require a particular instrument. Therefore, there’s logic to buying the guitar that interests you most. You’ll be able to learn the songs you want to learn on their “correct” instrument. Plus, you won’t have to purchase the type of guitar you “really” wanted later on.

Ease

All things being equal, some guitarists say that electric guitars are easier to play than acoustic ones. This is for two main reasons: first, the body of an electric guitar is smaller and therefore easier to hold, and second, the strings are lighter than on an acoustic guitar.

Some students may not agree with this. Electric guitars require an amp and cables, and the extra equipment may seem cumbersome. However, the ability to adjust the volume on an amp also means you can make more sound with less work.

Cost

Although electric guitars may be easier to play, they are also generally more expensive. Between amps, cords, headphones, and the instrument itself, the cost can add up. An acoustic guitar, on the other hand, only requires itself, and tends to cost less as a whole. While you may be able to find deals for instruments, above all else you’ll want an instrument that works well and sounds decent when you first start out.

Practice

This goes hand in hand with interest, but ask yourself, which guitar do I see myself practicing with? The goal of guitar lessons is to learn how to play the guitar and less about the performance of it (at least at first). Once you get into serious performing, you can always switch guitars if need be.

However, it’s worth knowing yourself and considering which type of guitar will better suit your learning needs. Will tough strings frustrate you? Do you live in an apartment and need to practice with headphones? Do you want your guitar to be portable? Answering these questions and similar ones, along with understanding the mechanics of learning an instrument (as opposed to how you see yourself performing an instrument) can help you decide which kind of guitar to purchase.

Final Thoughts

If you truly can’t decide, you could always rent an acoustic guitar and/or an electric guitar through our rental instrument program. It’s a rent-to-own program so if you make a decision as to which guitar you’d like to continue with after the first couple of months, a large majority of what you pay goes towards owning the instrument. A three month trial rental is always an affordable way to try out any instrument!

As you’ve figured out by now, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it comes down to what you want out of your musical experience. And if you still can’t decide but can’t afford to buy both, you could always ask your new guitar teacher what they recommend for you. The most important thing is that you make a decision so that you can spend more time learning and playing, and less time fretting over the decision.

 

Spring Kids Music Class, Ages 3-5

Keely_ClassKids Music Class Dates:

April 1st thru May 13th
Saturdays at 11 AM
2111 East Susquehanna Ave (Philly Music Lessons)

Music Exploration is a 6 week class that allows children to discover a variety of musical instruments! Combining art projects with beginner concepts in music, kids can build a foundation for further learning in music. Within a group environment, social learning will open the door for private lessons later on as kids approach music from a collaborative angle. Read more about our class here!

Topics include:

  • Instrument Bodies and the Anatomy of Sound
  • Fundamental Concepts like Melody, Rhythm, & Music as a Language (Notes)
  • Physical Techniques for Strings and Piano
  • Ear (Solfege)

Examples of Past Art Projects Using Recyclables (materials included):

  • Marimbas (Finger Piano)
  • Jar Shakers
  • Rhythm Sticks
  • Pasta Note Necklaces with Mini Song Patterns

Students will use their homeade instruments to practice “In the Jungle”. Our music class will have the option to perform as a group at our Spring Recital at the Ethical Society on Saturday May 20th! We encourage you to come be a part of our show!

DISCOUNTS:

Students whose families participate in any of the programs at By My Side Parenting will receive a 10% discount for our Spring Session! This discount also applies to private lessons at home, at our main studio in Fishtown/East Kensington, or at our auxilliary space at By My Side.

Why Play the Flute?

Interesting fact: The flute is the third oldest instrument in the world, although it didn’t always look quite like the one we know today as the keys were added at the turn of the century. Still, a form of the flute has been around since before recorded language.

Interesting fact: The flute is the third oldest instrument in the world, although it didn’t always look quite like the one we know today as the keys were added at the turn of the century. Still, a form of the flute has been around since before recorded language.

Why flute? This is a funny question—As a flute player myself, I sometimes think back to when I decided to play flute for the rest of my life: I was in 10th grade and driving home from a flute lesson with my mom when I had this overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t just stop playing flute. Obviously I had already been thinking about what I was going to do in college, but at that moment, the notion that I could stop playing music made me so sad that I knew I had to study flute for the rest of my life.

In orchestral music, we get to play all sorts of characters, from birds (composers love to portray birds with flute) to hope, wind, light, or mythical creatures, and that is barely scratching the surface! I had a wonderful teacher in college who pointed to my flute and said “this isn’t a flute.” I looked at him and thought, “Oh no, he thinks my flute is the silver equivalent to a plastic whistle. Or maybe, he’s just gone crazy” He pointed and said again “This isn’t a flute—it is the mist on a mountain top, it is the wind on a summer evening, it is rage, it is pure joy—this is whatever you make it.” Now on some level I knew that—people had been telling me from a reasonably young age that I was good at the musical stuff not written on the page, but never in my life had someone so clearly pointed out the possibilities of playing this instrument. What I love about flute and playing music using wind (or breath) as the mode of sound production is how expressive one can be while literally taking deep—and often calming breaths. I love the many colors one can find in the flute sound with careful study. Most of all I love playing all of the different characters. I love applying narrative to music, and I have the most fun when I’m playing a character with my flute.

As I think back even further to the events that led me to start the flute it all was so arbitrary: I went to Colonial Williamsburg with my family for a few days in the summer before my 5th grade year—I don’t know why I was intrigued so much by this fife I found in a shop, but I was and part of me wonders if I would be here today writing this article without that first seemingly nebulous push. This is just my story and when it comes down to brass tacks, every musician has his or her story. What we all have in common is the universal choice that we make. Every musician has made a choice to put in the careful hours and become what he or she is today. There is some turning point that presents an instrument to a person and then a choice that doesn’t seem at all like a choice but just something that you do. This might be yours for flute.

I don’t think I can ever say to someone “you should play flute because of ____.” There is never enough time and never language specific enough. Most students know flute is for them after listening to it. If they hear something that they like, I do my best to help them put what they like into words, and then we set off together after that sound. Playing flute is not the be all and end all for everyone, but for those who want to enrich their lives with a musical instrument—it is a great choice.

New Lessons Space at By My Side

More great news for music lovers in Fishtown!

We are now offering private lessons at By My Side Parenting (the former 3 Mama Llamas space).  Kids and adults from beginner to advanced can take lessons for piano, guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, clarinet, sax, flute, voice, cello, violin, tuba, trumpet, trombone, banjo, and more.

Lessons For Everyone

original-bmspost2Starting at age 4, lessons can be geared toward a variety of interests and learning styles within a wide range of genres (classical, rock, jazz, and more). ½ price trial lessons enable families to test out the waters first. And because we appreciate everything that goes on at By My Side, we’re giving a 10% discount for families that attend playschool, playgroup, or the after-school programs at the space! Rentals are available to get students started on something new.

We work with each family’s schedule and needs to find a teacher that fits your availability and interests. Visit our website or call (215) 645-0405 to set up lessons. 

By My Side Parenting is located at 1542 E Montgomery Ave, Philadelphia.

PhillyMusicLessons.com | office@phillymusiclessons.com

Strumming and Singing

Two Things at Once: Sing While Playing Guitar

original-singingguitarOne of the most frustrating things when learning the guitar can be learning to sing while playing guitar. (Which can be even more difficult for beginner students). Hopefully, this article can offer some words of inspiration. Singing while playing may seem like a skill that you wouldn’t have to work on independently, but it can actually do a lot to improve every aspect of your playing. (And for some, by singing, I mean humming.)

Being able to strum (or play) one rhythm on the guitar and sing another will help you understand how certain rhythms can work together to create certain movements. Singing while playing can also help you to understand note choice, especially during improvisation or writing. It is also a test to see how well you actually know the instrument while only paying attention to it fifty percent of the time!

Here are a few tips I find to be super helpful:

  1. Start with simple rhythms
    Start with the basics! Try singing the same rhythm as the guitar. For instance, write a sentence with one syllable words like, “No, I don’t know you.” Strum quarter notes and either hum or sing the sentence at the same time. Each word should fall with each strum. Once comfortable, try changing up the rhythm with the same sentence. Maybe try singing triplets while strumming quarter notes and vice versa. Eventually, try a chord progression, starting simple while simultaneously singing along. Try changing up the melodic movement of both the guitar and the voice. You’ve officially begun your first step to composition!
  1. Start slowly
    Just like learning anything new, starting slow helps a ton. Start incorporating chord changes with different melodies – playing them slowly and increasing your speed as you get more comfortable. Sometimes playing along to a metronome can help you keep a good center of rhythm. It’s better to sing and play rhythms correctly than to be making mistakes while trying to play at full speed.
  1. Choose a song
    Once you’ve done the basics, steps one and two, try choosing a song (the fun part). Listen to the song and identify the rhythm of the strum and melody. First learn the strum on the guitar and repeatedly play it until you feel comfortable. Learn the chord progression and learn how to sing the melody while concentrating on the rhythm of it. Don’t be afraid to change the key if it feels uncomfortable. Then, try playing the two together. It helps to play along with the song. (Unless you’ve changed the key of course.)
  1. Focus
    If you find yourself speeding up and slowing down, missing chords, and stumbling to the next note, it is most likely due to a lack of focus. Focus is the key here. Close your eyes and envision yourself playing and singing simultaneously. I find envisioning doing it helps immensely. Though keeping focus may be difficult, the idea is that your focus becomes secondary to strumming and come without thought, then for singing to follow. Eventually, it feels like meditating.

At first, singing while playing guitar may feel unnatural. This can make it very frustrating, but it is totally achievable for anyone! Even after years of playing, I can still struggle with it, and I find myself going back to the basics frequently. Listening to the song, isolating the strum from the melody over and over again. Of course, sometimes the most helpful thing is to have someone with you to coach you through doing two different things at once! Our guitar teachers come from all corners of the music world, so take a look to see if any of them seem like they might be a good fit for your favorite style of music!

Eventually, singing and playing will feel natural, and you will use it more than you ever imagined. Whether playing a chordal motive and humming the melody, learning a solo while humming along (maybe just the root notes, or anticipating where the solo is going next), or performing, the best advice is to have fun with it! As long you keep moving, you’ll keep getting better!