The Fall Recital is Coming!

ethicalContinuing our tradition of student recitals, don’t miss out on hearing all the talent pouring out of Philly Music Lessons at our Fall Recital this year! The big day this season is Saturday, December 8 and it is again being held at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia, right on Rittenhouse Square.

Open the public, this event will showcase students of all ages performing their best and favorite works. Not only is it great to hear so many songs as an audience member, but it’s also a crucially important skill for any musician to learn how to manage public performance!

Students are grouped into two sets:

Set 1: 1:00
Set 2: 3:00

Admission is $10 (Unless of course you are one of the performers!)

Fretting Hand Technique Exercises

lessons_mainline_webIn this article, I’m going to present a number of technique exercises that will help you to play single note melodies, as well as chords with your fretting hand. The exercises will all be single note picking, but the principles of stretching and strengthening your fingers will apply to all aspects of your playing. It’s advised that you read my article on fretting hand technique to supplement these exercises. The principles in these exercises are borrowed from a great book called Guitar Technic by Roger Filiberto. You should pick it up if you have the chance!

 

Basic Principles to Remember

  1. Always press down right behind the fret to get the cleanest sound, not too far behind the fret and not directly on it.
  2. Press down behind the fret with the very tip of your finger.
  3. Keep your fingers curved.
  4. Fingers that are not playing should remain curved and ready to play at any time.
  5. Economy of motion: move your fingers as little as possible to get the job done. This will pay off huge dividends later when increasing the speed of these exercises.
  6. Keep the pad of your thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, always facing away from you.
  7. Curve your wrist as little as possible.
  8. Palm of your hand facing up, perpendicular to the neck.
  9. Keep your knuckles apart from each other. This stretch is important when playing chords.

 

Practicing alternate picking with your right hand for all of these exercises (down-up-down-up). The x followed by dashes means to hold down that finger throughout or until the dashes end. Continue all the exercises to the low E string to make sure you cover each string.

Also, if any of these exercises are too hard to do in the first position, you can move them up the neck to any position that’s doable for you. The frets get smaller as you get higher on the neck, so it requires less finger stretch to do the exercise as you get to higher positions.

 

Ex. 1.1

    (hold down first finger down)

    x – – – – – – – – – – – – –   x – – – – – – – – – – – – – x – – – – – – – – – – – – –

E|–1–2–1–2–1–2–1–2—————————————————————

B|———————————1–2–1–2–1–2–1–2——————————–

G|—————————————————————1–2–1–2–1–2–1–2–

D|———————————————————————————————

A|———————————————————————————————

E|——————————————————————————————— (continue to the low E string)

 

Ex. 1.2

    x – – – – – – – – – – – – –  x – – – – – – – – – – – – – x – – – – – – – – – – – – –

E|–1–3–1–3–1–3–1–3————————————————————

B|——————————–1–3–1–3–1–3–1–3——————————

G|————————————————————-1–3–1–3–1–3–1–3–

D|——————————————————————————————-

A|——————————————————————————————-

E|——————————————————————————————-

 

Ex. 1.3

    x – – – – – – – – – – – – –  x – – – – – – – – – – – – – x – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

E|–1–4–1–4–1–4–1–4————————————————————–

B|——————————–1–4–1–4–1–4–1–4——————————–

G|————————————————————–1–4–1–4–1–4–1–4–

D|——————————————————————————————–

A|——————————————————————————————–

E|——————————————————————————————–

 

Bending the Wrist and Straightening the Fingers

You may notice that these exercises are harder as you get closer to the low E string. That’s because your fingers have to reach further. The natural tendency is to bend your wrist to compensate for the added difficulty. A small amount of bend is natural as you get towards the lower strings, however, make sure to not over bend which can lead to unnecessary tension and injury.

In order to keep your wrist as straight as possible, you can gradually straighten out your fingers as you approach the low E string. This technique can also help to mute unnecessary strings.

 

Here are  couple more exercises that use the basic principles from above to utilize all the fingers.

 

Ex. 2.1

 

    x – – – – –  x – – – – – –  x – – – – – – x – – – – – – x – – – – – – x – – – – – –

E|——————————————————————————–1–2–3–4—

B|—————————————————————–1–2–3–4——————

G|————————————————-1–2–3–4———————————-

D|———————————-1–2–3–4————————————————-

A|——————1–2–3–4—————————————————————–

E|–1–2–3–4———————————————————————————

 

And then come back down…

 

Ex. 2.2

 

E|–4–3–2–1———————————————————————————–

B|——————4–3–2–1——————————————————————-

G|———————————-4–3–2–1—————————————————

D|————————————————–4–3–2–1———————————–

A|——————————————————————4–3–2–1——————-

E|———————————————————————————-4–3–2–1—

 

There is a pretty big leap in difficulty from the first series of exercises to the second. I’m presenting these as examples in order to apply the principles of correct fretting hand technique. For a more graduated course I highly advise purchasing Mel Bay’s Guitar Technic by Roger Filiberto. This book presents the exercises in a graduated manner, allowing you to slowly work up to the harder ones.

Fretting hand technique can be difficult in the beginning, but practice with the fundamental techniques in this article, and you’ll begin to see results in no time! Chords, scales, melodies, and solos will all be easier to play when you practice with intention. And remember, it’s always best to practice every day than to try to squeeze in a big practice session once or twice a week. This especially applies to technique practice where muscle memory is extremely important. Spread your practice sessions out over the course of the week for the best results.

Moveable Chord Forms on the Guitar

 

In this article, I’m going to discuss some basic chord shapes on the guitar in open position and show you how to turn them into movable chord forms. It is recommended that you have a basic understanding of open chords and are able to switch between them fluidly before trying the methods discussed below.

 

What is a moveable chord form anyway?

A movable chord form is a chord played with no open strings, that can be moved up and down the neck. You will maintain the basic shape of the chord no matter where you play it. However, the letter name of the chord will change as you move (the terms chord “form” and chord “shape will be used interchangeably throughout this article). It is important to know the root note of the chord so you can determine what chord you’re actually playing as you move the form. Knowing the notes on the guitar will help you.

The most popular moveable chord forms are often referred to as “barre chords” on the guitar, because they require you to create a “barre” across all six strings with the 1st finger on your fretting hand. Your first finger is essentially acting as a capo, so that you can move chord shapes up and down the neck freely. If you’re not used to barring with your 1st finger, this can be difficult in the beginning, but stick with it, and soon your barre chords will sound just as good as if you were playing with a capo! Here are some technique exercises that will help you stretch and strengthen your fingers to make playing barre chords easier. You can also read my article on fretting hand technique to supplement the exercises.

 

What Chord Forms Can I Move Around the Neck?

Well, the real answer is all of them! However, we’re going to start with some of the basic major chord shapes, because they are the theoretical foundation for every other chord. The five shapes that we’ll discuss in this article are often referred to as the CAGED chords, named after the chords that these shapes make in the open position.

The most popular movable chord shape is the E shape, so we’ll start there for the purposes of this article.

 

Let’s Start Moving Some Chords Around!

image3

Here is the basic E major chord shape in the open position, the one that we all know and love with the standard fingering:

The key to turning an open chord form into a movable chord form is to first learn how to play the chord in the open position without using your 1st finger. We have to free up your 1st finger in order to create the barre that will enable you to move the chord shape up and down the neck.

Here is the same E major chord with a different fingering which frees up your 1st finger:

image2

Now that your first finger is freed up, you’re ready to turn this shape into a movable chord form! Barre your first finger behind the nut of the guitar by laying your entire 1st finger across all six strings. This will give you a sense of how this chord shape will feel to play once you move it. Now slide everything up one fret and you get an F chord shown below:

image1

It is important to know that the lowest root of this shape is located on the low E string. So when you’re in the open position it creates an E major chord (the letter name of the chord is always named after the root note). Because E and F are on half step away from each other, when you move the shape up a half step, the same chord form becomes an F major chord. If this is confusing to you, please read this article on the musical alphabet and how it can be applied to guitar.

 

Continuing Up the Neck

Let’s move this same shape up the neck one more time. The F major chord is in first position with it’s root on the F note located on the first fret of the low E string. If you move up a whole step to the third position, then the root changes to a G, making the new chord a G major.

image4

This can be continued all the way up the neck, until the notes start to repeat at the 12th fret. In this way, you can play all 12 major chords with the same chord form! Knowing how to play movable chord forms on the guitar will open up a whole new world of possibilities playing all over the neck, instead of just staying in the open position. Knowing how and when to use these chord forms will also help you begin to understand the fretboard and it will serve as the foundation to learning your pentatonic scales and basic music theory on the guitar.

In the next article, we’ll talk about how to do this with the other four major forms in the CAGED system.

Knowing the Notes on the Guitar

original-singingguitarLearning to read standard notation is something many guitarists will never do. And while there are definite benefits to learning how to read notes, unless you’re playing Jazz or Classical, it’s not necessary to become an accomplished guitar player. However, knowing how to figure out what note you’re playing on the guitar is absolutely necessary if you want to go beyond strumming the standard open chords.

Knowing what note you’re playing on the guitar will help you to determine what scales and chords you’re playing up and down the neck. Each scale and chord has a root note that they are built from. The root note is the letter name which appears at the beginning of the scale or chord symbol (A major scale or C7 chord).

While it’s easy to memorize what chord or scale you’re playing when there are only a few in open position, when you start moving these shapes around the guitar, it becomes imperative to know your root notes and letter names.

The good news is that this is extremely easy as long as you know three things:

1) the names of the strings on the guitar

2) the difference between whole steps and half steps

3) the pattern of the musical alphabet

 

The names of the strings on the guitar

guitar, notes, lessons

As you can see, the two outside strings are both E notes, called Low E (the thickest string) and High E (the thinnest string). From Low to High the note names of the guitar strings are E, A, D, G, B, E. The strings are numbered 1-6 from highest to lowest, however, most people will order them from lowest to highest.

Here’s a little pneumonic device for remembering the string names from lowest to highest:

6-(E)very   5-(A)pple 4-(D)oes   3-(G)o 2-(B)ad 1-(E)ventually

 

What are whole steps and half steps?

On the guitar, the notes are determined by what fret you’re holding when you pick the string, unlike the piano where each note is represented by pressing a different key.

A half step is the shortest distance you can go, so on the guitar it is the distance between one fret and the next fret up or down. If you’re playing the 3rd fret – low E string, a half step up would be the 4th fret and a half step down would be the 2nd fret on the same string.

Keep in mind that the distance between an open string and the 1st fret is a half step.

A whole step is equivalent to the distance of two half steps. So if you’re playing that same note on the 3rd fret – low E string, a whole step up would be the 5th fret and a whole step down would be the 1st fret.

All scales have an order of whole steps and half steps which repeat over and over again. The musical alphabet also has an order of whole steps and half steps. Once you know that order, you’ll be able to figure out any note on the guitar.

 

So what is the musical alphabet?

The musical alphabet starts with A, just like the regular alphabet. However, it only goes up to G. After G it simply goes back to A and repeats again. So it includes letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. There is no H note. If you already know your standard open chords, you’ll already recognize a lot of these letter names from those chords.

There is either a whole step (2 frets) or a half step (1 fret) between each of these notes of the musical alphabet. The easiest way to remember the order is that there are whole steps between all the letters with the exception of half steps between B and C and between E and F.

Here are the distances between all the notes in the musical alphabet (Whole steps are represented by a W and half steps are represented by an H):

A (W) B (H) C (W) D (W)E (H) F (W) G (W) A (W) B (H) C… and on and on!

 

So what are the notes in between the whole steps?

Ah yes. You may have noticed that we’re skipping some notes because there are whole steps between most of the letters in the musical alphabet. This is where flat and sharp notes come into the equation.

A flat note is represented by a lower case b, as seen in the chord Bb Major or Ab minor. A sharp is represented by the number sign or hashtag symbol #, as seen in the chords G# major or C# minor.

When you flat a note, you bring it down a half step from whatever letter name you’re on. So if you’re playing a G note (3rd fret – low E string), you would play the 2nd fret for a Gb. A sharp note is just the opposite, go up one fret. So to play a G# on the low E string, you would play the 4th fret.

Now when we play the 4th fret G#, it could also be called an Ab because it is one fret above a G and one fret below an A. These are called enharmonic notes. They are notes which can be labeled as a flat or a sharp. Usually this is dependent upon what key you’re in, but we’ll get to that in another article!

 

Figuring Out What Note You’re Playing

So to figure out what note you’re playing on any string, simply start with the open note that you know because you have your string names memorized! Then work your way up the musical alphabet until you get to the note that you’re playing.

Examples:

  1. If I want to figure out what note I’m playing on the 5th fret, low E string I would start with my low open E, then go up a half step to the 1st fret (because there is a half step between E and F). Now I’m on an F note on the 1st fret, go up a whole step to the 3rd fret. Now I’m on G. Go up one more whole step to the 5th fret. Now I’m on A because the musical alphabet always repeats after G. So the 5th fret, low E string is an A note.

  2. If I want to figure out what note is on the 4th fret D string, I can do the same process. Start with my open D string, then go up a whole step to the 2nd fret (because there is a whole step between D and E). Now I’m on an E note. Then go up a half step to my next letter F on the 3rd fret (because there is always a half step between E and F). If we wanted to go up to the next letter we’d have to go up another whole step to get to G. However, we’re only going up to the 4th fret so we’ve hit a sharp/flat note. The 4th fret – D string can either be called an F# or a Gb depending on what key you’re in.

You can do these exercises all day long to practice finding and naming notes on all the strings of the guitar. Just kidding, maybe just 5 minutes a day? As you know, regular practice goes a long way!

Below is a diagram of all the notes on the guitar so you can check your work. Good luck naming those notes!

guitar, lessons, frets, fingering

Check out our talented students!

Our seasonal recitals are a great way for students to get an opportunity to perform for friends and family! It’s also great for friends and family to get a chance to see the progress they’ve made since last time, whether they are 6 years old or 60 years old. Check out this video offering up highlights of every students performance from our Spring 2018 recital at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia!

Spring 2018 Recital

ethicalWe are so happy to announce that our Spring Recital this year will take place on Saturday, May 19th at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia!  Our recitals are our most exciting public events of the year, and are a fantastic way for family and friends to get involved with lessons. Students of all ages and levels of development are encouraged to sign up and so the music heard over the course of the concert is full of surprises and variety!

Public performance is an important part of music-making, and so we are very proud to be able to offer these concerts twice a year for our students. In order to accommodate the number of students, the recital is spread out over two sets, each with separate admission.

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Set 1 @ 1:00pm

Set 2 @ 3:00pm

Enjoy a great afternoon of music making, and then you can enjoy all the wonderful restaurants and activities of Center City! Tickets at the door are $10.

Partnering with Local Schools – La Salle Academy

Music PartnershipsLa Salle Academy: Expanding our Teaching Partnerships

One of the core mission statements at Philly Music Lessons is that everyone deserves a chance to learn music. It drives us to make lessons available to many communities and families with varying income levels and schedules. That is why we offer the convenience of in-home lessons, as well as local studio lessons in Fishtown and South Philly, and why we offer financial aid discounts to low-income families.

To further expand opportunities for kids to learn music, we’ve started to partner with local schools, offering discounted private and group lessons during after school hours. Because our lessons are made available at an affordable rate, right on the school premises, it is much easier for kids to begin the process of learning music!

Engaging Students at La Salle through Music Performances and Presentations

DSC_0047 (1)We recently traveled down the road from our Fishtown studio to La Salle Academy, located in Kensington on North 2nd Street. Our teachers gave presentations to grades 3-8, showing them the basics of piano, guitar, violin and drums. Starting with the principles of technique and theory, our two multi-instrumentalist teachers, Sean Conlon and Emily Stewart, were able to give the kids a sense of what the beginning portion of learning an instrument really looks like. Our teachers performed solo pieces on each instrument, and followed with group performances to show how different instruments can come together to create unique styles and sounds. It was very inspiring for students to see professional musicians performing at an advanced level. We feel this experience gives them a sense of the hard work and dedication that goes into attaining such a level of musicianship.

DSC_0052 (1)DSC_0043 (1)With our presentations, children are better able to gauge their general level of interest in music. They may also be able to better determine which instrument they’d like to learn. We feel that starting a child off with an instrument that really inspires them is the best way to form a positive and lasting relationship with music. We hope these kinds of experiences at an early age will stick with them for the rest of their lives!

New Music Education Partnerships

Philly Music Lessons will be working to maintain and expand relationships with other schools in the city of Philadelphia throughout the 2018 school year. We feel our teachers have a lot to offer in terms of supplementing standard music education classes and providing individualized lessons to students who may not have access to them otherwise. As most educators know, there is no substitute for a great teacher.

 

Our Fishtown Community, Our Story!

Morning Music ClassesFishtown Community Building Through Music 
A few years ago, we moved our music lessons business out of our basement and into a beautiful space down the street in Fishtown. Feeling inspired by my own upbringing next to a fine arts and music institute for kids and adults, I decided to start teaching music classes to the smallest of our neighbors! I wanted to bring the experience of walking past an open window to the sounds of clarinets, opera singing, piano practice, and plays into my Fishtown community. Cracking open the windows on a warm June day, the sounds our first music classes and lessons were heard in Fishtown in 2014.


Bringing high quality music was a focus of mine. I had been to some great music classes throughout the city in my nannying days, and I realized how deeply kids responded to the ones with genuinely good music and real instruments. With this in mind, I created a flexible routine that engages kids through props, promotes spontaneous interaction between teacher and child, and trains the ears to hear pitches using Solfege, familiar songs, and other music-based exercises. At the center of my classes are our carefully selected teachers, often performers in Philly and teachers with a talent for connecting with kids. They play their guitar (and sometimes ukulele!), while performing and guiding children through various kids songs, rhymes, and our unique “Hello” and “Goodbye” songs. 


Each week, old standards and new children’s songs are presented. With a scarves, pinwheels, parachutes, puppets, shakers, various world instruments, a big piano, and more, we explore what it means to play music. Interactive pieces shift from the most basic of kind to more complex dances and movement games as youngsters progress through the months. Heavily based on individual groups, these classes are adaptable – a good fit for many different ages.


Parents, sit back and enjoy as you play with your baby through this guided 45 minutes of fun! You can read our march newsletter below. Stroller parking is available.
Read about our current teachers, Alex and Keely!

Sign Up Today for Music in March

Hello!

Let’s usher in the Spring with some music making at Philly Music Lessons! As usual, we’ll be meeting weekly for classes in Fishtown and in South Philly (4PM Fridays in Fishtown and 9AM Wednesdays in South Philly). Our multi-aged classes are designed for 0-3 year olds and make for an awesome part of a day with kids – moms, dads, nannies, and other caregivers are welcome. With singalongs, movement activities, tons of props and assorted musical instruments, we change it up as we keep a base line of familiar kid favorites!

March in Fishtown | $40
Sign Up
Fridays @ 4PM:
March 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 30th
*Please note: NO CLASS on the 23rd!

Address:
2111 East Susquehanna Ave

Philadelphia, PA

March in South Philly | $40
Sign Up
Wednesdays @ 9AM:
March 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th

Address:
1548 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Class Basics:

  • $10/class with a monthly sign up – Includes one makeup for missed classes per month, which can be used as credit towards upcoming sign ups or any classes scheduled at either location
  • $12 drop-ins with advanced notice only – Email ahead of time to let us know when you’ll be coming (please check with us to see if there’s space!)
  • First timers FREE
  • Online invoicing for monthly sign ups and drop-ins – Can pay online or make in-person payments

What’s My Voice Type?

voice, type, fach, philadelphia“What’s my voice type?”

Beginner voice students often ask this question. It feels reassuring to classify ourselves, to feel we belong somewhere. Plus, newer singers believe knowing your voice type gives them other information about their voice, such as their range. What seems like a simple question doesn’t have a simple answer though. To understand why, first learn what “my voice type” even means, why voice type exists, and why a singing novice might not be able to find their voice type.

What is Voice Type?

A “voice type” is the classification of voices based on certain qualities and characteristics of the voice. These characteristics include:

  • Range: how high and low you can sing.
  • Timbre: the “color” or quality of your voice.
  • Vocal breaks: the shift in your voice between head and chest voice.
  • and Tessitura: the part of your range you feel most comfortable singing in.

Men tend to have four options when it comes to voice type: countertenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. Women tend to have three options: soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto.

All of these variations depend on a number of physical elements just like they do in instruments. A cello has thicker strings than a violin, resulting in a lower range. Similar variations apply to the voice as well. Therefore, the variations in voice type depend largely on physical sex, but also on genre.

These identifications vary according to genre because different genres require different characteristics. A musical theater soprano may be considered a mezzo-soprano in opera because of the average range, tessitura, and timbre of the music.

Why Classify the Singing Voice

While some people like labels, others ask, “Who needs them?” There are pros and cons to identifying your voice type.

Pros

The number one benefit to knowing your voice type is for auditions. If you audition as a singer, the panel can get an immediate idea of your voice through your stated voice type. Why? Because the “rules” of voice type allow others to understand what characteristics your voice possesses.

Similarly, you can select music for yourself this way. If a song has a certain note you can’t reach, or spends a lot of time in a part of your voice you’re not comfortable with, you will know not to sing that song.

Cons

Identifying your voice type can become unintentionally limiting. Especially for younger or newer singing students, a voice type can make you feel boxed in to certain guidelines, discouraging you from exploring new songs.

Voice types are also hard to identify. The voice is a tricky instrument. It’s not like other instruments where you can see and feel exactly which notes the instrument can hit. Each voice is unique, and it can even change based on age, hormones, and more.

What’s My Voice Type Then?

Only a qualified voice teacher can help you identify your voice type. Even if you know your range right now, you may be able to extend it after learning different technical aspects of singing like posture, breathing, and more. And as stated above, no one element alone points to voice type. The subject is so complex, voice teachers have written entire books dedicated to it.

Again, the best way to find your voice type is to sign up for voice lessons today and learn all about your voice. Your voice type will reveal itself to you after developing a solid technique. And remember, it may take some time, but the process of discovery will be a lot of fun along the way.