• Buyers Guides, Drums, For Parents, Purchasing an Instrument, Ryan Casperson 31.01.2011 Comments Off on Drum Buyer’s Guide

    Sweetwater is our preferred musical instrument seller. They have a top-notch sales, competitive prices, and reliable shipping times.

    So you are looking to buy a set of drums but you don’t know what to get? If you’ve done an online search for drums, you’ve probably seen that there are thousands of parts and accessories! What’re the most important things to have first? We are here to help guide you through the basics.

    If you aren’t sure whether you want to invest in a full set, you can at least buy a practice pad.
    These are small pads that don’t make much noise but let you get used to the feel of hitting a drum. Great for practicing drum rudiments and working on stick skills. Even if you have a full set already, this is a great, portable way to practice. The Vic Firth Single-Sided/Divided Practice Pad is a quality product.

    For younger drummers (age 4-8), a junior drum set is just what Dr. Rhythm ordered!
    Let’s face it, if your feet can’t reach the pedal you are going to have a hard time keeping a solid beat. While the junior sets are smaller and cheaper than the full sets, you can still expect to spend between $100 and $300 for a well-made kit. PDP has a great, low priced kit, and the Ludwig Questlove Pocket Kit Drum Set is another great option.

    For full-sized kits, you’ll find that most are priced without the cymbals
    (and the cymbals are pretty important), so don’t be fooled by low prices on one given kit. One of the most economical sets is the Pearl Roadshow 5-piece Complete Kit While it may say Pro in the title, this isn’t really professional quality, but it has what you need to get drumming! For higher quality sets, turn to the names you can trust in percussion. Pearl, Yamaha, Ludwig, Gretsch, and DDrum. Expect a basic shell set (minus the cymbals) to cost between $300 and $700. Top-quality sets will probably start at around $1000. It’s worth noting that putting new drum heads on a basic kit can dramatically improve its sound and only cost between $40 and $100.

    Cymbals (that usually aren’t included in the drum kits) are necessary!
    But you don’t need them all at once. A hi-hat is absolutely essential. What you’ll need is a hi-hat stand and a hi-hat cymbal set. After that, you can start adding various types of crash and ride cymbals to complete your set. Sabian and Zildjian are both high-quality cymbal makers.

    If you are concerned about noise in the house, electronic drums can save your sanity!
    Don’t get me wrong, if you need volume, you can plug into an electronic drum amp and bam! you are making serious noise. But for when you don’t need to be loud, you can put headphones on and lose yourself in a little drumming world. We prefer Roland electronic drums. Their quality seems to far surpass its competitors in this field. Thie Roland V-Drum Kit will last for years and has all the bells and whistles you could want.

    Hopefully, this has answered some questions for you. Good luck on your drum buying journey. Remember, your drum teacher is a great resource for ideas as well! Happy Drumming from 4/4 School of Music!

  • Guitar, Practice, Ryan Casperson, Tools 27.01.2011 Comments Off on Top 4 Tools For Practicing Guitar!

    In the olden days, the only high tech tools people had to learn their favorites songs on guitar was their record player and their ear. Today, the options for guitar players are endless! Here are my top 4 choices.


    1) Guitar Pro 6 is a Guitar Tab player for Windows/Mac/ and Linux that boasts being "A tablature editor, score player and backing band all in one." When you download GuitarPro song files (from sites like Ultimate-Guitar.com), you usually are given music for all the parts of the song, including melody, drums and bass! You can speed up or slow the playback so you can practice at slower speeds while you are learning the new tune. While its price tag of $59 may seem a bit high, the accuracy of its transcriptions and the massive song library online more than makes up for it. And the songs you download (after you bought the software) are all free. This is really helpful for guitar students! Visit their website to learn more: https://www.guitar-pro.com/en/index.php

    2) Power Tab is a free tablature editor and score player that is very similar to Guitar Pro. You really can’t beat free! However, while Power Tab also has a very extensive online song catalog, the accuracy isn’t quite as consistent as Guitar Pro. Luckily you can listen to the tab’s playback and hear if its right before you invest time studying it. There often are several different versions for the same song, so try the ones rated best first. Power Tab also is an older program and I haven’t seen any updates for it in years but the good news is that it’s already a solid program and doesn’t need any extra frills. You can learn more or download for free here: https://www.power-tab.net/

    3) The Tab ToolKit from Agile Partners is perhaps my favorite app for the iPad, iTouch and iPhone. This app lets you open Guitar Pro and Power tab song files right onto your device! I don’t usually practice in front of my computer, but my phone is always with me. The price tag of $9.99 seemed high to me at first for an app, but when you compare it to the $59 you would pay for Guitar Pro, it is almost a no-brainer! The only drawback is if you only have WiFi internet, you can only access new songs when you are at a hotspot (or on your home wireless network). But once you download a song, its there until you erase it. So you can quickly build an impressive tab library right on your device. Learn more here:  https://www.agilepartners.com/apps/tabtoolkit/

    4) The Tascam CD-GT2 allows you to slow down difficult songs, loop sections or eliminate unwanted parts that are getting in your way. What I love about the CD-GT2 is that it focuses on a musicians most powerful tool: their ear! It can feel overwhelming to sit down with a song and try to figure it out on your own and that is where slowing and looping can really help. Take something that sounds relatively simple, loop it, slow it, and have patience! Figure out small parts. This is how so many guitar masters have learned their craft. Have your teacher help get you started. It’s extremely satisfying when you figure out a part on your own. You can learn more here:   https://tascam.com/product/cd-gt2/

    Have fun and practice hard!

  • Drums 26.01.2011 Comments Off on Amazing Young Drummers!

    Wow!  These two young drummers are hot!  All of you drum students that think you need a full band to rock should definitely check out this video of two awesome drummers playing together as a duo.

  • Health, Singers, Voice 17.01.2011 Comments Off on Singing Makes You Healthier!

    Most of us love to sing even if it is just in the shower.  Did you know that singing can actually improve your heath?  Check out this great article I found here. It’s never too late to take voice lessons.  If you play guitar or piano already then you have a big head-start! Most people don’t realize that learning to sing well usually doesn’t take as long as learning to play an instrument well. What are you waiting for?

  • Apps, Guitar 14.01.2011 Comments Off on The Gibson Learn & Master Guitar App is awesome and FREE!

    This free app for for iPhone and Touch users has a tuner, metronome, chord dictionary and videos.  More details at Gibson or download it here on iTunes


    Take Guitar Lessons in Seattle at 4/4 School of Music!


  • iPhone Apps 13.01.2011 Comments Off on Transcribe Fast Guitar Solos with Capo

    Guitar players and other soloists will love this app!  It lets you slow down the speed of a song or solo on your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch without changing the pitch.  Back in the old days we would have to slow our records down to 16 speed and the guitar solo would sound like a bass solo.  You kids have it so easy these days Smile Rock on!

    iTunes link Capo 

    Full review at AppCraver.com


    Take Guitar Lessons in Seattle at 4/4 School of Music!

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  • Uncategorized 20.09.2010 Comments Off on Branching out!

    With the new school year upon us, this is a month of renewal for lots of us.  Take time this month to renew your passion for music by branching out and exploring exciting musical opportunities — check out the ideas below to get started!

    Check out a new artist or style of music: Your teacher can probably suggest some new artists or styles to listen to.  The more we listen to music, the stronger our musical ear becomes.  Mix it up to keep things fun and fresh!

    Join a school band, choir or orchestra.  These are a great way to practice your instrument, gain experience on stage, and meet other musically-minded people.

    Sign-up for 4/4 student concerts!  Our student concerts are a blast, and are wonderful in helping students achieve music goals, overcome performance anxiety, and share their talent with others.  Sign-up and get ready to rock!

    Check out a local concert or show.  There are so many great musical resources in our area.  Look for concert listings (lots of events are free! in local newspapers.  Seeing live music can be a great way to learn more about music, and can be a great source of motivation to improve our own musical skills!

    Pick out a few new songs or music books.  Your teacher can suggest some titles!  Sometimes having new material to work with can make a big difference towards renewing our motivation in lessons.

    Write down a few short-term and longer-term musical goals.  Taking the time to write down goals is a great step towards success.  Review your goals in a few months and see what you’ve accomplished!

    Keep rocking, 4/4 students!

    Jennifer Iovanne

    photo by chelseagirl

  • Uncategorized 25.05.2010 Comments Off on Dynamics. Say it LOUDER!

    Dynamics: Say it louder!

    Dynamics generally refer to volume in music – how loud or soft a note is played.  Dynamics originates from the Greek word ‘dynamikos’, which means powerful.  Used in music, the ‘power’ with which you sing a note or press a key will result in a certain dynamic level.  Because the musical language is Italian, we use Italian words to designate specific dynamic levels.  Here’s a breakdown of the basic dynamic levels you’ll see in music:

    pp (pianissimo) — very quiet

    p (piano) — quiet

    mp (mezzo-piano) — moderately quiet

    mf (mezzo-forte) — moderately loud

    f (forte) — loud

    ff (fortissimo) — very loud

    As you can probably see, dynamics are a little subjective — ‘quiet’ to one person might not sound as quiet to another person.  Use dynamic variation in your music to help shape the entire piece — quieter sections, louder sections, in-between sections, etc.

    You can also move between dynamic levels gradually.  These are represented with musical symbols or its defining word:

    See full size imageCrescendo — gradually increase volume

    See full size image Decrescendo/Diminuendo — gradually decrease volume

    Dynamic signs can be easy to overlook when practicing music, especially if you’re practicing on a keyboard that doesn’t have weighted keys (weighted keys allow you to hear the full dynamic range of notes).  Even if your keyboard doesn’t have weighted keys, you can still practice putting more or less pressure on a note to achiever a certain dynamic level.  Try circling or highlighting dynamic signs you find in your music, so they stand out more on the page.  When you listen to music on the radio, be aware of when the volume changes, and how that affects the overall song — does it make you feel excited, does it add to the suspense, does it make you feel sad or hopeful?  Does it come at the beginning, middle or end of the song? 

    Building an awareness of dynamic signs can help us grow into stronger musicians — they play a huge role in connecting the notes and emotional appeal of a song.  They’re also really fun to add to music (who doesn’t love rocking out as loudly as possible?)   Keep it up!

    Piano Lessons in Clackamas, Oregon
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  • Uncategorized 25.05.2010 Comments Off on Got Rhythm?

    Got Rhythm?

    Gershwin said it right in his jazz standard: "I Got Rhythm, I Got Music!"  The more attuned we are to the rhythm of a song, the more musical it begins to feel.  Notes become less choppy, our fingers and mind feel focused and relaxed and we begin to play more naturally.  Rhythm is a tricky aspect of learning any instrument — but add in notes, hand coordination, dynamic signs and a repeat sign?  It’s enough to make any student flustered.  Rhythm plays a vital role in music, and it takes time and practice to build a strong foundation and understanding of rhythm.  Here are some exercises/games to help focus on rhythm – try these two or three times a week, for about 10 minutes, and see if you notice a difference! 

    1. Think of a song — could be the one you’re assigned this week by your favorite 4/4 teacher, could be a song you just heard on the radio, could be an old nursery rhyme — anything!  If possible, play or listen to the song a few times through.  Now, try to hear the song in your head.  Chances are, certain notes are held longer than others.  This is the rhythm of the song.  The more aware we are of the rhythm, the easier it becomes to identify and then be able to replicate later in our heads and on our instruments.

    2. Clap or tap the rhythm to the aforementioned song.  Are you hesitating and waiting to hear what comes next, or are you anticipating what comes next already?  By developing a natural, internalized sense of the rhythm, it becomes easier to produce the claps/taps on the beat, rather than in front of, or just behind the beat. 

    3. For an added challenge, take a song you are learning. First, try saying the names of the notes (quarter, half, whole, etc) on the beat.  Then, try counting aloud while tapping the rhythm. 

    4.  Want to make it even more challenging?  Try saying (or singing!) the letter names of the notes (A, B, C, etc…) on the beat.  This requires not only a sense of the rhythm, but also challenges us to identify notes on-the-spot. 

    Practice these exercises a few times a week, and see if you notice a change in your practice and your awareness of rhythm both in and outside of lessons.  Next month we’ll focus on the role of rhythm on the written page – bar lines, measures, time signature, all that good stuff.  ‘Til then — keep rocking! 

    ~ Jennifer Iovanne

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  • Uncategorized 25.05.2010 Comments Off on Music Theory 101: How do I READ this stuff, anyway?

    This month we’ll delve into some of the basics in reading sheet music — even if you are in voice lessons, a solid foundation in reading music is very important!  Without further ado….

    1. Measures: Songs are broken into small sections, called measures.  Measures are divided on either side by a bar line – a thin black line that helps us clearly see where when measure starts and ends.  Each measure receives the same number of beats.  If you’ve ever seen a band perform, you’ve probably heard them yell "1, 2, 3, 4!" before beginning the song — they are establishing not only the number of beats per measure, but the speed of the song as well.

    2. Time signature: How do we know how many beats are in each measure?  We look for the time signature, which is written at the very beginning of the song.  For example, a song in 4/4 time signature receives 4 beats per measure; a song in 3/4 time signature receives 3 beats per measure; a song in 2/4 time signature receives 2 beats per measure.  4/4 and 3/4 are the most commonly used time signatures, particularly in the early years of learning an instrument.  (By the way, 4/4 is also a clever musical reference in our school’s name!) 

    3. Notes: There are many kinds of notes; we’ll learn 3 of the most common notes today.  Notes look different – some are black in the middle, others are white, some have dots – the difference in appearance is what allows us to identify the name of the note, and how many counts it receives. 

    See full size imageFor example, a quarter note is a black oval with a stem pointing up or down.  A quarter note receives one beat.  So, if we were playing a song in 4/4 time signature (four beats per measure), we could fit four quarter notes into each measure.

    See full size imageA half note looks like a quarter note, but is white in the middle.  A half note receives two beats.  In 4/4 time signature, how many half notes could fit into one measure?  (If you said two, you’re right!)

    See full size imageA whole note looks like a half note, but has no stem.  A whole note receives four beats — that means we play the key/sing the note only once, but hold it for four beats.

    Want any easy way to remember the names of the notes, and how many counts each gets?  Well, think of a whole note as a whole cake.  If you weren’t sharing the cake with anyone, you’d have whole cake to yourself.  What happens if you wanted to share it with a friend?  You’d cut it in half.  A half note is half the value of a whole note.  How many cake halves does it take to make a whole cake?  Two.  How many half notes (two beats each) would it take to equal one whole note (four beats)?  Two. 

    Now, what would happen if you were sharing the cake amongst four people?  You’d cut it into quarters.  A quarter note is called such because it is a quarter of a whole — how many quarter notes (1 beat) would it take to equal a whole note (four beats)?  Four.  How many cake quarters would it take to equal a whole cake?  Four.  Make sense?

    Take time this week to check out the latest song you’re working on – can you find the time signature?  How many measures in the song?  Can you find quarter, half and whole notes?  Try clapping the rhythm for the song.  Keep this up, and you’ll see your sight-reading and sight-singing improve!  

    Jennifer Iovanne

    Piano Lessons in Clackamas, Oregon
    Guitar Lessons in Beaverton, Oregon
    Guitar Lessons in Vancouver, Washington