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    How Music Sampling Is Really About Loving Music

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    For those taking lessons, it is easy to become entrenched with practicing and mastering theory but sometimes it is necessary to take a step back and not think about music as work.

     

    Sometimes you need to remember that music is beautiful and about expressing yourself.

     

    Yes, we know we’re biased. That is why we loved watching Mark Ronson’s TED Talks presentation about sampling, or the act of taking a pre-recorded piece of music and reusing it for a different song. Ronson said sampling was not about artistic laziness but rather something deeper.

     

    Ronson, who is also respected British artist and music producer to Amy Winehouse and Adele, focused on Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” that debuted in 1984. In more than 30 years, it is one of the most sampled songs in music history used by Snoop Dogg, Biggie Smalls, and even Miley Cyrus who was not even born when the song originally debuted.

     

    “They were sampling those records because they heard something in that music that spoke to them that they instantly wanted to inject themselves into the narrative of that music,” Ronson told the Ted Talks crowd. “In music, you take something that you love and build on it.”

     

    When you think about it, isn’t that what music is supposed to be about: becoming inspired and making something beautiful? At The Music Junction, we receive requests from young singers who see “Annie” and “Frozen” and who are eager to perform songs from those plays and movies. For them, it is about establishing a deeper connection to something that they care about so deeply.

     

    So, remember that next time you’re practicing and thinking about music as work. You’re gaining the skills to become inspired and build something that is uniquely yours.

     

    Also, we are not the only ones who were taken with Ronson’s talk. NPR collected some of the songs that sampled “La Di Da Di.” It is a musical journey and definitely worth a listen.

     

     

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

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    Yoga for Musicians

    If your new year’s resolution includes more exercise and better music-making, consider yoga to fulfill both your goals.

    Although the benefits often associated with yoga are physical (i.e. flexibility and weight loss) and mental (i.e. stress relief and mindfulness), yoga also helps people with body alignment, balance and building a strong core, all necessary tools for good singing. The belief that yoga can improve one’s singing is so strong that yoga classes have made their way onto Berklee College of Music’s campus (which offers a “Yoga for Musicians” class) and has spawned its own sub-industry that includes DVDs and books.

    Does yoga make you a better singer? Well, you still need to practice singing and science has yet to make a strong connection. Still, it does not hurt to try! We’ve collected some videos and poses to get you started. Try them and tell us what you think!

    Adie Grey

    While the production quality is lacking, this video does a good job of explaining why certain poses benefit signers. You may not watch this every day as part of your yoga routine, but you will have better knowledge on how your body affects your music performance.

     

    Mia Olson
    She is a Berklee instructor who also teaches yoga. There is no accompanying video but in this Making Music magazine article Olson lists some specific poses that works for all musicians. She focuses more on yoga as a form of injury prevention.

     

    Chaz Rough

    This video is geared toward those who want to do yoga before a recital or performance. It’s quick but might do the trick to make you calm, flexible and confident.

     

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

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    Encouraging Adult Music Students

    At The Music Junction we enjoy having students of all ages and believe music making is a good hobby for everyone. After all, it is well documented how music lessons benefit older students with their memory.  So, if playing the piano or taking voice lessons was one of your new year’s resolutions but you’re a little uncertain about this new journey, do not fear! We’re here to help!

     

    You Can Do This!

    The old saying is true, we are our own worst critic. Or as a music teacher told the New York Times, older people tend to “beat themselves up more” about their music abilities. Just relax and realize that being a student means you will make mistakes but you will get better. Teacher Brad Hubisz wants adults to remember something that is sometimes overlooked: “Adults are smarter than children!” He adds that older students have an easier time learning more theoretical-based concepts such as scales, chords and circle of fifths. Also, adults have a quicker grasp on learning sight reading tricks.

     

     

    You Should Practice But …

    Perhaps more than children, adult students tend to feel bad when they show up for lessons unprepared. Maybe it was a busy week at work filled with late meetings. Perhaps, you had a few too many dinner parties with friends. Either way, your day quickly filled up and you had little time, or energy, to practice. Out of respect for the teacher’s time you cancel the lessons and hope to catch up in time for the next session.

     

    Not so fast, says Music Junction owner Charissa Vaughan-Wheeler. She is a trained vocalist and pianist who is also learning how to play the guitar. She knows what it’s like to not practice. “Canceling actually has the opposite effect,” she says. “When students do that, they end up not practicing again for another week because they didn’t get the momentum back up again, and that’s when they start thinking about quitting.”

     

    Do you have any other concerns? Call us at The Music Junction so we can help!

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

    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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    Malawi Mouse Boys

     

     

    Those of us at The Music Junction believe talent is everywhere and inside all of us. You do not have to be born with music ability to be a great singer nor do you have to be rich to create beautiful music.

     

    We came across an NPR story that is a wonderful reminder about talent. Also, you’ll quickly become enchanted with this music!

     

    The Malawi Mouse Boys spend several hours every Sunday singing for their church. The rest of the week, they hunt mice to sell as snacks to travelers along a stretch of highway.

     

    And that’s how they met Ian Brennan, a San Francisco-based music producer who has worked with artists such as Corin Tucker of Sleater Kinney, Lucinda Williams and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. A few years ago, he happened to be traveling in Malawi and came across these young men selling mice and asked one of them to sing.

     

    “And he played it so quietly it was almost inaudible,” Brennan remembers. “But when he came to the chorus, this group of 20 kids that was pressing in, from age 2, to age 18 or so, all kicked in on the chorus in multi-part harmony. And the sun was literally going down, with surround sound and one of the most musical moments I’d ever had in my life.”

     

    Using only their voice and handmade instruments —  guitars are built with sheet metal and tree limbs while plastic water coolers and bicycle spokes serve as percussion instruments — Brennan recorded an album that was published in the United Kingdom. In fact Songlines magazine named it the best gospel album of 2014.

     

    “Their voices are really the core,” Brennan says. “They have such a unity that I think it’s very similar to the Carter Family or The Jackson 5, where it’s familial. They’ve been singing together their whole lives, people that have developed their voices literally together, that have learned to listen together, have opened their ears to each other and with each other.”

     

    The Malawi Mouse Boys recently performed in California and will appear at the WOMAD festival next year in Australia. You can also buy their music here.

     

    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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    Survey Reveals Parents Thoughts on Music and Singing

    A new survey shows that parents overwhelmingly value music education yet we were disappointed how few families incorporate music making into their lives.

    The survey — commissioned by Music Together over the summer — revealed that 31 percent of parents have never sung to their children and only 17 percent sing daily.

    Why don’t parents sing? The survey could not provide insight but based on responses to other survey questions we think it is due to self-consciousness. For instance, 72 percent of parents think people are either born with or without the ability to sing. Given that 31 percent of parents singing every day in the shower and in the car some insecurity may prevent them from singing to their children.

    At The Music Junction, we believe very passionately that singing well is within everyone’s reach and it’s not an innate ability. It just takes professional instruction, practice and some confidence. If you do not have the time or the resources right now for music lessons just keep singing. Sing loud and be happy and don’t worry if you’re out of tune!

    We’re glad that Music Together agrees with us.

    “Some adults feel self-conscious about their own singing and dancing and some may think they need to be a great singer or musician in order to be a good musical role model,” says Kenneth Guilmartin, founder of Music Together. “But, research suggests that even parents who cannot sing in tune can still provide their child with a positive disposition for music-making. In addition, singing and dancing together can be an important way to bond with your child.”

    However, we weren’t completely disappointed with the survey results. Approximately 98 percent of parents believe children need music education and 52 percent believe that it should begin between the ages of 1 to 5 years old.

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

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    3 Reasons Non-Singers Should Take Voice Lessons

    Think singing lessons are only for the young or those who have dreams of stardom? Think again! Our wonderful vocal students at The Music Junction run the gamut of ages and interests because they know the benefits of voice lessons extend beyond the microphone.

     

    Here are a few examples of how voice lessons can enhance your life:

    1. Public Speaking – Singers who take lessons from a professional instructor learn proper posture as well as breathing techniques that enable them project to their voice and present themselves with confidence. These skills not only benefit singers and actors but a wide variety of careers. If you talk a lot in your job — such as a doctor, teacher, or yoga instructor — you could benefit from strengthening your vocal folds. Or, if your career ambitions include being a manager or executive who leads meetings and inspires workers, you may also benefit from singing lessons.

     

    2. Lower Stress – As strange as it may sound, singing has a calming effect that has been scientifically proven to be equal to practicing yoga.

     A team of researchers led by Dr. Bjron Vickhoff of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden led the study and explained why:

     “Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out occurs on the song phrases and inhaling takes place between these. It gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing. It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.”

     There’s even a subset of yoga that incorporates singing into the yoga moves, which is a hard for us to imagine but we’d love to try it one day.

     

    3. Confidence – Tired of avoiding karaoke night or confining your singing to the shower or the car? At The Music Junction, we are firm believers that anyone can sing. It just takes time, practice and the willingness to break out of your comfort zone. Imagine how differently you’ll think of yourself after conquering this fear.

     

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

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    Singing Ability Is Within Everyone’s Reach

    For every Carrie Underwood who shoots to fame after wowing audiences and judges on “American Idol” there is a William Hung who is laughed at on YouTube and is unfortunately associated with the worst the television show has to offer.

     For every “Glee” that celebrates music talent there is television sitcom “The Goldbergs” that laughs at the musical ambitions of a young, out-of-tune boy named Adam.

    If we were to believe Hollywood, singing ability is clearly divided into the haves and have nots. You either have the talent or you do not.

    We don’t know how this myth came into existence. No one would claim that the talents of a pianist, basketball player or accountant were based on innate talents. So, why do people who do not sing very well think taking lessons is a futile act?

    With some training anyone, including Hung and Adam (yes, we know he is a fictional character) could become great singers. A great example on the accessibility of musical talent can, ironically, be found among Hollywood’s top actresses. Although they did not grow up taking singing lessons, Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line” and Gywenth Paltrow in “Country Strong” impressed critics and moveigoers with their abilities.

    In an ABC news article, Roger Love, a veteran vocal coach in Hollywood, explained that people who love music and who like to sing — in the car, in the show and while walking — begun their music education years ago.

    “’Singing along to recorded vocal music is like having a mini-singing lesson,’ Love said. ‘I could tell from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Country Music Awards performance that she’s obviously a person who grew up exposed to music and enjoyed her own private time singing,’ he said. ‘I could hear from her pitch and rhythm that she has a history of putting her voice close enough to where it’s supposed to go.’ … If the actress has a considerable amount of non-professional singing time under her belt, Love said, it’s often just a matter of teaching her vocal and breathing techniques to go along with her natural talent.”

    At the Music Junction, we’re firm believers that the right instruction coupled with some hard work can make anyone a good singer. If you have every wanted to sing to your children, at church, or just feel comfortable belting out tunes in front of other people, we can help!

    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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