Archive | Music Lessons RSS feed for this section

Philly Music Lessons offers a wide variety of music instruction to all ages and experience levels. Specializing in guitar lessons, drum and bass lessons, and piano lessons Philly Music Lessons is your source for experienced and effective music education. Our instructors have experience teaching students of all experience levels from beginner through advanced. We are happy to work around your schedule and offer both in-home and in-studio music lessons. For more information please do not hesitate to call us or submit your questions using the contact form.

How To Sing From Your Diaphragm

voice, music, diaphragm, fishtown, philly“Sing from your diaphragm!” This phrase is almost mythical in the world of voice lessons. Somehow this concept has passed on to students who haven’t taken a single voice lesson, yet even students who have taken years of voice lessons may not know what it means. It doesn’t help either that some teachers say you should sing from your diaphragm while others say you shouldn’t. Who is right? And if you should, how do you do it?

 

What it Means to “Sing From Your Diaphragm”

The short answer to the question of “who is right,” when it comes to whether or not you should sing from your diaphragm is – both teachers are right! Obviously that requires a longer answer though.

diaphragm, voice, singing, lessons

Here is your diaphragm. As you can see, it sits right below your lungs. Think of it as an upside-down bowl-shaped muscle. Because of where it sits, when your lungs expand (when you breathe in), the diaphragm flattens out to make room for the now larger lungs. When your lungs contract (when you breathe out), the diaphragm curves up again. You can see this motion here.

Students often get lost right around now because what isn’t agreed upon is whether the diaphragm is a voluntary or involuntary muscle. In other words, do we move it consciously like our arms and legs, or does it move on its own like our hearts? For singers, this is largely irrelevant. Why? Because the point of a “diaphragmatic breath” is not whether or not we can move our diaphragm. It’s whether we can take an ideal breath to create a steady release of sound for singing. Therefore, focusing on the diaphragm itself misses the point.

Instead, students of singing should focus on how to feel their breath lower in their body, as opposed to breathing high into the chest. This is why the phrase “sing from your diaphragm” may be helpful for some students and teachers; it creates the imagery of a low breath and a steady release for some people. For others, it creates too much focus on something other than the task at hand.

So in short, you should think about singing from your diaphragm if it’s helpful to you. Any one of the following exercises can also help you “sing from your diaphragm” without the terminology.

 

Exercises to Sing From Your Diaphragm

The Milkshake Breath – When we drink a big, delicious milkshake from a straw, that milkshake goes right to our bellies. We can think of breathing in the same way. Imagine your favorite flavor of milkshake. Then, pretend to hold it in front of you and drink it all in. In this scenario, the milkshake will be your breath, and your goal is to fill your breath all the way to your belly. You can even put your hand on your belly if that helps you place it. If you don’t drink milkshakes, you can imagine whatever drink you’d like – as long as you’d normally drink it through a straw!

The Balloon Breath – When a balloon expands, it expands all the way around, not just to one part of the balloon. It does, however, start at the bottom of the balloon. Our lungs, ultimately, are like this as well. We want to use all of our abdominal muscles to create a steady release of the breath while singing, so we want to inhale with that in mind. Take a breath while imagining your torso is a balloon, and your goal is to fill up the whole balloon, starting from the bottom up.

Dog on a Hot Day – Have you ever seen a dog on a hot day, its tongue sticking out and its whole body working to breathe? We can use this for singing, too, although our breaths should concentrate on our belly. Stick your tongue out for an added tongue stretch, then release short breaths from your abdomen like a dog would on a hot day. This is a great exercise to introduce the release of breath along with the inhalation of breath.

The Snake Sound – To start working on the release of breath along with the intake, breathe in on four counts. Then immediately release the breath on a steady “ss” sound for eight counts. The “ss” sound should be strong but not forced, smooth and not jagged. This will encourage your body to release air as a stream rather than all at once, which is vital for singing.

 

There are numerous other exercises you can use to learn how to sing from your diaphragm (if you choose to think of it that way). These are my favorites because they all come with an organic understanding of how breath works without trying to manipulate our breath in other ways. Feel free to find your own creative ways to take lower breaths, too! Just make sure that no matter which exercises you use, you don’t do too many at once. These exercises can over oxygenate you and make you dizzy if done too many times, especially without practice. Try two or three a day at first for maybe a minute, tops. A little effort will go a long way to getting you towards diaphragmatic breaths in no time.

Fall Recital 2016 Highlights

Students Showing Off Their Skills

Taking lessons and practicing is something that all musicians have to spend most of their time doing, but it all pays off at the performance. Just this December we returned to the Ethical Society of Philadelphia for our largest recital yet. We featured students on piano, violin, cello, saxophone, voice, and guitar for a fantastic afternoon of music making. Our recitals provide our students with the opportunity to show off their skills to friends and family alike. Not only is it a great time for everyone involved, but it’s a crucial experience for becoming a well-rounded musician.

The wide diversity of genres and styles reflects the amazing diversity and talent of all of our students. From Beethoven and Saint-Saëns to The Beatles and Coldplay, enjoy this musical cross-section of our Philly Music Lessons family. We’re so glad to have seen so many people at our recital this past fall, but in case you missed it, here’s a little something to give you an idea of how talented our students are!

 

Unique Gifts for the Musically Minded

Shop Philly for the Holidays!

Servicing Philadelphia and the Main Line

gift certificates

 Gift Certificates from Philly Music Lessons

The holidays are nearly here! Help someone pay for the lessons they’ve been dreaming about for months. We have affordable private lessons in-home or at our studio in Philly. Music gift certificates make unique presents for all ages, while allowing you to support Philly musicians, educators, and the arts. Nourish someone’s creative pursuits, or encourage a new passion this year!

Contact Us for Gift Certificates

Great Gifts Under $20:

$40 and up:

  • 2 + Lessons starting at $45 (first lesson is still half-price). Request to purchase any number or lessons to help someone out with their musical studies.
  • 1 Month of Lessons starting around $100 (includes 1 at trial rate). Exact price depends on lesson duration and location.
  • Season Package of Lessons (10 lessons) – 10% off 10 lessons. Rates vary depending on duration and location. Starting at $270.
  • Voucher for Music Instrument Rentals (3 month minimum) – Price varies depending on instrument and size. Rentals start at $69 for the 3 months. Guitars, violins, cellos, uprights, brass, and woodwinds.
  • Baby Music Lover Package for baby and toddler classes in Fishtown, ages 0 to 3 years – 5 classes for $50
  • Mega-Fan baby and tots music package – $100 for 12 classes.

Private instruction at Philly Music Lessons begins at age 4, and caters to all ages and skill levels. Where we teach.

How it works:

  • Fill out the form below or Email Us with any questions.
  • We’ll get back to you within 1 business day.
  • After confirming your order, an invoice will be emailed to you.
  • The gift certificate can be emailed to you as a printable pdf (preferred method), or a gift card can be mailed (there will be a $5.00 surcharge for physical prints).
  • The gift recipient can contact us at any time after the holidays to redeem their gift certificate.
  • We will work directly with the gift recipient to find a teacher who can cater to their individual interests and can work with their schedule.

Gift Certificate

Please fill out the form below to get started. We'll get in touch with you shortly after we receive your submission to finalize the gift certificate amount. If you'd rather speak on the phone you can call us at (215) 645-0405.
  • Piano, Drums, Guitar, Bass, Violin, Viola, Cello, Saxophone, Trumpet, Clarinet, Ukulele, Banjo, Voice, Flute, Trombone, and more.
  • We service all neighborhoods in Philadelphia, as well as the Main Line and other surrounding areas.
  • For in-home lessons, please provide the gift recipient's address. You can leave this part blank if you don't know. We'll obtain this information after the gift recipient contacts us to set up lessons.
  • If you're not sure, you can leave this part blank.
  • Choose anything that fits what you're looking for! We'll contact you after your submission to finalize the gift certificate amount. Prices vary depending on lesson duration and location. The first lesson is always half-price!
  • We'd love to hear more about the gift-recipient's interests, skill-level, or anything else you'd like to share. We use this information to help select the best teacher for them to work with!

Violin Teachers Perform!

Check out one of our new violin teachers, Alexandr Kislitsyn, perform “Meditation”, by Jules Massenet. Impressive tone! Melts me with beauty.

Alexandr attended the Novosibirsk State Conservatory where he received his B.A. in violin performance. He then went on to get his masters in violin performance from Temple University. With international performance experience at a high level, Alexandr is a great teacher for advanced violin students pursuing a classical path.

 

 

“Long Drum ROOOLLLLLLL!”

DrumclassfinaleOur Spring drum class (Rhythm and Beats), our Ukulele Class, and our Music Exploration Class have sadly ended for the season. But its not quite over yet! Students of our drum class, along with those taking private music lessons, will perform for our Spring 2016 Recital, starting at 1:30 PM, this Saturday, May 14th. Come on out and see what we’ve been doing over here at Philly Music Lessons! Visit us at the Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square for an afternoon of violin, voila, voice, piano, guitar, and more. This recital is open to the public and costs $5 per person above the age of 12 (students attend FREE).

Developing a Practice Routine

“Doing is the essential of learning. The doer is the learner.” -Ray Josephs

It can be difficult in this busy world to find the time to practice your instrument. But, the fact of the matter is, practicing regularly is what develops your ability to express yourself easily on your instrument. There are 3 main questions to address surrounding practice routines:

  1. What should I practice?
  2. How often should I practice?
  3. What is the difference between “practicing” and just playing whatever I like for 90 minutes a day?

1. What to practice

Curiosity, Not Cramming
Students should practice areas of playing that need improvement as well as unexplored ideas. They should be strengthening skills and learning new ones. Try new ideas that are just out of reach, yet avoid practicing ideas that are too difficult (or the result may be disappointing). Your teacher can help you determine difficulty level if you aren’t sure.

Practice should be engaging and fun. It should not feel like a chore or a cram session for a final exam. After you and your teacher discuss goals, your teacher can prescribe appropriate exercises. Once you reach a certain level of comfort playing these exercises, your curiosity may kick in. You may wonder what other possibilities exist – Now is the time to feed that curiosity with some fun challenges. A curious mind is an open mind, and an open mind is always learning.

Theme and Variation
An exciting way to get more mileage from an exercise is through “theme and variation”. Theme and variation works by disguising a main idea in new and clever ways. For example, say the theme is C harmonic Minor. Students can try changing the way they practice this scale by varying the rhythm. Play the scale as 8th notes, triplets, 16th notes, 32nd notes, etc. Try shuffling or swinging the rhythm for a different feel. Try changing the time signature or adding interesting rests or moments of silence. Perhaps instead of playing the scale in a step-wise motion, vary the pattern of intervals in 3rds, 4ths etc. Let’s say you are learning a 6 stroke roll on drums – write the idea out in a dozen variations. This way, you can achieve the fundamental goal of repetition while exploring how each example has a unique sound and feel. Theme and variation is exciting and can make practicing something students look forward to. It is a great way to ensure natural progress, since variation is still related to a single theme or idea. Be sure to ask your teacher about incorporating “theme and variation” at your next lesson.

2. How often should I practice?

Students (adults and teens) should reserve at least an hour each day for music (5-15 minutes for very young kids)This is the minimum if you would like to see noticeable improvement. If you don’t have that time, a little bit every day is still better than one or two big chunks once or twice a week. If you’re dedicated, and have 2-4 hours, even better!

3. How to Practice and Progress: Play, Focus, & Self Discovery

To begin practicing, students should start by playing freely – but don’t get carried away! I recommend playing freely for the first 5-10 minutes. Try to manage your allotted time by dividing your practice routine into different segments or areas of study. For example:

  1. Free Play
  2. Technique
  3. Scales
  4. A New Song
  5. Etc.

The Value of Self-Teaching Through Free Play
I have studied  music from grade school through college, but also consider myself to be self taught in many ways. I recall playing freely when I was younger and noticing an interesting rhythm. No one had taught this rhythm to me – I had stumbled upon it. I knew immediately that I liked how it sounded, yet I also knew there was room for improvement. As there was still a disconnect between what I imagined in my mind head and what I heard from my drums, I played it over and over again. I played it slow to make sure my muscle memory was learning the correct motions. I played it fast to make sure I had control of speed and direction. Practicing an idea found through one’s own explorations, and then improving upon it through repetition, is another useful practice technique.

Another way to play/practice with self-guidance is to listen to your favorite songs. Try to figure out your part. This is a great way to develop your ear and also the layout of your instrument. Be sure to share with your teacher what you have figured out. Perhaps you missed a couple notes or the chord voicing was wrong. They will be glad to help you.

Finding a Balance Between Fun and Progress During Practice
Students need influence and guidance from others, but also need to develop their own truths, opinions, and curiosities about music. The key difference between playing whatever you want for 90 minutes and playing during a practice session is the focus on progress. Practice requires you to be aware of your shortcomings and to take a moment to figure out solutions. These moments can be discussed with your teacher. They want to know what you’ve been working on. Explain to them what you’ve been doing on your instrument – whether it’s an assignment or your own pursuit, your teacher wants to help you improve your skills.

Music is scientific in many ways, but it is still an art. No matter what it is you are trying to convey, it is all made possible when you are comfortable on your instrument.  There are two solid paths to developing an understanding of your instrument (I find that it is a healthy balance of these two paths that will help you become well rounded). Remember to practice exercises assigned by your teacher on a regular basis (focused progress), and also save time to just play, experiment and enjoy yourself (curiosity and exploration).

Beginner Guitar Books, A Look Inside

We wanted to show prospective students what their first year of lessons might look like. Our guitar teachers have individual approaches, and books are only portion of what goes on. However, because books are a foundational tool where progress can be easily observed, we thought they provided a good way to show a range of beginner skills. We took a look at one of the most common beginner guitar books students might encounter (Mel Bay’s Modern Guitar Method 1) and made video samples at various stages. This Mel Bay book, which can be used for both teens and adults, teaches modern guitar method – a good basis for rock, blues, and jazz (classical method involves its own separate techniques).

This video features the last song in the book, “Southern Fried”(page 47). With a steady amount of practice, students might expect to complete this first book in about 6 months – so this is what you’ll be playing!

As the final piece of music, “Southern Fried” follows many songs, exercises, diagrams, and practice rituals for guitar, all of which slowly build skills to the level exhibited. The content of this beginner book includes an introduction to proper form, musical notation explanations (strokes of the pick, time signatures, the staff, and the notes themselves, etc.), basic tuning methods, beginner duets, chords in various keys, and chromatics. Stay tuned for more samples!

Spring Class! Drums Ages 4-6

Julius_Rivera_DrumsKids with an interest in drums can get a taste of what its like to take drum lessons in group classes starting April 2nd (Saturdays at 4 PM, 6 weeks). With Julius Rivera as our instructor, children ages 4-6 will explore basic drum concepts through group exercises, revolving around tub and tube drumming. Tonal tubes and tubs are a great way to convey rhythm to beginners through feel and play (think Blue Man Group). In addition to tubs and tubes, the real drum kit will be used as a basis for teaching drum terms and techniques applicable to beginner drum lessons. Julius’s style includes high-energy games that reinforce rhythm, tempo, and time. This a hands-on, collaborative approach to experimenting with drums that will tap into creativity, physicality, and imagination.

Check out this and other class offerings for Spring 2016

A Word on Drums for Kids

Drums for KidsWhy should you encourage your child to drum?

One of the stars of the Muppets is a character named Animal. Animal is a drummer, who many would argue, embodies the general perception of a drummer in the U.S. He is wild, impulsive, and intense. This perception is not always based on how the world’s best drummers actually are, but more on the energy that they bring to musical groups and events. I hope to present a picture of some of the skills needed in order to become a great drummer / musician / person and how learning these skills can create rich learning experiences for children.

Drumming is not really wild – it just feels that way…

The world’s best drummers do not hit the drums randomly or haphazardly – they are very calculated and deliberate. In order to play their instruments well and to find new ways to be expressive during performances, they have to practice and train. Great drummers don’t tend to be like sprinters in a race, they tend to be more like marathon runners who take their training and preparation seriously. Like runners, drummers have to learn how to relax while moving, to learn how to breathe well while remaining active, how to use healthy postures, and how to get lost in their activity so that they are not “thinking” about it – but instead doing it with an automaticity that enables them to reflect on other things while they are being active. Drumming like many other physical activities can be very intensive at times – however, great drummers learn to be aware of their bodies and avoid becoming injured in spite of an increase in the intensiveness.

Drumming is natural…

There are many individuals who see a person playing a drum set and immediately think to themselves, “I would never be able to do that! It requires too much coordination – and I can barely clap on rhythm!”  I would argue that when discussing who can drum, we enter a Nature vs. Nurture discussion. I firmly believe that more people in the U.S. do not feel comfortable drumming or using rhythm because of our cultural experiences related to rhythm. Throughout the world, there are toddlers and small children playing syncopated rhythms with ease. Is it because their genes predispose them to rhythmic intelligence or is it because they were exposed to seeing adults exhibiting behaviors and began to learn how to do what the adults around them were doing? What were some of the things that your child was exposed to and how has this exposure affected what they can do – the skills that they have?

Clearly, any art form requires an investment of time and benefits from guidance from experienced professionals; however, most children are naturally drawn to hitting a cylinder with their hands or with sticks. I would argue that it is as natural for people to drum as it is for us to run, but that our cultural experiences affect our exposure and comfort with drumming. It seems to move away from being an activity that you can engage at your own level into a skill that you either can or cannot do. It is similar to a person who enjoys drawing (and has a natural impulse for it) being discouraged from drawing because they don’t draw well enough to meet another’s standards or a person being discouraged from dancing because they cannot execute the dance move as expected – we often prioritize a person’s ability to perform over their desire to do something that they enjoy and that makes their lives richer (and could become something that they would be better at with time and work).

Great drummers listen well and express themselves appropriately…

Drums are very powerful instruments – an average person can create deafening sounds without the need for electricity.  So, drums should be treated like other powerful things – tools, money, the stove, etc. You can hurt and offend people with loud erratic drumming. Most professional drummers tend to have a low tolerance for loud erratic drumming. They understand that it is possible to create something beautiful and enjoyable with a little bit of effort. The experience could be compared to watching a child color outside of the lines in a coloring book.  Most adults will (at some point) draw attention to the lines of the picture and encourage children to use the lines to guide their coloring rather than disregarding them. Great drummers learn to be considerate to listeners by adjusting the volume of their drumming to a level that is appropriate to the occasion. A person who knows how to control their volume, but chooses not to, is being immature and inconsiderate of the listeners and musicians that they may be performing with. Showing off at the expense of the success of the group is seen in most social situations. Learning to be considerate to listeners and other musicians is a skill that demonstrates and fosters maturity in individuals of all ages.

When a drummer becomes aware of ways to channel these powerful instruments, then they can begin to dance musically.  They can learn basic steps / movements and then they can add expressive touches and / or improvise something that is complimentary to the song. The great drummer dances with the other musicians – this sometimes leads the musicians to perform things that go beyond what was rehearsed. As a drummer, I have often been inspired to do something that was not rehearsed during a performance and responded to other musicians who began to do something that went beyond what was rehearsed.

Is drumming on buckets the same as playing Guitar Hero?

Although it may seem as though drumming on a bucket is similar to playing a musical video game, the skills introduced and reinforced are dramatically different. A video game introduces and reinforces the skill of pushing the appropriate buttons when prompted by the game. When a person is actually playing an instrument, they learn to repeat particular movements in a specific order in order to produce the musical sound. The sound produced is consistent when the movement / behavior is exhibited (muscle memory). For example, if you play a C note on an acoustic piano, it will create a sound – that sound will not change. However, it is possible to produce different types of sounds using devices that can be connected to instruments. Guitarists often use foot-switch pedals in order to change sounds. There are skills required to use them effectively – a video game does not introduce or reinforce these skills.

Drumming on buckets is not equivalent to playing instruments, but it does offer transferrable skills. One skill that is introduced and reinforced with bucket drumming is awareness of hitting versus not hitting. In visual art, artists learn to become aware of negative space. In drumming, not hitting the drum can be seen as a musical negative space. You don’t hit the drum in order to create the quiet portions of a rhythm – instead, you resist hitting. This silence / break in the rhythm is as important as the hits. In fact, intentional breaks are what separate an intentional rhythm from haphazard noise. This awareness is necessary for playing any instrument – to play or not to play… SELF CONTROL

Another skill that can be learned from bucket drumming is the skill of experiencing a repeated pattern becoming the foundation for song. Many popular songs have 4 or more chords that are repeated.  The melody of the song is performed on top of this repeated pattern. After a child / person learns to perform a rhythm, it is important for them to learn how to relax into the rhythm so that they can continue to repeat the pattern while other performers do something different that is complimenting the rhythm. RELAXING

Finally, bucket drumming offers opportunities for creativity. Once a child has learned how to relax into a rhythm/ song, then they can begin to explore being creative. They can try to develop their own “new” rhythms and they can begin exploring ways of complimenting rhythms with other patterns or with improvisational breaks. CREATIVITY

In summary, Drumming teaches countless invaluable skills. A child who learns how to drum, doesn’t make noise, they make art!