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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.

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.

 

Baby and Tots Music Winter Schedule Updates!

Music_LessonBefore the Christmas holiday and New Years, we have a few more December music classes to usher in the winter. Visit us this week and the following for some warm, cozy music classes in Fishtown and South Philly! The last classes of the season will be Dec. 23rd (no classes between Christmas and New Years – see calendar for full schedule).

December Music Schedule
(Baby and Tots Classes Ages 0-3)

This week:

  • Dec. 13th @ 9 AM (South Philly – 1548. S. 13th Street at our Passyunk Studio)
  • Dec 15th @ 4 PM (Fishtown – 2111 East Susquehanna Avenue)
  • Dec 16th @ 9 AM (Fishtown again)

Next Week:

  • Dec 20th @ 9 AM (South Philly)
  • Dec 22nd @ 4 PM (Fishtown)
  • Dec 23rd @ 9 AM (Fishtown)

If you plan to come try out a class for FREE, please get in touch! And if you’re in the Fishtown neighborhood on Fridays at 3 PM or Saturdays at 10 AM, be sure to come see our space and visit our musical instruments, toys, and activities during our FREE story-time, free-play jam session! Free thru December (Sign Ups starting in Jan. 2018)

Please note that our Philly Music Babies schedule will be slightly different starting in January 2018:

South Philly Music Classes – Wednesdays @ 9 AM
Fishtown Weekday Afternoon Classes – Fridays @ 4 PM
Fishtown Weekend Music Classes – Saturdays at 10 AM

Sign Up for January! 

  • $10/class Monthly Sign Up
  • Weekly classes, with 4-5 weeks typically scheduled per month see schedule
  • *1 Makeup per month can be used during any schedule classes throughout the year, or can be credited toward upcoming months.

We do sign ups to make sure classes remain small and intimate. We have found that regular classes encourage more meaningful participation and more engaged learning! And who doesn’t want to get together with their little friends weekly?

Happy Singing!

-Coco

 

Stretches to Develop Good Posture for Singing

voiceworkSinging well requires good breathing, but it means nothing if you don’t hold your instrument well. How do you hold your instrument as a singer? Through good posture of course! Good posture for singing may not mean what you think though.

A qualified voice teacher should address posture early on in voice lessons. You can get a head start on your voice lessons by using these stretches to develop good posture for singing right now. Not all voice teachers will address posture through stretches. However, these stretches will get you to the end result that your teacher will look for.

What is Good Posture for Singing?

Good posture for anything means you will hold your body in a position that allows you to do the activity at hand. A running posture allows you to move your legs freely. An instrumental posture allows you to play well. Therefore, posture for singing seeks to keep your lungs and throat open and relaxed so breath can flow freely to create an easy sound.

That means you’ll want to stand tall. Your feet should feel grounded and your knees relaxed. Your torso will feel open and expanded, and everything above your torso (such as your shoulders, neck, jaw, and tongue) will relax to the point of flexibility.

These goals are hard to achieve when actively thinking about each body part. Trying to follow these directives will most likely encourage tension and overthinking. Stretches, on the other hand, develop this posture organically without too much thought towards the end result.

Stretches to Develop Good Posture for Singing

Use these stretches as they are helpful to you. They work best in the morning, or right before a practice session or lesson. Do each exercise slowly and methodically to feel the full benefit, and to not throw your body out of alignment.

Reach for the sky – Start standing tall, then reach your arms over your head, aiming for a long stretch of the torso. If possible, stand on your toes to stretch your legs as well. Your whole body should feel especially long. Slowly lower your feet, then lower your arms to your side.

Rag doll – Rag dolls work similarly to a standing forward bend in yoga. First, lower your head so your chin touches your chest. Then let your shoulders sag forward. Now let your spine roll down one vertebrae at a time, as if your spine were a bendy straw. Keep going until every part of your body above your hips succumbs to gravity and brings you to a complete forward fold. You may bend your knees slightly as you do this. Stay here for a few moments, shaking out your shoulders and aiming for more stretch in your lower back. Then, slowly roll back up in the opposite order you came down in (in other words, your shoulders and head should be the last to come back up). Remember, the goal of this exercise is not to touch your toes or the floor, but instead to maximize the stretch and relaxation in the upper half of your body.

Knee bends – Place your feet hip width apart. Feel your entire foot on the ground. Then gently bend your knees so you feel bouncy in your legs. These are not squats. They are intended to loosen your knees so you do not lock them. You can also bend one knee at a time, which will add a shake to the hips.

Shoulder shrug – Many new singers believe they need to keep their shoulders back. If you tend to slouch, this may be helpful for you. It’s more important, however, for shoulders to be relaxed and even with your ears. To measure this, lift your shoulders to your ears in an exaggerated shrug. Then release. Repeat this a couple of times.

Head rolls – Drop your chin to your chest. Now gently roll your head to one side, then back, then to the other side, and back down again. Your head will roll in a full circle, stretching your neck. Repeat in the other direction. Do not try to stretch as far as you can go! This exercise is meant to build gentle flexibility.

Different teachers will have different methods to develop good posture for singing. The end result will more or less remain the same though. It’s important to have a teacher help you develop good posture for singing as well, as it will be difficult to know what you need help with on your own. While posture does not account for everything in singing, it can help you work out some technical issues right away. Give these stretches a try to see if your singing improves from them.

What is Open Music? | Kids Music Classes


Open Music
Philly Music Babies opened its shaker-clad circle to the Fishtown neighborhood a little over three years ago. With a lineup of songs, scarves, pinwheels, guitar, rhythm sticks, wrist bells, drums, and a whole bunch of assorted instruments, we welcomed neighborhood families to come sing with us on a weekly basis. The idea behind the classes was to provide quality music exposure.

Why exposure? There are many studies that point to the language and cognitive benefits that infants and young children receive from early musical education. Not only that, with regards to a child’s capacity to learn music, exposure itself (especially music in the home), leads to a greater music aptitude throughout the rest of a child’s life. Though music may not be important for everyone, there is certainly something to be said for the positive ways in which music shapes a developing child’s mind. And with all of the life-skills that learning and playing an instrument can give us (not to mention the artistic and emotional satisfaction), we are even more motivated to share music with our community of little ones in Fishtown and South Philly.

Philly Music Babies focuses on repetition through traditional songs and incorporates the Kodaly Method. Teacher-lead music and games, backed by guitar, form the core of our class. We introduce solfege (Do, Re, Mi …) to develop a music language of pitch and syllables. By these means, we work toward nurturing a sense of rhythm, melody, and harmony. But really, what we are aiming at is just creating music that simply sounds and feels good! It is our experience that music is enough of a reason to come out and sing. Whether your baby is venturing out around other kids for the first time, or your youngest just needs some mommy-and-me time, the process of making music together is invigorating for everyone (and tuckers them out just in time for naps)!

So then, what is Open Music? Open Music was inspired by the first set of graduates from our Philly Music Babies series. Now 3 and 4 (and almost 5!) and looking for some continuation of weekly music, parents often ask, what’s next? Do you have any more? When can I start private lessons (more on that here)?

In my own experience, few kids are ready for lessons at 4. While certain kids might do well in the one-on-one lesson, most are still itching for exploration and free-play. Open music is designed with creative group work portions as well as crucial segments of child-led, free-play. Children are given the space and time to feel out musical concepts at their own paces, and are introduced to new ideas through group play. Combining a multitude of senses, learning props, tinker-projects, art, imaginative story time, and real instrument jam sessions, children experience music through play.

Fall Recital 2017

Recitals on RittenhouseIt’s that time again! No, not the holidays; the Philly Music Lessons Fall Recital! This year’s Fall Recital will be held on December 2nd at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia. All Philly Music Lessons students are encouraged to sign up for a slot at either of the first two concert times. The third time will be used if necessary for overflow.

If you’ve never performed in public before, don’t worry! You can talk to your teacher about what you might want to perform and they can help get you signed up and ready to go.

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

  • Set 1 at 12:00pm
  • Set 2 at 1:30pm
  • Set 3 at 3:00pm – (possible time based on participation)

If you’ve been waiting all this time to finally show the world that you’re the next big thing, now’s your chance! Show everyone what you’ve got by bringing your favorite songs and pieces to the Fall 2017 Philly Music Lessons Recital!  Not only do you get to perform yourself, but you also get the chance to see what everyone else at Philly Music Lessons is up to.

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