Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The ZOEN's Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013

The ZOEN covered a broad array of musical topics in 2013 and the following are our reader favorites:

35 Inspirational Quotes for Musicians
Whether you're learning to play a musical instrument for the first time or picking back up with music after a long hiatus, you may need a little extra encouragement from time to time. If you're looking for inspiration, this post is for you! 

 photo ID-10091664_zps5e5ded01.jpg 15 Tips to Make Music Practice Time Count
There’s no point to practicing music simply for the sake of practicing music. For best results you’ve got to practice with purpose. The ZOEN polled a group of music teachers for their tips to do just that.

[How To] Practice Guitar When You're Short on Time

Practicing guitar doesn’t have to take all day. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. This post will help you make that guitar practice time work for you.

The Music Student's Guide to a Successful Summer
With the dramatic change in routine that summer affords, music students must make a conscious decision about how they use their time. Summer (or really, any break from school) can be the perfect time to gain proficiency or learn a new instrument altogether. This post will help you make that happen. 

Learn Music as an Adult: Tips for the Returning Student
Music is one of the few activities you can pursue all your life. Whether you are a beginner or a side-tracked pro, this post outlines some things to consider when getting back on the bandwagon.

5 Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Musical Life
Without consulting a single study about the benefits of playing a musical instrument, it’s easy to point to several reasons to pick up a musical habit. Self discipline and self confidence are clear benefits. Happiness and a sense of accomplishment also top the list. To explore less obvious benefits of music, read this post!

Resonance Fingerings: A Clarinetist's Best Friend
One of the most problematic aspects of clarinet playing is achieving an even, fluid timbre across the instrument’s range, through all dynamics and articulations. If you're struggling, alternate fingerings just might be a huge help!

Meet Your Match: This Musician Could Be Your Next Teacher
Our goal at The ZOEN is to match music students with the teacher who is a perfect fit for their needs and interests. With the wide variety of teachers we’ve attracted, we’re making great strides toward making that perfect fit possible. This post is an introduction to just a handful of those music teachers.

Music and the Brain: A Powerful Combination
We all know to “power up” the brain with exercise, good nutrition and sleep. But would you believe music can not only ‘feed’ the brain but can actually shape the brain? If you want a healthier brain, this post is for you.

How I Became A 'Real' Musician (After a Decade of Feeling Like a Fraud)
Our friend Christopher Sutton,  founder of Easy Ear Training, wrote this powerful guest post about his experience becoming a musician. If you've been playing for a long time and haven't really caught your stride, give this post a read.

Thanks for reading The ZOEN Blog and for an outstanding 2013! If there's any topics you'd like to see us address in 2014, leave us a comment in the section below. Interested in writing a guest post? Let us know - we'd love to hear from you.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from The ZOEN

Wishing you all the best this holiday season with good times and good cheer to last through the New Year!

 photo ID-10066779_zps8f2e0e29.jpgCAROL OF THE BELLS

Hark! how the bells
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say,
"Throw cares away."
Christmas is here
Bringing good cheer
To young and old
Meek and the bold

Ding, dong, ding, dong
That is their song
With joyful ring
All caroling
One seems to hear
Words of good cheer
From ev'rywhere
Filling the air

Oh how they pound,
Raising the sound,
O'er hill and dale,
Telling their tale,
Gaily they ring
While people sing
Songs of good cheer
Christmas is here
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas

On, on they send
On without end
Their joyful tone
To ev'ry home

[Repeat from the beginning]

Ding, dong, ding, dong

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Beginner’s Guide to Learning Piano Online

Learning to play piano online takes time, effort, self-discipline, and some experimentation, but the rewards can be great. It is an increasingly popular and accessible method of self-study.

How much time you dedicate to the piano really depends on you. Your initial efforts will be spent finding the method of online instruction that is suitable for you. This is time well spent, however, as your research will familiarize you with the various formats of lessons, their cost and you will probably be learning about the piano along the way.

Online piano lesson fees will range dramatically. Allow introductory lessons to help you decide the perfect teacher and platform for you. Most introductory piano lessons are free and will give you a frame of reference for evaluating other online piano courses and instructors. Consider that the fees for a quality online music teacher are still substantially less than you would pay for private lessons.

 photo ID-100212997_zps55380c6c.jpgEnjoy the learning process rather than focusing on end goals. Your practice sessions will make up most of the time you spend with the piano. This is true for all musicians for all of their playing lives. A musician has to love the practice room.

Learning to play the piano online also takes effort. Your progress and enjoyment of the instrument is reflected in the effort you put into your studies, in keeping focused on your lessons, and in searching out more information about your instrument. Consider building a regular weekly practice schedule. You will experience the most progress for your efforts if you can set aside four or five short practice sessions per week. One of those practice sessions can simply be listening to music, or trying something new.

Self-discipline is a major component of learning to play the piano regardless of your instructional method. You will need the discipline to study your lessons thoroughly, and staying with your weekly practice routine. You can monitor your progress by recording yourself working through your lesson material. Listen to your recording at least once a week to assess your progress and set a study plan for the upcoming week.

Learning to play piano online takes a little bit of experimentation as well. Every once in a while, try an online program, perhaps a free one. This practice can provide you with the opportunity to review some earlier technique, or perhaps gleam some insight into some musical idea you have not yet quite grasped.

Keep your practice time fresh by mixing up your routine. For example, you do not always have to start your practice with scales, but you could occasionally review a simple piece as a warm up. Try sight-reading music from different styles or genres. Just for the sheer experience of it, take five minutes to try to play a really challenging piece, then put it away and forget about it.

Make sure that you are enjoying your practice as well. This will keep you coming back to the instrument, and give you the encouragement for putting in a regular effort. You can take time away from the instrument and continue to develop musically by simply listening to recordings and going to concerts. As a player you will approach these two activities with fresh ears and from a completely different perspective.

Building a new skill like playing an instrument does takes a while. Allowing yourself that time, putting in regular effort, developing your self-discipline and having a little fun along the way while learning to play piano online will pay off in the long run. The rewards are really endless and can apply to many aspects of your leisure time. The process of studying music and an instrument will help you develop your appreciation for other musicians, the music itself, and art in general.

Andrea D. Vacchiano is a professional pianist and piano teacher of over 25 years. For more help with all aspects of learning the piano, head over to Andrea's website www.ThePianoExpert.com.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

6 GREAT Reasons to Support Your Kid's Band

"Fitting in" can be awkward for kids. It's not always easy to find peers who share common interests - these are tricky waters to navigate for any young person. Some children find a sense of belonging through team sports. That same intense competition that pushes some children is a major turn off for others. So why not encourage your child or pre-teen to form a band? It’s a team building activity that is simultaneously fun, fosters creativity and creates a challenging learning environment. 

Here are some vital benefits for children participating in a group music environment:

1) A band will get your child out of his or her shell. While some rock stars crave the spotlight others are soft-spoken until they take the stage. Just think of the artist Prince! Kids that might otherwise struggle with talking with others can build confidence through this alternative form of communication. Sharing music with others will allow them to feel a deep bond with their band mates that will diminish feelings of isolation. The shared love of music will also cultivate hours of conversation, providing the children with established common ground. Plus, the confidence that comes along with learning a new skill is priceless. 

2) Bands teaches compromise. The ability to give-and-take is a skill that many children (and adults) are lacking and, as any musician can vouch for, learning to be flexible in your artistic vision can be extremely difficult. However, in a band this is a must, as it is multiple people who are coming together to create a single final product. This is a lesson and skill that will serve your kid for a lifetime.

 photo ID-100203685_zps44fbf895.jpg3) Bands are a healthy way to process feelings. Being a kid is tough, regardless of who you are. It is imperative that kids have outlets for frustration and stress. 

4) Joining a band reinforces problem solving capabilities. A band blends artistic preferences and personalities. No doubt, this can cause clashes. However, learning to compromise is not the only challenge that faces a band. There’s the challenge of coordinating schedules, learning sheet music, deciding responsibilities and more. Learning to patiently sail through these problems will undoubtedly carry over into the later years when your child is learning to balance their schedule or struggling to tackle a math problem. 

5) Music strengthens communication skills. You’re probably aware that playing an instrument betters mathematical skills and memory. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that music strengthens language aptitudes and motor functions as well. Yes, this will help them out in the classroom, but it will also undeniably help them navigate social situations.

6) Bands provide further incentive to practice. There are times that your child will love tinkering on the keyboard or playing the drums. There will also be times they would rather stretch out in front of the TV. Nagging from a parent or instructor to practice will only go so far. The positive pressure to not let fellow band mates down will motivate your children to practice more than they would otherwise. 

Encourage your child to participate in music from an early age and, as they age, they’ll be practiced in healthy self-expression and the pursuit of meaningful friendships.  Let your child guide the decision of which instrument to pursue. You can view plenty of musical instruments for kids and adults at West Music and check The ZOEN to find an instructor to get your child started on a whole wide range of options, from the flue to the banjo. 

Playing an instrument and creating music with a band is something that can be enjoyed for a lifetime; there’s really no limit to what your child can learn.

Thanks to John Nicholson for submitting this guest post! If you've got a great idea for a post, we'd love to hear from you. Just email your idea to admin@zenph.com.