• Uncategorized 15.02.2010 Comments Off on Ever Other Week Lessons (Bi-Weekly)

    There are many reasons why we don’t offer “every other week” lessons. Here are just a few:

    1. From our experience in the past, 90% of students taking lessons scheduled ever other week will drop out of lessons (and stop learning) within a month or two.
    2. When something comes up and you have to miss a lesson due to illness or scheduling conflicts it will be an entire MONTH between lessons. Habits and skills are created and learned by constant, regular exposure.  Every couple of weeks with occasional month sized gaps are not sufficient for the vast majority of music students to make any real progress.
    3. Things come up and you will need to reschedule sometimes.  With weekly lessons at least you will get 3 lessons in a month and most of the time you can reschedule the one you missed so that you don’t loose any progress you have made recently.
    4. 90% of scheduling errors (2 students showing at the same time or showing at the wrong time) occur with students taking every other week lessons. This is a huge problem for students, teachers and music schools.

    If you are considering taking every other week lessons because of money or time reasons, you can achieve the same goals with FAR better results if you take weekly lessons a month on and then a month off

    This way you can make some real progress during the month on and work on your own on the month off.  After teaching more than 8,000 students  we have a lot of experience in what works and what doesn’t.  It is generally a complete waste of money for students to take every other week lessons.  We don’t charge a registration fee so there is no cost penalty to take a month on and month off.

    Piano Lessons Portland / Clackamas | Piano Teacher Seattle | Piano Lessons Renton / Bellevue

  • Bass, Drums, Guitar, Jennifer Iovanne, performing, Singers, Violin, Voice, Woodwinds 15.02.2010 Comments Off on Stage Fright: Conquer your fear!

    With our biannual student concert just around the corner, some tips to help combat stage fright are in order!  Ah, stage fright – that dreaded onslaught of fear so many of us experience before (and sometimes while) we perform.  The pulse quickens.  Breathing becomes short, shallow and unsupported.  Hands become sweaty and shaky.  Sound familiar?

    Stage fright is completely normal — and yes, there are several things you can do to help ease stage fright immediately.  The best solution over time?  Perform often!  Sounds counterintuitive, but the more often you get up there and perform, the easier it becomes over time. Here are some pointers to help make your struggle with stage fright a little easier:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3218/3037925304_0b061ff3ca.jpg

     

    1. Know your material.  Practice, practice, practice.  A lot of the fear of performing is centered around making a mistake — hitting a wrong note, forgetting a line.  The more you know your song, the more confidence you’ll feel!
    2. Breathe!  (And keep breathing!)  Challenge yourself to breathe slowly and deeply — 10 seconds in, 10 seconds out; repeat.  Also, try yawning and stretching.  Relaxing your body and your breath will ease the uncomfortable feelings associated with stage fright.
    3. Fake it.  If you’re scared, that’s ok.  Smile anyway.  Walk with confidence.  Give it all you’ve got.  Chances are, the audience won’t know you were nervous, and will be wowed by your stellar performance!
    4. Think of the performance as a reward.  You’re here because you’ve worked hard, had a blast, learned a lot — and now you want to share that joy with others!  Performing is an awesome way to stay motivated, meet other musicians, and celebrate what you have accomplished!
    5. Use a mantra.  Sounds a little cheesy, but some folks find a phrase ("I can do it/I am strong/Share your joy"….) and repeat it in their heads while prepping for a performance.  For many folks, using a mantra provides a sense of comfort, and helps focus the mind.
    6. Think ahead: for most of us, the hardest part of stage fright hits us BEFORE we perform, and usually eases up within the minute or so of our performance.  After performing, lots of us feel a rush of excitement and relief — no matter how scared we were beforehand, lots of us finish the performance with a huge smile on their face and a rush of excitement — performing feels great, and we want to relive the experience!
    7. Come prepared: be a few minutes early.  Have a light snack.  Avoid caffeine and lots of sugar.  If you’re a singer, warm up your voice. Bring a water bottle.
    8. Think positive thoughts:  you’re here because you’ve worked hard and had a lot of fun, and you want to share that with others!  Always remember, the audience is on your side.  We WANT you to have fun and rock your performance!  🙂

    Guitar Lessons in Beaverton, Oregon
    Piano Lessons in Beaverton, Oregon
    Singing Lessons in Beaverton, Oregon

  • Jennifer Iovanne, Practice 12.01.2010 Comments Off on Tis’ the Season (for colds and flus…and lessons!)

    Occasional flu and cold symptoms are inevitable for most of us, especially during the colder months.  Added to the normal responsibilities of school and work, feeling under the weather can leave us with little energy leftover to practice music.  By all means, take a few days off of practice when you’re sick.  But what should you do when you feel well enough to get back into the swing of things? Here’s a few tips, whether you’re a piano guru, a guitar shredder, or a vocal star!

     

    • Wash your hands before lessons!  This is always a good idea, whether
      you’re sick or not.  Preventative care is an awesome way to help avoid
      spreading germs!
    • Aim to practice as regularly as possible – the more consistently you
      take time to rock out on your instrument, the easier it is to keep
      progressing and make learning fun!
    • Get plenty of rest – the more rested and relaxed you are coming to
      lesson, the easier it is to focus and think happy thoughts!

    For voice students, there’s a few other tips to follow:

    • Don’t over-sing.  Yes, it’s tempting to belt out your favorite song
      another 4 times, but doing so can inhibit recovery from colds.  When
      your vocal chords are swollen, keep vocal use in check.  It’s worth
      it!
    • Don’t sing too loudly, too quietly or too high.  Again, be as kind to
      your voice as possible.  Keep the singing range from venturing too
      high, and avoid volume extremes on either end.  Whispering is actually
      pretty tough on vocal chords, believe it or not.
    • Drink lots of liquids.  Water, hot herbal tea are especially great.
      Even when I’m healthy, I drink at least 10 cups of water a day.
      Staying hydrated is really important to the voice!
      Stay healthy in the new year, and keep rocking!

    Voice Lessons in Vancouver, Washington

    Voice Lessons in Clackamas, Oregon

  • Rachel Nichols, Singers, Voice 12.01.2010 Comments Off on Utilizing Your Breath

    A few blogs back we discussed the basics of breathing and how our body should respond to a naturally formed breath.  Now that you have been paying closer attention to how your body operates daily when it inhales and exhales, let’s try some exercises to help form even better breathing habits!

    There are two things we will do to help improve air function.  The first is to STRETCH our breathing muscle so we are able to expand and take in a large amount of air.  The second is to STRENGTHEN our muscles so we can have good control and support in the releasing of our air.

    Here is an exercise for stretching….

    1. Sit on the edge of a chair and lean over, resting your elbows on your knees.  Relax your upper body.  Don’t stiffen your back.  Put one hand on your stomach region underneath your bellybutton.

    2. Now squeeze strongly and release all of your air by pulling your stomach muscles in.  Squeeze everything out until there is nothing left inside!

    3.  Now very slowly take air in through your nose and mouth.  You should feel your stomach expanding and filling up like a balloon.  Take air in until your stomach feels like it will pop.  Air should be filling your body from the bottom of your stomach then upwards.  Your chest and shoulders should not be moving.

    4.  Once you are filled up squeeze quickly and strongly again and push all of the air back out.  You should feel your muscles contracting when you do this.

    Implement this exercise everyday doing 3 to 4 inhales and exhales.  Stop when you feel dizzy!  As you do this exercise you will feel your stomach muscles being able to expand more!  Your body will also start to develop the habit of taking lower, deeper breaths.  Put this into your practice routine and watch as your breathing becomes a strong foundation to your notes! Then we will come back to learn how to strengthen those muscles….stay tuned and good luck!

    Voice Lessons in Vancouver, Washington

    Voice Lessons in Clackamas, Oregon

  • Jennifer Iovanne, Piano 03.12.2009 Comments Off on Picture-Perfect Posture: Piano

    Ah, nothing like alliteration to kick things off!  In this article, we’ll be discussing the ins and outs of posture and its role in piano lessons.  It’s often overlooked, and for good reason: it’s just not that exciting.  But it is important and plays a vital role in playing comfortably and effectively through the years, so it’s best to learn and apply these techniques early on.

    • Don’t sit too close to the piano.  I see this all the time – students nearly hover over the keys.  Sit in the center front area of the piano bench, and scoot the seat back until legs are at a 90 degree angle with the floor.
    • Relax!  Relax your shoulders, your jaw, your neck.
    • Keep hands loosely rounded, not flat.  Imagine a small tennis ball is underneath each palm.
    • Keep wrists off the piano – keep them relaxed, but don’t let wrists droop.  This causes unnecessary tension in the hand and usually causes us to play with flat fingers.
    • Sit tall, but comfortably so.  Office chairs often have special ergonomic features to prevent unnecessary strain for this reason.  When sitting at the piano, keep your back straight and neck tall but remember to stay loose and relaxed as well.

    For most of us, this posture won’t begin feel natural and normal for some time.  That’s okay – just remember to pay attention to it each time you practice, and before long it will become second nature.  The benefits?  You’ll avoid unnecessary strain, and you’ll gain better control over the keys, helping you develop as a stronger, more effective musician!

    Piano Lessons Portland / Clackamas | Piano Teacher Seattle | Piano Lessons Renton / Bellevue

  • Jennifer Iovanne, Singers, Voice 03.12.2009 Comments Off on Picture-Perfect Posture: Voice

    If you’re in voice lessons, you’ve probably had your teacher lead you through some stretches, tell you to keep your knees relaxed, etc.  Ever wonder why?  Body positioning plays a significant role in producing a strain-free, natural sound.

    Over the course of the day – especially if we’re spending long hours sitting at a desk! – the shoulders and neck tend to hold tension and the breath tends to be shallow.  Releasing unnecessary tension and relaxing the breath are paramount to developing a richer sound.  Here are a few specific posture-related pointers to focus on:

    • Feet should be around shoulder-length apart, ideally with one foot a bit further forward than the other – this helps “root” you to the ground.  Avoid slouching.  Keep weight evenly distributed.
    • Knees should be loose, not locked!
    • Hands ought to rest at your sides – avoid crossing arms, putting hands on hips, etc.
    • Shoulders should be relaxed and back — think of standing tall with chest open, but not in a forced, strained manner.
    • Keep chin roughly parallel to ground – don’t raise your chin to hit high notes, it creates strain!

    It’s worthwhile to take a few minutes before singing to check your posture — it will make a difference!

    ~ Jennifer Iovanne

  • Buyers Guides, For Parents, Guitar, Purchasing an Instrument, Ryan Casperson 30.11.2009 Comments Off on Guitar Buyer’s Guide

    As a beginner, or someone shopping for their first electric or acoustic guitar, there are several different categories to pick from.

    Which ever guitar you choose, make sure that…

    The strings aren’t really high off the fret board.  This is good. Twice this much space would be difficult to play.

    File:Guitare action.jpg

    It is comfortable to hold.  This Stratocaster design electric guitar is usually the most comfortable for beginners.

    $70 – $100

    Usually these guitars are smaller sized for smaller players. These guitars generally are not crafted to last for a lifetime. But if you are not sure whether or not you want to play for a lifetime, they can be a good way to test the waters. The Squire Mini Strat (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Squier-Mini-Strat-Electric-Guitar-102091261-i1146335.gc) is a good entry level model that gives the Fender feel without the Fender price. If you are looking for an acoustic guitar in this price range, Epiphone (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Epiphone-DR-100-Acoustic-Guitar-101392025-i1150077.gc) and Yamaha (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Yamaha-F335-Acoustic-Guitar-102919487-i1166364.gc) have several quality instruments for the price. If you are confident that you (or who you are buying for) will play guitar longer than a few months, this range is generally not recommended.

    $100 – $200 – TOP PICK if you are NOT sure you will stick with it.

    In this category, Squire, Epiphone and Ibanez offer the best value. Most of these are full sized and can last the typical beginning student one to two years. The major factor to consider with this range is whether you want the Les Paul feel of the Epiphone Les Paul Special (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Epiphone-Les-Paul-Special-II-Electric-Guitar-100161340-i1149983.gc), the Stratocaster touch of the Squire Bullet (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Squier-Bullet-Stratocaster-HSS-Electric-Guitar-with-Tremolo-105788061-i1502378.gc) or the rocker appeal of the Ibanez GRX series (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Ibanez-GRX70QA-Electric-Guitar-107407850-i2075931.gc). For younger girls, Daisy Rocks (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Daisy-Rock-Debutante-Rock-Candy-Electric-Guitar-105778211-i1395727.gc) offers surprisingly good quality guitars in shades of pink. For acoustic guitars, Epiphone (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Epiphone-AJ-100CE-Acoustic-Electric-Guitar-107234684-i1150008.gc) and Yamaha (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Yamaha-FG700S-Folk-Acoustic-Guitar-103114252-i1149962.gc) have the best options for these prices.

    $350 to $750 – TOP PICK if you ARE SURE you will stick with it.

    These are our top recommendations for beginning students. It can be frustrating for a new player to practice hard and still not be able to get a good sound because their instrument is holding them back. Fender offers their “Made in Mexico” (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Fender-Standard-Stratocaster-Electric-Guitar-with-Maple-Fretboard-H76526-i2032186.gc) models in this range and what you get is a quality guitar that can last a lifetime if you want them to. (I have an MiM Strat that I’ve owned for 17years and still play!) Epiphone Les Pauls (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Epiphone-Limited-Edition-Les-Paul-Traditional-PRO-Electric-Guitar-105939029-i1515777.gc) offer high quality instruments and feel extremely similar to their Gibson counterparts. Ibanez (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Ibanez-Iron-Label-RGIR20E-Electric-Guitar-with-Tremolo-and-EMG-Pickups-108588534-i2824643.gc) has become a very reliable brand and offers many guitars that have hard rockability and looks.  Fender (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Fender-DG200SCE-Acoustic-Electric-Guitar-with-Rosewood-Back-and-Sides-106500697-i1709796.gc) and Epiphone (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Epiphone-FT-350SCE-Acoustic-Electric-Guitar-with-Min-Etune-J06077-i3609203.gc)  are the most popular in this range for acoustic guitars but if you are looking for something a bit more unique, Breedlove Guitars (http://www.guitarcenter.com/Breedlove-Pursuit-Concert-Ebony-Acoustic-Electric-Guitar-110006178-i3449803.gc) offer high quality acoustic guitars at a great value!

    $750 and Up!!

    At this point, the world is limitless with options. You can spend thousands of dollars on high end guitars with premier tone and playability but aren’t necessary at all for learning the instrument. Once you’ve been playing for a while, you will get a sense for what your dream guitar is. You don’t need to start with the best. When you are ready to rock stadiums, you’ll know what to get.

    Please call us at 425-485-8310 if you have any other questions about purchasing a keyboard or digital piano for yourself or your child.

  • For Parents, Jennifer Iovanne 16.10.2009 Comments Off on Making the Most of Your Lessons

    Learning an instrument takes consistent work, but it should also be
    fun and relaxing.  After playing a song, I’ve heard countless students
    remark that it “sounded better at home.”  Lots of people – kids and
    adults – tend to get a little self-conscious in lessons, especially
    early on.  The following tips are great ways to help you focus, relax
    and enjoy the process!

    1. Get to lessons a couple minutes early

    When folks are late, they tend to be frazzled, feel rushed and
    unfocused.  Aim to get to the studio a few minutes early – this is a
    great way to immediately feel more relaxed prior to your lesson!

    2. Wash your hands before your lesson

    Besides the germ-busting factor, washing your hands before each lesson
    will also help you focus your mind on the task at hand, and mentally
    prepare for a calming, fun, focused lesson.

    3.  Turn off the cell phone

    For 30 minutes, allow yourself to focus on develop your musical
    prowess.  Ignore the cell phone, try to put away any worries or
    concerns that are on your mind.  Let the outside world go and you’ll
    be more likely to connect with your instrument.

    4. Practice during the week

    For obvious reasons, the more prepared you are, the more focused and
    confident you’ll feel in lesson.  Consistent practice most days of the
    week is the best approach!

    5. Identify short and long-term goals

    This is great for kids and adults alike.  Your goals can be as
    specific or broad as you want — learn a particular song or genre,
    enjoy music, become familiar with chords, perform in a recital, develop
    a new hobby — and so forth and so on.  Reflecting on your personal
    motivation for being in lessons helps develop a positive, focused
    attitude in lesson and throughout the week with practicing!  If you’re
    not sure what you are looking for or how to get there, that’s okay!
    You can also work with your teacher to identify goals and interests.

    6. Remember that we’re on your side!

    Teachers aren’t just musicians — we are there to help you and
    encourage you. We want to help you succeed in your musical goals!

    ~ Jennifer Iovanne

    Find out about Guitar, Piano, Voice lessons and more at

    4/4 School of Music

    Guitar Lessons in Clackamas Oregon

    Guitar Lessons in Vancouver Washington

  • Rachel Nichols, Singers 03.10.2009 Comments Off on Breath in – Breath out!

    Breathing is an essential part of being able to sing correctly.  You may be thinking, “How hard can it be?  I do it everyday of my life!”  Well, the truth is our breathing habits over the course of our lives sometimes get very out of whack and we develop bad habits that can hinder us from being able to sing freely.

    When we are born we have perfectly operating lungs and breath function.  That is why a babies’ big tummy will move up and down as they breathe.  You can usually hear one tiny baby scream and cry over a large room of people (think church or graduation ceremony).  They have amazing projection and volume!  As we grow older we are told in school to whisper and to keep our voice down.  We also shamefully suck in our belly to achieve that much desired flat stomach.  Pair these habits with anxiety and stress and you have a type of breathing that will originate in your upper chest and shoulders.  Your breathing will be very shallow.  The initial step in learning how to form correct breathing habits is to recognize the incorrect patterns and try to understand and feel how our body is naturally supposed to function.  There is so much more space to utilize in our body for air then just our chest!

    Here are a few experiments to try…go ahead and inhale.  Take a really big breath!  Do this in front of a mirror.  What do you see?  Did you shrug your shoulders?  Did your chest puff up?  If so, your breath is originating in your chest cavity.  Now go lay down on your back on the floor.  Put your hand on your stomach and just relax and breathe.  What do you feel?  Do you feel your stomach moving up and down?  Do you feel yours sides expanding?  When we are in this position we have proper breathing technique.  Did you feel how relaxed your shoulders and chest felt?

    Our breathing muscle is called the ‘diaphragm’.  It is located in the area right underneath your lower ribcage.  Try to remember this…when you INHALE your stomach region should go OUT and expand.  When you EXHALE your stomach area should be pulled IN.  It is the opposite of what we usually do!  This is the natural breathing process so just relax and breathe!  Start paying attention to how your breathe when you sing, exercise, and go about your day because these basics on proper breathing aren’t just for singing but how you should operate daily.  Becoming aware of how your body functions, is the first step to altering and forming new habits!

    Stay tuned for an upcoming blog that will give you breathing exercises that will help your body develop techniques that will set your voice free!

  • Jennifer Iovanne, Singers, Songwriting 16.09.2009 Comments Off on Identifying your vocal range

    When students begin learning piano (or guitar, or any instrument for that matter!), there’s a common starting point – learn to identify intervals, types of notes, and so forth.  With voice, the path is generally not as clearly laid out.  While music theory still applies, students beginning voice lessons have quite likely sung before at some point and have an idea in their head of how their voice sounds – raspy, low, thin, high, mellow, and so forth.  In other words, folks generally begin voice lessons with an idea of their own ability.  Identifying our conceptions of our own voice is very important for many reasons – it helps us better identify specific aspects we like or dislike about our voice, identify areas we’ve like to improve upon, and gain a deeper awareness and ability to listen to vocal qualities.  A great way to begin thinking about your voice is to work with your voice teacher to figure out your vocal range and “type”.  Here’s a run-down of how that works:

    Everyone has a vocal range – a particular number of notes they can comfortably hit.  Over time with practice, our ability to higher or lower notes clearly can increase, which can expand the vocal range a bit.  In general everyone falls into a particular voice “type”.  This is GREAT info to use when purchasing vocal music – especially for classical or musical theater voice music, look for music meant for your voice type!

    The general names used for vocal types are:

    Soprano: the higher female voice.  Generally from the A or B below middle C to high C.

    Alto: the lower female voice.  Generally from F below middle C to F on the top line of the treble clef.

    Tenor: the higher male voice.  Generally from C one octave below middle C to the G above middle C.

    Bass: the lower male voice.  Generally from the C below the bass clef to middle C.

    There are other types as well, including:

    Contralto – a low alto voice

    Mezzo – “mixed” voice – between alto and soprano ranges

    Baritone – between tenor and bass ranges

    Do you know your voice type?  Work with your voice teacher to gain a better understanding of your own voice, and how we can use proper vocal technique to make your vocal range stronger!

    Jennifer Iovanne