Posts Tagged ‘bass lessons’

After learning your basic chords, what’s next?

February 27, 2017

After learning your basic chords, what’s next? This is a common question that I get when teaching adult students who are self taught or have taken lessons for a few months. In this video, I describe a technique called travis picking and how it can be used to create more interesting arrangements with the basic chords you already know.

 

 

I hope you enjoy this instructional video. If you want to learn more about our program, visit rockpopma.com and http://www.thelessonstudio.com, and contact us if you’d like to sign up for in-person lessons!

Handing Mistakes

February 15, 2015
Michael Sebulsky

Michael Sebulsky

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Michael Sebulsky

Whether it be playing a memorized, classical piece in a concert hall, playing a jazz solo at a local jam, or simply sitting and learning with friends around the campfire mistakes are likely to happen. A mistake is defined as an unintentional musical moment, contrary to musical expectation. Some mistakes seem more critical than others. Whether it is a broken guitar string, a wrong note played on the piano or a vocalist’s voice not reaching the expected high point a mistake does not have to end or ruin a performance. Most good performances contain a mistake, if not more than one. Chances are that if you have seen a live music performance that you have seen many mistakes, whether you noticed or not.

Instead of being afraid of making a mistake, a practicing musician can follow the following tips to learn how to make mistakes and other “unintentional musical events” a part of a good, smooth musical performance.

1. Practice performing

One of the most important aspects of a good performance is to practice the attitude and experience of the performance. This can be done in many ways. Ask your close friends (whom you feel comfortable around) if you can perform your music for them. This is a great way to experience the sensation and nerves of performing for a group of people, albeit people who you know to be your “musical allies.” Allow the performance to go on, no matter what! This is where most of your mistakes will come to light. Allow your friends to give you honest and constructive feedback and feel free to ask them questions about the performance. Remember that your experience of your performance is not always (or ever) the same as the experience your audience has!
Practice performing can happen while learning a piece of music, even before the entire piece is ready. A musician can be well benefitted by working section by section through a piece for performing. When a certain section seems ready (even when the whole piece isn’t) the musician can enter into “practice performing” by not allowing themselves to stop while playing this section. Making notes of what went well, what felt shaky and what went not according to plan at this stage in the learning process can help to better shape the remainder of the piece.

2. Do not memorize the mistake.

So many times we let a mistake stop us in our tracks. (There will be more about not stopping in the next section.) By stopping, we are actually setting ourselves up to repeat the same activity. Muscle memory plays a huge part in this activity. One great way to remove the muscle memory is to take a break, and begin the learning process of the mistake section again. Good, successful practice sessions allow the musician to not only practice the notes and chords of a tune but also the mental strength and focus necessary for executing the performance with excellence. Mental fatigue can cause mistakes. So get up, grab a glass of water or a piece of fruit, talk to someone for a moment and distance yourself from the learning momentarily. When you return you will see what parts of the piece are memorized both mentally and muscularly. Sometimes slowing down and starting from scratch causes a musician to focus more on the music, and not the expectation of an error.

3. Don’t stop and focus.

Stopping is the most commonly repeated mistake. We stop because we are not expecting what has just happened. Stopping during the performance of a bad note negates the correct rhythm and placement of the note. Do not allow a note to be both bad melodically and rhythmically by stopping! Instead, allow yourself the opportunity to play the unexpected, incorrect note and allow it to be apart of the performance. In most cases, one wrong or bad note is not something your audience will remember or even notice. By not stopping, the performer draws less attention to the unexpected error and more attention to the overall performance.

4. Practice fixing the mistake.

The activity of fixing a mistake is not one that any musician should endeavor to work on during a performance. In fact, while practicing performing, the idea of stopping is completely frowned upon. Instead, continue playing and practice the activity of not stopping when a mistake occurs. What you will learn is akin to an entirely new skill, that of thinking on your feet as a musician. This is where mental focus on the piece is crucial. Knowing your piece can allow you to patch a mistake during a performance without stopping and smoothly guide you to the next section of your work.

5. Make the mistake a part of your playing.

The great Chet Atkins once quipped that, “The first time I do it, it is a mistake. The second time it is my own arrangement.” A performer can benefit from the idea of knowing that some errors actually help the performance to sound unique! Essentially, not all mistakes are bad or contrary to a good, solid performance. There is no such thing as the mythical “perfect performance.” Therefore, allow mistakes to be a part of the overall sound of the performance and do not let them distract from the larger picture, which is a musical, smooth performance.

Using these tips should help your practice time, your performances, and your understanding of how to handle mistakes. Taking each one of these tips and applying them to your daily study will show results quickly and benefit your overall performing, making your instrument much more enjoyable to study.

“Understanding Tempo and Rhythm”

November 9, 2014

Casey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

by Casey Cormier

 

No matter what instrument you choose to study, there is no doubt that at some point you will struggle with the proper timing of a piece.  Of course this is the main focus of any drummer, keeping a steady beat while delivering a solid rhythmic pattern.  But singers need to have a good sense of time too; often in my career I’ve worked with incredible vocalists who would come in at the wrong place in a song, causing us backing musicians to quickly alter our position in the piece and follow our wayward leader.  The importance of understanding tempo and rhythm, and the methods of practicing to improve these skills, cannot be overstated.

 

Tempo is the pace of a piece of music.  In pop songs, most often, the tempo stays the same through out the piece.  In art songs, or classical music, the tempo can change as the music proceeds, in which case a conductor comes in very handy.  Tempos are determined in BPMs, or Beats Per Minute.  The easiest tempo to ascertain is 60 BPMs.  60 beats per minute…60 seconds per minute.  Think “one Mississippi, two Mississippi”, or refer to any analog clock, and you’ll here 60 bpm ticking away.  Tempo ranges can be determined from this source, such as:

 

Largo ~ This is the slowest tempo setting, 60 beats per minute or slower.  Think of a slow, sad ballad.  “Something” by the Beatles is 69 bpm, so even slower than that!

Andante ~ Faster than 60 beats per minute, but not twice as fast.  Think of a walking pace, a straight ahead rock song.  “Down on the Corner” by CCR is 108 bpm, on the edge of andante and…

Allegro ~ Full steam ahead!  120 bmp or higher, heard often in up-tempo dance numbers and punk rock. “Rockaway Beach” by the Ramones clocks in at 168 bpm, more than twice as fast as “Something”!

 

If a guitarist were to count off “Rockaway Beach” at 69 beats per minute, you can bet his or her band mates would be raising some eyebrows.  Of course that doesn’t mean that we all need to bring metronomes to every rehearsal, but it does mean that we should consider the tempo of a piece of music before we jump in.  Practicing scales or exercises with a metronome is a great way of helping to improve innate tempo precision, and using one with a piece of music that you are trying to polish for a performance or recording is guaranteed to make you stronger with it.  In fact, most of what you hear on the radio today was recorded with a click track keeping tempo in the musicians’ ears, to guarantee a steady beat throughout.

 

Once you understand tempo, it’s important to grasp the concept of rhythm, or playing notes in a metric pattern.  What?  Let’s break it down this way.  Most of popular music is played in 4/4 time, or four beats in a measure.  Count “1,2,3,4”, in an even fashion and you’ve got it.  What if we wanted to have those same beats but add a beat in between each.  We’d be creating what are called 8th notes, and count “1&2&3&4&” in the same amount of time.  We could mix and match these to create different patterns, such as “1 2& 3 4&” or “1 2&3& 4”.  Songs often have a signature rhythm attached either to their melody or to the supporting instruments.  For example, “1,2,3(rest)1,2&(rest)(rest)” is the rhythm to the beginning riff of Django Reinhardt’s “Minor Swing”.  If you were to take out those rests and play the same notes, it would cease to be the same song.  Rhythm is the skeletal system of melody, and tempo is its heart beat.

 

So when and how should you practice rhythmic concepts?  I have students break out the metronome to practice a scale they have already conquered melodically; in other words, if they aren’t able to play the pattern properly, then it’s too soon for the metronome.  But once they’re able to maneuver that scale without correction, then we start at 60 bpm, and move up from there.  Any exercise you can do at 60 bpm you’ll eventually be able to do at 120 (twice as fast); I recommend moving up in intervals of 20.  For a song, once the student can read through it accurately, then the metronome is a great polishing tool, but it’s important to take the most difficult part of the piece and determine the playable tempo from there.  If we’re playing “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin, we’ll determine the tempo to practice from the guitar solo, the most difficult part of the song, and apply that to the whole thing.  The results for a student of any instrument will be a stronger rhythmic foundation and thus a better all-around musician in the making!

Building a Woodshed

July 10, 2011

 by Josh Kossman, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Josh Kossman, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Josh Kossman

Don’t worry, this is not a blog about carpentry! Wood shedding is musical slang for getting some serious/productive practicing done, and THAT is what this blog is all about. Proper wood shedding can be broken down into three steps: creating a blueprint of what you want to accomplish, locking yourself inside, and shedding your old habits/licks for newer and more improved ones.

The first step to productive practicing is to create a blueprint for yourself; that is set little (and big) goals to accomplish each time you sit down to practice. While it’s definitely beneficial (and fun) to sit down and strum a few tunes, it’s not always the most productive. In order to grow and improve while we play we must narrow down what we play. Instead of aiming to play an entire song, we should only play the sections that we’re struggling with. Say there’s a difficult chord change in a given song; instead of playing the whole song and playing through that change, we should solely focus on that part. Set a little goal (draw a blueprint) for yourself and work at it, and you’ll find yourself able to play that part a lot quicker!

The next step in wood shedding is simple: lock yourself inside! Productive practicing should be devoid of all outside distractions (yes, you’re cell phone is an outside distraction). Once inside the shed you should only be focusing on what it was you went in to work on. You’ll see and hear your mistakes a lot clearer and you’ll find yourself growing and improving a lot faster, trust me.

The last step in productive wood shedding is to accept that the way you’ve always played a certain lick or chord might not be the best way to play it. In order to improve as musicians we have to look how we’re playing and how we can streamline/maximize. Personally, I’m constantly changing my technique and expanding my options for playing certain styles, which means I’m constantly in the wood shed shedding my previous techniques and outlook on musical in general. The best part is, the more we change the easier it gets to change again!

So now when you hear a musician talk about Wood Shedding you’ll know they’re not talking about a strange skin issue or their weekend backyard projects. They’re talking about something we all should do, and we all should do more, practicing! After all the only way to improve and be able to play on whatever stage we wish is to…Practice, Practice, Practice. Happy shedding!

5 Resources That Will Enhance Practice Outside of Your Lesson

April 3, 2011

By Wilson Harwood, Guitar, Banjo & Bass Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Wilson Harwood, Guitar, Banjo & Bass Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Wilson Harwood

 

Many ambitious musicians choose to save a few dollars by teaching themselves.  I, myself, fall into this category as a banjo player. I currently take lessons for classical guitar, but cannot afford/find time for banjo lessons. As a teacher and student I am a huge advocate of learning from a teacher because it speeds up the learning process while also keeping you focused.  However, I also know that due to finances and time, many people choose to teach themselves at some point or another.  Below is a list of five resources that will enhance your lessons or help guide you if your not currently taking lessons.

 

1) Youtube:

 

At the top of the list is everyone’s best friend, Youtube. If you haven’t used it as a tool yet then do a search of your favorite song. Chances are you will find a lesson along with the recording of the song. Youtube is also a great way to get inspired.

 

2) UltimateGuitarTab:

 

Everyone has heard or experienced finding tab online only to realize something just doesn’t sound right.  I recommend this resource with a bit of caution.  I find tab to really speed up the learning process and can help you navigate the fret board when learning by ear fails you.  Use tab as an aid, but not the sole source for learning a song.  Try using the tab to help you while also learning by ear or on Youtube.

 

3) Books, Books, and More Books.

 

It feels overwhelming to step into a music shop and browse the books they have. Many seem either to easy, to hard, or simply don’t make sense.  Some guidelines when choosing a book are:

a)     Look for concise wording with out to much clutter on the pages.

b)     Look for books with CD’s or DVD’s. They really do help.

c)      Hal Leonard and Mel Bay are good beginner publishers, but may seem boring to the advancing musician.

d)     Try to stay away from books with extensive chord diagrams. I find many songbooks derive from piano parts not guitar parts.

 

4) Jam Sessions, Friends, Neighbors, Ensembles

 

Here at the lesson studio we teach ensembles to give students experience playing with others.  Private lessons are great instructional tools, but they will not give you experience playing with people.  Go to jams or open mic nights to play or simply watch.  You might meet others who would like to play on a regular basis.  If you have friends or family that also play, ask them if they would like to start a group or a regular jam session.  Mainly, until you play with others you will not feel the immense improvement it will bring to your playing.

 

5) Blogs and Music Subscription Services:

 

Hey, look, you are reading this blog and learning about some new techniques. Check out some other blogs such as http://www.banjohangout.org/, http://www.bluegrasscollege.org/, http://www.classicalguitarblog.net/. Blogs will introduce you to new music, ideas, and musicians. They are a great way to get connected to the musical style you like.

 

Lastly, if time is your problem than maybe online lessons are the right choice.  More and more teachers are selling tab or full videos online.  I have come across a great site for metal guitarist at http://www.guitarmasterclass.net/. Kristofer Dahl is from Sweden and is a bit of a character, but also a great teacher.

 

Remember, these resources are helpful in enhancing your lessons with a teacher face to face.  I cannot emphasize enough the value in taking regular lessons.  If you have to take a break from lessons, use this advice to help keep you on track until you start lessons again.

 

Caring for your Instrument as the Weather Changes

January 30, 2011

By Josh Kossman, Guitar/Bass/Mandolin/Ukulele Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Josh Kossman, Guitar/Bass/Mandolin/Ukulele Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Josh Kossman

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably noticed vast and sudden changes in our beautiful Boulder weather lately. What most of us probably haven’t noticed, however, is the effect the changing climate has had on our instruments, specifically our acoustic stringed instruments. Even slight changes in temperature can cause our strings to go out of tune but 30 degree swings, like the ones we’ve had the last few weeks, can do considerable damage to our instruments. Luckily, there are steps we can take to prevent such damage from occurring.

The first and most important step to your instrument protection is keeping it stored in a climate controlled area, NOT in your garage or car. Again, even slight temperature variations can cause your strings to go out of tune, but varying temperature extremes (for example, leaving your guitar in the cold car all day and then suddenly bringing it into an 80 degree house) can actually cause the wood to warp and possibly even crack. Instead, store your instrument at home, where the temperature won’t be changing so drastically. And if you have to bring it along with you to work, don’t leave it in your car. Instead, bring it into the office to store for the day. That way, when you bring it into The Lesson Studio’s heated facility it won’t crack or warp.

The second step in instrument protection is maintaining good humidity. This is especially important in Boulder’s dry air. All instruments, but especially acoustic stringed instruments (mandolins, guitars, ukuleles, violins, violas, cellos, etc…) need a healthy amount of humidity where there stored so that their wood doesn’t dry up and crack or split at the seams. Some of us have humidity controls in our heating devices at home, but for the rest of us we need a different solution. The best thing for the instrument would be to buy what is called a Damp-It®. A Damp-It® is a holed rubber tube with sponges inside that you would insert into the sound hole of your instrument. It is outfitted with a nifty clip so that it won’t fall all the way in. When wetted the Damp-It® will moisturize and greatly extend the life of your instrument. If you cannot get a hold of a Damp-It®, you can poke holes in a 35mm film canister, fill it with a wetted sponge and keep it in your case. This works, but is not as effective as a proper product manufactured to moisturize your instrument.

The third thing we can do, and by far the simplest, is to just keep an eye on our instruments. Every day you should check the wood on your instrument. Look for warps, bends, cracks, or splits. Hold your instrument so you can look straight down the neck and check if the angle is true. Play a bit and listen for buzzes or anything that sounds odd. If you do find something that troubles you, bring it into The Lesson Studio for your teacher to look at, and hopefully it will be something simple we can fix.

I hope this blog has shed light on some basic instrument maintenance techniques. As musicians, it’s extremely important we keep our tools-of-the-trade in good functionality and tone. It makes it easier to play and easier to listen to. So, enjoy the changing weather, but be wary as well. Keep a steady eye and an ear on your instruments and treat them with the love and care you would yourself.

Winter/Spring Semester Registration Begins

November 12, 2009

On Monday, November 16, 2009, The Lesson Studio (TLS) will begin its Winter/Spring Semester registration!

The dates for our Winter/Spring Semester 2010 are: January 9 – May 21, 2010

TLS has instructors for guitar, piano, voice, drums, bass, violin, viola, saxophone, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, tuba, euphonium, ukelele, oboe, cello, flute, mandolin and banjo! We also offer music therapy, a free workshop series, and summer music camp. We have an in-store drop-off/pickup for instrument repair. Included with your semester tuition are weekly instruction with the teacher of your choice; supplies including weekly goal sheets, staff paper, CDs, and music charts; assistance from three administrative staff people; free Wi-Fi in the reception area; 10% off coupon for a local music store; and best of all, an end-of-semester recital! Our Fall recital is held at the Old Main Chapel at CU and our Spring recital is held ON STAGE at the Boulder Creek Festival!

If you are a current student, be sure to let our staff know if you prefer the same day/time or a new time slot for your music lesson. If you are new to The Lesson Studio, please call 303-543-3777 for your FREE CONSULTATION today!

As always, please visit http://www.thelessonstudio.com for more information.The Lesson Studio logo