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!
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.
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
Fridays @ 4PM:
March 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 30th
*Please note: NO CLASS on the 23rd!
2111 East Susquehanna Ave
March in South Philly | $40
Wednesdays @ 9AM:
March 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th
1548 S. 13th Street
- $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
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.
Put On Your Ugly Christmas Sweater and Break out a Holiday Tune!
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.
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!
Technique is a topic that comes up a lot in lessons, and rightfully so. Having proper technique will allow you to move around your instrument with ease. But most importantly, technique is the bridge that connects your ideas to reality. Bad technique will slow, or block the flow of ideas, whereas good technique will let them flow freely.
Yet with all of the known benefits of proper technique out there, I still find that a great deal of musicians overlook technique, or even worse, completely disregard it. Either they see it as unnecessary, an old manipulation device for creative control, or just too difficult to master. None of these are true. In fact proper technique can be quite easy to incorporate with patience and dedicated, routine practice.
Technique is learned in an almost mechanical way, based on muscle memory. If an individual has been playing for a long time with bad technique, it can be annoying to break bad habits. Although it can be frustrating, you’ll be happy with the changes you’ve made.
It’ll take a small amount of focus. Practicing proper technique only needs to be done for 15-30 mins a day on a regular basis – All you need to do is put in the time each day and move on. Don’t worry about incorporating the new technique into band practice or performances just yet. Let the technique work for itself rather than forcing the use of technique. Within a few months time, you will see radical improvement, and if you allow your practice to take effect over time, the metamorphosis will happen naturally.
Good technique will do a number of things to improve your playing and songwriting. It’s going to improve the richness of your sound by allowing you to play the instrument the way it was designed to be played. For example, claves are a percussion instrument. There are two wooden cylinders about an 1″ in circumference and 6″ in length. They are played by palming one clave and striking it with the other clave. If either of the claves are held too tight or struck with too much force (or not enough force), the true sound of the instrument will not be obtained. You will lose out on the intended tone and sustain of the instrument. Improper technique of a clave would result in the same sound and feel of banging a wooden table with a bat. But, if that is your desired sound and feel, by all means, go ahead and hit record!
Technique can improve your songwriting by allowing you to play intervals, chords or rhythms that were previously impossible to play. Proper technique will also eliminate the possibility of injuries sustained from playing an instrument incorrectly. Other benefits include strengthening your ability to perform under pressure.
Having good technique requires you to be relaxed and at ease. When you step on stage you will be comfortable and confident so that you can do your best. You will also have a greater stage presence. The audience sees everything and they are very tuned into your body language. You don’t want to appear stressed, but comfortable and in control of the situation.
Music is a craft, an art, and also a science. Hundreds of years of documented research has gone into the field of technique for musical instruments. When craftsmen design and build instruments, they use a specific framework of scientific calculations. On the other side of the blueprint, there are specific instructions for how to use the instrument to obtain its desired effect.
Again if you want to play the piano with your feet, don’t let anyone kill your dreams – be an innovator. But don’t ask your teacher why you can’t play harmonic minor scales at 100 bpm or play first inversion major 7th chords. You don’t want to play guitar, and after several years say, “Hey, I’m really thrilled about how much worse my playing and songwriting has gotten over time!” No. We all want to get better at the things we do. The same way a runner wants to go farther and longer, even if it is to break his/her own record.
So make sure to speak with your teacher about learning proper technique. Listen and trust his/her wisdom and experience. You’ll be glad you did.
Hey there, Neema! Welcoming you to our wonderful collection of guitar teachers at Philly Music Lessons.
With interests in blues, jazz, and rock, Neema teaches guitar lessons at Philly Music Lessons. He is also a great teacher for piano, bass, and drums, having a solid, well-rounded musical background. Currently, Neema is pursuing a degree in guitar performance from The University of the Arts. You can check out Neema playing a piece on electric guitar, following the short bio and interview below:
I teach Guitar, Piano, Bass and Drums. My first musical experience was singing, then playing hand drums while I was young. I have formal training in guitar from University of Houston and Berklee College of Music after high school. I am currently studying guitar performance at The University of the Arts. I have very many goals for my life and one of them is to continue teaching music. I have been teaching for 4 years now, and I consider myself to be a professional educator. My strength as a teacher is to quickly identify how the student needs to learn to best show him or her the steps to success. I also have experience with group lessons in guitar and piano. I love to teach songs, riffs, scales, proper technique, proper theory, and how to get the most out of your practice. It is very important to play music everyday and to have discipline in your practice. Recording yourself, listening back, and planning what to do for the next day are all good practice habits. I practice jazz and classical guitar at least 3 hours a day.
Meet Jenn Amell. Jenn teaches guitar and piano to beginner and intermediate students. Her guitar focus is on pop, rock, and punk. On piano, Jenn specializes in teaching classical, but also loves working with pop music and show tunes. An excellent teacher for kids, she can bring a beginner through basic piano technique, introducing them to classical fundamentals. Kids who have an interest in playing pop, rock, or punk can explore chord progressions, strumming patterns, finger plucking, and more. Jenn also teaches adults who are at the beginner to intermediate level, offering instruction for playing pop music, as well as classical.
Read more about Jenn in her bio and the interview below:
I am a piano/guitar teacher. For the last fourteen years, I have been playing piano, as well as guitar for the past nine. Music is a chord struck deep in the heart, and it is a special passion of mine to pass on the skills necessary to experience such a visceral medium. Playing an instrument is one of the greatest meditative practices. On top of that, it stirs the brain and body into healthy action, allowing for better coordination and muscle memory.
Some of my best experiences have come from playing music, whether in a room full of friends singing and banging on drums, or alone strumming on the guitar. I have been fortunate enough to work with some great musicians in the Main Line and Philly areas including Nicholas Brower of Good Shirt Productions and fellow Philly Music Lessons teacher, Jennifer Pague, of Vita and the Woolf. Additionally, I also have an affinity for punk music and have put together a small lo-fi EP (Distant Milk) of ambient punk for my project, ‘Future Seer’.
Via all these good musical experiences, I have developed a teaching strategy that focuses on equal parts theory and improvisation. I mostly teach piano in a classical style, but would love to work with those who want to play pop or show tunes. As for guitar, my experience lies in rock, pop, and punk music, with a strong emphasis on strumming patterns and chord progressions. I accept students of any age from beginner to intermediate levels.
When did you begin playing piano/guitar, and why?:
I began playing piano at age eleven under the tutelage of Janet Ables. My mother inherited an upright player piano from her father and I can remember sitting at its keys and plunking out Chopsticks or The Spinning Song. When I showed an affinity for the piano, my mother decided to get me lessons, which continued throughout middle school and high school. As for guitar, I was first introduced at age fifteen by my church’s youth group, the leader of which taught me some chords and let me play on the worship team. I think I gravitated toward piano and guitar because of the therapy it offered. Playing either instrument calmed me then and continues to do the same now.
What are your personal goals as a musician?:
Music has always been a kinetic, visceral experience for me. It makes me happy, and because of that, it is a compulsion— in the best way. So, I’d say my personal goals involve playing for my own enjoyment and passing on any knowledge I’ve gained to others who want to experience that same happiness and compulsion.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?:
I can definitely remember times when the piano or guitar mystified me. How did they work? How could others make them sound so beautiful? I’m sure the same feeling came from learning a song on the piano, but I specifically remember learning my first chord (G) on the guitar. I had a feeling like, “Oh, so that’s how it’s done!”. Although the mechanics of playing either instrument become more knowable, music itself still holds a very exciting mystery.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
My mom and I often talk about the symbiosis between all the artistic mediums. I love literature (having studied it in university) and have found many striking similarities between music and writing. One particular passage really inspired to me from Anne-Marie Macdonald’s novel, Fall On Your Knees. In the scene, she is describing an opera singer:
“It’s nothing to do with the words, which are in a foreign language, or the story, which most people don’t know. It’s because a real and beautiful voice delicately rends the chest, discovers the heart, and holds it beating against a stainless edge until you long to be pierced utterly. For the voice is everything you do not remember. Everything you should not be able to live without, and yet, tragically, do.”
I also love Brian Eno, he’s full of good advice.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
Oh, I have them all the time! Music is supposed to be challenging, otherwise it wouldn’t be worthwhile.
What is your biggest musical achievement?:
I guess completing my EP for Future Seer was my biggest musical achievement. It was super fun and I hope to do another one soon. I am also so happy to be in any way involved with Vita and the Woolf. They’re a great local Philly band reaching for high heights.
Favorite thing about teaching?:
I love teaching children, especially when they put two musical concepts together and finally understand them. Their smiles are genuine and you know that something unlocked in their brains.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
My best advice is twofold:
1. Be patient.
2. Practice as much as you can.
Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
Distant Milk, Future Seer (2015) – solo project including piano, synth, guitar, vocals and audio production.
Father’s Day Packages and Discounts
FREE Trial lessons for Dad through the end of June!
Gift Certificates Available:
1-12 lessons (includes free trial for Dads)
10% off season packages (12 lessons)
Dad plus Family:
Group lessons family prices:
10% off the normal group lesson price
(Father and child, Father and spouse, or the whole family)
We have a lot of options for families at Philly Music Lessons. Learning together is a unique and memorable way to explore music. With discounts for multiples, our private lessons can be made joint. Two or more students can take lessons together, and for the upcoming occasion, it may just be a Father and child duo. Families taking joint lessons get an extra bonus on top of our discounted group rates, with an additional 10% off.
A local Philly parent’s blog visited our space for a unique Father-sons jam session for Father’s Day. Guided by our teacher, Phil, the family met to rock out and test some of the studio instruments in honor of Dad and his passion for music (Weezer in particular). The jam included an electric bass, ukulele, full-upright piano, drum kit, guitar, 1/2 sized violins, a harmonica, and various other musical knick-knacks. A bit like our Big Kid’s music class, the jam session was highly focused on the exploration and strongly encouraged experimentation and collaboration. Phil provided some concrete musicality, and everyone chimed in and took turns in the spotlight. Check out the video above (made by HipsterHenry). You can also read about HipsterHenry’s experience at our space at Hipsterhenry.com. The blog provides a lot of really good, parent-tested things to do with kids around Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and Philadelphia at large. We’re grateful to have received a visit!
In addition to this unique jam session, parents and children pair up frequently to learn a new instrument together in joint-lessons. Its also pretty common for siblings, and/or parents to take lessons at the same time (with two different teachers for convenience or one after another). In a nutshell, Philly Music Lessons can sometimes turn into a family affair (we love the brothers who played a duet on guitar and cello, and our Father-daughter trio from our Spring Recital!).
Of course there is always the simple gift for Dad – get him a set of new strings and some private lessons where he can quietly pursue his long held off dreams. He’s put aside his musical passions long enough, and its time to give him the chance to be a rock star… or a classical guru… or get on top of his dixieland, jazz clarinet chops. Contact us for joint-lesson rates, Father’s Day specials, or to set up a trial lesson. For more on what instruments we offer, check out our lessons and classes.
Spring Coffee House Recital May 30th
With Student Performances in Cello, Violin, Piano, and Guitar
At Philly Music Lessons, Fishtown
This weekend, we will be holding a salon-style recital at our space in Fishtown. Families and friends will gather starting at 3PM to support students of all ages and skill levels (some performing for the first time!). Guests can enjoy wine, cheese, and music during 3 sections of performances. This recital has given students of guitar, violin, cello, and piano the chance to dedicate themselves to a single piece of music, polishing it to performance quality. We applaud them for their work ahead of time and also look forward to hearing it all on Saturday.
Recitals are important milestones, and so we always try to document these events. Each performance is filmed for students and families to enjoy, share, and reflect upon afterwards. By now some of our students have a few recitals under their belts and will surely enjoy looking back!
Stay tuned for this Spring’s 2015 Coffee House Recital Highlights and for updates on the 2015 Fall Recital, which will take place at the Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square in Center City, Philadelphia. Cheers, and good luck to our students!