• Jennifer Iovanne, Piano, Practice 29.07.2009 Comments Off on Making the most of your piano practice

    As with any instrument, practice outside of lessons is very important for continued progress.  For most kids, parental encouragement and support is necessary to ensure practicing is done regularly throughout the week.  During the school year, aim to build practice sessions into your child’s regular schedule – or into your own schedule!  During the summer, take extra measures to keep practice sessions fun, exciting and productive – Rachel’s article below is a great resource in ideas to help stay engaged during these summer months!  Want other ideas on how to help yourself (or your child) make the most of their practice outside of lessons?

    First, be sure to review the weekly lesson log – these are passed out to piano students in each lesson with information on pieces to practice and other things to work on during the week.  Be sure to practice assigned material – it is also great to spend some time just playing around on the piano and making your own music, but don’t sacrifice one for the other.

    Come to the piano as relaxed and focused as possible.  Try to eliminate distractions and other noise if possible – TV, conversations, etc.   For a lot of students, having a cool drink at the piano and taking a moment to take a few deep, relaxing breaths can help to focus the mind and encourage creativity!  Think of “putting away” any frustrations or worries you may be holding, and let the piano be a place where you can stop multi-tasking and let yourself be in the moment as completely as possible.  The more you can encourage your child – or yourself – to treat practice sessions as fun AND productive, the better.

    If you or your child gets discouraged in piano lessons, remember to think of progress in baby steps — no one became a piano virtuoso overnight!  Encourage progress and acknowledge frustrations but don’t let them stop you.  Each practice session helps build a stronger, more confident piano player – keep it up, you CAN do it!

    ~ Jennifer Iovanne

  • For Parents, Practice, Rachel Nichols, Summer 07.07.2009 Comments Off on Make Practice Fun During the Summer!

    The sun is out and the weather is beautiful!  It can be so hard sometimes to stay inside and want to practice your instrument during an amazing Seattle summer.  That is why we should make our learning in the summer interesting!  Here are a few ideas to “spice” up your practicing.

    Get a new book full of fun and entertaining songs you have always wanted to learn…Start a jam session with a friend…Go to a concert that will inspire you…take your instrument outside (to a park, to the backyard, ect.)…set new goals.

    Here is a great website that has free sheet music of your favorite TV shows and movies!  Use this site to help fill up the summer with exciting new songs!


    Make music a part of your summer!

  • Rachel Nichols, Singers, Voice 23.06.2009 Comments Off on Taking Care Of Your Voice (Your Instrument)
    singer by petercastleton.

    photo by Peter Castleton

    As a voice teacher, each week I have students come into lessons with scratchy, horse voices.  Vocal students struggle with frustration week after week with not being able to sing the way they want.  A lot of times in talking to the student about their week I find that bad singing technique isn’t the main problem… it is how they treat their voice during the week.  Screaming, whispering, and many other factors contribute to vocalists never being able to sing properly.

    Here are a few tips to protect your voice during the week so you can sing to the best of your ability!

    *Don’t scream, talk in a loud voice or whisper!

    All extremes are harmful to the vocal chords and will wear down and make your vocal chords swollen.  If this happens rest your voice!  Sometimes it could take up to a week for vocal chords to heal properly.  When you keep singing with swollen vocal chords they will only get worse and will take a very long time to heal.  When in a loud room, talk into your friend’s ears instead of talking over the noise.  When you are at a party or a sporting event, try to limit your yelling.

    *Don’t over sing!

    When singing in the car or at home, don’t turn the music up so loud that you have to over sing or shout to hear yourself.  This will harm your vocal chords.  Turn the music down so you can hear yourself.

    *Be mindful of your milk intake (especially within 24 hours of a performance)

    Dairy thickens the mucus in your throat thus making it difficult to control your voice.

    Try to always be aware of what you do with your voice.  Just like a guitar player keeps their guitar in a case so it doesn’t get beat up and ruined, we have to protect and keep our voice safe from harm so we can sound great and have a blast singing!

    ~ Rachel Nichols

  • Singers, Voice 19.06.2009 Comments Off on Karaoke CDs and MP3 – Background Tracks to Sing to

    You can find almost any song you need in Karaoke (Background tracks) format.  These recordings typically have just the music and sometime some backup vocals.  Often times they have a version of the song including the lead vocal for reference.  Just remember to search for the word karaoke and what ever song title you are looking for like…   karaoke jingle bells

    You can also try to search Google for the word midi and the name of the song you are looking for like…   midi jingle bells

    There are millions of songs that you can download for free all over the web in this format.  They don’t sound as good as mp3 or CDs.  Also they will only play on your computer. Sometimes they sound really cheesy  and occasionally really good. Either way they can help you by having something to sing to with rhythm and some harmony instruments to match your pitch to and the best part is they are usually free!

    Karaoke.com – Karaoke CDs.

    Amazon.com – Karaoke MP3 Downloads.

    Amazon.com – Karaoke CDs.

    Walmart.com – Karaoke MP3 Downloads.

    Walmart.com – Karaoke CDs.

  • Theory 29.04.2009 Comments Off on Why should I learn music theory?

    With my own students I try to avoid using the term “Music Theory.”  It sounds difficult and boring to most.  I like to call it “How Music Works.”  Most students would love to know how music works but don’t want anything to do with MUSIC THEORY.

    How can I use this knowledge of “How Music Works?”

    1. Play lead guitar
    2. Songwriting
    3. Figuring out what chords might sound better than the one on the page in front of you.
    4. Change the key of a song to fit your voice (Transposing)
    5. Figure out what notes will sound good behind another musician’s part.
    6. Know how the BREAK the rules so you can create a really fresh sound.
    7. Get yourself out of a rut when you have a part of a song written but cannot just randomly come up with another part that goes with the one you already have (Maybe you have a verse but cannot come up with a good chorus).
    8. Figure out songs by ear faster by listening to the radio or your iPod (Transcribing).
    9. Almost anything you want to do with music is made easier and even possible by knowing “How Music Works.”
    10. Many, many more reasons!

    Be sure to check other blog entries for some great links to help you on your way!

    Please call us at 425-485-8310 if you have any other questions about lessons for yourself or your child.

    4/4 School of Music, LLC
    Seattle | Kirkland | Lynnwood | Everett | Bothell | Redmond | Renton Wa.


  • Guitar 24.04.2009 Comments Off on Guitar Tablature Sources

    Guitar tablature (sheet music for guitarists in a simple and easy to learn diagram system).

    Check these sites for more info on how to read guitar tabs and also to find thousands of songs written in this easy to learn system!



  • Buyers Guides, For Parents, Piano, Purchasing an Instrument 22.04.2009 Comments Off on Keyboard & Digital Piano Buyer’s Guide

    As a beginner or someone who is shopping for their very first digital piano or keyboard, there are four main categories from which to choose.

    $30-80 Keyboard for Kids

    Usually less than 61 keys and NOT touch sensitive. Touch sensitivity means that the harder you press the key the louder the sound of that note. Only children under the age of 7 should consider these keyboards as they are an inexpensive way to see if your child is really interested in sticking with piano lessons for more than a couple months. If you feel pretty sure your child will be taking lessons for longer, don’t even consider one of these.

    $80-$200 Portable Keyboard

    In this price range you will generally find Casio and Yamaha brands are the best quality and value. Most of these have 61 full-sized plastic keys. This is the minimum that you really want.  Make sure to get a “touch-sensitive” model.  Touch sensitivity means that the harder you press the key the louder the sound of that note.  This is the most important thing to look for.  It is how a real piano works.

    Many of the keyboards in this range have lots of extra sounds and beats built in.  These can be fun but are not necessary to learn to play.  In fact you might choose to get the simplest keyboard so that you aren’t temped to waist time instead of practicing.  Practice is the only thing that will make you a better player! Make sure you like the “Piano” sound that the keyboard has to offer.  That is the sound that you will spend most of your time listening to.

    $350-$700 Digital Piano (Our Top Recommendation for Beginners)

    For around $450 or so you can get what many teachers believe to be the best value in terms of playability and sound. Again Casio and Yamaha rule the roost.  We have had excellent luck with the Casio PX series or the CDP-100 keyboards.  Here is a link to Guitar Center where you can shop around for them. www.guitarcenter.com We have many of these at our school and absolutely love them!  They feel great, are very small in total size and sound really nice.  88 full-sized weighted keys give these the feel and range of a real acoustic piano.

    $700 and up!  Digital Piano.

    There are so many options available in this price range and you can spend thousands on the state of the art models that literally play themselves but what fun is that?  In all seriousness, the extra high end features are not necessary to learn the instrument.  After you have played for a while and decide you want to score a symphony you can always upgrade to one of these beauty’s that have every sound in the orchestra, band, concert hall and more!

    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.

    4/4 School of Music, LLC
    Seattle | Kirkland | Lynnwood | Everett | Bothell | Redmond | Renton Wa.

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  • For Parents, Voice 21.04.2009 Comments Off on Singing Lessons for Children

    Children under the age of ten should take piano and voice lessons together. We call this “Music for Kids.” These lessons include learning the basics of piano and singing as well as rhythm, reading notes, etc. and are a lot of fun!

    Since children under the age of ten tend to have very short attention spans, these private lessons are 30 minutes in length. Each lesson is broken down into many five to ten minute segments and each segment focuses on a variety of songs, fun exercises and games designed to prepare your child for more advanced voice lessons when they are a little older.

    Serious voice lessons (Like an older child or adult would take) can damage the young and fragile vocal tissues. You don’t want them to push too hard or sing too high. They can learn a tremendous amount about hearing the proper pitch (ear training) and the other items that I mentioned above though and give the child a huge head start for when they move into more serious voice lessons around the age of 10.

    Additionally, our voice teachers added the following…

    Not only can you do damage if you push the child to hard, but her voice will change immeasurably in the next few years. Any work on the tone or range of a voice at that young of an age is susceptible to change and irregularities. Of course, singing fun songs and learning basic musician and performance skills will put her way ahead of the curve, and make it easier to sing later on. 🙂

    Combining piano with voice and general music study is really beneficial for building strong, engaged musicians. Most students I have worked with seem more interested the more diverse their material is – I would encourage students to see this as a really positive thing – it gives them a big head start no matter what direction they head in music later in life. But I would also add that if they are going to be learning some piano, they will need to practice outside of lessons to get the most out of the experience.

    Please call us at 425-485-8310 if you have any other questions about voice lessons for yourself or your child.


    Voice Lessons in Vancouver, Washington

    Voice Lessons in Clackamas, Oregon

    Voice Lessons in Seattle, Washington

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  • Theory 20.04.2009 Comments Off on We’re back!

    After a long time out from our blog, we are finally back on line!  Look forward to cool articles, tips and help for students and parents.  Check out this great web site to start…

    Musictheory.net has an interactive trainer for learning about the basics of reading music!

    The Staff, Clefs, and Ledger Lines

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  • Guitar 11.12.2006 Comments Off on Beginners – Acoustic or electric guitar?

    For most beginners, starting on an electric guitar gives you the best odds of success!

    We know this from decades of experience. Electric guitars have smaller strings that are easier to press down on.  The strings are also closer to the fingerboard so you don’t have to press as hard. The body of an electric guitar is smaller and thinner so that you can more easily see your fingers.  The neck is usually smaller in diameter so that makes it a little easier to play chords.

    There are times when starting on an acoustic guitar is the best choice.

    1. If you already own an acoustic guitar, go ahead and start lessons on it to make sure that guitar is the “right” instrument for you. Then if you stick with it you can reward yourself with an electric guitar after a few months of lessons.
    2. If you are an adult or large teen and you know you want to play acoustic guitar
      (because that is the sound you like).