<![CDATA[Inspired Creativity - Music]]>Mon, 22 Feb 2016 02:53:41 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[A Crash Course In Harmonica]]>Wed, 25 Mar 2015 16:24:47 GMThttp://julieschuler.weebly.com/music/a-crash-course-in-harmonica        Although they are small, they can make a huge difference in music. The harmonica is played mostly in blues music or folk music but you can hear it in contemporary music as well. It is an extremely versatile instrument that also has the convenience of easy travel. You could leave it in your pocket until the right moment and nobody would even know. My mom had a harmonica when us kids were little and I loved blowing into the different holes and hearing the notes change. I recently purchased one myself and have already learned so much! They really are fun to have! Here is a simple crash course to help you learn the basics of this wonderful little instrument!
Harmonica: A Crash Course For Beginners
        Types of Harmonicas:
There are two main types of harmonicas: the diatonic and the chromatic. The diatonic harmonica is the harmonica with ten holes. The most well known of these is the Blues Harp. (Harp is another name for harmonica). The chromatic harmonica has 12, 14, or 16 holes. The button on the side changes all the notes from major to half steps while playing, allowing you to play all the keys on this one harmonica. This is a much more difficult harp to play and is only recommended for very experienced players. For this crash course we will be focusing on the diatonic blues harmonica.
            A diatonic harmonica is a single key. As a result, there are 12 different diatonic harmonicas you could acquire.  I would recommend getting a C harmonica to begin with as most tutorials on the internet are played using C.
        I purchased my beginner harmonica off of sweetwater.com. It was a Hohner Blues Band Harmonica in C and only cost $6. It works great for beginners and is not very expensive, so when a reed goes out it is no big deal.
10 hole blues harmonica
12 hole chromatic harmonica

        Parts of a Harmonica:
I believe in knowing your instruments before you play them, so to help you know the harmonica a bit better, let's break it down.
            PLATE COVER: This helps protect the reeds from getting bent or exceedingly dirty.
            REED PLATE: The reeds are what give you sound when you draw (inhale) or blow (exhale) into the harmonica. There is actually another reed plate on the other side of the comb (not pictured above). The top reed plate is used when blowing notes and the bottom reed plate is used when drawing notes. You will learn about blowing and drawing in the NOTES section below. Each reed has its own slot in the reed plate and is connected to one side. When you blow into the harmonica or draw out of the harmonica the reeds vibrate up and down in those slots incredibly fast. The sound comes from them chopping up the air as they pass through their slots.
             When playing you want to make sure you are being gentle, as the reeds can bend and cease to work properly. When starting out, it is best to go with a cheaper harmonica so you are able to practice and get the hang of it without worrying about bending a reed.
            COMB: This is the main body, or middle, of the harp. All the holes that you blow into are here as well.
            Only being in one key, the "C" harmonica does not have the ability to play all the notes in the musical alphabet. The very basic notes are written below. Through the technique of bending you will be able to play more notes on a harmonica, but that is for a different tutorial. "Blow" means the same as exhaling. "Draw" means the same as inhaling.
        How to Read Tabs:
When learning to play a song on the harmonica, most songs you will look up will be in tab form. Depending on where you go, they could look like either of these:
            Both teach the same, just read differently. In the first, they use arrows to differentiate blows and draws. The up arrow indicates a blow while the down arrow indicates a draw.
            The more popular of the two is the second picture. This time it looks like they are using positive and negative numbers to tell the notes apart. The bottom of the picture gives a nice little cheat sheet to help you out. All "positive" numbers are blows and all "negative" numbers are draws. The numbers on each tell which hole you are blowing/drawing into.
        What Key to Play In:
As I mentioned earlier, there are 12 different diatonic harmonica keys. These follow the musical alphabet A, Bb, B, C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, Ab. It is always recommended to learn harmonica in the key of C because that is what most all tutorials will be taught in and C is the most widely know key. But what if you want to play with a band who isn't playing in the key of C? That is where you get into "positions".
            1st Position (also called "straight harp"): This is when you play the same key as the band. Ex: They are playing in F so you pick up your F harmonica. A very easy way to know what key they are playing in is to ask. Also, typically the first and last bass note of the song is the key. 1st position is played in most folk-style playing (Think Bob Dylan).
            2nd Position (also called "cross harp"): This is when you play 4 steps higher than the band. Ex: The band is in C, so you are playing in G. An easy way to find 2nd position is to count four steps up from the key you have (ignoring the flats (b) and sharps (#)). This position is most popular in blues, jazz, reggae, etc.
The harmonica is pretty simple when it comes to cleaning, but there are a few things you should do to get the longest life out of one.
  1. Always store your harmonica in a case. A hard case would be the best, but a leather bag that fits the harmonica snugly is good to protect it from dust. A hard harmonica case also protects your harmonica from minor impact.
  2. Avoid extreme temperatures and excess moisture. Especially if you have a wooden comb, moisture can cause the wood to swell and shrink and cause problems with your instrument. Even plastic combs can be affected by this.
  3. Keep debris and dust out of your harmonica. Make sure you don't have any food particles in your mouth before playing and avoid excess saliva. To help clear out the harmonica, tap it against your palm or thigh gently.
  4. Before playing the harmonica, it is ideal to get it to the same or similar temperature to your body. If it had been in a car that was cooler, hold it in your hand to warm it up before playing.
  5. When you get a new harmonica the reeds will be a little stiff from not being played yet. For the first few weeks, play gently to "break in" the reeds so you can get the life possible out of your instrument.
There is not a lot you need for harmonicas. The only must have item I would suggest getting with one is a decent case to keep it in. You can usually purchase one the same place you purchase the harmonica. Some even come with one.
            If you are wanting to play the harmonica along with another instrument at the same time, a harmonica neck holder would be something to look into to free up your hands.

        Further Learning:
If you are still eager to learn more, here is an awesome site I found that gives all sorts of cool information on harmonicas! It has helped me out a lot and it covers some more advanced stuff that I didn't go over here. I also put a link to a website will all sorts of tabs for the harmonica! Happy playing!!
<![CDATA[A Crash Course In Piano]]>Wed, 11 Mar 2015 03:51:04 GMThttp://julieschuler.weebly.com/music/a-crash-course-in-piano        Piano was the first instrument I played and although my first impression wasn't the greatest I did learn to enjoy it over time. Having learned multiple different instruments, I have found that knowing your basics on piano will be a HUGE help in learning notes and tone for other instruments.
Piano: A Crash Course For Beginners
        Types of Pianos:
Pianos come in all shapes and sizes. They can range anywhere from an upright to a keyboard to a baby grand. All have different sounds but all can achieve the same purpose. It tends to be easiest to get your hands on an upright piano nowadays so we will focus on those for this lesson.

Upright Piano- This type of piano is most commonly found in homes.
Keyboard- Some have all 88 keys, others have 61.
Baby Grand- The Grand Piano is larger and also has a bigger sound.
        Parts of a Piano:
            Knowing the names of the different parts of a piano will make understanding it and talking to others who play much easier. It will also make you look super smart to those who don't know what they are doing.
WOODEN BODY: It is basically just that, the body of the piano. I have not seen an upright that isn't made out of wood, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Keep in mind, upright pianos are usually VERY heavy! If you get one, figure out where you want it before you start moving it because after moving it once you will not want to do it again.
MUSIC STAND: This is where you place your music so you can read and follow along while you play. Sometimes the stand will double as a cover on the keys when you're not playing. Other times the lid will slide into the piano, rather than lift up. When this is the case, there is usually a ledge built into the face of the piano that can be used as a music stand.
KEYBOARD: These are the keys on the piano. There are 88 altogether and the tone goes from left to right, lowest note to highest note.
SOUNDBOARD: This is where the sound is amplified. Each key of the piano has a corresponding string inside the body. When you press down a key there is a small padded hammer that will tap the string and cause it to vibrate at the proper frequency, sending that frequency through a bridge and to the soundboard. The sound board then catches the frequency from that string and amplifies it so we can hear it loud and clear.
DAMPER/SOSTUNETO/ SUSTAIN PEDALS: These three pedals each have a different function. The diagram above doesn't name them completely accurately, but it was the best one I could find.
        The far right pedal will be the one you use the most, the Sustain Pedal. It keeps the little hammer we talked about earlier from coming back down on the strings to mute them after you release the keys. Therefore it sustains the notes longer without having to hold the key down.
        The middle pedal, the Sostuneto Pedal, does something similar to the sustain pedal. With the sustain pedal you would hold down the pedal then play the notes and all of them are sustained. The sostuneto pedal is the opposite where you play the notes then, while holding down those notes, press the pedal. This keeps those particular notes sustained while everything else will sound staccato (short and quick) when played.
        The far left pedal is simply called the Soft Pedal. It quiets the sound so it doesn't amplify quite as much. It does this by bringing the hammers closer to the string so they don't tap the strings with as much force, thus causing them to vibrate less.
        Notes: Notes on the piano follow the musical alphabet:
                               A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab
            On an 88 key piano, the very farthest left key is in fact an A. Follow that all the way down the keyboard, using the black keys as the sharps, and following the musical alphabet and you will have all the notes. An easier way to remember them is to find the Middle C. (Diagram 1) Most of the time when you play, you will play around the middle C. Most people consider the C to be the start of the alphabet for the piano also. Diagram 2 shows a section of the keyboard with C as the starting point. Memorizing that will make playing much simpler in the future.
        How to Read Chords: If you were to Google "C chord for Piano" you would find something like this:
        Place your fingers on the notes marked and push down at the same time. Voila, a C chord! The website in the picture is a great place to check out! It goes over basic chords you will use all the time to intermediate chords to advanced chords. I recommend it!
        Knowing how to read chords allows you to look up songs and play the chords they provide. You don't have to look for piano chords, necessarily. Most of the time finding chords to songs will lead you to the guitar chords. 99.9999999999999999% of the time, these are the exact same thing. I didn't say 100% because although I have never found an exception, I don't want to assume there isn't one.
        Maintenance: A few things to keep in mind when bringing a piano into the house (especially a wooden piano) are temperature and humidity. Placing the piano in a room that gets really cold in the winter or hot and humid in the summer can cause the wood to warp or crack and distort the sound. The ideal temperature is 70-72 degrees F. If you are somewhere that has very dry heat I would recommend a humidifier to keep the wood from drying out.
            Another thing to remember is no food or drink around the piano! Believe me, I learned the hard way. My mom has an electric piano and one day while I was playing I was also eating a bowl of Ramen soup (because I am smart like that). I thought I was being perfectly careful but my hand slipped just enough when I went to grab it and I dumped a soupy mess right on the keys. I immediately panicked and ran to get a towel and mop up as much as I could. I shut the piano off and worked through my scared sobs (my mom wasn't home at the time and I was terrified I destroyed her piano) until I got as much as I could cleaned up. I waited a minute and then turned it back on. I played a chord and a horribly distorted noise came out. That is when I lost it. I full on bawled for who knows how long. My mom finally came home and I explained what happened. She wasn't angry, but had me help her turn the piano upside down on the couch to try to dry it out that way. We left it alone over night and I think the whole next day before trying it again. When we did, much to my relief, it sounded fine. I think one or two keys sound funny when they are played still but other than that it is okay. Learn from my mistake, friends! Food or drink + piano = disaster!
            Tuning a piano is something that will have to be done every now and then as well. If you have an electric piano you will not need to worry about it, but for an upright you will need to have it done. I have never learned how to tune a piano (I grew up with electric) but I do know that it is very possibly to do so. Because it is something that takes a good deal of time and patience to do (especially if you don't do it on a regular basis) most people will hire someone to do it for them. For beginners I would recommend having a professional do it to avoid any mistakes. Once you have gotten comfortable with the instrument you can decide if tuning it yourself is something you would be interested in learning. Then there are plenty of tutorials online to teach you!
            The last thing to keep in mind for basic maintenance is a simple dusting every now and then. Maybe take a vacuum extension to the keys to try and get out any debris that may have gotten between them over time. If you keep all of these in mind you will have a wonderful instrument that will last a very long time!
        Accessories: For a beginner starting out on piano the only really useful accessory out there would be a metronome. You can go manual or electric, whichever you prefer, but having something to help you keep time is crucial while learning.

        With all this new knowledge you are well on your way to learning the basics of piano and growing as a musician! If you haven't already, I encourage you to take a look at my other music tutorials and leave me a comment! Happy playing!
<![CDATA[A Crash Course In Guitar]]>Wed, 11 Mar 2015 03:37:53 GMThttp://julieschuler.weebly.com/music/a-crash-course-in-guitar        Up until now I have posted recipes and crafts for the home or yourself. But being creative is more than just cooking and crafting. In my opinion, music is a way to express your creative side as well. I love getting new instruments and dabbling with them to make new music. There is a sense of wonder and excitement that fills me when I pick up a new instrument that I have never played before.
        The first instrument I ever played was a piano. I remember it was in fifth grade and I wanted to join the school band. I was especially interested in the clarinet. My mother told me if I faithfully practice on the piano for two weeks straight that she would let me join band. She wanted me to be aware of the work it would take to learn a new instrument. I eagerly accepted the deal, but by the fourth day I was bored of the piano and didn't want to practice anymore. Even at a young age I realized that committing to something takes hard work. I lost interest in band and a few years passed before I picked up my next instrument: a guitar. It didn't take long for me to realize that I enjoyed the guitar more. My mother, who had played for years herself, taught me a few tips and tricks and from their I taught myself.
        I have been playing guitar for 6+ years and in that time I have helped lead the youth worship team and played in the adult worship team at my church, and given a handful of people lessons. One of the girls I taught guitar now actually leads the youth worship team that I used to lead. I am still learning so much, but I am also finding that if I explain something I learn (usually to my husband), it sticks much faster than if I just learn it and never have to vocalize it. Which brings me to this crash course.
        Watching people learn how to play and seeing the joy on their faces is a wonderful thing. Although I most likely won't be able to see any of you learn, I can still hope that these lessons will help get you in the right direction. On the flip side, teaching you how to play is going to force me to learn more on the instrument and grow as a musician. I am very eager to get started and hope you are too!
Guitar: A Crash Course For Beginners
        In this crash course, we will go over very basic principles on the guitar, such as part names, notes, types of guitars, etc. I do plan to do a more in depth study, but that will be another day.
        Types of Guitars:
            There are many types of guitars. A few of the more common are the acoustic, the electric, and the resonator. Each can be played the same way and each have their own unique quirks. The acoustic gives a lovely, versatile sound that can be played in almost any setting. The electric can have a lovely melody to it and can also be played with more rock music. The resonator give a much more bluesy sound that sounds great, especially in blue grass. For this crash course, we will be focusing on the acoustic guitar.
Parts of a Guitar:
        Before you begin playing, you need to know your instrument. If I asked you to tighten the keys, or dust off the bridge would you know what I was asking? Knowing your guitar is as important as knowing your car (Well, not really, but you get the point). Here is a lovely diagram I found that gives you the basics:
        Now to explain each a little better.
        HEADSTOCK: Also known as the head of the guitar, it is found at the end of the neck. This is where the tuning pegs are located.
        TUNING PEGS: Also known as the keys, these are what tune your guitar. Tighten the keys, the string sounds higher, loosen them and it sounds lower.
        NUT: This is where the head and the neck meet. Each of the six strings have their own little groove in the nut that keeps them in place and helps hold the tension.
        NECK: That is the long, skinny part of the guitar. You play all of the chords and notes on the neck. If you are right handed, your left hand will be on the neck; if you are left handed, your right hand will be on the neck.
        FRETS: These are all the spaces between the little metal bits going down the neck. Putting your fingers in those spaces gives a different sound depending on which fret you are in. The little metal bits are called fret-wires. The space between the nut and the first fret-wire is the first fret, after that first fret-wire is the second fret and so on. If you notice (I know it is hard to see in this picture) there are little white dots on frets 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, and 17. these are position markers and come in very handy when you start playing further down the neck. There are also little dots on the side of the neck so you don't have to bend way over to see them on the neck face.
        BODY: This is not in the diagram above, but it basically the name for the rest of the guitar. The face is the top part that has the pick guard, bridge and sound hole on it and the back is, well, the back.
        SOUND HOLE: This is where all the beautiful music comes out of! This is also about where you want to strum. Not everyone strums right there, but as a beginner it is best to stay in that area until you are more familiar with it. Some guitars have different shaped sound holes and some are even in completely different places. The picture above gives the most common type, but there are others out there.
        PICK GUARD: This is to protect your guitar while you are playing. When you use a pick, it is very common to continue down the guitar a bit before picking your hand back up. The pick guard is there to keep you from wearing a hole in your guitar. I played a guitar for a while that didn't have a pick guard on it and I ended up wearing a nice gouge in it.
        BRIDGE: This is where the strings are held in place. It is usually darker than the guitar body and raised slightly from the face of the guitar. Some bridges use the pegs (as shown above) that are pushed down to hold the strings inside using the tension they give. Other less common bridges don't use the pegs and instead have six holes to put the strings though to hold them that way.
        SADDLE: This is the small, angled, white, plastic strip on the bridge. Like the nut, it also has six grooves in it for the strings to rest on and helps hold tension on them.
        STRING PEGS: Also called bridge pegs, or just pegs. These are what keep the strings from flying out while you play them. They are designed to hold tension in a way that the tighter the string is pulled, the stronger in place they stay.
        Learning Notes:
            Knowing the individual notes on the guitar is crucial if you want to go as far as you can with the instrument. The musical alphabet is something to memorize, and the best part is that it is the same for every single instrument! If you are familiar with the piano at all you will most likely know these, but I will not assume that you are. The musical alphabet goes:
                        A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab
            The A#/Bb and so on is the same note, just different names for it. Most of the time you will see it written as a sharp (#) instead of a flat (b) but it is good to know both. Now with that information added to your folder of knowledge we move on to the notes on the guitar. There are six strings on the guitar;
                                                        E, A, D, G, B, e
            No, that last 'e' is not a typo. Because of there being two E strings on the guitar, the sixth string, or the high E, is lowercase when listed with the rest of the notes. The strings are listed from top to bottom, or lowest-pitched string to highest-pitched string. An easy way to memorize these notes is by remembering Elephants And Dogs Got Big Ears. Not the most grammatically correct, but it is catchy.
            When you pluck the top string, the low 'E', you are plucking an 'E' note. when you pluck the second string you are plucking an 'A' note, and so on. You implement the musical alphabet when you begin playing on the neck of the guitar and pressing down on the strings in different frets. For example: Pluck the top string and you have an 'E' chord. Push down on the top string in that first fret and pluck, and now you have played an 'F'. Move on to the second fret and it becomes an 'F#' and so on. Same with the other strings. Start on the open 'D' string and move down the fret board and you go in order of 'D', 'D#', 'E', 'F', and so on.
        Reading Chords:

            Chords are how the majority of guitarists read music. Chords are when you play multiple notes on the fret board at once to make one complimentary sound. An example of reading chords is like this:

            D                 G              D
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me.
                    G             D
I once was lost, but now I'm found,
Was blind, but now I see.

            I have the chords in bold print so they stick out a bit more. Here we have the iconic chorus to Amazing Grace. When reading this, you see that you strum the D chord while singing "Amazing Grace how" and then switch to the G chord for "sweet the" and then back to D for "sound" then continue strumming D until you get to the end of the second line where you switch to A7. You will gradually get better at learning the rhythm of the song and switching back and forth between chords with practice.
            Most all chords are explained in a diagram similar to the one below. At the top you see that we are looking at the G chord. Below that are the notes of the strings of the guitar (EADGBe). The thick black line right below those represents the nut on the guitar (look at the diagram above to remember what and where the nut is.) Then you have your first four frets. The black dots with the numbers in them represent your fingers, 1 being the index finger, 2 the middle finger, 3 the ring finger, and four (not shown) the pinky finger. This diagram is shown as if you were holding your guitar upright in front of you with the strings facing you.

There are multiple different types of strumming patterns, unfortunately, I was not taught any of them. I learned how to strum on my own and it came quite naturally to me, making it increasingly difficult to teach to others. At this point in my knowledge (I will update this if I find a more effective way to verbalize what I know) the best I can tell you is to start by strumming down on the beat. So if you listen to the song, the beat you would clap along to is the same beat that you would strum to. Do this until you are comfortable and then throw in an up strum here and there. Play around with it, have fun! Listen to the song to see if you can mimic the strum pattern, some are quite easy to play. Hopefully in the future I will be able to post a video to help explain, but for now the best I can do is to encourage you to experiment with the strumming, going down only, or maybe down then up then down then up, or you may even find a strum pattern you really like that you can't quite explain what you are doing. There is really no wrong way, it lets you grow as a player!
There are all sorts of wonderful things you can get for your guitar, but there are a few you really should have when getting started: a tuner, a metronome, and picks.
            TUNER: In order to learn any music by ear, you need to be sure that the instrument you are practicing on is in tune. Do a little research and read reviews to see what kind of guitar tuner you would like to get. I have used multiple types and they all work fine, especially for a beginner. When you use it, you will pluck the first string (E) and the tuner will recognize it and tell you what the tune is at. A little needle will start hopping around. Somewhere on the screen will show what note it is. Make sure you are getting it to show E (you may need to tighten or loosen your strings, depending what it shows, so remember your musical alphabet!) the adjust the key until you get that needle to the middle. Some tuners have lights that will blink red until the note is right then they will blink green. It may take some practice, but you will get the hang of it. A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: When tuning make sure you are tightening/loosening the right string! You may be plucking one string but adjusting a different one without realizing it. This could cause you to tighten a string too much and break it.
You don't realize how easy it is to keep a steady beat until you play with a metronome. You get into a song and you start speeding up without realizing it or a slower part of the song comes and you slow down too much. Having a metronome will help you keep the right tempo while you play. It is also handy to have when you are learning a song. You can slow the tempo down and play along with that and speed it up as you improve.
            PICKS: Go to a music store and fiddle with some guitar picks. Get a couple of each kind of gauge (thickness) and play with them until you find the ones you like best. Usually, a thicker, or stiffer, pick is used for electric guitar, but some people enjoy using them for acoustic as well. I use a smaller gauge and really like it. It is purely a preference thing. Not using a pick and strumming with the side of your thumb will lead to a callous, which isn't a bad thing, but you may not want to have a hard callous on the side of your thumb.

            If you are wanting to learn lots of different songs, ultimate-guitar.com is a great website to go to. I use it all the time and thoroughly enjoy it! You can also search more tutorials on youtube.com or google.com. I hope to in the future post a more advanced guitar tutorial, but this will get you started! Happy playing!