With the passing of blues guitar legend B.B. King in May of this year, publishers have been quick to offer up a full range of performance repertoire designed to appeal to guitarists at all levels. This month, Hal Leonard Online is promoting a line of books, DVDs, and sheet music selections to appeal to blues lovers of all types. The selection includes multiple volumes of their popular Play Along series of CDs and DVDs which make you the star musician! Each features split tracks to give you a choice of listening and playing along to the full stereo recording, or isolating out the guitar, piano, bass, or horn parts so you can add your own instrumentals to the track. Leonard offers up a full variety of selections including: The Best of B. B. King, the B. B. King anthology, educational songbooks which break down individual guitar licks of King’s signature style for enhancing your own repertoire, and multiple editions in the aforementioned Play Along series. Of course Hal Leonard is one of the largest publishers of sheet music and educational curriculum so singers and players of all instruments are sure to find plenty to feed their music appetites as well. You can even order a miniature replica of King’s famous guitar, Lucille. Check it out here.
Many musicians devote at least a small portion of their time to sharing their knowledge with others by serving as music instructors. Teaching others to find joy in playing and performing music is a great way to keep your own skills sharp and develop the life-long relationships that can come out of mentoring a student. Unfortunately, today’s teachers must be just as adept at using technology as they are at skills instruction. That’s why I was intrigued by two new offerings put forth by Lesson Planet, a website which allows teachers to share their knowledge and teaching methods with fellow instructors. The first, titled Google+ for Educators is filled with techniques ranging from the basics of setting up your circle and creating a profile, then moves on to more detailed subjects like creating posts, setting up polls, and creating and promoting your own events featuring guest authors and experts. The second program, titled iOS 8 Getting Started is a fifteen-part program that helps you make the most of using an iPad as an effective teaching aid. Within just a few video lessons you will be able to setup your new iPad and not only master the basic apps that are pre-installed, but tailor it to meet the specific needs of your education program. You’ll also find tips on how to navigate through the hundreds of available apps to find those that are of particular interest to you; then learn how to organize these apps in a way that keeps your screen clutter-free. To share your own lessons with fellow educators or simply to check out one of their affordably-priced video training packages or download worksheets, visit www.lessonplanet.com.
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I teach all of my vocal students the basics of music theory. I find that too often, theory is one aspect of music education that is almost completely neglected by many voice teachers. Unfortunately, this puts vocal students behind the eight ball if they decide to study music at the college level. While piano students and those who play band instruments often sail through college theory and sight-reading courses, singers struggle to master these core concepts that are crucial to success as a musician. While there are many good workbooks and written study aids available to both teachers and students which are sufficient for basic theory, other concepts such as ear training can only be accomplished by spending time either in class or at home going through drills. That’s where online programs like Theta Music Training come in. Now that some of my more advanced vocalists are moving on to concepts like interval recognition, the games and drills on this website are a great addition to our in-class lessons. In fact, I often spend time going through a few of these drills such as Melodic Drops, Pitch Compare, and Rhythm Reader to go over basic concepts; then I send students home for further practice on these drills. When we get back together for lessons, I find that they are better prepared and have retained the concepts between our weekly meetings. This allows us to spend more time on singing, which is why they have come to me in the first place. Find these helpful drills on trainer.thetamusic.com.
When we think of concepts like hand coordination, the mind usually jumps immediately to sports like baseball, basketball, etc. But if you think about it, hand coordination is just as (if not more) important to instrumental lessons. With this thought in mind, Making Music Magazine has a good article available in its June issue titled 11 Tips for Improving Hand Coordination and Muscle Memory. The main focus of the article is to present solutions for helping musicians develop the special skills required for two-handed playing techniques, which are key to learning instruments such as drums, piano, and guitar. “This can be a problem for beginners who are very ‘one-handed’,” the author states. “When a beginner watches an experienced musician do the equivalent of patting the head and rubbing the belly at the same time it can be off-putting.”
The author goes on to state, however, that the best way to overcome the obstacles inherent in learning to coordinate both hands (and even feet in some cases) is to practice. Then again, it is how the student practices which is most important; this is where the instructor can offer some advice. The detailed tips listed in the article are an excellent jumping-off point for in-class and at-home activities. The first and perhaps most important piece of advice is to instruct the student to practice exercises using just the weakest hand and a slow, steady pace. When this first part of the exercise is mastered to some extent, practice the same piece with the stronger hand. Finally, put the two hands together again working at a slow pace and then gradually pick up the tempo.
Another tip is to have the student learn to tap out different rhythms on each hand to help build coordination. These types of drills can be done anywhere without an instrument, so a student can log in even more practice time. Silent fingering keyboard drills and tapping out drum rhythms on table tops, pads, etc. are other drills which the author illustrates as being of special value in developing these coordination skills. While much of the advice presented in the article is nothing new, having all these tips outlined and explained in a detailed manner with instructions on how to incorporate them into your own studio makes this article a worthwhile read. To read the entire story, check it out on www.makingmusicmag.com. You’ll also find a host of other helpful articles designed for teachers of guitar, piano, and band instruments. While you can still buy back issues of the magazine at their online site, even better news is that they are in the process of transitioning from a print magazine to a free weekly newsletter!
In the area of guitar products, you may want to check out the new PitchCrow-G guitar and bass clip-on tuner from Korg. According to the manufacturer, this new tuner is small, sleek, and accurate; it attaches to any headstock with a strong ball-joint clip and is great for players of all skill levels—beginner to advanced. Korg says the design of their new tuner has reduced wasted surface area around the display to offer a smaller size without sacrificing any of the display detail. Furthermore, the PitchCrow-G incorporates dedicated guitar and bass modes as well as the conventional chromatic mode. It is accurate to ± 0.1 cents, has an eight-hour battery life, and comes in both black and white. For more information including price details, contact Korg USA at www.korg.com/us.
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