My introduction to jazz coordination was sort of a trial by fire thing. I was a young student at the Armed Forces School of Music, fresh out of Basic Training, and as green as my uniform concerning anything related to jazz drumming. At my first lesson, the teacher explained how to properly execute a jazz swing beat and the dynamics of each component of that. Not too difficult. Probably the toughest part of that was getting control of my heavy right foot, which up to that point was accustomed to slamming the bass drum on every stroke of whatever Rush song I had learned that week. In jazz, the bass drum is to be played lightly while the main focus is on the ride cymbal and hi-hat. This is to avoid over-powering the string bass player. Here is the pattern he showed me:
Keep in mind the eighth notes should swing, so it really sounds like this:
Once this was established, he then instructed me to open up the book Progressive Steps to Syncopation by Ted Reed to page 37 (I believe it’s actually page 38 in the more recent editions) and read down the page with my left hand. I think I respectfully laughed. The first four measures of that page looked like this:
He advised me to simply get pattern 1a together, let it go on “auto-pilot,” and keep my focus on reading the snare drum line with my left hand. Oh yeah… and don’t change the ride pattern. After the lesson I immediately hit a practice room and realized very quickly my teacher’s advice wasn’t going to work for me. I needed to devise some sort of game plan to get this assignment together before my next lesson, which was only one week away. Yikes!
Since I knew I was dealing only with quarter notes and eighth notes (down beats and up beats), I needed to figure out how the rhythm I was playing in my left hand would relate to the ride cymbal pattern. My method began with only playing downbeats or upbeats with the left hand while playing the jazz ride pattern in the right hand. I also left the feet out of the equation until I had the hands worked out. In examples 3 and 4 you can see where the hands coincide and where they don’t.
The next step is to play short two-note combinations of downbeats and upbeats on the snare drum. Repeat each measure until you have a firm handle on it before moving on to the next.
Then, try three and four note combinations.
Once you have accomplished this, the next step is to add the bass drum and hi-hat into the mix. After that you should have the necessary facility to successfully work though the exercise on page 38 in the Syncopation book. Here is what the first four measures look like written out.
One thing you will probably notice after working though the first three or four lines is that rhythmic figures will start to reoccur since there are only so many of them. At that point, it just becomes a matter of making the transition from one figure to the next. This will likely feel very robotic and unmusical at first. But in time it will get easier and eventually start to sound like music. Another thing to keep in mind is that this process, while it may seem very time consuming at first, will actually help you get this type of coordination together faster than if you were to attempt to read down the page using the auto-pilot method. Just take it slow and be patient. And above all, have fun.
Many people are intrigued by the art of song and the beauty of the singing voice. For some, singing can come naturally, but for others it may be their life’s work to create the best singing voice possible. Either way, there are many mechanics and techniques that go into a well balanced singing voice.
When we learn that our natural speaking voice is in fact the same “voice” we use to match pitch for singing the mystery and challenge of singing can be simplified. The simple idea that we can transfer the speaking voice that we use to communicate every day to song will help a singer manage the obstacles of matching pitch, creating rich tone, and avoiding an overly breathy sound.
Let’s break the singing voice down into three main areas. Chest Voice, Head Voice, and Mixed Voice. Although we access these three “voices” differently, and they have different qualities to them, our goal is to create a consistent sound throughout all of our vocal “registers” thus leaving us with “one voice” instead of three completely different sounding voices. This is a big goal for most vocalists, as navigating between these areas can produce very different tones, volumes, and characteristics if not trained with proper control. Here are our three “voices” and some details on the resonators within our body that produce these sounds.
Most commonly recognized by the area where we use our natural speaking voice, the Chest Voice is accessed through the chest, acting as it’s external resonator, and in the mouth as it’s internal resonator. If you place one hand on your upper chest and say “HEY” you should feel a vibration in the chest. Chest Voice is where we produce our strongest sound which is usually the most easily accessed with lower pitches (think back to the speaking voice) and into a mid to higher register where we can produce big, belty sounds.
Head Voice is the opposite of Chest Voice because it is a much lighter sound and feeling. Think about taking all the weight away from a big chest voice and hitting pitches in your upper register, these are notes that feel higher and are not as easily achieved in a lower speaking voice area. Head Voice resonates externally in the back of the head and internally in the nasal cavity. To feel the Head Voice place one hand on the upper back of your head and say “WEEE” in a high pitch. You may feel that resonator vibrate slightly. Now say “What’s Up Doc” in the style of Bugs Bunny. Hear that very nasally sound you just created? You are using your Pharyngeal Resonator, or nasal tone, which is accessed externally off of the nose and internally at the back of the Pharynx. Your Pharynx is located internally towards the back of the head within the vocal tract.
Mixed Voice is where we combine the resonators of the Chest Voice and Head Voice, while including the Pharyngeal Resonator to add in nasal qualities. Without this nasal component we won’t be accessing the “Mix” of these two other resonators to their fullest extent. All three of these resonators are present in a well balanced Mixed Voice. We use Mixed Voice to achieve rich, full sounds that span between our Chest and Head Voices allowing us to achieve the most consistent sound spanning our low and high registers. Mixed Voice can be used in our upper register to achieve higher pitches without them sounding thin or weak.
Learning how to access these three areas of the voice and how to coordinate the proper mechanics can be achieved through vocal technique exercises, experimentation, and application in song.
Hearing Chest, Head, and Mixed Voice in Song
While listening to a singer navigate through their vocal registers you can now start identifying which “voice” they are singing in. Dissecting a vocal performance is a great way to learn the different qualities of these areas of the voice. First, recognizing the pitch is most helpful because it will give us a clue to what register of the voice they are in. Is the singer singing low or high notes? Do they sound strong or light? If the sound is lower and strong there’s a good chance they are singing in chest voice, and if the sound is higher and light they are most likely in their head voice. Mixed Voice is sometimes challenging to identify because it usually sounds strong and has a large resonance. Many singers use their Mix to get powerful sounds in their higher register, thus, at times tricking the listener to think they could be in a powerful Chest Voice. The song “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele is a great example of hearing all three of these voices. She uses her Chest Voice in most of the song but flips into her Head and Mixed Voices in many areas to create dynamic interest and to also achieve higher pitches with ease. Stylistically, she is choosing which voice to sing in to create differences in feel and tone, which creates an interesting performance rather than one that can feel monotonous and dull. When a vocal stays in the same area through an entire piece and lacks stylistic freedom the result is sometimes flat and underwhelming. Using your ear to analyze a vocal is a wonderful tool as it allows one to compare another vocalist’s abilities and begin utilizing the learned techniques in practice.
Finding your natural singing voice is fun, experimental, and exciting. Knowing how your own voice operates is the first step to becoming a better more well-rounded singer, and with dedicated practice you may start expanding your vocal range, techniques, and overall sound. As much as singing is technical it must also contain emotion and feel, because without those characteristics it may begin to sound lifeless or even robotic. Remembering that the tools, techniques, and mechanics of the voice are extremely important for vocal success should always be paired with the knowledge that music is an art and without personal expression and thoughtful emoting one will only be attaining, at best, fifty percent of their best possible sound.
Are you wondering how piano lessons work online? In this video, our piano teacher Gabriel Rebolla walks you through different tools and features he uses to enhance the virtual learning experience for his students.
You see them in almost every piece of music, they’re plastered all over the internet. Yet, most guitar players have no idea what they mean or how to play them. It’s one of the most repeated questions students ask me over and over again.
Hi, Professor Kleiman at your service: Philly Music Lessons’ resident fretted/string instrument guru. You know; Guitar, Bass, Mandolin, Banjo Ukulele, Sitar. Strings AND Frets. My hope is that this can become a regular column and with your help, questions, suggestions and comments, it will. I will try and debunk all the misinformation that’s out there or ‘up there’ in the cloud.
But let’s get back to the question at hand:
C/G or Em/B or even just some space and /G#
What do they mean????? Do you play a ‘C’ chord and then real fast change to ‘G’??? Do I play an ‘E minor’ chord a ‘B’ chord together??? Do I play a G# chord at some point???? The answer to all of them is NOPE.
I’ll answer this question with another. In a live band recording or performance, what other instruments are playing? Let’s break it down to the smallest group: The Power Trio- a Guitar player, a Drummer and a Bass player.
Drummer: they bang and keep the beat. Guitar: they also bang but play chords – How ‘bout that Bass player: what is their job???
They sure don’t play chords. No, they play the bottom. They play the Bass. They play the lowest sound: THE ROOTS!!!!! That’s their job. You could put together the hottest drummer and guitar player you know but if the bass doesn’t do it’s job and play the ROOTS you got nothin’. Absolutely none of the music will sound right. What are the ROOTS or what are the ROOT notes?? That’s easy.
It’s the most important note in any chord and it’s easy to figure out the root note. All chords derive their name from the root note.
C chord= C root note.
G7 chord = G root note.
Bm chord = B root note.
F#7b9 = F# root note.
Ab13#5#11 = Ab root note. Got it????
The ONLY EXCEPTION are those pesky little old SLASH CHORDS. C/G means that they want the Bass player to play a ‘G’ note IN PLACE of the normal ‘C’ root note for the ‘C’ chord. Em/B means that they want the Bass player to play a ‘B’ note IN PLACE of the normal ‘E’ root note for the E minor chord. A ‘space’ and then /G# means that at that point in the song the BASS player is to play a ‘G#’ bass note.
Soooooo those slash chords do not change the chord that the guitar player is to play- to the left of the slash is the chord, to the right of the slash is the Bass note FOR THE BASS PLAYER. C/G=just play a C chord, Em/B= just play an E minor chord, ‘space’ /G# = continue to play whatever chord came before the slash- that G# is not for the guitar player-it’s for the Bass.
Remember you are usually listing to a combination of instruments when you listen to music. The most basic being: a guitar and bass- so when you look at music it is ALWAYS written for that combination. (Piano players have the luxury of being able to play both chords AND bass.) Just play the chord that’s to the left of the slash. If you are by yourself and trying to imitate the sound on a recording and you see a slash chord it will only sound ‘close ‘ until you sit down with the bass player – then between the two instruments you will be able to recreate the exact sound of the ‘slash’ chord. Or you could just learn to play piano but that would put me out of a job. Good Luck.
Part 2: Playing Slash Chords
If you read part one of this article, you now know that when you see C/G, it means that to the left of the slash is a Chord and to the right of the slash is an alternate Bass note– thus it is pronounced:
C major chord with a G bass note (or C with a G bass)
In Part 1, I stated that the only way to play this correctly is to have TWO instruments. The guitar player would play a C chord and the Bass player would play a G note BUT– for the intermediate to advanced guitar player– you CAN play this on one guitar. Here is one way to play and finger this chord:
Please keep in mind that there are lots of different ways to ‘finger’ any chord. Believe it or not, there can be can be as many as 26 ways to ‘finger’ any one chord on the guitar.
I try to teach my students at least 3 ways to play a chord, depending on their level.
a fingering within the first 4 frets that uses one or more open strings. See Diagram 1
a movable ‘bar’ form with its root on the A string. The root is on the 3rd fret of the A string (not fingered nor played).
a movable ‘bar’ form with its root on the E string. The root is on the 8th fret of the Low E. (not fingered nor played).
Keep in mind that because of the ‘alternate Bass’ note, we do not play the root note when ‘voicing’ or ‘fingering’ these types of chords. We take it out. There should be a dead or muted string between the new Bass note and the rest of the chord. That will help ring out the new bass note.
(Go back to my Part 1 if you do not know what a root is.)
Another very popular Chord:
E/G# (E or E major chord with a G# Bass)
Try this fingering:
Listen to Eric Clapton ‘Tears in Heaven’ – these are the first 3 chords
A E/G# F#m
Would you know my name?
Remember -if you have a Bass player -the Guitar can just play:
A E F#m
The bass player will hit the G# over the E chord resulting in the correct sound. If you want to play the song with just one guitar, you will need to put in the correct voicing (or fingering) of the chords to get the sound of the recording. (Voicing is the order of notes in the chord-as beginning guitar players we are just concerned with fingering) I don’t care about the theory right now–I just wanna play my guitar!
How ‘bout this one:
D/F# (D with an F# bass)
Lots of Songs: First 3 chords to ‘American Pie’:
G D/F# Em
A long long time ago
and ‘Free Bird’:
G D/F# Em
If I leave here tomorrow
Or as I teach my beginning students the above songs, I use these easy to play chords. (less fingers are used.)
G6 D6/F# Em7
G6 (a 2-finger chord) substitutes for G (a 3-finger chord)
D6/F# (3 fingers) substitutes for D/F# (4 fingers)
Em7 (1-finger) substitutes for Em (2 fingers)
They still retain the correct sound of the substituted chord but are far less difficult to play/learn because less fingers are used. This method is called “Chord Substitution by Family.”
Try the above songs with these simplified chords- pretty close to the sound on the recording, no? For the beginning Guitarist, understanding Chord Substitution by learning these simplified chords, can really make it easy to learn songs that use more difficult chords (3 and 4 finger chords) and still sound pretty authentic.
Sometimes, the alternate Bass note is notated with just the ‘slash’ as in: The first 4 chords of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
Am /G /F# F
I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
You would interpret the music as thus:
Am Am/G Am/F# F
OK- that should help you out next time you come across ‘slash’ chords. (But please call them by there correct name)
Questions, comments? Get back to me and I will try my best to answer them.
A Music Teacher’s Journey in a Socially Distanced World
As COVID-19 spread throughout the country and small businesses like ours were forced to close their doors, I began to ponder how we might weather this storm. Up until now, our business had been based on private lessons taught face-to-face at one of our studios, or in the student’s home, with teachers and students in close proximity. However, the new world of social distancing would no longer allow this kind of person to person contact.
Completely discontinuing lessons until our studios could reopen was not a viable option for us or our teachers and staff who rely on the income Philly Music Lessons provides. We also knew the importance of consistent practice for developing musicians. It was important to us to help our students continue their musical growth despite this new obstacle.
So the next logical step was to move lessons online and hope that our teachers would be able to deliver the professional and personalized instruction our students expect.
I admit, I was nervous about the idea of online lessons being as effective and enjoyable as in-person lessons. When something has been done a certain way for so long, it’s hard to imagine an alternative. However, before I even taught my first online lesson, reviews started to come in from the students who had tried them.
I was pleasantly surprised: Students of all ages and skill levels were trying online lessons, learning, and having a great time! One student trumpeter was impressed by how well their teacher could coach their pitch and intonation via FaceTime. A pianist couldn’t believe how well they could see their teachers keyboard to help them learn new musical passages. Another student was grateful that a weekly session could provide some normalcy during such an uncertain time in their lives
My First Online Lessons
A few days later, it was time for my first online lesson. Although I knew other teachers had succeeded in this new format, I was a bit nervous. There was a tangible learning curve due to the slight latency that occurs with video conferencing software, and the fact that audio can’t go both ways at once. I quickly realized that this would force me as a teacher to be more clear and concise than I was used to. Still, I could play a passage and listen to the student repeat it. I could also very clearly see and hear whether the student was playing it correctly or not.
I taught a handful of guitar lessons over Skype that day and learned more about the limitations and possibilities of this new medium. It was not possible to play together with a student in real time, so each lesson became more of a back and forth conversation than a jam session. I could still offer information specific to each students’ goals, just as I did in person.
I later discovered a partial solution to this issue by giving students pre-recorded tracks to play along to. It takes a little bit more preparation than a normal lesson to provide the experience of playing along with another musician, but the result is just as good!
The Wonders of Screen Sharing
I started out using Skype as my main platform, however, one of my students wanted to try Zoom. I quickly learned that Zoom didn’t even require the student to have an account. They just click on a link that the teacher emails them and they can take the lesson right from their browser.
I also discovered Zoom’s options for screen sharing. It enabled me to use an iPad or iPhone to write out exercises or lessons. I could easily incorporate a second camera focused on my instrument. This was a game changer.
Now, I write out practice material for my students during the lesson in real time, and I can show them how to play the piece with a closeup view of my hands. They see the information pop up on their screen just as if I were writing it on paper and a music stand. The only difference is this is more organized and easier to read without any of my bad handwriting on it!
I began to view the creation of these lesson documents as an art in and of itself. I could email complete, organized materials to each student during or after each lesson. However, I realized that sending so many emails back and forth could be burdensome. If only there were a better way . . .
A Shared Folder
This was immensely helpful with organizing my online lessons. I invite each of my students to a shared Google Drive folder. I upload documents directly to the folder and the student receives them instantly. Instead of searching through emails for lesson notes, the material is sorted into subfolders, making sure that each lesson is documented properly.
Even better than a physical folder, I can add materials between lessons to keep my students prepared. It’s easy for the student and teacher to know exactly what material is in there. And best of all, there are no papers getting folded, torn, or lost.
The final piece of the online lesson puzzle: I can give my permission for students to record important moments or even entire lessons! At the end of a Zoom call, recordings are exported as video files, so students can rewatch their teacher performing a piece of music or demonstrating a new concept anytime.
Overall, I’ve found that online lessons can superior to in-person lessons in many ways. The inability to play simultaneously is offset by how organized and clear online lessons can be. All of the lesson materials are documented using the shared folder and video recordings. Between lessons, my students know exactly what they need to work on, which makes for more effective practicing.
During such a hard time for the world at large, the surprising effectiveness of online music lessons has been a small bright spot for our teachers, students and parents.
A musician’s performance on stage is a direct expression of the time and energy spent in the practice room. Therefore, having a clear and effective practice strategy is invaluable. Here are a few proven techniques for improving practice outcomes, spending practice time more effectively, and having more fun.
1. Block Distractions
Practice begins before you even touch your instrument. Life is full of distractions, but your practice space should be your sanctuary. A place of focus. You will get so much more out of your practice time in an environment that is calm and distraction free (as much as possible).
2. Set Goals
Think of what your goals for that practice day are. Keep them small and completable. There is no need to overwhelm yourself. Practicing one thing thoroughly is always better than practicing ten things superficially. Be sure to write down your daily goals in a practice journal, where you can also record your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.
Before playing a piece, scale, or etude, try closing your eyes and visualizing yourself playing it. How does it feel? How does it sound? Now try playing it. Does it match your visualized experience? If not, visualize it again and focus on the difficult parts. Get your mind around it first and your body will follow.
4. Practice Slow
Most music students, including myself, are in a hurry to play a piece at full tempo or beyond. They key to playing fast, is playing slow. Slowing down a piece will reveal all the stumbling blocks and how to get past them. You may have to decrease the tempo many times to fully smooth out a piece, but in the long run it is worth it.
They key to playing fast, is playing slow.
5. Use a Metronome
A metronome is a great tool to help you develop and strengthen your internal clock. However, most music students either don’t use one, or use it incorrectly. When playing something for the first time it is fine to have the metronome playing all the beats. Once it is a little more comfortable, try muting one beat, then two beats, then three beats. Muting beats forces you to keep track of the time, and the metronome will let you know how successful you were.
6. Use a Drone
A drone is like a metronome for pitch. It gives you instant feedback on your intonation. Set a drone to the tonic pitch of the piece to make sure your intonation stays constant. Observe when it drifts, and bring it back.
7. Focus on the Crux
The crux is the hardest part of a piece of music. It is very common for students to play the parts they know as fast as they can, stumble through the hard part (at a much slower tempo), and call it a day. This is ineffective. It is a better use of time to spend most of your practice time on the hardest part. This is where big gains is musical growth will happen.
“Chunking” is the process of working on a larger piece by breaking it into chunks. Working chunk by chunk and then working to connect them is much more effective than playing a piece from start to finish every time.
9. Record Yourself
Record your practice sessions and performances and listen back to them periodically. What needs to improve? What are your strengths? Write observations down in your practice journal, and use your insights to set or redesign goals.
10. Have Fun!
Musical practice is one of the most challenging and rewarding pursuits, but can be tedious at times. Whenever, it gets boring, try making a game for yourself or to be played with others. Write your own etude or duet, try playing another instrument, or go see some live music. Keeping it fun will help motivate and stimulate your musical experiences.
Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime lessons have enabled our students to continue learning during these stay-at-home times.
With state-wide closures of non-essential businesses amid the pandemic, our Fishtown and South Philly studios have been closed. However, many of our current students have transitioned to online lessons. We’ve received such positive responses, we wanted to share some with you as we invite you to join us in the virtual realm. Perhaps there’s no better time to learn something new.
A user account or phone number for your preferred platform (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or other)
High-speed internet connection
Desktop, laptop computer, or mobile device with microphone and camera (tripod or support stand for phone users)
How You Are Helping:
Taking lessons provides crucial support to musicians and educators in Philadelphia during this time
You are sustaining your local economy by investing in small businesses (likes us!) as we all cope with the COVID-19 changes
You’re keeping the arts alive (when we need ‘em most)
What Students Are Saying:
(Trumpet Lessons) Let me tell you how pleased I am with my first online trumpet lesson with John Dimase. I am an older student and video conferencing tech was outside of my experience, but John guided me through the steps to get set up through my cell phone. I thought I would have to buy a camera and figure out how to get it to work on my laptop, etc. I kind of feel silly that I had built it up to be such a shibboleth.Audio quality was good enough that he could tell when I was flat or sharp and he was able to guide me through our regular lesson. Any of my awkwardness from dealing with the new format soon fell away and it was almost like we were back in the studio. It worked surprisingly well.While it seems like so many avenues of creativity, enrichment and socializing have been cut off, I thank you for keeping this portion of normalcy viable. I’ve already re-upped for 10 more with John and I look forward to continuing my journey to learn the trumpet in the comfort of my own home until the studios re-open. Philly Music Lessons is an asset to the south Philly community and I hope others can have the positive experience I had.Thanks again,
(Piano Lessons) When I moved to Philadelphia several months ago, I knew I wanted to start taking piano lessons. I did some research, found Philly Music Lessons and was immediately connected with an excellent teacher who worked with adult students like me. When I heard this past week that I would have the option to have my next lesson conducted online I jumped at the chance. Why not? It seemed like a good idea to cut down on foot traffic in the Fishtown studio space. I was already looking forward to yesterday’s online class, but I want to say that it exceeded my expectations. I received the same attentive teaching that I have always gotten in person.I love being able to continue taking lessons, and I look forward to my next one. I want other students to know that it is absolutely possible to continue getting excellent music instruction while staying safe. I believe that music students will enjoy keeping lessons as a regular part of their lives right now. Being able to do something as normal as taking a piano lesson is actually quite soothing and reassuring in a stressful time.Sincerely,
Covid-19 can’t stop Joyce from ukulele practice. @phillymusiclessons is offering virtual lessons and Joyce was thrilled to still be able to see her teacher Collin this week!
Our fall recital this year will again take place at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia on Rittenhouse Square! Saturday, Nov 16 is a perfect day to come enjoy the amazing talent and diversity of our students in the middle of Philly’s most beautiful public park and overwhelming selection of world-class restaurants.
If you are already a student and would like to sign up to perform in the recital, just talk to your teacher by Nov 1st!
The performances will be split up between multiple sets between 1PM and 5PM; feel free to come to just one set, or stay for all of them!
This event is open to the public.
Admission: $10 Per Person
1:oo PM – 5:00 PM
Philadelphia Ethical Society
1906 Rittenhouse Square
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Don’t you want to look as cool as this random man wearing plaid?
What could possibly make this already lovely Spring even better?
Ummmm obviously a student recital!
This recital will take place on Rittenhouse Square at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia, the same location we’ve been lucky enough to use for several years now. It’s location means that not only do you get to hear an amazing spectrum of music and performers, you can make a beautiful Saturday afternoon in one of Philadelphia’s best neighborhoods for restaurants and shops.
If you haven’t let your teacher know already, please do so soon because the deadline for signing up is fast approaching!
Philly Music Lessons has been selected as recipient of the Philadelphia Family Love Awards for 2019. This award serves as recommendation for businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to their communities and carry a trusted name in the city. We’re honored to be selected this year and can’t wait to keep filling neighborhoods with music all year long!
If you’re looking to finally get around to your dream of playing the piano, or you know a child who spends their days begging to learn the guitar, we can get you set up with a half-price trial lesson with a teacher who knows exactly how you want to work!