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Why All Voice Students Should Take Piano

piano instaAs a voice teacher, I believe all voice students should take piano lessons as well. Why? I’ll dive into specifics later, but for any music student, piano lessons offer a foundation for music that is difficult to find with other instruments – voice especially. There are unique benefits for singers learning the piano. Some of them may surprise you.

 

Reading Music

Unlike most other instruments, singers can learn their music without knowing how to read music. It’s easier to pick notes out of the air when the voice does not require pressing a certain key in order to find the pitch. Still, it is more difficult to learn a song without knowing how to read music.

Reading music will enhance your vocal abilities in a number of ways. It can help you to understand your range, and will certainly allow you to pursue more musical opportunities. Plus, your pitch accuracy will grow! Learning music by listening might mean you learn a note wrong because a singer sang it wrong on a recording. Learning notes by reading them and playing them on the piano will allow you to be much more self-sufficient and accurate.

 

Playing Your Exercises and Accompaniments

If nothing else, voice students should take piano lessons so they know how to play their own exercises. Sure, the internet offers a wide variety of pre-recorded exercises, but the voice is such a unique instrument, many singers need to be able to customize their exercises, especially in terms of range. Being able to play the piano will allow you to do this.

Furthermore, if you’re interested in accompanying yourself (or even becoming a music teacher one day), you’ll need to learn piano in order to do so. Some genres require different piano skills, such as understanding chord progressions. With the above said, make your goals clear when starting piano lessons.

 

Future Endeavors

Some students take music lessons just to enjoy themselves, and that’s great! Others, however, have longer reaching musical goals. If one of these goals includes studying music in college, for example, music schools expect all students to have a basic understanding of piano. If you don’t study piano in your younger years, a college will require you to take courses then. Might as well get ahead of the curve and start studying now!

If you do have big goals, being able to learn your own musical parts or accompany yourself will also save you time and effort when it comes to rehearsing with other musicians. A coach, for example, won’t have to teach you a song note by note. Or, if you have interest in becoming a singer-songwriter, knowing how to read music will also teach you how to write music down.
Voice teachers do not require students to take piano lessons by and large, but all voice students should consider taking piano lessons if possible, no matter their goals. I have never heard a singer say they felt their piano studies did not help their vocal goals! I have, however, heard singers say they wish they began studying piano much earlier than they did. If you’re interested in piano lessons in addition to your voice lessons but are pressed for time or funds, there are solutions. See if you can’t balance out the two studies by scheduling shorter or alternating lessons, or get in touch with a music school to see what options you might have.

Managing Summer Music Lessons

violin teachers and lessons

As summer approaches, many students and parents have questions about managing summer music lessons. These include questions about changing schedules, vacation time, and practicing expectations. While your teacher is the best person to talk to about specifics, we aim to address your more general questions, or to help you decide which questions to ask. We also want to show you how summer music lessons can serve as a special opportunity for you.

 

Communicate with your teacher about scheduling

The most efficient means of managing summer music lessons involves communicating with your teacher (or your child’s teacher). Need a different lesson time over the summer? Going on vacation? Music teachers anticipate all of this, but let them know sooner rather than later. Contact your teacher as soon as you make plans or need a change.

Communicate with our office about extended breaks

It’s especially important to let our office know if you plan on taking any extended breaks, such as for a whole month or for the whole summer. If you take an extended period of time off, we will remove you from our calendar moving forward. Please contact our office at the beginning of the Fall when you plan on starting up again. We can’t promise the same time/day that you had, but we’ll do our best to work with your schedule for the Fall!

The rules of lessons still apply

It’s easy to fall into a “summer mindset” with music lessons, not applying the same rigor to cancellations and practice sessions as you would during a school year. Don’t fall into this trap! Teachers expect just as much over the summer. Plus, your music teacher is still running a business over the summer, and needs to be treated as such.

Use this as an opportunity

Many students, especially kids, are so scheduled during the school year, it can be difficult to fully dedicate themselves to music lessons. Summer allows a little more flexibility. Use it as an opportunity to get ahead in your music lessons so you can reach your goals that much sooner.

A lot of students also hope to audition for top bands, orchestras, or choirs when they return to school. If your child brings focus and discipline to summer lessons, they’ll be ready for these auditions in the fall. This is particularly important if a student plans to pursue music further, such as in college.

In either instance, take note of your goals or your child’s goals, and what it would take to reach them. Then, you and your teacher can make a plan based on your freer summer schedule.


It’s tempting to think that once the recital is over, once classes are over, then lessons are over for the summer too, or at least are more relaxed. However, summer is a unique opportunity for renewed dedication. Flexibility, time, and focus have great benefits for you or your child, so take advantage of them! Above all else, remember that managing summer music lessons is not so different from managing regular lessons. Keep that mindset, and you’ll stay on the ball through vacations, schedule upheavals, and pool-worthy weather.

Preparing for Your First Recital

recital, music lessons, guitar lessonsIt’s recital season! For many students, that means it’ll be their first time performing in front of other people. Not only is it exciting, it’s a good learning opportunity. Your teacher will help you with the specifics of your situation. Still, there are a couple of universal things you may want to know ahead of time when preparing for your first recital.

 

Choose a Song and Practice Smart

Many students make the mistake of choosing a song they think will be popular or extra showy for their first recital. While there’s nothing wrong with choosing a popular or showy song, the point of a recital is to showcase what you have learned in your lessons so far. Choosing a song you’ve already been working on will serve you well. You’ll also want to make sure your song is challenging, but within your skill set. Remember, the recital first and foremost is for your development.

When you’re practicing, remember: up until now you’ve been able to give in to the luxury of stopping and starting in the middle of the song to play every note just right. We don’t have this option in performance though. Make sure you practice the spots that you have to stop and start at, then run through your song without stopping no matter what happens. Chances are you’ll run into less problems than you think. But even if something happens, the odds of the audience catching your mistakes are not as high as you think they are. So, if you keep going and act like your mix ups were intentional, your audience will be none the wiser.

 

Space, Equipment, and Accompaniment

Most studio recitals take place somewhere else other than your regular lesson room, and that’s a good thing! You learn better by performing in spaces unfamiliar to you. That means you’ll need to practice accordingly though. Try practicing in different rooms, or manipulating how well you hear yourself play by using earplugs or amplification (if possible). This will help your ears adjust to unfamiliar surroundings.

You will probably also have a microphone for the performance. If it’s not possible for you to practice with a microphone beforehand, practice with it in mind. Ask your teacher where you’ll want to place the microphone. Then, use household objects to mimic its placement so you can learn to play into it.

Finally, not every music student will use accompaniment (either through a pianist or a recorded backing track) for their first performance. However, if you plan to use it, be sure to practice with it at least a month before the performance. Coordinating your playing with another musician is a skill unto itself, and it should be treated as such.

 

Calm the Nerves

You may or may not experience stage fright (also known as performance anxiety), and if you’ve never performed live before, you may not even know if you have it. Know that a little anxiety before a performance is normal, and maybe even helpful. If you’re worried about excessive anxiety though, create a mock performance for yourself by playing in front of family and friends. You can also use deep breathing techniques to center yourself before playing.
The more prepared you feel, the better you’ll feel about your performance. Preparing for your first recital, in short, entails knowing your music so well and feeling so comfortable that no matter what happens, all you have to do is get on stage and share the joy of music with your loved ones.

What To Expect In Your First Guitar Lesson

 

Your First Guitar Lesson

guitar teachers phillySigning up for your first guitar lesson can be exciting, but anything new can also make you nervous if you don’t know what to expect. So let us help you out: here, we’ll tell you a bit about what to bring to your first guitar lesson, what you might learn, and other things you can expect in your first guitar lesson.

What to Bring

The most important thing to bring to your first guitar lesson is yourself of course! However, we do recommend bringing a few extra items if you have them.

  • Guitar
    If you don’t already own a guitar, your new guitar teacher will offer you recommendations for what you might like to purchase. If you do have a guitar though, feel free to bring it! You shouldn’t need to bring an amp if you have an electric guitar, but if you’re not sure, you can ask your new teacher before your first lesson. 
  • Picks, straps, or other gear
    Again, none of these are required, but if you have any extra portable guitar gear, might as well bring it along. As you’ll soon see, a teacher may show you how to properly use this equipment in your first lesson.
  • Questions
    Whether or not you have an instrument yet, these are easy to bring! Your teacher will want to know if you have any musical experience, and in turn, you’ll want to make sure the teacher is a good fit for you. To help you keep track of the answers to your questions, we recommend you bring a notebook and pencil as well.
  • An open mind
    It’s tempting to think you’ll walk out of your first lesson playing one of your dream songs, but any skill takes time to learn. Be prepared to be patient and to learn in ways you didn’t imagine. An open mind will also help you to have a more rewarding experience.

What You’ll Learn

There are a number of basic techniques you might learn in your first guitar lesson, and it will vary according to your teacher’s preferences and your needs. Many guitar teachers focus on posture first. This can include how to sit, how to hold the guitar by the neck, and how to properly strum, or hold your arms and hands to pick.

Your teacher will also tell you about the different parts of the guitar. This will include the names of each string, the fret, and other related terms. If you brought along any extra gear, they may show you how to use that as well.

Finally, depending on how much time you have, your teacher may also show you some basic chords or scales, or introduce the basics of how to read music.

Future Lessons

At the end of your first lesson, your teacher will talk to you about how to sign up for future lessons and payment plans available to you. Your teacher should also let you know what they expect you to practice over the coming week.

The most important thing to remember is that your first guitar lesson lays the foundation for future lessons. The longer you take lessons, the more personalized they will be. Private guitar lessons, after all, are more unique and catered to your needs than say a book or a video. Again, if you come to your first lesson with an open mind and ready to learn, you’ll be rewarded with an enjoyable musical experience.

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.

 

Five Underrated Instruments

5 Underrated Instruments for Your Child to Learn

original-5underrated_blogWhether your child wants to join their school band or orchestra, or if you want your child to take private music lessons, it can be difficult to select the right instrument. Oftentimes, students and parents alike only consider instruments that are popular, age appropriate, and/or affordable. While this criteria is reasonable, there are a number of underrated instruments for your child to learn that are also age appropriate and inexpensive.

 

Take a moment to consider these instruments and their benefits.

  1. Viola
    A lesser known string instrument, the viola closely resembles the violin in every way it counts. In fact, many viola players are able to use their skills to play the violin later on. How? Not only are both of these instruments held and played the same way, they share three of the same strings. While the violin has one higher string, the viola has one lower string.The main difference between the two instruments is the clef they use. Violists are the only instrumentalists who regularly use the alto clef. Therefore, those who play the viola tend to have phenomenal music reading and music theory skills. Although the viola is often neglected for its popular sibling the violin, it’s one of the best instruments for your child to learn from an educational and opportunity standpoint. Less competition amongst violists means more opportunities to play.
  • Trumpet
    While trumpets are well-known instruments, they are not well selected by kids looking to learn an instrument for the first time. This could be because trumpets are considered one of the most difficult instruments to play. Not only does it require good breath and finger coordination, it is a loud instrument. Furthermore, trumpets are often given the melody, making precise intonation important. If a trumpet goes out of tune, everyone will notice. This makes it a great instrument for your child to learn if they enjoy a challenge or being the center of attention.
  • Trombone
    The trombone – even less popular than the trumpet – offers a number of advantages to your child. Like many of the instruments on this list, less competition means your child will have more opportunities to play the trombone. The trombone has the unique benefit of being valuable to just about every kind of music group as well. They’re heard in bands, orchestras, symphonies, jazz bands, and so on. While the trombone can be a difficult instrument to care for, it can be a good opportunity for your child to learn about the importance of maintenance and respect for valuable items.
  • Flute
    Considered one of the oldest woodwind instruments, the flute is an easy, affordable, and versatile instrument for your child to learn. It is considered versatile in terms of both portability and usage. Learning the flute allows students to pick up other instruments later on as well, such as the piccolo or the saxophone. Its ease and pleasing tone make it a good instrument to develop your child’s confidence and foundational understanding of music.
  • Clarinet
    The clarinet is often neglected over its more popular counterpart, the saxophone. Few people realize the similarities between these two instruments, but a soprano saxophone even looks similar to a clarinet. However, the saxophone is considered easier to play than the clarinet, meaning the clarinet offers an educational advantage to your child. Furthermore, just like the viola to the violin, students who learn the clarinet can easily learn the saxophone later on. Switching the other way around, however, is more challenging.

 

Every Student Is Unique

It can be difficult to choose an instrument for you or your child when you’re just starting out, though we hope you will seriously consider these underrated instruments for your child to learn. Each one offers unique benefits to the player, and by virtue of being underrated, your child will often have more opportunities to play as a result. This could include special bands or orchestras, competitions, or even scholarships. No matter what instrument your child chooses to play though, we hope they enjoy a lifelong relationship to music!

Easy Holiday Songs to Play on the Guitar

Put On Your Ugly Christmas Sweater and Break out a Holiday Tune!

Guitar Christmas Songs It’s that time of year, and many new guitar students out there want to show off their stuff for the holiday season. We want to help you out by giving you a selection of easy holiday songs to play on the guitar, and by also demonstrating what makes a song good for beginner guitar players. That way, you can start with the songs we’ve suggested and then find more selections on your own.

So what makes one song easier to play than another? It’s all about the basics: how much does a song focus on basic guitar skills? What key a song is in and the amount of chords a song requires are the first basic skills that come to mind. In other words, if a song is in C Major or G Major (the first two keys most beginner guitar students learn), it will theoretically be an easier song to play, especially if it sticks to the common chords within those keys.

Then, you’ll want to look at how fast the song is, or at least, how fast the chords change. Going back and forth between the C chord and the G chord is tricker than holding a C chord for a long time and then switching to G later on. Longer songs will also be trickier than shorter songs. Similarly, if you’re working on tabs or learning to play melodies, look for some with shorter ranges, standard fingerings, and simple chord progressions.

Holiday songs tend to meet a lot of this criteria. Many of them are also familiar to the average beginner guitar player, and when a tune is more familiar to us, it’s easier to learn. Furthermore, a number of the songs listed below are in the public domain, meaning it’s relatively easy to find sheet music, tabs, or chords for them. Now, without further ado, here are some easy holiday songs to play on the guitar!

 

  • Joy to the World
    This version is in G major and requires just three chords. It’ll be easy to focus on the singing with this one if you’d like to mix your musical skills.
  • Silent Night
    With a slow and simple melody and limited chord changes, this Christmas classic is easy to play whether you’re focusing on chords or on playing the melody. You can find the chords and the tab for the melody here.
  • 12 Days of Christmas
    Although this is a long song, the melody repeats over and over, making it relatively easy to play on the guitar. A minor chord is thrown in, so this one can also stretch your skills slightly.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
    Songs for kids tend to be on the easier side, and this holiday favorite is a good example of that. You can find the chords here.
  • Jingle Bells
    An example of a faster song with limited chord changes, this song is also a great choice for those learning to read sheet music. You can find the chords and the sheet music here.
  • Auld Lang Syne
    For your New Year’s party, prepare to have another minor chord thrown in. You can find the chords here. Or, if you’re feeling a little more advanced, you can try to play the melody by using the sheet music or tab here.

 

In the end, the easiest holiday songs to play on the guitar will be the ones you like the most. People practice an instrument more if they like the song they’re playing, so if you want to try a song that’s not on this list, go for it! If you’re not quite there yet though, these songs are a great way to build your skill while also getting into the holiday spirit.

 

Music Practice Routines for Kids

How to Foster Good Habits and Develop Practice Strategies for Music Lessons

practice routinesAs a parent, it’s natural to want your child to learn good study habits and time management skills. Taking music lessons can be a great way to develop these skills, but they can look different when studying music rather than studying standard school subjects, such as math, science, or history. If you’ve never studied an instrument yourself, it can be hard to know how to help your child foster these unique skills. From the teachers at Philly Music Lessons, know that encouraging your kids to be good music students doesn’t have to take a lot of work, but it can go a long way.

Keep a Routine

When it comes to studying music, consistency is key. Some ways to maintain consistency in your child’s studies include:

  • Maintaining a regular lesson schedule with as few changes as possible.
  • Setting up a practice schedule that occurs at the same time for the same length every day (for example, a ½ hour of practice at 6 pm every weekday).
  • Keeping track of lessons, practice sessions, and progress in a notebook or journal.

Building these regular habits will allow your child to see the fruits of their labor much sooner. If their practice and lesson schedule is too sporadic, they won’t retain what they’ve learned as well, and musical concepts will need to be repeated more frequently than necessary. To build the ideal practice schedule for your child and their instrument, have a conversation with their teacher about what will work best.

Similarly, make the process of practice and lessons fun and welcoming. If possible, set up a space at home just for your child’s practice. Furthermore, you can incentivize practice and lessons with compounded rewards, such as small treats, tokens, or activities.

Be a Part of the Process

While your child’s study of music is unique and individual, you can have a healthy involvement in your child’s studies. Check in with their teacher after each lesson to understand what they’ve learned that week and what they should be practicing. Sit with your child while they practice if they’d like that, and encourage them to perform selections for your family once they’ve grasped a new concept. Celebrating small milestones will encourage them to work through the next step, which in turn will develop their work ethic and endurance.

Trust Their Teacher

We love our kids, and we think the world of them and their abilities. As a result, it can be all too tempting to push them into working on songs or auditioning for performance opportunities they’re not quite ready for. If your child’s teacher wants them to wait for certain songs or opportunities, discuss it with them. Their teacher is a trained professional who also wants the best for them, so the more you can be patient and encourage your child to do the same, the sooner they’ll be able to play that song or go for that competition.

It would be wonderful if all of our kids started music lessons by being focused, determined, and skilled. Studying music, however, is not solely about fostering talent; studying music works to develop these skills in kids, which will help them succeed later in life. Keep this in mind, and your child’s music lessons will go from a chore to a rewarding process that’ll last them a lifetime.

What to Expect in Your First Voice Lessons

By Kristen Seikaly

Voice Lessons, Voice Teachers, Philadelphia

Kristen is a professional vocalist and instructor with her Masters in Voice Performance and Pedagogy

You’ve signed up for your first voice lesson, and you couldn’t be more excited! Learning how to sing is a wonderful and fulfilling journey.

You may find that you’re nervous too, and that’s okay! It can be scary to open up and sing for a new person, especially when you don’t know what it’s going to be like. To help you prepare for your upcoming journey, here are some things you can expect in your first voice lessons.

#1 Expect a bit of conversation

The voice is a unique instrument in that each one is different (including yours!). Therefore, your teacher will want to take some time to get to know you, your past musical experiences, and your goals for voice lessons to ensure that they have the best understanding of your voice they possibly can. This initial conversation will help you to reach your goals that much faster.

#2 Expect to sing!

No matter how much conversation occurs, the best way for your teacher to get to know your voice is to hear it! They will probably take you through a set of vocal exercises to get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses. You don’t need to worry about sounding perfect. Your teacher just wants to know how they can best help you become a better singer.

#3 Expect to ask questions

Because the voice is an instrument you can’t see, oftentimes voice teachers will use metaphors or imagery to explain technical concepts. Therefore, their directions may not make sense to you right away. If you don’t fully understand, feel free to ask! Your voice teacher’s primary goal is to make sure you can continue to sing well outside of the studio, and understanding directions is important to that. Therefore, questions are always encouraged. Just make sure that you don’t get so bogged down in asking questions that you forget to sing!

#4 Expect to work and to be patient

It can be tempting to come into your first voice lessons wanting to be able to sing your favorite song like a pro by the end of them. Unfortunately, this is not how voice lessons work. Developing good posture, breath control, and vocal clarity are crucial to healthy singing in the long run. Therefore, it is important to practice the exercises and songs your teacher assigns you to get you to your goals.

#5 Expect to have fun!

Learning how to sing well is work, but it’s also fun! You probably started taking voice lessons because you love to sing, but you’ll find that each individual lesson itself can be a fun and rewarding experience. If you come in with an open mind and ready to learn, you’ll have a great time with voice lessons.

If you’re still a bit nervous, just remember one more thing: your new voice teacher was once a brand new student, too. As long as you let their experience guide you, you’ll have a great start to a wonderful and lifelong musical journey.