Posts Tagged ‘boulder guitar lessons’

A Lesson in Chords and Voice Leading

April 5, 2017

By Jim Simmons

guitar instructor at the lesson studio

Many famous artists have used and much good music can be made from strumming simple chords against melodic lines, vocal or otherwise. Nevertheless, during guitar lessons at the studio, I am often asked by those who have moved beyond a cursory acquaintance with simple chords and strum patterns how to choose more interesting chords, or how to differentiate their part from other instruments, especially another guitar prone to strum the same chords.

Possibilities here are myriad, and some comment should be made on how to navigate these choices, but before that, I want to introduce two concepts which may prove helpful in any and all scenarios from here on:

(1) Chord Scales, & (2) Voice Leading.

While both of these are topics unto themselves, much can be gleaned from their use in the present inquiry. Now, for a brief survey of options for the inquiring guitarist, and how those options will inform and interact with these two concepts above:

 

(1) Using a Capo/choosing a different register/chord shape (CAGED, etc.); (2) Adding or reducing tones;

(3) Doubling tones; (4) Using inversions;

(5) Differentiating strum patterns; (6) Playing a separate part, ostinato; (7) Playing a separate part, melodic; Etc.

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Now for the “how-to” part: I. Chord Scales

Regarding chord scales, begin with root position triadic chords (root-3rd-5th), barring

chords if necessary to locate each root in the overriding scale of the song (or portion of song). In a normal major key, this won’t be that hard, since the bass notes up the neck will complete a major scale (“do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do”). If the portion is in minor, or something more exotic (like a mode), you will need to revisit how to walk up the neck to

complete the scale, and in the case of minor, double-check for options that make minor so interesting (such a raised leading tone on a major V chord; use of the melodic ascending scale, or Dorian, etc.).

Establishing a chord scale (or more than one: (1.) Taking the scale up the neck with the root located on the same string; (2.) Exploring the chord scale across the neck, letting the root move across multiple strings) will provide your hands and ears with a lexicon of

 

options for each chord, each option profiled by its location on the guitar, its register, and its fingering (if it has open strings or not). Doing this is crucial for beginning the search for differentiated guitar parts.

Here I mention the CAGED method for chords and scales, as searching through the neck for other chords will naturally run into the options this technique will present. Simply put, the CAGED method will supply quick landmark options for each chord, which can be accessed either through using a Capo or playing all chords by-hand. I will revisit CAGED shortly, but these two approaches compliment one another very naturally (no pun intended).

One other strong benefit to establishing chord scales becomes important in the next phase: discovering the notes of the melody within accompanimental chord shapes

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Part II: Voice Leading

While this topic sprawls across all of music and music history, I want to limit our discussion of it to two main concepts any guitarist will appreciate: smoothness of chord change, and supporting the melody inside chord shapes.

Regarding smoothness of transitions between chords, two ideas become important: how close each chord is to one another; how harmonically smooth the change of each chord is one to another, that is, in terms of tension and resolution and stepwise motion between chord tones. Let’s say your chord progression involves going from an E major to a B major (I to V in the key of E), a certain amount of block-iness may be hard to overcome, but let’s try and see what happens:

Our first two options involve moving up the neck to the V chord either to the 7th fret of the low-E string (a barred E major-shape), or to the 2nd fret of the A string (a barred A major-shape). Let me say neither of these is “bad” necessarily, so no guilt here, but let’s analyze each option in terms of voice leading: by opting for the barred E major at the 7th fret, we here a transposition of every tone up a Perfect 5th; now, we have the open E string “do” resolving to “ti” in an oblique way (“ti” is on the G string here, 8th fret); again, the fact that it’s oblique is neither good or bad, just neutral, but if the music called for this motion to be heard clearly, the guitarist using this 7th fret choice of a B major could

simply strum only out to this note on the G string, and not provide the other two strings.

Now let’s compare this option to the second of these, barring an A-shape at the 2nd fret: a similar choice can be made here, taking the strum all the way out to the B string and leaving out the E string. Which of these is easier or better, I leave to you to decide, and they both have advantages and disadvantages, which we will look to presently.

The first of these is that both of these shapes reduplicates the exact same chord tones, except that the 7th fret adds one last tone, the reduplication of the B on the 7th fret of the E string; otherwise, the notes produced (assuming one strums the second option from the A string) are exactly the same (notes given by string, low-to-high):

Option 1:

B – F# – B – D# – F# – (B) Option 2:

 

(F#) – B – F# – B – D# – F#

So, while there is some difference in the timbre of each of these choices (notice the thicker strings resonate a darker quality than the thinner, higher ones), these two options do little to provide any profile between the guitarists. Thus, we may consider another “voicing” of the chord, or even chord shape. Beginning with chord shapes, we might decide to place the Capo on the 4th fret, and use a C-shape chord for our E major (I) and a G-shape for our B major (V). Some very nice changes occur in this scenario: we now

here the 3rd on top of the I chord, and, while we may have a reduplication of the high B on the E string (if Guitarist 1 is using the 7th fret bar for the B chord), we still have some new tones resulting from the G-shaped B major chord.

Guitar 1 (Open)                                                   Guitar 2  (Capo 4, or 4th pos.)

E-shape                                                                       C-shape

E (I):  E – B – E – G# – B – E                                   (G#) – E – G# – B – E – G#

E-shape, barred, 7th                                                                              G-shape

B (V): B – F# – B – D# – F# – (B)                              B – D# – F# – B – D# –  B

As you can see, now we have more harmonic variety, which may be what you’re going for. If it isn’t, then we need to look at our last few options, but at least we see how many more choices are possible with only exploring one other position on the neck.

In terms of the voice leading, we also see that our “do”/”ti” motion is accomplished with much greater ease in the Guitar 2 part (the 5th fret resolves to the 4th fret). Let’s assume one further possibility: the “do”/”ti” motion is actually part of the melody. In this case, the notes of the melody could be synced with Guitar 2’s voicing with much less effort than Guitar 1.

The final layer of considering voice leading in your guitar parts is considering how you can support, or directly represent the bass and melody of your particular piece. In terms of support alone, when choosing a chord voicing, you may want to lean towards voicings which contain the melody note(s) somewhere in the chord. I often try to keep the melody going continuously on the High E and B strings while providing the rest of the chord in the middle strings, and also providing a bass line in the Low E and A strings.

That may be a bit much to bite off right now, but it gives you an idea of what the guitar is capable of, as well as how different guitars can complement one another in musically practical ways, such as one guitar strumming simple chords, while the other supports or provides melodic elements.

Let’s look at a few other considerations to conclude this brief exploration in creating guitar parts.

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Part III. Other Options: ostinato, counter-melody, inversions, strum patterns

Ostinato

An ostinato is a musical idea that obstinately stays part of a musical texture (ostinato is Italian for “obstinate”). Several musical examples come to mind: think of Ravel’s Bolero, or the high electric guitar from Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” the main riff to “Kashmir” from Led Zeppelin, or any Ratatat song, for that matter. A great deal of popular music, whether classical, rock, or EDM thrives on repetition (and often transformation) of small musical ideas. Depending on the context, an ostinato may be created that doesn’t conflict with the melody, or even supports it. One favorite of mine is the melodic ostinato  (or riff) that accompanies the song “Release” from Pearl Jam’s Ten record. Another beautiful, but radically different (much “heavier”) version can be heard in “Tempting Time” by Animals as Leaders, at 2:51”.

Counter-Melody

Somewhat similar to an ostinato is a counter-melody, a melody that wouldn’t be considered the primary melody, but that weaves about more independently than a simple harmonization.  In the chorus of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” we here a counter-melody in Slash’s guitar part against Axl’s vocals. Another well-known counter-melody occurs half- way through J.P. Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” in the high piccolo/flute part, against the main theme. Melodic descants are yet another type of counter-melody, When constructing a counter-melody, take care not to step on the main melody too much. Inversions

As you become acquainted with all of the methods above, you’ll find chord inversions lend themselves readily to voice leading, most especially for bass motion. For instance, an E/G# (in the key of E, a I6 ) goes to an A (IV) smoothly, since the bass note only has to ascend a half step (G# to A). Once you’ve mastered your chord scales, experiment with trying them again in first and second inversion (first inversion puts the

3rd in the bass; second inversion puts the 5th in the bass).

Strumming Different Patterns

Quite a lot can be gained simply by strumming similar or even the same chords in an entirely different way. For instance, consider letting one guitar strum eighth-notes in a palm-muted fashion, while another guitar fingerpicks, or strums only on strong beats (like the downbeat of each measure). This method is especially effective when one guitar is acoustic and another is electric, but is useful in almost any situation to create a new texture.

I hope you found this Blog lesson useful! Good luck fishing for guitar parts, and have fun while you’re at it!

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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!

Creative Processes and Products- Order and Chaos in Dialogue

March 5, 2016

Jim Simmons no guitar

By Jim Simmons

When beginning to write your own music, you will quickly discover the need to record your ideas. Soon after this discovery, another usually follows: namely, the need to make decisions about the ideas that have emerged.

These two problems have many solutions, and that is a good thing, because as you grow in your craft, so too, will your craft change. Even stranger is the fact that your creative process will also undergo its own changes and life cycles. Let me give an example:

Genesis used to write all of her chords down on paper, with the lyrics underneath, but now that her guitar technique has improved beyond simple chord playing, she’s found it difficult to describe what her guitar accompaniment is doing with words, letters, and symbols on paper. After trying to notate riffs and ideas simply by labeling them as they occurred (idea 1, idea 2), she became frustrated at never quite remembering what she had played. So, then Genesis began to video herself playing the ideas.

Now, what could some of the hidden difficulties be in the new approach? Perhaps our song writer still has the necessary and difficult task of sifting and choosing before her, and this may not just apply to different sections of the song—perhaps, she’s discovered there are two versions of a section that seem equally satisfying, and she can’t choose between them.

I have recently been undergoing certain changes in my own creative process, similar to the ones described above. I want to offer a few encouragements to any creators out there who’ve struggled with such challenges.

First of all, your song, project, piece, whatever it is—it doesn’t have to be the end-all-of-all perfect artistic/musical statement that you make. So, don’t feel the need to put all of your ideas into one song/piece/etc. Hopefully, you’ll write more in the future, so leave something else to say for later projects. Secondly, if you have differing versions of a musical section, that may be a good thing, since deliberate variations often lend interest to the listener. Regarding creative process, remember that just because it’s a “process” doesn’t mean it has to be systematic. It’s true that sifting through videos, audio recordings, lead sheets, and other sorts of sketches can be a chore, but such work will always bear fruit. Even if you wind up creating “too much” material, you may eventually use some of the leftovers to get you started on another work.

Lastly, creativity is, in my mind, more a way of life than a means to an end. It’s true that an artist should seek to share their work with others, and that it’s a shame when an artist never gets their ideas out of their head. But, similarly tragic is an artist haunted by perfectionism and the fear of failure. As good as you (and I) want that song, or piece, or project to end up sounding, creating music and art are values in-and-of-themselves. So, on one hand, be passionate about the quality of your finished product. But, on the other hand, be free, messy, methodical, imperfect, and committed to the chaotic, ordering process of creativity.

Here are some videos documenting a piece as it grew. I was sick at the time, and not very concerned with my playing technique, so some of the notes sound pretty bad, and some of the videos end with me more frustrated than satisfied, but I am so glad I can now reference these for the new version of the piece that is now underway.

 

Happy Creating!

Jim Simmons

 

Part 1

https://youtu.be/yV2omIwbb6w

 

Part 2

https://youtu.be/ImQ7S7SCTkM

 

Part 3

https://youtu.be/mAmsnKcG0f4

 

Part 4

https://youtu.be/myDghjcYWUc

 

Part 5

https://youtu.be/a4ACWH5A2IM

 

Part 6

https://youtu.be/0J0FYVyhJqI

 

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!

Guitar Tips!

May 5, 2013

by Mike Furry, Guitar instructor at The Lesson Studio

As a guitar player, it’s easy to overlook rhythm because we seem to be so focused on playing the notes but the rhythm is as important if not more important than the notes themselves. I could be playing the hippest notes but if my rhythm isn’t discernible then it doesn’t matter what notes I play because music is really the amalgamation of both harmony and rhythm. I could also be playing really bad notes but if I play them with a discernible rhythm then I certainly have a better chance to communicate more to the listener than if I was playing indiscernible rhythms.
In order to understand how rhythm works, it needs to be internalized. What do I mean when I say internalized? When a musicians is able to keep a steady pulse while playing a piece of music, without any outside help (drums beat, clapping, etc…) then the notion of rhythm has been internalized by that musician. In order to gain that internalization we must…PRACTICE. How do we practice rhythm? The use of a metronome is virtually incalculable to the skill of internalizing rhythm.

A metronome is a practice tool that produces a steady pulse (or beat) to help musicians play rhythms accurately. The pulses are measured in beats-per-minute or (BPM). Most metronomes are capable of playing beats from 35 to 250 BPM. The metronome is designed to help you maintain an established tempo while practicing, and learning difficult passages.

There are plenty of free online metronome sites that allow you to utilize a metronome without having to spend any money on it. When using a metronome start simple. I would suggest playing one note per beat (one “click” on the metronome equals one beat). After your comfortable playing one note per click, then try to play two notes per click. What does that mean? That means play a note on the click and play another note halfway between the first click and the second click. This creates a rhythmic imagination where we can understand where the middle of the beat is without hearing a click on the middle of the beat. From most people, this is the genesis of their rhythmic imagination or rhythmic internalization. From there try dividing the beat into three (triplets) and 4 (sixteenth notes). Once your comfortable playing these divisions of the beat, then try to play them at faster tempos by increasing the BPM. This internalization can then be applied to the songs that we learn and allows us as musicians to better replicate both the harmonies and the rhythms of the music that we love.

Mike Furry, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

The Importance of “Jamming”

March 12, 2013

By Casey Cormier, Guitar instructor at The Lesson Studio

Musicians of all ages can benefit greatly from collaborating with other musicians, no matter what age or level of playing experience.  Private lessons in a one-on-one setting are paramount to developing technique and learning the fundamentals of music theory, but outside of that half or full hour block of time what can be done to improve?  A daily practice routine, as well as a weekly “jam” session with other musicians, is a great way to further any player’s abilities in an efficient manner.  For a violinist, this could mean playing with a quartet of other string players (cello, viola, other violinist).  For a drummer, this could mean joining or forming a rock band.  Vocalists can get in on the fun too, finding a pianist to accompany them or another vocalist to offer harmonies.

One major obstacle in getting the budding musician involved with collaborative music making:  self confidence!  In part this is the instructor’s job, to reassure the student that, at any level, they can participate in a jam session, even if it’s just playing one note per measure.  But some responsibility must be put upon the student to make that initial step.  Programs such as the Rock Band and Bluegrass ensembles, put on by The Lesson Studio, can help make this step an easier one, with the support of an experienced music instructor guiding the budding players towards musical cohesion.  Even if it’s just one other musician to play with for an hour a week, in between private lessons and solo practice time, the benefits are immeasurable.

Casey Cormier, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Casey Cormier

The Primary Text

June 1, 2012

By Mike Furry, Guitar, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

ImageRock is a term that has a lot of ambiguity. In his book, The Primary Text, author Allan Moore refers to the music as the primary text. He also argues that musicologists are too busy looking at social factors to determine the validity of a composition. The focus should be on the music itself.

There are several conflicting definitions of what rock means. Some say rock music is a rebellion against pop music. Some say it is pop music itself. Instead of trying to define rock music, it’s best to focus on the stylistic conventions in order to understand it. The techniques that are used to analyze classical music should also be used to study the music of popular society. Unique terms are essential in order to draw parallels between classical analysis and rock analysis. Historical, political, and sociological factors are also relevant in understanding music.

Rock has its own unique style. The music can be identified through specific techniques, such as electric instrumentation, guitar solos, and studio sound production. Because it is always progressing and changing with the times, ultimately there can be no definitive definition of rock, and there are many ways of articulating that musical sound. Finally, remember to always keep an open mind when listening!

The Importance of Musical Lessons

August 1, 2011

By Mike Furry, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Furry, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Furry

There are a lot of intriguing studies that show that music training has a significant impact on the development of the brain. Many scholars are becoming more convinced that music lessons are an effective way to stimulate development and cognitive reasoning. Below are some of the most compelling reasons why music lessons are beneficial.

1. Learning The Language

Learning to read music is like learning another language. You have to understand, translate, and respond. Playing an instrument requires the operation of complex physical and mental procedures. These procedures enable the instrumentalist to aurally present the music notation through finger coordination and recognition of symbols.

2. More developed Motor Skills and Brain Connections

Musically trained children show better finger coordination and faster recognition than the non-musicians. According to a study performed by Winner and Schlaug, brain scans of musically trained children show more defined brain connections than those who have not received any music training.

3. Better Overall Performance at School

The recent study of the College Board, the institution that oversees the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, showed that students who are regularly taking music lessons scored, on average, 51 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 39 points higher on the math portion than non-musician students.

We’ve heard it a lot of times – children’s brains are like sponges. They have the ability to learn a lot more than adults can. Why not start early and give your child a head start in life? There are many theories that are the subject of dispute among educators but there is one thing everyone agrees on – music lessons are beneficial for your children.

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!