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The Benefits of Piano: A Starter Instrument

So, your child wants to start music lessons. Well, one of the very first steps is simply picking an instrument. While there’s no wrong choice when it comes to playing music, there are different advantages to playing various instruments, especially as a beginner. And if you aren’t quite sure where to start, the piano is a great first option.

Like most instruments, there is a LONG list of benefits that come from piano playing. From physical strength to developmental progress, there is no end to what the piano can do for your child. Here are just a few of the benefits that have been proven to come from learning to play:

    • Decreased stress levels
    • Improved test scores
    • Enhanced concentration for school work and multitasking
    • Increased hand strength and hand-eye coordination
    • Increased confidence
    • Community and socialization

We truly believe that music lessons can have lasting impacts on a child’s development, both in and out of the music studio. Students who take music lessons have been shown to perform better in school and even reach developmental milestones before other children.

But even though the facts and figures sound great, actually starting music lessons can still be tough. It can be intimidating, overwhelming, and a little frustrating at times to try something new, especially an instrument. The piano can help reduce some of these feelings and is a really great place to start learning music:

Simple, Linear Layout: The layout of the piano tends to be a little bit easier for children to understand. A piano is pretty straightforward: low notes are to the left, high notes are to the right. Of course there are flats and sharps and everything in between, but the layout tends to be clearer than other instruments, which can help lessons seem less overwhelming at first.

Instant Gratification: When properly tuned, making music on the piano sounds good, even when you don’t know what you’re doing. Unlike other instruments that require specific, complex hand positions or multiple movements at once, hitting the right note on a piano is as simple as pressing a key. And this immediate gratification is helpful to counter frustrations that often come when learning a new skill.

Ease of Playing: Because of the way a keyboard is laid out, it’s much easier for students to make the connection between the notes on the piano and the way they’re written on the staff. There is one key for each note. This, along with the ease of pressing a key to play the right note, allows students to more easily learn simple songs, which increases confidence and self-esteem to encourage students to continue playing.

Music Theory Development: The piano doesn’t require strict technique when first starting. Therefore, students are able to focus on tougher concepts in music theory, such as intervals, pitch, and reading music. Specifically, the piano, unlike a lot of instruments, allows you to easily play more than one note at a time, which makes understanding chords and other more difficult aspects of music theory a little easier.

Gateway Instrument: Just because you start with one instrument, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind down the road. With the large variety of instruments available, it’s tough to commit to just one, especially as a child. This is why the piano is such a great place to start. The simple layout and ease of playing boosts self-esteem and allows children to learn tough concepts early on. And with a solid foundation and a boost of confidence, kids can explore other instrument options with more success.

There’s no wrong choice when picking an instrument, and we’re here to help you thrive no matter what you chose. If you need a little help deciding or just want to start with a good foundational instrument, give the piano try. Our instructor, Kent Toalson, is ready to meet you where you’re at and help you discover the joy of both piano and music as a whole. Check out his page to learn more about his background, then sign-up for your first lesson and see how piano can benefit you!

Please contact us here….

Hannah Lee at Green Hills Guitar Studio

Hi everyone!

My name is Hannah Lee, and I’m so excited to work with Green Hills Guitar Studio to help share some of their values, lessons (both musical and life), and insights with you!

I am a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where I received my bachelor’s degree in English Writing and Spanish. While in school, I had some incredible opportunities to work with and write for organizations, such as I AM THAT GIRL and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. These opportunities helped me discover a love for sharing good ideas and powerful topics with the community, so I’m so excited to work with Shane and the rest of the Green Hills Guitar Studio instructors to help spread their mission.

Currently, I work as the Program Director at the FiftyForward J.L. Turner Center, a nonprofit that provides active older adults with innovative programming and services. In addition, I work as a part-time coach at Let It Shine Gymnastics, where I have the opportunity to share my love for the sport of gymnastics with preschool and elementary school children.

When I’m not spending time at FiftyForward or teaching cartwheels, I enjoying spending as much time outdoors as possible. I love exploring the different hiking areas in Nashville and soaking in as much sunshine (and, unfortunately, humidity) as possible. In addition, my sister and I recently planted our very first vegetable garden, so I’ve spent a lot of time getting my hands dirty this Spring.

I really look forward to this new venture with Green Hills Guitar Studio, and I’m so excited to be a part of their community!

Hannah

Green Hills Guitar Studio, Nashville, TN

Hannah Lee Joins Green Hills Guitar Studio

Hello! Today, I would like to introduce you to Hannah. When Hannah and I first met, I had asked her if she would be willing to do some proofreading and editing for the website, along with some of my blog posts. I realized I kept stalling when it came time to share some new information.

It is fair to say I ain’t the grammar wizard or skilled writer I once was. All apologies to my 7th grade English teacher, Mr. Berg, who scared everyone in his classes with his enthusiasm and commitment to improving our sentence diagraming and grammar use. Mr. Berg, you did a great job, but it’s faded a bit

I had no problems sharing my ideas regarding learning how to play guitar or how to write songs, but when it came time for the final push of the button, I would stop. I spend so much of my time teaching, writing and recording that proofing and editing felt like a burden and time drain because I didn’t feel so confident in my writing skills.

After talking with Hannah a few times about what we were doing with Green Hills Guitar Studio, I realized Hannah could contribute much more to our little community than just proofing and editing. Hannah is a gymnastics coach, was a collegiate athlete, works with active aging seniors and loves to write. The more Hannah and I spoke, it became apparent she has a real care and passion for people and writing. It felt like a great fit and tied directly into what the studio has been upon from the beginning…community.

It is very important to all of us at Green Hills Guitar Studio that our students experience more than just a place to come each week for music lessons. All of have rich and powerful memories of our own instructors and mentors investing in us, not only as aspiring musicians but as people.

You can read some more about Hannah here. You can expect more from Hannah in the future.

Happy guitar-ing!

Shane

3 Qualities Singer-Songwriters Look for in a Vocal Coach

Hello everybody, and especially you singer-songwriters! Here is a new post from Nashville vocal coach and Green Hills Guitar Studio instructor, Jaime Babbitt.

It is full of love, non-judgement, compassion, empathy and NO PITY! That’s right, it’s time to own it! If you are a singer-songwriter, you know it’s important to work with a vocal instructor that not only understands the mechanics and ins-and-outs of the human voice, but also gets what it means to be a writer, performer and artist developing a style and a voice in many senses of the word.

Whew! Multi-tasking, minefield management skills and psychology. Do you have the right vocal coach for you? Here is my own personal experience as a student of Jaime’s. You can read Jaime’s “3 Qualities Singer-Songwriters Look for in A Vocal Coach,” here. If you are a singer-songwriter looking for a vocal instructor that gets singer-songwriters, you can contact Jaime here:

 

 

Happy guitar-ing!

Shane

 

 

 

Vocal Coach on Musical Self-Criticism and Judgement

voice instructor in Nashville

I am very excited to have Nashville vocal coach Jaime Babbitt joining us at Green Hills Guitar Studio.  Aside from being a really great human being, Jaime is a songwriter, a very experienced singer, an in-demand vocal instructor, speaker and recent author with her book, Working With Your Voice, published by Alfred in 2011.

I first met Jaime in 2009 when I was working on my first cd, ‘disengage.’ I was experiencing a new creative burst after long months of no writing and creating, my life was up in the air, my emotions were raw, my center was shaken, and I realized later, I was looking for my voice in a lot of ways. I guess it was time for me to stretch and grow.

Vocally, I had experience singing in choir during high school and college.  While in college, I had took private voice lessons, performed live consistently in bar bands where I sang lead and harmony vocals. I also sang with my own original band where I carried most of the lead vocals.

With the songs for ‘disengage’ came the need to develop a new part of my voice. I was writing songs mainly on acoustic guitar, late at night, while living in an apartment south of Nashville. Many of the songs were pretty quiet, intimate and needed to be delivered using a voice with a specific tone and dynamic. The sound and performance I was trying to capture was at times high in my register and I needed to move between my regular singing voice and my falsetto.

It felt “right” while writing the material, and also singing in my apartment at odd hours. But when I entered the recording studio, I felt unsure of myself. I was having intonation and phrasing issues due to a lack of breath control. My tone was inconsistent and I felt very vulnerable and exposed. All of this was making me feel insecure about my voice, my abilities and worse….my new songs. There is nothing worse than beginning to spiral and succumb to all those negative voices in your head. What, you thought those voices only raced around your head, haunting and sabotaging just little ol’ you?!

Vocal Coach Emergency Blues

I knew my regular vocal approach was not going to work, because it wasn’t working. I could feel it and I could hear it. What was I going to do? Where to begin? What if I couldn’t pull this together? What if it wasn’t there? Had I been kidding myself this whole time? Am I delusional, thinking I can do this? What am I doing?

I had been writing and singing for years, but this was new territory and I was in the beginning stages of recording an album! I wasn’t exactly thrilled about enlisting a Nashville vocal coach. That prospect sounded very expensive and I had real concerns about a “Nashville” approach to what I was creating…not to mention inviting someone into my fragile state at that time.

I knew I needed some help with my singing, but I didn’t know where to turn. My friend Casey Wood, who engineered and produced the album, suggested I contact Jaime. He had worked with her on several projects and I trusted Casey immensely, so…I called Jaime.

Vocal Coach Emergency Rescue. Whew!

Jamie immediately proved to be incredibly kind, insightful, supportive and helpful. Plus, Jaime is a HUGE Bob Dylan fan like me, so we hit it off right away. Jaime didn’t try to change my voice, she helped me develop and strengthen a new part of my voice. Being a songwriter herself, she had an understanding and empathy to the process and the place I was exploring  artistically and vocally. Jaime quickly gained my trust because I was experiencing positive shifts in my singing and my overall mindset and approach.

I was writing this new material quickly, and we were recording the songs very quickly. She really helped me key into articulation, phrasing, tone and delivery that could only come from someone that understood the songs. Jaime was a quick study and paid attention to things at a deep level. She got it. This really allowed me to relax and feel confident in this new aspect of my writing, singing, recording and performing live.

Eventually, we all need help

This time and process with Jaime really helped me to record and perform those new songs, and it gave me a new confidence at a time when I felt pretty doubtful about what I was doing. I believed in the songs but they were requiring something new and different from me. Jaime helped me figure out how to embrace this and then deliver. Jaime also sang harmony vocals on that cd, and the next two as well… Better Here and Together, We’ll Get Through. I really don’t like to think about making that first cd without her assistance. She really set me on a new course. Jaime has always come through for me when I have written a song and I am trying to figure out how to approach it vocally, or when I just need a trustworthy ear and an insightful opinion.

If you are looking for a vocal coach, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, Jaime is it! You can read an article by Jaime called “I’m Too (insert criticism) to Sing Pro,” and you can contact Jaime here for more information regarding voice lessons.

vocal coach nashville
‘disengage’ cd release at 3rd & Lindsley with Jaime. 2009.

Until next time, happy guitar-ing, and singing!

Shane

Ear Training for Musicians

Most musicians do not have perfect pitch and have practiced and employed several skills to improve their ears’ abilities. At the collegiate or academic level, a student is required to test through several levels of ear training to further their abilities and continue their musical study.

Someone that doesn’t attend a music program goes through a similar process by learning from others and listening to recordings, transcribing and figuring out parts by their favorite players and bands. Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles didn’t “know” what they were doing in the academic sense, but they knew EXACTLY what they were doing because they had developed a tremendous ability with their ear training. Depending upon a student’s goals, I  will often teach varying degrees of ear training skills to further the students musicianship and ability to relate the information to the guitar.
The basic areas covered in ear training are:
  • interval identification – the ability to identify the distance, the interval, between two pitches. In order for a musician to determine the notes of a melody or part, one has to be able to hear and discern intervals.
  • functional pitch identification – once you can identify the role or function of a single pitch as the tonic of any particular key, each additional pitch can be classified in relation to that starting pitch. This information informs you to what key you are in and what melodic notes are available to you…either as a guitarist improvising a solo or a songwriter creating a new melody. This ability and skill is complementary to chord recognition and basic harmony.
  • chord identification – the ability to discern chord quality;  major, minor, diminished and augmented and any extensions…7ths, suspensions, 9ths, etc.
  • chord progressions – once keys, triads and basic scale theory are covered (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, I promise!), we can begin talking about learning songs by ear. A guitar player’s understanding of playing over the chord changes and knowing which notes to target over which chords is crucial.
  • For songwriters, the ability to understand how chords function and work together within a tonal center, or key, will open up a new and exciting world of opportunity, creativity, inspiration and understanding. This is where you realize your heroes are working with the same harmonic source material as you, and what they are choosing to do with the material that makes them unique…you start too understand the inner workimgs of the style they have developed.
  • Rhythmic recognition – yep! every guitar player and singer’s NIGHTMARE…counting and staying in time! This skill entails learning how to subdivide the basic beat, know what time signature you are in and what part of the beat you are on.
  • This way when the drummer gives a count off and you are responsible for the guitar riff or lick, or the vocal pickup, you know EXACTLY what to do! Your bandmates will GREATLY appreciate this!!
  • Transcription: this is a really important skill and sure fire way to not only improve your ear, but to cement your knowledge of everything mentioned above. The ability and information gained from transcribing guitar solos, licks, progressions and melodies is really beneficial for guitarists.
  • The same is true for songwriters as well. The study of melody, harmony, form and structure found in the songs of others is of tremendous importance. The ability to transcribe and chart a piece of music is a thrill and opens the door to your favorite musicians, and your ability to effectively communicate with other musicians.

3 Questions to Consider Before You Begin Guitar Lessons

As a guitar instructor, I have 3 questions I ask when someone inquires about taking guitar lessons:

3 questions for finding a guitar instructor

Example of Frustrations With Learning Guitar

I recently had a student start lessons with me and he has been taking lessons from another teacher for a few years. He loves music and it is a really important part of his life. He contacted me because he was feeling some frustration with his current lessons. When I asked him my first question, I understood his frustration.

His previous teacher had never asked about his goals. Even worse, this student had come to believe that what he was experiencing in his guitar lessons and practice had to do with his own ability. This in turn was causing disappointment, self doubt, sadness, anxiety and some fear…and none of these are helpful when learning guitar.

I could tell he was shocked by the reality of this and, at the same time, was having a powerful realization. As we spoke further about the type of music he enjoyed and what he wanted to be able to do with his guitar playing, he started to get excited. I could hear how much music meant to him. His discipline and desire to play guitar were very obvious. For several years, he had been showing up and working hard. He respected his teacher and his teacher’s playing abilities. He just wasn’t getting what he wanted out of the guitar lessons and he felt stuck. There was a disconnect.

Setting Out To Learn With Clarity Of Purpose

After asking my three questions, I laid out a lesson plan for him, showing him exactly what we were going to do and why. He was noticeably relieved and enthusiastic about getting started.

So, ask yourself these 3 questions and set yourself up for success before you start guitar lessons, or begin with a new guitar instructor. You will experience success based upon your goals, studying the type of music you enjoy, that fits into the context of your life and schedule.

1. What are your goals?

2. What kind of music do you like?

3. How much time do you have, realistically, to practice each week?

Whether you are beginning to play guitar, or have been playing for a while, please feel free to leave your comments and experiences about this process below. I look forward to hearing from you. See you next time!

All the best, Shane

What to Look for in A Guitar Instructor

In my last post, I talked about what you need to know about yourself before looking for a guitar instructor. In this post I would like to share some thoughts on what to look for in your guitar instructor. This applies whether you are looking to study guitar in your home town or seek guitar instruction online.

  1. Does the guitar instructor teach the style of guitar you want to learn?
  2. Does the guitar instructor teach/accept your level of study; beginner intermediate or advanced?
  3. Is the guitar instructor passionate about teaching?

It’s A Matter Of Style

A professional guitar instructor is often quite versatile and proficient in many styles of music. It is worth asking which styles the instructor frequently teaches and performs. Remember, these are your lessons. Lessons will progress faster and be much more enjoyable if you are studying with a guitar instructor that is experienced and excited about style of music you wish to study.

A guitar instructor that is experienced and enthusiastic about meeting you at your level of study always makes for the best combination. Many instructors are great for the intermediate level. Students with some experience looking to improve can usually find several good instructors.

Considering Talent, Drive & Experience

A student teacher relationship is important in learning to play guitar

In my opinion, it is especially important to find the best instructor/­student match at the beginner and the advanced levels. Being a beginning guitar student requires more from a guitar instructor than someone that can play guitar well. It is also very important to find out if an instructor accepts children and teenagers, as well as, skilled and enthusiastic about working with that age group.

There are many great guitar players and instructors that may not be able to read music, teach classical guitar and/or music theory. A guitar student planning to audition for a collegiate program will be required to demonstrate such skills. It is important to seek an instructor who is capable of teaching guitar at this advanced level.

The same is true if a guitar student wants to play professionally. Finding a guitar instructor that is currently performing professionally in the pit for theater productions, at clubs and venues or as a studio musician is really important. A student can learn a lot by being in immediate contact with these skills and situations.

I have invited my own students to observe recording sessions, rehearsals and even play along with me in certain situations.

It’s Simple: Trust Your Instincts

Lastly, do you get the sense the guitar instructor wants to be teaching? Trust your instincts. When I was younger, I experienced guitar lessons with an instructor that would rather be performing, or doing just about anything else other than teaching. He didn’t really enjoy teaching beginners and he didn’t like the music I liked. He wasn’t a very good instructor, but he was a good guitar player. As soon as the 30 minutes were up, he grabbed the cash and hit the door as fast as possible.

After 5 months of learning bits and pieces of songs, music theory and scales, I didn’t enjoy playing and I quit guitar lessons. I was young and assumed it was about my inabilities, today, I know it wasn’t. That experience, along with some others I will get to down the road, caused a lot of unnecessary frustration, self doubt and unhappiness.

So, does the instructor not only have the knowledge and ability, but the energy, enthusiasm and the heart of a teacher?

learn bass in nashville

When you commit to guitar lessons, you are beginning a journey and a relationship with the instructor. Ask yourself, “Is this the type of person I want to be with on a musical journey?”

Learning an instrument is a wonderful way to learn about yourself. A big part of the process is coming face to face with your strengths and weaknesses. You want to select someone that can not only present and demonstrate the information but also guide you through the process. You want a guitar instructor you believe has your learning and growth at heart.

A great instructor will have a linear plan for your progress, encourage you, celebrate your accomplishments, motivate you and be there when you are in a musical rut…and we all get in our ruts. It’s part of the process.

Learning to play guitar is much more than playing guitar. There are a lot of self realizations along the way. Why not find the best guitar instructor for you?