• Ages, For Parents 26.10.2006 Comments Off on Children and Music Lessons – Ages to Start

    These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our experiences with teaching literally thousands of students!


    Adults can start playing an instrument at any time!
    Their success is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing. We have found that contrary to popular belief, adults learn music much faster than children.  It’s never too late to learn to play!  We teach many students in their 60’s and 70’s.For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Some people will tell you “the sooner the better” but this attitude can actually backfire and be a negative. If a child is put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off to music just because they had one unpleasant experience which could have been prevented. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well. The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons.

    3 – 4 Years Old
    If a pre-school age child has a keen desire and wants to start music, a group preschool music class will give them a good foundation in music basics which will be helpful in later private lessons. At this age, private lessons generally do not work as the child has not yet experienced the formal learning environment of kindergarten or school and learns more effectively through the game oriented preschool environment.

    At our school 5 years old is the youngest age that we start children in private piano lessons. At this age they have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease.

    “Music for Kids”
    Children under the age of ten can 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!

    Guitar – Acoustic & Electric
    7 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings. Children under 8 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. Also, we have found that children and ladies learn faster, have more fun and are more likely to succeed if they start on electric guitar.  The strings are smaller and closer to the fingerboard making playing a lot easier than a standard acoustic guitar.  The body of an electric guitar is smaller and more comfortable as well.  If you already have a standard acoustic guitar it is fine to start on that for a while to see if you are really interested in playing guitar.  You can always change from an acoustic to electric or electric to acoustic guitar at any time.  Both are played exactly the same way!

    Bass Guitar
    Bass guitar students generally are 10 years old and older. This is due to the physical size of the instrument.

    Voice Lessons
    10 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique.

    The age of our youngest drum student is 5. This varies greatly depending on the size of the child. They have to be able to reach both the pedals and the cymbals.

    Flute, Clarinet & Saxophone
    Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older.

    We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 5 or older.

    The trumpet requires physical exertion and lung power. 9 years and older is a good time to start the trumpet.


    Group classes work well for preschool music programs, and theory lessons. However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are far superior since in private lessons you won’t miss anything your teacher says, and each student can learn at their own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach a class at a middle of the road level, but has the time and focus to work on the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus of the teacher. The teachers also enjoy this as they do not have to divide their attention between 5 – 10 students at a time and can help the student be the best they can be.


    Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an environment that is focused on music education. In a professional school environment a student cannot be distracted by TV, pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only 1/2 to one hour of lesson time per week, a professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.


    As with anything, improving in music takes practice. One of the main problems with music lessons is the drudgery of practicing.  Here are some ways to make practicing easier:   Time
    Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the child to practice.

    We use this method quite often when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instrument, but knows if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished.
    Television & Radio Practice!  (What?)
    Believe it or not if you are working on a scale or exercise that simply needs to be repeated 100’s of times, rent a good movie or watch your favorite sitcom while you practice.  A half hour goes by really fast and you will have played a ton of repetitions.  Sometimes it is just what the doctor (music teacher) ordered!

    This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a latte after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. In our school we reward young children for a successful week of practicing with stars and stickers on their work. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – there is just no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing, in that case there is always next week!


    The reason why you wanted to play an instrument in the first place is because you enjoy music.  Insist on learning some of your favorite songs.  This will naturally increase the amount of time you are practicing.  You must have fun or all the scales and chords in the world will mean nothing.  A well rounded music program that teaches the fundamentals PLUS your favorite songs is the best way to learn to play or sing!

    HAVE FUN!!
    Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime! Try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to enjoy the journey.

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

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

  • Songwriting 26.10.2006 Comments Off on Writing Melodies (3 of 3)

    © 2000, Tyler Tullock. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

    In “Memorable Melodies Part 1 & 2” I walked you though the basics of how to write a solid melody line. This time I am going to show you how to create 4 melodic lines that work together to create a section of a song (a verse or chorus for example).

    First, I would like to again go over the purpose of this article in case you missed it in parts 1 & 2…

    To teach you how to write melody form the ground up, step by step from a completely mechanical point of view. This will help you to learn to write melody by taking the “artistic risk” out of the process. Please read parts 1 & 2 before this part 3 so you get the entire picture.

    How 4 melody lines create a Verse, Chorus, Bridge, etc.
    Most sections (Verse, Chorus, Bridge, etc.) in pop music have 4 lines of lyrics. Each line of lyrics is sung to a melody that is written over 2 or 4 bars (measures) of chords. Are you with me so far? To demonstrate in a purely mechanical way how to write 4 lines that work together I wrote a melody line (bars 1 through 4) and then copied it 3 more times to create 4 identical melodic lines each 4 bars in length. Next, I modified the melody a little in lines 2 & 4 (yellow parts in the diagram below). Notice that the yellow parts are the same. I then modified the last bar of lines 2 & 4 but this time they are different from one another with the last bar of line 4 rising in pitch to lead you towards the next section of the song (verse, chorus, etc.).

    It is all about a lot of symmetry and a few variations. What I mean by this can be demonstrated by the following examples:

    You might write a melody where…

    • Lines 1 & 3 are similar and lines 2 & 4 are similar yet different than lines 1 & 3. You would want slight variations in lines 2 & 4 or 1 & 3 so that they are not identical.
    • Lines 1 & 2 are similar and lines 3 & 4 are similar yet different than lines 1 & 2. You would want slight variations in lines 1 & 2 or 3 & 4 so that they are not identical.
    • Lines 1, 2, & 3 are similar but line 4 is unique. In this case you might have a slight variation in 1 or more of lines 1, 2, or 3. It’s all up to you!

    There are no rules!
    Don’t get hung up thinking that these are the only valid ways to write good melody. This article is meant to jump start the creative process! These are proven techniques and after you exercise them by writing a couple of songs I want you to forget all the guidelines and just write from your heart. You will have a subconscious guide with you at all times after you have written a few songs using my method so don’t worry about the rules and just write, write, write!!!

    Feel free to email me with any questions!


  • Songwriting 25.10.2006 2 Comments

    © 2000, Tyler Tullock. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

    In the “Memorable Melodies Part 1” I walked you though the basics of how to write a solid melody. This time we are going to discuss how to add some real life to that solid but somewhat mechanical sounding piece!

    First, I would like to reiterate the purpose of this article…

    To teach you how to write melody form the ground up, step by step from a completely mechanical point of view. This will help you to learn to write melody by taking the “artistic risk” out of the process.

    Eliminating “Artistic Risk”
    I don’t know of a single writer who thinks that the first song they wrote was great! In fact I always tell my students to write 5-10 “crumby” songs, record them on a crumby tape recorder, then put them in a shoe box in their closet and they will never have to play them for anybody! What this does is to eliminate the “artistic risk” so you can get on with the process of learning to write songs without the pressure of having to write a good one. Inevitably, you probably will end up liking and being proud of one or more of your songs but the beauty of this approach is that you aren’t expecting anything out of yourself! It really works!!!

    More About Rhythm
    In part I we ended up with a solid melody idea over 4 chords. The problem with what we have so far is that rhythmically it is quite boring. Each note is held for the same amount of time (1 beat). To make your melody more interesting, try making some notes 2, 3 or even 4 beats long. You can also make a note last only 1/2 of a beat (an eighth note).

    * A lot of pop music phrases end with a note that is 2 beats (or more) in length.

    More About Connecting the Dots
    In part 1, I mentioned that it is usually a bad idea to have too many skips in a row. I recommend no more than 2 in a row. Don’t forget to try skipping back to the note you just came from as in…
    C > F > C or E > G > E (as in bar 2 of ex. 4)

    Also don’t forget about repeating the same note 2 or more times in a row. This is a very common melodic tool! Such as… G > G (as in bar 1 of ex. 4) or E > E > E These moves should be considered steps for the purpose of my melody writing technique.

    Song Structure
    We have now learned how to write a solid melodic line. The next step is to learn how melody lines are grouped together to create sections of a song (Verse, Chorus, etc). At this point I need to explain a few songwriting terms for those who are just starting to write songs.


      4 beats (foot taps)
    • Intro
      (Usually music only) Memorable melodic phrase or catchy rhythm to prepare the listener for the first Verse.
    • Verse
      Vocal melody & words. It tells the story, as in chapters of a book. The words are usually different in each Verse.
    • Chorus
      Vocal melody and words (The catch phrase or hook of the song, the part that gets stuck in your head and you find yourself singing it over and over (sometimes even when you hate the song!) The words are typically the same from chorus to chorus in a song.
    • Bridge
      The job of the Bridge is to breakup the monotony of Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus, to cleanse the musical pallet so to speak. Almost anything can work as a Bridge since it’s job is to simple create a temporary diversion! A Bridge can be drums and bass only (a breakdown), a whole new section of music and words that reach for the highest level of energy in the song, or anything else you can think of!

    Growing a Melodic Idea
    Melody lines usually work together in groups of four to form parts of songs (i.e. Verse, Chorus, etc.) . As in the 1st Verse of my song “Avalanche”.

    1. Ion powered lights (2 bar melody line)
    2. Are shining all the way (2 bar melody line)
    3. To your desolation (2 bar melody line)
    4. Night will turn to day (2 bar melody line)

    Then these parts are often connected like this…

    Verse 1
    Chorus 1
    Break / re-intro
    (music only, 2-4 bars. Often, the intro is simply played again.)
    Verse 2
    Chorus 2 (Often, Chorus 1 played 2 times)
    Verse 3
    Chorus 3 (Often, Chorus 1 played 4 times while fading out)

    So try these ideas and next time I will show you how to write four melody lines that interact & work together to lead the listener to a new part of the song!

    Feel free to email me with any questions!


  • Songwriting 25.10.2006 Comments Off on Writing Melodies (1 of 3)

    © 2000, Tyler Tullock. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

    What makes a hit song? What makes a song stick in the minds of a listener? What makes people call their local DJ’s begging them to play the same song time and time again? The #1 reason is a STRONG MELODY! Yeah, sometimes a catchy rhythmic figure or groove can do the trick all by itself. A lot of Rap, Dance, & Electronica songs have very little melody and sell tons of copies based on rhythm and/or a catchy musical idea, lyric, sound effect or production technique alone but…

    For most popular forms of music (Rock, Pop, Country, R&B, Alternative, Christian, Funk, Ballads, etc.), STRONG MELODY is the main reason most hit songs became hits! That is so important I want to say it again and again!

    STRONG MELODY is the main reason most hit songs became hits!

    As a music teacher (Guitar, Bass, Voice), theory is a very important part of my curriculum. Some people are so afraid of the word theory I have a button on my desk that locks the door so they can’t escape until I have shown them how easy it can be to learn all you need to know to write great songs and become your own music teacher for the rest of your life! Seriously…

    I am going to show you in 3 easy steps how to write a solid melody. You don’t have to know anything about music theory as I will provide you with the few basics that you need to know in a few moments.

    * For those of you who think that you already know how to write good melodies, take a few minutes to run through the examples that I provide and you will start writing BETTER melodies immediately!

    Most songwriters play guitar or piano at least a little bit. If you are an aspiring songwriter and you don’t play either of these instruments, you should ask around and try to find a reputable instructor and sign up for 4-8 lessons to learn the following…

    • Major, minor, 7th, & minor 7th chords in all keys
    • How to write out the notes in all keys (Major scales),
    • How to (at least) hack through a major scale in all 12 keys on a guitar or piano/keyboard

    I am going to present this lesson using guitar tablature as most piano players can read basic music notation and should be able to follow along with my examples. If you cannot understand, please email me and I will follow up with the examples converted to standard music notation for you. OK? Here are the basics you need to know before we get started with the actual lesson. Feel free to skip on past if you already know this stuff…


    C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C
    (The C major Scale – all the white keys on the piano)


    Moving up or down a note in a scale is called a scale step.

    Example: in the C major scale above, moving from B to C or B down to A is a scale step.


    Moving up or down more than one note in a scale is called a scale skip.

    Example: in the C major scale above, moving from B to D, B down to G, or F to C is a scale skip.


    A chord goes with each step of the major scale.

    I – C MAJOR
    ii – D minor
    iii – E minor
    IV – F MAJOR
    V – G MAJOR
    vi – A minor
    vii – B diminished (Not used much in pop music styles)

    Note: These chord types have been simplified for pop music styles. All keys (major scale) use the same chord types as above, the only thing that changes is the letter that goes in front of Major or minor!


    Choose 4 chords that you think sound good together from the list above.

    (You can’t make a mistake if you are using chords that are in the same key so just go for it!)

    For my example, I choose the following (By the way, a letter alone without Major or minor after it means Major as far as chords go)…

    STEP 1:

    Choose chord notes for your melody and write them in just below each chord.
    (We are choosing the note that the melody will be playing as we play the first beat or strum of each chord)

    (Click on the image above to hear a midi file)

    A chord note is a note that is in the chord you are playing.
    A few guidelines for you to remember are…

    1) Don’t always pick the A note in an A chord or the C note in a C chord. Each chord has 3 different notes (there are more than 1 of each note in many guitar chord fingerings), so mix it up. You might choose a G in a C chord or an F in a Dmi chord as well as sometimes choosing an G in a G chord.

    2) If you don’t know the note names on the guitar or keyboard, don’t worry about it. Simply pick a note that you are playing in the chord (including open strings that are being played) and record it on tape or write it out in tablature (Tab) instead of using the actual note names.

    STEP 2:

    Choose approaching notes for your melody and write them in just before each chord change.

    (Click on the image above to hear a midi file)

    An approaching note is a note that will lead the listeners ear to the next chord (Oh yeah!).

    An approaching note is one scale step higher or lower than the melody note you will play at the chord change.

    STEP 3:

    Simply connect the dots for a GREAT MELODY EVERY TIME.

    (Click on the image above to hear a midi file)

    A few guidelines for you to remember are…

    1) Try for a ratio of 3 steps for each skip. If you use too many skips your melody will sound choppy and non-melodic (Hey is that a real word?) Too many steps will leave your music sounding like a big boring scale!

    2) Start by writing 2 connecting notes between each chord note and the next approaching note. Then, try using zero or 1 connecting notes in some places and 2 connecting notes in other places.

    Well, that is all there is to it! Next time we’ll get into how this technique fits into writing an entire song!

    ~ Ty

  • For Parents 25.10.2006 Comments Off on Practice Time for Kids

    First of all, the amount of time that a student needs to practice differs greatly! Below you will find some general practice guidelines. More is ALWAYS better. 🙂 My personal best was 14 hours straight one day while attending junior high school. I was nuts!

    5-6 years old > 5-10+ minutes per day, 3-5 days pers week.
    (they will usually need your assistance)

    7-9 years old > 15-20+ minutes per day, 3-5 days per week.

    10-12 years old > 30+ minutes per day, 4-5 days per week.

    13 to adult > 40+ minutes per day, 5-6 days per week.

    — Comments welcome!

  • Music Business 25.10.2006 Comments Off on Dealing with Rejection

    “Success stops when you stop.”

    While staying with some friends in Pismo Beach, California, I found a note on the refrigerator that read, “Success stops when you stop.” This should be the mantra for every aspiring writer, recording artist, and performer in this business of music!

    Most of us fail when we quit. Most of us quit because we can’t stomach the rejection that this industry and the public at large relentlessly bombard us with day after day, song after song, and show after show. The real tragedy in all of this rejection and criticism is that eventually and quite subconsciously we begin to believe all of the negative things that people say about our music!

    That is the beginning of the end of your career in music. Eventually, we usually cave in to all of the negative response we have heard and proceed to bury our crushed dreams in a guitar case and banish it to a cobweb filled corner of the attic where we will seldom have to face this painful symbol of our artistic failures.

    50% Approval Myth

    It is my belief that most of us believe in what I call the “50% approval myth.”

    Here’s how it works: You write a song and make a nice demo of it. You play your song for 10 people and if more than half like it, you think to yourself: “I knew it was a great song!” If less that half like it, then we tend to start making excuse for our songs like;

    “Well, if it only had more bass in the mix or the sound system they listened to it on was better, they would recognize this is a hit song.”

    Unfortunately, this is only a temporary defense mechanism. What usually follows after a number of these reactions to our beautiful babies (Songs), is a deep feeling of failure and thoughts more along the lines of; “This might never sell, I’m not as good as I thought I was, or I better re-record my songs again and then everyone will be able to see how great they really are!”

    After our morale hits rock bottom, we will simply give up on our dreams and go back to our day jobs forever where a hole will forever remain in our musical hearts.

    The Silver Lining: Rejection Equals Success

    Can you imagine finding 10 people at random off the street and asking them to listen to the latest CD from_____ (Enter any multi-platinum selling artist here). What do you think the results would be if you asked them if they liked it enough to buy the Disc?

    If you take an artist that has sold 2.5 million copies in the USA, That means that roughly only 1 out of ever 100 (Ya, one hundred) people in the US purchased the album! Wow! That is the main point that I am making. 1 person out of each 100 people that hear your music (In the USA alone) has to buy your CD for you to be WILDLY successful!

    Don’t forget that the challenging job of exposing your music to all these people lies ahead. We will discuss many ways to do this in upcoming articles. The most important thing to remember is that rejection is not bad but simply a natural part of the process!

    If you don’t have lots and lots of rejection then you aren’t getting your music out to enough ears! The more rejection and criticism, The better! So get used to hearing 99 people out of every hundred say things about your song such as:

    1. That song sucks!
    2. Lose the singer!
    3. The song won’t get on the radio, it’s too long.
    4. It’ll never sell.
    5. The song is to slow.
    6. Get a new band.
    7. Re-record it, the cymbals are too loud.
    8. The words don’t make any sense.
    9. The song is way too fast.
    10. Try to re-record it with a country singer.
    11. Your too old for this business.
    12. The singer is too ugly.
    13. Your stage show is boring.
    14. The bass player needs to loose some weight.
    15. The song is too long.
    16. Negative comment.
    17. Negative comment.
    18. Negative comment.
    19. Negative comment.
    20. Negative comment.
    (etc…) ….
    98. Negative comment.
    99. Wow! That’s a really good song. Where can I buy it?

    BINGO! If you can repeat this scenario again and again you can go platinum or achieve whatever level of success you choose in this crazy business of music!