Tag Archives: guitar

How Often to Practice Music

How Often to Practice Music

As a music school, we get questioned all the time about how often to practice music and for how long. The truth is, it depends on a number of factors, including what level you’re at, how serious you are, what type of music it is, and what musical performances you have coming up. But there are some general rules of thumb that should help you no matter what.

How Often Should I Practice?

High frequency of practice sessions tends to be more effective than long duration of practice sessions. It’s almost always better to practice every day, even for 5-10 minutes, than it is to practice once a week for 70 minutes. Your brain needs time to process the material in between practice sessions, and as with exercise, your body needs to build strength and agility slowly. When it comes to guitar, your fingers need to callous and build up strength, which won’t happen with longer, less frequent practice sessions. When it comes to singing, especially if you’re new, you’ll just wear your voice out if you practice too long and too infrequently. When it comes to piano, your fingers need a chance to build up strength. Often, if you let too much time elapse, you’ll pretty much be back to square 1 when you start up again. So that being said, try for almost every day. If that isn’t realistic, shoot for as many times a week as you can. Be honest with yourself though. If 3-4 times a week is possible, and 7 days a week isn’t, don’t tell yourself it’s 7 days a week or nothing. That’s just a recipe for getting derailed. Anything is better than nothing, especially if you’re consistent.

If you’re practicing every day, giving yourself a day off once in a while can actually be helpful as well. It’ll give your muscles a chance to recover, particularly in some more muscular forms of singing, like belting.

How Long Should I Practice?

As I mentioned, shorter, more frequent sessions are better than longer, less frequent ones. The length of time you spend depends on your level. If you’re just starting to learn an instrument, 15 minutes might be plenty for you. In fact, playing guitar longer than that before your fingers are calloused flat-out hurts. Doing your vocal exercises 10 to 15 minutes a day will also give you a huge leap forward. As you get more advanced and your music gets harder, practice sessions should get gradually longer. If you’re working through a repertoire of advanced Chopin, Mozart, and Bach pieces, 15 minutes probably won’t scratch the surface, and you’re looking at at least an hour to see some real improvement. When it comes to advanced singing, listen to your body. If your voice is getting tired, it’s usually time to wrap up the practice session, or at least start to use the time to mark through music instead of singing full out. If your voice is feeling great, by all means, the more singing the better.

How Should I Practice?

Your music teacher is the best one to help you with this question, but most importantly, you should combine taking apart the hard parts with practicing all the way through a song. If you know you can play a song perfectly except for the 4th measure, don’t keep playing through the song over and over again and making the same mistake on the 4th measure. Just play that measure until you have it down. If you’re singing through a song and can hit every note perfectly except for that last one, give some special attention to that last note instead of just singing the song again and again. But playing or singing through the whole song has its purposes too. Building up the physical and mental stamina to make it through a song is extremely important for your musical growth.

If I Can Leave You With Just One Thing

If I can leave you with just one piece of advice from this entire article, it’s that something is better than nothing. If all you can manage is singing along with your radio in the car every day, I promise, it’s better than nothing, and your voice will benefit from it. You might not be ready for your Broadway audition in the next few weeks, but your voice will still improve over time if you keep it up. If all you can find time for is playing through the guitar chords in a verse of the song you’re learning a few times a week, you’ll eventually have that verse down and be able to move to the chorus. You’ll still be learning chords, developing finger strength, and building up muscle memory. I’ve seen students with very little practice time make remarkable progress over the years by just doing what they can.

How to Improve Your Guitar Skills

How to Improve Your Guitar Skills

Whether you are an experienced guitar player or just starting out, it is very easy to plateau at any stage in the game. Of course, this tends to be the case more often with experienced players, but a novice can go through it as well. Sometimes, we get fixed into a practice routine and fail to broaden our horizons, resulting in the dreaded “noodling” throughout our practice time. If there is anything I would like you to take from this today, it is that to get a different result, you have got to try something different. There is an old adage saying, “If you always do what you always did, you’re always going to get what you always got.” Now, I don’t know who said it, but it sure is brilliant! With that said, we are going to discuss some of the finer points of this philosophy as it applies to guitar playing. More specifically, we will be discussing adjusting your technique, learning repertoire, and learning music theory. Let’s get started!

Technique

If you have noticed that your playing is a bit sloppy or not as crisp as you would like it to be, chances are your technique could use some adjustment. Really, the best way to go about correcting this would be to find a teacher whose technique you admire. We are not always afforded this opportunity, so the next best thing would be to watch videos of great players whose technique you would like to emulate. See how they hold the pick and how their hands look holding the guitar and the fretboard. Does it look like yours? Maybe some posture adjustment is in order here. If you never had anyone coaching you in the early stages, you might suffer from bad form. This is perfectly normal and can be adjusted with a bit of practice.

Learn Songs

Learning songs and learning from other players in general is, in my opinion, the very best way to break through plateaus. Now, I am certain you have gone through the process of learning several of your favorite songs, but did you really? Sometimes, as beginners, we tend to skip parts that give us trouble, or maybe we play “reduced” versions of certain sections. I know this is definitely something I used to do. The fact is, I didn’t get better until I made an effort to really get into the nuts and bolts of each song.

Now, if you are someone who does learn songs as they are played, great. The next thing to try would be songs that you find particularly difficult and songs in other genres. We tend to box ourselves in to one or two styles of playing. In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. I feel there is no better way for us to really expand our musical minds than to learn from other genres. Every genre presents its own techniques, challenges, and obstacles for us to overcome. This also includes genres you do not particularly enjoy! You would be surprised to find out that there is always something to learn from another style of music and this can also help to open your mind a bit and appreciate different things.

Theory

Guitar – particularly electric guitar – is often regarded as a “street” instrument. Many of us got into playing because we heard a wicked guitar solo or some cool riff, or maybe we saw a friend starting to play and became interested. What this also tends to mean is that our approach was not particularly academic. I know mine wasn’t. For this reason, electric guitar players tend to skip out on being able to read music and learning the theory in the early stages. This is a big mistake. Knowing the theory means knowing how your favorite sounds are generated and that leads to being able to access those sounds at a moment’s notice. It also means knowing the fretboard from top to bottom.

Knowing this information is not only valuable in an individualistic sense. It also helps to communicate ideas to fellow musicians. I’m sure you have been this person before: “Ok, 3rd fret on the 2nd string, then you play the 6th fret followed by the 5th fret. It goes something like, ‘bum bum ba’.”
Sound familiar? Yeah, many of us have been there. It is much easier – and quicker – to simply say, “D then F then E, and it’s two 8ths and a quarter note.”

Sing What You Play

This is kind of on the back of the previous section, but it is important to note. As a guitar player, it is important to be able to sing what you play. Because of the nature of the instrument, we tend to rely on shapes. This is perfectly fine so long as you don’t let the shapes dictate what you play. To remedy this, first you will have to learn your intervals and what they sound like. There are a ton of great resources online and through YouTube for this. Next, learn each interval’s shape as it would be laid out on the fretboard. With a bit of practice, you should eventually be able to connect each sound to a particular shape, and you will be able to sing what you are playing while you play it. This is an incredibly valuable skill, particularly if you have any interest in improvisation.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this little lesson has helped you out some or at least provided some insight on how to improve your practice routine, thereby improving your playing. As it is with just about anything in life, the best way to improve is to work on the backs of those who have done it before you. Someone has already figured out most of what you want to know, so learn from them and build on that. Take these considerations and you should see marked improvements in your playing in just a few months time. Happy practicing!

About the Author

Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, a phenomenal online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.

Guitar Pedals

How to Make Sense of Guitar Pedals

Let’s face it, guitar pedals are freakin’ cool!

 

Without them, we’d be robbed of some of the best moments in modern music. Songs like Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, Hendrix’s Crosstown Traffic, The Stones’ Satisfaction or Nirvana’s Come As You Are.

 

But ready to hear the real issue? Guitarists of all levels have a very patchy knowledge of guitar pedals; namely what they are all do and how to hook them all.

 

The reality is with a bit of guitar pedal knowledge the average guitarist can become a badass ninja! But how, I hear you say?

 

Well, our friends over at Zing Instruments have created this very cool infographic called the ‘insanely useful guide to guitar pedals which explains all about the different types of guitar pedals and how to hook them all. Check it out!

How to Make Sense of Guitar Pedals

Tips for Learning to Play Guitar

Four Tips for Learning the Guitar

The following is a post written by guest blogger Mark from Know Your Instrument.

So you want to learn how to play guitar. How hard can it be?

It all depends on what skill level you’re looking to achieve. If you want to be a virtuoso, you have a long road ahead of you. It takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to achieve that level of mastery for anything. Up to the task? No? That’s okay.

Almost anyone can learn to play their favorite songs on the guitar, solos included. All it takes is some basic eye-hand coordination and the ability to read tablature. Let’s begin with that.

1. Print Out a Tab of a Song You Like

Tablature consists of one line per string of the instrument you’re playing along with numbers representing notes. The numbers correspond to places on the fretboard. There is a simple key to go along with it for things like palm muting and pinch harmonics. Learn the finger positions and notes first, and then try to play along with the track.

2. Practice Often Enough to Get Calluses

At first, you won’t be able to play for long. Your fingertips will hurt too much. This is normal and gets better with time. If you have nylon strings, it’s not as much of an issue. But it’s safe to assume most of you are playing on steel strings. You have to keep going until you develop calluses on all four fingertips. Then you won’t even notice it, no matter how long you practice for. And if you’re not playing often enough to develop calluses, you certainly won’t be developing your skills, either.

Listen to Music–a Lot

Part of how I learned was by listening to my favorite songs so much that I could hear the melody and notes in my head. Then it was just a matter of learning where they were on the fretboard and playing them in proper timing. As mentioned, be sure to play along with the song once you figure out the basics, to make sure your timing is on point. A metronome can be of assistance as well.

Learn Basic Guitar Chords

Get a poster that shows all of the most common guitar chords. It looks overwhelming at first. Just focus on the basic ones at first. A, C, D, E, and G along with their minor keys are the most common ones that almost every song you have ever heard includes some variation of. There are a few others as well.

These four actions will get you started. Remember, the best way to improve at anything is to practice with someone more advanced. When I was learning, I played with a few people who were in bands. Quantum leaps of my comprehension ensued. If you learn chord basics, listen to music often, attempt re-creating that music by utilizing tablature, and develop calluses on your fingers along the way, you will be on the right track.

Writing Songs on Guitar

Five Tips For Writing Songs on Guitar

Picture from https://takelessons.com/blog/how-to-write-a-jazz-guitar-song-z01

The following blog was guest written by Alex Frank, who has worked in the sound technology industry for over 10 years.

Songwriting is a process that takes a lot of dedication, commitment, and joy. The act of songwriting is very personal, unless you are in a band or duo that co-writes the songs. Sometimes inspiration strikes when you’re playing your instrument, and sometimes it happens when you’re just going about your day.

For the guitarist, writing a song can be more demanding than performing a song on stage in front of an audience.

Do you play the guitar, and are you looking for tips for writing songs? We’ve checked out five trusted tips for writing songs on guitar that we think will help you in your process.

The Parts of a Song

Songs can be broken down into various parts. We’ll discuss them in this article in order to guide a beginner through writing their first songs.

The Intro

Intros open your song and set the listener up for what is to come. It usually comes at the beginning of your song. The intro you use might cut across your whole song.

The Verse

The verse tends to be where most of the narration or storytelling happens in your song. Most songs have multiple verses. They can be short or long depending on your own inspiration, and you can even manipulate an early verse to form another verse later in the song.

The Bridge

This section fills the gap between your chorus and the return of the verse by creating a contrast. Some songs have them and some leave them out.

The Chorus

The chorus usually comes first in people’s hearts when they think of a song. It is the main part of the song, is repeated throughout, and is often very catchy and memorable. As a songwriter, you use your chorus to captivate your listeners. It is what sticks in people’s minds.

The Outro

The outro is the exit music for your song. It might be a piece of your chorus or just some instrumentation.

Five Tips For Writing Songs on Guitar

Get to Know Your Notes

It may sound obvious, but learning the notes on your guitar and how to play them instead of simply strumming can help you turn your song into something magical. Knowing your notes will help you be more inventive, which will help you compose songs easily and naturally on your guitar.

Create Your Rhythm

Another tip you need for writing a song on your guitar is to create (and mostly stick with) a rhythmic pattern. Your rhythm and strumming pattern will differentiate your song from other ones out there. You can get inspiration for your strumming pattern from many places, anything from rhythms notated in books to ones from other songs you’ve been listening to.

Cross-Pick

Use your plectrum, or pick, to imitate fingerpicking. Imitating fingerpicking with your plectrum isn’t the best option for everyone, because you do lose a little of the agility and warmth of your normal fingerstyle, but it can still be a very useful tool. To implement this strategy, start with a chord progression you strum from time to time. Pick one of the chords and select three sequential strings from the bass note; from your bottom string, up-pick the three notes in ascending order.

Finger-Pick

Unless you’re an expert, playing without picks sometimes makes you feel less in charge of your guitar. However, taking up the challenge of playing without your pick will help when writing a song on your guitar. Fingerpicking offers quite a wide range of unique tonal colors by allowing for more intricate patterns. It might result in the creation of new, engaging, and soul-filled songs.

Search For Chords

Be on the hunt for new chords. These chords might sound strange at first, and may also cause you to have to work out new stretches and shapes that temporarily make practice more challenging. This shouldn’t deter you from practicing them over and over again though. By putting in the time and effort, you’ll open up many more options for creativity.

Writing a song on guitar is a demanding, time-consuming task that requires a great deal of dedication and commitment. I hope you find the tips in this article helpful. If you did, pick up your guitar now (yes now!) and begin to write songs.

Author Bio

I’m Alex Frank who has worked in the sound technology industry for 10 years now. Today, I am an affiliate blogger who likes to educate my audience about sound technology. Visit musicinstrumentscenter.com to find all the information about music that you need.

Student Spotlight: Angela T.

Our teacher Michael recommended Angela for this month’s Student Spotlight. Angela has lots of skills and accomplishments, including singing and dancing, and has participated in a number of auditions for South Korean entertainment shows. Here’s what Michael had to say about her: “Angela is great. She has really good natural singing ability, and has made rapid improvement. I can tell she works hard and puts in the practice to develop techniques with her voice (and most recently guitar!) She introduced me to K-pop, which is really cool and something new to me, and we always have a good time working through the songs she’s learning.

MM: What are some of your favorite hobbies, outside of music? Favorite school subjects, books, movies, shows, sports?

AT: Besides music, I like dancing because exercise assists me to release stress. I also like to read books about psychology. My favorite book is Transformation by Keigo Higashino, who is a Japanese author.

​The book is about a person who changes his personality after encountering a car accident. He changes his brain with a criminal who causes the accident. The protagonist was an excellent painter who has a smooth drawing style; however, his drawing style and personality become as violent as the criminal. He experiences a struggle with himself and the mind of being evil.

My favorite sport is bowling.

​ ​

My favorite subject is world history. As far as movies and shows, I love A Dog’s Tale, Mental Crime, Weekly Idol, and the K-pop show M Countdown

Basically M Countdown is not a program to pick the new idols or artists. It is for all the artists to get on the stage when they release a new song, and everyone who comes back at that time can join the performances, and there is a special scoring system that calculates the score of the artist’s song and album. It is kind of like a small reward for every week. The online music sale, album sale, and the social media searching rate will be counted in the system. two groups of artists will compete with each other, and the artist gets the highest score based on the system will get a refers to reward by the program.

MM: What’s something most people don’t know about you?

AT: I have been to many entertainment auditions (mainly South Korean companies). Different companies have different styles of choosing people, but mostly they will ask the people who join the audition to either dance or sing, and two judges will record the process of performing and send the video back to their company in South Korea. They won’t directly evaluate the people but they will say,”great you did a good job” after you perform well, but they will not tell you the result right after audition. They will discuss and see the videos with the whole team, and they will pick the people they want by emailing them or calling them. Basically every person has to sing without any background music, but a guitar is allowed. People who choose Dance have a background music to accompany with their dance.

MM: Oh wow! What’s your favorite audition?

AT: My favorite audition experience is my first audition experience with a company called YG Entertainment. It is my favorite entertainment in South Korea because my favorite artists are in this company and I really like the style of this company. It is very impressive experiencing it, but I was also nervous about performing well. I sang a song called “Lonely” by 2ne1. At that time I really had a lot of shortages and things to conquer because I was too nervous so I couldn’t sing very well at the beginning​​ . My volume was too small but after many experiences of auditions, I’m no longer scared to perform before people.

MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing? How long have you been taking lessons?

AT: After I saw the reaction of fans while they watch the concerts of their favorite artists, I decided to start with music because I feel like that music has power to bring people happiness. I want to make more people happy by listening to my music. I have been learning singing for 4 years. Initially, I learned classical rather than contemporary music. The singing style is pretty different from what I am doing now, but it helps me a lot with my basic skills. I learned classic singing for about 2 years and the contemporary singing for another 2 years.

MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have inspired you, and why?

AT: I am inspired by a group called Bigbang. Their music style varies but is mainly hip-hop. They also dance while they are singing, which is appealing to me a lot. They are the first group that made me desire to understand music and motivate me to perform on stage.

MM: Oh, are they why you also began dancing?

AT: Actually my parents asked me to dance when I was about three-years-old. I danced in a traditional dance style, but I’m not really interested in dancing because I just follow the order of my parents. Bigbang promoted me to learn singing more. Compared to singing I’m not that passionate about dancing, but after I saw some YouTubers dancing in the pop style, I found that is really cool to dance with the music. And at that time I went to a school that specializes in training people who want to be an idol. That’s the first time I learned dancing. I’m quite happy after taking the class. My friends say they can see the change in me after taking class there. Unfortunately, due to the time conflict I cannot take hip-hop class right now, but I’m planning to find new schools to learn more about dance.

MM: What are some of your favorite songs, and why?

AT: My favorite songs are: “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera (intense vocal, special tone); “Whistle” by Blackpink (impressive chorus); “Bermuda Triangle” by Dean, Zico and Crush (fancy rap).

MM: Do you share your musical skills with family, friends, or your community? How? And what’s been your favorite way to do so?

AT: I have shared many musical skills with my friends. My friends also like singing and dancing. I think it is intriguing that people grow together and enjoy the time performing together. I normally share some short vocal training music with them and give them suggestions while they are singing.

MM: What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals?

AT: I think it is my passion for music that makes me keep up practice. I will record my singing and check if there is anything I can improve. My goal is to have a better volume and learn more skills to make my voice sound better.

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?

AT: I used to struggle with the song “Love Me Harder” by Ariana Grande because there is a lot of vibrato, and I do not know how to sing it at all. After the class by Michael, I learned that I can separate the note to another three or four and practice slowly then speed up.

MM: What advice would you give to other students just starting out?

AT: I want to encourage the new students to show your talent confidently. Everything just starts and there are many chances to improve yourself and show your music to people. Keep working and believe you can achieve your goal!
 
Student Spotlight: Ayn and Athan Liu

Student Spotlight: Ayn and Athan L.

If you’ve been to one of our recitals or followed our social media accounts, you’ll probably have seen the wonderful Liu kids, Ayn and Athan, performing solo or together on their ukulele and guitar, sometimes with their teacher Michael. Their talent and enthusiasm, and of course, the fun of watching them perform together, is always a joy. Make sure you follow them on Instagram at @liukids to check out their latest performances.

 

MM: How did you each first become interested in singing and playing guitar/ukulele? How and when did you first start learning, and how long has it been now? Do you play anything else? What do you like in particular about guitar/uke? Is the rest of your family musical?

 

Ayn L: I probably just started to love music from me singing since I was like, a baby. I like the ukulele because it’s small and easier to handle with. The guitar is less comfortable, but still fun to play. My family probably is a singing family. I like singing everywhere I go.

 

Athan L: It’s been about two years since I started guitar and I still love it. I previously played piano for about 7 years. Our whole family loves to sing and we still sing karaoke together.

 

MM: We got to see you at the last recital, and in a few social media posts. How and how often do you share your musical skills with family, friends, and community? What’s been one of your favorite performances/recordings/singalong/jam sessions, and why?

 

Ayn L: I normally only share my musical skills with family because I sing all the time next to them. I do sometimes sing to my friends, but it does get me a bit nervous. I don’t really sing to a lot of people, but only for concerts and recitals. It’s easy to sing and play with my music teacher because I practice with him and he helps me get better. I’ve been to a recording studio before, and recorded a song there. This is one of my favorites because it was a first time. Trying something new feels great.

 

Athan L: I usually post a song on our social media account about every 1-2 weeks but whenever there is an opportunity at school, I try out for solos or group acts, and sing with my choir. One of my favorite performances was the most recent August Recital because I got to perform with my sister and watch all of our peers perform.

 

MM: What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals for the rest of this year and next year? Where would you like to be in five years with your music, and in general?

 

Ayn L: My dad keeps my practice up and tries to make me a better musician. My goal for the rest of this year and next year is probably able to reach high notes. In five years, I would like to be performing everywhere, doing gigs and earning a little money.

 

Athan L: I usually practice for self-betterment and for auditions, but I also practice because I love to play and sing. By the end of this year, my goal is to continue to play guitar and get better at singing. By next year I hope to learn how to play electric guitar better. In 5 years, I would see myself still performing and doing gigs here and there.

 

MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have inspired you, and why? What song of theirs would you recommend to others? Do you have a favorite music video?

 

Ayn L: A few artists who’ve inspired me are probably Amy Winehouse and Adele. One of the songs I would recommend by Amy Winehouse is “Valerie,” because I sang that in a recording studio. I feel Amy Winehouse has soul in her voice. Adele’s songs are amazing, and I want to be able to sing her songs and hit high notes. 

 

Athan L: One of my favorite groups is Pentatonix, an a cappella group. Their music is amazing, from their covers to their originals. I also love Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider with their collaborations and medleys. Pentatonix has so many amazing songs it’s hard to choose one. But Sam Tsui’s Summer Pop Meldey 2015 is amazing.

 

MM: Who do you look up to as a mentor, musical or otherwise, and why? Do you have a favorite quote from them, or anyone else?

 

Ayn L: I look up to my brother because he is more skilled in playing better chords on guitar and piano. He also is really smart, and I wish to be really smart too.

 

Athan L: I don’t really have a mentor or someone I look up too, but my mom and dad have really helped me along the way.

 

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it? Or what are you struggling with the most now?

 

Ayn L: A song I struggled with was “Give Me One Reason” by Tracey Chapman. I struggled with this because I would always forget the lyrics, stutter, and according to my dad, I didn’t have enough sass in it. I performed the song for the Molly’s Music August Recital, and my parents said I did great.

 

Athan L: One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with and still am is falsetto. I’m still working on it and my teacher Mr. Michael has been a huge help.

 

MM: What grade are you in, and what’s your favorite subject/why? Can you share about a favorite book, hobby or sport?

 

Ayn L: I am in 4th grade, and my favorite subject is art. I love painting, drawing, and more crafty things. I enjoy art and I make my mom buy a lot of things. My favorite sport is running because sometimes I run races, and I do the 100 Mile Club at school. My whole family runs and it’s really fun.

 

Athan L: I am currently a 9th grader attending Woodbridge High School. My favorite subject is math, though the arts are a close second. My favorite sport is cross country.

 

MM: What advice would you give to other students just starting out?

 

Ayn L: My advice is starting out with piano or keyboard. After you learn that, you can read any music. If you start playing other instruments, play your heart out and do it with feeling. You can be amazing.

 

Athan L: Find what you love and pursue it. Don’t let people tell you what you can or cannot do.