The other week I was teaching a student and I looked over and her posture was all wacky. Her back was curved and she was hovered over the piano. Her legs were lounging forward and not bent and she was sitting sideways. "Oh my" I exclaimed "We need to fix your posture."
Posture is one of the tools that students learn when they first start to learn piano. If you look in any beginning lesson book there is a section on posture in the first few pages. Posture is a very important tool for any instrument, but as musician we tend to forget the correct ways to sit and this causes problems in our playing.
Not sitting correctly with your instrument causes problems with your playing?
Yes! Just like any sport or dance, the postures you use help you perform. Music lessons are just the same. Sometimes when your posture is not correct you make more mistakes because your body is not in the correct postion.
Key things to remember for correct piano posture:
1. Sitting with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Your knees are slightly under the keyboard.
3. Sitting on the front part of the bench
4. Back Straight
5. Loose shoulders
6. Curved Fingers on keys
Remembering this position will make a world of difference in your playing and performing.
Jammin' With You! teams up with the LoVE Foundation to auction off two amazing tickets to the Dave Matthews Band concert on 11/09/2010 at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, MA. The tickets also come with VIP hospitality lounge passes, and an author-signed copy of the soon-to-be-released Dave Matthews Band book. To read more about this event, please click here: www.jamminwithyou.com/dmbdonation
To go straight to the auction to bid, click here: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180579259457
Summer has arrived! And this summer we would like to take a moment to interview our teachers and see what their summer fun includes! First up Rob Morrison!
Jammin' With You!: What do you teach at JWY!
Rob Morrison: Guitar, piano, theory + voice (plus life experience)
JWY!: What have you learned from teaching lessons to JWY! students?
RM: I have learned that there are many learning styles and personalities and therefore there must be alternative teaching methods to accomodate each student.
RM: The student is generally more comfortable learning at home, but the teacher has to work harder to keep their attention.
JWY!: What do you think is different about teaching in a studio vs. in-home music lessons?
RM: I feel like I have broadened the horizons of my students by introducing them to improvisation and songwriting at early stages of their musical education. My students have taught me the untrained ear has a lot to offer musically and can produce fresh ideas without the impedence of too much conventional wisdom.
JWY!: How have you influenced kids while teaching? AND How have they influenced you?
RM: Here Comes The Sun by the Beatles
JWY!: What is your favorite summer tune to Jam out to?
JWY!: What was the best summer concert you went to?
RM: This year, it was Jethro Tull at the Bank of America Pavillion.
RM: I'm taking little vacations to Martha's Vineyard, Vermont, the Cape and Montreal.
JWY!: Is there anything exciting that you are doing over the summer?
JWY!: Where is your favorite place to play music during the summer?
RM: Anywhere outside. Last year my band, Stroamata, played the outdoor festival Harpoon Summer Session, but this summer, you might find me busking (musician-speak for playing for tips in the street) in the public parks of downtown Boston before or after lessons. Barbeques, pool parties or roofdecks are just as good.
Photo: Maxwell GS
As spring concerts, recitals and shows start filling our calendars your child may start getting a case of the dreaded nerves. When I first started playing at recitals, I would be so nervous everything I learned from my piano lessons went out the window. I would seem to forget everything, including how to sit at the piano to how to play.But when I learned some easy ways to get rid of my nerves I started playing my best.
Here are 5 ways to help your child calm down and rock out at their performance!
Accept and redirect:
When we are nervous it normally shows that we care about what we are about to do. We don't want to mess up because we have worked hard and are ready to show the world our talent! Instead of thinking of nerves in a negative light, look at them in a positive light.
*nerves mean you care
*nerves give you a little adrenaline that keeps you alert
*nerves are natural and you can get through them
When a person is nervous they tend to clench their jaw, wring their hands or move their legs quickly. Anxiety causes tension. Do a few simple stretches to relax and get the blood flowing.
*Shrug your shoulders toward your ears and rolling your head from side to side
*Bring one arm across your body and pull and do the same with the other side.
*Rotate your ankles and stretch your legs
* Shake your hands like you have just washed them and their isn't a towel around to dry them.
Silently Sing or Play:
Mentally review what piece you are playing or singing. You can even pretend you have the instrument in your hand and practice the motions. Doing this will allow your mind to relax and take focus to the task at hand.
Don't Go Bananas!:
Whenever you feel like you are going to get upset start to focus on your breathing and think happy thoughts. Say phrases to yourself like:
* It's OK to be upset, but I am in control
* I am great at what I do!
* I am going to conquer this
You can also think about a time where you did really well at something or a time when you where very relaxed. Close your eyes, take a breath and imagine you are there.
*Also, speaking of bananas, eat a banana, it helps lower anxiety.
Show off those teeth. Smiling helps relieve tension in our jaw and overall makes us feel happier. When we smile we are shrugging off the nerves and showing a confident exterior which will slowly come to the interior.
Remember "When your smiling, the whole world smiles with you."
So before your child starts to worry about how they will sound at their recital remind them that they are great, smile at them, rub their shoulders and hand them a banana! They are going to be wonderful this recital season and I am sure many people await to hear their talent!
Many times a parent will ask us, how young is too young for music lessons? We normally will tell them to think about their individual child and their personality and ability. Once the parent has decided that their young child is ready to step into the music world here are a few things to think about when choosing a teacher for their lessons.
Your new lesson teacher should know the difficulties of teaching younger beginners.
*students have a shorter attention span
* students tend to be wiggly
*the students can’t read on their own
* they have not fully developed coordination
So how do we do we teach these students?
An effective young beginner music teacher should be able to make each lesson smooth and prevent some of the difficulties of teaching a young beginner. When talking to your childs new music teacher ask the teacher about how they will run the lesson with your small child. They should say or explain some of these points.
Make lessons have short different parts.
An effective teacher should not spend the entire lesson on one technique. Each music lesson should have different sections that run for about 5 minutes. Anymore time then the five minutes and the child will start to loose interest.
Let your child wiggle in a structured way.
The teacher will play songs that allow them to “shake their sillies out” during the lesson. These kind of songs will allow the child to wiggle and squirm as much as they want, and also be teaching them about rhythm and pitch.
Help students learn visually.
Find a book that provided the student with a lot of pictures to help them understand what they are learning. If your child can't read yet, there are different books that help teach the child with pictures and graphs.
Use music for little hands.
Make sure the songs you are teaching are for little hands. Even though your child and you have the same amount of fingers, their hands may not be able to move as fast as yours. The books your new teacher should be teaching from should have songs developed for little hands.
The best way to know if your child will be sucessful in their new music lesson is talking to your new teacher and making sure you, your child and the teacher are comfortable with the lessons. Good luck and welcome to the world of music!
There are many studies on how effective constant parent involvement in a child’s school education helps them grow in many ways. There is even a national organization on it called the National Coalition for Parent Involvement In Education.
The NCPIE says:
The evidence is in: when schools and families work together to support learning, everyone benefits.
*Students do better in school and in life.
*Parents become empowered.
*Teacher morale improves.
*Schools get better.
*Communities grow stronger.
All of these things are true for your child’s music lessons too. Even if a parent is not musically inclined, simple support can go a long way for your child, you and your child’s private music teacher.
Here are a few simple ways to support your child in their music endeavors even if you don’t know how to play music.
Ask your child what they learned in their lesson:
Asking your child about their lesson helps them remember the new information and they have to explain what they learned in their 30 min. keyboard lesson.
There are many ways a parent can ask about the lesson:
*Have the child explain what they learned away from the instrument to help them with their verbal skills
*Have the child explain what they learned with the instrument to help them explain visually
*A parent can act as the student and have their child help them learn something on the instrument.
*Ask your child to play them their favorite new song and tell them what you liked about it.
Tell your child you love hearing them practice:
The more they practice the better they get, right?
But sometimes when they practice they make mistakes and get embarrassed. By telling them, things like “wow you sounded great and you are getting better” encourages them to do more practice. Comments like these also tell your child that you are listening and you are taking an interest in what they are doing.
Don’t use the word CAN’T :
I always tell my student’s that the CAN’T word is off limits in playing music. If your student says “I can’t read music” or “I can’t play the guitar” make sure to tell them they can.
The word CAN’T takes the action of doing to a whole different level. Now your child thinks they can’t do something and will stop trying, consciously or unconsciously. If the parent doesn’t correct the child by saying, yes you can, then the child will believe that you think they can’t do it either.
Everyone is different, everyone learns differently and everyone plays different.
Remind your child that they can do whatever they want to do. If they are struggling with something let your music teacher know and then work as a team to help your child succeed.
Share your music idols:
Children today listen to many different things like High School Musical, The Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana and many more. But if you share your favorite bands with your child it is not only teaching them about different types of music but also about your excitement with music.
I will never forget the day when my dad got out his Beatles records and we listened to them all night. It really inspired me as a musician and I got very close to my dad through music.
Music can help create a bond between you and your child. Maybe after you show your child your favorite band you can ask them to show you theirs.
Get out and see live music:
There is nothing more inspirational for a musician then watching other musicians play. Take your child to see all types of music shows.
*Kids Music Shows
*Battles of Bands
There are many kid friendly festivals in the summer and so many great music venues that you can find something that sparks you and your child’s interest.
Cambridge - Club Passim
Boston Orpeum Theater
By taking these simple steps to help support your child and their musical ambition you will see such improvement in how they play, think and talk about music.
"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent."Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Photos by: Ha-Wee, Lance Shields & Fabio Bruna
Colds are in the air and allergies are just around the corner. What do you do to keep your voice healthy and how do you sound your best?
No matter how young you are or how long you have been taking vocal lessons a person should know how to care for their voice. Here are 5 simple ways to care for your voice.
1. Stay hydrated!
Every vocalist should always carry a bottle of water. An voice teacher of mine use to say “drink so much water that you pee clear!” It may sound gross but the more hydrated you are the better you will sound and the less damage you will do to your voice. Try to stay clear of too much caffeine and high sugar drinks.
2. Remember your warm ups
Just like getting ready to play sports or work out, your voice needs a proper warm up before you start to sing. Use a piano or guitar and sing up and down a scale, buzz your lips, hum a tune or do some breathing exercises. Your breath is so important in singing properly. So remember to practice breathing deep and using your entire midsection to support you.
3. Don't Shout!
Try to limit speaking in noisy places, or shouting at events. We all get excited sometimes, but every time you yell till you are hoarse you are damaging your voice.
4. Watch What You Eat
Before you sing a show, avoid foods and drinks that make your vocal cords produce mucous.
The best way to get rid of the mucous is to drink lots of water and warm up your voice.
5. Heal Your Sick Voice
When you are sick you should rest your voice as much as you can. You do not want to strain it or push to hard. If your voice is sore, besides drinking water try some of these tricks.
*Sleep with a humidifier *Drink herbal teas *Try to keep your voice and throat warm with scarves and turtle necks *Breath in steam
Unlike other instruments that get put away in a protective case, your instrument is your body and everything you do effects it. Remember these tips and sing your best.
Share your song with the world!
photo by Steve Punter
How To Choose a Piano Teacher
If you go on Craigslist and search for piano teachers, you will find hundreds of teachers and music schools currently accepting students. Every ad will look basically the same but as we know, not all teachers are the same. How do you find the right piano teacher for your child or yourself??
What is the teacher’s background?
How long have they been teaching? Do they currently have students? You don’t want to be a guinea pig for a new teacher. You want to make sure they have taught students like you before. Ask for references! Any quality teacher will be happy you want to call one of their current students because they know their students will speak highly of them. A good teacher doesn’t need to come from a conservatory of music. But you do want to make sure they are trained on their instrument and know what they are talking about!
What style/method does the teacher use?
Many teachers can teach any style while others are strictly classical or jazz ect. Why do you want to take lessons? If you just want to learn some fun tunes and make a hobby out of it, you don’t want someone who is going to insist you work out of 3 different theory books and technique books and give you stringent practice guidelines. If you’d like your son to be the next Beethoven, then that’s a different story. If you want to learn Jazz, there are teachers out there who will do just that. For parents who want their kids to have a positive 1st experience, find someone fun and enthusiastic who will keep them motivated and inspired.
Where do lessons take place?
If you are signing up for lessons at a music studio, is it a friendly, clean, safe environment? Go check it out. Will you be happy walking in each week? Many studios and companies offer In-Home music lessons. Taking lessons in your own home is ideal for most kids. Mom doesn’t have to drive and kids are in their comfort zone. Again, if a lesson service or school is going to send an instructor into your home, make sure you talk to some of his/her current students and families. Make sure this is someone you want to open your doors for each week.
Does the teacher offer recitals?
Recitals should be part of any music program. It gives students goals a real reason to practice. Performing in front of your peers can be stressful and scary but the rewards far outweigh the stress leading up to the performance. No matter what level students are playing at, completing a recital will be a huge accomplishment and can be very inspirational as you see what others are capable of.
If you google “guitar lessons” hundreds of pages will come up. The Internet has allowed us to learn any song we want at any given time. But can you really have success, learning guitar online? This depends on a few things.
Age- I don’t think any kid under the age of 10 is going to know where to start when it comes to learning online. Sure, a 7 yr old can Google “how to play Nirvana” but what comes up is not very educational or motivational. Even a teenager or adult will have a hard time jumping right into their favorite songs without the help of a teacher walking you thru each step.
Current Ability- Total beginners of any age will be very frustrated if they are looking to learn online. It is human nature to jump right to the good stuff ie songs, solos ect.
If you have at least a few months of guitar lessons under your belt, you can look up some songs and slowly begin to improve your skills. However, a lot of time is wasted if you come upon certain chords that you don’t know and aren’t explained within the tutorial.
Intermediate to advanced players will benefit from looking up tabs, chord charts and “how to play…” on Youtube. If you have a good base knowledge of your guitar, you can learn any song you want online today.
Motivation– If you’re one of those people who gives up if things don’t come easy, learning online is not the way to go. Private music lessons are the best way to stay motivated as you will have goals, assignments and deadlines each week as your lessons approach.
Photos by Bob n Renee and Steven Parker
Piano lessons for kids – How to choose a keyboard?
When I was 4 years old, my grandmother gave me her old piano. Looking back, this had to be the most rewarding, influential gift I’ve ever been given. However, not everyone has an old piano in their family. So how do get started with piano lessons without making a huge investment?
Piano lessons for beginners do not need to happen on a full sized piano. Even if you have the option of moving an old “free” piano from a family member or friend, it’s still not always the best option. Moving a piano can cost hundreds of dollars and it may take hundreds more to tune or restore it.
In my professional opinion, it’s best to start with a keyboard. However, keyboards can be very expensive as well, pricing up to $5,000. So how do you choose??!!
Five Keys to Finding the Right Keyboard:
Number of Keys - Keyboards come in 3 common sizes: 61, 73 and 88 keys. 61-keys is fine to start with for a beginner. 73-keys will give you a few more years of development possibilities without having to reinvest. 88-key keyboards are the biggest and most expensive. Not necessary for a beginner.
· Weighted Keys - Weighted keys are the closest thing to a real piano. They allow you to strike each key hard (for loud sounds) or soft (for quiet sounds). While this is important as you move forward, it takes years of practice to play with such dynamics. Your very basic $100, 61-key model will not have weighted keys. You are looking at a minimum of$350-$500 for a weighted keyboard.
· Touch Sensitive Keys – Touch sensitivity will mimic weighted keys allowing you to play loud or soft. However, the keys do not apply any resistance to your fingers as weighted keys do. While this will add about $50-$100 to your investment verses non-touch sensitive keys, it is worth the extra investment. In my eyes, this is your best bet for beginners. You can get a 61-key touch sensitive keyboard starting at about $150.
· Bells, Whistles and Colorful Flashing Lights – Most basic keyboards come with sound banks, featuring drum sounds, organs, strings, guitars, etc. These are fun distractions for young musicians, but don’t judge the keyboard based on these sounds. Fancy features will drive up the price. Although the sound banks will be an exciting part of your new investment, try to judge the keyboard based on the “piano” sounds it makes when you strike a key.
· Avoid Toys– The yellow, purple, red and blue Fisher Price toy keyboard that has been collecting dust since your child was a baby is not gonna cut it. While you don’t need a full size keyboard, you do need full size keys and something that sounds somewhat like a piano!