The hardest bit when trying to learn an instrument is finding the time to practice. You show someone who hasn’t picked a guitar in his life how to play an E chord and he will get it. And he will retain it, even if he’s got a memory like a sieve. No doubt about it. But being able to concatenate different chords together harmoniously is something which only comes with practice, and the kind of perseverance that lies beyond most people’s grasp. Progress is always slow at first, and while few do a Pete Townshend and put their feet through their instruments most call it a day before too long.
Well, that’s what this emerging company is trying to remedy. Ovelin is a Finnish startup that is about to release an iPad app that turns practicing the guitar into nothing short of a game. Continue reading →
James Taylor Now Offers Free Guitar Lessons On His Official Site
What about learning guitar from a truly renowned performer in the history of American folk music? And what about doing it without having to pay a dime?
That’s exactly what James Taylor’s latest online initiative is all about. The five-time Grammy Award winner has just begun imparting free guitar classes on his own website, www.jamestaylor.com. So far, he has uploaded two different tutorials, and an introductory message. You can watch them here. The idea seems to be offering updates on a weekly basis.
And just to do some brushing up, this is a video of Taylor performing his career-defining song ”Carolina In My Mind” at the BBC.
“Music is the doctor of my soul”. That’s what the Doobie Brothers once sang. And it’s something that is more or less carved in stone. Yet, music can take on other professional roles. Preeminently among them is the role of teacher. I mean, just look at the number of people who have learned English by listening to songs. OK, maybe the word “learn” is too much. Nobody becomes a fountain of knowledge by listening to songs by contemporary musicians. But there’s no denying that he will build up a more than respectable vocabulary, and revise his existing word lists that much easier.
Well, he certainly will as long as he has a site like this one at hand. LyricsGaps lets anybody pick up new words by listening to music. The idea is that people choose a language from the many that are offered (including English, Spanish, Italian and French) and pick new vocabulary up by completing blanks in the lyrics of songs in such languages. Continue reading →
All the musicians I’m acquainted with tell me the same story: the more their parents sent them to teachers to learn how to write, read and play music when they were kids, the closer they were to disdaining it forever. They also tell me that the moment they became independent and could say “no” to mum and dad was the moment they discovered the deep love they could feel for music.
That only makes too much sense. No matter how wonderful something is, if it is imposed it becomes a source of frustration and it is resisted to the bitter end.
Yet, what can parents who want their children to learn music do? Is there a way to have their little ones learn how to play an instrument without boring them to death? Continue reading →
There were only two instruments that I ever tried to learn in earnest in my life: the guitar and the piano. In both cases, my mind was made up because those were instruments we had at home. Had it been down to me, I would have gone either for the drums or the bass guitar. And I know it is not late to pick either now, but I no longer have the time and (what’s more important) such a starry-eyed outlook on music to go for it. And today I’m also aware that creating music is not my forte.
Could a site like this one have helped me when I tried to learn the piano? Well, the basic premise is letting you mastering how to play the instrument by ear. Back then, I was absolutely reliant on sheet music. And I think that was my problem. You took the sheet music from me, and that was it.
And I don’t know if this site could have worked out for me or not, but I can tell you for sure that (had it been available back then) I would have loved to at least check it out. It is full of online exercises and games that you can try out, and (on the whole) these will let you learn how to distinguish the intervals between notes, how to memorize the pitch, how different chords are constructed…
The site even includes a beginners game that consists in telling if a given note is higher or lower than the other. That is the first thing you must master when trying to play something by ear. To some (lucky) people, that comes naturally. Others have to work on it to make it grow. Well, this site will let them do it. And at no cost. Continue reading →
Here you have the final part of my interview with Alexander Parij from SingAndStudy. You can read the first part here, of course.
MUSIC & YOU
Q:When did you become interested in music? What was the first album or single you ever purchased?
A: I did not have a lot of pocket money to buy CDs, so I mainly listened to the radio.
The first album I purchased was the soundtrack of Spawn when I was teenager.
Q:Are you in a band yourself, or have you been in a band in the past? Is there a clip on YouTube or elsewhere we could watch?
Q:Musical likes and dislikes? Favorite artists?
A: My music tastes change a lot. I think it progressed from heavy metal to psy-trance and then to something more mellow. Right now I listen a lot to Eduard Artemyev (one of the founders of Soviet electronic music), Pink Floyd and Jimmy Hendrix. Continue reading →
For students of foreign languages, songs are one of the perfect frameworks for capturing new vocabulary. The reasons are obvious: songs lasts only a couple of minutes, and some sections repeat themselves over and over. And you have a melody to begin with – a melody that can dote whole segments of the composition with instant catchiness, if not the whole song.
I already reviewed one site for learning languages using videos, but this one is a bit different. Named Sing And Study, it stands as a (paid) Adobe application that you download and launch from your desktop. This application will let you create word games with these videos that you like. That is, you will define which words are missing from the lyrics as the song is playing. This has the immediate advantage of letting you set the difficulty level as specifically as you want. A song can be suited to just anybody, since you will determine what will be removed from where.
For instance, you could take “Like A Rolling Stone” and make filling the gaps something easy:
You never _____ around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did _____ for you
You never _____ that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to _____ on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it _____ when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal Continue reading →
Learning a language has got little to do with memorizing mere lists of words. It has to do with using them, and placing every single one in a meaningful setting. There is a common belief among language professionals: use a word three times and it will be yours forever.
And in addition to using words, the context in which they are used is vital for nailing them down in your mind. A word that a teacher gives to you out of the blue along with 10 more is hard to grab. Conversely, if you learn one (and only one) word from a song by your favorite artist, there is a radically different degree of involvement. To begin with, you like the artist and you care about his/her message. And if you learn what it means by looking it up on the dictionary yourself, you will place an even higher value on it, in the same way that we grow attached to something that results from a laborious process. Continue reading →
Looking back at the resources for musicians and music lovers I have covered so far I realize that I have not featured a single one that teaches people how to play an instrument. There is a good reason for that – I believe that playing an instrument (any instrument) is something innate. Still, a helping hand does not go amiss, and the site I am reviewing now is as good as any other to these effects.
In this particular case, it all revolves around guitar chords and scales. More than 200 of the former and 80 of the latter are featured for you to start emulating David Gilmour. Well, maybe not, but these are enough chords to play any song within the repertoire of The Kinks, The Jam or The Who. Continue reading →