Friday, May 20, 2016

Why I Decided to Start Using Dummies Books For Teaching

Why I Decided to Start Teaching Out of Dummies Books

For years, I have been looking for good books to teach from, but have always had a hard time finding any that I liked. After spending some time today at Barnes and Noble, I decided that from now on I am going to start teaching out of Dummies books.

Here are some of the reasons.

1. They are readily available - Anywhere you go you can find a dummies book.
2. They are so readily available that most of my students already tried using one to get started - It might not have worked for them but with a teacher to guide them through the book they will succeed and feel like they haven't wasted any money.
3. Dummies books have a lot of information packed in them - They might not be college level material, but there is so much info, I could probably teach for a year off of a single dummies book.
4. The "All-in-One" books have even more information packed in them - There is a 6 books in one for guitar and piano, and an 8 books in one for guitar, and they only cost around $35 brand new. So there is more information than most people will ever aspire to learn.
5. They are affordable. Yes, compared to a $8 starter book for kids, maybe they are more expensive, but most kids will fly through the $8-10 book in a few months, and as a teacher, I'm not getting a cut so why do I want to go through the hassle of changing up books all the time? Yes, theoretically it does provide kids with a sense of accomplishment as they finish each book, but you can make them have that same sense as they finish a section in the Dummies books, too.
6. They are written at a 5th grade level - Dummies books are for well, you guessed it dummies, but what's great about that is most kids who want to learn an instrument are pretty smart, so little kids are already slightly a head of their grade level (and a lesson could be broken up to make it easier for them). So little kids can use the Dummies books. And adults who always wanted to learn, but never had a teacher before can use the Dummies books, because they are marketed at adults anyway. And teenagers can use the book because it is fine with their age level. Everyone wins.
7. I love the cartoons!
8. Most of the Dummies music books cover a wide range of styles - take the mandolin book (yes, I will still be using my own mandolin books, as well) it has a lot of good information on all sorts of styles, not just bluegrass and country.
9. Supplemental material is available - the Dummies books also often have supplemental material, like the Singing for Dummies not only has a CD with the book, but there is another book Singing for Dummies Exercises that you can purchase as well.
10.  Other Dummies type books are great and available as well. I also like the Idiots Guide books and the Everything books. All are great books for beginners, and might be a book my students already have, so I'm going to be using them as well.

Aside from the Dummies books, I also use my own Mandolin Dead Man's Tuning series for Mandolin, and I also use my own Piano book for piano. I also have available for my students workbooks for both piano and stringed instruments. And I highly recommend Earl Scrugg and the 5 stringed Banjo book for banjo, as well as the Banjo Songbook by Janet Davis. I also recommend the awesome book Fretboard logic for guitar, as well as How to play like Eric Clapton. Very great books for understanding how to play blues and rock. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How Music Lessons are Like Grapevines!

I often tell people everyone can learn to play an instrument, and it is true. Another thing I often tell people is that they will be surprised about how quickly they can learn.

The one thing that I often don't tell my students is how long it will take to learn to play well. I think most people think they can put in a couple lessons and then be Eric Clapton or Billy Joel, but it takes a lot of hard work if you want to be really good.

So the other day I was working in my garden, and there is an old grape vine there that someone must have planted several years ago. Last year, I didn't really do anything to the grapevine, and surprise, surprise, it did not yield any grapes!

So this year, I was wondering what I should do about the grapevine if I want to get grapes. I started reading up on it, and found out from some growers that if I really wanted grapes, I should have been pruning it waay back in February. Well, I didn't do that, so I thought all was lost for this year.

But the other day, I was messing around in my garden, and noticed a tremendous number of grape clusters. Now not too far away from my grapevine, I have some tomatoes planted. I had been picking off suckers, and trimming extra branches that they don't need, and decided to give pruning my grapevine in the same way.

As I was pruning, I was thinking about the Bible passage, where Jesus tells his disciples that He is the vine and they are the branches, and about the other passage where He said that all branches that do not produce fruit will be cut off and thrown into the fire. As I was thinking about that, it occurred to me that if I had started pruning in February, I would have no way to know what branches produced fruit or not. So that made me think that way back in Jesus' day, vine-dressers must have started pruning the branches once the fruit started to appear. So I just hacked away.

Later, it seemed like I only had a few branches left, but they were full of grapes!!! I'm hoping that later this summer I will have a bunch of good grapes to eat and make jams with! But that got me thinking about music lessons.

First of all, I don't know how long that grape vine has been in the ground, but for two seasons, I haven't seen any fruit, and then suddenly there is some. I did a little research and found that most grapes take at least a couple years to produce. That's a lot like musicians. It usually takes a good two years before someone is really doing well. Yes, there are some prodigy's out there, but typically it takes a little more time than just a few lessons.

So don't get discouraged if you were learning a lot at first, and then it seems you hit a standstill, it takes time. Just like when you plant the grapevine, you might get some leaves at first, but grapes are a way's off.

Secondly, I was thinking about pruning. You have to prune the grapevine to get fruit, and music lessons are similar. Many teachers have a set method they want to teach you because "it's the proper way." But think about it. How often do you think Eric Clapton sits around playing Bach Sonatas. I'm not even sure Eric Clapton can play a Bach Sonata, but then think about how often Andre Segovia sat around playing Robert Johnson blues songs. I'm sure he never did. You have to ask yourself, what style of music do you want to play? If you want to play blues and rock, don't go to a classical teacher, and vice versa.

Cut off, or prune, the techniques that do not apply to the style you want to learn. If you do that, you won't waste your time developing techniques that might actually hamper your progress in the direction you want to go. I spent a lot of time learning classical piano, and eventually found that 75% of what I learned had to be dumped if I wanted to play rock and blues. Same way with the guitar. You just have to study what you want to play. And then if you later want to learn another style, add that info to what you already know, but you will grow quicker if you study the stuff that motivates you.

Finally, I found out that if I want my grapes to grow well, I have to give it some fertilizer once in a while. I have to feed it stuff that will help it develop. Musicians are like this as well. We need other music to feed on to nourish our creative side. Spend your time listening to lots and lots of music that will help you develop!

So those are some tips that I learned from my grapevine. I hope they help you as you become the musician you were meant to be!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tips for Learning Music

Hi Everyone!

A lot of people want to learn the down and dirty tips that will get them playing music quickly. Well, here is the list for you:

1. Practice
2. Practice
3. Practice and
4. Practice
5. Listen to a lot of music
6. When you're finished listening to all of that music, listen to some more music!
7. Talk to your friends about the music you enjoy listening to, and see if they have and recommendations for you about other good music you might like listening to.
8. Master the pentatonic scale.
9. Once you have it mastered, try to figure out how to play the melodies from the songs that you are enjoying listening to.
10. Take lessons from Minnix Music!

Those are my trips for learning how to be a great musician!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Piano Lesson Play Lists

Hey Piano Students!

If you want to get good, you're going to have to listen to a lot of music. I have created three playlists (and will probably add more songs later) that you need to listen to. I picked out examples that I think are some of the best piano work in their genres. Check them out and let me know what you think. I also found a few instructional videos that had some good tips that I think you can use as well.

God bless,


Pop Piano Playlist

New Orleans Piano Playlist

Blues Piano Playlist

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Ukulele Articles

New Ukulele Articles:
5 Easy Ukulele Songs to Brighten a Bad Day
10 Ways to Make Money Playing Your Ukulele

Top 10 Essential Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners
Here are the Top 10 Essential Easy Ukulele Songs! Check it out!

New Article: 5 Easy Ukulele Songs from the 60's

I have a new Ukulele Article on Take Lessons!

Flower Power: 5 Easy Ukulele Songs from the 60's!

New Article 3 Big Benefits from Learning Ukulele

3 Big Benefits You Get From Taking Ukulele Lessons
I have a new ARTICLE! Check it out, 3 Big Benefits from Learning Ukulele!

Japanese Article for Take Lessons

 The Easiest Way to Learn Japanese
I have a new article about how to learn Japanese! Check it out!

New Article: French Vocab for Spring!

 Birds, Bees, and More French Vocabulary You Need for Spring
I have a new article: French Vocab for Spring!

New French Article for Take Lessons: French Vocab Hacks!
I have a new article for French lessons on Take Lessons! French Vocab Hacks How to tell Masculine from Feminine!

New Ukulele Article!

I have a new article on Take Lessons about how to play the ukulele!

Check it out here:

New Take Lessons Article: Practice Motiviation!

I have a new article on Take Lessons. It's about how to motivate your child to practice drums! But the tips work for any instrument!

Check it out here:

New Drum Article on Take Lessons Blog

I have a new drum article on the take lessons blog! Here it is!

New Article: Ukulele Fingerpicking!

how to play ukulele
I have a new article on Take Lessons Blog!

Check it out here:

New Article: How Long does it take to learn Ukulele?

 How Long Does it Take to Learn to Play Ukulele

I have a new article on Take Lessons! Check it out here!

New Ukulele Article: 10 Tips to have your best practice!

how to play the ukulele
I have a new article on Take Lessons! Check it out here!

New Ukulele Article: How to Play the Ukulele in 10 Easy Steps!

 How to Play Ukulele in 10 Steps Header
I have a new articles at take lessons!

Check it out here!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Forsyth Family Expo Photos

I forgot to post the photos that we took at the Forsyth Family Expo! Here they are! We had a great time, and met a lot of really cool people!

Stringed Instrument Workshop Photos

Hey Gang!

The most recent SIW was a great deal of fun, as you can see by these photos of our marshmallow closing blast!

Stay tuned for more information about the next Stringed Instrument Workshop coming soon!

God bless,