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    A New Year’s Resolution To Become A Better Music Student

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    Happy new year!

     

    We hope you enjoyed the holidays and are looking forward to a new year. As you know, this is the time of year when it is popular to make a resolution, be it losing weight, saving money or, learning a new skill. If you are Music Junction student and want to become a better musician in 2015, we have some tips for you!

     

    Make A Plan: This works for every resolution you may have, including improving your music skills. After you make a resolution to become a better player, devise a plan on how to make it happen. Forbes.com suggests digesting a major goal into actionable steps: “Try mapping out a rough schedule for the year in advance, covering one part of your goal each month …”

     

    After that, use apps or sticky notes to remind yourself to achieve each step and make yourself accountable. If you need help figuring out a monthly goal, talk with your Music Junction teacher.

     

    Practice Every Day: You had a feeling this advice was coming, didn’t you? You know — we know — that practicing every day can help make you a better pianist and/or singer. The last few months have been extra challenging carving out time with holiday parties, shopping and family gatherings. So, let’s re-commit to finding 20 minutes out of your day to practice. If you need some helpful tips for you or your child, read this blog post.

     

    Give Yourself A Pat On The Back: While we’re fans of new year’s resolutions we admit that sometimes they can sound negative. We’re forcing ourselves to learn a new skills out of the assumption we need to improve ourselves. How about congratulating yourself for sticking with lessons and renewing your commitment in 2015 to continue your journey as a musician? So, next time you play a wrong note or get overly frustrated with a new piece, do not wince. Instead, congratulate yourself for keeping at it.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    How To Find The Right Music Teacher For Your Child

     

    If you have given your child the gift of music lessons this holiday season, congratulations! You and your child are in for a rewarding journey that will not only create a lifelong love of music but provide scientifically-proven benefits that will give her an edge in the classroom.

     

    Assuming you have found the perfect piano (if not, we can help you with that too), all you need is to find the ideal teacher. Obviously, we think The Music Junction instructors are all talented and can serve a diverse group of students but we still want to offer some helpful tips.

     

    Research The Instructor: Finding the right teacher is akin to finding the right preschool for your child. You will need to talk to a lot of people —  including friends, parents and music store workers — to find some ideal instructors.  You can also read online reviews such as Yelp (we’re especially proud of our reviews!) for additional insight. Also, read the teacher bios and find out what type of education and professional experience he or she possesses.

     

    Set Expectations: If piano or vocal lessons will be one of many activities your child is involved than it is best to not pair him with a demanding instructor. Likewise, if you are on a limited budget do not enroll your aspiring musician with an instructor who requires additional theory classes and/or practicing on a “real” piano (as opposed to a digital piano). When interviewing potential teachers, it is best to be honest with your expectations and limitations and see how she or he reacts. If the teacher is unwilling to work with your circumstances, it is time to move on.

     

    Attend a Recital: A recital can be a great way to observe an instructor’s demeanor and how well he or she connects with students. Unlike an interview, where everyone knows the “right” things to say to get the gig, a recital can reveal a teacher’s true approach to music education. Also, pay close attention to the general age of the other students, the music selection and the general mood of the students and audience.

     

    Agree on a Break-Up: We agree with National Public Radio; music lessons are too much of a financial investment for the parent and child to be unhappy. If the personalities between the teacher and child are not meshing, then find a new instructor. NPR states: “It’s better to make a change sooner rather than later, especially if you feel like a teacher’s experience, energy or approach just isn’t right for your child. Sure, that will probably be an uncomfortable conversation, but isn’t that preferable to wasting money, time and your kid’s initial enthusiasm?” Be sure you find an instructor who understands a good working relationship is paramount and will not make you feel guilty for leaving.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    At 82, Woman Still Plays The Pipe Organ For Her Church

    You are never too old to learn how to sing or play the piano and, at The Music Junction, we have students of all ages. Taking on music as a hobby as you grow older can bring significant benefits to your brain including improvement in memory, verbal fluency and processing information, according to researchers. It also can be a great way to meet new people.

     

    If you need further motivation, read about Virginia Knapp, from North Platte, Nebraska. At 82 years old, she plays the pipe organ for her Lutheran church and she is even more demand this time of year playing for Advent, Christmas Eve and Christmas services.

     

    As a child, Virginia grew up taking piano lessons but stopped as life commitments — namely, education, marriage and children — left her with little free time. While in her 30s, a friend wondered if she would be interested in learning to play the organ and she agreed. She has immersed herself by taking lessons, attending workshops and meeting other church organists.

     

    “I’m always happy when someone tells me they enjoy my music,” Knapp told her local newspaper, The North Platte Telegraph.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Holiday Music For Beginning Students

    By now, you know we love this time of year with all of the holiday music and special live performances but this is also a great time to be a beginning music student.

     

    Not only are “Jingle Bells,” “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” as well as “I Have A Little Dreidel” familiar to young children they are also relatively easy to play on the piano. In fact, the youngest musicians don’t have to know how to read music — what is known as the pre-reading stage — they can play by numbers. These songs are also good for beginning students because they stay within a five note range.

     

    “That’s important because a student can play all the notes with one hand without moving their hand position, so it keeps things very simple,” says teacher Charissa Vaughn-Wheeler.

     

    Teacher Brad Hubisz assigns similar music during the holidays and other familiar favorites — “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and “Yankee Doodle” — during the rest of the year.

     

    “It gives them a sense of accomplishment very early on, being able to play something they recognize without yet having to read notation,” he says.

     

    If you would like to expand your selection of holiday music, there are many beginner Christmas piano books for sale including this one and this one. The number of Chanukah books is not as vast but this is an option. The more advanced students can also pick any song through the iReal Pro app that we recently blogged about.

     

    So, start practicing and maybe your family can have some live music during the holidays!

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Have Tests Coming Up? Play Classical Music

    Even when you are not actively listening to classical music you are still benefiting from it.

    Does that make sense? Let us explain.

    The University of Southern California’s news page cited several studies that show the benefits of passively listening to classical music. One study published in Human Physiology found that children who listened to an hour of classical music a day had greater levels of relaxation, even if they were never explicitly told to pay attention to it. Another published report discovered that students scored higher on tests when their lecture included classical music playing in the background.

    “The researchers speculated that the music put students in a heightened emotional state, making
 them more receptive to information,” USC wrote.

    This information can be useful reminder to college and high school students facing finals during this time of year. If you want to be relaxed, focused and retain information, listen to classical music! It is just what your brain needs.

    Yet, not all classical music is created equal for studying.

    Alan Chapman, host and producer for KUSC (USC’s nonprofit classical music station) explains that orchestral pieces that ranges from  “whispers to booming cannons” are too distracting. Instead, choose solo piano pieces, including Mozart sonatas or French piano music by Poulenc,
 Debussy or Fauré. Chapman also recommend guitar and lute music. To jumpstart your music listening, we included one of our favorite pieces, “Claire de Lune,” which we find so soothing.

    Enjoy!

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Music Resources on Pinterest

    We know Pinterest is a great site for planning a wedding, looking for new recipes and those who crave a do-it-yourself project. But have you ever visited Pinterest to learn more about music?

    Although some ideas require so much work you wonder if it’s worth the effort, it is nice to have a community of “pinners” out there who can help make you or your child a better musician. Here are our recommendations of some worthwhile pins. Enjoy!

     

    Music Theory

    We found Pinterest is especially good at providing education resources for young children, especially in music theory. We love this worksheet on how to count notes and this handout is a fun way to learn about different tempos. This infographic on major and minor scales works for people of all ages.

     

    Piano Music

    You’re never at a loss for beginning music sheets on Pinterest. You can easily find the Happy Birthday song, an alternate, easier version of Let It Go from the movie “Frozen,” even the indie pop hit “Hey there Delilah

     

    Singing Lessons

    The “Singing Lessons” board by Elizabeth Geer is full of text and video resources for warm-up exercises, beginning books and demonstrations on how sound is produced from your body. Also, the “Voice” board by Amanda Jaques has pinned some good videos on exercises and breathing through your diaphragm.

     Do you have a favorite pin or a board? Let us know!

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Tech Learning Tool: iReal Pro App

    We wanted to share an app with you that’s been a favorite of some of our teachers and has been referred to as a “swiss army knife” to many working musicians: iReal Pro. We also think aspiring musicians from The Music Junction can benefit from using this app as well.

    First, the app is popular among “gigging” musicians because it literally lightens their load and negates the need to bring so much sheet music to the next wedding, bat mitzvah or club. The iReal Pro app has a vast library of chord charts that allows you to play nearly any song. As an added bonus, users can change the key to any chart at any time! A library of chord charts is also good for students who may want to play with new music on their own and experiment with different genres of music.

    The app also offer several exercise charts and makes practicing alone more interesting thanks to a playback feature that features a chord instrument, bass and drums. Instead of playing alone, students can practice their work with a fuller sound that gives them a sense who how the piece, as a whole, should sound.

    As a writer for Musicians’ Republic noted: “You can set it to repeat as many times as you like, at whatever speed you like, and it will obviously play it in the key selected as well. You can turn the various instruments up or down in the mixer view … If I’m practising on piano I’ll typically turn the chord instrument down as I can provide that (thank you very much). If I’m practising on guitar though, I’ll leave it in as my ability to play the melody and chords at the same time on guitar is still a work in progress. You can work it out to suit you.”

    While the app is not cheap —  the 6.0 version costs $12.99 — we think eager students will spend a lot of time using this app, which means more practicing is being done!

    Have you used iReal Pro? What do you think of it?

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Learn More About The Pedals On The Piano

    A common question from our beginning piano students has nothing to do with the black and white keys but what’s at the bottom of the piano – the foot pedals.

    You’ve seen these pedals, sometimes there are three but often they are only two. These pedals are an important tool of piano players as it gives them greater control of their sound and better convey the emotions of the composition.

     

    Right or damper pedal. The most often popular pedal, it is used to help a note last longer (or sustain) after the key has been pressed. It creates a wonderful echo, almost gloomy, effect. To listen to an example of a damper pedal, check out the last note in The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” In musical notation, the damper pedal is referred to as “Ped.

     

    Left or una corda pedal. This pedal creates a quiet, softer sound without affecting the tone. This effect is achieved by reducing the number of strings the hammer on a piano strikes. Typically, a hammer will strike three strings when a key is pressed but only one string will be struck when the una corda pedal is being used. In musical notation, the left pedal is used when una corda is written and released when the words tre corde appear.

     

    Middle or sostenuto pedal. This is the pedal that is most often missing in upright pianos and in pedal attachments for digital pianos. In a grand piano, the middle pedal will act as a damper pedal for only the note or notes you are playing when you press down on it. Other keys on the piano will play with their usual short, staccato sound. If an upright piano has a middle pedal it is most often used to mute the overall sound of the piano. It’s often referred to as a practice pedal so students can play without disturbing others in the room.

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    5 Must-See Websites for Music Performances

    We know that live music is a great complement to music lessons but sometimes finding the right event can be challenging as not all events are kid-friendly. Why not host a concert in your house? We found some websites that offer live music and it doesn’t matter if your children aren’t sitting still or how you’re dressed. Just watch and enjoy!

     

     

    National Public Radio: Tiny Desk Concerts

    NPR’s revamped music website features live performances that are literally performed near the desk of “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen. The performances tend to lean toward independent artists but several genres are represented including world music.

     

    New York Times: In Performance

    This is our personal favorite for online viewing of the arts. The performances are brief enough to capture the attention of our youngest musicians and features some of the most prominent artists in classical music and on Broadway. We especially love the close-up shots of the pianists so we can admire their quick finger work.

     

    PBS: Great Performances http://video.pbs.org/program/great-performances/

    This famous and long-running television show has an online component. This website offers a diverse offering of the arts from opera to ballet to classical music to Lady Gaga.

     

    Medici

    Kissin, Demidenko, Wit: Chopin, Piano Concertos on medici.tv.

    This site is perfect for the devout classical music fans who wish they could attend every concert. Full-length performances from Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall,

    Berliner Philharmonie, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and more are available for viewing.

    Registration is required and free but a monthly subscription fee is needed to access the site’s library and to have an ad-free experience,

     

     

    Music Together: Concert Videos 

    Music Together is a national organization that offers music enrichment classes for infants to 5-year-olds.  Your youngest musicians or soon-to-be-musicians might enjoy the up-tempo beats in this video playlist. Music Together has a knack for selecting songs that young children love and do not drive parents, well, crazy with repetitive beats and lyrics offered in the genre of children’s music.

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Are Voice Lessons The Most Cost-Effective Type of Music Instruction?

    When you think about music education do you think of children playing the piano or violin or do picture children singing do-re-mi?

    Chances are it’s the former.

    It’s an unexplained bias in Western culture that a solid music education must include a musical instrument.

    British music journalist Helen Wallace noticed this too and wonders why, in an era of reduced budgets for art instruction, so many people are advocating for the most expensive type of music instruction.

    “The fact is that every child already has an instrument, cost-free: their own voice,” Wallace writes in Classical-music.com, an online publication of BBC Music Magazine. “If half the meagre resources currently available were spent on expertly-led choral singing in primary schools, every single child could experience music of a quality, variety and sophistication impossible to achieve with a motley collection of instruments played by children in the early stages of mastering them.”

    Wallace has a valid point about cost.  Musical instruments designed for beginning learners cost at least a few hundred dollars. Parents eagerly scour Craigslist for pianos hoping to find a deal and, in another country, people work tirelessly to create instruments from landfill materials.

    We’ve researched and tried to discern if there are unique benefits of instrumental instruction as opposed to vocal education but we could not find any information. It appears that any type of music instruction offers great benefits to children.

    We offer piano and voice lessons at The Music Junction and see the benefits in both types of education. We also think that the most valuable type music instruction is the one that inspires you and makes you excited to practice be it voice or piano.

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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