Category Archives: Recordings

Online Music Lessons: Helpful or Hurtful?

We live in an interesting age, musically speaking.  Through the avenue of the internet, so much is available to us in the way of recordings, videos, articles, pictures, etc, etc.  From this sea of information, any aspiring musician with a computer can find tools and resources for online music lessons and often times for free.

Learning music online is vastly different than what teachers and players have been used to in generations before the world wide web making some wonder if online lessons are truly beneficial for budding musicians or if they just cause confusion and poor technique.  Before investing any serious time in front of a computer screen, there are a few things to consider when it comes to music lessons.

When it comes to learning anything, I think the most important thing to consider is how you or your student learns.  For instance, I am a kinesthetic learner.  I learn best by doing or using my hands.  Sitting around watching videos online, does help me as much a having a teacher guide me during a lesson and then practicing it on my own for several hours.  Yet, I have a student who is a very visual learner and online videos are a great reference for the days in-between lessons.  Likewise, I have a family member that can read a car manual and just build an engine in a weekend.  I’m sure that if he wanted to, he could play the violin after a day of reading “How-To” blogs online.

If you decide that using online music lessons are something that would be helpful for you, the next thing you need to consider is where the information is coming from.  The good news is that there are hundreds of thousands of videos, articles, and blogs to choose from.  The bad news is that pretty much anyone with a computer and 5 minutes of free time can post something.  When searching for music lessons, it’s best to use media produced by a professional or teacher with years of experience.  Generally, they will have tried and true methods to share that won’t lead you or your student astray.  If you are unsure about the validity of something you found online, it’s best to double check with your teacher.  Send them a link and have them check it out.  If you are teaching yourself how to play, you can always check with other members in the music community.  Contacting a local music store to see if they have come across something useful is a great place to find sound advice.  You can also check with other players through online forums like Violinist.com or Fiddle Hangout.

If you aren’t sure where to start looking online, a great place to start is our blog.  We are all professionals and teachers here, and we work hard to provide our readers with quality and useful educational articles that anyone can access.  We also have a Video Library on our website.  You can check it out here.

Five Ways to Become More Cultured: Adding Classical Music to Your Daily Life

Many individuals and families have a desire to be cultured. You know, take that step up from cheddar cheese to Gruyère, hot dogs to pancetta, Avril Lavigne to Hilary Hahn.

It’s like going from this:

Photo by Nick Saltmarsh

to this:

Photo by Nate Steiner

In a world that is becoming increasingly casual and satisfied with mundane and flavorless activities, a great way to add more refinement to your daily (yes, daily) life is to pump it up with classical music! And I don’t mean by occasionally tuning your radio to the classical station to get away from endless coverage of the Republican primaries.

If you find yourself

• playing Angry Birds and Words with Friends for hours per day
• neglecting your New Year’s Resolutions to better yourself
• spending all your free time glazing over your Facebook newsfeed
• watching TV because you don’t know what else to do

. . . try adding a touch of classical music to your day to refresh your senses and invigorate your mind.

Five Ways to Add Classical Music to Your Daily Life

1) Listen to your local classical station. And not just to escape the commercials, news, or bad songs on other stations. Try stepping away from pounding drum beats and heated talk radio for even ten minutes during breakfast, on your commute, or while you fold laundry. You’ll be surprised how a little Bach can melt some of the stress out of the daily grind.

2) Tap into your local classical music scene. Not only will listening to your local classical station be literal music to your ears, tuning in is a great way to find out about local classical performances in your neighborhood. Take note of upcoming community concerts, professional symphony performances, operas, solo recitals, and local festivals. And after you take note, don’t just let the opportunity pass you by. Actually GO.

3) Read up. There’s no better way to feel more cultured than to throw in a few little known facts about Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring into your dinner conversation. But beyond just impressing your friends, there’s something enlivening about continuing your lifelong cultural education through informative literature. Check out composer biographies, the program notes you always throw away, or the Arts & Life section of your local newspaper. Get in the know!

Photo by Jason Weinberger

4) Use the technology you have. Spotify, Grooveshark, and Pandora are great resources to expose yourself to classical music, whether they’re familiar composers such as Beethoven and Mozart or contemporary performers such as Joshua Bell and Gil Shaham. Look up books, articles, music, and podcasts about classical music on your Kindle or smart phone. Read about classical music, artists, and techniques on Wikipedia. Step away from Facebook for a moment to gain some new knowledge! And when you find it, sure, post a link on your wall for your friends.

5) Play. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or one who’s never seen a sheet of music, go for it! Sign up for lessons, noodle on your friend’s piano, and practice on a regular basis. Playing classical music will flex your brain muscles in a way you don’t use them doing any other activity during the day. Even practicing scales and arpeggios can be strangely relaxing as a physical and mental activity that certainly involves more of your senses than when you’re playing Farmville. It may seem daunting to get up off the couch, turn off the TV, and set aside the cheese puffs, but spending even a few minutes during your day to play music will give you a great sense of accomplishment–even refinement–when you’re done.

Curing Unsteady Tempo Syndrome

From an article by Clayton Haslop

A few days ago a gentleman wrote in to say he has a
problem keeping the tempo steady when not actively
counting. Of course he’d like to know what to do about
it. And we’ll get to that.

Yet first let me tell you something, he’s not alone.

Matter of fact, establishing and holding a beat is why
there’s a drummer behind every ‘band’, and a conductor in
front of every orchestra – the Orpheus Ensemble
notwithstanding. A good drummer, like a good conductor
compels us to FEEL the beat.

With a good conductor even the slightest glance up tells
you exactly when, and how, to play.

Now, I’m convinced that ‘time facility,’ the ability to
appreciate and manipulate time creatively, is akin to
pitch facility.

In so far as one is able to match pitches one can refine
the ear to hear all manner of subtlety and nuance within
music.

Our time sense is even more organic. We beat time
whenever taking more than a step in one direction.

The difficulty comes when distractions enter the picture.

In music this takes the form of notes played ‘off the
beat’, string-crossings, sudden changes of dynamic and,
let’s not forget, nerves.

A few days ago I was on a recording session for a film.
The music was not technically difficult, and yet, as it
was ultra exposed, there were a few players playing
ever-so-slightly ahead of the beat on every take.

These are highly trained musicians I’m talking about,
though you’d be forgiven for suspecting otherwise.

Ask these folks to subdivide each beat in their head
while playing and the problem would evaporate in a
heartbeat.

What happens is, in stressful situations we tend to fall
back on our most practiced behaviors. If we don’t
practice subdividing at home we will not tend to do it
when put under stress.

And this is easy to see, by the way. When those unused
to subdividing are invited to do it you will invariably
see heads and violin scrolls moving up and down.

A skilled sub-divider will show no such outward movement.
The real goods will be inside, just certain parts of the
brain lit up like a Christmas tree.

Perhaps those of you with my courses will now object, ‘so
why do you want us to physically VERBALIZE the beat, if
it’s all inside your head?’

Here’s the thing. Calling the speech center into the
picture is consciously creating a distraction, a BIG
distraction.

And it’s good to train against distractions as you hone
your skills!

Master this one and you’ll be able to hold a steady beat
in a category V hurricane; never mind when it’s simply
the annoyance of a time-challenged conductor flailing his
or her arms chaotically in your general direction.

All the Best,

Clayton Haslop

Clayton Haslop made his professional solo debut at age 20
under Sir Neville Marriner and the Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra touring six major cities of the western United
States. These critically acclaimed performances not only
lead to numerous engagements with orchestras, they also
resulted in his being appointed founding violinist of the
Los Angeles Piano Quartet at Marriner’s recommendation.

Haslop is active in the motion picture industry as solo
violinist and concertmaster on such films as Avatar, Up,
The Matrix films, Titanic, Ratatouille,
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Star
Trek, The Incredibles, Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, and
The Perfect Storm.

As a student Clayton Haslop was coached
extensively by the legendary Nathan Milstein.